The Fine Line Between Mom & Step-Mom
One of the greatest joys that I have experienced in life is being a parent. My son BabyE has shown me that I can feel an overwhelming sense of love for someone that I just met, that I would sacrifice my happiness, my life, for this human in an instant.
But, what if you have a child that isn’t biologically yours?
Is that love the same? Are those emotions the same?
Any good step-parent will tell you, “I love them all equally.” Do you though? Is that bond the same between the child that was born to someone else and the child you carried and brought into this world. Honestly, no. It’s different. Not bad different, but there is a different level of bonding that is there when you have step-children.
Now, before you go getting all in a tizzy, I am by no means saying that I do not love P, in fact, he was my first chance at being a mom. So, like I said, I have a different love for him. I learned how to be a mom, learned about a sense of selflessness that I had never known before him. Our situation though, is different than most people. My husband and I raise P, 100% of the time and have for the past 5 years (note: he’s 9). When I say 100%, I mean full-on-no-breaks-100% of the time. So, in the “mom” sense, I am his mom. Am I his biological mother? No. But, being a mom is so much more than giving birth. I don’t get the chance to be a part-time mom, or a real step-parent that can leave all the parenting up to the biological parents. If I did that, my poor husband would be stuck raising P all by himself, and he didn’t sign up for that, he signed up for a partner to help him raise his child. So that is what I will be.
What is a mom really? Being a mom is everything else that happens behind the scenes. The things you don’t get credit for, the things no one sees. Like the time P threw up all over his Tonka Truck bed in the middle of the night, and my husband had to dig puke out of the crevices of the bed while I got a vomiting child into the shower while trying not to puke myself. Or, the time when P had his first baseball game and my husband and I were cheering like we were watching the Rays beat the Yankees. Or, when I had to help P write his first book report. Or, the first time P read a full sentence. You get the point. There’s so many moments we’ve experienced together, yet, I will never be his mother. I just won’t. I can be called Mom all day, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is biologically not my child. Now I won’t get into why we have him full time, or why he calls me Mom, but remember: there are 2 sides to every story, and the only victim in the situation is always the child.
So, how do you raise a child like you’re own, that isn’t biologically yours. In my house, it’s easy. P is my son. There is no “step” in my house except the little step from the garage to the house. He is not my step-son, I am not his step-mother. Legally, sure, if you want to be a technical jerk about it I am, but in our house we’re a family that doesn’t have those labels.
Raising a child that isn’t biologically yours is a thankless, and impossible job. You will never feel like you’ve done enough, hugged enough, loved enough, because there are always forces against you. There will always be people thinking that you’re overstepping; my advice to you, let them think that. Parent how you and your significant other deem fit. Set rules and boundaries and expect everyone to follow them. If they want you to take part in raising this child, they should support the decision you and your significant other make. If they don’t, then you know the don’t really support your familial relationship. One thing to always remember about being a “bonus mom”: Love the absolute heck out of that child. Be that person they know will always be a constant for them, because in their eyes, everyone can always leave.
My birth story is long, traumatic, and overall sucky, so if you are pregnant and want butterflies and rainbows, you should probably move along. Did you know 25% of all births in the United States are done via induction? I am one of that 25%, one of the ¼, who went through with an induction to deliver my son. I was 40 weeks on the nose when Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle. I lived in Tallahassee at the time so we did not see astronomical damage, but we did experience extremely high winds, rain, and a loss of power for over a week. I don’t know if you know this, but October in Florida is still very, very hot so being without power for a week meant no air conditioning, and no air conditioning at 40 weeks pregnant, huge and bloated and swollen and uncomfortable, was awful. (I know, first world problems but, I’m used to AC sue me). For 2 days we couldn’t even leave the house because the roads were inaccessible, power lines were down everywhere, no traffic lights, and nothing was open because, duh, no power. So, I do thank God I didn’t go into labor then because I wouldn’t have had a method to even get to the hospital. At around 41 weeks my doctor said that I wasn’t progressing and I was being put on the list for an induction, and they would call me between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. with a time to come to the hospital to be induced. I got my call on Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 at exactly 4:01 a.m. to come to the hospital as soon as I could, as there was a room ready for me. My emotions were all over the place, I was excited, but also petrified. We dropped P off with a sitter (who thank GOD went to the gym at 3 a.m. every day so she was already awake), and made our way to the hospital. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t really drink anything, I just wanted to get the party started.
Once at the hospital I got my IV in and a doctor came with a weird hooked glove and broke my water, as I watched my husband eat a bagel. I was beyond annoyed with him because the minute he walked in with it the nurse asked me if I’d eaten, when I said no she told me I could really quick if I wanted to. So, sadly, I ate the hospital pancakes something that resembled scrambled eggs.
Let’s get the Show on the Road
After eating was when we decided to get going. I got my first round of pitocin. Pitocin, for those of you who don’t know, is a drug that brings on labor. I waited for it to kick in, and didn’t really feel much. So, they upped it, and upped it, and upped it. Until I could finally feel some pain going on. I have a mild pain tolerance so I withstood the contractions for a while, but soon asked for the IV pain meds. Those, sucked. I felt high as a kite and hated being on them. So that didn’t happen again. After a while the contractions started to really pick up, I was bouncing on the yoga ball crying in pain when they asked if I wanted the epidural. My answer, 100% absolutely heck yes. My language was a little more colorful, but you get the point.
The Epidural (the first one…)
Epidurals are incredibly scary. You have to sit, hunched over with your back looking like the letter C, while someone takes a needle the size of Manhattan and shoves it right in your spinal area. All of this while having excruciating contractions. Once my epidural was in, instant relief, although I could feel a weird pain in my hip I wrote it off. Within an hour I realized my epidural wasn’t quite working, I could completely feel the contractions in that spot in my hip, and I could easily move and feel my legs. I even asked the young (super young, kept calling me girl and hun) nurses to let me walk around, I could honestly do that, they didn’t believe me and told me I was threatening their licenses if I were to do that. They gave me a bolus, or another round of epidural meds directly into the epidural catheter. That calmed it for a couple minutes, but then it was right back to square one. Onto the second bolus. This is when it starts to get real dodgy. The minute that medicine flowed through the epidural catheter I knew something was wrong. My back completely seized up and I was screaming, literally screaming, in pain for her to stop. I couldn’t move, I was frozen with my arms clutching the side of the bed, my back seized up completely, and in absolute agony. This was worse than any contraction. My back felt like someone took hot knives and dragged them slowly through my muscles in my back, and then poured acid over the open wound. It. Was. Madness. This pain got so bad I begged my nurses to give me a C-Section, a statement I fully regret now; this shows just how absolutely ignorant I was to the entire C-Section process, and aftermath. The anesthesiologist was so shaken up she had to sit in the rocking chair in the corner of the room once I calmed down. She said it was to monitor me, but we could tell she was a little shaken up by it all. So now I’m clicking that epidural button every 20 minutes like clockwork, my husband even had an alarm on his phone to do it. Doing this took the edge off, I was still feeling every contraction, but I wasn’t in agony like before.
This is the only highlight of my delivery story, my last set of nurses. During this process I went through 3 groups of nurses. The last ones understood my anxieties and helped me calm down when I was freaking out. They were literally amazing. Once they came on shift they got to deal with the very worst version of me I have ever “witnessed” I was mean, in pain, and exhausted. They brought in the new anesthesiologist who said my epidural didn’t look right and she was going to place it again. Again, it didn’t quite work. I had the “hot spot” in my hip again and was in the same amount of pain as before. Soon, after sitting with that stupid peanut ball between my legs (ladies, you know), I was at a 10 and ready to push. One doctor came in and said I was there, at a 10, and it was time to push the baby out. So, I did just that, I would “bear down” every time I had a contraction and pushed as hard as I could. Then my real doctor came in, he wasn’t on rotation, but heard I was in labor so he stopped by, he said I wasn’t dilated enough and to stop pushing. Weird. But ok. He left and a little later I was checked again by my nurse who said I was back at a 10 and to start pushing again. So, a new doctor came and sat between my legs and I pushed. That doctor then said to push, and my nurses would come and get him when I was crowning. So for 5 hours I pushed, with no success. I remember vividly staring at a dot on the ceiling trying to focus all my pain and energy on that one tiny spot just to make it through.
Enough was Enough
Finally, the doctor on call said enough was enough and I had gone longer than she lets patients go, and I needed to have a C-Section for the safety of my baby. Now remember, my water had been broken at the very beginning, right when I got there. That was now 36 hours ago. My baby needed to get out, and get out safely. So, they gave me the gown for the C-Section, told my husband they would come back and get him, and away I went, crying down the hallway feeling like the biggest failure of a mother already. When I got to the surgery room they gave me another round of epidural medicine and proceeded to pinch me to see if I felt anything. Of course I did, it hadn’t been working this whole time! So, they told me they had to knock me out. Cue panic. I didn’t even get to see my husband. He was left in the little waiting room, crying because he didn’t get to kiss me goodbye.
Waking up from being put under is so terrible. I apparently decided I couldn’t speak, so I proceeded to sign (I know bits of ASL), so much so that the nurse asked my husband if I could even talk, and they brought in another nurse who knew sign language to interpret what I was saying. Note, I haven’t mentioned babyE yet, because I didn’t get to see him. BabyE was born with some bacterial infection under his lungs, I never really got a clear answer of what it was, but they whisked him off to the NICU immediately and started antibiotics. I saw my son for the first time, drugged out of my mind from the anesthesia, I don’t even remember it. I didn’t even get to hold my son until almost 15 hours after giving birth to him. I still, to this day, months later, cry about my birth experience. I dreamed of a vaginal delivery, getting skin to skin right after, and breastfeeding within minutes. I got none of that. Breastfeeding was so difficult because of the NICU stay, I wanted to hold my baby, not pump and hold bottles. So I rarely pumped, and latched him when I could. This led to him having to supplement with formula. Looking back, I should’ve pumped, but I failed at that too. Just another fail I add to my list of being a parent. Now luckily, I pump every day, and nurse my son as often as I can; I still cannot feed him solely breastmilk, but how I look at it is, at least he’s getting some, even if it’s just some. My son is now healthy, happy, and absolutely remarkable. I cherish every single day I get with him. I don’t let my birth story define me as a mother, but I wish more people were made aware of the heartache that comes with a birth that didn’t go as planned, and the feelings of failure that come with not achieving what you had hoped to achieve.
If you had a difficult delivery, or a birth that didn’t go to plan, you’re not alone in your feelings. If you want to be published as an anonymous contributor, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on Facebook.
1. When you just want them to go the f to sleep
2. When you make a gourmet meal for a kid who only eats chicken nuggets
3. When trying to convince them to just taste it
4. When you’re willing to pay them just to try it
5. When you tell them for the 876th time not to touch something
6. When they won’t stop fighting
7. When you have no idea how their room got this bad
8. When you just want 5 minutes alone
9. When you want them to
Please. Stop. Talking.
10. When you know you talk to walls
11. When you find strange sticky substances
12. When your kid brings home a new “pet”
13. When you can’t seem to teach them to pee IN the toilet
14. When they’ve mastered peeing in the toilet, but just leave it there
15. When you don’t know if you should be disgusted or proud
16. When they finally push you too far
17. When you know, no matter what, you love those little heathens
There are probably a lot of reasons why teachers quit working at daycares, but, 3 of the main reasons why are situations outside of their control.
A lot of the time parents will pull their children from a daycare (or preschool if you want to be that guy) for one of three reasons: their kid got hurt, they didn’t like the teachers or administrators, or there was a high turnover of teachers. I want to focus on the third, a high turnover of teachers. If you’re unfamiliar with the word turnover as it occurs in the business world, turnover is the issue of people coming and going from jobs creating an unstable work environment. I am a previous daycare/preschool teacher. I worked with children from 6 weeks, to 5 years old. I have potty trained kids, and taught them how to write their name. I’ve seen it all, heard it all, and experienced it all (for the most part). One thing that still rings true even though I no longer teach is that daycare workers are severely underpaid and underappreciated. You want to know why your child has had 5 teachers in the span of 6 months at his daycare? Here’s why.
This is true at any place of employment, but weighs a little heavier when you factor everything else in at a daycare. Bad management can be anything from overbearing owners, uninterested directors, and brown-nosing assistant directors. All of them have a detrimental effect on a teacher’s brain, and thus, makes them want to leave. I’ve seen owners tower over a crying girl, yelling at her to “confess” that she had witnessed another teacher do something wrong (when the poor girl didn’t know anything), but when you have a man and a woman standing over you while you’re sitting down, berating and yelling at you, you tend to break down. I’ve also seen directors that are barely there, maybe show up for a couple hours every few days. I’ll be honest, I’ve never met my son’s daycare director, and he’s been there for over a month now. I honestly thought the front administrative assistant was the director. Seeing the director responsibilities fall on someone who isn’t a director, is strange, but it seems to be working for them so – more power to ya. Then of course we have the brown-nosers. The ones who are so ready to tattle tale on you for having your phone, for posting a picture on Facebook, for talking to an ex-employee. These brown-nosers make it to where you constantly live on eggshells, afraid to say and do the wrong thing when you aren’t even doing anything wrong. This is true for all businesses, but especially true for daycares: Bad management can ruin a great business.
The next reason why there seems to be such a high turnover in daycare teachers is “bad” parents. If you have any of these traits, and you exhibit them in your kid’s classroom, go ahead and pump the brakes. Bad parents do a lot to ruin a good teacher’s morale, but the main issues are: being condescending and acting like your kid hung the moon. I get it, I have kids, and my kids are great (most of the time), but I’m never under the impression my kids are perfect and do no wrong. For example, the parents that say “oh he never does that at home!” or “did you do x,y,z to be sure he doesn’t do this awful behavior?” Those kinds of parents are the ones I say are “bad” Let me give you an example of a parent I encountered. Her child, Beckett (that’s not his real name, because she seems like she’d sue, she was a real peach), was the worst kid I have ever encountered. He hit, kicked, screamed, refused to listen, refused to do the work with us, called little girls fat and ugly, and when we told his mother about it she literally responded with, “not my Beckett! He does none of this at home, what are you doing wrong?!” Let me just preface this by saying, I know there are some terrible humans out there, but treating your children’s teachers like dog poo just because you don’t want the world to see how your child truly behaves, isn’t ok. And please note; when your kid gets hurt by one of these terrible kids with perfect-parents, the school will more than likely do nothing about it, unless the owner/director doesn’t like the child/parent. In this case, Beckett’s mom had another child in the school ($$$) and another one about to join, so the owners didn’t want to lose that profit, so they let him stay, and make everyone miserable without any kind of help from the parents.
The last thing, but the most important thing, is pay. Teachers are leaving in droves from daycares all over the US because they can get paid better at WalMart and don’t have to deal with the previously mentioned problems, on top of bad pay. Did you know, daycare teachers get paid around $9.50/hour? When the daycare rakes in over $10k in ONE room, a month, and have kids driving fancy cars, but don’t pay their teachers, you know something is wrong. The highest I’ve seen a daycare teacher paid was $13 (and that’s because it was me who made that), and I had a Bachelors Degree, and over 5 years of experience. I’ve had some friends who work at the same daycare for over 5 years, with a director’s credential, making $12 an hour! You can’t provide for your family off $12 an hour. Keep in mind you also have to pay an exorbitant amount for insurance, plus childcare (because you don’t get free childcare even when you work in childcare) you’re left with barely anything at the end of the day. I also know some companies that pay an “average” amount of hours worked for “holiday pay.” So if you missed a day because your kid was sick (unavoidable), or had to go to the doctor so you left early (also, unavoidable), you don’t get paid a full 8 hours for a holiday because it takes the average amount of hours you worked over the previous 6 months. So it saves the school money, but ends up costing the teacher a part of their already small paycheck.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t consider being a VPK teacher a “career” per say, but some do. Some women (and men) make it their life’s ambition to shape the minds of small children, and that is perfectly ok, but they should be paid a meaningful salary to do so. SO please, next time you wonder why your baby has had 5 teachers all swinging through like a revolving door, remember this, and maybe you could offer a kind word to help brighten their day. A small act of kindness goes a long way when you’re in a thankless job.
I’m going to preface this with, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is certainly some phrases that have driven me nuts while I’ve been raising my two boys over the years. Raising boys has been the hardest, grossest, weirdest, but fun time of my life. I never knew a small person could smell so bad after only being outside for an hour. I also never knew so many people would have an opinion on the aesthetic appeal of my newborn’s penis. *shrug*
“You know he’ll hate you when he’s older because you didn’t circumcise him”
Ok, I’m going to start with this one because it’s a hot topic right now. With the new documentary on Netflix, and people beginning the anti-circ movements, this seems like a great starting point. I chose not to circumcise my son *gasp* I know. My reasons were private between my husband and I, and we came the agreement that the choice was not ours to make. If my son wants it later in life, I’ll happily take him to have it done, but I couldn’t do it. I’m not putting anyone down who has done it, but for me, I just couldn’t and honestly it has nothing to do with the documentaries, or other people’s opinions, I simply didn’t want to have my baby cut on. Which leads me to my first thing to stop telling moms of boys, “You know he’ll hate you when he’s older because you didn’t circumcise him.”
Honestly, I’m sure my kids are going to hate me for a lot of reasons, and I doubt the look of his penis will be the top of those reasons. Making him do his homework? Probably. Telling him he can’t have a new iPhone? Definitely. And I’ll be real with you, if he hates me because I didn’t cut his penis, I will happily offer to pay for the procedure for him to do it. But telling me my kid is going to hate me later in life because I didn’t do it isn’t conducive to anything. It’s done, I didn’t do it, making me feel like crap because I didn’t do it isn’t going to change anything. You may not agree with my choice and that is A-OK, what is not A-OK is you having a comment on my son’s body and my choice not to alter it. Mind your penis (or lack thereof).
“Boys will be boys”
Y’all I could literally SCREAM every time someone says this to me. This is the ultimate slap in the face when raising boys. You are telling me that there is no way to stop the behavior, and that because he was born a male, he is allowed to behave this way. First of all, no. Boys will be boys is not an excuse for boys will be little jerkoffs. Boys will behave the way in which they are raised to behave. If they are raised that, because they are a boy, they can do whatever, whenever they want, that is exactly how they will behave (*gasp* it’s the same for girls). Kids mimic what they see, so if you allow their behavior, they’ll continue to do it. I’ve vented to some people on the terrible behavior of P, and all I get is “boys will be boys,” do tell me how that helps the situation? You essentially just told me to let it go, let him continue this terrible behavior, because, innately, he’s a boy and he’ll continue to do this. If you don’t have anything constructive to say when a woman tells you about her son’s behavior, don’t. say. anything. It isn’t hard, just zip the lip and smile and nod, it’s better than being condescending.
“That’s all children…”
Here’s another one that just irks my nerves, “all kids do that.” OK, awesome! So like, let’s stop letting them do that? I don’t care if every kid out there kicked a kitten, I would still be appalled when my child does it. Now if all kids wanted to wear polka-dotted socks, that’s harmless, wear them socks all day kiddo. But when it comes to bad behavior, just because it happens with some kids, doesn’t mean you have to allow it in your house. This comes especially into play when I talk about certain behaviors (lying, talking back, tantrums, etc.). I get all kids are going to have bad days, I’m not naive or dumb, but excessive bad behavior shouldn’t be written off simply because all kids have the tendency to do these things. Just because little Ben down the street screams in his parent’s faces and slams doors, doesn’t mean I’m going to allow it my house because, “Hey, they all do it!” I want to raise my kids not to follow the masses, not to be like everyone else, so why would I write off their behavior as OK just because other kids do it? I don’t know how other parent’s handle it, but for my sanity, I can’t just terrible behavior. We have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.
“You know he’s like this because…”
Unless you’re a therapist, stop telling me why my kid is the way he is. Yeah he’s gone through some crap at a young age, but when do we stop letting that dictate the rest of his life? Or with BabyE, when people tell me I’m spoiling him from holding him so much. What?! He’s a BABY. Babies can’t tell you their needs, they just expect them to be met, so yes, I will hold and cuddle this tiny human I created until my arms are tired. Because one day I won’t be able to pick him up so easily. One day he won’t like my hugs. One day he won’t want my kisses. So for now, I’m living in the moment with my kids. Stop telling women how they are raising their kids is wrong. Unless she’s feeding them bleach for dinner, then of course, let ‘er know.
None of know what the heck we’re doing in this parenting thing, so unless you have some stellar Super-Nanny advice on how to handle these little creatures, keep your diagnoses, and opinions to yourself.
“Oh look, he’s got a girlfriend”
Ok, ew. He’s a child. This is another one that can be filed under stop sexualizing kids. This also makes boys think that they can’t be friends with girls because they get the “oooooh you love her.” The girlfriend thing really only bugs me when it comes to the baby, because, just no. With the older hooligan, he could very well start to get little girlfriends, but right now I want him to know he can be friends with a girl without it having some different connotation. Let kids be kids. When he wants a real girlfriend, we’ll cross that bridge when it comes, but for now I want him to be able to catch lizards and worms with the girl next door because he likes playing with her without someone commenting that they are on a “little date.”
In summary, stop telling us everything we’re doing wrong. Parenting is hard enough without your judgement, Judy.