Beyond the Evil Stepmother: Celebrating the Moms Who Stepped Up

May 07 2024.

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We all know the story. The wicked stepmother who swoops in, poisons apples, and generally makes life miserable for our favourite princesses (thanks a lot, Cinderella!). This age-old trope has cemented the image of the stepmother as a figure of malevolence, setting unrealistic expectations and perpetuating negative stereotypes. However, these portrayals fail to capture the nuanced reality of stepmotherhood and the love that many stepmothers pour into their families.

Stepmoms in real life are rarely casting spells or locking anyone in towers. In fact, navigating a blended family is a complicated dance – throw in the emotional baggage, the adjustment for everyone involved, and the constant, unspoken reminder that you're "not the real mom", and it's a recipe for a rollercoaster ride.

Being a stepmom can feel like navigating a tricky obstacle course. On one hand, you want to be a supportive and caring figure in your stepchildren's lives. On the other hand, you're aware of societal expectations and the delicate family dynamics at play. The fear of overstepping boundaries or being seen as a replacement for the biological mom creates a constant balancing act that can be emotionally demanding.

Of course, a biological mother's love is irreplaceable. But Mother's Day can also be a time to acknowledge the love and support that stepmothers bring to the table. After all, being a stepmother isn’t about replacing anyone – it’s about adding love, support, and understanding to a child’s life.

They're moms who provide a shoulder to cry on, who help navigate teenage angst, and who love fiercely, even if it doesn't come with the "real mom" title. 

Let’s expand our definition of motherhood to include the women who have stepped up, stepped in, and stepped forward to make a difference in our lives. To all the stepmothers, foster moms, and mother figures out there – this day is also for you. You may not wear the title of “biological mother”, but your love knows no bounds, and your impact is immeasurable.

Blended families are a growing reality, and this Mother's Day, we want to celebrate all the moms who make them work – both biological and the incredible women who step up as bonus moms. We spoke to several stepmothers and stepchildren to gain insight into their unique experiences. Their stories move us beyond the tired cliche of the evil stepmother, revealing a landscape of love, support, and the challenges of navigating complex family dynamics.

 

* Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy.

“I was quite young when I married my husband. He had kids who were in their teens, but when you're in love, you don't really think too deeply about these things. I too had grown up with stories of the evil stepmother and I spent countless nights worrying about how they may have preconceived notions about this concept. It wasn't easy at first, it never is when a messy divorce is involved. It took some time to gain their trust and soon, they realised that I was learning to navigate this new relationship just as they were learning to accept me. At that time, there weren't many who had married men with children that I knew of. It was very scary, and it took some time and patience, but today we are in a great place” - Harini

“The concept of stepmom has always been associated with someone evil; waiting to take over the family or push you out of it. This is so far from the truth and this perception probably starts from mainstream media with movies like Cinderella and Snow White. Being a stepmom myself and having known so many others it feels unfair that there is no or less appreciation from society for the role a stepmom plays in a child’s life. It’s not always easy and it does take a lot of compromise but once you see them as your own, the love and bond you share transcends biology.” - Shalini

“I was very blessed - from the get-go my stepkids were great. We were able to build an amazing relationship. Their mother was also very amiable and made the extra effort to not villanise me. Without a doubt that played a huge part in everything. I think it’s important to realise that as stepmothers, it is truly not our intention to replace the biological mother. My experience is certainly not universal, so my heart goes out to stepmothers who have a hard time. Mother’s Day especially is a constant reminder for some that their love might not be acknowledged or reciprocated.” Haritha

“I hated my stepmother for no fault of hers. My parents were in a bad marriage and then divorced. Five years later, she came into our lives. I was bitter about it because I felt like this meant my mother had “competition”. It took ages for me to love and accept her - I once said something really nasty to her. She went into the room quietly without saying anything. While passing by, I saw that she was crying. That was a huge wake-up call for me. Now that I think back, my stepmother was always very nice to me. She was incredibly patient. Dealt with all my tantrums without complaint. She even tried talking to me. Told me that she never planned to replace my mom. I regret how nasty I was to her, but I am glad that I realised the truth and made an effort to change. Last year for the first time I celebrated her on Mother’s Day too. Words cannot describe how happy that made her!”. - Tania

“When I became a mother for the first time, I thought it was the hardest thing. And then I became a stepmom. It was truly a whole other ball game. My now husband and I both had kids from our previous relationships when we got married. Even though I met and then married him many years after he was divorced, his ex-wife and his extended family were very bitter towards me. This made the situation at home very difficult as well because my stepchildren mirrored the hatred their family showed me. They never even made an effort to get along with my biological children. It was truly heartbreaking and hurtful. I genuinely opened my heart out to them and was happy to grow the family. But now as they’re getting older, they’ve realised that I mean them no harm. I’m seeing a positive change. I feel very relieved about it.” - Pearl

“My siblings and I were much older when our stepmother came into our lives. Our parents sat us down and explained everything to us. My mother especially asked us not to harbour any resentment towards the person who would become our stepmother. I think that really helped us not see her as someone who was trying to take our mother’s place. It was also actually my mother who encouraged us to try and do something nice for our stepmother on Mother’s Day. I think it’s important for parents to be mature and make sure these relationships are not ruined. Our mother and stepmother are actually quite close and share a wonderful relationship, and I genuinely think it’s another reason she has been able to maintain such a great relationship with us too”. - Ryan

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rihaab Mowlana

Rihaab Mowlana is the Deputy Features Editor of Life Plus and a journalist with a passion for crafting captivating narratives. Her expertise lies in feature writing, where she brings a commitment to authenticity and a keen eye for unique perspectives. Follow Rihaab on Twitter & Instagram: @rihaabmowlana


4 Comments

  1. Priyanthi De Silva says:

    I really loved reading this article and some of it truly brought tears to my eyes. Thank you Rihaab for showing us all the other side of step mothers.

  2. Thilani says:

    What a fabulous article! Stepmothers have been at the receiving end of so much hatred. Amazing to see someone write about them with such humanity. Please continue to do stories like this. Well done, Rihaab Mowlana.

  3. Dani says:

    What a refreshing take! Love this article. There needs to be more heartwarming stories like this appreciating those who seldom receive any. Looking forward to reading more!

  4. Chani says:

    Love this article!!!! It's really frustrating when cartoons and movies only show us evil stepmothers. So it's so nice to see someone writing about stepmothers in such a positive light.

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