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!