I remember the words, “have fun never being a real mom.” She didn’t mean them quite as I took them, but I do think she meant her words with all of her heart, at the time.  Being a step-parent is a role unlike any other, and possibly more difficult than others—yes, including being a mom. At least, with the mom label, a woman gets society’s compassion. The label, stepmom, has a “society stink” on it.

Throughout history, stepmoms came about a certain way, we looked a certain way, and we acted a certain way. The stereotypes associated with the title, stepmom, are some of the reasons women who choose roles out of the norm usually have seasons of feeling isolated, misunderstood, or otherwise disheartened. Combine two of these lesser-traveled roles, as I did, and you’re forced to learn self-reliance immediately. Being a stepmom by marriage and childfree by choice left me feeling alone and without a tribe.

In ancient times, women shared a lot more than they do today. They shared care of their babies, gathered food, and cooked together. The women and the children shared their lives intimately and were a source of strength and comfort to each other on a daily basis. This practice of gathering together kept them all safe, happy, fulfilled. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that one decision I made for my life could potentially cut me out of this tribal circle of support. By choosing to marry my husband and to not have children of my own, I created a separation I didn’t want.

Women immediately placed judgment on my decisions. Women immediately started criticizing my decisions. Women gradually stopped inviting me because, after all, I made decisions that didn’t align with theirs, and therefore I was unrelatable. Questions from strangers about my reproductive health, and about my goals in life started flooding in. Criticisms regarding those decisions and my aspirations in life were plentiful.

As I shared my plans to build my career, travel a lot, and nurture my husband, his children, and my doggies, I was laughed at. The disappointed tone in some as they shared, “you’re missing out on the best part of life,” made me sad—not for me, but for them, that they didn’t know any better. I recall, as I disagreed, and shared that my current “best part of life” was finding and marrying my soulmate, with whom I get to have so many adventures, some would walk away from me in a huff. I didn’t even get to finish my thought. All of the sudden, I didn’t matter, and I wasn’t even worthy of respect. This wasn’t the supportive, female tribe I was used to, and I needed to find it again—quickly.

I do believe I missed out on some good of motherhood, but I also feel I missed out on a ton of headaches, too. Despite my assurance to others about my decision to not have children, I became target practice for their judgments, assumptions, misunderstandings, and hurtful comments. To be told, “what do you think your job in life is,” can be soul-crushing. I didn’t realize my status as a woman made others so angry. It was with pure anger I was told several times, “that’s a pretty selfish decision you’re making.” If asked, “why did you have kids,” most would say, “ because I wanted them.” Who is selfish, again?

I am going to share some tips to help you overcome the challenges of being a childfree step mum in my next article.