“You are not their mother.”
If you have been in any kind of stepmother scenario for more than a nanosecond, then you have heard these words. If you are like me, then you really had no uncertainty regarding whether the children in question had actually passed through your birth canal or not, rendering the oft-repeated words useless for all practical purposes.
Tell me something I don’t already know. Unless the kids sprang from somewhere besides my uterus, already developed to several years of age, and without my remembrance of such an event, then I was already fully aware they did not fall from my body.
The kids have always called me by my first name. They are jerked around enough without me coaching them what to say, what to call me. They were urged by others to add “Miss” to my name to formalize and impersonalize our relationship, but that didn’t stick. Apparently even my first name isn’t cold and distant enough for some tastes.
I worked for years in schools and other settings with young children, and I noticed that the children most likely to want to call me “Mom” were the ones with unstable and rocky family lives. They appeared to seek what they expected from that title from someone who seemed more likely to deliver in a consistent manner.
I would expect my mother not to lie to me, not to manipulate me, not to interrogate me and threaten me when I am not quick enough spilling details. I would expect my mother to protect me, not bunt me around like a toy, not dangle me like a reward for others, not stamp a dollar sign on my forehead and count me as currency. I would expect my mother to love me without conditions placed on it: “Tell me this or I won’t love you. You don’t love me if you don’t do this.” I expect my mother not to defer morals, standards, and integrity to the highest bidder and expect me to follow suit.
I would, in fact, expect that from any parent.
A good parent.
What I am not: the children’s biological mother.
What I am: a caretaker the children can trust. A friend who is honest with them. The person who stands by their father’s side. A team member. Someone who loves them, and their father, without fine print. Dependable. I am someone who entered their lives at an extremely painful and vulnerable time, and I held them, let them cry. I protect them, I fight for them.
In short, I love them and do the best I can for them.
I question the motives of people who cry foul at this. I question whose interests are being looked out for when someone who loves the children is attacked and expected to retreat simply to appease oversized egos.
What I am to Gary matters to me. What I am to the kids matters immeasurably.
As for anyone else? Maybe what I am is a reminder of what they should be.