Today’s Wicked Step Mother
Inevitable According to Statistics
Statics say that more than half of marriages end in divorce in this country (US). With that said, the possibilities of second chance marriages is on the rise and that means Step Parents. Lots of stepparents. If you aren't one, you probably know one personally or even have one in your family. All over the country, unsuspecting moms are being presented with problems and issues they never anticipated from their children and stepchildren. Why is step parenting so hard?
It was going pretty well. His two delightful children were acclimating with mine into a new home and new family situation. The absent parents weren’t really interested at first to be involved in their lives, so we were mostly left alone. I set up chore lists and it seemed all was going along swimmingly. We had moved into a home with a wood-burning stove for heat in the living room. We loved how rustic and authentic it was. When the winter set in I added cleaning out the ashes to the chore list. Innocent, right? I thought so. All were to take a turn so when it came time for the youngest girl’s turn, I handed her the little shovel and broom, to which she responded with a horrified look. Her eyes got big and she looked at me like I had just grown fangs and big black wings. She couldn’t believe I was making her clean out the ashes. She had just moved in with two stepsisters and her stepmother was asking her to shovel the ashes. Sound like anyone you know? Damn that Cinderella anyway. Her and Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. What is a good woman to do in the face of Disney perpetuating a stereotype like that?
I really am a nice person, hardly wicked. And today my stepdaughter and I have a very close relationship, but those first few months were a trial. I just didn’t see that coming. I didn’t see a lot of things coming.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of good stepmothers out there. I think the problem is that they are quietly doing the job of a loving mother and don’t even recognize that they are only the step really. It’s the mean, heartless, wicked ones that get all the press. Here are a few good stepmothers for your consideration:
Other Famous Step Mothers Who Were Not So Wicked
1512-1548: Catherine Parr was the last wife of King Henry VIII and was a good stepmother to Edward and Elizabeth. She was determined to bring the family to a stable close-knit household, after all the turmoil they had undergone before she arrived.
1788-1806: Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln. After his mother died, Abraham Lincoln was raised by a stepmother, who encouraged his reading and study of law and to whom he praised as the reason he turned out as he did. She stood up for him when his father thought he was wasting his time with all that reading and studying.
1905-1987: The real Maria von Trapp was the inspiration for the musical character played by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. After her husband lost all his money, Maria formed the singing group with her adopted stepfamily and toured, calling themselves the Trapp Family Singers. She was a faithful stepmom.
1912-2001: Dale Evans, longtime screen partner, and wife of singing cowboy Roy Rogers was his second wife. She was the step-mom to his three children (two of them his biological children, Roy Jr., Linda, and Cheryl) when they married December 1947. She gave birth to her only biological child, a girl named Robin in 1950. Unfortunately, she died in 1952 of complications from Down syndrome. She and Roy adopted or fostered four other children. She was considered an excellent stepmother and adoptive mother, running a ranch with her husband until his death in 1998.
Disney and the Wicked Stepmother
Do you think the Disney movies only serve to perpetuate the wicked stepmother myth?
There Must Be Hundreds
I know there must be hundreds of good stepmothers out there but they are hard to think of because our perception is so colored by the wicked myth. Why is that? Well, partly because it has some basis in fact. When we marry into a ready-made family, we stepmoms didn’t get to do the cuddling and nurturing in the early years as the birth mother did. We don’t have the same bond with the child therefore and the child hasn’t bonded with us (as a stepmom).
Step Mom Trailer
The Step Mom
One movie that handled Stepmothers rather well, I thought, was Step Mom starring Julia Roberts (I love her) and Susan Sarandon. It really depicted the parts of a stepmom’s woes trying to love kids that are not hers admirably.
Born From Loss
The next factor to be taken into consideration is that there was a loss and the child is sometimes still dealing with it. Either through divorce or death, there had to be a loss for a stepmom to even come into the picture. This means that there are grieving children who are angry and have few healthy ways to express that grief. Add a virtual stranger (stepmom) and it is a formula for disaster or at least a Mount Vesuvius eruption. When the children act out, it is very hard for the poor stepmom to do anything but take it or power down on the kids. Powering down adds to the evil stepmom persona. No matter what we do we stepmoms are in the doghouse, or witches candy house, depending on how you look at it.
This is such a sad state to be in because it just isn’t the stepmom’s fault most of the time.
When dealing with an angry child, it is first helpful to separate the child from the anger caused. He or she is, after all, a child and doesn’t know what to do with these feelings. Acting out is all they can think of. If you can talk to them and get them to voice their concerns and their anger triggers, it can help. However, on the younger children, they sometimes can’t put into words what the real root cause is. They just know how they feel.
In my house, we had an Anger Mat. I took a doormat and drew footprints on it with a permanent marker. The instructions are: When angry, place feet here, jump up and down until anger subsides. So instead of throwing things or hurtling mean words around, my angry child jumped up and down until she felt better and was able to put into constructive words what was bothering her.
When the Anger Mat was in use or not available, we had a running course around the house. If weather permitted the angry child would run as fast as she could around the house until she felt better. Actually, I think any exercise would have done but running seems to be the best therapy for my family.
Step Mom’s Support Groups
We were (and are still) a very creative family and usually had clay available for creating pottery. The best part of creating pots is that the clay needs to be pounded before you can begin. I would make this available when needed. A hunk of clay was given, aprons secured and the pounding and kneading began. Sometimes the clay was pounded so long it became dry but adding some water or starting over was a small price to pay for the therapy that the pounding did. They always felt better after the pounding and were actually able to create some awesome pots with it.
Not everyone needs to pound or run or jump up and down. Sometimes a batch of cookies worked just as well. My girls were often cooking for therapy to get away from the others and just think. Plus the added calming effect of eating is added.
Whenever they could, the girls (and occasionally the one boy) would go out to the barn to pet the rabbits, chickens, ducks or dogs. I know not everyone can have animals in their backyard, but I can’t stress the value and calming influence on a child of petting an animal. Cats and dogs are extremely understanding and nurturing as well as calming influences. I owe a debt to all our pets for helping my children through some rough patches.
There is help out there for the poor good stepmothers to deal with those anger issues that all blended families have to face sooner or later. I hope there have been some suggestions here that could be of help to you and your family.