“Are you a mom?” asks almost everyone I meet.
“No,” I respond. “Well, my husband has a daughter, so I’m a stepmom, but—”
“That means you’re a mom,” I’m repeatedly told.
I wince every time that conversation happens. I love being a stepmother. I am proud of my beautiful, smart stepdaughter. But more than ever before in my life, I realize that “Mom” is a title that shouldn’t just be handed out. Being called “Mom” is an honor.
A mom wakes up every morning, gets her child ready for school and makes sure she has her lunch packed away in her backpack. A mom puts dinner on the table and helps her child with homework and goes to parent-teacher meetings.
I’ve done none of those things. I didn’t carry a baby for nine months and endure the pain of labor. I didn’t stay up nights when a baby was crying or change diapers or worry over every illness my baby had. All of those things are what moms do.
I met my stepdaughter when she was 8. I was 38. As in many shared custody situations, we only had her every other weekend, and those were great weekends. They were “Dad weekends,” though, and divorced parents know what I’m talking about. Dad weekends mean you go out to dinner and see a movie and sometimes even take a fun two-day trip somewhere. They aren’t the day-to-day grind of school and work and soccer practice.
If anything, being a stepmom has given me a huge appreciation for what moms do every day. Parenting is hard work. People give stepparents credit for loving a child that isn’t their blood. However, I say stepparents are lucky. We often get the joy of loving a child without the hard work that goes into raising one.
Some stepmoms are married to fathers who have full custody, and they fit into the mom category as well, I think. They put that hard work in every day. Stepmoms like me are mostly privileged to be able to enjoy all the good parts of parenting.
Is it different for moms who also become stepmoms? Probably. I’ve never been in that situation, but I feel that a mom who adds a stepchild to her family, even if it’s every other weekend, likely puts in that same hard work. In those families, children are a part of the household seven days a week, so they don’t have the weekends of “fun time” that stepmoms without children have.
While I’m proud to be called “Mom,” I always feel that it takes away from the hard work her own mom has done. I never want to do that. However, I also want to know that my influence has shaped the woman she is becoming, at least in some small way. That, to me, earns me the wonderful title of “stepmom,” which is great on its own. So yes, I have a child. I’m a stepmom. My stepdaughter’s mom and dad have done an amazing job of raising her into the woman she’s become, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.