What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Sarah McManus.

Repeat after me: Stepmom. Sarah is Maggie’s stepmom. You can do it!

For some reason, strangers have trouble with this sentence. When I pick up Mia (10) or Maggie (8) from one of their lessons, the lengths to which the Mommies will go to avoid saying this word is comical: “Oh, so you’re…you live with them…you’re Eric’s wife!” 

For a while, even my husband was soft-shoeing around the title. I know he honors me for my role in our family, and I think that made it even harder for him to use a title that has such a bad rap.
But you know what? I’m the stepmom, and I’m proud. 

These kids don’t look like me, they don’t eat like me, and they are very happy that my taste in music is unlikely to be genetic. But we have become and are becoming a family. When the little one tells me she loves me as I tuck her in at night, my heart sings, and when the oldest deigns to run an errand with me, I make “supahstah!” hands in my head. 

I’m not sorry to not be the mom. They resemble her in so many ways, and I love all of their ways. How could I deny the authorship of so many beautiful parts of their personality and appearance? I wish many things for my life, but they are separate from the reality of these children. Falling in love with stepkids is the same process as falling in love with a baby, and not dissimilar to falling in love with my husband: I see the hard things, but at the same time, I see them as they are: perfect. Sarcastic, funny, whiney, dirty-room-living, nerdy-tv-watching, singing, dancing, did I mention whiney, and perfect. 

Of course, it helps that their mother has been very generous and kind to me. That part of the story doesn’t seem to fit anyone’s narrative, either. When the other Mommies do warm up to me, the fishing for dirt on the assumed rivalry I have with the girls’ mom commences. I have to disappoint, again: my husband and his baby mama ain’t got no drama, and the likely outcome of the daily contact she and I have is gentle laughter and head-shaking at child shenanigans. 

I’m proud of the kids, I’m proud of our partnership with their mother, and I’m so, so proud to be with my husband. When we first started dating, we saw each other in the city where I lived at the time, enjoying his weekends without children. These days, living in the same town, I sometimes think I spend all of our weekends “off” finding the socks we lost in the laundry while the kids were here. But we’re partners, and he has brought me into this role so carefully and deliberately. Eric is a stellar parent, and I’m determined not to be the weak link in the Kid-Raisin’ chain. 

So yeah, I’m a step mom. Evil? Only sometimes. Ask my kids.