The Childless Stepmom
6 Ways to Cope With Infertility
BY KELLY PALMQUIST, MSW
How many times have you been asked, “Do you have any children?” For as many times as I’ve been asked (hint: a lot), I still feel uncomfortable each and every time. My heart drops to my belly and I feel a lump in my throat. I then explain that I have a 17-year-old stepson who lives with us full-time.
My response is most frequently followed by, “So, do you plan to have children of your own?”
Raise your hand if you’ve been asked that. I thought so. In the minds of many, being without biological children equates to being “childless.” Yet, some stepmoms are without biological children, or childfree, by choice.
Others of us are childless by circumstance. I person- ally do not consider myself to be childless. (After all, I am a stepmom.) But, in the eyes of society, I’m often viewed as less than compared to counterparts who are deemed to be “real moms.”
I have both Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. As you can imagine, the fertility odds are not in my favor. In many ways, I’ve come to a place of acceptance with this reality, but the continual pressures to have biological children can make maintaining this acceptance challenging.
Stepmoms who are without biological children face a unique burden in mom-centric societies.
Some might say there is a scale of “mom-ness,” which places stepmoms below mothers of biological or adopted children. From people saying things like, “I can’t wait until you’re a real mom,” to, “Do you want your own children?” to, my personal favorite, “You’ll get it, when you’re a mom someday,” there is always a reminder there. On a scale of 1-to-full-blown-mommyhood, I somehow rank below others.
Those comments are both hurtful and minimizing of the stepmother role. As childless stepmoms dealing with infertility, we are constantly face-to-face with our most painful reality. From school functions to family gather- ings, we are consistently being reminded that we are without. Given all of this, what can we do?