Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dealing with step children

I meant to write about step mothers long back but was rather pre occupied with my SIL’s illness first and white washing and painting of our flat drove me crazy and my mind stopped functioning temporarily. I’d return to a messy house, sweep and clean till 9 in the evening and go to bed exhausted. The white washing is not over. Only three fourth done but the painter has vanished. His mobile is switched off whenever we call him so we’ve learnt to live with a verandah in a jammed state with the ladders and stools used by them and the other full of paint brushes and half used paint cans and what not. We’ve paid the fellow only 50% of the amount agreed upon so even if he has started work elsewhere he will definitely come for his money. Either we do not know to extract work or come across as people who can be taken for granted (Fools, perhaps?). I was therefore perpetually out of sorts and just couldn’t type a word let alone a post.

Coming to the point I feel step mothers are a maligned lot. With Snow White and Cinderella being ill treated by their step moms and David Copperfield having to face the wrath of a step father I was sympathetic to any child who might have lost his/her mother and had to deal with a step father. Widow re - marriage was rare during my growing years so I never gave a thought to the possibility of a person being ill treated by a step father. That happened in foreign countries I felt. As a teenager I had the unfortunate opportunity of witnessing the manner in which our cook Kalyani mami treated her step son. The boy stole money from our house and ran away much to our relief.

My first impression about step mothers changed when a neighbor and good friend of mine B…….. died a pre mature death when her sari accidentally caught fire. Her son was just seven years old when she passed away and her husband re-married within 3 months. The family shifted to a new location and I happened to meet them 4 years later. The girl who replaced B…….. was a gem and treated her step son with the same affection that she reserved for her own daughter. The boy reciprocated in a similar manner and I found myself hoping praying that others in the extended family let them be. Very often it is these others who poison children’s minds but luckily it was not so here. The boy is now a qualified engineer and I hear that he is as fond of his step mother as he might have been if B……… had been alive.

A P was just 4 years old when her mother died and her younger brother was not yet one. Her father re – married. Her maternal grandmother filled her mind with negative thoughts about her step mother.

“Mummy” asked the girl “will you change when a baby brother is born? Nani says so.”

“Never my child. I’d love you and Chotu always. Why would I want another child?” said her step mother. And she did not stop with saying so. She convinced her husband and had her tubes tied and never had children of her own. AP was our student some 10 years back. Today she has a good job and her step mother takes care of her children while she works. She has grown up to be a confident young woman and when her husband lost his temper during the initial years of their marriage she stood up to him saying that her mother would stand by her and she was certainly not putting up with his nonsensical behavior. He has mended his ways since. How many young girls can say so about their natural mothers I wonder.

The relationship between a woman and her step children has to grow and it is for society to encourage such growth. It is not easy if the step children are old enough to understand and adopt an antagonistic attitude. However no one bothers to understand her side of the story. I do agree that there are several step mothers who never ever accept step children as their own. My heart goes out to these children who suffer in silence and never really get out of the trauma. But there are several others who accept the situation and treat their step children really well. I wanted to write in support of these women who are grossly misunderstood by society.

21 comments:

Rangakrishnan Srinivasan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rangakrishnan Srinivasan said...

Happened to come across your blog through a major blog-hopping activity. Very honest and sensitive portrayal. Spent quite some time reading your blogs. Would love to read all of them sometime.

Preethi said...

very interesting.. A neighbor of my grandmom's lost his wife and re-married when his son was just 2. They went on to have another kid and the step mother takes care of the boy just like her own.. It is a lovely sight to see:)

Itchingtowrite said...

my aunt is a step mom and a wonderful one. only thing she can never really scold the step son becoz she is uncomfortable that people may point fingers at her for being cruel to the boy who is not her son. and knowing her husband family I am not surprized. he is a little too protective abt his son as he lost his mom at a young age... can't always fight human psychology

Thinking aloud said...

it is the extended family which causes most of te conflict. there are both sides to the coin...as u have so very righlty pointed out...

if only the family is allowed to find themselves and adjust to each other, half te battle would be won...

vishesh said...

you might want to read this..it deals with a step child...http://www.originalfaith.com/blog/

Joy said...

I know a friend of mine who got divorced and have remarried. He has a son from prev marriage. They seem to be one happy family. As you rightly said, we need to leave a family to itself to deal with all the situations. Help should be given, if needed and should not be forced. Society is changing, so will the mindset.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

My aunt died when my cousins were barely 4 and 1. My uncle re-married ... their new mom (my aunt) has been great to them. She indeed had kids of her own too ... but always treated my cousins as her first kids ... My cousin is now 28 ... wonder if she really has any memories of her birth mom. It has been tough for my aunt though.(new aunt) Every act of hers was scrutinized by a lot of people, let alone outsiders, within the family as well. She really had to work had to gain the trust of the family.

Lavs said...

I am with you Grandmom in standing up for such women who have been labeled as ‘wicked’ by our society. If only, we can broaden our minds and look beyond the mundane stuff!!

Usha said...

I have seen the same in my famiy too - one of my aunt's died and the lady whom athimber married next is a wonderful woman. Not only did she have to struggle to bring up four step children as a young bride but she also had to woek hard to counter the prejudices that other relatives has instilled in the kids' minds about stepmother. She has done a wonderful job of everything and even the extended family treats her like she is our own aunt.
And I thought this was an exception.But from the stories here it seems that most step moms outside of fairy tales are actually sweet nice people but victims of a prejudice.

eve's lungs said...

One of my aunts was a stepmother who also had children later but a better sweeter mother never existed . But like everything else there are good ones and bad ones - Im happy your experience has been with the good ones ,

Hip Grandma said...

I had an acquaintance who had step daughters in their teens.The girls were smart and gave her a tough time to the extent of poisoning the mind of their step sister and setting her against the mother.But somehow no one seems to sympathize with the poor lady and such stories never get a mention let alone make headlines.In another case a lady opted for divorce unable to cope with the mental torture she was subjected to.Very often the husband is also suspicious of her intentions and that makes things worse.Of course there are two sides to a story and unless both sides extend their hands a handshake is not possible.

Tys on Ice said...

now, i know why i missed u...

long ago, my wife wanted us to adopt instead of having our own children...i asked for a year to think abt it...i did think abt it and we agreed to adopt...it didnt work out mainly due to redtapes and stringent adoption laws...now tht we hve our own child, i keep wondering if i wud hve felt the same towards a child thats not my own...

i think i wud..u see as a man, it wudnt hve mattered which child my wife points at and says 'thts ours'....as a father, its the child tht makes me a father...but ofcourse this is theoritical...i hve no experience..

Madhumita said...

As usual, a thought provoking read. Always felt that being a step mother wouldn't be different from adopting a child.

We have 3 of our family friends who adopted children for one reason or the other and I've noticed that this small fact seems to matter more to other friends and relatives than the parents themselves.

One of them found out a year after adopting that the child was physically disabled due to improper development in her legs and they were immediately "advised" to "return" the child to the adoption centre! Needless to say, the couple are the best parents to that sweet little girl - they've now relocated to Germany to ensure better and more advanced treatment for the child.

Hip Grandma said...

that was a very good input from a wonderful couple.Yes i mean tys and madhu.It felt great to hear of all the step mothers and adopted parents mentioned by all of you.I am sure there are many more out there.I know of three sisters all of them my mother's first cousins who married men much older than them with grown up children only a few years younger to them.One of them was great with her step son the other was outright mean and I have no information about the third.I think it partly depends on one's nature.I feel that it is different with adopted parents where both partners decide together and there is no physical or emotional involvement with the child's parent.In the case of the step child a woman/man is so obsessed about his/her partner's bonding with the dead/divorced spouse that logical thinking and fair mindedness is just not there.Therefore those who overcome this mental block and treat their step children well are all the more praiseworthy.The role of the natural parent becomes crucial and while mothers who remarry see to it that the child is not abused men are unfortunately ill equipped to deal with such a situation.They'd rather hide behind the newspaper if the wife is aggressive or roll their eyes if she is docile.

Monika said...

very interesting and very true. we have a tendency to generalize based on some bad incidents and ignore the good people. same holds here too

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's completely true to characterize women as being protective of their children after remarriage while men aren't. The pyschological need to prove to the new husbands that they are on his side rather than the kids' makes many women to keep quiet about stepdads disciplining their kids.

Yes, in India you might have a smaller sample size - fewer women than men with kids remarry, so it might look as if it is all hunky dory from the outside.

Just Like That said...

I have a cousin of mine, who's divorced, and she's got a young girl- 6 yrs old now. She re-married again last year, and the husband is also divorced. The child has been almost brought up by the grandparents from birth (they got divorced when the kid was 1 yr old)as my cousin continued her studies so she could take up a job and be financially independent.
After the wedding, the little girl was left behind with the GP's as the new couple needed time together. Now, the couple are reasonably settled,and are planning to go abroad, but again, the kid is with the GP's as they can't get a visa for her unless the step dad is able to adopt her formally.. Makes me wonder why when the marriage registration was done with alacrity, nothing was done about the kid's adoption papers... I don't know who is at fault, if indeed there is a fault.. but I feel very sorry for the little girl and her mother, who is obviously upset at leaving her child behind, but doesn't have any alternative, other than staying back herself. But then, will that mean that she's giving her ex's kid preference over the new husband? No easy solutions here...

Na.Su.Krishnan said...

Coming back to your blog after along time.. "With age we learn about new relationships, understand few and have many" reading your experience makes me feel so.

parijata said...

You really do find interesting subjects to blog about.

I think literature and more than that, movies, influence our actions as a society more than we think. It is the stereotypical way a step mom is portrayed usually, that makes us behave as we do.

A relative of mine is step-mom to a 15-year old. She discourages her step-daughter from wearing makeup and lipstick. Now, a young girl's desire to wear makeup is natural, and so is a Mom's refusal to consent to it. While I do not see anything wrong in it (I for one, would not consent to my daughter wearing make up till she turns 18 or 20!) , it is sometimes a big issue of discussion in family circles - "You know, M does not allow H to wear makeup, that's so mean!" kind of discussions.

Hip Grandma said...

I think it is a no win situation here, and nothing can be done about it.Anon points out that a woman who remarries keeps quiet for the simple reason that she has to constantly prove to her husband that she is on his side.Possible. It is also true that the new husband is away at work and gets less time to interact with the child.I also know of such a case.May be I'll write about it later.