How My Stepmom Helped Me Celebrate Mother’s Day Again
After my biological mother left me, I dreaded the May holiday. Then my stepmother changed everything.
Mother’s Day used to be a complicated day for me. You see, I have no relationship with my birth mother, even though I spent the first 14 years of my life in her care. After she and my dad got divorced, she seemed to take out all her anger, insecurities and frustrations about being a “failed woman” and a divorcée on me. Eventually, I spoke up about what was really going on, and after a long custody battle, I cut contact with her entirely and moved in with my dad and his wife.
Before I managed to escape, there was a long period of time when I thought I was like my mother. I felt that because she and I shared DNA, I was a reflection of her and that all those dark and awful things about her that had caused me so much pain—that they were also somewhere in me, waiting to come out the moment I had children of my own. I was terrified of being anything like her, so I did my best to distance myself from the person she was and the person she wanted me to be.
I stopped celebrating Mother’s Day altogether, as well. Whenever May came around, I’d dread the holiday-themed everything and the many school activities and events centered around moms and motherhood. I simply couldn’t reconcile the fact that my only option was to celebrate and demonstrate my love to someone who I didn’t want to be around—someone who would put on a happy face and act like the most loving and caring parent in the world, but turn around minutes later, in the privacy of her car, and verbally and physically abuse me for “making her look bad” in front of my classmates’ parents.
Then, in the summer of 2006, I cut contact with her. I left and never looked back. From time to time I’d still get calls, texts and emails from her, but they were rarely conciliatory messages. She wanted to fight, argue and make sure I knew I was wrong for leaving her. “I am your mother, you owe me everything.”
Slowly, My Stepmom Became My Rock and Closest Confidant
Now, I’m not going to say I didn’t miss her. I did. Although, to be perfectly honest, I can never be sure if I missed the person she actually was, or the person that I had always expected her to be. You know, the loving mom we all see in movies. The one who is her daughter’s best friend and confidant, and will sneak her out of class to get ice cream and talk about boys. I never got that, and I was angry at her for denying me what I felt was my right: a good mother.
Therapy helped a lot, although it wasn’t my choice at the time. Both my dad and my stepmom knew that I needed help, even though I wasn’t quite ready to ask for it. I eventually learned to let go of the pain I was holding on to; I learned the importance of forgiving but not forgetting. Once I did, not only did I feel lighter, but I was also able to see what had been right in front of me: my stepmom.
She married my dad not too long before I moved in, and from day one, she took the role of the responsible, loving, sometimes strict mother that I’d been missing the first 14 years of my life. At the time, I had been too hurt and too angry to see it, but little by little, my stepmom became my rock. She showed up to my school events and cheered me on, even though she knew most parents at my fancy private school would gossip about her. She took me shopping when my clothes suddenly didn’t fit after one of my last growth spurts. She was even the one who I called for the day I got my first period. She went from being my dad’s wife, to being my stepmom, to being one of the most important people in my life.
One day, I can’t really remember when, or where we were, I simply started calling her mom. It came out naturally, like I’d been doing it all my life. Like I was always meant to call her that.
Thanks to My Stepmom, I Was Able to Celebrate Mother’s Day Again
Suddenly, Mother’s Day wasn’t quite so bleak anymore. I didn’t dread the month of May as much as I previously had (now I only dislike it because it means that awful summer weather is near, but that’s a story for another time). Mother’s Day became a holiday of hope for me—it went from a made-up holiday, where I was forced to “celebrate” someone I despised, to a day when I got to give back to my mom a little bit of everything she gave me. I mean, I try to do that every day, but the woman won’t sit still and pause her endless to-do list unless we come up with a good excuse; Mother’s Day is that excuse.
Every year, though, we’re bombarded with messages in the media urging people to celebrate the person who “gave us life” and carried us for nine months. Somehow, the ads always make it sound like the only valid version of motherhood is the one that includes a biological connection between parent and child, and that couldn’t be farther from what I know to be true. In my experience, motherhood is best when it’s chosen and fully wanted. I’m pretty sure (although this is just a theory of mine, I have no way of really knowing for sure) that my birth mother did not want to be a mother. She, like many women, did what she felt was “the next step” in a married woman’s life.
On the other hand, my mom chose to be my mom. She chose to take on the burden of raising kids to which she had no blood relation. She has defended me, loved me and been the role model I needed when the person whose DNA I actually have wouldn't. To this day, nearly 16 years later, she chooses to love me the way I always wanted to be loved by a mother. There were no sleepless nights with me as a newborn, but she says she’s making up for those now that I’m older and go out at night with my friends—especially if I’m not home by 2 a.m. “I can’t sleep until I know you’re home safe. What can I say? I’m your mom…” she texted the last time I went out that late.
When I Become a Mother, It’s Because I’ve Chosen to Be One
As time went by and I let go of the anger and hurt I had, and I learned to let myself be loved and cared for, my views and feelings on my own future motherhood have shifted. My answer to the (still very annoying) question “When are you having kids?” is no longer a clear “Never.” It’s evolved. I now realize that I do want children of my own one day, but only when I’m ready to choose motherhood, and not because as a woman, that’s what’s expected of me at a certain age. (And, to be perfectly honest, I can’t wait to see my mom go full-on Grandma Mode).
I now realize that I am a representation of the love, care and guidance I have received from my mom more than I am a reflection of a person whose only link to me is our shared genetic material. The road to becoming my mom’s daughter has been dark and full of pain, but there was always light at the end of the tunnel because she was always the light at the end of the tunnel. I am a better woman because of her and I will never get tired of thanking her for saving me. My mom didn't give birth to me, but she’s my family. She was always meant to be my mom.