The Terms of Family.  What is a Real Mother?

I have an adult, non-biological son.  I refer to him as my souvenir gift item because in an arrangement that is unusual even in Los Angeles, he is a memento from my first marriage.  I took him in the divorce.   Yes, you got it; he was my stepson while I was married to his father and now he is just mine.  

All of us take different mementos from relationships – mine is a blessing I couldn’t have imagined and am not quite sure I deserve but nevertheless, he is my kid, even though we don’t share DNA.  

When I explain this to people they often ask, “What happened to his real mother?” I deflect the question and discuss her geographical location then move the conversation away from family.  What is a ‘real’ mother anyway and why do people think it an appropriate question to ask me, the one of the moms who calls him ‘son’?  

I am just as ‘real’ a mother to my adult son as his ’other’ mother, the one who
birthed him and partially raised him (part of the time co-parenting while married to my ex-husband, part of the time as a single mother then for about 13 years sharing him with me and my then husband, who was then, and remains, her ex-husband.)

Why can’t people ask, ‘what happened to his other mother?’  Or, ‘what happened to his first mother?  It’s the word ‘real’ that irks me – makes me think that they see me as a fake, or lesser mother to my 29 year old strapping young man.   Maybe this is not what folks say, but it is what I hear and it peeves me because he is a real a son to me.  Some children are born of our bodies; others are born of arguments, attorneys and notarized documents.  And no matter how they come to us all of these children are our real children thus making us real mothers.

There are many types of mothers – good, bad, legal, biological, ersatz and many more.   But all who love a child without hesitation are very real mothers.  Regardless of what documents, DNA or casual questioners say.

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