I was reading a bedtime story to my six year old stepson, the beloved tale “Hansel and Gretel”. I casually read “And then the stepmother sent the children into the deepest part of the forest to be rid of them.” Yikes! This isn’t going to help my cause. Cinderella’s and Snow White’s stepmoms didn’t exactly win stepmother of the year either. Sure they were evil, but being a stepmother is not for the faint of heart.
I’m a stepmom and I can attest to the many perils. I’ve fielded tears, sassy attitudes, and blatant rejection. I’ve heard such ‘heartwarming’ words as “You can’t tuck me in . . . you’re not my real mom” and “only my dad can poor my milk.” Looking for guidance, I’ve read quite a few books about stepfamilies and about how the tensions do settle down . . . eventually (that old lesson of patience, back again). One book suggested it takes a stepfamily about 7 years to reach stability – 7 years!!? Now that’s a long transition.
The tense dynamics, loyalty binds, misunderstandings and competitions are hardly surprising really since the stepfamily is based on a woman who falls in love with a man (in spite of the fact that he has children, not because of it) and a man who falls in love with a woman (though his children have no interest in his romantic attachments whatsoever). Suddenly they’re all living together under one roof.
In an attempt to improve my plight, I tried two things: First, I coined the trendy, friendly, more intimate term SMOM . . . short for stepmom. It seemed nicer than ‘Step’ or ‘Smother,’ and my stepchildren actually seem to like it. And second, I waited . . . patiently (well, mostly) . . . though I fervently hoped that I wouldn’t have to wait 7 years.
And then, one day it just happened. I was allowed to poor his milk. I was asked to take her shopping. I was offered hugs and kisses. They laughed at my jokes. And I realized that the transition from ‘yours’ to ‘ours’ really had occurred. And though some days it still feels like wickedness waits, I can say that being a Smom has many unexpected joys. We laugh together. We solve problems together. We take walks together. We are a family together . . . happily ever after.
Who knows . . . maybe one day modern fairy tales will feature Smoms as the best parent ever.
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