A while back, during a telephone conversation with a friend, I spoke of being a step-parent. A step-mother to be more specific. I said nothing bad, it was not a complaint just merely a statement of fact. After I got off of the phone, my youngest daughter (Thing 2) looked troubled as she sat in front of the television staring at it but, not really paying attention. When I asked her what was wrong she got up, came up to me and threw her arms around me, then looked up at me with those big, brown eyes welling up with tears, and said, “You’re…a…STEP-MOM?!” I was beyond surprised by her response, stunned would be more like it. I said, “Well, I’m not your step-mom but, I am (her oldest sister and older brother’s) step mom, but, why is that so bad?” She just looked at me then put her head in my lap and cried. Then it dawned on me that since her indoctrination to the term “step-mom” came mostly from Walt Disney and usually included the word “evil” , in her eyes I was now a super villain. I have to admit that at that moment, aside from my daughter crying in my lap, it was kinda cool since I had never been known as a super villain before. I hugged her and told her that step-moms are not bad people and certainly not as bad as they are in the movies. I told her that I love all of my kids the same and that I wasn’t going to make her brother and sister my servants or banish them from our home. She said ” Because you love them?” “Yes, because I love them,” I said. “And because you’re not evil?” “No,” I assured her “I’m not evil.” What I didn’t say is that it also makes better movies if the step-mother is a lunatic. She felt better but, I think she’s keeping an eye on me.
I rarely refer to J and Baby Boy as my step-children, I usually call them my son or my daughter. It’s just not how I approach being a blended family. That’s not to say that I don’t have a healthy respect for the biological parent, after all my son has a step-mother of his own (who has been a joy!). Since I have a clear understanding of how I want to be treated, I know how I need to act toward my stepchildren’s mother. Let me stop here and say this (and I want you to remember this as something very important that you learned about me on March 3, 2013) : Being in a blended family is the single hardest thing that I have ever done in my life! And I have been in some pretty tough situations but, I mean this with every fiber of my being. There are so many different emotions coming from so many directions – yours, your spouse, your kids, his kids, the ex-spouse). The smallest things can become major sources of contention and it takes a real effort to consider all sides and not just respond with your own wants and desires in mind. Like any family we have had our fair share of ups and downs but, I think with blended families the downs can be much more stressful because the relationships are more fragile. As you know, it takes time to strengthen the bonds between people. Well, time and a lot of persistence.
Now, I am aware that there are bad step-parents out there, just like there are bad parents out there. However, by and large, I don’t think that most step-moms are the stuff that Lifetime movies are made of and certainly not Disney. I mean, Snow White’s step-mom tried to have her killed and Cinderella’s turned her into the maid (more on Cindy later because I’ve always been a bit suspicious of her story). I know a lot of step-moms and none of them fall into this category. In fact, I think that step-moms get a bad rap in general. One day J was explaining to me that she never wants to date/marry a man who already has children because “I know that we (she and her brother) made it hard for you and I never want to deal with that!” Ironic, ain’t it? Actually, I was relieved and bit amused to hear her admit that they had made things hard for me. That’s amused in hindsight. I wonder how many children ever openly admit their bad behavior?
Which brings me to Cinderella, or Cindy as I like to refer to her. You know, all we have ever really heard is her side of the story. Did anyone ever interview the step-mother? No! Cindy ran straight to the tabloids with the mom died, dad married shrew with two ugly daughters, dad died, step-mom mistreated me story. Isn’t it possible, in fact probable that it really was more like mom died, dad married nice lady with two mediocre daughters, dad died, Cindy had nowhere else to go (notice, there were no other family members in the movie). While Cindy got a nice chunk of change, so did step-mom and she got the house which really pissed Cinderella right off! Cindy, who already had an attitude because she was now an orphan, started talking smack to step-mom and step-sisters about how this was her daddy’s house and now should be her house and step-mom can’t tell her what to do. It was about to go down between step-mom and Cindy when Cindy up and married boyfriend! I don’t know about you but, this version sounds far more believable to me.
Fortunately, my step-children and I have found our way to building better relationships and, although this has been tough, I would do it all again. I have learned a lot about my children, my spouse and myself. Some things that I never really wanted to know but, all valuable information. I’d like to think that I alone can change the reputation of step-moms everywhere. Maybe become the poster child for a campaign to reinvent the image of the step-mom. Considering the fact that Thing 2 has already forgotten about this, I think that I may have already won over my first convert.