Yesterday was Mother's Day. If you are a step-mom you undoubtedly felt somewhat strange yesterday. You felt misplaced. You felt taken for granted maybe a little and misunderstood maybe a lot. You were grateful you didn't have to wear or hold a pink carnation - sure, but that hardly seemed to make up for the rest of it. You felt a bit like a dump truck at a black-tie ball -- you know you have been useful and appreciated in the past but you just didn't seem to fit in at the current event. And let's be honest, you sort of stuck out.
Or maybe you didn't feel any of those things. Maybe you felt wonderfully loved and honored. Maybe you felt needed and cherished. Maybe you didn't feel one bit of awkward at brunch and not one bit of clumsy opening your knock-off hallmark. Maybe all you thought about is how grateful you are to be a part - any part - of this darling child's life. And if that's what you felt, go screw off.
Did that sound mean?
What I'm saying is this: It's not always easy being a step-mom. There, it's out. I've said it. We don't always find our kids cute and cuddly. Their antics don't always make us laugh. And sometimes, when they sleep, we don't see angels. We see drool. It's true. God help me, it's true.
Now I'm not saying we don't love our step-kids. I'm not saying we don't get warm and fuzzy sometimes and I'm not saying we don't beam a little when someone compliments the fruit of someone else's loins that we are properly supervising - we do. Sometimes. We do!
And most of the time, we find a way to balance it. Most of the time we juggle all the aspects of this strange situation brilliantly and keep the emotional-connection ball far away from wipe-the-boogers-without-flinching ball and never let the resentment ball enter the mix. But on Mother's Day ... on Mother's Day, it is hopeless. They all somehow collide.
Yesterday, The Kid called. We talked for 55 minutes. I know it was 55 minutes because every 4 minutes The Kid would say "HOW LONG HAVE WE BEEN TALKING ALREADY?!" We talked about flowers and ducks and our dogs and her room (and her mom and when her mom hurt her ankle and what her mom had for breakfast and how long her mom takes in the shower.) We talked about school and the teacher (and what her mom says about the teacher and what color flowers her mom picked out and how clean her mom's room was.) We talked about a pair of shoes she's saving for (and what her mom told her about the shoes and that her mom pushed her bed to the center of the room so her mom could paint and why her mom picked out green and all.) we talked and talked. Do you see what I mean?
Maybe that doesn't explain it.
This morning I woke up to an email from a friend who is also a step-mother. She explained how she was feeling yesterday, what was hard for her and what wasn't. She tried to put words to this strange feeling she was carrying around. This feeling of having a child but not being "Mom."
My cousin is a step-mom. I sent her an email this morning wishing her a belated happy mother's day. In addition to sharing her own struggles, she told me about her co-worker who is a a step-mom to 2 20-something boys who she has step-mommed since they were 6 and 8. She agreed it is a weird day for step-moms. She said she doesn't like to go to church on Mother's Day b/c when they ask the mothers to stand up she doesn't know what to do and it's not worth the stress.
Man do I understand that perspective.
I have another friend who is a step-mom. We sometimes meet secretly to talk about it. We talk in hushed tones. After we've checked each other for hidden wires and DFS bugs, we say "it's hard" and we admit that we have to choose to love when it is hardest and we both say how our step-children remind us of their mothers. And then we take a long drink of vodka and nod. We get it.
If you are a mom and you are reading this, I know what you are thinking. You are thinking you feel the same way. You are thinking it is just as hard for you and you feel taken for granted and taken advantage of and you have to choose to love too. I can almost hear you. But just today I want to say this, piss off. And I don't mean to sound bitter, I really don't. And I'm NOT bitter. But I don't think you understand, not really just like I don't totally understand you. I didn't push a 6% of my body weight out my hoo-ha and if that isn't enough to make you a saint, I don't know what is but I will never FULLY understand how you feel and what you go through as Mom. So just today please don't tell me that you know how I feel. This is the dilemma, the pull, the stress. We, as step-parents, are given all the responsibility of being parents and few of the benefits - like a special day. Or the right to be overwhelmed. Then again, we didn't get an episotomy either so maybe it does all equal out.
I really can't and don't complain. But it gets heavy sometimes. It's hard to find sympathy or empathy. Other mothers don't really understand. Childless women don't understand. Step-father's don't even really totally understand because it is easier, in my opinion, to be a man and be authoritarian and not be considered "out of line." Single men surely don't understand and even dump trucks don't get it.
But as a sign of encouragement, I'm ending this post with a snippet of an email The Hub sent to our very good step-mom friend and me today:
You’ve taken on the more difficult role (in my opinion) of raising a young girl to become the woman she’s meant to be when, at one time, this person was a complete stranger to you. You were under no obligation other than the love of your man to take this person and make her your own. The magnitude of your heart will never be measured by a card or a bouquet of flowers. You are appreciated, you are loved, you are amazing
The magnitude of your heart will never be measured by a card or a bouquet of flowers. This is what I need to remember.
Happy Mother's Day, Step-moms. No flowers, no flowery words. Just this ... I get it. Keep up the good work.