As a disclaimer, I’m not sure if the words used were my stepdaughter’s in retelling the story or if they were her mom’s in the actual event, but my point remains the same.
This evening, my stepdaughter and I were discussing her upcoming school holiday party. I haven’t missed a school party in the 3 years I’ve been in her life, and I have no intentions of starting now. I playfully argued with her that I was more excited for the party than she was, and our banter continued from there. The conversation turned to her mom, and K told me she was disappointed Mommy couldn’t attend the party because she hadn’t gotten her background check cleared with the school (we found out less than a week before the party that we had to have a background check cleared before we could attend).
She started recounting how it would have played out.
Mommy would have to go to the front desk and say “No, really, I’m K’s Mommy, and I’m a good person so you can let me in.” And I’d have to go up there and say “Yes, this is my Mommy and she’s a good person.” And they’d say “But who was that person that already went to your classroom?” and then Mommy would have to say “I’m the real mom and she’s the stepmom.”
The. Real. Mom.
I’m a stepmom, and I’m a real person with real feelings.
I can assure you that every part of my role is real.
The love I feel for my stepdaughter is real. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, we were discussing love and I made the comment that I’d save her before I’d save myself. I’d take a bullet for her. It brought little K to tears. She said “That’s so nice!” – she was overcome by how real my love for her truly is.
The parenting I do is real. I don’t just tuck into bed or help with homework, but I also teach valuable lessons daily. I encourage her to give back, to learn to love reading, and to pursue STEM instead of Barbie dolls. I say goodnight prayers with her, help her write thank you notes for gifts she’s received, and I hold her tight when she’s hurt. I parent through the good times and the bad, through the fun times and the difficult.
The sacrifice is real. I choose to put this little girl and her needs before my own. I wake up early enough to give her extra snuggle time to make it an easier transition in the morning, even though I could really use that extra 10 minutes of sleep. I forego desires of my own to ensure she makes it to dance class or softball practice instead. I watch Disney movies instead of This is Us.
The pain of rejection or snide comments is real. When I’m told I’m not a real mother or I’m otherwise stepmom shamed, the pain is real. To have given my all to raising this child the best I can to only be told I’m not a real mom is hurtful, unjustified, and uncalled for.
This isn’t a message for my stepchild’s mom. This isn’t based on that single conversation. If you’ll recall, I’ve been told I’m not a real mom before. My passion for spreading the reality of stepparenting comes from repeated comments like this.
Every single part of my role as stepmom is real. I celebrate her wins, encourage her to dream big, and teach her perseverance. I set punishments, I give medicine when she’s sick, and I hold her when she’s sad. I’m not a part-time parent. I’m not a temporary parent. I’m not a non-parent. I am a very real influence, and I am 100% real.
I didn’t give birth, but that proves just how real my love is. I didn’t have an automatic connection with my child holding her in my arms for the first time when she was born. I didn’t have 9 months of connection when she was growing inside my body. Instead, I earned that connection by spending real time with her as a 4-year-old. I read her stories, played with Legos and dinosaurs on the floor with her, and took her out to play and explore. I experienced life with her, and I worked to overcome her skepticism and her natural inclination to not like me out of protection for her mom. I have developed a natural bond and a true maternal love for my little girl.
I’d take a bullet or a bus for her.
I am very much a real mom.
PS: Stop stepmom shaming. Here are 30 things stepmoms would say if they could.