In most fairy tales or Disney movies, it’s pretty clear: the stepmother is always him villainNamely, the bad guy. The stepmother is already a whore from the start, who has elevated psychological abuse to an art.
What an example, indeed, for children. There is immediate misery attached to this role. As said by stepson/bonus neighborhood mom: Stepmothers are witches.
Being an Extra Parent: Sometimes it’s just a tough job…
Indeed, I have never been concerned with it, with my step-wives or with the full brunt of that word. My parents are happily married and have been together for 47 years, so I’ve never had to deal with my stepfather myself. When I got divorced and Nils entered the picture, I slowly introduced him to my kids and he eventually moved in with us. It went very well, and he had a definite click with the boys. But once he lived with us, he also became part of the family. This happens when you come to live in a house where the kids run around. Then you can think of as a new partner:Interesting, I don’t interfere with anything …‘But it just doesn’t work that way. If you choose someone who has children, you are actually choosing those children as well. If you don’t want that, you shouldn’t start a relationship, because children are part of it. I suppose the partner with children always makes it clear at the beginning (if it’s true). If you choose me, you get a comprehensive package. That includes children.
I think it’s a great thing, taking care of kids that aren’t yours. When I look at myself, I notice that I have more patience with my children than with other people’s children. I don’t know if I can babysit a new partner’s kids almost full time. In any case, I will consider it absolutely important. This is why I have sacred respect for people who choose to do this and who also do it very well.
My ex and I have arranged a visit and he doesn’t exactly live around the corner. The boys are with him two weekends a month. That’s perfectly fine and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but then the center of gravity is with Nils and me. With us they have to go to school, they have to get up early, they have to train and they have to play football matches. Here they have to go to bed on time, eat healthy, do their homework (if they get that once in a while) and have to deal with many other rules and conventions. That provides structure, but it also ensures that Nils – whether he likes it or not – has quite a few teaching assignments thrown in his lap, because he doesn’t leave everything with me. He helps me in everything and dares (always in consultation with me) to address the boys if something. He stands along the line when playing soccer and regularly sets up trays of bread for school. If a bike needs fixing, he’ll do it and lovingly put together a new bed for Miles. It just makes me love him more, because this altruism isn’t a given.
Also read: “Having another child at a later age: the first time I was 28, now I’m 39”
Boys are a bit close to puberty, which means sometimes weird words are thrown over the table or boundaries are pushed. Nils also has to deal with that and it’s not always easy. Didn’t get past the comment here yet, but I’m sure he will at some point:What do you interfere you are not my father! This can probably be one thing that’s very recognizable for parents and one that’s pretty painful at the same time, because sometimes you’ve been living in children’s lives for so long and trying your best to be a good surrogate parent. In this sense, being a stepmother can sometimes be a thankless task. You get loads of shit on your plate with these kids and with a bit of bad luck they also throw a comment like that into your head.
A poem to reward parents
Dear Stepmother/Stepfather/Bonus Mom/Bonus Dad (but just what you love), here’s a poem for you. Because you are taking care of children who are not your own, but nevertheless you do everything for them. Because you play a huge role in their lives, because you love them and are there for them. When they’re adults they’ll see that and hopefully come with that appreciation, they’re still too young for that. There is no misery attached to your role, you set an example, even if you don’t always get those credits. Someday children will see this and will be infinitely grateful to you. Hopefully, until then, you’ll see them try their own way. A question of help, attention, if you want to be there for something. Looking for confirmation. A smile, a quick hug, maybe a peck on the cheek, or simply asking: Do you love me? In this way, it shows the child that you are important, that he enjoys having you there and that your opinion matters.
I hope to express enough appreciation myself, because a great partner—who is also a great rewarding parent (and in our case also a very good dad)—must be utterly cherished.
Elaine is a secondary special education counselor, author at De Fontein publishing house, is the mother of two boys (10 and 8) from a previous relationship and has just had a daughter with her new boyfriend. Read her previous columns here.