Like Mary, I am not a mother.
I am a stepmother.
Recently, a blogger I’ve never met invited me to guest interview. Because her blog has the word, mother, in the title, I told her upfront that I am not a mother and asked if being a stepmother “qualified” me.
She said, “Sure, being a stepmother counts.”
Although my personal experience suggests being a stepmother counts much less, her response encouraged me to submit.
Her first question stopped me in my tracks—If your children are at home, how do you find time to write? If they have moved away, how did you write when they were home?
Being the other, lesser mother, my stepchildren never lived with me. Theoretically, we were the “every-other-weekend parents,” but the not infrequent last minute cancellation calls from their mother meant we too often saw them less. I never got used to those calls, and cried every time she cancelled. I also held onto the hope it would get better when my stepchildren became adults and could choose for themselves. Then, in their mid-twenties, when my stepdaughter was pregnant with our first eagerly awaited grandchild, their mother issued an ultimatum. She had shared her children with us and didn’t plan to share her grandchildren. They had to pick—they could have either her or us in their life, not both.
My instinct when I read that interview question was to not go anywhere near my practically healed-over ache. Then, at my FDU alumni writer’s workshop, I saw a documentary by Kevin Carey and Mark Hillringhouse about poet, Maria Mazziotti Gillan.
In the film, Maria alludes to the crow on our shoulder—that doubt or insecurity or fear—that holds us back. She talks about the need to tunnel into the cave—our heart and soul—to write authentically. After reflecting on Maria’s wisdom, here’s how I answered the interview question:
This is a difficult question for me and my instinct was to skip it. After seeing an inspiring interview with poet, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, I realize I need to venture into the cave and respond. I don’t have children of my own, but I’m a stepmother. Being the other, lesser mother, my stepchildren never lived with me. Without going into all of the details, the short answer is that it has always been more the absence of my stepchildren than their presence in my life that intrudes on my writing time.
How did the host blogger respond? She didn’t! And, she never posted the interview, seemingly confirming that in the end, being a stepmother doesn’t really count after all.
People occasionally ask me if Jim and I regret our decision not to have children together. I don’t regret it and believe it was the right decision for us.
What I do regret is that the children (and now grandchildren) who I chose as family, at least for today, choose not to be part of my life.