The Other Mother
We’ve all heard of the evil step mother who played the saint around her husband and the villain around her step children, probably from watching or reading too many fairytales. I guess what I’m trying to say is according to pop culture we don’t exactly have the best reputation. Well, I hate to break it to you, but majority of the time we don’t have a mean bone in our body. It’s hard enough to live with the typical stereotypes of step parenting like “you knew it was a packaged deal”, but even harder is the responsibility that comes with it. Step parenting is such a selfless way of life, I mean you take on many of the responsibilities a biological parent would to meet a child’s needs because you are associated by default.
The term “step” in step mother actually derived from the Old English prefix “steop” meaning deprived of a relative. Originally the term was used to denote the loss of a parent, or the non-biological parent of an orphan. So, if a child still has both biological parents involved in their life, where does the whole “step” thing come in? “Step” what? “Step” aside? “Step” lightly, as you don’t want to rock the boat? “Step” to the rhythm of a family that has already been broken and rebuilt? These are all questions I asked myself once it hit me that I was in a serious relationship with a partner who happened to have an extensive past, including four children. According to the American Psychological Association (2019), “The most difficult aspect of stepfamily life is parenting. Forming a stepfamily with young children may be easier than forming one with adolescent children due to the differing developmental stages. Adolescents, however, would rather separate from the family as they form their own identities.” This has resonated with me as there are four young adults maturing and figuring out who they are in this world within what I now call my family.
Being a parent is laborious or so my husband says…Raising children, running a household, maintaining your mental health in check, wanting the absolute best for your children, oh, and did I mention the many curveballs life throws at you? What if I told you this is the same for bonus mothers/fathers? In the spirit of Mother’s Day, yes, we also want the best for the kiddos, and are also going through that thing we call life, except we often sit on the sidelines, unnoticed, and unfortunately taken for granted at times. The same pop culture I spoke of earlier has now begun to adopt the term “bonus” indicative of a parent who plays a supporting role. “Research actually shows that it is completely normal for a stepfamily to take several years (even up to 10) to truly establish trust and bonds. This is even more true when children involved are older (especially between the ages of 9-15)” (Church, 2021). What we used to recognize as “non-traditional” is now the new normal, in fact 12% of the US population is made up of stepmoms.
Whether you are simply a friend or mentor, or you’ve taken on the full role of parenting a child that you did not birth, children and teenagers can never have too many adults that love and care for them. Next time you talk to a bonus momma, praise her, thank her, and let her know she’s making a difference in a child’s life. This year Step Mother’s Day is May 17, 2021, so to all the step moms, bonus moms, god moms, and foster moms, you matter!