Filling Your Niche

Stepmothers’ Day

Today, the Sunday after Mother’s Day, is Stepmother’s Day.

I envision this horde of grouchy, unappreciated women at their wits’ ends rising up and saying in one huge angry huff: “You won’t acknowledge us on Mother’s Day? Fine. We’ll invent our own goddamned day. Goddammit.”

I used to read these online stepmother forums, searching for any shred of guidance on how to make things better at our house, how to get Miss L (and/or her mother) not to hate me, how to break through the resentment, understand why there was so much of it in the first place. And all I learned was that our problems were universal. There was a lot of virtual shrugging, a lot of ‘I know, right?’ but no real advice.

These women, they are not bad women. Through post after post, their hearts are breaking but they just come back swinging harder the next time. More than anything, and in spite of everything, their love for those kids permeates their words. It wouldn’t be so fucking hard if we didn’t care, after all.

And that’s the real crux of it. We’re hated for making sure homework is done and vegetables are eaten. Resented for planning family vacations and attending little league games. Ignored at recitals, not informed about school conferences, not asked our thoughts on the futures of the children we’re helping to raise. Because, you know, we’re not real parents. We barely count. We’re just some woman the dad married; why include us in anything.

I, too, am  ‘just some bitch,’ according to Miss L’s biological mother. I’ve posted my share of horror stories in those forums, more of them than I care to remember. Actually I’m trying real hard to forget them, forget every single one of them and not feel resentful and just move forward. I can’t change what’s past, but the future’s up for grabs. And things are so much better now.

I even took Miss L bra shopping yesterday (with other people too; we’re not quite brave enough to be alone together yet) and everyone had fun and she took the bras back to mom’s house with her instead of leaving them on the floor with tags still on like she used to do with all the  things I bought her. We are starting to become… maybe not friends. But friendly, anyway, and that’s a start toward something. Something new. Something more hopeful and less angry.

But on this day, Stepmothers’ Day, I think about the women who still haunt those forums, how I’m only about a year removed from those miserable, can’t-win days.

I visited the forums the other day after a long hiatus, and nothing has changed. They have user names like didntsignup4this and tiredofdrama. Those new to the message boards post threads with titles like “New here… feel like a horrible person :(” and “Get out now or stick with it?” The ladies who’ve been doing this for years post things like “Yet more marriage probs because of stepkid” and “Another ruined vacation” and “Bio-Mom filed false abuse charges on us w/CPS… AGAIN!” It’s all so familiar, and so grim, I had to stop reading.

In some weird, not-quite-schadenfreude way, reading all that baggage is comforting; my rocky start with Miss L wasn’t me being an idiot and doing everything wrong. Well, partly. But more so it’s the role itself. It’s just freakin’ tricky. It’s stressful and complicated for all of us. And while I’m sure there are some genuinely wicked stepmothers, the majority of us try really hard to be good moms while putting up with way more than the usual amount of bullshit, all for the (apparently) unforgivable sin of loving these kids we did not birth and marrying their fathers.

It’s easy to see why we’re so universally despised.

Damned right we deserve our own day. I think I’ll buy myself something nice.


Maarit • 05/16/2011

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