When I was a teenager one of my younger sister’s favourite shows was the animated “Dinosaurs”. In particular she loved the baby dinosaur who would cry out “NOT THE MOMMA, NOT THE MOMMA” whenever anyone else tried to attend to him. “NOT THE MOMMA” became a catch phrase in our house for a while. I’d forgotten about it until a conversation we had during her recent visit, and it got me thinking about being NOT THE MOMMA.
My partner’s two children have been with us for 50% of their time for a little over two years. On several occasions during that time I have been reminded by people that I am NOT THE MOMMA and reprimanded for calling myself their Stepmom (because we are not married). To be honest what I am called doesn’t impact the relationship we have at all, but who I am means everything; it is precisely because I am NOT THE MOMMA that we have the quality of relationship we do. Allow me to explain….
While I am NOT THE MOMMA to my two juniors I am THE Momma to my own child. Being a Mom is a job which is both rewarding beyond measure and difficult to the same degree. Whether we admit it or not, all of us Moms worry about whether we are doing the job right, whether our kid will turn out okay or if we have screwed up so badly that they will spend the rest of their lives in therapy trying to get over their mommy issues.
This is only partly self-created anxiety; the truth is that we are in fact responsible for the lives and futures of the tiny people we brought into the world. The weight of this responsibility along with the self-judgement and society’s invisible rule book for The Perfect Mom inevitably flavours our parenting and often robs us of the ability to simply BE with our children, marvel at them, play with them, to just love and live with them. Our children frequently experience us as anxious, uptight, uber serious or just mentally and emotionally absent while we are trying so hard to meet The Perfect Mom standard.
The same cannot be said for being NOT THE MOMMA. Let’s face it; the standards for Step Mothers are pretty low, Step Mothers are wicked. If you can refrain from sending an assassin after your not-my-child, slipping poison apples into their lunch box, leaving them behind in the woods after a family hike, or trying to off them in some other sneaky way, you are probably ok. Not too much of a challenge there.
That means that I am off the hook, and free to choose any other version of relationship with my not-my-children that we choose together. I am not responsible for producing an astrophysicist who will discover a portal to a new universe or a neuroscientist who will find a cure for Alzheimer’s; there are two other people who have that job. I am not expected to groom and mould and tweak and prod. All I have to do is be kind and keep them out of harm’s way when they are in my care (note to self: no poison apples!)
Because I am NOT THE MOMMA I have been able develop a relationship with my not-my-children that is simple, loving and present. We enjoy each other’s company, we play together, we laugh, and we cook and bake together. Yes, I do help them with homework or their table manners and teach them how to care for themselves and their belongings, the difference is however, that being NOT THE MOMMA affords me greater patience and gives me more time to go slowly because well, I am not responsible for all of this; I’m NOT THE MOMMA.
There is one sadness I have since I became a NOT THE MOMMA though; I wish I could have given my own child, when she was little, the quality of attention that I give my not-my-children, but there I go again, wearing my Mom hat that will forever make me second guess and judge my Mom self….
So to all you NOT THE MOMMAs out there, remember, you get to design how your relationship looks and you are free to choose anything that works for you and your family, really, anything! And Moms, you probably aren’t doing as badly as you think you are; it’s all ok!
As for me, instead of judging myself right now, I am heading off to be a present Mom and Not-Mom to my 3 chickens!
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