I Detest The Word ‘Stepmom.’ We Need A New Word For What I Am
The other day I received a Facebook message from one of my boyfriend’s daughters that read, “I love you so much. I miss you so much. Xoxoxo.”
I absolutely loved receiving that e-mail because I’ve become very close with my boyfriend’s daughters and, apparently, they love me, too. I will babysit them if their dad needs to be at soccer. I take them shopping. I cuddle and watch movies with them. I helped the eldest with talk of periods and went swimsuit shopping with her. I wrestle with his youngest daughter and share her hairdryer. I’m doing things that, well, are very motherly things. In fact, I pretty much will do for them what I do for my own daughter.
My boyfriend and I have discussed marriage and moving in together in the next few months. The marriage and the moving into together do not scare me. What scares me is becoming a “stepmother.” Not that I don’t love his children, because I do. But, frankly, they already have a mother, and a good mother who loves them. I don’t really want to be their mother. I just want a good relationship with them and to be part of their lives. Plus, and maybe most importantly, I detest the word “stepmother.” Don’t ever call me that.
First, the word is so old school, like saying “channel changer” instead of “remote control.” Second, stepmothers have a bad rap. A really, really bad rap.
There was Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine. I mean, come on. Even in fairy tales – and my relationship is like a fairy tale – not only does Cinderella have a wicket stepmother, but they’re also in Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. All over the world, it seems, in books and movies, stepmoms are portrayed as evil bitches. I’m not an evil bitch. So don’t call me stepmother!
There’s a Danish fairy tale, called Green Knight, where the stepmother wins the marriage proposal by befriending her future stepdaughter. Once she lands her husband, she becomes cruel to her stepdaughter. Stepmothers make a lot of appearances in Chinese fairy tales too, I learned. In fact, they are very common. In one story, Classic of Filial Piety, Guo Juing tells the story of Min Zigian, whose mother had died at a young age. The stepmother had two more sons and made sure they were warmly dressed in winter, but neglected her stepson.
In a Korean folktale, Janghwa, Hongryeon, a stepmom kills her own stepdaughters. And in the German fairy tale, The Juniper Tree, the stepmother’s hostility is directly related to her goal to land the inheritance of her stepchildren. Seriously?
Knowing all this, who the hell would want to be referred as a “stepmother?” It really makes me want to write a new fairytale about blended families, called “She never forgets to buy me new shoes.” Or something along those lines.
So, because my boyfriend’s daughters already have a mother, and because of the negative connotations which come with being a stepmother, I do not want to be called a stepmother.
I have these thoughts of his daughter’s introducing me to their friends. “This is my stepmother,” I imagine them saying. And I feel somewhat horrified at these thoughts. Is there not a word that can be meaningful to the relationship that falls between my name, Rebecca, and “mom?”
When I try to come up with a better term than stepmom, I pretty much come up blank. And I’ve been thinking about this for weeks. This is what I’ve come up with so far in regards to his daughter’s introducing me when we get married: “This is another woman in my life who sometimes takes care of me.” And, “This is another woman in my life who is a role model.” You can see the issue with these introductions. The sentences are way too long. The best I can come up with is, “This is my dad’s wife.” But even that seems so impersonal and, quite frankly, I will be more than their dad’s wife. I’ll be with them 50 percent of the time when they’re with their dad, telling them to go to bed, making them breakfast, driving them around to soccer practices and picking them up from school.
When my daughter asks what my boyfriend’s daughters will be to her, I simply say, “They’ll be your sisters.” Period. End of story. No stepsisters for her.
I do like my name, so at present I’m more than happy to simply be called “Rebecca.” However, the outside world, and even his children, will see me as their stepmother.
I’d be really interested to know from all the “stepmothers” out there how they are referred to, or how they’d like to be referred to. Fairy tales are supposed to be happy. And I want my title, if you can call it that, to be something special. Because the relationship and bond between my boyfriend’s children and I is special.
What are your ideas for a new term for “stepmothers?” I want a happy fairy tale ending. Don’t we all? So, please, chime in!
(Photo: Walt Disney Productions)