Motherhood: I love this choice

When my sisters and I sat down and decided to honor motherhood this week, I have to admit I experienced a fair amount of anxiety about my post.

I didn’t know if I should write about what motherhood means to me because of the amazing examples in my life, if I should write about the part of me that as a woman, I’m not quite sure I have what it takes to be a mother, or if I should draw from my experience as a step-mama.

I decided to write from my heart.

Motherhood to me is a choice. It’s not a must-have right of passage because society deems it to be the way it is supposed to be, it is a choice. It is the conscious and sub-conscious choosing, every day from the day you decide to create life, until your last breath, to often put another’s needs, wants and desires before your own. It is a choice I wish more women would be more conscious of making. It is a choice I wish some women would realize they are allowed to choose not to make without fear or judgement – at least they should be. I love this choice.

Sometimes the children you choose to mother are not yours by birth-right, but are brought into your life because little did you know just how much you needed them. And sometimes you get to be the person they need. That’s the choice I made. It’s not to say that I won’t one day have a baby of my own, but for now, helping to raise Michael’s children is the right choice for me. Hearing M introduce me to her new host-family via Skype as her “mere”, the “I love you” I get unprompted from J when we’re dropping him off after our weekend together, lets me know that while I am not a necessity in their lives, I am wanted, loved and appreciated by them. I love this choice.

M, myself and J ♥

M, myself and J ♥

Sometimes the mothering we choose to do is for our siblings or our sibling’s children. These past few months I have caught myself on a few occasions mothering my big sister – standing up for her when she couldn’t do it herself, sending her for naps and time outs when I could see on her face she so desperately needed one, making sure she said “no” to people when she could not handle another responsibility being put on her and sometimes even refusing to let her handle the tough stuff on any given day. I love this choice.

Sometimes the only comfort good enough in the world is that of our own maternal mama. To this day, telling my mother about something that is hurting me, something I’m facing that is hard or even telling her I got a speeding ticket, can be the biggest release of emotion of all – even a week later when the wounds are not as fresh. There is something about the way my mom comforts me that gives my must-always-have-your-shit-together-self the permission I need to let go and let it all out. Sometimes I even choose not to be fully open about my heartaches to anyone but my mama. I love this choice.

Sometimes the mother we choose is our sisters. Recently, I received some news that personally reminded me of my own heartache I had been facing. Thankfully, my sisters were not far away. In minutes I found myself on Julia’s couch with a tissue box in my lap, earnestly being reminded that what I was feeling was not, as I had repeatedly referred to it, “stupid”, but completely relevant, real and appropriate. A tea, some more tears and a piece of Julia-baked cake later and my heart was reminded why God had chosen these beautiful women as my siblings and why life chose them as my best friends. I love this choice.

I love this choice!

I love this choice!

To all of the mamas out there: I choose to admire you, honor you (not just on the second Sunday of May), and be in awe of you. Your courage, strength, grace and wisdom are breathtaking. I love this choice.

~ Toni

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Two down, one to go

I am a step-mother.

And no, not in the Disney way.

Evil-step-mother

Evil step-mother

But in the kind of way I would want my own children treated by another woman if they ever had to raise them with or for me.

More appropriately, I am a step-mom.

M, myself and J ♥

M, myself and J ♥

I am an incredibly blessed and lucky step-mom.

Seriously.

When Michael and I first began dating a million years ago, we both thought it best to hold off with meeting his then young children until we were sure our relationship was a long-term thing. He wanted to make sure I was the kind of woman he would want loving and helping raise his children, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t get sucked into a life that, to be honest, I was not exactly sure was made for me. I had a gripping fear of falling in love with such little people, with such tender hearts, that could be terribly hurt if we were to break up.

This is a decision I am so thankful we made.

Finally, when we were both ready, and we felt the children would be ready, Michael introduced his two beautiful babies to his ‘friend’ Toni. (Side note: my step-kids are incredibly smart, perceptive, and other than J adorably informing his father of his intentions to one day marry me, they saw through this ‘friend’ label faster than we thought.) Nothing could have prepared me for this moment or the million amazing and rewarding moments that would follow.

I had heard horror story, after horror story of hard, terrorizing, wicked and evil step-children/step-parent situations, and to say I was apprehensive about the whole thing would have been and understatement.

But I hit the freaking JACKPOT of step-children.

J was outgoing, loud, funny and attached himself to me quite comfortably, quite quickly. Always making sure to put a smile on my face, J’s heart is bigger than most full-grown men I have met and for that I am forever thankful.

Date night with J at the movies

Date night with J at the movies

M was a different story. When I met her, she was roughly 9 going on 40, wise beyond her years with view of the world that was a little bit different than J’s.

Saying goodbye to M before her flight to France

Saying goodbye to M before her flight to France

Slow to let in, M is an introvert by nature. Quiet, sweet, and observant, she slowly warmed to me. As I am an extrovert (SHOCKER!) by nature, and grew up in very big and loud family, this was a bit of a learning curve for me, but over time we found our groove.

Fast-forward to present day where M is my partner-in-crime and go-to girl for all things from car-ride singalongs to balancing out the testosterone/estrogen levels in our home. We share secrets, the latest gossip, nail polish and a love for shopping. More intricate than sisters, much different than mother-daughter, more fulfilling than I could have imagined, I wouldn’t trade what we have for anything.

A few years ago, my brilliant, intelligent and driven M was approached to participate in a European student-exchange program that would grant her the opportunity to host a student here and then spend three months in France. While the trip was a few years off yet, her early acceptance into the program (THAT’S how brilliant she is!) was cause for excitement, commotion, and tears of both joy and worry. We were so proud.

Our exchange student arrived this past August and fit right into our beautifully-blended family without missing a step. C was loud, loving, happy and most of all fabulous. We laughed (A LOT), shared tears of anxiety about her having to leave us, and grew together as a family with the experience.

Our last night with our C  <3

Our last night with our C ❤

In the days approaching M’s departure, I found it hard to sleep, hard to talk about her trip without tearing up, and my nerves, frankly, were shot. The drive to the airport was no different, and neither were the moments leading up to us having to let her go through her gate. I’m not quite sure which one of us was struggling with the reality of THREE whole months apart from our normal lives more – M or I – but watching her say goodbye to her two closest girlfriends, her boyfriend, dad, brother, step-dad and mom, made me want to grab her and make a run for the car, James Bond style. My inner monologue kept reminding me how amazing this experience was going to be for her, that she would be reunited with C, that she would never have this opportunity again, that it’s FRANCE…no amount of reasoning calmed me down, but it did allow me to hug her tightly, remind her how proud of her I was, tell her I loved her and then let her go.

While my composure only lasted until I was tightly strapped in for the return home, my pride in her bravery definitely has. I’m not sure high school me would have had the guts to take such a trip.

Yesterday we celebrated our M’s two month anniversary in France and it being only a few short weeks away from her return. I’ve already begun planning that week’s shopping trip to include all of her favourites and fully anticipate a request for dinner at Ye’s Sushi.

M, we can’t wait to hug you. We miss you a ridiculous amount.

~ Toni