It’s a difficult and loaded question – when you do you stop being Dads girlfriend (or Mums boyfriend) and start being a step parent?
There are many definitions of “step mother”, most of these are specifically related to marriage; many are very longstanding and therefore traditional in their perspective.
A couple gets married, buy a house, have children and stay together until parted by death or rarely *hushed whisper* divorce… the widower (or divorcee) then finds a new partner, introduces the kids, gets married, moves in and all of a sudden a wife and stepmother are born, stepmother is generally hated by the kids but they all put up with each other until dad dies. (Thanks Disney!)
In modern relationships, the order can become very jumbled indeed and some steps may never happen at all. The birth parents may or may not have been married, the new relationship also may not follow the traditional steps.
Take my partner and I – we have been together for over 4 years, Monster was only 9 months old when we became an item, more than 6 months after his parents had separated. We will, one day, get married but first we moved in together. We got our house more than 3 years ago and have lived together happily since. We’re in a serious, committed relationship – we plan to spend the rest of our lives together as we are today.
Despite the seriousness of our relationship, some people have told me I am not a Step-Mum.. because we are not married or bizarrely because his Birth-Mum is not dead??
I didn’t cocoon myself in a blanket and stop myself from forming a relationship with Monster because his father and I aren’t married – I wipe his tears, make him giggle hysterically, help teach him to read and write and how to deal with his emotions… I love him, support him and burst with pride on a waaaay too frequent basis.
Will any of that feel different if we shared the same name or I wore a ring on a different finger? I hope not, if absolutely nothing changes in the next 30 years, I think we have a pretty perfect little family.
So for me, when I started to feel those strange bursts of pride and found myself with a goofy smile because a 2 year old told me he loved me.. I became a stepmum and more important to me.. Monster became my stepson. There’s no way he’s just my boyfriends kid, he’s a little bit mine too.
It’s not about the label or the status, if there is any in being a StepMum.. for me, it’s the feeling of belonging and the invisible line drawn between Monster and me, its a small and to some an insignificant gesture but it’s our connection and married or not, I wear the StepMum label with pride.