I’m a childless stepmom. It’s not difficult to say and doesn’t give me pause. It’s a way of life that I chose, and continue to choose.
That said, it’s always been difficult to explain my desire to remain childless. Having gone to both a Christian academy through my high school years and a Christian college for a year, discussing marriage and children was a necessity to a Christian existence. In their eyes, the only reason you would remain unmarried or childless occurred only if you were unfortunately unattractive, a leper or had grown horns and a tail thus making you complicit with Satan himself.
So I didn’t discuss it. I dated with fervor through my high school, college and law school years. I developed good relationships. When I did find the man of my dreams and determined that I was ready to embark upon a partnership with him, I began encountering the oft spoke, “When are you going to have a baby?”
Marrying a man with full custody of three children changed my life. I think I adjusted well. (You would have to ask them if that were actually the case!) My husband, who was open to having additional children, encouraged me to take some time to think about whether I wanted to go down that path. I have remained open to the idea while still defending myself in the wake of my childless choice, yet nothing has changed. I have no desire to birth children. I have three healthy, happy, bright stepchildren with whom I have good relationships. I took on the mom role in my home and enjoyed (nearly?) every minute of it. I sat in bleachers for ballgames, cooked my kids’ favorite meals and bought more underwear than I ever imagined. I also have a young, spirited niece. She is a joy! In fact, one of the greatest joys of my life. And I wish that my sister had chosen to have more! (Given that I was present for my niece’s birth, however, I understand her decision to stop at one.)
As a woman of faith, I often read books that support my interest in faith-building. I recently bought the book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head and Calling Her Husband Master by Rachel Held Evans . (It is noted that my book purchases on Amazon.com show up on my husband’s email. He became quite excited when he thought I had some plans to call him Master! Alas, he found out that it was not to be.)
As Rachel did, I too added my husband’s name to my own. In my case, it was to honor both the woman I was before I married (and remain true to all of those diplomas that I earned) and the family that my husband and I created by our marriage. As I read through Rachel’s book, I identified with her take on Biblical living on a number of levels. However, Rachel especially spoke to my heart when she wrote,
“Somehow, I’d known from the age of ten, with a cool and uncanny certainty, that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and yet I’ve never known with the same intensity that I wanted to be a mother. What was wrong with me? Where were my motherly instincts? Should a person like me even consider having children when it doesn’t feel natural?”
I could have written those same thoughts myself, though not quite as eloquently. I knew from a young age that I wanted to carry a briefcase. It took me a few more years to determine that carrying legal papers in said briefcase would be my career path. However, I rarely, if ever, considered having children other than when it came up in conversations, prompted by others. It was not a natural progression of thought for me. I never felt less accomplished than my child-bearing peers. My family never attempted to persuade me into a family lifestyle. No boyfriends ever pressured me to commit to being barefoot and pregnant before signing on the dotted line.
However, I can attest to the fact that when I became a stepmom to my husband’s three children, I did feel at home. It felt natural. Don’t get me wrong, there were bumps in the road. But I wanted to work through those things as family. I was committed to this lifestyle from the beginning. Obviously, it is based upon my deep and abiding love for my husband, but it certainly helps that I came from a successful stepfamily background.
I am committed to my faith and continue to listen to God through his Word, both through prayer and study. I believe that if I were intended to give birth that I would feel an intense desire to make that happen. I would coo at toddlers and dream of baby bumps. Alas, it has not happened.
Still, in my faith tradition, my life likely hasn’t shaped out the way that my high school teachers had hoped. After all, while they were praying for me to have a happy marriage and a quiver full of children, I was praying to God to get into law school. Though I am grateful for the intercessory prayers of all of those concerned enough about me to offer up prayers on my behalf, I am blessed that He heard MY prayer.
So childless by choice stepmoms, I celebrate you. While the rest of society may not see the value in your labors, I know them and I appreciate them.