When I moved in with my partner almost ten years ago, her two sons were 18 months and almost six years old. I was an instant co-parent and thrown in at the deep end.
I left a good job to move towns and live with this new family of mine and didn’t have work for a few months. I was a housewife in every sense of the word. On one of my first days alone at home with the kids, things already went horribly wrong.
The eldest boy got violently ill and threw up all over the house. No one warned me that he was a puker. I had to learn the hard way that whenever he said he wanted to get sick, I had to pick him up and run into the nearest bathroom and hold his head down over the toilet. He gushes litres of liquid within minutes and the cleaning up can take hours; getting rid of the smell can take days. It’s just part of his make-up. When my partner came home later that day to see me scrubbing carpets and bedding in desperation, she asked me what I had given the boy to eat. “He just ate everything I ate.” She hugged me and smiled. “Yes, but you never stop eating and he is only six! What did you expect?”
One other day not much later than that, the smaller boy was playing outside while the maid was hanging up the washing and I kept an eye on him through the kitchen window. I must’ve not looked at him for one half of a minute and next thing he started screaming blue murder. I rushed outside, realized he had fallen into a stick he had picked up and had hurt his mouth badly.
As soon as he saw me he clenched his jaw shut and would not open it again until his mom came rushing home. She managed to pry his mouth open and his entire palate fell down onto his tongue. I nearly fainted. We took him to hospital and they did what they could and within days his mouth just healed over all by itself. I thought the accident was bad enough for my partner to leave me, but as it turned out, it was forgiven as just one of many terrible accidents toddlers tend to have, no matter who’s on duty.
I have been with these boys since nappies and Grade 1 respectively. I have seen them laugh themselves silly over stupid Adam Sandler comedies. I have watched them learn amazing new things at school. I have made all their meals every day and I have washed all their clothes. I have supported their mom through all her career changes and I have tried my best to have my own. I have given up so much of what it would’ve meant to be a young adult having fun; I traded it for being someone’s wife, someone’s mom. I still choose it every day above everything else.
But I’m still waiting for the first time I’ll really feel like a mom. I’m not talking about having my own biological babies, which is, according to many people, the only time I’ll really feel like a mom and like a woman. I’m talking about that feeling, that knowledge in my heart that says what I’m doing for these kids is good enough, is enough to get them through, is all they need to be happy, successful adults one day.
I’m not sure I’ll ever experience that, but I know that being a part of their lives has made mine richer. I can only pray that it’s mutual.