The Myth of the Mom vs. the Step-Mom

NanoPoblano

In my humble opinion, the difference between a mother and a step mother is simply that a special distinction separates them. The difference is only that the mother has given birth and has care of the children, and the step mother has not given birth and inherited the care of the children. However, I believe a mother and a step mother are essentially the same person. In fact, most of the time if you met a mother or step mother on the street, you would not be able to tell them apart.

I became a mother at the age of 20 by giving birth to my first daughter and having another daughter by the age of 23, and a son shortly after I turned 26. I became a step mother by the age of 27 by inheriting two additional daughters. By most standards that is a huge family and with that many personalities you are going to run into a few issues.  That is why I am “silver threading” today, and my hair has turned grey.

Blended families have many of their own unique problems, but at the top of the list is the mother versus the step mother issue. It doesn’t take long in a new family for these feelings to surface and for a feud to begin to ensue. My two step daughters are the oldest of the children in our family and the remaining three children follow in ages consecutively as such: step daughter no. 1, step daughter no. 2, daughter no. 3, daughter no. 4 and son no. 5.

2014-07-10 12.17.15Our Blended Family in Younger Days

The feud in my family usually began when I, as the new step mother, would ask one of my step daughters to do some sort of task. Now this task is the same thing that I, as the mother, would ask my natural children to do. Such as, “Did you clean your room?”

What would follow is the new step child saying, “You’re not my mother and you can’t tell me what to do so, why do I have to clean my room?” This exchange was usually accompanied by rolling eyes and a slight toss of the head. My own children would then lament, “Why do I have to clean my room?” This was also accompanied by rolling eyes and a slight toss of the head!

I always answered in a calm, quiet voice to all of the children, “Yes, you have to clean your room because it needs to be kept clean!” In this simple way, I as the mother had responded to all five of the children in the same way. There was no distinction between what a mother or step mother would say. It was all said in the same way. Clearly, there is no doubt that the role of mother and the step mother is essentially the same. You are there to guide, teach and nurture all of your children.

wag purr

It is easy to see that in my case, most mothers and step mothers are one in the same. When my older step children had issues with school or friends, my younger, natural children usually had the same issues and questions. I answered all of them the best I could at the time in the same way and never tried to act differently as a mother or a step mother. I took each child exactly as they were with their faults and gifts and reveled in their triumphs and felt their sorrows. In fact, I never used the term, step child. I felt that I was raising the children and I claimed the right to call them my children! By defining all of my children in the same way made me feel like I was treating them equally.

However, society has many opinions on the subject. The role of the natural mother is glorified and the role of the step mother is vilified! It is acceptable to believe a step mother would not love a child as much as their natural child, evoking memories of fairy tales told long ago. The step mother is always mean and appears like a wicked witch, with hair standing on end and eyes flashing, instead of being portrayed as a motherly and loving woman dressed in pearls and wearing an apron.

Be Kind

Another stance that society allows is the idea that a step mother who hasn’t had a child can’t be a mother! If that were the case, why are women allowed to adopt other mothers’ children to care for as their own? I think these are just myths and don’t believe that the social differences between a step mother and a mother are that far off. Instead, I take the view that all mothers and step mothers are essentially the same because they share the same role.

I have found that I have the same feelings and expectations as a mother that I have as a step mother. I am simply a mother and this likeness defines me. I am one in the same, interchangeable; having raised the children with the only difference still remaining being whether or not I gave birth to them.

After many years of marriage, I recently rejoiced when one of my “step” daughters said to me, “Mom, all you have ever done was to try to be the best Mom that you could be to us. You always were there and continue to be there for us still today. You will always be my Mom!”

I can tell you those words were the sweetest and most unexpected of all. My “step” daughter considered me to be her Mom after all! My hard work and love had paid off. I had proven that my role as a step mother had no special distinction other than to be there for my children and show them love and respect. The same thing any mother would want for her children and it really didn’t matter if I had given birth to them or not!

I was just their Mom.

NaBloPoMo_November

Thanks for stopping by today, I enjoyed seeing you all,

Silver Threading

The Bigamist

Blogging U 9.14

Today in Writing 101, write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.

I opened the envelope in my hands glancing at the return address as I ripped it open. Schultz & Kirkpatrick, P.C. it read. A lawyer, I thought to myself. From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, no less. The documents enclosed were the probate documents to my step mother’s will. She had died a few months back, and I was interested to find out how she disposed of her assets.

Over a cup of tea, I read the legal papers. When I finished, I shook my head and read them again. Just as I had assumed, my step mother had included me in her will inheriting along with 20 other people an amount to be determined 15 years after her death if certain conditions were met.  Typical.

In addition, she had written out my sister, (now deceased herself), and my brother… but someone else was listed, Carol Steinle. Who the hell was that, I thought?

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(Image credit: Opening the documents)

I read that section over and over again. The more I read, the clearer it became to me that my father had another child after me, with another woman he had been married to! AND, not my mother, nor my step mother. I stared blankly at the page. Could this be true? I shook my head in disbelief.

I called my brother in law, Jerry, who was the eldest in the family and had known my parents extensively. He listened as I read to him the information contained in my step mother’s probate documents. When I finished he let out a long sigh.

“You never knew any of this,” he asked me?

“No,” I told him, “I am completely in the dark about another child.”

Jerry asked me if I remembered my Father married to the other woman. He said it wasn’t long after my mother had died. I did, and it was not a good memory.

The last time I saw her, my drunken father had beat her up. I closed my eyes and could hear the sirens and see the flashing lights of the police car that had responded to the incident all over again in my mind. I remember crying and screaming for my Daddy. That was when Grandma and Grandpa came and got me and I started living with them.

police car

(Image credit: police car)

“Your father was a mess in those days,” my brother in law said. You lived with Grandma and Grandpa and he married her. We all knew it would not work out, but your father was not the kind of man you questioned, if you remember.

“Did he have another child,” I asked, afraid of the answer.

“We never saw her,” said Jerry. “Your sister and I knew, but not anyone else.”

“Your stepmother had a fit when she found out,” Jerry said. “Your father and step mother married in another state and your father never told her he had been married to the second wife.” “They had to get a divorce, so that he could divorce the second wife.” “Then he remarried your step mother,” Jerry said.

I was shocked beyond belief. All that moral crap they had crammed down my throat when I was young, and here at forty years old I learn my father was a bigamist? And, he had another child!

I hung up the phone after thanking Jerry for explaining it all to me. Now what, I thought? I have a half-sister somewhere out there. Does she even know about me or my brother? I began the search for the half-sister I never knew I had.

Thanks for visiting me today.  I look forward to seeing you again,

Silver Threading

My Step Mother’s House

Blogging U 9.14

My step mother’s house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a dark-red brick house with ivy growing all over, which colored the house according to the seasons.  In fall, the house blared out in wild hues of red, copper, and orange ivy leaves.  In winter, the house seemed stark, naked.  In spring and summer, deep green leaves contrasted with the red brick.  I thought it looked the best in summer.

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(Image credit: Sparklestar)

The house belonged to my step mother and her alone.  My father was not on the deed.  The house had belonged to my step mother and her first husband, who was deceased.  She never let me forget that.  Everything in the house had been theirs.  Not ours – theirs.  I hated that!

This house was the only one like it in the neighborhood.  To a twelve-year-old girl who was already considered different, and only wanted to blend into the masses, the house was a great source of my discontent.  The red brink accented by pistachio green window trim just screamed, “Look at me, I am different!”  I hated it.

The house was not large by any means in fact, it was quite small.  There was a large brick and concrete front porch that was never used.  The porch was flanked on the left side by the largest picture window in the neighborhood. It looked like a huge glaring eye staring out into the street.

The front door was for company only. On the right side of the door was my step mother’s and father’s bedroom, and that also sported a smaller picture window.  The house always looked like it was winking or, was off-balance somehow.  I hated that too.

brick house

(Image credit: Brick house – not my step-mother’s house – just an example)

Inside my step mother’s house were two bedrooms, a den, a large kitchen, a living room, and one small bathroom.  There was a basement that encompassed the whole bottom floor that was accessed by a flight of stairs from the kitchen.

The basement contained a laundry area, a wood working room, another casual living area, and a pool table!  I was never allowed to play pool because the pool table held sentimental value to my step mother.  It belonged to her first husband.  I grew to hate that also.

The kitchen was the main living area of the house.  The walls were painted turquoise and bright red linoleum tiles covered the floor.  There was a round table skirted by three chairs nearest to the back door.  My father and step mother would come in after work and sit in those chairs and smoke and talk.  I was the only kid in the neighborhood or in any of my classes who had a “working” (step) mother.  I really hated that.

1970, the year I was twelve, was all about expression in the use of color within your home, and my step mother loved color.  Of course, I hated it.  In the bathroom, the sink, toilet, and tub were baby blue.  Pink tiles lined the walls.  My step mother added purple to the mix and the room was a psychedelic mess.  And, to make matters worse, there was no shower – only a bathtub!  I hated that worst of all.

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(Image credit: Psychedelic)

My bedroom was painted in a pale wedge-wood blue.  I had a comfortable double bed with many blankets to ward off the harsh Wisconsin cold.  There were curtains on the windows patterned with fall leaves.  I liked the way the coolness of the blue walls contrasted with the warm colors in the curtains.  White café curtains finished off the window decor and afforded me some privacy from the closeness of the neighbors.  My room felt like a sunny autumn afternoon.

Over my bed, hung three framed prints of birds from the Audubon Society;  a robin, a blue bird and a scarlet tanager.  They had belonged to my step mother’s first husband.  I did not mind them.  They were beautiful to me.

My father made me a wood desk which overlooked one of two windows in the room.  I sat at that desk reading, writing, doing homework, and dreaming of what I was going to become in the years ahead.  My bedroom, my sanctuary was the only room I liked in my step mother’s house.  Eventually, I would have to leave it all behind.

dreaming of life

Image credit: Dreaming of Life)

This was part of my Writing 101 assignment for today wherein we were to tell about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For our twist, we were to pay attention to — and vary — our sentence lengths.

Thanks for the great visit today.  I hope to see you again soon!

Silver Threading

My first German-Polish-Russian Christmas

I was born the fourth child to a German father from Kansas, and a Russian mother, who I was told was born on a boat coming to America. Apparently I was the by-product of a fabulous 35th birthday celebration that my father must have greatly enjoyed. I did the math and the numbers add up!

When I was three years old my mother suddenly died. My sister was married with a baby of her own (my niece, only one year younger than myself), and my brother was bundled off to live with my mother’s brother.

My father suffered from bouts of alcoholism and depression. He probably had PTSD considering he had served in World War II in Pearl Harbor and then again when the Korean Conflict flared up. He was not capable of taking care of a three year old girl, let alone himself.

In view of these facts, I lived with my grandparents on my father’s side of the family until I was about eight years old. My father had been seeing a woman. My grandparents instantly disliked her, and I am sure I felt some of that myself. It was no surprise then, when my father re-married and I was to have a step-mother!

My father and step mother were about 45 years old when they married, and I came to live with them at my step mother’s house. My step mother had never had children and hated them. Her favorite pastime was reminding me of that fact every chance she got. I lived within the shadows of her house staying in my room and out of the way of both of them. Truth be told, I was afraid of her. She terrified me.

I tried to be the girl she wanted me to be but, at eight years old I did not know what to do with someone like her. My step mother had grown up during the depression, raised by her grandparents who were strict with her. She applied those same rules to me. I lived in a child’s hell for many years.

In no time that first Christmas was suddenly upon us all and I wondered what the holiday would have in store for me. Christmas dinner was a lavish affair with my step mother’s German grandmother, and her first father in law in attendance.

I spent hours polishing silver for the table. China was brought up from crates in the basement and I washed and dried everything to a nice sheen. Table settings were of paramount importance to my step mother and I was instructed in the art of setting a formal dinner table.

Dishes

(Image credit: “Nostrovia.”)

There were candles and flowers placed in the middle of the table. Crystal glasses sparkled on the table. Napkins were folded and neatly placed to the right of each plate with the proper silverware on top. Mistakes were not tolerated!

My step mother cooked Sauerbraten, which is a German pot roast. It was her grandmother’s favorite. The sweet and sour gravy filled the house with a strong, but pleasant aroma. I remember we had mashed potatoes and broccoli. I recited the prayer I was told to say and our wine glasses were filled to the brim – including mine!  My father said, “Nostrovia,” and toasted all of us.  It was the first time I had felt part of a family in a long time.

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(Image credit: Sauerbraten)

Grandma was in her late eighty’s and a total character. She spoke more German than English and I loved her sense of humor. Papa, my step mother’s first father in law was a sweet Polish man. He was younger than Grandma, but not by much. Where I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin everyone was of a German or Slavic descent back then. It was a normal thing to me.

Grandma started drinking her wine and the next thing I knew she was singing the song “Silent Night,” in German to everyone at the table:

“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!”

We all clapped when she finished. Papa, not to be outdone by Grandma, started singing “Jingle Bells,” in Polish!

“Svankie Svania, Svankie Swania,

Svankie Sauie Chas!”

Grandma and Papa suddenly got up from their chairs and did a little waltz around my step-mother’s kitchen. It was sweet seeing the two of them swaying in each other’s arms to music only they heard in their heads. Just outside the kitchen window snow was falling lightly, glistening in the late afternoon light.

I remember feeling a peace and belonging that day. Little did I know that in the years to come my life would change drastically and those feelings would never be the same again.

Thanks for visiting and hearing my story.

This was part of our Writing 101 assignment where we were to tell  about our favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.  Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

Silver Threading