As in fairy tales, the stepmother is generally deemed as evil: Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, The Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Mother Gothel in Rapunzel, and last but certainly not least, Maleficent. These scorned women often live in the shadows of a beautiful princess who sings with a voice so beautiful, forest animals appear. A peasant girl forced into indentured servitude, who fits the glass slipper as if it were made for her foot exclusively—because it was! A stepmother so envious, she exiles the young child to a dark, sky-reaching tower, her beauty hidden from all the land. A woman so evil, she goes as far as cursing a newborn child, as a means of seeking revenge on the child’s father.
What if it is the biological mother who holds the poisonous apple, sucks the life out of all things beautiful, only to keep herself youthful? The biological mother, who can’t face the truth that’s told to her by the enchanted "mirror, mirror, on the wall?"
There are three blond-haired, blue-eyed boys in my life—not connected to me biologically, but through circumstance. I don’t consider myself a stepmother, bonus mom, mom number two, or any other pseudonym for the term "mother," complied by Google. I am simply Heather.
For these boys and for my own biological son, I would give my last breath. I answer their concerns, I soothe their worries, I feed them, bathe them, wash their clothes, and make sure they have a clean, safe space to reside. I ensure they are properly disciplined (usually by their father), but I also make sure they have a happy, memorable childhood. We have gone to parades, festivals, and amusement parks; we have taken a vacation, visited the pumpkin patch in the fall, decorated for Christmas, experienced special events for birthdays, and attended the Iowa State Fair. I even acknowledge Mother’s Day, ensuring to pick out a gift from the boys, that suits her interests.
I don’t exist. I get scowls. Blatantly ignored. Contradicted. I don’t matter, regardless of what I provide for her children when she doesn’t have the money to contribute. I get nothing but scoffs, as she sits near me at sports activities for which I took the time seek out, and meet the required registration fees. She reaps the benefits of the fruits of my labor.
But, still I remain invisible. Things I have purchased for the boys “go missing,” or “aren’t allowed while the boys are in her care.”
Disrespected is how I feel when she sends the boys to my home, unaccompanied and without prior consent.
Disgust envelops me when her children are sent to our home in ill-fitting clothing, because she’s too proud to dress them in the new clothes I purchased. So spiteful is she, that my significant other must bombard her with emails to have items we have purchased for the boys returned to our home.
While her children receive hand-me-downs from strangers, free stores, and donation boxes, she’s getting new tattoos and getting highlights in her hair. Instead of inviting her children to experience the child-friendly events they surely would enjoy, she goes with girlfriends, or another man and his child.
Appall is the only emotion I can muster, as she brings strange men around her children, literally opposite of the instinct ingrained in mothers: to protect their children at all costs.
It may sound like I am whining, or turning a mountain in a molehill. I should be thankful that she isn’t using drugs, and that she isn't homeless, neglectful, or abusive towards the boys in any fashion. I am. I am immensely grateful that the boys are happy, safe, and healthy.
However, there are solutions to those problems—procedural solutions.
There is very little you can do about bad attitudes, grandmothers who come before fathers, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, regret, poor choices, lack of communication, and just being an ungrateful bitch—YES! I said it!
I don’t condone name-calling (publicly or directly), but there’s only so much weight one can take before the bow breaks.
I’m at a fork in the road. There are two signs.
The left one says, "RUN! Very far and very fast!"
The right one says, “Tough it out. It’ll get better. You’re stronger than this.”
I don’t know what’s down that left lane.
But the right lane has the potential to be something very worth-while, and—not to sound too cliché—beautiful. I get to be involved in the lives of three boys in addition to my own son. I will be an important role model, and an extra hand within the village that it takes to raise children. I will contribute to how their futures are molded. I am someone they need in their lives.
Nastiness never prevails. It only ignites hate and darkness within oneself. No amount of preaching of “good vibes” will matter if it isn’t put into practice. Cheap rocks and jewelry have no power to turn a jilted person into an appreciative one. Friendship is not what I’m seeking. I have no interest in being friends. In common, we have love and hope for your children. I only ask of you one thing: RESPECT.