So, you’re a Default Mom. You have taken on the responsibility of parenting (or co-parenting) someone else’s children. You might be a stepmom, a foster mom, or a full-time caregiver. With Mother’s Day this weekend, your children will probably be with their biomom, and you’ll be hosting your annual no-presents-again pity party.
Put down your carton of ice cream and listen to me. This lesson is all about you, and how to be the Best. Default Mom. Ever. This is about changing your perspective and expectations, and it comes to us courtesy of a first-century writer.
Paul, the apostle, known to some as St. Paul, never married and never had children, yet he gave us loads of practical lessons for family life. For those of you who don’t know, Paul was a big letter-writer. He spent a lot of time in prison or under house arrest, and he used that time to write to churches all over the known world.
He wrote very specifically to each church, to address specific issues and struggles they were having. Many of these letters are included in the New Testament. He wrote a couple of letters to the church in Corinth, and in one of them, he speaks specifically on the topic of love. In fact, he actually provides a definition of love that is still widely quoted to this day.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 English Standard VersIon (ESV)
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[a] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
These words are beautiful; you may even have used them in your wedding ceremony. Let’s unpack Paul’s words and see how they apply to Default Moms.
Love is patient and kind. While I’m sure you are working hard to be patient and kind with your children; just how patient and kind are you with their biomom? Are you patient with last-minute changes in visits? Are you kind when you talk about her to your children? What do you say about her to your friends?
Love does not envy or boast. Do you envy the biomom anywhere in your heart–maybe in a way you can’t even admit to yourself? When you see family pictures from before you came on the scene, does it bother you? Do you compare your parenting style to hers to brag about what a great parent you are? Do you take credit for your children’s achievements?
It is not arrogant or rude. Do you take false pride in your own amazing parenting skills? Do you believe you are the one who knows what is best for the children? Do you claim superior knowledge about child development and discipline? Have you ever been less than polite to the children’s parents, or to the children themselves?
It does not insist on its own way. I’m talking to all you “right-fighters” out there. I have seen families go to court over things like pets, orthodontist bills, and haircuts. Is having your way really worth the hurt the arguments will cause to the children? To paraphrase Dr. Phil, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to love your children?”
It is not irritable or resentful. This is a big one. Do you complain to your husband about his ex? Do you resent the time and money he spends on legal fees and child support? Do you feel like “just a babysitter” when your husband goes on a business trip and the kids are acting up? When resentfulness started to show up in me, I would say these four little words, “you had a choice.” I willingly stood up in church and took a vow in front of God and my friends. His children are part of that covenant.
It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Nobody “rejoices at wrongdoing”, do they? If your child is hurt by something their biomom does or says, are you just a little too quick to say, “I would never do that!” That’s a kind of rejoicing at wrongdoing. Anytime you criticize or put down their biomom, you are rejoicing at your own wrongdoing. Your children should love their biomom. Your job, in rejoicing with the truth, is to support the love they have for their biomom.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. During your life as a default mom, you will be asked to bear the unbearable, believe when you are discouraged, hope in the face of doubt, and endure all things, even the catty remarks others make about “real” children. Raising other people’s children can be a thankless job, so don’t expect a medal for what you do.
The reward will not come in being the mother of the bride or being present at the birth of the first grandchild. Your reward will come, though, certainly in heaven but also here on earth. It will come in the unique memories and experiences you share with your “tribe” of children. It will come when the phone rings years from now and it’s your stepdaughter asking for your enchilada recipe. It will come when your stepson changes the oil in your car. It will come when they make the right life decisions; the ones that have your fingerprints all over them.
God Has the Last Word
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9
Grace is real–
Judy, aka Default Mom