My friend Michelle, who is also childless, asked me what it was like to be a step-mom. She posed this question after I’d eaten a quarter of the most potent marijuana laced cookie. That one cookie ruined four adults. I was trying to keep up with our game of Exploding Kittens while trying to focus on the words Michelle was saying to me. I don’t know what I said but I have a sinking suspicion that I told her the truth about my role as a step-mom. I’m not so certain that my truth about my role is all that flattering or positive and I feel a little embarrassed for what may or may not have fallen out of my mouth that evening.
I think there is some illusion that I am doing any actual parenting now that there is a child in my life. I’m sure that this might be true for other step-parents, that they take an active role in parenting, but that is not how it works in this relationship. The term ‘step-mom’ is purely a descriptive term that the Cabbage uses to explain who this woman is that her dad lives with. I do not discipline. I do not shop for. I do not attend PTA meetings. I do not stay home for sick days. I do not make her lunches. She comes over, plays with her toys or watches YouTube and sometimes we all go to Science City or something. I might suggest a book or a piece of fruit but only rarely because 99% of all of my suggestions are met with disdain and skepticism. I am the person to whom the Cabbage asks “where’s my dad?” when she walks out of her room wanting something. Occasionally she will ask me for something, but then she always waits to ask her dad the same question because she never likes the answer I give her. Her dad most of the time will give her the opposite answer to what I gave her. So, yeah, she’s eating candy at 9 PM.
And I don’t care.
When Michael told me that he had a three year old daughter on our first date, I didn’t think “Oh sweet! I finally get a chance to ‘play mommy’!” What I did do was nod my head and say “that’s nice.” without any thought about what that would mean for me or us as a couple. I did not enter the relationship with any idea of being a pretend weekend parent or finally getting a chance at motherhood even if that was a part time opportunity. Outside forces might want to contradict me here and push for that parental connection, but it just does not exist. At least not in this relationship. I know many a blended family where all four parents actually do the parenting. I’m just saying that it does not apply here. Maybe because I never had any delusions of motherhood. In fact, I am almost resentful when I am given a knowing look that comes with a nod followed up with words that refer to some inferred motherly instinct on my part. Particularly when I have just done something that any adult would do for a small child. Like grab that thing down from a tall shelf or open that packet of crackers. I’m never opening packages for others because I can barely open them for myself, but you get the idea.
This Mother’s Day, I will send out cards to the women in my life who raised me. They did actual parenting and chose to be mothers. I am awed by any woman that chooses to be a mother, but I’m impressed by any woman who chooses not to be a mother. Mostly because society just doesn’t understand this choice. We’ve been programmed to think that having babies is the thing we’re supposed to do and stepping away from that programming can be isolating and cruel. Those who are fully devoted to the programming may think that I will regret not having children or experiencing parenthood. Maybe I will; I don’t know. I know that I don’t have any regrets right now. I also know that if I do have regrets later on, that it’s nobody’s problem but my own.
You do you.