Monday, January 4, 2010

But Cinderella Proved StepMoms Are Evil, Right?

From Cinderella’s conniving stepmother to Ella Enchanted’s wicked s-mom, let’s face it – fairy tales give stepmoms a bad name. The Cinderella stigma has stuck like glue to stepmothers in the popular imagination.

“Ella Enchanted” is the latest Cinderella-wannabe movie to rehash tired stereotypes about stepparents. You’d think that if the director could figure out how to jazz up fairy tales with shopping malls and taxicabs, a script doctor could drop in at least one nice stepmom. But no.

A few have tried to reclaim the “wicked stepmother” moniker and poke fun at the whole “wicked stepmother” aura. You can buy “wicked stepmother” t-shirts and coffee mugs on some stepfamily websites.

But some stepmoms would rather jettison the “S” word altogether. A study by the Stepfamily Association of America in 1997 found that more than one third of stepparents did not identify themselves stepparents. Anything but the dreaded “S” word.

It’s gotten so bad that stepparents are tripping over themselves trying to dream up new titles for their stepfamily roles. “Bonus Mom” and “Bonus Dad” were come up with by an s-mom and her stepdaughter because “step” carried too many negative connotations.

You’d think the American greeting card industry would reap a gold mine in stepfamily combination cards for Mother’s Day. Nope.

Try to find a manufactured mother’s day card that actually uses the term stepmom – it’s not easy. Hallmark typically relegates stepparents to the cards in the “for anyone” or “for friends” sections. That’s where my stepkids will find my card this year.

I’ll open it on Mother’s Day with my husband – just like last year. Unlike their birthdays, graduations and swim meets – Mother’s Day is not a shared event. In our family, that day is sacred – to their mom.

My husband takes me out and fusses over me but Mother’s Day is a weird day that feels hollow – because the people I most want to hear praise from aren’t within earshot.

If greeting card companies were smart – they would create holidays just for stepparents. Until they catch on – we’ll just have to make do.

In 2000, nine-year-old Lizzie Capuzzi declared the Sunday after Mother’s Day to be Stepmother’s Day, and used the day to celebrate the relationship she has with her stepmom. She wrote to her congressman about it and he read her letter aloud and into the Congressional Record. The idea has yet to catch fire – but you never know. We might reclaim that “stepmother” title for good.

Dawn Miller writes a column on life in blended families at
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  1. A StepMother's Day would be great but don't you think that would be too much delineation when much blending families are trying to unite?

  2. I've been dealing with the stepparent issue since I became a stepfather 12 years ago. My wife and I have developed a website and a line of printed greeting cards, exclusively for stepfamily members. Please visit the website and see if it works for you. We'd love your feedback.