I had drinks with colleagues the other night and our conversation turned towards my stepchildren. I personally despise the word “step.” Perhaps Cinderalla ruined it for all of us, but it somehow has a negative connotation that I am very uncomfortable with. Because of that, I will refer to my boys as my sons for the remainder of this article. It is a shame that I have to explain or have an excuse to call them my sons, but that is the purpose of this article, as you will see.
At any rate, one colleague expressed her discomfort with my story of discipline that I had bestowed upon my son who broke curfew. I was told that it was not my “place” to punish, reprimand, guide, voice opinion or, God forbid, parent my sons. Why? Well of course it is because I did not birth them myself. As a matter of fact, I came into their lives about 6 years ago, but it was not until 5 years ago that I got involved in a relationship with their father. Because he had sole custody, he depended on my help and partnership in raising his quickly growing boys. Even though the eldest was about to graduate from high school, and his youngest was in 7th grade, as any parent knows, sometimes those can be the toughest stages, especially after divorce and various changes that come with that process.
I urged the judgmental colleague to refrain from speaking on things she knows nothing about, but she would not let it go. Her opinion is that stepparents should be seen and not heard. I explained that everyone’s situation is different and that she should not just place a blanket rule or statement over anyone parenting non-biological children. Needless to say, she would not let up and the conversation ended in what my friends now call my “Bethenny Frankel moment.” This was not the first time that I was judged and confronted by another female who felt it was her business to tell me that I have no rights as a mother because I did not birth these boys.
So here’s the question: Why are these biological moms so insecure that they cannot share that “mom” title or parenting roles with people “like me,” the nonbiologicals?Why is it that when a woman with children gets divorced, all anyone talks about is finding a man that is good to her children? But when a man gets divorced, that man is supposed to find a woman that could care less about his children? Or is it that silly game that you want us to play? Love the child, but not too much so no one feels insecure, show up for them, but not for everything thereby making the absent parent look bad, and so on and so forth. How is any of this helpful to the child? My guess is that when you make comments like this, you are not thinking about the child at all. You are just thinking about your own insecurities as a mother.
My (soon to be) husband has had full custody of his sons since his divorce. I have never even had a day with him in 5 years without his children. There is no weekend off, or every other week, etc. He is a full time father, so I became a full time mother. That is just the way it is whether the biological mothers out there like it or not. I am not here to take anyone’s place. I am here because this is where God put me and these children were and are still children. As a mature, responsible adult, I choose to take on that responsibility and I do not see any other way to handle it, honestly. I fell in love with and chose to marry a man with sons. It is a package deal and with that comes a responsibility to help them grow and become the best that they can be.
With the amount of hate in the world right now, it is mind-boggling to me that anyone would be upset that there’s one more person in the world trying to make a difference in a child’s life, giving, guiding and just plain loving him/ her.
If I were a man that chose to take on a women’s children and I taught the boys to fish and I showed up at their baseball games or took her daughter to dance class and eventually was chosen to walk her down the aisle as the father that raised her and loved her from the day we met, I’d be a sob story and a husband that every divorced woman dreams of finding!!! But because I am a woman, I am stepping on toes because someone else carried these boys in her belly.
Carrying children is just a matter of biology, but being a mother is much more than that. We see that consistently by the number of children that are waiting to be adopted. You do not earn a guarantee just because you gave birth. You still have to show up and be a parent. You have to be hated sometimes. You have to struggle to pay the tuition and you have to find time in the day to run them back and forth to school and practice and the gym. You have to stay up all night wondering where they are when they miss curfew and won’t answer their phone. You have to cry when they get their heart broken for the first time, even though you are secretly happy because you knew she was no good for him. You have to do 10 loads of laundry a day because they are a mess and you have to go to the grocery store 3 times a week because they are growing boys who eat everything. You have to stand in line at parent/ teacher conference hoping that your kid is the good kid in class (and he always is.) You have to overthink whether or not they are ready for their license and whether or not you are ready to let them go. You have to fight with their father because figuring out the right thing is hard. You have to cry when you miss a baseball game and he’s called in to pitch for the first time that season. You have to wake up when you’ve already gone to bed just to check their paper because they waiting until midnight to tell you that it is due the next day and you have to feel that relief when they come home and want to talk to you about their problems. You have to consistently lecture them about the real world and what life will be life after graduation to the point that they roll their eyes every time you open your mouth and you have to deal with their grumpy attitude in the morning (and the afternoon and the evening!) These are examples of what it is to be a parent; a mom or a dad. Biology has nothing to do with that and the right anatomy and working “lady parts” cannot turn you into something that you are not.
Women, stop being so judgmental and insecure. If you are doing your best and you are present and there for your child, then you’re doing great. Stop thinking that every person that bore a child is just like you and stop thinking that every woman that loves your child is trying to take your place. Every situation is different and sometimes it is okay for children to love multiple women and have a few strong female role models. Everyone has two biological parents, but not everyone has a mom, or a dad for that matter. No matter what the situation is, you should be thankful that there is someone there to love your child when you aren’t able to, when you don’t know how to, or even when you are right next to them. Mothers are something that every child needs and they come in many different shapes, sizes and roles. I am grateful everyday that I got thrown into this role and even though there’s so much judgment, I know there are a lot more people out there just like me; taking care of children that they did not plan to have but fell in love with and everyday we choose to take care of them and to me, that is a mother!