Stepmothers: The Myths, The Reality

28 10 2008

Better a serpent than a stepmother!” Euripides was a Greek dramatist who wrote that between 480 and 406 B.C.E. Ouch.
 
There is a cultural assumption that comes from literally thousands of years of stories and movies that stepmothers are bad, evil women who want nothing but sex and money from men. And they will do everything in their power to get rid of their new husband’s children. When that is the image we’re up against, it’s no wonder feeling positive is difficult!
 
But you don’t have to be a victim to the assumptions about stepmothers. You get to choose to make your own story. Here’s an exercise to try. Write down all of the negative words you associate with stepmothers. Make a list of the bad things you’ve heard about stepmoms. And write down some key words that remind you of negative stories you’ve heard about real stepmothers.
 
When you focus the power of your attention and intention on something, it gets done. When you decide to act, you do. For instance, you chose to get married. Maybe you worked hard to get your degree. Maybe you wanted out of a job and you set your intention on getting a new one. And you did.
 
I want you to set an intention right now. I want you to decide right this minute that you will not listen to, speak of, or believe any unflattering stories about stepmothers. Does this mean there are no stepmothers who screw up? Absolutely not. Does this mean there no women out there who harm their stepchildren with harsh words and deeds? Of course not. But we are here together, to help you become a stepmother who is at peace, who has a positive influence in the lives of your stepchildren. I, for one, am going to assume that you are not evil. You are not wicked. You are a woman in a challenging situation who is as human as the rest of the people in your family.
 
So for now, I want you to work on clearing out those negative associations. I want you to practice cleaning up your vocabulary. I want you to banish self-defeating thoughts and beliefs. That piece of paper you wrote on? I want you to burn it up, rip it up, destroy it in some way. Get rid of it, physically and while you’re doing that, see it as a symbolic gesture. See it as the intention to guard your heart and mind from negativity. Do it now.
 
I hope that felt good! Now that you’ve cleared some space for positive things, let’s come up with some positive stories about stepmothers. Do you know anyone who developed a close relationship with their stepmother? I do. Sometimes it takes years for stepmothers and stepchildren to develop close bonds, but it happens all the time.
 
One grown stepdaughter I spoke with told me that when she was growing up her stepmother was a very serious woman who had never wanted kids. She wasn’t a very maternal woman and in fact, never did have any children of her own. As a child, all this girl wanted was warmth from her stepmother, but instead, she received lessons. And for years, this girl kept her distance, had a cool relationship with her stepmother.
 
But then in her early twenties, her stepmother’s father died. Here’s what this grown stepdaughter had to say: “My stepmom and I have really started to improve our relationship since her dad died and I think she’s starting to realize that she really is my parent, whether or not she ever intended to be.” Though it took this stepmother-stepdaughter pair many years to find a positive relationship, they did create one.
 
Lynn is a stepmom of three who remembers her stepson’s asthma attack. She rushed across town to be with him and on the way she realized just how much she truly loved him. When she arrived he said to her, “They called you and all of a sudden you were there.” That event became a defining moment of their relationship and one Lynn remembers often “When I got to him so quickly, it impacted him. He really felt like he meant something to me. I will always cherish that memory.”
 
And then there’s Abraham Lincoln! After his mother died when he was young, Lincoln’s father married Sarah, a woman with three children so Lincoln and his sister lived in a blended family. Lincoln’s relationship with his stepmother blossomed after she gave him three books. There are many accounts of how Lincoln cherished his stepmother and was in fact closer to her than he was to his father.
 
So now, take a moment to write down any upbeat stories you know about stepmothers. Then write down a list of positive words that you would like to use to describe you as a stepmother. I’ll help you get started. Here are some of the words on my list: at peace, calm, positive influence, friend, trusted, smiling, honest connections. Now it’s your turn!

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