From as far back as I can recall, being a mother was something I had expected to be. It was not exactly something I planned for but was always there in the background as an expectation. Being a stepmother was not something I anticipated. But that is what I became.
Call it social conditioning, call it inferiority complex, the term “stepmother” has negative connotations. Fairy stories tell us they are wicked and work very hard to kill the offending offspring.
Having been on the end of some ungrateful behaviour from my stepchildren and it has taken many hours of reading step-parent guide books, and more than a decade of time, for this to alter. Missteps have been made on both sides and maturity has helped me realise that not all of it was directed at me personally (at least I hope not).
I have come to the conclusion that much of what has come to pass is not dissimilar to the way I had treated my own parents during my teenage years. I have learned that motherhood, in whatever form it takes, does not come with a handbook. That it comes down to doing the best you can, under the circumstances you are in, with the resources that you have, in the social times that have shaped you.
I have learned that my mother does not have endless patience, and that it’s OK to call a halt to wearying behaviour.
That although she appears gentle and malleable and amenable, underneath is a steel core which has carried her through many years of upheaval, times of isolation and loss.
That although she appeared to lean on her partner she was in fact self sufficient enough to stand alone when he was absent, to bring up 4 children during their formative years without much family support, and to pick up and carry on alone when he passed away 50 years later.
That her hurts are hidden deep and not trotted out for general consumption.
That her advice is given only when asked for and metted out with diplomacy.
That she is generous with her time and her love -never wavering in either.
This is a portrait of my mother.
Someone generous enough to pose before my lens, not because it was what she wanted but because it was something I wanted.
Someone I love and strive to emulate.