Each divorce is different, each family is different, but one thing stays the same: stepparents can come on the scene, and it seems particularly difficult for stepmothers. What happens when the children are adults already or when the stepmother hates the children? If you’re involved with someone who has children, think long and hard before you come into the picture and wreak havoc. This open letter to stepmothers comes from my heart and my true experiences. I have decided to make it public in the hopes that other stepmothers will read it and think about how they want to treat the children, and that parents will read it and have serious discussions about this matter.
Take a lesson from my grief for your own families. Here’s a picture of my father holding my brother and me when I was five and he was three.
I always knew you were coming. When I was nine-years-old, I took out a book called When Your Mom and Dad Divorce. My mother asked me if I was making plans; I told her I was keeping my options open. I always knew you were coming.
I knew someday a divorce would come and you would follow it. I knew, in my heart, you would come, and I had even prepared myself for this eventuality. I tried to imagine how wrong the fairy tales were – how Cinderella’s stepmother was not really evil and Snow White’s stepmother was just misunderstood. I know it is hard to marry into a family, especially a family where the children are already in their 20s. I had heard that you had a son. I felt relieved because I had always wanted a big brother. But it was my lot in life to be the eldest, and with the addition of your son, I would move to the middle… I would still be the only girl.
I imagined a stepmother who would love my father and welcome his children. I had imagined a stepmother who could be my friend. When my father wanted to introduce you to my children, I even let you in. I welcomed you. I prepared my father for you when he would tell me how lonely he was without my mother.
I never asked anything of you, and I was never anything but kind to you; yet for my kindness, what did I get?
My father died and you did not even have the courtesy to tell me yourself. You fought with my brother constantly about the situation, barred people from his hospital bed. Worse than that, you barred me from my father’s body. He has been dead now a month and I still have no idea when you will give me a death certificate or allow me to get keepsakes of my father. You did not consult me before cremating my father, who in fact wanted to be buried. You did not even give me a say in his obituary, which I had to google like a common stranger. I had to find out a week before the memorial what was happening. You couldn’t be bothered to tell me about it or ask anyone to tell me. I heard it through the grapevine, again like a common stranger.
You came into a family where you weren’t wanted, but I tried to be kind to you because I know what that is like. I, too, came into a family where I wasn’t wanted, which is what led to my own divorce. I, too, saw the pain of an unhappy family in my childhood, though my parents desperately wanted me (so much so they took seven years of fertility treatments to have me). I wanted a peaceful life, but you did nothing but attack me. I could attack you now. I know who you are and what you are, and I could blow the lid off that. Instead, I chose to make reasonable requests that have gone ignored.
Dear Stepmother, do you hate my father so much that you would treat his children with such contempt and such disrespect? Do you hate yourself so much that you would want to be treated this way? What will people think when they read this letter and know it is you that I am speaking of? Do you even care?
Dear Stepmother, as this is the end of the line for you in our family, I am sorry for your loss and I wish you well. I hope that you find a nice family to be a part of. For myself, I will be relieved when you leave. My father told me before he died he wanted me to get along with you, but it seems he forgot that you hate me and that it takes two to get along.