BOOK REVIEW: The Girlfriend Mom by Dani Alpert, 2020.
Dani Alpert was childless by choice, but when she partnered with Julian, she became a de facto step-mom to his son and daughter. She wasn’t married to their dad, but she was caring for these kids, so what was she really? She decided to call herself “the girlfriend mom.” This new book tells the story of how that turned out.
Asked in an interview how she felt when she discovered Julian had children, she says, “I didn’t care because it was lust at first sight. All I was thinking about was getting into his pants, not starting a long-term relationship. The possibility of meeting his kids, let alone getting involved with them (in any way) was not on my radar. I continued on my child-free life way. There was also a part of me that thought dating a dad was sexy — I’d never had a dad before. That sounds creepy.
“In the beginning, Julian almost made it seem like he didn’t have kids — by that, I mean, because he didn’t have full custody, there were plenty of “between-the-sheets” days. As time went on, he’d cancel our plans more frequently. It didn’t truly hit me over the head until we moved in together. I’d get the side-eye from Julian if I preferred not to partake in the weekend activities with the kids. My feeling was, they were his kids and his time with them — I was just the girlfriend. When I started to feel my autonomy slipping away, I knew this might be an issue.”
Have you felt that loss of autonomy and that change in the relationship when the kids enter the picture? I sure have. But Alpert tells it in a way that lets us laugh through our tears.
Alpert experienced many of the challenges all childless stepmothers face. When the kids are around, her man acts differently. Suddenly it’s all about his children, right? When there’s a conflict, guess who loses? How do you interact with their mom? What happens on holidays and birthdays? How do you respond when the kids say, “You’re not my mom”? When do you get to have sex? How much of your life do you have to give up for these children who aren’t even yours?
All those awkward times are here, as is a growing love for Julian’s son and daughter that lasts longer than the relationship with their dad. Alpert’s tone is light-hearted, often funny, but the love is real, so real we have to add another question: Can you ditch the guy and keep the kids?
Alpert is not only an accomplished writer but has had a long career in film and theater, working as a screenwriter, performer, producer and director. She has an easy writing style that makes this book a joy to read, and childless stepparents will be nodding their heads in recognition as Alpert negotiates the all-too-familiar pitfalls of being a girlfriend mom.
For more about Dani Alpert, visit her website.
So, dear friends, I know many of you are in relationships with people who have children. Can you love these kids? How does not having children of your own make it easier or more difficult? Are they getting between you and your partner? What is it like being the “girlfriend mom”?
Please comment. And do read The Girlfriend Mom.
Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of the book to review.
2 thoughts on “Sometimes you’re just the ‘girlfriend mom’”
My experience is a tad bit different because I am no longer childless. Maybe you care to read about it anyway.
I refused to be “just” the girlfriend mom. We’re not married, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to raise his kids without having at least one of my own. So I have one daughter, she’s one year old.
His two older daughters are 12 and 14. Not an easy age. He wasn’t in their lives for a long time which creates issues as well. Jealousy because my daughter is growing up with a dad and they didn’t for so many years. Them wanting their parents to get back together and thinking I’m the reason they don’t. Which is not true. They had been divorced for ten years when my partner and I met. I was not the other woman. And they had their reasons to separate.
The older daughter gets extremely clingy with her dad. Although she’s already 14, she’ll sit on his lap when we watch TV. The baby and I aren’t allowed near him. She storms off to her room when he plays with the baby. When I was giving birth to my daughter, she called him and needed him to come see her at her aunt’s house, because she got scared. I labored alone for hours. He almost missed the birth of our child.
Do I love them? I’m going to be completely honest and say I don’t love them as if they were my own children. I take care of them when they’re at our house. I’m nice to them. I listen to their problems. But I’m not a mother to them. They have a mother who loves them and is very involved. So I don’t want to overstep boundaries there. And I simply don’t have the same feelings for them that I have for my own daughter. It’s more like a friendship. Or an aunt-niece relationship. Which I think would be the same way if I didn’t have a child of my own. I met them as teenagers and they don’t like me very much which is normal, but this situation does not create motherly feelings in me.
Sometimes I catch myself longing for the day they’re old enough to be on their own. Horrible, I know. But on the days they’re not here, I get along better with my partner. And my daughter has a dad. When they’re here, it’s drama and tears and “why can’t you love our mother?” And “why do you have to be with her?” And “why did you have to make another kid?” It gets to me sometimes.
Anneliese, thank you for sharing this. Although I didn’t have a child, I can identify with a lot of it. It’s good to know the realities of this situation. I suspect it’s this way more often than any kind of happy Brady bunch blended family. Hang in there. It’s not horrible to wish they were older and the drama would ease up.