Is writing overly romanticized as a career

They sent Hansel and Gretel into the forest. They wanted to poison Snow White and had Cinderella cleaned. Every child knows that stepmothers are devious and evil. The fact that they're called bonus mothers these days doesn't change that.

The phenomenon of patchwork has long been romanticized, i.e. families in which at least one partner brings a child from a previous relationship with them. Because Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher were so pretty. And with Christian Wulff and his wife Bettina too. Above all, however, because what has long since become a social reality should not be a problem.

Germany's family counseling centers and therapists see it differently: an estimated half of new relationships break down again - the probability of separation is higher than among couples in their first marriage. So it is no coincidence that Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher as well as the Wulffs are separated again.

According to the experts, the constellation is particularly tricky when a man with children meets a new woman without children. "It is more difficult when one of the two has no child and therefore has less understanding for life with children," explains therapist Andrea Müller, who advises blended families near Munich. In addition, society's demands on a stepmother and her own make that particular constellation so difficult. Because the demands are high. Too high. "Very often those involved resolve to do everything right after something went wrong the first time," says Andrea Müller.

Stepmothers often have a harder time than stepfathers

It is not uncommon for the stepmother to be blamed for many problems. She was already the bad guy with Cinderella. Katharina Grünewald is herself the stepmother of two children and, as a psychologist, advises affected families in Cologne. She thinks being a stepmother is a pretty difficult job in a pretty difficult situation. "A stepmother should love and save the children who have been damaged by the separation. And be a mother from one moment to the next, even if she wasn't that before," she says. The enormous demands are due to the fact that our society fundamentally romanticizes the role of the mother excessively. Suddenly a lot is asked of a stepmother too.

This is less true of the stepfathers. Therefore, they often feel less burdened, less under pressure than a stepmother. If he cares, everyone around will find it admirable. If he doesn't care, there is understanding for it. A stepmother does not have this freedom.

The new man at her side, the father of the children, would like to live a "normal family" and offer his children one too, with visits to the zoo, game evenings, and vacation plans. After all, he only left his wife and not his children. And this time it should go well, please. "The unspoken and expressed expectations make it so difficult," says Katharina Grünewald. The father wishes that his partner should play along and that the children should be just as important and great as he is. "Basically, the image of poor children is very strong. Hardly a stepmother can defend themselves against this," says Grünewald. The children go first. And many women overwhelm themselves and put their needs aside.

The euphoria of the stepmothers usually overwhelms the children

Sonja, for example, who lived alone until four weeks ago, moves in with Robert in no time at all. Every day she does homework with his eight-year-old daughter Johanna instead of meeting friends and organizes an oversized birthday party for the little one. For six hours she tinkered with a cake full of marzipan princesses. When all the friends are there, Johanna says loudly: "I don't eat anything from the cake, it is from her and not from my mom." The euphoria of the stepmothers usually overwhelms the children.

The children often want their families back. If they are with dad, mom is missing. And vice versa. If they have seen their mother suffer from the separation, for example, they bring dad's new girlfriend into conflicts of loyalty. "Many children have the feeling that they are not allowed to get along with their father's new wife because they are betraying their mother," explains Grünewald. Therefore, they believe they have to distance themselves from the stepmother, especially when she has done something nice. How to bake a cake.

Whether this happens also has to do with the behavior of the ex-partner. Some people left behind turn the child into a partner substitute - one of the greatest problems for the abandoned, Grünewald knows.

The more a stepmother overwhelms herself, the more likely it is to have strange overreactions - "suddenly women really behave like an angry stepmother," says Grünewald, who has written a book on the subject. For example Sonja, a sensible woman who suddenly catches herself giving the crumpled strawberries to the stepchild and keeping the beautiful ones. Or how she freaks out when jackets land on the floor and crumbs next to the trash can.