This is my baby’s first Mother’s Day, but not mine.
Technically, I’ve been celebrating Mother’s Day – or rather, my husband has been celebrating Mother’s Day for me – for several years. Before I became Gabriel’s mom, I was – and always will be – Nathan’s stepmom.
Even though this year feels different with the baby, I’ve been doing the mom thing for years now. I felt like an outsider most of that time, like I didn’t deserve to share a day with ‘real’ moms who physically brought life into this world. But after years of soccer games, parent teacher conferences, sleepovers, and sick days, I realized what my stepson knew long ago – that the ‘step’ doesn’t really matter a whole lot.
I remember when Nathan was in third grade. It was the first school year that he lived with us full-time. In May of that year, he asked me if I would come with him to Paynter Elementary’s Mornings with Mom. I tried telling him that his mom might want to come instead, or one of his grandmas. Keep in mind, I was “Dad’s Girlfriend” at that point, and most definitely one of the youngest ‘parents’ at any school event. Talk about insecure.
Anyway, he told me he wanted me to go with him. I don’t think I cried, but I was utterly blown away that he wanted to spend his “Morning with Mom” with me… his stepmom. Check … Dad’s Girlfriend. We weren’t even engaged yet.
To my fellow stepmoms: I understand what it’s like to feel like an outsider in your child’s life. I know what goes through your mind when you see your child’s interactions with his or her biological mom. You wonder if he’ll ever look at you the way he looks at his mom. You’ll question if you’re doing it right. If you belong. If what you’re doing is making a difference. You wonder sometimes if you deserve to be celebrated on Mother’s Day. I’ve been there.
I can assure you of two things: 1) Most of your feelings are in your head. Children are remarkably open and welcoming until and unless you give them reasons not to be. 2) You’re good enough. You’re better than good enough.
You’re choosing to raise a child who did not come into this world in your arms, but you’ll carry her anyway. You decided to open your heart to a child who has baggage. Who may never love you the same way he loves his own mom. But in time, you’ll understand that he doesn’t love you any less. He loves you differently, but for the same reasons.
We used to correct people who addressed me as ‘Mom’ and him ‘son.’ Now, we just go with it. I never tried to replace his mom … I never want to, because I know the special bond between a mom and her boy can’t ever be replicated. But we’re past labels now. I’m his parent, and he’s my kid. I’m Julia, he’s Nathan. Simple.
However you came to be in your (step)child’s life, know that it’s ok to pour your whole heart and soul into being a ‘real Mom.’ Because you are. And today is about you, too.
So here’s to you, fellow stepmoms! Happy Mother’s Day.