Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I was reading this fantastic article in the New York Times about how motherhood needs some serious rebranding. The author nails it on the head: motherhood is advertised as a huge sacrifice, especially when living in a country that lacks maternity support of any kind and health care is a joke. It can be daunting to even consider motherhood, because people make it sound miserable. However, I’ve noticed this trend of “sacrifice” to be more obvious in stepmoms. There are actual groups of stepmoms on social media who gather like it’s an AA meeting to discuss the misery of their lives. Shame on them.

This “woe is me” nonsense seriously needs to stop. Stepmoms are not saints for supposedly sacrificing everything to care for or share space with the children of the person they love. No one is saying it isn’t noble to step up and care for kids that aren’t biologically yours, but acting as if you’ve given up everything to be with a man (or woman) who had kids without you – maybe wishing he didn’t have those kids – is disgusting.

There is sacrifice in every choice, and motherhood is no exception. When you choose one job over another, or a new city over your home town, you are making sacrifices. Staying out late drinking is sacrificing your morning. Choosing to work instead of stay home with the kids, and vice-versa, requires sacrifice. Every action has a reaction, but it is your perspective that will determine whether the result is positive or negative.

The assumption that motherhood as a whole is one giant sacrifice is ridiculous. And the idea that being a stepmom automatically makes you a martyr who has given up everything is even more ridiculous.

There are so many rewards to motherhood, no matter how kids have come into your life. You learn so much about yourself through the eyes of a child, and every day is enriched by their presence. It’s like parents who refuse to travel “because of the kids” – as if children ruin a vacation.

Sorry, but stepmoms don’t get a medal just for being stepmoms. If you’ve chosen to love a man with kids, you’ve made an active choice to love his children too – and if you can’t, you shouldn’t be there. Kids that have been through divorce and custody battles have enough to deal with, and they don’t need your disdain added to the mix. Kids are perceptive, and they’ll be able to tell if you’re in it for the glory of “stepping up” or genuinely making an effort to create a family together.

So much energy is put into complaining about caring for someone else’s children that could be put to better use. If stepmoms spent half the time building relationships with their stepchildren that they spend complaining  and making sure people notice what martyrs they are, they might actually enjoy being stepmoms. Yes, there are stressful days and sleepless nights, but nothing compares to being loved by a child.

We need to stop telling mothers that motherhood is a sacrifice and start a conversation about all the benefits. Of course, there are challenges in motherhood – and in being a stepmom – but I’ve had the privilege of raising five  children, three of them bonus children. These are children I never knew I wanted until they were in my life, and with the reputation motherhood has, who could have blamed me?

Motherhood does need rebranding, and stepmoms need to be a part of the effort.