The eve of Mother’s Day is as good a time as any to talk about my life as a stepmom. I have friends who will wish their fellow moms a Happy Mother’s Day, but there is no special holiday for stepmoms that I’m aware of. Sure, some will be honored tomorrow along with all the other mothers out there. But not all stepmoms will get cards or phone calls or flowers or brunches. So, just in case you are a stepmom, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.
I’ve been a stepmom for over a decade. The Kid was four when we came into each other’s lives—too young to understand the complexity of divorce and remarriage. I, frankly, was too young to grasp the intricacies of dating a divorced dad. I think that worked in both our favors and so we liked each other right off the bat. I’d scoop him up and twirl him around until he giggled or got sick. Now, at seventeen, he can do that to me. (Just don’t, Kid. Thanks.) I call the Kid my “oops baby” because I never really planned on someone like him. He was simply part of Hubs’s package deal. And I’ve reaped so many benefits from it.
Being a stepmom is a bit of a high wire act—figuring out our responsibilities to a child who isn’t our own, being respectful of their mothers who may have a philosophy different from ours, letting the father make the final say. Staying silent is a big part of it—it’s about the present, not the past. Like any parent, we make a lot of mistakes. We just pray those mistakes don’t send our stepchildren rushing to a therapist’s couch.
It’s difficult for some people to view me as a parent. It’s not because they’re unkind. They often can’t comprehend or maybe fear the idea of another woman caring for their kids. Stepmoms can be invisible to the outside world, or, worse, labeled “wicked.” If I had a time machine, I’d go back and punch the Grimm Brothers. Ooh, I’d punch ‘em hard. We stepmoms have had to work overtime to overcompensate for the crap they made Cinderella’s and Snow White’s stepmoms do.
The relationship between a stepmother and stepchild doesn’t require love, but cooperation. Fortunately, the Kid and I have both. I hope he knows (because I’ve told him often enough) that he can come to me for anything and that I would do anything for him. I hope he also knows that he’s in charge of my medication when I’m old and infirmed. “I forget. Do I give you your meds at 9 a.m. or 9 p.m.?” he responds sardonically when I remind him.
Once, the Kid told me I wasn’t cool. I asked him why. “Because parents aren’t cool,” he said. I beamed for days at this personal victory. His validation of my being a parent is really the only one I need.
So Happy Mother’s Day to you stepmoms out there. And to you mothers and grandmothers. But also to you teachers, mentors, and friends who were there for someone when they needed it most. Whether you nurture a child, a pet, or a dream, this day is for you.