When I fell head over heels for my now-husband (the day we met), I had no idea he came as part of a package, no idea I was getting myself into something so much bigger and more difficult than I could ever have imagined.
At age 24, I was not even thinking about children yet, and I certainly never planned on taking on someone else’s child, but these are the things we do for love and even when the going is tough, taking on the whole package is the best decision I ever made.
I am ‘The Other Mother’.
The Mother who spends every weekend doing mum things, the things that we always say are worth the work as the payment is in pure love, when in actual fact it is in less than half the love.
I am not the real mum; I am a weekend stand in, all the work and very little of the reward.
The fact is my husband came with a tag along, a little version of himself, who still has a mum and doesn’t need me for the love, he just needs me to do the mum stuff, the hard work, boring mum stuff. He expects me to wash his clothes, cook his meals, pick up after him, take him places, pay for things but I don’t get the couch snuggles, the ‘I love you mummy’s’, the bedtimes stories, the cuddles and sloppy kisses or the satisfaction of seeing little bits of myself in him.
I have to do the school pickups, help with homework, organise sleepovers, cater birthday parties and make elaborate cakes, but I don’t get the scribble drawings, the cute Mothers Day cards made at school, the crawling into our bed in the middle of the night, the pasta necklaces or the falling asleep in my arms after a long day.
I have to attempt to teach him to look after himself, butt heads with him over chores that his ‘real mum’ doesn’t make him do, discipline him when things don’t go well and manage his footy team every Sunday, but I don’t get the satisfaction of seeing him perform well at school, I’m not invited to assembly and drama performances, I can’t stick his certificates on my fridge, and I don’t get private mother to son chats about girls, friends and life.
Now I know what you’re thinking, I can already hear you chastising me and I know what you’re saying.
I should be grateful I have a loving family.
I signed up for this when I married my husband, it was my choice to take this on, but you will only be saying this if you don’t understand me, if you yourself have never been in my position! If you are finding yourself saying these things, I want you to go back to the top and start again and as you read I want you to imagine this with your own children. Imagine you still had your full mum workload, but didn’t get all those amazing rewards we mums live for in return. Just imagine it, try really hard, I bet you can’t.
Until you’ve been me or any other women in my situation you can’t understand, which also means you can’t judge!
Please don’t think for a second that I don’t love my stepson, he is a part of my family and I love him very much, but not the way a mother loves her own child, as I’m sure he doesn’t love me the way he loves his own mum and understandably so.
I have a son of my own and I know what the love between mother and child feels like.
My stepson brings joy to my life in lots of ways, I love to see him score a goal at footy, while we shout from the sidelines, I love to hear how well things are going at school, even if I can’t see any of it for myself and have to hear about all of it second hand.
I love to see him learn something new that I have taught him then hear later how he has used the skill again and I love the way he dotes over his baby brother, my little man.
I love him as best I can in the situation we find ourselves in and I do my best not to feel guilty that I don’t love him the same as my own son.
Yes you heard right guilty, if you think mummy guilt is bad, you should try step mummy guilt on for size! In the end I would not change a single thing about my life, I love my little family more than words can say, but just as parenting comes with its challenges, so too does step parenting.
So maybe the next time you meet a mum who is also an ‘other mother’ you will understand her a little better and not judge her; she is just trying to do her best the same as you, but with different challenges!