The “Other” Mother

Olive from Insert Metaphor (Hi Olive!) wrote a very thoughtful post about being the non-breastfeeding mom and her feelings about it. It got me thinking about my role in Big D’s life. My “other motherness” is way different than any of the ones I read on the interwebs. All of the blogs I read have 2 moms (or a mom and a dad) who conceived a baby (or babies) together and started from the beginning.  My wife was married to a man before we met and had Big D with him. I didn’t come into the picture until 9 years later.

Looking back on it now, I am surprised we are where we are as a family. When you are a single 27 year old woman and you inherit a wife and a 9 year old son, your world flips upside down. You don’t know if you are supposed to be a disciplinarian or a friend. You don’t know if your partner wants you to help parent in all of the important ways. (And even if they say they do, it’s not always what they mean.)

When we got together, I always swore that I would not try to take the place of his “Dad” (or The Donor), because he had a dad. They never had the kind of relationship Big D was looking for. The Donor was never there for Big D and never did cool father/son things with him (or any father/son things for that matter). There was no emotional support, and of course, no financial support either. So there I was, knowing he did not have a second parent in his life, and knowing that I wanted to be that person. But in the beginning, Big D did not want me to be his second parent. We got along (for the most part), but when it came to discipline, he did not want to listen to me. When there were parent/teacher conferences, he did not want me to go. I stood my ground. Even though it was hard at first, we both had to come to the realization that I am his step-mom and one of his primary caregivers – and I am not going anywhere.

Over the next three years, we made tremendous progress, and he even called me when he was having trouble with his gym teacher one day! I ran down there and we sat down with him and figured everything out. I was also being called to get him if he was sick, and if he needed anything. I would go to all of his events with D. I was really feeling like a “mom”.

When his 6th grade graduation rolled around, we were so excited. He wanted to invite The Donor, so we did (not to the house, just to the ceremony). We didn’t think he’d show up, but he did. He stood across the gym against the wall. There was a part in the ceremony when the kids were given 2 flowers to go out into the audience and give to their parents. Big D came rushing over to us, and I thought, for a split second, that he was going to give me the second flower. Instead, he gave one to D and rushed off to give the other one to The Donor. Such a small, insignificant thing, right? Well, I lost it. I looked at D, and tears started welling up in my eyes, and I couldn’t stop them. I felt like nothing.

Here I was, taking care of this child and loving him, and making sure he had everything he needed, and he went straight over to the one person who has given him nothing in his life. I knew rationally that it wasn’t Big D’s fault. I knew that no matter what his bio-dad did to him, he felt a connection to him. He wanted to feel like all the other kids, and like he truly had a mom AND a dad. But that didn’t stop how I felt in that moment. It’s selfish, I know. D’s parents were there, and I felt stupid for letting myself feel that way. I wiped up all my tears and sucked it up. After the ceremony, my mother-in-law told Big D I was hurt by it (I’m not sure why she did that), and he came to me to apologize. I told him there was nothing to apologize about, that sometimes step-parents feel certain ways that even they don’t know they’re going to feel. He told me he had originally asked to get 3 flowers, but they didn’t have enough. I said I thought that was very sweet of him, and I didn’t want him to worry about it.

That day was a long time ago now, but I still remember that feeling. I’ve had several of those “I am nothing” feelings over the last 8 years, but they are much fewer and far-er in between. Big D and I have developed a very close bond.* We talk to each other. We “get” each other. We both respect each other. He listens when I say no now. He comes to me to try and convince his mom to say yes to something. He tells me when he isn’t feeling heard. I love this relationship we have built. I love that he tells people I am his step-mom (although he calls me by my first name). I am so glad we got here because he will be leaving the nest soon, and I hope our bond continues 🙂

His “Donor” is no longer in his life at all, and hasn’t been for a long time. I don’t know if that’s why we became so close, or if we would have regardless. All I know is that even though I didn’t give birth to him or know him for the first few years of his life, I am his “other” mother.

*He was born a day after my 18th birthday, (our astrological signs are very close). I always joke I that I was a teen mom and didn’t know it!


About thelesbiannextdoor

I am a 42 year old lesbian, living with her wife in a small town. I have a 24 year old step-son. Who knows, I could be your neighbor ;) (Unless you know for sure your neighbor is not a lesbian - then I'm probably not!)

Posted on March 15, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Excellent post, and refreshing to read a different view entirely on the subject. I can’t imagine how much work it would be to start from scratch with a much older child. But I can completely understand the hurt you felt when you didn’t receive a flower 😦 It sounds like you’ve come a long way and have an ideal relationship today.

    • Thank you Strawberry 🙂 I sometimes wish there were other blogs out there with a similar experience. It’s funny because it didn’t really cross my mind at the time that I would be a mother to him. I just knew I was madly in love with D!

  2. This was lovely. I have two stepmoms (whom I met when I was 14 and 16) and although I’m still closest to my bio-parents having them in my life as role models and parents has made a huge difference. It’s a hard line to walk, especially with the Donor not being involved (my dad has taken over as parent for his two step-kids’ mostly absent fathers, so I’ve seen how rough it can be), but I’m glad that all your hard work has paid off. I’m sure that when Big D tells people about his parents, he’s talking about you.

    • Your reply made me smile Isa! I think it’s amazing that as a teenager you still bonded with your step mothers. I have actually heard him talk about us as a parenting unit, (when he was telling his Donor off last year). I was shocked and delighted that he included me when saying he wouldn’t be where he is without us 🙂

  3. i don’t have any insights, but i want to thank you for posting this.

  4. What a beautiful post! I can’t begin to imagine what it is to take on a nine year old at the age of 27 – even now, i don’t know if i’d be brave enough to step in to a ‘step’ position. I have a step mother, bless her heart I gave her such a hard time as a teenager.

    The flower thing, i know you said it’s long since water under the bridge and the situations are all fifferent now – but perhaps an olive branch would have been a more fitting symbol, since that appears to be what Big D meant it as. That’s the funny thing with kids, their parents can behave awfully, but the kids will only ever seek acceptance from them, despite everything else.

    I have a friend who recently moved in with her partner and her partners daughter … i’m going to send her a link to this blog … not that she has said anything to suggest she needs support – but I think it’ll be nice for her to read something from someone who’s been there n done it! Her blog is at

    • Ah yes, an olive branch would definitely be fitting!

      I never thought about being a step mom before D and Big D came around. Even when we were dating, it didn’t cross my mind all that much. I figured everything would just sort of be like when they would visit me (but of course it wasn’t).

      I knew I loved D very much, and Big D and I got along well, so I knew I had to give it a try. It wasn’t like I had them move in and thought “oh, I’m a step mom now!” I just thought, “Oh, I get to spend every day with them now!” The other stuff came later. It was a slower process.

      Giraffe on a Stick! I’ve been reading her for a little while now (found her through your blog actually). I would be interested to hear her experiences, if she feels like sharing them 🙂 And of course I am willing to offer any advice I can!

  5. I’m here! I’m reading! (I couldn’t comment from my phone yesterday, silly phone).

    This is all so very similar indeed. I too will be blogging about my experiences; they’re very similar to yours M (not SWBVR M!)

    As I write this I’ve just been shifted over in bed so that Child can get in between us.

    When I met L, I met L on her own. C was 400+ miles away and although I knew she existed, she wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. The day I met and fell in love with L (and yes, as cheesy as it sounds), I saw L. Just L. Just L in her own right, not in ‘mum mode’. I fell in love with her for that. Only once I began to think about C did I realise what a huge thing it was.

    I never, ever wanted children. I never have. Yet having C in my life has changed me in a way that isn’t describable in a comment!

    I’ll subscribe and follow, and we can share experiences as the ‘other’ mother. I must remember to include the phrase C came up with for me…


    • I’m so glad you’re reading along! I can’t wait to read and more about your experience.

      We never did let Big D sleep with us, but my wife has gone into bed with him to help him fall asleep (when he was little, not now!) and she’s fallen asleep in there. So I know what it’s like to have the child come in between you at night, just not in the same sense 😉

      We started out long distance too, and just like you, even though I knew Big D existed, he wasn’t there with us in the very early days. I, too saw my wife as just her and fell madly in love very quickly!

      Looking forward to reading your journey!!

  1. Pingback: Wheely Delight « giraffeonastick

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