If We Call a Mother’s Day Truce

I’m done.

Done with the clichés, the desperate attempts to force family into a suffocating box. I don’t fit anymore. I’m done. IMG_0070

This Sunday, we’ll celebrate one aspect of women’s lives with pink cards and red roses and lovely dinners. Our churches will have all of us mothers stand, and we will applaud our collective efforts of this past year. The kids will make some popsicle stick craft with far too much glitter and glue, and every mother is supposed to feel loved and cherished in this microcosm of community. Not all do.

But then, we will go home. Back to our non-traditional family, back to the every other weekend hurry up and do the laundry before it’s time to go lives.

Here, Mother’s Day isn’t as glamorous. Sometimes, it downright hurts like hell. My hands still sticky from glue and glitter that will never, ever, ever come off my clothes–I’m informed that being a stepmother isn’t a “real mother” so the kids give away their crafts or cards or whatever school or church made. The Mother’s Day bitter pill, swallow, carry on doing the work.

For another 364 days, we’ll hide behind how many laundry loads we do or how many doctors appointments we go to or how many mini-van loads of children we shuffle around to Scouts or gymnastics or dance or sports. We’ll bring out the big guns with puke we have cleaned up or snotty noses wiped.

But inevitably, birth mothers will lord over we stepmothers how hard it was, you know, giving birth. Believe me, we stepmothers know it isn’t easy. Somehow, pushing a baby out of your body negates every contribution another woman makes for said child. The ultimate mommy trump card.

We continue the cycle of mothering competition; a competition built on wiping asses and driving kids around. The constant barrage of “she doesn’t understand” or “she’s got it so easy, just every other weekend.” Enough. Just simply enough. No one will ever fully understand, nor can we base “ease” on how frequently the children sleep at another set of parents’ home.

I’m done.

Done with the bickering, the fighting, peacock posturing, cat claw meanness, justifying the work I do as a stepmother or yours as a mother. I’m done.

I’m calling in a truce for Mother’s Day, for the next 364 days, for the lifespan of every stepmother, birth mother, life partner, aunt, grandmother. A truce to celebrate the hard work of mothering. A truce to thank the community of women and men who mother our children. A truce to appreciate the contributions of another woman. A truce to give ourselves a break from the hard work. A truce to break down the walls of competition. A truce to raise our glasses high and say:

Yes, the job of mothering and step-mothering is hard. We’ve hurt and been hurt. We know the long nightmare filled nights, and we know the endless cycle of wash/wear/repeat. We know how to stain our pillows with tears when kids break our hearts. We know; we understand. We are mothers.

 

3 Practical Ways to call a Mother’s Day truce:

  1. If you choose to make  Mother’s Day crafts(church, school, or Scouting group), allow the children the option of making MORE THAN ONE. Make it clear up front because some children may not ask.
  2. If your children want to make a card or buy a Mother’s Day card for their stepmother or mother, let them.
  3. Remember Mother’s Day is a celebration, let every stepmother and mother celebrate in her own way.

Dear Church: Stepmother Isn’t a Dirty Word

Dear Church,

You may not remember me. I haven’t stepped across your threshold since March, and it has been even longer since we met regularly. Quite frankly, we may have never met again if  the quiet whisper of Holy Spirit or guilt or whatever doesn’t stop urging me to return. I feel the need to find a community of believers again. But like so many, I’m painfully broken and scarred and nervous about coming back. 

And you took great pains to push me aside, to leave me out, to let me know I don’t belong. I saw you roll your eyes when I stood up to be recognized as mother, then you had some balls for wanting to me to serve in your nursery. I left when I didn’t fit into your mother club because I haven’t yet shoved a new life out of my uterus. Perhaps, I made you a bit nervous when my kids were gone every other Sunday and claiming them as mine and not acting like a stereotypical stepmother.

For years, I mothered or if you prefer step-mothered my children(I will always and unabashedly refer to them as mine; they are a part of my soul and fiber and being even though we share no biological DNA). They lived and ate and slept and learned in my home, our home. I ignored the sleepy groans, the “I don’t wanna get ups.” We drove to school and slaved over homework and traveled to the beach, the mountains, even Disney World. For those years, I invested full-time in being a stepmother who didn’t resemble Cinderella’s stepmother. I loved as I know how to love because the Bible never really says directly how to be a stepmother.

But now, I’m mothering on the weekends, over the phone, sometimes, through email. I’m closer to the norm than I would like, but it is reality for now.

Maybe, this makes you a bit more comfortable. My new stereotypical stepmothering existence, a parent on the weekends, free and childless during the week. Or not. I understand why you may think I don’t deserve any recognition because parenting on the weekends must be easier. Hell, it’s practically part-time. But you don’t understand this: no parent is ever a part-time parent.  I worry from afar, and I hope the homework gets done  and video games and television kept to a minimum. I see the pain for my husband after phone calls when the kids cared more about the television than talking. Sometimes, they are flat out rude. How is this any easier? We both know it isn’t.

I have watched you my entire life glorify, exalt, and praise mothering as long as it existed neatly inside your idyllic family picture. Not all families do. I wish you could see how you have pushed those of us “non-typical” families and parents to the fringes. Sometimes, we leave and never come back. Perhaps, you will never understand stepmothering until you stop treating it as some dirty word.

Stepmother isn’t a dirty word, but “forgotten” is.

For many of us stepmothers, we feel forgotten and lost in your church circles, your Christian parenting/family blogs. We look for some small in road to the conversation about the struggles we all face as parents–whether we have “step” in front of our parental title or not. Whether you dear church like it or not, we are still a part of you, and we beg for a seat at the table, to be part of conversation about parenting and loving. We want you to hear our stories and understand us.

 

Dear Mother Club

dear mother club–

today,

i ask for a place at your table.

the one where you share

birth stories, bitch about toddler tantrums,

pray that you haven’t  fucked up,

cry shameful, healing tears

release the enoughness, the perfectionness

of being a mother.

today,

i ask for a seat next to you

not the table over where i’ve been sitting

with other women who don’t have birth stories

but wipe shitty bottoms, brush tangles out of hair,

love the very dna in those small hands

where none of our cells, our life exists inside them–

where we are just like you

yet not like you either.

please, may i sit?

 

but–

maybe, this is too much ask.

 

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Redeeming Cinderella’s Stepmother

Today, I am honored to be guest posting for Rachel Held Evans. I am sharing my thoughts on faith and step-parenting. 

Redeeming Cinderella’s Stepmother

Summer by Mark Askins

No little girl ever wants to be Cinderella’s stepmother. We dream of princes and balls and weddings and babies, but all of those things would belong to us first. We would mother our own biological children, not someone else’s. No one wants to be a stepmother.

 

The Bible doesn’t offer us a shining example of a stepmother. We could posit that Sarah was the stepmother of Hagar’s son Ishmael; however, she forced both Hagar and Ishmael to leave after the birth of her son, Isaac. Not the best pattern to follow. Literature isn’t kind to us either. We give away poison apples, prey upon feeble-minded men, and force servitude upon the stepchildren. Even the Greek playwright, Euripides said that “it is better to be a serpent than a stepmother.”

 

I am stepmother, not a stereotype.

 

To read the rest of this post, please head over to Rachel Held Evan’s blog. I’m part of her series Faith in Parenting.

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