It has recently been that season where step mothers in various places around the globe have been sweating out Mother’s Day. For some these days are full of care disruptions as children have ‘special time’ with their biological parent where they otherwise wouldn’t. For others it was the demands of biological parents not to have to see their children and handling the disappointment of the children and behavioural fallout that comes with it. And woven in and amongst all that, for many, there is many who express their disappointment and disillusionment that so much effort be put into a biological parent but that their role is not acknowledged in the same way.
I totally get it. I have been in the lives of my husband’s children for almost five years now. I have known his two youngest for more than half their lives, I have watched the youngest move from sippy cups to glasses, seen her move from nappies, helped her toilet train and the milestones continue. With the next I have watched a shy child, scared to step out from behind an adults leg, a child who would chew her clothes and and toys out of anxiety slowly, starting with saying grace at the dinner table, learn to find her voice and step out with increasing confidence as she has taken on hip hop classes and over the last two years put on four stage shows. And watched the eldest go from a very reserved young lad scared of embracing his boyhood in the company of his sisters who is stepping out as his own person, expressing his interests and desires and wanting to be heard.
It has been an awesome journey, one that I have as a ‘Bonus Mum’ been privileged to share with them. And it is exactly that: a privilege. I don’t take that for granted. However, no matter how involved in their lives I am I will never be their birth parent. I did not carry them through pregnancy or endure the pain of their birth. It is really that simple really when it comes to Mother’s Day and, even to those who voiced issues with ‘deadbeat mothers’ I sat back and sighed because it doesn’t change the fact that this person is still their mother!
This is where character is important. Every step parent has a choice. It is about whether to let their knowledge and understanding of what they do determine their sense of self or whether they are going to depend on the emotional responses of an ex-partner or their immature children (in context that they are not yet able to see things with adult perception) determine their sense of role of step-mother. Yes, Mother’s Day is just one occasion that will bring out the insecurities of the biological mother and bonus mother alike if they have them and if they allow it to.
Often, the day is just a magnified version of the rest of the year and here’s the kicker: one or both parties so often choose to see the other as an adversary and to make life hard for the other when really they are raising the same children. Yes, they completely loose sight of the fact that they are actually meant to be behaving as members of the same team. This is meant to be about the children, not a petty contest in front of the mirror in a public restroom.
So, dear Bonus Mum, I acknowledge that you are a parent, even if you are not a biological one to these children. I acknowledge that your role is important and should be recognised. Yes, it is crap when you spend your year being painted as the evil step parent and, yet, you are expected to step up and do your best for these children every moment they are with you or there shall be hell to pay. I get it. It really sucks some days, okay, a lot of days and it would be nice to have that acknowledged.
And it’s easy to take the view that Mother’s Day is the day to have that happen. It makes sense. Well, it makes sense if yourself and the biological parent aren’t in conflict at least. However, this is not the case in the majority of cases. So, how strong is your character? Could you step aside for the day with the grace and beauty of a Princess to allow someone else to take the spotlight for this one day? Last Sunday, I hope you did. Because for those who don’t have the chance at that special day with their bonus kids, for a few years now there has been another day too. It is officially recognised that the Sunday after Mother’s Day is Step Mother’s Day for those who are denied the chance to celebrate on the mainstream weekend. So, come on princess and dust off that dress and straighten that crown because this Sunday you have a ball to attend.