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Children often have no say in who comes into their life but are expected to acquiesce to new structures and automatically give equal respect to the new addition to the household; a stranger.
My mother and stepmother couldn’t be less alike. My mother is practical, pragmatic, and sturdy. She needed to be. She had two children, a mortgage, and she made her living as an artist. She had iron-clad rules which were the basis of an efficiently run household. The foremost of which was “This is my house and you will do what you are told.”
I am surprised that my father and my mother stayed together so long. My father is gregarious and enchanting. I love him but he is prone to tantrums. He loves the spotlight and thrives when he is the center of attention. From the get-go I knew my stepmother was more suited to my father. Every time she steps into the room and smiles it lights up in that way that only truly charming people can manage.
She first moved in with my father when I was 12, which means she has been my stepmother for over half my life. Pre-teen and teen years are notoriously difficult for children in general, so to have someone else added into the mix was understandably difficult.
These days the practicalities of step-parents are the thing that is most difficult to navigate. I remember my mother asking my sister and I to both wear robes instead of just towels after a shower going from the bathroom to a bedroom. This is a totally fair request, being that it made her feel uncomfortable thinking about her husband sharing space with us semi-naked, but it changes the home in a way that means it is not truly somewhere that you can be completely relaxed. It’s an accumulation of little things that become factors in the difficulties of step-parenting.
Initially, the biggest difficulty that I had adjusting to my stepmother was the fact that I had already developed ways that I related to my father. Being totally indulged, the affection that we shared often involved him spoiling me rotten. When my stepmother came onto the scene, I noticed a total shift with regards to gifts. In hindsight, this was probably for the best for both his bank account and my sense of entitlement but at the time it felt very intrusive.
I struggled with the fact that the ways we related to each other were being completely undermined by an outside force. I can understand why children might come to resent their step-parents—or, in the words of my step-father “Cinderella is no fairy tale.” I didn’t resent her, though it did take a lot of adjustment and finding a balance took many years.