Why I don't have stepkids, I just have kids: How I went from "Jenna" to "Mama Jenna" to "Mama"
When I met my husband Kyle, he was divorced with three children under the age of four. I was not a mother at the time, biologically speaking, but I was managing a preschool. Hanging out with young kiddos all day was my jam (still is!)
My parents divorced when I was two, so I was familiar with what his kids were going through, shuffling between homes at such a young age. (It’s partly when I started developing my tactics for Calm!)
When mine and Kyle’s relationship became serious and the kids and I started spending a lot of time together, I knew I needed to be thoughtful about my approach as an influential adult in their lives.
I had a stepmother growing up, and I used my experience as a stepchild to inform how I wanted to show up for these youngsters. I wanted to do everything in my power to make them feel loved, seen, and secure in a cohesive family unit.
We knew we’d eventually want to add a fourth child to our family, so I planned to treat my husband’s kids like “my own” from the beginning. I never wanted them to feel like “others” in our home or that they weren’t loved or desired as much as their future sibling.
I don’t remember my first Mother’s Day in my motherhood role. In fact, I struggled with allowing myself to be called a mom for the first few years. I felt I had to earn the title. Because I didn’t birth my first 3 children, sometimes I felt like an imposter in the parenting world. I had become a mom before I was technically a mom. I missed out on a right of passage to motherhood, like pregnancy and childbirth or signing adoption or foster paperwork. I had to earn this title.
So I leaned into my role of mother — I leaned in hard.
There’s no “step” in our family
There is no “step” in front of our roles in our family because there’s nothing separating us from each other. I’ve been raising these children full-time since they were very young. They started out calling me Jenna, but after being their main mothering figure, organically transitioned to “Mama Jenna,” then to “Mama.” After our fourth child entered the world, my heart grew exponentially; I learned there was more than enough love to go around. My love for them expanded even more when I birthed a human myself.
Since all the kids live with us full-time, so there’s no need for anyone to be called anything separate from each other. We are all in this together. I don’t think our youngest even knows that his sisters and brother aren’t my biological children. Lol.
I’m not even technically their legal guardian, my husband is. I’m not supposed to do things like take my kids to their doctor appointments or fill out their school forms.
But I am, “mama.” I’m the default parent and gladly take that on, not for glory, not for karma, not for others to think, “Wow, what an involved stepparent.” In fact, most people don’t even know I’m not their biological parent! I do it because they deserve it. They deserve to be loved and nurtured and to feel safe and prioritized and truly and deeply mothered.
There’s no “one size fits all” in parenting
I understand and respect why some families feel the need to say “step” or are most comfortable with that label. Whether it be the relationship began when the kids were older, they don’t spend a lot of time together, the parent on the other side makes the relationship challenging or requires it, or whatever the reason, every family and individual needs to do what creates the most parenting peace for them. But there’s no “step” in our reality. I am a whole mom to my non-biological children, I am not step-parenting them.
I know many other moms of their partner’s kids feel the same way–we don’t “step” anything. And I love it that way. I can say now, with every cell of my body, that I am a mom. I have the honor of being called this name, and I wear it proudly.
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This is really beautiful, thanks for sharing your story. BTW, lovin’ your book!!