The Childless Stepparent Manifesto in Action

by childless stepparent

spouse's former spouse
The holidays are a challenging time for most stepfamilies, which is why I shared some advice for childless stepfamilies on the holidays.

My husband and I enjoyed a snowed-in, quiet Christmas Day together – his daughter was with her mom this year. Like many stepfamilies, ours alternates Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays – one year with her mom, the next with us. My husband’s daughter was excited to spend the week with her grandparents.

Christmas Day came and went. My husband texted and called his daughter but never heard back. The day after Christmas came and went. That night, I asked my husband if he’d heard from his daughter, and he said no.

I was instantly upset on his behalf. I asked, “Don’t you think her mom could have had her call you, for just a quick ‘Merry Christmas, Dad’?”

My husband paused. “Yes, that would have been nice,” he said calmly. “She’s having fun and I know I’ll talk to her soon. I’m not upset about it.”

(He learned later that his daughter didn’t respond to his calls/texts because she had left her cell phone at church and her mom didn’t go back to pick it up for several days. Still, not an excuse for not having her daughter call.)

I sat in the car, listening to our music, looking at the snowy canyon out the window. Outside, it was peaceful. Inside, I was turbulent.

A flood of angry, self-righteous thoughts filled my mind. “How could she be so thoughtless and inconsiderate?! … My husband bought that cell phone for his daughter to make it easy for both parents to reach her … We help her keep track of her phone so her mom can talk to her nearly every day when she’s with us. Why can’t her mom do the same?  … Doesn’t she remember how last year – on our year, at her request – we made special arrangements so she could spend half of Christmas Day with her daughter? … And now she can’t even have her daughter call her dad to wish him Merry Christmas?!  … If my husband had done this to her, his voicemail and inbox would be full of irate messages! … Her double-standards are infuriating … She takes advantage of my husband’s gentle, generous nature … How disrespectful … She is so self-absorbed…” and on and on. I watched these furious thoughts feed off each other, and I was about to share them all with my husband.

Then I stopped. I listened to what my husband had said. He truly wasn’t upset. So why should I be? Why should I bring that turbulence into our peaceful moment together? Was there any benefit to getting upset?

I remembered my manifesto.

I took a deep breath, exhaled. I watched my thoughts come and go. I focused instead on the beauty of the canyon, the gentle sound of guitar, my husband’s hand in mine.

Manifesto #5 | Whatever dynamic exists between my husband and his former wife does not involve me. They must work together for their child’s benefit.