Virginia Ironside: The odds are against you – but there is a way to win

Share
Related Topics

Stepmothers are in such an unenviable position that before one starts to issue advice, you have to go back to basics and look at the actual word. Nothing wrong with "step" – but "mother?" All children have mothers of their own and, even if they died when they gave birth, no one can replace them. Small wonder that the word "wicked" is so often affixed before the word – it's done to eliminate any idea of this new woman in the family has anything at all to do with the real mother.

So the first thing a person in this position should do is to eliminate the word. She can be the child's "auntie" if she likes – though preferable for her to be called by her first name. That keeps the boundaries absolutely clear. She should never introduce herself as a stepmother but rather as the child's father's new wife or partner.

Secondly, this new person should never assume any authority over the children that she hasn't already agreed with the father and she shouldn't really treat the children in any way other than she should treat her friends' children. And she should remember that it is not up to the father and children to welcome her into the family and make her feel at home. It is up to her to ingratiate herself into a family that already exists.

Thirdly, she must remember the children have probably received a dreadful blow, with their parents separating. Their default position will inevitably be one of hostility rather than welcome because it seems to them that she is an intruder in their lives – as, indeed, she is.

Finally, she must remember that her husband's duty is, rightly, firstly to his children – not to her. She must make it clear that not only does she understand he loves his children more than her but that he should love his children more than her.

I'm being hard, I know – but acknowledging those raw truths will help everyone in the end. It is she who must do all the work, bend herself to the family's ways and, if she wants to make life easier, then it is she who must try to forge friendships with the children separately, in her own right, not just tagging along on jaunts out with dad.

And if she can, she should, very slowly, try to form some kind of good relationship with the mother of the children, even if she finds it difficult. Being friendly and reasonable will make it more difficult for the woman to pour poison into the kids' ears.

But in the end, if the intruder is not only lucky but also works very hard at making the new little people in her life into friends, she might well end up with a very special role – someone who can see a situation more clearly than a parent, someone who might be able to offer support and stability in a situation in which the parents are locked in dispute.

But I'm afraid, the "wicked" comes with the job. It's a given. It is up to her to her to behave in a way that makes the word completely redundant and hope that, in time, if she simply becomes a very good friend to the children she'll have done a really good job.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Monday - Israel  

Between the wars in Israel, spending time in a kibbutz was about as cool as you could get

Peter Popham
 

Man Booker Prize: Great books and great authors are sometimes missed out by awards committees

Natalie Haynes
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game