Extending the family

“I didn’t spend long enough getting to know my ex-partner before I moved him in with my children. The pressure of three children put a new strain on us and we ended up separating within a few months. I do believe that I rushed things because I felt so happy and I wanted to share that happiness with my children. I’m grateful that they were only young and don’t remember this relationship because it consisted of a lot of arguments in a stage that was meant to be full of excitement and learning about one another.” Sandra

It’s hard to think about a new relationship or extending your family when you already have children. I was also worried about what everyone else would think about me wanting that little bit more for myself.

I attempted to have a relationship with a childhood friend when my older children were toddlers, but it didn’t work out because I thought I didn't have the time to commit. I made up that excuse because I didn’t want anyone to judge me going into a new relationship when they were so young. I assumed that’s how the people around me would see it. Looking back, I realise that those same people I was worrying about would have been supportive. Fear held me back from putting my own needs first.

Years flew by and my children were growing up quickly and becoming more independent. I started to feel like I wasn’t needed as much, and they preferred playing with their friends than me. It took me a while to get used to the fact I wasn’t in demand. I found myself having the time to buy books and actually get to read them without any distractions. It was lovely, but I knew there was something missing.

This is where social media played a massive part in my happiness. I posted a picture of my car failing to get me from A to B again and my phone quickly beeped. I checked the notification and it was the childhood friend, the one I had tried to have a relationship with all those years ago.

The comment was asking if I needed any help because he had a garage in the area. I replied that I did, and like a knight on a horse he came to the rescue and fixed the car. I offered to buy him lunch one day in-between my working hours as a thank you. He agreed, and we met a few more times as friends. But that didn’t last long when we realised that there was still something between us.

Telling people about my new relationship was daunting. I would start it with, ‘You know Alan, don’t you? Well …’ I don’t know why I was so nervous because my family already knew and loved him. I think it was because I still had the cloud hanging over me from when I ended the relationship all those years before, questioning if I was truly ready for a relationship and how I was going to introduce him to my children as a boyfriend. Would they all get on or was I heading into battle?

So how long is the acceptable amount of time to wait before you introduce someone new to your children? I personally don’t think there is a set time. It varies from family to family depending on the ages of the children and whether you want that little bit longer in the new relationship stages with only you as a priority.

Understanding that you can have a relationship, without having to share anything with your children and family at first, can give you more time to get to know one another. This is without any distractions like the opinions others may have. It also gives you the chance to understand how you feel and if it’s serious enough to then introduce your new partner and welcome him into the family.

I can safely say that I enjoyed this time of being Clare. I didn't have to look after Alan like I did my children. He was taking care of me, treating me with flowers and taking me for lunch. This was something that I wasn’t used to and admittedly it felt good to have the roles reversed. Walking out of my front door was like something out of a Superman film, where he changes quickly from Clark Kent to Superman. I felt like I had transformed from Mum to Clare.

I had no yogurt in my hair and not a care in the world because I knew my children were safe and that I was allowed to go out and have time with Alan on our own.

It got to the stage in the relationship where it felt right for the children to meet Alan. I introduced him as a friend and we enjoyed days out to the cinema and walks in the park, so my children could get to know him before we moved to the next stage of telling them that we were boyfriend and girlfriend. This sounds so childish but that’s what it was.

I didn't have to wait long until my son was asking for Alan to stay over with us. He enjoyed listening to all of Alan’s stories about being in the military, because to him they were a lot more interesting than my own Royal Navy tales. They both got on so well.

I asked my daughter how she felt about Alan moving in and she said, ‘It’s good because you are happier and so are we.’ This was lovely to hear, even though I didn't want her thinking I wasn't happy being a mum, because I truly was. I was just missing one of the puzzle pieces that made our life what it is now, which feels whole, and that was Alan.

My children adapted very well to Alan moving in. They understood that change doesn't have to be negative, even though past experiences had been, including moving homes and their dad leaving. Now we had exciting opportunities, including another new home and a new addition to the family with a baby sister for them.

You never know what saying yes to an opportunity will bring. This relationship taught me that holding back because of fear only results in chances passing you by and I was not letting Alan pass me by again. Have the courage to speak out about the things you want and make an emotional commitment to holding onto them. This is not because it keeps everyone happy or content, but because it makes you happy and creates your own chapters.

Introducing a new partner to your children isn't always going to be a smooth journey. We still have the ups and our downs in our home that come with all family life. But I know starting a new chapter with Alan was the best decision I could have made for myself and my children. I feel a love like no other and my children have another person in their lives who would do anything in his power to keep them protected.

Getting married was the next stage for us and it was something I never thought would happen to me. When I was a single mum, I had been living in the money mindset that it came in and went out again straight away, because that’s always what seemed to happen. So, when Alan asked me to marry him it was one of those moments where I was taken aback. I didn't hesitate when saying “yes” but I automatically wondered how we were going to afford a wedding. But we managed it and it was the most magical day of our lives next to having our children.

I was overwhelmed with happiness, even though a few comments were made that it was too soon, only being a few months into the relationship. But for anyone who knew me, Alan and the children, their reply would have been that it was a bit late and that we should have done it years ago! I didn’t care what anyone else thought or said though, what mattered was my little family were all happy and safe.

You can’t please everyone. Reminding yourself that you are a priority and drowning out any negativity is a must do to make sure you don't let any flow into your family unit and affect your relationship.

Worrying about moving forward with a relationship because of your ex-partner and children’s father doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t happen either. Keeping communication open but not forcefully will help things flow. You are no longer a couple, but you are still parents who are setting examples for your children.

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