We’ve all been there – whether it’s the Sainsbury’s cashier or a kids party host, people will constantly make the assumption that you are Mum. In the next 3 seconds, your brain works at super speed trying to decide whether it’s worth correcting and for us unmarried Stepmums in particular, what to correct to.
I’ve probably done every possible response to this, including:
“Actually I’m his Step-Mum”
“Oh I’m actually his step-mum, well sort of potential future step-Mum… I’m his Dads partner?”
It can be awkward and it can be a bit embarrassing for everyone, but I really don’t know why! The same thing has happened to me on numerous occasions with children of family or friends and its never been an awkward moment, its either been an instant correction or a funny story to share later.
We seem to have it ingrained that “Step-Mum” is a negative or certainly a less positive label and role for us to hold – and it just isn’t true! There is no less than or more than, no better and no worse, it’s just different.
In exactly the same way that a part-time step parent doesn’t know what’s its like to be a full time biological parent, full time mothers have no idea what’s its like to be a step-parent. Even biological parents without full time custody will have a different experience which brings its’ own challenges and benefits.
I’ve heard the response, “when you have your own…” more times than I can count, and I’m sure there is some truth in that, but even if I decide to have children of my own, my experience of biological motherhood will be massively shaped and influenced by my first experience of step-motherhood, in ways I’m sure many others couldn’t understand.
Now, I’m not about to start a one-woman rebellion and launch into an emotional tirade every time I don’t feel respected or get questioned on my role with Monster. What I will do is make a commitment to myself to own my role and my label both inside and outside our home.
I am a step-Mum, it doesn’t matter if I’m married, it doesn’t matter if I’ve ever been pregnant or how many nights per week I have Monster in my house. I’ve had the sleepless nights, I’ve done the big cuddles and kisses, I’ve been proud, frustrated and overwhelmed with love. I’ve changed all my plans at the last minute, I’ve spent hours preparing court papers, I’ve missed my little boy for months at a time but I’ve come through it fighting; for him. I know what it’s like to parent, no matter how different our parenting journeys have been.
I am not less than, I am not better than – I am a different kind of parent and so are you.
Next time you pause discussing tantrums at the school gate, or quietly admit to being step-Mum at the counter – remember that you are the only person in the world who has been through exactly what you have and nobody else in the world could be you more fantastically than you.