I am a "Real Mom." You may disagree. However, every morning, when I wake, get my stepchildren up and ready for school, make breakfasts, pack lunches, and eventually find time to look in the mirror, I see a mom. Actually, I see my mom.
I see the woman who I never thought I would have the opportunity and privilege to be. And then one day, miraculously, I was blessed with stepchildren. Your biological children.
Thankfully, our blended family works. While it got off to a bumpy start, we are now in a comfortable groove, and our children reap the benefits of both households. Whether they sleep at your house or their dad's house, their needs are met with seamless, fluid ease. You are mom at your house. I am mom at mine. And there is no confusion between us, as even without your reminders, they know that you gave birth to them. I am viewed as an extra mom. A bonus mom. A stepmom. A mom.
I must admit that I cringe when I hear you over-emphasize, to friends, teachers and coworkers, that you are the "real" mom, implying that I'm somehow faking it. So, I'm left to wonder, what makes a "real" mom? Does the lack of a direct bloodline to our children make me a lesser mom than you? Is there a metric by which I will be measured?
I help with homework, meet with teachers, and volunteer for class trips. I arrange with other moms for play dates with their children. I wipe noses, take care of boo boos and sit by hospital beds. I play dress-up, buy bras, and answer uncomfortable questions about sex. I cook, clean, and do laundry. I attend all school meetings, doctor appointments, sports activities and dance recitals. I sit up late many nights worried about their safety, security and futures, and have a full head of gray hair to prove it.
I make sure that birthdays and Hallmark holidays are remembered, and make sure presents and cards are made... even for you and your family. I encourage them to be courteous, kind and forgiving, and to find time for others.
I write letters to camp, and choke up at college graduations. I post pictures on Facebook of my children. Yes, I consider my stepchildren as my children. My family. Our family. Our non-traditional, sometimes awkward, blended family.
I make no apologies for my role as a parent in their lives. I know my boundaries, and though we don't always agree, am deferential to your role in their lives. I understand that I'm not their biological mother, and that that role can only, and will always be, attributable to one woman. You.
But, I am still a real mom, and will defend that title until it no longer applies to me.
Follow Diane L. Danois, J.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dianedanois