A few years ago, my family was watching a movie. My family being myself, my boyfriend (now husband) and his two boys. We were cuddled up on the couch watching a movie and a man came on screen sporting a rather impressive mustache. Out of nowhere, his youngest son shouted out, “Look! Mustack!”. He wasn’t really speaking yet, only a few words here and there. So to hear him attempt such a sophisticated word as mustache was just hilarious. We all doubled over laughing, asking him to say it over and over again. And it very quickly became our very first inside joke.
I was only 23 years old when I met my husband. And over the course of 6 months after meeting him, I quit my job, moved in with them, we bought a house together and I became a stepmom. With what seemed like the snap of my fingers, I was suddenly a stay at home soccer mom real housewife of suburbia. I was suddenly domesticated. Cooking dinners, shuttling kids to soccer practice, scheduling playdates, cleaning the house, crafting school projects.
I became the person I was supposed to be without even trying. I am meant to be a mom. And a homemaker. And a wife. These are things I would have never imagined in a million years I would be saying. I used to say marriage was an outdated institution that society pressures us into. I used to cringe at the sound of crying babies. I used to pity young mothers who had to give up their careers to stay home and care for their children. I used to roll my eyes at the rising divorce rate, as if to say “duh”.
But you know what makes me feel like my best self? You know what fills me with purpose? Drives me to be a better person? Lights a fire under my butt? Being a wife and mom.
The thing about being a stepmom is that it’s all the work of being a mom with half of the satisfaction. They love me, but its different. And I love them, but its different. Because it has to be. Because if I gave them my whole heart I would end up hurt and broken every week they go back to her. Every time they call her mom and me Lauren.
I can never give myself over fully to the boys. I can never rip myself open and love them without limits, because I will only end up hurt. Hurt, because they can never do that in return. They have a biological mom who they will always feel that way toward. It doesn’t matter if I’m the one who is with them the most, if I’m the one managing their schedules and doctors appointments and behavior and playdates and on and on and on. It’ll just always be different. We definitely love each other in a profound and extraordinary way, but we’ll always be holding a little something back, because that’s just the nature of our situation.
It took a while to figure out what language to use in regards to our family. For a while I was “daddy’s girlfriend”. Then I became “daddy’s fiancé”. Once we got married, the boys were comfortable calling me their stepmom. And after having my own baby, their little sister, the youngest asked if he could start calling me mommy. His biological mom wasn’t so happy with that, which I completely understood. So they still call me Lauren. Expect now when they accidentally call mommy, which happens every now and then, they don’t abruptly correct themselves like they used to.
But all of that is just semantics. Words and names don’t make us a family. We’re a family because we love each other. Because we eat dinner together every night. Take family vacations. Parent together. Craft school projects. Plan birthday parties. Read bedtime stories. Potty train. Wipe away tears. Have inside jokes.
And thus, the birth of our family’s team name came to be. We don’t know when it started, but eventually we began calling ourselves “The Mustacks”. It was an easy way to refer to ourselves as one unit, before any of us had found the right words to use. And even now, after getting married and having a baby and living together for 5+ years, we still call ourselves “The Mustacks”. It is a completely made up word. And that’s the beauty of it. We created it, on our own terms, just like we created our family. It may look different than other families, and we may use different words. But at the end of the day, we know we’re the perfect blend of everything we want our family to be. At the end of the day, we know we’re all Mustacks.