On April 22nd of this year, I promised to love, cherish, and nurture not only my wife, but also her sweet, spirited, spunky 5-year-old daughter. I’ve been in my stepdaughter’s life since she was three (or a ‘threenager’ as the age is so accurately labeled these days), but to her, as of the moment the three of us took our vows together, my role in her life drastically changed. I evolved from a cool, grown-up bestie to another mom in her eyes. Although she always respected me as a parental presence, I never tried to persuade her to think of me as a mother. We didn’t broach the topic of marriage or the labels of ‘stepdaughter’ and ‘stepmom’ that go along with it until shortly before the wedding, because the attention span of kids usually corresponds directly with their age.
A couple months before the wedding, my wife and I sat down with Mia and explained to her that we were getting married. When she asked what being married meant, we responded that I would become her stepmom, and that though I’ve always thought of her as my family, the wedding would be a time when we would promise to take care of one another in front of our friends and family. I also asked her if it would be okay for me to change my last name, or ‘big’ name as she calls it, to match hers, and she said yes. After contemplating the nature of what I just asked her, she excitedly yelled, “I’m going to have so many moms now!”
A few days later she came home and in that confident way kids too, proclaimed, “Mommy and Beth, did you know that girls can marry boys too if they want to?,” which sparked conversation that can be summarized with “love is love is love is love.” I tell you all of this to explain how swiftly and seamlessly this little, loving child jumped on board from having two moms to three. Multiple mommies are normal to her because it’s all she has ever known. What’s one more?
The concept of two moms is still one that’s working its way into the mainstream family culture. Blended families have officially become the norm, with the divorce rate at 50 percent and climbing, but blended, nontraditional, same sex family? That’s a different story entirely. Acceptance and love among members of a blended family is the most vital key to making the dynamic work, but it doesn’t always guarantee a road free and clear of speed bumps and growing pains. My wife (Mommy), her ex partner (Mama), and myself all have a cordial, cohesive co-parenting relationship, but even that doesn’t make me an expert on the subject.
Being a stepmother in a same sex marriage is incredible rewarding, but it’s also, frankly, incredibly difficult at times, primarily because the resources don’t exist. I joined an online Facebook Stepmom Community a few months before our wedding, and although it’s invaluable resource for tips and strategies for building a positive relationship with Mia’s other, other mother, the bulk of the information just doesn’t apply to me.
Not to pigeonhole the parenting roles of straight couples, but in traditional blended families, the stepmother absorbs the maternal duties in the household. She doesn’t take the place of the mom, but she fills the spot in that house. In my family, we’re all moms. The estrogen is everywhere. We’re both feeling all of the emotions, packing all of the lunches, shopping for the clothes, and worrying about everything. We’re the overachieving, overcompensating lesbians, and now there are three of us at every dinner, meeting, and class trip. We’re all making the treats for parties and keeping flawless planners of homework and books and first tooth and lock of hair.
When a family has two moms, the moms are both working double time as both a mom and a dad, so when I became a stepmom, I wasn’t filling a hole left by the absence of one of the other. My partner already played both parts, which makes her an incredible mother, but sometimes leaves me wondering what to do and where I’m needed.
Take Mother’s Day for example. In a straight family, my job would be to make sure my dear husband or myself help my stepdaughter put love and affection into a thoughtful gift, and have her sign and seal a lovely card. In this family, I make sure my wife has a gift, I make sure her ex has a gift, my wife makes sure my ex has a gift, my ex makes sure my wife has a gift, and my wife, as sweet as she is, also makes sure I have a gift. Phew, did you get all that? It’s a lot of stuff, a ton of thought, and some seriously excessive confusion. I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it, and responsibilities and roles will sort themselves out just in time for Mia to reach the age to do it all herself anyway.
I love it all, I really do. Every crazy, chaotic, cathartic, cute, confusing, catastrophic moment of it. I’m learning. We’re all learning, except Mia – she already knows. That wise, wonderful child knows, without a doubt, that she has three mothers who love her more than anything, and that’s a serious mom win. If I ever do discover all of the answers to my daily stepmommy questions, maybe I’ll create my own resource.
As our children grow up, I’m sure support will be available to every family dynamic out there. I don’t want to be the new norm, because I have no desire to be normal, so let’s all just be ourselves together. If you’re in a momtastic family like me, be sure to reach out and say hello. I’m the blonde in the front row of every parent teacher meeting with two other moms, all wearing matching “Mia is the greatest” t-shirts and raising our hands to volunteer for every last bake sale.