Children’s characters are all cute and sweet. You want to cuddle with Zimba, eat honey with Winnie the Pooh, or even jump in the arms of Bagera. But when animated stepmoms were created we get a whole new genre of character. Was it really the fault of the Queens’? If we look up the word “step” it can mean two things. The one who steps in or who gets stepped on. Right from the start, it’s a negative connotation.
Cinderella had Lady Tremaine as her stepmom who was portrayed as evil and villainous. Maybe we didn’t get to see how Lady Tremaine was so fed up with the sibling rivalry between Cinderella and her stepsisters. Cinderella might have not wanted to share her shoes or the bathroom. Yet, Lady Tremaine should’ve stepped in to bring the girls closer instead of siding with her own daughters. In my castle, I made sure to blend the children together by arranging things like family dinners, game nights and field trips. It squashed any ill feelings.
Snow White didn’t fare well either when her wicked stepmother the queen poisoned her. In the Queen’s home, we don’t know if Snow White left her clothes all over the floor and dirty dishes in the sink. If the queen was left all day to care for his children, she might have some right to be resentful. We are left to assume stepmoms are evil and torturous.
Those movies, while I’m sure not on purpose, gave the title of stepmother its own identity. If I was going to be a stepchild I’d be terrified of my new stepmother. An article by Kate Bayless did an interview with Dr. Petro-Caroll who said, “For new stepparents, it is best to proceed slowly–not as a disciplinarian, but as a supportive friend to the child and a supportive resource to your partner.” These Queens dived right in as parent.
We’re never told the full story. Where were the Kings when all this wickedness occurred with their wives? Why did the father leave the stepmother all day with his child, on his weekend? Dr, Phil says, “The step parent should not be the parent. They have two already.” I’m sure there were times the Queen or Lady Tremaine said to themselves, Huh, did I think this one out? I could be on a beach somewhere picking grapes off a stem with a huge cocktail.
Stepmoms bear the same burdens as biological moms – just with fewer benefits.
When I found my Prince Charming, nothing else mattered. I didn’t care if he had a castle or drove a coach. I didn’t care if he worked for the king. I dreamed about the glass slipper. I became mesmerized by the fantasy. The green pastures and rainbows were all that existed. I felt like I was Cinderella at the ball in a beautiful fluffy dress. When he slipped the glass slipper onto my foot, it fit perfectly. I believed I died and gone to Disney World.
Then boom, the kids. He had kids. What was I thinking? I instantly went from 2 children to five. I had them every other weekend. I had to feed them, wash their clothes. Everything we did, quadrupled. In the mist of our courtship, I never realized my prince came riding on a white horse with five dwarfs, and his ex-queen riding in the coach. I wanted them to instantly connect and to love me unconditionally. American Psychological Association says, “Stepparents should at first establish a relationship with the children that is more akin to a friend or “camp counselor,” rather than a disciplinarian. Couples can also agree that the custodial parent remains primarily responsible for the control and discipline of the children until the stepparent and children develop a solid bond.”
Stepmoms bear the same burdens as biological moms – just with fewer benefits. When you’re biological children are born it is an instant love. They love you back unconditionally. But when it comes to your stepchildren, I have felt kept at an arms distance. Can I love them as if I birthed them myself?
Being a mom is hard but being a stepmom to someone else’s child is harder. Books are full of ideas on how to make your blended family work. They can tell you to spend one-on-one time with each kid. But honestly, once you have one it is more detailed. The child almost always has a dedication to their biological parent. Finding your place in their life is hard. Maybe the Queen wanted to have afternoon tea on the veranda with her stepdaughter, only to be shunned and ignore her invite. How do we know Snow White wanted to accept the Queen in her life? The child has to be open enough to want to get to know you. A stepmom is replacing their mom for 6-9 days out of the month. They want their family back the way it was, and the stepparent is the wedge that stands in their way. Blending a family takes patience and time. I wasn’t expecting how long it took to be accepted in the role. It’s not easy and takes a lot of grit and work. No one gave the Queen or Lady Tremaine a manual to get it right. It can be very frustrating at times.
I was the wicked stepmother who took their father away from the family they’ve known all their life. I understood how Lady Tremaine felt in the castle. Asking them to pick up in their room felt forbidden. They’d hate me even more and think I was mean and want to go home. Queen and Lady Tremaine never took the opportunity to learn about their stepchildren. They looked at them like a plague that was invading their territory. There are weekends where I’d love to have alone time with just my Prince Charming, but I chose to be in this fairytale. My stepchildren didn’t ask to join. They had to.
Dr. Phil says, “Relationships are built, and it takes time and shared experiences to create a meaningful one.” So I decided to put away my shield and look into the mirror. I was the adult. I dusted off my satin robe and stepped up my effort instead of just living I lived it. I wanted to be the best stepparent I could be. I wanted to see me as accountable, dependable and someone who loved them. They were children. They wanted all the same things my children wanted so I used what I knew on them. I listened more. I asked questions about them. To let them know they were important in my life. In a short amount of time, they come to me for tech assistance with their gadgets, when they need help with a writing or art project and now I’m going beyond the limits and sampling dried squid. I’d eat fried squid and I don’t know what for them because they asked. I don’t think the Queen or Lady Tremaine would’ve done it. Maybe if they did, things might’ve not been so bad with their relationships with Snow White and Cinderella. I’m connected and I loving it. His children, in turn, did little things to show me they cared. When they picked out the Happy Mother’s Day card I knew that’s when I had won over the dwarfs.
Don’t get me wrong; there are times I want to confine my stepchildren to the dungeon. But, I’d be poisoning myself. I can’t see my life without any of them. My stepchildren may sometimes see me as wicked. But most of all, they know, I’m wicked good.