Twenty years ago I became a Mother for the first time. It was nine months in the making. Nine months with an up close and personal relationship with my shiny white toilet bowl. Many nights I wondered as I hugged the toilet bowl for dear life - what genius had coined the term morning sickness anyway? How dare they give an expectant mother a false sense of hope that it would magically stop when the clock struck noon. Try the stroke of Midnight with an emotionally spent expectant mother sobbing on the bathroom floor in complete darkness.
Friends, family members, even complete strangers shared with confidence that the minute I saw her beautiful face, held her in my arms for the first time that the challenges of the past nine months would pale in comparison to the joy I felt that day. And they were right. It was a sign of how Motherhood would unfold in the coming years with my daughter.
I lost track of how many showers were held in my honor - the gifts - the food- the games - the laughter - the veteran Mom advice. I was about to enter into the elite club of Motherhood - a dream of mine for years. The other mothers were quick to point out - you'll make a lot of mistakes - we all make mistakes - no mother is perfect.
If I never did another thing for my daughter it wouldn't matter - I would always be Elle's Mother.
Fourteen years ago I became a Mother for the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth time. No I didn't give birth to quintuplets - I married a man with five kids ranging in age from two to nineteen. Instead of nine months spent preparing for the arrival of not one, but five children - I woke up as the Mother of one – a child who thought I walked on water - fell asleep as the Mother of six – a few of whom hoped I was simply a bad dream and would be gone by morning.
There were NO showers held in my honor celebrating the addition of five kids coming into my life. No one reached out to say - you're going to make mistakes with three teenagers, a first grader and a toddler. It's ok.
I was expected to play the role of Mother to two Step Kids 100% of the time - 50% of the time to two others. I Mothered two children more days of the week than I did my own daughter, but I was to make no mistake - I was NOT a Mother to these children.
I became the Inconvenient Mother. You know the Mom that everyone tries to avoid because they feel so uncomfortable. I went from being apart of the Motherhood to feeling like I was alone on a deserted island.
I didn't give birth to these five kids - hadn’t rescued them by adopting them from a Birth Mother who abandoned the kids or was unwilling to care for them. All five have Mothers who love them - are apart of their lives.
To the outside world - those are the only details that matter. It changed how other mothers viewed my role in raising five of my kids - created an unwritten rule that there would be a limit on how much I could love them - that I will never love the kids like a Mother.
Things have been said to me that people would never imagine saying to another Mother, but to a Step Mom they felt completely and totally justified.
The child who reminds me daily that I'm not his Mother - that I will never be as perfect as she is. The mother he sees less than a handful of times a year.
The School Principal who assumes that I must be the reason my two Step Kids have been tardy 32 times in one semester. Even though my own daughter has zero tardies - the child I drop off along with my Step Kids. She can't fathom that a Mother - their Mother - would be responsible for this problem. When I politely correct her misconception - suggest she talk directly with their Mother - it became a non-issue. Moms after all make mistakes.
The neighbor who assumes that she's doing me a favor by knocking on my door to give me unsolicited parenting advice - even going as far as to parent my kids right in front of me. She doesn't she me as an equal - a Mother like her. I'm a Mother to five kids that doesn't fit with her vision of being a Mother.
The Mother who creates a litmus test for family meetings, important decisions that I can never pass - unless I was there for the conception of the children, my opinion is irrelevant.
Unlike being a traditional Mother - I don't get a virtual hug from the Motherhood when I share my struggles with being a Step Mother. Instead I'm met with judgment, an expectation that I be a perfect Mother, but not call myself a Mother. An imperfect Mother is often celebrated among the motherhood. As a Step Mom imperfection means you have no business mothering - period.
People tell me I chose this - I knew what I was getting into. Yes I did choose this life - like I chose to be a Mother for the first time, but just like that choice I had no idea what the reality would actually look like.
My first journey into motherhood didn't prepare me for getting some or all the work of raising five kids and watching another woman - their Mother - be on the receiving end of most - if not all the beautiful moments with the kids.
When I'm lucky enough to get a beautiful moment with one of my Step Kids. I cherish it like crazy and put it in the bank for when I have self-doubts about this whole mothering thing.
My kids call me Mama, Mom, Lees or Lisa. I am a Mother to one that has a Step Mother - I am a Mother to five who have Mothers - I am the Inconvenient Mom - I am also a Mom just like you.