Hi. I’m Morgan. Much like Val, I am also a mom in the “arena.” However, I am not a mom. Not technically, at least. I’m a stepmom.
Many of you reading will relate to that last statement in polarizing ways. For moms with biological children, you’ll agree - that I am, indeed, not a mom. While others of you, stepmothers (or fathers), will disagree and say that absolutely, YES, I am a mom, despite my child not being biologically my own.
My story is that I actively and consciously chose not to have children of my own and married a man with a son. My husband and I have been together since just after my stepson was born and we have experienced many childhood milestones together--first words, potty training and first days of school, just to name a few. We are, however, one of two families my stepson shares, as his biological mother is still very much in the picture, with another husband and other children.
I, myself, am a child of divorce, and have grown up with an incredibly blended family, including several stepparents and various stepbrothers and stepsisters. Recalling these milestones and reflecting back, I could never have imagined we would be where we are today. Today, my stepson is 15, and is addicted to drugs. This has been going on for nearly three years, escalating each day, each week, each month. He has been expelled from school and remanded to a secondary institution as well as a drug and alcohol program and community service. He is angry, defiant, disrespectful, and unmotivated. He is not the boy I knew and loved. He is not the boy I helped raise. I don’t know this boy. I don’t like this boy.
My stepson not only has two families, he has two families that are on opposite ends of the spectrum. His father and I are the bad cops, the disciplinarians, with clear rules and expectations. His mother is the good cop, or the Disneyland mom. She has no routines and enforces no rules, boundaries or limitations on her child’s behavior. To say this has created dischord between our two homes would be an understatement. We parent one way, she parents another. Or not at all. Can you guess in which home my stepson currently resides?
While I have chosen not to have children biologically, I have taken to this role acting as if this boy is my own, putting his needs before mine, constantly asking myself, “What is in this boy’s best interests?” But as a stepmom, those things are often disregarded, resulting in, “You don’t understand because you don’t have any children.” And yes, I’ve had people say that to me, on more than one occasion.
So this whole process of having a child going through such tremendous life struggles, is also a struggle for me. I feel a little bit like I’m on the outside looking in, peering into the depths of someone else’s life, unable to have an opinion or decision-making power. But I am older and wiser than this boy, having already navigated my way through rough waters. So despite his behaviors and those of his mother’s, which are slightly less than favorable toward me, I still have this child’s best interests at the forefront of my mind. While I may not like him right now, I do still love him. And I want him to recover, succeed, and grow into the enormous potential I know he has.
I have grown a lot through this process, even if my stepson and his mother have not. And thanks to some amazingly strong and resilient women, I continue to grow which each new day. Being a stepmom doesn’t make me any less of a parent simply because I didn’t birth this child. Even though our bond is not the same as the one he shares with his biological mother, I still consider him my son and it breaks my heart to watch him go through this.
Val is many steps ahead of me, both on this journey with her children and in learning how to process it for herself. My hope is to continue to learn from her and others like her and one day, provide the kind of support and strength she has provided me with to let others know that they are, in fact, not alone, and very much on the inside.