(Step)Mother’s Day

My response to this month’s Today Parenting Team Challenge Question: I’m a Great Mom Because…? One of the things that drives me nuts about the site is that, though there are about nine dozen drop down options for parenting topics, there is no “holy hell, I’m a stepmom” option. I keep thinking they will catch on eventually.

In the meantime, I will continue to wear my Contributor badge proudly.

Yesterday, social media was abuzz with pictures of families relishing their mothers. There were endless pictures of brunches and flowers and homemade cards. What you didn’t see were the endless glimpses of stepmothers sitting somewhere, likely alone, because they’d put their own need for accolades aside to make the day about the woman with whom they agreed to share her children. 

And maybe that sounds easy but it is actually very, very difficult.

Why are stepmoms so deserving of accolades? Because they step aside. They step aside often. Perhaps that is where the “step” in “stepmom” comes from – that ability to step aside as needed. 

Ah, a stepmom? That must be so easy, right? Part-time parenting? Only around for the fun stuff? Maybe once upon a time, but certainly not in my lifetime and certainly not in today’s world of families with children going forty-two directions on any given day.

Today, stepmoms are as much a part of the parenting team as the biological parents. We handle the school pickups and drop-offs. We handle doctors’ appointments. We handle big talks. We handle forgotten soccer balls or left behind lunches. We handle discipline. We handle the ups and we certainly handle the downs. 

And we handle it all while sitting in the role of the least favorite, most non-preferred, I-wish-she-was-not-here parenting position.

Some refer to us as the bonus mom. The bonus is that our stepchildren have someone to take all of their anger out on…anger that they had been stuffing deep down inside since their tiny lives imploded around them. The bonus is that extended family looks to us to foot the fault for any pop-up family issues. The bonus is that, around town, other women wonder if you were the cause of a marriage splitting up. 

But you know what? We take it.

Being a stepmom is a choice, not the fulfillment of a childhood dream. Find a woman who once thought, “Oh, I hope I marry a man someday who already had a different wife and who already has children with her, and…” Nevermind…you won’t.

Yes, at some point, every stepmom on this planet took a hard look at what a commitment to this man that she was falling hard for would mean and what it would mean to accept another woman’s children into her heart as if they were her own. 

We take the back seat, play the second fiddle, and serve as the punching bag – all before we even have breakfast on the table. When there are hugs to be given or credit to be offered, we understand that it is the biological parents who will be first in line, that we will be lucky to be noted at all, even if we were the most deserving.

And we know that this has less to do with a lack of love from our stepchildren and more to do with an innate need to remain loyal to that original, biological pod. Or, eventually, we figure that out. It is the moments leading up to that light bulb of a realization that is most heart-wrenching.

We are great moms because, though it hurts, we do, in the end, step aside. 

Yesterday, social media was abuzz with pictures of families relishing their mothers. There were endless pictures of brunches and flowers and homemade cards. What you didn’t notice is the second round, when it is finally the turn of the other mothers. 

For even when it comes to celebrating the women who also carry much of the familial load, we stepmothers hang back and wait, taking our turn when the spotlight has dimmed. 

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