Being a non-biological mom to a kid comes with challenges that, honestly, vary from those biological parents inevitably face. I mean, there are many of the same challenges as any other parent, but some of the things people say about non-biological moms are actually part of those additional challenges we're forced to overcome. It's easy for people to forget that, regardless of what kind of parent we are, whether it's biological, step-, or adoptive, we have been given a gift in being able to be a part of a child's life. Any good mom, whether she gave birth to that child or not, is going to cherish that gift (even when that gift comes with a side of baby poop and vomit and toddler tantrums).
I've always been really lucky with my circle of friends and family, and how they've treated me as the stepmom to my partner's daughter. No one has ever questioned my presence, my decisions, or my parenting skills. Sadly, I can't say the same when speaking with people who don't know me very well. I can't tell you how many coworkers joke with me about being the "evil stepmother," and not only is it hurtful but it's beyond offensive. Of course, stepparents aren't the only ones who hear some pretty hurtful, outdated and unnecessary things. Knowing what friends of mine have gone through to become adoptive parents, I shudder to think of the insensitivity some people have when it comes to speaking about adoption.
Honestly, a good rule of thumb to go by in these (and any) situation is this: if it sounds like a question or comment you might feel strange hearing about or answering yourself, chances are, you shouldn't say it. If more people followed that simple rule, less non-biological moms would hear the following from people who, really and truly, should just know better.
"But You're Not Their Real Mom"
What the hell isn't "real" about me? I love and care about her, I'm a mother figure to her, I've been around for more than three quarters of her life, and I plan on continuing to be around for the rest of that life. Just because I didn't give birth to her, doesn't make me any less real.
"I Guess I Should Ask Their 'Real' Parent"
Actually, I have a say in how this kid is raised, too. As long as she's in my house, I'm part of the parenting equation. Assuming that a kid's biological parent is the only one who can make decisions about their life is an unfair assumption that might undo years of work to establish a worthwhile relationship.
"They Probably Talk To Their Real Mom About That"
One thing I made clear, and especially once my stepdaughter hit puberty, was that I was happy to talk to her about anything. We've had discussions about body image, sex positivity, and menstruation, as part of my attempt to normalize many of these topics (as I'm unsure how much her biological mother talks about them with her).
"Do They View You As The Evil Stepmother?"
I don't care if this is said in jest or as a joke, it's the most insulting thing you could ever say to a stepmom. I don't know a single stepparent who doesn't work their butt off trying to show that they love their stepkids and want to be inclusive.
"Oh, That Must Be So Hard"
Sure. I mean, there are definitely challenges to raising a stepchild, but there are challenges to raising any child and I can't really say one is more difficult than the other. I think I can safely say the same applies to how adoptive parents feel, as well.
"You Must Hate Their Real Mom"
Honestly, how constructive is it to bother hating the person who brought your stepchild (or your adoptive child) into the world? Everything happens for a reason, if you ask me, so it's hard to hate the reason you have this kid in your life.
"How Much Did That Cost?"
Seriously, no. Talking about money, especially when it comes to bringing a child into your life, is just crude. Would you ask the parent of a teenager how much it cost to raise their kid? What would be the point?
"Are You Worried About Them Looking For Their Real Mom?"
I don't understand why this needs to be addressed. Do you really think that, after years of raising and loving a child who you didn't give birth to, they would walk away, just because they met their biological mom? It's not the movies, people.
"Are You Going To Tell Them?"
Again, this is not the movies. I can't think of a single adoptive parent I know who would consider hiding the truth from their kid, for even a moment.
"That's Why They Don't Look Like You!"
Speaking as the partner of someone who is biracial, I call bullsh*t. You really never know why some kids don't look like one parent or the other, and saying something like that to an adoptive or stepparent is not only insulting, it's just generally uninformed.
"It's Not The Same As Having Your Own Kid"
As if mom shaming hasn't gone far enough, let's tell non-biological moms that what they're doing (parenting) isn't as good, or the same, as parenting a biological child. What a horrifying statement and assumption to make. I had the exact same intrusive thoughts about my stepdaughter as I did about my own kids. To assume that an adoptive parent or stepparent wouldn't do anything for their non-biological child is not only ill-informed, it's incorrect.