The Second Mom

Another backlogged post… I’m still catching up on all the things I didn’t post during house closing and sickness.

I don’t know how to be the second mom.

I know how to be the mom! I know how to teach and instruct, how to comfort when hurt or scared or sick, how to laugh and play, how to make healthy food and care for physical, mental, and emotional well being.

But I don’t know how to be the second mom. I don’t know how to cope with all the people who look at my daughter and say, “Your mom used to do xyz.” And I really don’t know what to do with my daughter when she looks at me and says, “You used to do that?” No, I didn’t. That was your… real mom. As if I’m a fake. I don’t know how to look at her crestfallen face when “your mom” isn’t there, when she goes from having a mom to being motherless in a few simple words. I don’t know how to help her when people try to remind her of what she’s lost.

We talk about her first mom a lot. We look at pictures, I repeat favourite stories that my husband has told me, we talk about cancer and heaven and how it’s okay to be sad sometimes and how it’s also okay when you feel like you’re missing somebody less—that it just means your happy and she would want you to be happy. Her first mom is never forgotten, I will never let her forget her. But we call her “Mommy Amanda,” and sometimes just Amanda. Not out of disrespect, but to let her have a present mom.

But I don’t know how to be the second mom. I don’t know how to be the mom who is told information about my child as if I don’t know her, because I missed the first three and a half years of her life. I may see her every day and know all her favourite things now, but I didn’t hold her when she was a baby or know her favourite book as a toddler or make her her favourite foods for her second birthday. I don’t know how to be looked at as somebody she’s supposed to love less, when I’m the one who gets her to sleep after a nightmare or holds her when she’s down or encourages her when she does well.

She looks at me as her mommy. It’s not playing house to her. She needs me, she looks for me, she doesn’t stop talking to me even when I’m exhausted and spent. She wants to make me proud, she wants to be just like me AND just like her first mommy.

But I don’t know how to be the second mom. I don’t know how to be the one they all hope she doesn’t turn out like. Everybody wants her to be the incarnation of her first mom, but she’s picking up my habits. And it makes me so anxious because I’m not THE mom, I’m just the one she has now. It doesn’t just elevate the first mom or diminish me when I am brushed aside as a fake mom… It leaves her without a mother. In the moment when her departed mother is revered as the only mother, she is motherless. All stability of having the second mom vanishes. Because how can a second mom be nearly as good as the first?

I’ve been her mommy for a year. And I count is the highest honour to be a mom to her and her sister. It’s my life’s greatest joy. I can only hope that someday I won’t feel like a replacement, but can just be her mom.

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