Mother's Day for Girlfriends

There are lots and lots of articles and blogs out there about what to do on Mother's Day for both Mothers and Stepmothers.

There are not a lot, however, on how to handle this day for people like me.  People who are decidedly not parents. Not mothers.  But who, as they are dating someone who has a child, do still perform some of the parent-related life tasks.  And who, perhaps, are unsure about what to think about a day like Mother's Day.

I am absolutely not a parent in a myriad of ways:

My planner is filled with things that, for the most part, are not dictated by where J is or what she is doing, unlike Christopher's schedule.

I do not put J to bed every night or cook her meals every day.  I occasionally make dinner or pack lunches, but definitely not with enough consistency to consider it "one of my normal tasks."

And I certainly do not discipline her for unruly or unacceptable behavior (nor do I think it would be "my job" even if Chris and I were married, just for the record, but I suppose that's for another day).

And yet, on the other hand:

I helped teach J how to tie her shoes.  I have, on more than one occasion, driven to her school or to grandma's house to pick up or drop off a forgotten backpack.  I write her letters and ask her about her day and straighten up her things around the house.

I taught her how to do dishes, and use a hammer, and clean a bathroom.  She and I have spent an incredible amount of time playing (or making up) games.  And I attend all school concerts and presentations I can, sometimes alone if Chris can't be there.

I see this child every single day and I am indisputably a large part of her life, and she of mine.

And, honestly, it is hard to feel like your situation is not viewed as legitimate, which is definitely where I think my weird reaction towards this upcoming day is generated.  It can be difficult to not be able to define your "position" in life or, more particularly, in a family.

And so... here I am.  In this strange middle-ground (and yes, sometimes "purgatory" does seem like a good way to describe it) where I am not any kind of official "mother," ('step' or otherwise) and yet I can already feel myself dreading Sunday.

I know that I definitely don't need or want anything from J - she has a mother she needs and deserves to celebrate and it isn't an eight-year-old's job to affirm me anyway.  But... Do I want acknowledgement from Christopher?  Or do I want Christopher to act like it is just any other day?  I truly don't know.  Probably a little of both.

I guess what I'm getting at is that it feels like there is so little support for people in my situation - not biologically OR legally a parent-figure in a child's life, but still a person who is present and there for him/her in a unique, personal sort of way.

I never knew that a day that, up until this point, had just been about my own mother, could hold such a strange and ominous air, but I know that I can't possibly be the only one in this Limboland.  And I suppose I wanted to put my thoughts out there to just be a voice for people who may be in a situation similar to mine.

I know that as I continue my relationship with Christopher, things like this are going to keep coming up - it's just reality and, although definitely confusing, I wouldn't say it's a negative thing, per say.   Hopefully, though, it will get easier.  Or at the very least, my feelings will be less contradictory.

For now, though, I am just trying to settle into it all and accept the fact that it's okay for me to feel weird about this.  It's even okay for me to not have a clue how I feel!  This is new for all three of us, and it's important that I remember that.


  1. As J's mother, and someone who has thanked God for your presence in her life on many occasions past and will on millions more to come, I can answer that question.

    Our family, unlike the fifties stereotype, is not "Mama-Daddy-Baby". Our family includes not only you as a stepmother (and yes, I very much consider you to be Jess' stepmother) J also has grandparents who are extremely hands on; aunts, uncles, and good friends, as well as my own new husband, Michael, that could be defined as her immediate family.

    When Michael and I got together, one of the first things I told him was, "I am not looking for a father for my child. She has a father who would walk through fire for her on a bad day and play eight hours of Littlest Pet Shops with her on a good day. Insofar as your relationship with my child--Christopher and I make the rules; we're in charge of her daily needs; you're here to enrich her life as a person, to back us up when we need backing up, to pick her up or feed her or buy her a backpack if I can't make're a helper." And happily, he has no problem with that. He has no problem sitting out when J and I need girls' time alone and he has no problem letting me handle a tantrum and he has no problem tickling her until his fingers ache.

    Your role, however, has been very different. I was with J every minute for the first six and a half years of her life; at that time I had the opportunity to take my career to the next level and that would require letting Christopher take the lead for a while. Providing for J (and her sister) was my priority; and I discussed it at length with both J and her sister Daphne before leaving for the opposite coast; I had both their blessings, or I wouldn't have gone, and would come back in a minute if they needed me to.

    When you came into the picture, you became part of her daily life in a way that Michael is not. You see her every night, help with her homework, attend her school functions in a way that Michael doesn't need to, as we currently don't have her during the school year. You love her as fiercely and as proudly as a parent would, and you are able, in a way that many struggle with, to navigate the terrain of dealing with an exceptionally bright and creative child (and they are the ones that try us the most!!) and still come out of it with your sanity intact and your love for J strengthened by the experience.

    So as J's mother, I want to say as you currently "take care" of J (maybe your schedule isn't ruled by J the way Christopher's is or mine when she's with me, but often times you do open up that schedule when you're needed) you are to be celebrated by J AND Christopher AND myself as if not her birth mother--but as someone who fills the mom role when it's needed. Much like J's big sister Daphne's grandmother, you are a constant in her life that she loves deeply and knows she can count on.

    When I see J's eyes light up when she says, "Grady says this," or "Grady says that", I realize how lucky we all are that you are there in her life, and we are all grateful for it. If that's not to be celebrated by all of us, I don't know what is.

  2. Thank you for sharing this Grady. And you're right, is IS ok for you to feel weird about it. There are no rules that dictate how you should feel about any situation. You feel the way you feel. You, Chris and J are figuring this out for yourselves. If you want to ignore Sunday, ignore it. If you want to create a new holiday (Grady Is a Rockstar Day, for example) you can do that too. You're living your own lives here and no one needs to tell you how to do that.

    In fact, you can just ignore this whole comment, because I don't need to tell you what to do either.
    (I love you, by the way.)

  3. "Grady is a Rock Star Day!!" I love it!!

  4. BTW--the phrase "step-mother"--where did "step" come from?
    How about "co-mother"? I like that better!

    1. :)

      Also, I actually have no clue where that term originated, but now I'm curious!