I Am Not an Evil Stepmother

At least, I don’t think I am evil. Or all that bad as a step-mother. And as a result, I take offense when I read stories where step-mothers are villanized or watch movies in which they are reduced to fairy tale stereo-types.

Being a step-parent is not something I ever considered. When I was single, I refused to date men with children from previous relationships because as a teacher I’d never encountered a blended family where the adults made even the slightest effort to be adults and parent cooperatively and it was the horror of that which compelled me to nix daddies as date material.*

Even as a widow, when I had almost nothing but men with children from whom to pick, I still didn’t give much thought to step-motherhood. Or step-fatherhood even. I was determined that Dee have a father who would love her like his own. There would be no “step” because I don’t buy into the notion that love can only blossom biologically where offspring are concerned.**

I don’t claim to have some magically family blending powers or secret recipe. Rob and I have always approached it as a united front and with the attitude that everyone around us will adjust if given time, love and attention, and things go well for us on this front.

Last night Dee and I watched the horrid A Cinderella Story with Hillary Duff and some boy-toy flavor of that particular moment. The story began with a little girl and her widowed father, who was just shy of utter perfection and loved by all. He marries, inexplicably and without much warning, a  woman who made me shudder before she said a single word. Name the stereo-typical affliction and she had it. Plain to homely face. Overweight. Shallow. Materialistic. The mothering skill set of a magpie*** And, of course, two mini-me’s.

Assuming that one can put set aside their disbelief at this point, or swallow the idea that remarriage – for a man anyway – spells certain doom by way of untimely death, then the rest of the movie makes sense.

But I kept coming back to the evil step-mother thing because I am not evil nor do I know any woman who is a real life step-mother who is.

The first blended family I encountered belonged to elementary school friends, Karla and Patty. They’d lost their mother and father respectively and their parents found each other and remarried when they were in the second grade. They were the second youngest with several much older siblings and a younger brother apiece. In all, there were about 10 or 11 children ranging from 6 to late teens. There were ups and downs, but they considered themselves a real family and their step-parents “real” parents.

Sam Baker wrote a post for The Guardian this last week about literary step-mothers which provoked an interesting give/take on DoubleX.

Since I am tired of the only comments I receive being spam, I would like to hear your opinions. I yield the floor.

* I knew many children who regarded their step-parents well and had warm relationships. It was the “grown-ups” and their issue that was my issue.

** People who do think this should be avoided as romantic prospects. jmo, but idiot thinking like that is simply the tip of an iceberg best left to some other intrepid soul.

*** Edie’s downstairs neighbors rescued a baby magpie last fall and are keeping it as a pet. (They are from B.C. – seriously people without sense where animals are concerned). They feed it raw hamburger.  Magpies have been known to carry off small kittens to feast on.

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4 responses to “I Am Not an Evil Stepmother

  1. “I am not evil nor do I know any woman who is a real life step-mother who is”.

    Oh, apart from Cruella, but you can’t hold it against her when she wears those darling shoes. Actually, I wonder if I’m a little bit evil. Hmmmm.

    The step-mother gig goes back to the days when men would re-marry after their first wife died because, well, they needed the home help. The idea was all the nice pretty women had got married, engaged in, ahem, marriage shenanigans and then died in child-birth leaving the less lovely characters to pick up the befuddled widowers second-hand. They would then try to disinherit the old lot to be replaced by a new set of sprogs.

    I blame Disney for most things (or at least, throw random accusations at them) but the evil stepmother gig was around long before them: let’s face it, originality never was their strong point.

  2. The “evil step-mother” plot device was made popular by old Disney princess stories. In those early movies, women are either in a coma (Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) or living in abject slavery (Cinderella) until some man comes into their lives and “saves” them.

    Imagine my joy when my daughter gravitated towards the more contemporary princess stories that display some independence and perseverance.

    I didn’t see “A Cinderella Story” and am quite surprised to hear that this sort of negative myth-building is still being perpetuated. Families aren’t what they use to be.

  3. most ‘blended families’ i know are not dealing with much evil step-parenting. like any other type of parenting, there isn’t a right way to do it. mostly people trying hard to balance a multitude of needs.

    i was 12 years old before i knew that my older brother and sister had a different father. there was no ‘step’ in our home. reflecting on this, i realized that this was because their biological father was not in their life after my oldest sister’s 4th birthday… would have probably been quite different had there been ‘shared parenting’ involved.

    as for dating men with children? i prefer some sort of ‘barrier to committment’, as i’m not looking for forever. children trump casual girlfriends, and i’m perfectly ok with that.

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