STEP TALK with Alexandra Mortensen

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Do You Have Kids?

It’s such a simple question, right? It’s also such a common one. Whether you’re at a dinner party, a networking event, or making conversation with someone in line at the grocery store, it’s a question you’re likely to be asked.

It’s not an inappropriate question by any means, but when you’re a stepmom—especially a “childless” stepmom—it can be painful.

I’ve been presented with the question many times, and each time doesn’t seem easier to answer than the time before. Do I have kids? I don’t know. Yes and no? I think what makes it such a difficult question to answer is that the answer is expected to be brief.

“Yes, I have two girls.”

“Yes, I have a little boy.”

“No, not yet.”

“No, we’ve chosen to not have children.”

But when your answer is “Well, I have two stepsons that we have full time and I’ve had to step in as their mom and I actually had to decide to give up having my own children to do so, so I do and I don’t…” it’s not so simple.

My husband just tells me to say “Yes, I have two stepsons.” Why is it hard for me to simply say that? Maybe it’s something I’m putting on myself, but it seems to so inaccurately describe our situation. If I heard someone say they have two stepchildren I’d assume that they have them a portion of the time. I’d also assume that they probably play a secondary role, acting as the third or fourth parent to the children.

Then you might ask “So what if someone thinks that and that’s not what the situation is for you?”

Well, I guess a variety of reasons. Ego? Pride? Validation?

Being or not being a parent so often plays a tremendous role in defining us. For many, their child or children are their pride and joy. They’re who they live for and are at the center of everything that is deep and meaningful in their lives.

For others, the decision to not have children has defined them and the mark they want to leave on the world. Maybe they’ve chosen to travel, dedicate their life to volunteer work and activism, or even serve as inspiration for others that it’s okay to not have children if you don’t want to.

Being or not being a parent is a big deal.

Being a full-time stepparent, yet “only” a stepparent leaves me feeling out of place in both categories—especially when I’m asked the innocent question “Do you have kids?”

You can learn more about my life as a stepmom at my website www.theonlystepmom.com.

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