“He Thought She Was My Real Mommy”

by childless stepparent

Today my husband, his daughter, and I attended a live theater broadcast of the Royal Ballet’s The Nutcracker. We all got dressed up and made it a special occasion. A lovely way to celebrate Christmas and a way for me to share one of my holiday traditions with my new family (something I advise childless stepparents to do).

During intermission, a dapper older gentleman approached us, smiling at my husband’s daughter, who was brushing her American Girl doll’s hair. He asked if her doll was enjoying the ballet. She shyly said yes.

Then he smiled at her, “Do you let your mom hold your doll?”

“What?!” she replied abruptly, her face filled with confusion.

My husband stepped in. “No,” he said, shaking his head is mock sadness, “we don’t get to hold her doll.” The man chuckled and walked away.

“That man thought she was my real Mommy!” she exclaimed to her dad, eyes wide, obviously disconcerted.

“Well,” he replied lightly, “you might think that, too, if you saw the three of us standing here, right?” She nodded slowly, looking down at her doll.

My husband’s daughter loves me and likes having me around. We have a warm relationship. But this experience obviously made her uncomfortable. It’s hard to be reminded that her mom and dad are no longer together. She does a good job navigating two homes and two families – and my husband and I do everything we can to make it as easy as possible – but it’s still hard for her. Of course it is.

That moment was hard for me too.

A stranger’s innocent assumption that I’m her mom filled my husband’s daughter with discomfort and confusion. I get it, I really do. But to have a child I love react negatively like that? Ouch. I understand why and I felt compassion for her in that moment, but it still hurts.

It is yet another reminder that while I want to be a mom and always imagined I would be, I am not a mom. There is no place for me to put that part of myself.

Manifesto #3 | I am not a mom. The part of myself I thought I would give my child – as a mom – has nowhere to go, and that’s okay.

Manifesto #6 | I will be kind to my stepchild. I will support my husband in his role as her dad. I will contribute – on my own terms.