Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The confessional is now open for business

I thought of a hundred and one ways to start this blog. Most of them things that I thought would be catchy, snappy. Clever. You know, like 'the internet is the newest form of therapy' or 'if it isn't on Facebook, it didn't happen' or some witticism about blogs being like the confessional (which I guess they are, but somebody out there, I'm sure, has already said it).

Witticisms, however, are not what this is about. Wicked Steppie's blog is about what it's really like - warts and all - to be a modern stepmother. Well, technically, I suppose I am not a stepmother, as I'm not married yet to my dear partner (henceforth to be known as DP). But - like all 21st century things, the boundaries are a tad blurry these days, and marriage is not the institution of permanent definition it once was, but because we still retain our anxiousness to give things labels, then what I call myself is a 21st century stepmum.

If we examine the word 'stepmother' then we have 2 words. 'step' which implies that we are stepping into something. And 'mother' which meant of course, back in the day, a stepmother effectively became the mother - 'stepped' into the mother's role, as to get a stepmother would have meant that your biological mother (or BM) had died. These days, in most stepmother situations, biological mother (BM) is alive, well, and usually kicking (and sometimes screaming). So, unless BM is completely incapable, the 21st century stepmother is not stepping into anything like a mothering role. But there is no word, label, or role defined for the partner or spouse of a divorced parent. Language hasn't caught up with reality. So we are stuck with being 'stepmother' like an ill-fitting piece of clothing that is full of holes but we can't bring ourselves to discard quite yet.

So who is Wicked Steppie?

Suffice to say that Wicked Steppie is a part time stepmother - that is to say, mostly a weekend one. But just because the kid/s are not around physically all the time, doesn't mean they're not always around. In the life of a stepmother, the stepkids are often either the main topic of conversation, even when they aren't there, or the elephant in the room. I have one stepchild - a girl, ten years old - who manages to take up an awful lot of space in our lives, even when not physically present. One thing as a stepmother that you have to live with is that the first thing people will say when you walk into the room with your other half is 'Where's the kids'?. It's not 'hi, how are you' or 'lovely to see you' or even 'what the hell are you doing here?' it's always 'where's the kids'? And sometimes, it's even your own family doing it!

The other factor in Wicked Steppie's life is that she does not have kids of her own. This adds an extra dimension to the stepmothering experience. There will always be people ready to helpfully point out that you don't get it because you don't have kids of your own, and will be very surprised by the venomous response that comes back. And the head of those helpful people is very often my own DP, who has often been known to run for cover after dropping this pearl of wisdom into an argument. He's learning - perhaps not learning to refrain from saying it, but learning that if he does decide to say it, he needs to be a long way from me when he does. It's an odd thing, you see. I know it's a very true statement that I do not know what it's like to be a parent. It is a fact. I am an odd sort of parent-nonparent hybrid - not quite a complete nonparent, as my life is in part dictated by the fact that there is a child in it in a way that say an aunt's life would not be dictated by the presence of a niece or nephew - there is no contact schedule with a niece or nephew, no child support. But I am not a parent either, as I have no biological tie or legal responsibility to this child. And having to watch DP be a parent to another woman's child and feel completely excluded from a whole part of the life of the man you love - those who say 'you're not a parent, you don't get it' might think twice if they knew what that felt like. Salt, open wound.

So this is the start of the Confessions of a Wicked Stepmother. I liked the word 'wicked' - it seemed fitting with being a 21st century stepmother, that it has a double meaning. The question is, is Wicked Steppie wicked or just plain wicked? ;)


  1. Damn it YOU ARE A PARENT! I don't care if you birthed that kid or any other kid or not. If you stepped into the role of mother at YOUR house with your DP, then you must parent that kid as you know how to do. If I have learned anything in my time parenting, I have learned that stepparenting is exactly what you make it. You can be as involved or loving or disciplining or uninvolved as you choose. And whatever you put into it, you will get back. So don't let other people tell you you don't get it. If you have to deal with a nasty BM then you "get it" far more than they do!

  2. I am having quite a hard time as a stepmother. I wish I had been told that the "step" part means that once you marry, you "step" into a big pile of sh*t with the mother. She was neglectful of the child, ignoring her educational needs and such, so I made sure she was taken care of when she was with us. I would take her to school, talk to her teacher about her progress, and the teacher was so glad to have someone--anyone, really--taking part that she didn't care who I was. Well the mother got mad because the teacher wanted to communicate with me via email, and she would not give permission. The child is in counseling, which is good, but I finally had to tell her that I'm her stepmother because even after 3 months of marriage, NO ONE HAD TOLD HER. She thought I was her dad's "friend" and that my daughters were her "friends." I thought her mother would tell her something, but boy was I wrong.

    It's just a miserable situation because the mother won't do her damned job, and when I step up so the child isn't neglected, the mother gets mad and emails my husband telling me to butt out. He's involved, of course, and treats me as an equal. Her insecurity and jealousy are pretty transparent, but I worry about her badmouthing us to my SD, who's only 5.

    It's just sad all around.