Stepmothers don't need to be told to "woman up." What they need is the support of other women.
Would you tell a woman that she "chose" to be treated like a second class citizen when her stepchildren walk into the home and refuse to acknowledge her and her spouse avoids backing her up because he feels pulled in every direction or lacks the courage to do so?
Would you say the same thing if you knew a woman who was a custodial stepmother and cares for and loves her stepchildren in every way a biological mother would, only to be dumped like a hot potato by these same stepchildren when mom reappears on the scene?
Would you be as judgmental if you understood the loneliness and perpetual feeling of being an outsider when you are a childless woman partnered with a man with children?
Woe to the woman who becomes a stepmother and quickly finds out she is not allowed to have the normal and natural feelings anyone would feel when dropped into the conundrum of stepfamily life. A mother can complain about her children, tell her girlfriends she needs a break and they are driving her crazy.
But a stepmother who voices the same feelings is considered selfish, mean spirited and evil. She is met with suspicion from other mothers when she attends any of her stepchildren's events and is often expected by her husband and society to be Mary Poppins and Mother Teresa combined.
Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled for you and your family where it appears all the adults in your family are actual adults and love abounds. I commend you for working so hard to make things work in your stepfamily and appreciate your advocacy for love and connection between all members. Aspiring to love all human beings is a worthy and admirable goal.
However, reality is often more complicated than we'd like to admit and not every stepmother gets to have a Hollywood ending. Given the predominance of stepfamilies in the culture, we would all be better served to approach them with compassion, understanding, empathy and practical solutions, especially for the stepmother, the one who often finds herself on the lowest rung on the stepfamily ladder.
This article was originally published at Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.