It is a compulsion.
The need to change the world for the better.
The impulse to improve the community for everyone.
It thrums through the blood in my veins.
It resonates down deep into the tenor of my soul.
I have never not heard the siren song of the call for justice.
I can advocate for others but advocating for myself is an entirely different story, especially in my capacity as a parent.
I have been raising three children since Sean was 18 months old, Gwen was 3 turning 4, and Katie was 9 turning 10. It is the the one place in my life where I intentionally place myself in a state of constant othering. I am the step-mother. I am the other.
The children’s biological mother has struggled with addiction her entire life. She has a new baby and a partner that she lives with. She teaches preschool at a christian church. She has called on the phone to talk to her children 15 times since September 7, 2017.
My first instinct is to be angry, violently angry at my body – at myself, but that doesn’t work.
The hardest part of being a stepmother is that I get blamed for everything. I get blamed for raising independent children that speak their truth. I get blamed for “alienating” the children from their mother even when I encourage them to have a relationship with her.
While I was writing the first draft of this I didn’t notice that I started to talk about myself in second person. I don’t feel like I am allowed to own my experience. I feel like I am supposed to raise these children, feed them, clothe them, help them with their daily emotional needs, while at the same time I am supposed to step aside once a month for a 4 minute phone call.
What am I? The Step-Aside Mother? That is sort of impossible.
I am not always strength incarnate.
I am not always grace.
My needs are equal to the needs of other people.
What if the supposedly evil stepmother is actually Cinderella sometimes?
Cooking, cleaning, taking care of all the things while everyone else goes to the ball.
I am going to continue to raise these children the way I have since 2012. I am going to clean, and cook, and care, and advocate for them the best way that I know how. I am going to be tender with myself and stop hating me when their dad becomes afraid of losing it all. I am going to advocate for THIS mama because the strength is in giving love, peace, and compassion to myself.
It’s Friday, fuck shit up y’all,
Dr. Melissa Bird, MOM, MOTHER, and MOMO