My name is Mike (you might know me as The Slightly Less Organised Dad).
I am a dad, husband, ex-husband and a step-dad. All of those things add up to a very happy life presently, however, it’s been a roller coaster!
Rewind << 7 Years <<
I have one son (Guy), who is three years old. I never wanted to be divorced, no one sets out to be (I think), but it happens. Life can be pretty shitty sometimes, you’ve got to make sure it doesn’t drag you into a black hole that you can’t get out of. Now I’m not for a minute suggesting I didn’t play my part in the breakdown of my first marriage, but the ensuing battle through both the family and financial courts was the most unnecessary and potentially most stressful time of my life.
I wanted to see MY son, that’s all, I wanted to be able to pick him up from school and take him for dinner, I wanted to go to his parents evenings and take him away at the weekends. I wasn’t dealing drugs, drinking from 10am in the morning or robbing post offices, I was and still am a respectable, hardworking, genuinely decent person. But I had to FIGHT…..and that’s just absolute madness!
The fact is my marriage broke down … my relationship with my son was fine! But it suffered because I was denied free access to him (for no good reason) and I had to go to court to fight to see my child. I lost years of his childhood. And he lost years with his dad.
Stress…… debt, solicitors, courts, moving countries, new job, new house, honestly, if I hadn’t had met this amazing woman called Gemma I would probably have sunk. (Silver lining)
Stage right, Step kids…. two boys, 2 and 4, great kids, not a care in the world, but not MY kids…… if anyone thinks you can walk into a family and for it to ‘click’ you’re very mistaken. It takes time, lots of time. Now I thought these kids were great from the start, I genuinely really liked them. We played stupid games, jumped around, had a brilliant time. However, when they started hugging me …. woooahhhhh, it’s odd, like a strange situation!! These were not MY kids, so I’m basically hugging someone else’s children?! Not natural, made me feel uncomfortable! Honestly, I struggled with this. It’s hard to explain, but there will be people reading this that will know exactly what I mean.
Fast forward >> 12 months >> You’ve spent months building strong bonds with your step kids and truly feel like a major part of their life now. You look after them like you would your own kids (you’ve cleaned sick up at 3am and sat with them as they came round from their tonsillectomies). Then they’re off, to their real dad’s. Cue jealousy all of a sudden, where the hell has that come from??!? Hang on a minute, I have spent ages building up a bond, but now it hurts seeing them go? I want them to see their dad (of course I do), but sometimes it makes me feel a bit like the understudy, waiting off stage.
You see, here’s the thing. I only have restricted access to the life I always imagined I’d live.
Let me explain … I am a stepdad to two great kids but I will never ever be their flesh and blood. I am the blood father of an amazing boy but he isn’t in my life 24/7 either. It’s a bit getting to the last level of Tomb Raider and someone pulling the plug out before you’ve saved the game!
I always feel like I am missing out. I only see MY son one day a week.
I have to drive a 90-mile round trip twice in one day just to do that. I do this EVERY week, without fail. I make the effort and it’s a constant battle. Some dads have that opportunity on a plate and they can’t be bothered, that really makes me angry and I ask myself why I deserve this? It breaks my heart EVERY day not living with my son, that I miss key moments in his childhood, that I can’t be there for him whenever he needs. That will never change, I know there are lots of people that have to deal with the same thing and I know exactly how you feel. You put it to the back of your mind, there’s nowhere else it can go.
MY son, GEMMA’s sons, fair treatment, favouritism, fighting, boy have we argued!
“Why has he got three Jaffa cakes, he only had two!” It’s a crazy thing, it’s a natural thing, to be protective of your flesh and blood and to look after them, it’s really hard to create that same bond for step kids. We both know. It takes times, effort and understanding. Nearly seven years, I think we’ve almost cracked that one but it’s been one hell of a challenge.
Stage left, new son, BEN, both of ours…… the bond that brings us all together. Hmm, surely this can bring issues as well? Resentment, favouritism, not spending enough time with everyone, ahhhhh come on, this was supposed to be the silver bullet! He’s amazing and we all love him, he’s got three half brothers but he doesn’t even understand what that means. He sees them coming and going to different people’s houses (who they call mum/dad) and he sometimes calls me Mike because that is what he hears Tom and Jonny call me.
But he just knows them as his brothers and that’s how it’s going to stay.
Ben’s the final piece to our family puzzle. By the way, it’s a baked bean puzzle! One of those that seems impossible at times has lots of pieces that don’t seem to fit, but really it just takes time, perseverance and patience to complete.
Then you frame it, stand back, look at it every day and remember how much effort it took 🙂
I have FOUR sons now…… they’re MY kids and that’s all there is to it.
Happy Father’s Day everyone.
Enjoy your families.
Mike (Gemma’s husband)