Something really epic happened at the Super Bowl — and it had nothing to do with rookie Malcolm Butler intercepting Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson with 20 seconds left (which was bonkers, too). But more stunning to me was actress Bridget Moynahan tweeting “Congratulations to the @Patriots! Sweet #4” to her 32.4K twitter followers. And she did this as Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, joined her man on the field to share a kiss with their son Benjamin at her side, while Brady gave John, the son he shares with Moynahan, a piggy-back ride. As a single mom, my heart was exploding.
Moynahan has “moved past the bitter parts that most breakups create, and onto accepting their relationship as a unique family,” relationship expert Amy Spencer, author of Meeting Your Half-Orangeand Bright Side Up, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Her son should be damn proud of his dad, and that tweet is a beautiful sign that Bridget wants to support her son that way.”
In 2008, Moynahan told Harper’s Bazaar, “Going through that traumatic time of being heartbroken and then being pregnant turned my whole life upside down and inside out and just knocked the wind out of me.”
This is around the time I developed a celebrity girl crush on Moynahan, because I was also single and pregnant. We both ended up having August babies in 2007. Coasts apart and nothing in common but being single moms to baby boys, we both freaked out. “All of a sudden, you have this newborn you have no training for. It’s frightening,” the actress told the fashion mag.
Me? I have a clear visual of signing my discharge papers in the maternity ward and then looking helplessly at the nurse, thinking, that’s it? I leave now? I take him? My parents drove me home — not exactly my fairytale birth story.
There’s no easy way around bringing a newborn home — alone — when the baby has a father and things went sour between the parents. My son’s dad moved on with his ex-girlfriend four states away from us — Brady reportedly began dating Supermodel Gisele Bundchen after he split from Bridge. There was no cheating and the supermodel once said: “He’s [Tom Brady] cute, but if he has a girlfriend, he’s gay to me. There are too many men in the world to go after a man who has a woman. Life is too short.”
But the circumstances of breakups are not relevant to us postpartum single moms raising babies alone — while the dads swiftly move on because they are not on diaper duty. It’s enraging at first. I saw red back then. It was part of my process. I was working through being 26, a single mother and building a magazine career. I was booted from New York City and back in New Jersey where I grew up.
Moynahan says she “got so much” out of the struggle. “It’s golden and it’s tough and it was f—ked up. But now I have a child, and it’s the best thing in the world.”
She’s right and this realization doesn’t happen overnight. There was a time when I really disliked my son’s father for being so flippant about his responsibilities, regardless of my hormones and his on-and-off feelings about being a dad.
“Every breakup that involves children is going to create tension and negativity at some point,” admits Spencer. “It’s human nature to feel anger, hurt, even hatred. And much like the grief one goes through in a death, single parents go through similar stages in a split.”
Personally I got clarity from my grief, because it made me realize, just like anything else, these feelings are fleeting. I don’t exactly hate my son’s father today, even though our son is seven and they’ve had zero communication. (But I respect him for paying child support every month on time, which makes my life easier — especially when I was sick battling cancer — even though I have a full-time income).
Spencer tells Yahoo Parenting that it’s vital that you allow yourself to acknowledge and experience pain, anger; frustration because those emotions lead to self-growth — you can’t rush that evolution. “It’s normal to feel these things, and working through it is the only way that you can reach later stages of acceptance and ideally, somewhere down the line, a positive relationship with the child’s other parent, half-sibs, and the stepmom.” Spencer says tears and fist-clenching will lead you to the next stage. (Unlike ignoring emails from the other parent, building a wall, or living out some fantasy that only one parent is to blame for a breakup or non-involvement with the child(ren).)
Right now, my son’s father is a person in my life, forever. I have nothing to prove to him or his wife. If they are stuck in 2007 when I blogged, raw, about being a newbie single mom, or when I wrote my memoir, Rattled! (Broadway Books, 2009) in 2009 — that is on them. I don’t need to “cover myself” by saying nice things about my son’s father’s wife (I have no problem with her — she didn’t leave me when I was pregnant). Seven years ago I did not want to be around these people — even though they had every single legal right to be around our son. Today, I could totally see myself sitting in the bleachers with them, watching Jack play baseball this spring season and I don’t think this is odd. My son has half-siblings and a father he wants to know. His wife, the step mom, is part of that package — I respect that. And I’m part of the fact our children share a dad.
Look at Moynahan and Bundchen, who were spotted chatting at John’s soccer game this fall while Brady was practicing for a game. This is years in the making and it’s wonderful. Even more heartwarming is the love Bundchen shows to Moynahan and Brady’s son, telling Vanity Fair, “I understand that he has a mom, and I respect that, but to me it’s not like because somebody else delivered him, that’s not my child. I feel like it is, 100 percent.” And Moynahan is cool with this: “My son has two loving parents in an extended family, whether it’s cousins or stepmothers or boyfriends. My son is surrounded by love.”
Photo by PacificCoastNews
Real-life stepmom Faye Halligan from New Jersey has primary custody of her three stepsons under 12 with her husband. She tells Yahoo Parenting that the reality of co-parenting children can be emotional and tricky to navigate.
“My husband and I have two rules of thumb when co-parenting our boys with his ex-wife: Communication and the health and well-being of the kids come first,” the event planner says. “We don’t have to be best friends, but when we rise above to communicate the needs of our children and continue to surround our boys with a positive, supporting, nurturing and loving environment — the kids benefit in spades,” admits Halligan.
And she’s not sugarcoating anything when it comes to her relationship with her stepchildren’s mother: “In order to keep things stable for our boys, I stay out of her way, and don’t step on toes. I try to keep it positive and encourage them to have a relationship with their mom. When we’re at mutual events for the kids — we say hello and goodbye and that’s about it.”
“No one aims to have a complicated relationship, or wishes to struggle as a single parent. But the best thing you can do for yourself is to let go of the picture you had in your mind — however snuggly and perfect it may have been,” says Spencer. “Start fresh finding what’s wonderful about the life you have now. And like [Moynahan] has done, it can actually help to force yourself to see the positive things that came from your relationship with your ex. Has it taught you profound patience? Have you been touched by some supportive friends or family coming out of the woodwork to help? Most important, look what being with your ex gave you: your unique, wonderful, and perfect child.”
As for stepmoms not as open as Bundchen — not willing to accept the olive branch yet because it will chip away paint from the white picket fence — think about what your husband and the other woman, the mother of his other child — has taught you. You accepted a man who made a mistake and is flawed. Accept his son.
(Top photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Yahoo Parenting has chosen this story, originally published on February 2, as an example of one of our best of 2015.