While words can't quite capture the way I feel about being a stepmother, the reason I've decided to key in my experience, as succinctly as possible, is because relationships between stepmothers and stepchildren have been stereotyped beyond belief; they need to be given a chance to be seen for what they really are; rather than through a worldview prejudiced by the scarytales of Cinderella and Snow White.
The word 'mother' stirs up thoughts of love, compassion, trust, nurturing and the like. But the word 'stepmother' instantly conjures up visions of detached, stony, murderous, evil, on-edge women; especially if you have been reared on Disney movies, like most of us have. Let's face the cold, hard facts: How many of us mentally react and judge when we hear of a woman trying to raise somebody else's child? What is your opinion of how she is contributing to the life of the child? Isn't there a niggling voice at the back of our heads; accusing, condemning, judging. Then there is a second clear, stark voice, distinctly palpable although inaudible, that projects words no stepmother ever wants to hear, "You are not the real mother."
As a stepmother, I feel instantly splashed with insinuations of being wicked, evil and if fairytales are to be believed, I am supposed to have moles and warts, not to mention an evil black heart, and my sole mission in life is supposedly to destroy the father-daughter relationship, take away all their joy and ruin their lives. I am not even sure why we've been stamped that way. Just as there are wonderful and caring parents in the same breath that there are horrible parents, there are loving and kind stepmothers and monstrous stepmothers too.
I, for one, do not think myself as horrible or disgusting, for the simple reason that my stepdaughter adores me and vice versa. When I was first introduced to her, she was a child of four years, all wide-eyed and trusting. And when that first meeting cemented our bonding, there was no looking back. No doubt, we have had our challenges, and our demons to conquer; but we have never been closer to one another than we stand right now. In our eight years together—and counting—our life together, joined at the hip, stands as a testament that a relationship does not require to be cemented by biology–'Blood is thicker than water', does not hold true in our case.
Has the journey been easy? Absolutely Not. But, I have been enormously lucky with my daughter, whose tiny, little arms were wide open to give me a loving, unconditional hug—the way only a child can—the first time we met, and continue to be always open for me.
Never mind the stereotypes we are up against—each day—because no matter how good you think you are, you can never win with how you are being viewed. So I do the best I can. I try to do things the way a mother would, holding back opinions when it matters and giving them when needed; supporting her decisions, backing her up, defending her and presenting a united front at all times.
At times, I am overwhelmed with so much love that I could just erupt. Like the times, when she was little, she would draw tiny cards that would spring up in places all across the house, with simple notes of "I Love You" and stick drawings of the two of us. Like the times, when we watch scary movies together alone and comfort one another 'cause we are so equally petrified'. Like the times we just take off on our own and chill out by ourselves, go for a walk and stuff our faces with ice-cream as she talks non-stop, starry-eyed about Harry Styles and Niall Horan.
To have a child, who is not biologically yours, love you back is an extremely cherishing and a very special feeling. Have our journeys been easy? No. Ask any mother around today, and she will tell you it's not easy raising kids. And as a stepmother, doubly so. But we will ride the storm; come what may.
And the next time you hear of an evil stepmother... you just might want to check if you're watching a movie or living real life!