Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All Guts, No Glory

This is a little off-topic...but with Mother’s Day less than 3 days away, I’ve been struggling with my feelings about being a Step Monster-in-training.  My boyfriend and I have been together going on three years, his daughter is 9.  I recently started getting criticism from people around me because I "talk about his daughter like she is my own".  I must admit, I'm not sure why this is a problem.  I think the negative comments mainly stem from the fact that I do not have any biological children and my boyfriend’s daughter has a mother who is alive, well, and present in her life.  I’m not trying to replace her mother or be better than she is.   I do not call myself a mother and I never have.  I do not feel that I have earned that.  But I still feel like it isn't completely inappropriate to feel like I have kids or censor myself like I don't live with a 9 year old every other weekend.

You hear a lot about “there’s more to being a parent than donating DNA/money”, or hear deadbeat Dads being called “Sperm Donors”.  These things are what you commonly hear women saying to each other in reference to some no-good man.  And the men who step up?  “It takes a strong man to accept somebody else's children and step up to the plate another man left on the table....”  It is interesting that men who are step-parents are “strong”, meanwhile….stepmother figures are seen as evil, wicked, conniving, lying and manipulative.  BTW, thanks Disney for making us all out to be cruel heartless women who hate children. (Fun fact:  of all the Disney mother figures, four are wicked stepmothers and only four are “adoptive parents”-two of which are animals).    Of all the things step-mothers are said to be, very rarely do you hear “It takes a strong woman to accept someone else’s children and wash the dishes those children leave behind them”.

I’ve come to realize that being a stepmother is one of the world’s most thankless jobs; you have all of the responsibilities, twice the judgment and receive none of the credit.  Most days, you don’t even get a thank you.

What I've noticed after talking to other stepmothers is the father tends to believe that you should do everything a mother does for his children because you love him and "you’re a family", or because he does things for you and by extension you should do for his child.  But in spite of everything you do…to the rest of the world you are not a mother and you do not have child.  You are a woman who married a father, or are shacking up with a father and that child has a mother.    

In my home I am the judge, the jury and the prison guard.  I am the security guard that roams the house at night, checking locked doors. I am the fashion coordinator, hair stylist, shampoo girl, and nail technician. I am the nurse, the doctor, and dispensing pharmacist.  I am the baker, chef, waitress, and dishwasher. I am the teacher, tutor, and hall monitor. I am the purchasing manager, the maid, the washerwoman, and the valet. I am the office secretary, the file clerk, accounts payable/receivable, the tax person, and the boss. I am Cupid, the Easter Bunny, pyrotechnic operator, the tooth fairy and Santa; Holidays happen at my house because I make them happen not because her father actually knows what day or holiday it is.  I wear more hats than I can count, this is who I am in my home.

I am a Step-Monster in training, an Aunt, and a Big Sister.  When I take a child somewhere, they are my children until I return them because I have taken responsibility for them and it doesn't matter whether it is my boyfriend's daughter, my nephew or my cousin's children.  Of course there are things I don't know, but I am not inexperienced and I am not stupid because I do not have my own biological child.  Biological parents don’t have more experience than I do when they have their first babies.  If I do not have children because I did not give birth, does that mean adoptive parents do not have children either?  What makes a parent?  What do you have to do in order to “have children”?

I have rocked babies to sleep.  I have been cried, bled, slept, slimed, peed, pooped and puked on.  I’ve had to have the uncomfortable talks with a child about inappropriate touching, homosexuality, and whether or not you have to be married in order to have a baby.  I’ve lost sleep because I stayed up with a sick child, was awoken in the middle of the night to chase away nightmares and monsters, or gotten up at the ass-crack of dawn on Saturday to feed a child who wants to spend the morning watching cartoons.  I’ve been the person reporting the fevers and symptoms to the doctor at the clinic and tying the back of the hospital gown.  I can’t take a poop without someone knocking on the door to ask me what I am doing.  I’ve hidden in the bathroom to eat a piece of chocolate undetected.  I say everything a minimum of three times and explain it twice.  I’ve called in sick with a fever and explosive diarrhea only to spend the day cleaning the house and going to the grocery store because no one else is going to do it.  I’ve stepped on Legos and action figures in the pitch black while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  I’ve had to make difficult decisions while being sick to the point of vomiting with worry about a child.  I’ve been told what a “poopy head meanie” I am and listened to the screams of “I hate you!”  for enforcing a time-out.  There are enough stuffed animals in my house that I’ve considered skinning them and making myself not one, but TWO, furry Technicolor dream coats.  I’ve been the Kleenex holder and the voice saying “BLOW!”, and I’ve been HANDED boogers in my bare hand.  I answer questions about poop and I’ve been called in to look what someone left in the toilet.

Tell me again I don’t have experience.

The worst part of being a non-parent parental figure is you are expected to love, comfort, care for and coddle that child as your own while being treated like your opinion, disciplinary actions and decisions are wrong or mean nothing.  If you say or do the wrong thing, like all parents do at some point, it is blown out of proportion and you are crucified and it is far worse if that child isn’t “yours” to mess up in the first place.

I get little, if any, credit for anything I do.  The money I spend on holidays, Christmas presents or leave under pillows goes unrecognized because I'm expected to do it...as a "parent".  Yet I’m selfish if I don’t want to share my good, expensive supplies for the few hobbies I have for playtime.   The difficult and often incredibly uncomfortable talks that I've had go unacknowledged.  The life lessons I take time to teach about cleaning up after yourself,  hygiene, self-love, respect and proper manners are credited to the parents and I’m just that woman her father brought into her life.

If I don’t have any children, then I don’t deserve the looks I get from other “better” parents when someone is acting up in the grocery store, or begging for something in the convenience store when all I want to do is pay for my gas and go home.  I shouldn't have to be exposed to Ebola because I had to go sit in the waiting room at the clinic or pick a kid up after they've been in school all day.  I shouldn't have to feel like I can never go back to a restaurant while considering cancelling the cable because someone is eating like they learned manners from watching Animal Planet.   I should never miss sleep.  I should never get up early on Saturday morning to watch Cartoon Network.   I should never have to see what anyone left in the toilet and while we’re on the topic of poop….I shouldn’t be expected to use the bathroom at Express Speed only.

I don’t mean to sound bitter and I’m really not.  From what I hear, having biological kids is a pretty thankless job until they get older and someday have their own kids and appreciate everything you've done for them.  Maybe trying to "parent" and be a responsible adult towards the children I care about is my way of having children, without having children. Maybe that isn't right or isn't fair, I don't know.  But I don't think having another responsible adult who cares is a bad thing in the life of a child; there are too many children lacking loving adults in their lives.  But you know…this one day a year where the children get up and make breakfast in bed, or make a card, or con Dad into buying a gift is special.  One day a year, "Mom" gets a thank you and maybe gets rewarded with good behavior.   And for everything that I do…I just think that a thank you would be nice, but I wouldn't say no to breakfast in bed, a card, a day of decent behavior or any kind of appreciation. 

So this is for all of you out there who are raising or helping to raise a child that isn't your own, those of you who "don't have children" because you haven't given birth to any…you Stepmothers, Stepmonsters, Stepparents in training, Aunts/Uncles, Grandparents, and anyone who is helping to raise a child and doing all of the things to help raise a child by stepping into that role, or parents being 2 parents....  Thank you for everything you do, the things you put up with, the meals you make, the messes you clean up and the love you give. 

Happy Mother’s Day…not because you are a mother, but because you have the guts to do the same work and get none of the glory.

1 comment:

  1. Love this! I played all those rolls until I had my own at 30. Ive told my little girl that there was shrimp in the pizza rolls, so I could eat! Lol.. I knew she wasn't hungry though