Stepmother

I’ve been seeing photos plastered on various social media outlets stating “A stepparent is a truly amazing person.  They made a choice to love another’s child as their own” and I find a lot of truth in that.  I became a stepparent to two amazing children when I got involved with my ex-husband.  As we were getting divorced, I was terrified that this would mean the end of my relationship with his children.  I truly did (and still do) love them like they are my own children.  Luckily it didn’t come to that, and they are still in my life.  I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like to.  They live out-of-state with their mom (who is my personal idea of what a superhero looks like sometimes) and stepdad, and circumstances being what they are I only get to physically spend time with them briefly when they come up for a visit.  For very complicated reasons, I have to keep some distance so that all involved can maintain their sanity.  Someday, they’ll understand that.  That doesn’t mean I don’t miss them and think about them every day (thank goodness I can keep in touch via Facebook!)  and it doesn’t mean I love them any less than I did before.

Later on, I met Lane.  Well after that, I met M and O.  This is my second journey in stepparenting.  One day, the kids just started telling people that I’m their stepmother (it’s not a title I asked for, kids do these things when they’re ready) and so it really began.  I used to be reminded at Mother’s Day that I’m not a mother in that I’ve never adopted a child and I’ve never given birth to one either.  I’ve grown used to letting it pass as a day to celebrate women who are considered to be “real” mothers.  Even when I had my ex-husband’s kids in my life with more regularity, I was reminded that I was not a mother.  In no way am I minimizing the beauty of adoption or the road to delivering a child of one’s own, but stepmothers really get a bad rap.  I shop for and cook their meals, I wash the grass and dirt stains out of their sports uniforms (and pretty much anything else they wear), I sit at soccer practice when it’s freezing cold and raining.  I get them chicken soup and crackers and ginger ale when they’re sick.  I work to teach them about being kind to others, and responsibility, and good manners, and teamwork.  I help with homework and feel like I’m re-learning simple math so I can help M when she furrows her brow and says “I’m stuck.”  I’m missing traveling for my baby sister’s college graduation in part because I am partly responsible for the two small humans in this house and for getting them to school and soccer and baseball and whatever else pops up on the schedule.  I do all of this while being mindful of my role as “not the actual mother,” and it isn’t easy.  The school doesn’t know what to do with me, who am I in all of this? Do I make decisions? Is my signature good enough on a permission slip for a field trip, or am I just the person who’s allowed to pick them up when they’re sick?  Other moms at school don’t know what to do with me, either.  I’m an outsider, not part of their special “I’ve given birth/ adopted” circle.  I’ve had my directions undermined by others who felt justified doing so because I’m not their mother, I’m just Lane’s girlfriend.  That’s okay, I don’t do the things I do for the title, or recognition, or to be part of a social circle.  I do it because I am a stepmom, and these are the things you do when a child is in your care.  So please, let’s put away the special stepmother wart and let’s stop assuming no woman could love children that aren’t their own as if they are.  I have no doubt in my mind that if Lane and I ever have a child, I will love all five children (two from my first marriage, M, O, and a long-shot future baby that we’ll call “the urchin” for now) just the same.

Back on the topic of Mother’s Day, I have never expected anything from anyone in celebration of that day.  I’m happy to celebrate the moms of all forms in my life and leave it at that. I suspect Lane and the kids have something up their sleeve but if I’m wrong, that’s okay.  It’s not about special recognition for me, it’s more important that (especially as women) we all start to respect the roles people play in children’s lives.  I’m blessed to have children in my life who love me enough to call me their stepmother and there’s no better way to recognize it than that.  Although, if someone really needs to show me they care, on Mother’s Day or any day, cinnamon rolls are one great way to do that.  I won’t turn down cinnamon rolls.  They’re simple, and gooey and comforting.  They take some effort, and I’m a firm believer that sometimes, the effort is the biggest part of a gift.  The effort for these is minimized by using a bread machine (that could also be a great gift for mom!), but you can make them without one as well.

bread machine cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon Buns

Ingredients:

for the dough:

  • 1 C. plus 2 Tbsp. warm milk
  • 3 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 egg and 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 4 C. flour (possibly more)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. yeast

for the filling:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2/3 C. packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon

for the icing:

  • 1 tsp. milk
  • 1 1/2 C. confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

To make the dough using a bread machine, place the dough ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order listed.  Select the dough cycle and wait for the cycle to complete.  Check the dough after the first few minutes of the cycle and add a little more flour if necessary.

To make the dough without a bread machine, add 1 tsp. of the sugar to the warm milk and stir in the yeast.  Allow the mixture to sit for a minute.  In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), combine the vegetable oil, eggs, salt and sugar.  Add in 2 C. of the flour and the milk mixture and mix to combine.  Mix in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth and easy to handle.  Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 5-10 minutes or in a stand mixer using a dough hook for 5-10 minutes.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When the dough cycle is finished, or the dough has completed rising if making the dough by hand, roll the dough into a large rectangle (roughly 15×9 inches) on a well-floured surface.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Spread the melted butter over the dough.

Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture evenly over the buttered dough.

Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the long side, like a jelly-roll.

Cut the dough into 15 rolls (about 1″ each) and place the rolls into two greased round cake pans.

At this point, you can cover the unbaked rolls with plastic wrap and refrigerate them overnight, then bake in the morning if desired (if this is your plan, skip pre-heating the oven).

Bake for 20 minutes, until browned.

While the rolls bake, combine all ingredients for icing in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or in a mixing bowl using a hand mixer) until smooth.

Spread icing over cinnamon rolls as soon as the rolls come out of the oven.

Makes 15 cinnamon rolls.

Source: adapted from Money Saving Mom

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