Thursday, May 26, 2011

Feeling Like a Fraud

As most of you know, I’m a step parent. The LG (Little Guy) came into my life not long after he turned 4. I love him dearly. He’s almost 10 now...unbelievable. Being a step parent is not without challenges. Parenting of any form has challenges. He is with us 50% of the time and that boils down to every other day during the week and then every other weekend (F, S, S). It’s nice to have the pattern and to see him so much. I will write more about step parenting on this blog in the future but right now I want to address why being a step parent makes me feel like a fraud.

I’m very involved in the LG’s life. I don’t know how not to be. It’s very easy for me to fall into a parenting roll when he’s with us. I worry about him all the time. I worry if kids at school are picking on him because of his slight speech impairment (he has trouble with the letter R). I worry about whether or not he’s getting enough sleep and what he’s eating and drinking. I worry that something is wrong when he sleeps late on the weekend. He’s a heart patient and his doctor says that he’s the picture of health, but still....I worry.

I also do other “motherly” things. I cook for him, I pack his lunch, I do his laundry, I help with homework, I try to teach him things, I hug him when he’s sad, I laugh at his silly jokes, I attend some school functions, I go to school meetings, I go to all sporting events, I scrapbook for him, I buy him clothes and toys, I take him out to eat and to the movies and to hockey games. I also do the not so fun things like tell him to hurry up and eat his dinner because it’s getting late, tell him to scoop the litter, to clean his bathroom, to throw his trash away, to put his clothes in the laundry basket...all those things that his future wife will thank me for later. Basically, I’m trying to teach him to be responsible, courteous of others, have some initiative and how to be independent. These things are not easy to accomplish since his mother does not make him do much of anything. That is a topic for another post.

When I’m at a scrapbooking event and people ask me about my pictures I have to say that the child in them is my stepson. I sometimes wonder if they think it’s strange that I have so many photos of him and that I’m taking such pride in making the scrapbook when he’s not “my” child. I wonder if they think I’m going a little overboard since he’s not “mine”. I wonder if they think it’s odd that I’m doing this for him instead of “just having my own”. If only they knew.

When I do all of these things, I feel like a Mom. I feel the love, the pride, the angst, the worry, the disappointment (sometimes), the joy, the excitement...all of it. But he’s not mine. He never will be. I wonder if I'm too attached. Am I too involved? Am I stepping over my bounds as a step parent? I wonder how his mother feels sometimes when she knows how involved I am. I know that if I were in her shoes I’d be happy that someone loved my child but I’d also want her back off a little (a lot??) sometimes.

I have all these parenting duties and feelings and then time and time again I’m slapped in the face with the fact that he’s not mine and that I’m not his mother. It’s like I’m playing House and pretending to be the Mom. The LG loves me, I know that. He’s very sweet and very affectionate and when BJ and I are playing around (wrestling) he comes to my defense. We are allies when BJ is in one of his moods and we stick together when one of us is feeling down and out. He never intentionally makes me feel like I’m second best, but I know that I am. He has a mother. She is very involved in his life, too, of course. I’m glad that she is but at the same time it just kills me to be the 3rd wheel of the parenting vehicle.

I had a very bitter sweet moment a couple of weeks ago when his mother was out of town. There was an event at school for kids and their moms. Since she was not available, he asked me to go. I was thrilled to be there. I also felt very out of place. There were moms and kids all around us and I knew I didn’t really belong and the only reason I was there was because the real mom was away.

Sometimes when the 3 of us are out together everyone assumes that he is mine. We have almost the same color hair and we both have blue eyes so it’s a natural assumption. People will say, “and what is mom having?” or “how does his hair look, mom?” (when he’s getting a haircut). Sometimes I ‘fess up but other times it’s just easier to go with the flow. I’ve explained my reasoning to him about why I don’t always tell people and he’s ok with it, or so he says. In the back of my mind I’m wishing that I never had to confess the truth.

I feel like a fake. I feel like I have no right to be so involved and so attached and so invested in this child. However, I just can’t help myself. I love him and I care about him and for him and who he is and who he will become. He will be the only child I will ever get the chance to parent. There are times when I tell myself that I’m going to take a step (or 10) back and just let BJ do the parenting. That doesn’t usually last very long because I just can’t seem to help myself.

And the burning question is: Would I still have all of these feelings if I were able to have or already had my own child? Would I be as attached to him? Would I be as involved? Would I feel like such a fraud if I mothered him right along with mothering my own child? That is another post waiting to be written.


Krystal said...

Being a step mom doesn't make you any less of a mother!! He is your child, he may not be biologically related to you but that doesn't mean he's not yours. It's like telling an adopted child that his parents aren't really his parents because they didn't birth him, you know?

Alex said...

LG is so lucky to have you in his life - as his parent. I personally believe that we can't have enough parents, and they all have a place in our lives. I myself have seven, and although I have different relationships with each of them, they are all very important to me. My step-mom is one of my biggest supporters, and she has always given me so much unconditional love. And I'm so very glad to have her in my life. As LG gets older, he may try to push you away, but I bet he does this with his mom too. Keep up the good work being a parent in his life!

C said...

You are amazing. I think that step parenting would be incredibly difficult, yet you do it with such grace. LG is very lucky to have you in his life. Honestly, I think you would be just as involved and just as attached, regardless. That's just the kind of awesome person you are.

Anonymous said...

You are his parent! It may not feel like it at times but you are. You don't have to give birth to a child to hold a special place in his heart and he in yours :). I have an aunt who is only my aunt through marriage, shes every bit my aunt as the one I am related to by blood. No matter how the family comes to be, its still family.

Esperanza said...

I can totally understand how you feel that way, but I wonder how much of it is you feeling that way and projecting it on others and how much of it is actually there. And if people really are thinking that you "love him too much" or are "too invested" why does that bother you? Is it because you honestly believe it too? You can't change the way others see you but you can change the way you react to them.

Why can't LG have two mothers? Life is very different from what it used to be and now children can have families that have built in very different ways. Many children grow up in non traditional families. I would say that LG is very lucky because he has two mothers who love him and want what is best for him. It might not be what everyone has, but it's his family. I'm sure it can be hard to navigate at times, especially when you are not the mother that he has always had. But right now, in his life, you are a mother he spends half his time with. You also take care of him and love him and have a great relationship with him. Many boys can't say that about their "real" mothers. Does that mean they are less of mothers to their sons than you are to LG? It all depends on how you define "mother".

I know this is a complicated situation and there are social and cultural norms you are knocking up against, but you need to define your relationship with LG for yourself and you can choose how important those cultural and societal norms are in building that definition. It sounds like you have a good enough relationship with the LG, and would be respectful enough of his relationship with his other mother that you could build a definition for your relationship with him that would work for everyone.

I know this is hard but I also know you have the strength of will and determination to do it. Good luck.

someday-soon said...

You are most certainly no fraud! You are a mother to him and he's lucky to have you. Children can't have too many people that love them and look out for them. IMO you'd be this invovled in his life with your own bio child too. It's just part of who you are =)

Elphaba said...

You sound like an awesome stepmom, don't worry about all that other stuff.

Pie said...

I think that you are a parent to him, regardless of your blood relation to him. Are parents who adopt any less of parents? No. You are a mother to him, period. And just because he has another mother in his life too, it doesn't negate or lessen your place in his life. I guess I don't see a limit on love, a maximum that LG has for receiving love. He is very lucky to have you so involved in his life, and you should keep up that good work. You are doing right by him by being so involved.

Anonymous said...

As a stepmom and an infertile birth mom (how's that for a term?) My step children are 15 (boy) and 13(girl) my ivf success is now 6.
Just giving birth does NOT make you a mother. A mother is someone who cares for, loves and is there for their child. I tell them that eben though I did not give birth to them, that they are the children of my heart.
My kids have the evil b$tch from hell for a birth mom. She is a manipulative, lying and unstable person. To the point that the children asked to live with us (dad) and court granted dad custody.
I have know these children for almost 11 years. They have lived with us the past 5. My son introduces me as his "mom" to his friends. I asked my 13 year old if she was ok with me saying daughter instead of stepdaughter and she is more then happy with that.
I do NOT bad mouth their mother or do anything to hinder that relationship. I will defend myself when she oversteps or starts messing with thier heads.
I love all my children. You can't be to involved, you can't love him too much. You are part of his life. The ability to love just grows as time goes on.
The love I feel for all my children is different. They are all different people.
You are doing an awesome job!! Youare not a fraud. You are his mom. :)