Thursday, December 1, 2016

Being The Other Mother

When I was a child I said I would have three kids. I simply assumed I would marry and give birth to three kids. Life choices led me differently.  I never experienced pregnancy, and I never gave birth to a child. Yet I have a son. I’m the Other Mother. Not only did I choose that role, it’s important to acknowledge that I was gifted that role and title.

As a young woman I married a divorced man with a son. I didn’t know any stepmothers well. I knew I wanted to be different than the stereotypical step monster. I knew I wanted to be good to this little boy, and at the very minimum I didn’t want to be cause for this child to need therapy. 

I think feeling like a bit of an outsider in the team of parents made me try harder. He wasn’t genetically mine, and I only saw him every other weekend and holidays. When big decisions needed to made, I was one of four people to decide. I offered my opinion to my husband, and ultimately believed the decision should rest with my son’s mother and stepfather. They were raising my son and living with him daily. They experienced all the day to day hardships while I was a weekend parent.

Before my marriage, I was impressed that the man I wanted to marry said he had made an agreement with his ex-wife to never allow the relationship between them to harm their son. This man assumed some responsibility for the ending of his marriage, and he didn’t speak poorly of his son’s mother. It helped me view his son’s mother as just that, his son’s mother and not my husband’s ex-wife.

The first time my son visited for the weekend, I was touched beyond words that my new son’s real mother would let me take care of him. I felt the gravity of a woman entrusting this little boy slightly less than six years old in my care solely because his father had married me. That simple act made her in my mind a remarkable woman who deserves every bit of respect and kindness I can provide. 

When she sent her son to visit for the weekend, he would have a duffle bag with clean clothes. While he was with us for the weekend, I would wash his dirty clothes and send him home with a duffle bag of clean clothes.  I wanted to care for him and not take advantage of the parenting arrangement where I didn’t share custody. Sure, I wanted her to like me, but I also wanted her to know that I didn’t take her role for granted. At some point, she told me I didn’t need to clean his clothes. To me, that is how it should be. As the other mother my goal was to be the best parent I could be given the circumstances. 

I didn’t create the title of Other Mother for myself. It was my son’s mother that told me in their home they didn’t call parents stepfathers or stepmothers. She said she called me the Other Mother, and that was touching to me. We four parents were consistent in saying my son had four parents. He had two mothers and two fathers. It was a gift these adults gave me to have time with this little boy and be granted the role of a mother. When my son married, I held back in the wedding arrangements feeling like I should be grateful for any role they would allow me to play. It was beyond heartwarming that my son’s real mother would take extra care to make sure that I was recognized and respected at the wedding as a mother. Unlike other guests escorted to their seats by ushers, my son’s mother made sure my son would escort me to my seat before he did so with his mother. She made sure I didn't get lost in the ceremony.

I only regret that during my marriage I felt a responsibility to put my husband and son’s relationship before mine with my son. I felt obligated to try to push them together, and sometimes I may have appeared to hold back.  If I could go back I would put my relationship with my son as equal and not subservient. 

When I told my son that his father and I were divorcing, my son – yes, I will always claim him as my son – said the most loving thing I could have heard in that moment. He said, “This doesn’t change anything with us.” My heart is full for that.  


  1. Funny when we are kids how we plan our lives, then life itself changes everything.
    Love this and so well said.
    xo from another "other mother"

    1. Thank you so much, Amy! I know your kids and grandkids are definitely lucky to have you in their lives!