The picture that society has painted of step-moms is evil, ugly, rotten and very sad. According to Cinderella and other stories with stepmothers, these women only love their biological children and they are incredibly mean or they are young attractive women that the ex left the older mom for and therefore she must be a horrid woman who cares nothing about the well being of children, right?
The truth is step-moms are not these terrible women who are horrible to their stepchildren and only kind to their “real” children. Nor are they women who move in on the ex-husband like prey and plan their every move just to make the biological mother crazy.
Sad really how the world of television and movies has warped the reality of a step-mom and her role in the children’s lives. I don’t know about you but I was not aware that a step-mom could not love her step-children as much as she loves her own children. What makes the children not born to her any less real or lovable?
When a mother adopts a baby she did not carry in her womb, does that mean she loves them less? Or how about a foster mom that takes in children to care for them when their “real” parents aren’t able, is she not respected and able to love those kids. I find it amazing how we accept other roles like adoptive moms and foster moms but the stepmom is something evil and looked down upon.
I think it all stems from biological mothers who think no one could care for their child the way they do. On top of the fact that these same mothers are usually angry and bitter from a divorce which they did not want or did not like how it ended. Mix in a new woman who the real mother does not like, is jealous of, or resents from some unknown reason and the creation of the evil stepmother is born.
Before you get all worked up and tell me that I have no idea what it is like to have another woman taking care of your children, you should know I am very well versed in the term stepmom and the role she has in a family. Not only am I the biological mother to two children (who have a stepmother in their life), I am the stepmom to two, and I also have a mother and stepmother. So to say the least, I have quite a bit of experience in all aspects of the stepmom.
That being said, I can related to those of you who have a new woman in your life that is now caring for your children half of the time or at least part of the time, and I know it can be hard at first. The adjustment to not only being away from your children for a given period of time but also having to accept a new woman in their lives can be very challenging. I love my children and I hate when they are not in my home, but there is a reality I have had to accept.
A reality that now includes a step-mom as well as rules, decisions, and general life that does not include me. This is a sacrifice that I had to make in order to improve life for both me and my children. I’m sorry but I will never, ever buy into the belief that many women (and some men) have that you should remain in a marriage that you no longer wish to be a part of. I firmly believe that doing so has drastically more adverse effects on the children than divorce ever could. I personally know a couple that has been what I refer to as “unhappily married” for over 43 years and their adult children are some of the most maladjusted humans that I know.
I am not the angry divorcee that is mentioned previously and even though I brought the divorce on myself and wanted out, that didn’t mean I was looking forward to sharing my children with anyone let alone another woman. I will admit it was very hard in the beginning.
At first when this woman came into my children’s lives, I thought it would be like it always was–I was their mother and I had the last word. Just like when my ex was not married, I would tell him what I thought was right or wrong and he would either agree or disagree but ultimately I was still able to exert my control regarding my children in his home. Now there is another mom involved and she gets the say in her home.
This is as it should be, as I would never want anyone thinking they could tell me how to do things in my own home. Letting go of that control and realizing that just because I am the biological mother does not mean I get to have any input into my ex’s new family was a little tough at first. Although I did not agree at first, my ex and his wife made it clear that whether they agree with me or not it was ultimately their home and they would do as they saw fit. Frustrating as that is, it is true and I have gracefully come to terms with that.
Then there is the fact that my children have days where they love their stepmom and they have a great time and other days where they whine and complain and tell me how awful she is. I am the adult so I have to remember that they are children and their perceptions of things are a little skewed. You know what I mean–maybe she ruins one meal and now she is the world’s worst cook.
Also children feed off of their own mother, if they feel that it makes their mom happy to say bad things about the stepmom then they will come up with all kinds of terrible stories in order to make their mom feel better. It is completely understandable at young ages to tell either parent what they think you want to hear in an innocent effort to please, even though what they may think you want to hear is not what you want to hear at all.
All of this can be so hard to balance. You want your children to be happy when they are with you and when they are away. However, there is always a little jealousy of things you miss out on or don’t get to experience with your children so you really don’t want to hear about how much fun they had with their step-mom.
For me, I have decided that I just want my kids to be happy and that includes when away from me. So for them to be happy, I have chosen to encourage their relationship with their step-mom. Like it or not, she is the mom in their other house and in that family. I would rather be a little jealous or sad (without showing my children) and have my kids happy and flourishing in their other home then see them sad and complaining just to make me happy.
So when they return to my home and begin to share the good and the bad, I listen to the good and engage them in those conversations but if the topic turns bad I generally redirect them so that they realize those topics do not please me. Interestingly since I began that, my two don’t say very many bad things about their step-mom. Nowadays I have to assume that they are doing quite well if the only thing they complain about is the occasional bad cooking.
Ultimately, we all just want what is best for our children. Although I do not agree with my children’s step-mom on several things, that does not make her role any less important to my children. I also have to realize that even though I am their mother, she is their step-mom and they have a new family. Also she is married to my children’s father. As a man he cannot always experience the same things as a woman. So although I may feel like she is doing things with my children that I should be doing, what makes me think that their father is not experiencing that moment through his wife.
For example, maybe he is not the best baker and she enjoys baking cookies, isn’t it possible that seeing his children in the kitchen cooking with her is special and important to him. Sorry moms, but we all do it, we tend to think that our feelings as a mother are more important then the feelings of the father, and that is just plain wrong. I am guilty of it too, although I am trying to better myself and see that his feelings are valid whether I agree with them or not.
The bottom line here involves our children–they have two parents plus some and all parties involved are equally important, no matter whose womb the child came from. All of us moms need to accept the step-mom and stop looking for the evil stepmother from Cinderella. That is only fair for the children.
Author Bio: Carrie Dahle has spent her life doing the right thing, rather than pursuing her dreams. That is until now. Four years ago, she threw caution to the wind, divorced her then husband of ten years, and began reaching for the stars. She began writing professionally, and has been published numerous times. She is the founder and creator or Day to Day Woman and hopes that her experiences in life will inspire others