Been busy, but I’m back!
Wrote an article, just to get it all out. Maybe I will try and get it published next year ’cause I wrote it too close to Mother’s Day to have a chance to get it out there.
So, take a read and I promise to post more about what I’ve been up to.
When asked by a nurse to sign a parental consent form to admit my stepson to hospital for a throat infection a few years ago, I made a remark that I was actually his Stepmother. “Funny”, I said, I always thought I’d turn out to be Cinderella! The nurse made no sign she thought my comment was amusing. Maybe because it was 3am, or maybe she just didn’t think I was funny.
But it was funny. It’s also frustrating, embarrassing and hard work living with the title of Stepmother. Over the years, young mothers have asked me “Do you have children?” and when I answer “No, but I’m a Stepmother”, I know my answer makes them slightly embarrassed for having asking the question.
Julia Roberts played the main role in “Stepmom” and the movie made the job look cool. The stepmom saved the day when the mother died. The Brady Bunch was completely misleading. I mean, did anyone ever mention the missing spouse of either Carol or Mike? Did they die or just disappear? Did one of the Mike’s 3 boys ever tell Mrs Brady that “She wasn’t their real mom”? We won’t even talk about Cinderella because we all know how that turned out. Stories of Sandra Bullock have been in the headlines recently of how she’s been a fabulous stepmother to her husband’s six year old daughter – whose mother is in jail. Oscar award-winning love and care. From where I sit, Stepmothers are portrayed as either evil witches or sweet angels.
When I met my partner, his sons (then 10 and 6) lived with their mother, a 5 hour drive away and visited every school holidays for two weeks. It was like having interstate visitors. The house was tidied, two course meals were served, cakes were baked, beds were made, visits to the movies and day-trips were organised. Even though I was working and returning home at 7pm, Harry Potter books were read by me for hours before bedtime some nights. When the boys first arrived, they were like strangers. By the middle of the second week, a routine was established, everyone was settled in and happy. Then they went home again until the next school holidays and we would start over.
During difficult times when maintenance and access hassles escalated, my girlfriends used to say “I don’t know how you do it! I couldn’t do it”. I’d tell them – “If you fall in love a guy who has kids, you just do what has to be done”. I would tell these friends “You do everything a mother would do, but at the end of the day, no-one is fighting to sit next to you on the couch”.
The youngest boy has lived with us since he turned 14 after an argument at home. During these last four years, I have done all I can for this boy. Some things weren’t fun – keeping white school shirts white every week, going to doctor’s appointments, arguing over chores, having my credit card used to buy phone credit, hassles over homework and discovering he’d visited 26 different porn-sites in 24 hours on my computer.
Other things were fun, like helping him develop a warped sense of humour, teaching him about tolerance, generosity and kindness, teasing him and having him tease me back and making some meals so tasty, he’d want seconds.
Last week we had a misunderstanding that turned into a horrible fight. For a few weeks, I have been talking about being acknowledged on Stepmother’s Day, which I discovered last year. A Google search told me Stepmother’s Day is either 1 May or the week after Mother’s Day (I decided I liked the first date). My stepson misunderstood and was extremely upset that I had thought I should be acknowledged as his mother on Mother’s Day. We cleared up the misunderstanding, had a good talk, but the hurtful things he had said made me very sad.
The next day while shopping at a large retail centre, I saw a stand at a newsagency filled with Mother’s Day cards. I figured I would buy a Stepmother’s card for my partner and stepson to give me, as mothers of small children sometimes do. I searched the headings – Mum, Mummy, Nanna, Gran, Grandma, To My Wife, From your Son, From your Daughter and To my Aunt but there was no Stepmother heading. Finding myself on a mission, I scoured five other greeting card retailers. Nothing. Nadda. Zip. I could not believe there are actually cards printed with “From the Dog to Mummy” or “From the Cat to Mummy”, but the closest appropriate card for me would have been “To Someone Special”. I walked out of the centre and sobbed in the car. With such a high proportion of modern families being “blended”, I was shocked and surprised to learn that stepmothers don’t rate a mention at Hallmark or John Sands. Realistically, if Stepmothers can be undervalued in their own families, it should not have been a surprise to me that society undervalues them too.
So, in the lead-up to Mother’s Day when you see all the traditional Cinderella-Mothers with 2.2 children advertised on TV, take a moment to think about all the other “Mothers”.
Whew! See you soon, before the next full moon.