Snow White and Cinderella are to blame. Not so much for creating the illusion that love is eternal and all you need is a perfectly fitting shoe or a kiss to attain the forever after happiness but for perpetrating the myths of the evil stepmother.
Camilla Parker-Bowles who not only broke up the most controversial royal couple since Henry VIII, but also became stepmother to two teenagers, is a case in point. Her lack of poise, style or good looks automatically rendered her averse to the British, only 14% of whom would want to see her on the throne as queen one day. But look at it from her side – the man she loved went on to marry a beautiful (albeit a bit dizzy) 19-year-old. When she finally got him all to herself, she had to endure a smear campaign on having been “the other woman” (partly true although she was there first), on being unattractive, badly dressed (definitely true), to liking a drink too many etc etc. It must be so tiring to read this about yourself day in and day out, all the while maintaining your dignity and trying to win over the affection of two boys who lost an iconic mother. Apparently she succeeded.
Step-parenting is possibly one of the hardest adventures anybody with a sane mind will embark on. It requires massive doses of naiveté, self-esteem and thick skin. And did I mention total disregard for immediate rewards (if ever)? Nobody aspires to be a step-parent, not even women who can’t conceive. Yet, with people marrying more than once at a fast growing rate, children born out-of-wedlock or to single parents, step-parents are an increasing breed. Most of them without guidance.
Therapy might help, there are some useful websites, mainly for venting purposes, but nobody prepares you for the “you are not my mother” moment, or the disconnect between wanting to feel like a parent but having a hard time reconciling blind love with the bratty teenager you are dealing with. If the birth of a child forces a couple to reinvent their relationship, the adding of a step-parent to an already existing family wreaks havoc on everybody involved, no matter how well it’s done or the good intentions on everybody’s part.
Every step-parent will tell you two phrases: “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into” and “This is the hardest thing I have ever done”.
Whether the biological parents are divorced or one is deceased, you are always contending with a figure that, despite having little to do with your life, is standing over your shoulder at every juncture. There is no competing with a ghost or with a living parent disgruntled by the divorce/sharing custody of the children/jealous feelings or just plain competitiveness.
It takes years for the adjustments to settle and for everybody to recognize that, most of the time, these instant new parents or children are not so evil after all. At the end of the day, don’t we all aspire to happiness, peace and understanding?
And let’s look at the other side of the coin – what if Cinderella hopelessly left her room in a state of disarray or Snow White was a vain teen with a penchant for too many clothes? Ever thought of that?
So here is my cheer for evil Camilla – may she enjoy her step-son wedding and the crown that possibly awaits her. But, please, do consult a fashion stylist – a new hairdo and a classy smock never hurt anyone.