Step-Monsters: The Evil Stepmother (or Stepfather) Scenario

We’ve all had experience with the “evil stepmother” myth in books and on the screen. Only it isn’t always such a myth. After marrying, one stepmom treated her stepkids so poorly that they opted to go live with their father. (Pittman, 1993, p. 272) Another child was abandoned to an orphanage after the man’s new wife refused to let him live with them. (ibid, p. 280) More common is that children simply drop out of the picture (or are pushed out), and lose connection with the parent that remarries because a stepmother or stepfather is making their life a living hell. Scores of children have suffered abuse at the hands of a stepparent.

Evil stepparents in real life

Throughout Africa, where children are more numerous and life itself a bit more precarious, a parent’s remarriage is indeed a dangerous proposition for any existing children. With fewer cultural and legal restraints on responsible behavior, underlying human nature comes out. Stories of stepmothers trying to poison stepchildren abound. Voodoo doctors receive steady business from stepparents looking to put a death curse on their stepchildren. The more benign ones simply stop feeding and taking care of their new love’s kids, slowly pushing them out by way of starvation. A large number of abandoned street kids ended up in this position by way of remarriage. When their mother or father remarried, they became unwanted children.

We’re fairly certain you or your new spouse would never resort to this level of maliciousness – though there may be brief moments when you’d like to. But the point is that these tales of horror belie and underlying reality: Stepfamily situations are not all roses and sunshine. They can be as much Manson family as Brady Bunch.

There’s a reason that stepfamily situations play a villainous role in stories like Snow White, Cinderella, or Hansel and Gretel. Like most myths, these stories survive and thrive because they speak to very real human emotions. Normal stepparents may not abandon their stepchildren to the streets, but they can feel the same sort of swirling emotions that drive other stepparents to do this. They can experience the same lack of allegiance to a stepchild; the same disdain for having to raise “someone else’s child”: the same desire to be free of the baggage that came with their mate. So even if the kids aren’t being left in the forest with nothing but breadcrumbs to find their way back, they may be dealing with a stepparent who sees them as a reviled burden – someone who doesn’t want them there.