My daughter and I were watching the Disney classic, Cinderella recently when the indignation hit me. The original version came out in 1950, way before I was even a thought in my mother’s toddler head or heart. Yet, here I sat realizing this childhood favorite had stacked some unfair stereotype ideas in my stepdaughters’ heads about me before I ever met their dad.
With even further thought, I realized that way too many childhood fairytales have this same reflection of who stepmothers are. Snow White, Hansel And Gretel, and the movie, The Parent Trap(click title for IMDb movie review), are a few of my personal favorites.
In StepMom Magazine, February 2013 edition there is an article called Stepmother Stereotypes – The Wicked Stepmother, which reflects the need for this type of stereotyping to end.
“It is imperative that we undergo a cultural shift that creates a new standard for stepmothers, one that is less inspired by evil stepmother myths and more reflective of the dedicated, loving women who are willing to sacrifice their own fantasy of a storybook romance—no young girl casts herself as the stepmother in her wedding dreams—to step into a ready made family with the person she loves.”
Human nature wants acceptance. Being a stepmother or stepfather is no different. We don’t want to replace a parent, but to only find a spot that we fit in and feel accepted. I recently saw a movie called ‘Daddy’s Home‘ with Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. Click here to see the movie trailer and whether you can relate. I sure did!
Although it doesn’t seem fair, stepmothers or stepfathers have to earn that spot. In all fairness, the kids probably didn’t want their parents to get a divorce. Now here you are, the stereotype of evilness, ending the chance that mom and dad will ever reunite and be “Happily Ever After” again.
The journey is usually a hard one. Although I think that I am far from being where I need to be, my relationships with both of my stepdaughters have greatly improved.
The second oldest daughter and I bonded during the time she came to live with us right after she graduated from high school. As the younger of the 2 daughters from my husband’s first marriage, she was the easiest to be with from the beginning. The oldest daughter and her mom were going through a period of strong friendship, which was a little intimidating for me when her dad and I married. The oldest daughter and I bonded last Summer when I insisted that we all attend her wedding in Hawaii. She seemed to realize that it was a huge financial sacrifice to come as well as to give what we could to help with the cost of the wedding.
There are 3 things I would recommend to anyone who becomes a step parent to do or not to do:
- Never participant in an argument between the parents
- Let the child know you are not trying to replace their parent
- Give the child some time (and maybe some space)
As a Christian, I feel a little guilty to pay attention to zodiac descriptions of personality, but as a Taurus, I have to admit how accurate the assessment of me seems. I do feel very protective of those I love, but my husband’s disputes between him and his ex-wife belong to them! I learned early on in our marriage to leave the room when they were either emailing or talking on the phone about their children. Luckily he included me in discussions about the matter at hand later. This helped me give him some privacy, but helped me to not feel excluded.
Early on I was able to tell my second oldest stepdaughter that I wasn’t trying to be her mom, just her friend. I explained that I understood her mom’s role in her life, but just needed her to help me understand who I needed to be for her and her dad.
Ideally I would have been able to have the same or similar discussion with my husband’s oldest daughter, but physical distance and some invisible barriers held me back from communicating this to her. Fortunately, she seemed to be ready for this conversation after we attended her wedding. Our relationship is a work in progress, at least moving forward little by little.
My husband and I have been married for 8 years. We had the first five years to ourselves. This was nice for building our relationship, but slowed the relationships with my stepdaughters and me. When my second oldest stepdaughter moved in with us, it was a daily trial and error process. I found that reading books, talking with other step parents and parents in general and a lot of prayer helped me. When it came to doing things together as a family, I tried to invite her to go out with us at least once per week. I always made enough dinner for her to join us and tried to have vegetarian dishes for her at every meal. Of course her being a teenager meant that she often had her own dinner plans. I didn’t get upset or take it personally. Eventually, we went grocery shopping just the two of us and then out to lunch. It’s sort of like dating them, but you can’t come on too strong because they can tell.
We find ourselves in a new phase with our daughter(s). My stepdaughters had a hard time at first with the idea that their dad would be having a child with a woman other than their mother. After they met her, though, they fell in love. Each visit or FaceTime visit seems to allow them to grow to love their little sister more and more. Time, prayer and patience always pays off.
I am going to order a new book for our daughter called My Fairy Stepmother. It’s a newer book published in 2013. Hopefully, I can help her to have a broader view of who stepmothers can be.