Daily Mail Article - Tuesday Oct 25th 2006
First off, I am not a wicked stepmother. I don't have a poison apple, or a 'who's the fairest of them all?' mirror, and I have no intention of forcing my stepchildren to wear rags and be my slaves. But sometimes, if I'm brutally honest, I wish that my stepchildren didn't exist.
Even saying that makes me feel uncomfortable. It's just about the most selfish, darkest feeling I have ever had. I know the children, Simon, four, and Rachel, eight, are absolutely innocent (their names have been changed here to protect them). They're just two young individuals, growing, learning and starting to make their way in the world, and you couldn't ask for a nicer, friendlier, more loving pair.
Certainly, I don't wish for anything bad to happen to them; but the fact is that at times I just wish they'd never been born.
I know that people will be horrified by what I've said and I expect to be shot down in flames and abhorred. But I know that I am not alone in my feelings.
Many stepmothers, particularly those who like me don't have children of their own (and I'm including women who are partners, like myself, as well married people), feel exactly the same way. I know because they've confided in me. The only thing that marks me out is that I'm prepared to break the taboo and admit it publicly.
I was aware from the start that Mark had children. We met at work and got together in April 2003, a few months after he had left his wife. Ironically I was brought up in a stepfamily myself - my parents split up when I was five and my mother met my stepfather when I was 12. She married him three years later.
I adored my stepfather, so I didn't think Mark's children would be a problem. I assumed that my own experience would give me insight and understanding. It didn't, really. Many times, I have been shocked by my own thoughts and emotions - I can't believe that I have this antipathy to two innocent little beings.
I didn't meet Mark's children straightaway. We wanted to give them time to get used to the idea of their parents being apart, before someone new came into their lives. So, for six months, I made myself scarce at weekends.
Then they asked to meet me. I was nervous, terrified even. My life before Mark had been that of a London single girl about town, spent in bars and clubs with people my own age. None of my friends had children yet and there were no youngsters in my family, so I had no experience of talking to young people. We'd arranged for them to be at home before I arrived, so it would seem as if someone had come to visit them and so they felt comfortable.
I walked in and they were watching a cartoon. We started chatting about their favourite cartoon characters and other things that interested them. To my relief, we got on like a house on fire and felt comfortable with each other.
After that, I started to see them more frequently. Today, Mark and I see the children once a week and have them over every other weekend, and some part of the holidays. I have to admit, they are terrific kids and I'd say that we are now becoming really good friends.
For example, Rachel and I have our own girls' page on the computer, which the boys aren't allowed to look at. We'll put messages and recipes on it for each other. I genuinely hope that as they get older, my relationship with my stepchildren will strengthen and grow.
But that doesn't stop my blackest thoughts because at the end of the day I don't love them. I have no desire to be a mother figure to them. Yes, I like them enormously. Yes, I'm very fond of them. Yes, I'd go out of my way to help and protect them. But love? It isn't there.
It took Mark a long time to understand that he couldn't expect me to love his children simply because he does. Of course it upset him greatly when I told him that I didn't love them. But I explained that love doesn't happen overnight, after all it took me a long time before I could tell my stepfather I loved him.
It wasn't until a few months later that my dark feelings about them began to surface. I remember watching Mark playing with them one afternoon and realising, to my utter horror, that instead of pleasure I felt jealousy and resentment.
Rationally, I know it's ridiculous. It's obviously a good thing that Mark loves his children and is a great father, especially as we plan to have our own. But I hate the fact that while there's only one important person in my life - Mark - he has three important people. I will always have to share him.
The fundamental conflict at the heart of our relationship is this:
I have begun to look at my friend, who are now settling down and starting families of their own, and to acknowledge that I feel intense jealousy towards them too. They are beginning this amazing adventure with their partners, with no baggage, no preconceptions and no ties to former partners.
I know that I will never have that because he has already had it with his ex-wife.
Our lives together are geographically, financially and temporarily dictated by his previous circumstances. The fact that he has been married and had children means that, right now, I can't do those things.
We simply can't afford to get married or have our own children at the moment because every single spare penny we have goes towards paying maintenance for his children and that makes me very angry and embittered.
I live in a sleepy Berkshire village, not because I choose to, but because it's 20 minutes away from Mark's children.
Once, we went to Bath for the weekend and we fell in love with the place. I said: 'I could really see myself living here' and Mark agreed. But we both knew it was just a pope dream. It could never happen because it would be too far away from the children.
Mark and I can't even go on a summer holiday on our own because by the time we've had a holiday with the kids, there isn't enough money to spare.
Sometimes, when the children are playing up - for instance, if they won't put their toys away or if they won't get dressed after the third time of asking, I just want them to go away, so Mark and I can spend some time alone.
We have no privacy. They'll bound into our bedroom in the morning or walk in on me when I'm in the bathroom and it makes me feel very uncomfortable.
I have all the disadvantages of having young children, without the advantages - the feelings of love and pride - of having my own. Often, things we plan together fall apart because of the children.
We were supposed to be going to a New Year's Eve party, but had to stay home because Mark's ex assumed we'd take the children that night/ Mark and I ended up having a huge row. It wasn't about the party - which seems so small and petty - it was about the fact that he's chosen to have kids with his ex-wife.
He's admitted his failed marriage was a mistake and time and time again, I feel I am being punished for the results of that mistake. I know he can't change the past, but the knowledge of that 'mistake' is always there, bubbling under the surface. And in moments of anger, that is what, I am ashamed to say, I throw at him.
There is nothing more infuriating that people who say 'you knew what you were getting into when you started seeing Mark'. I have absolutely no doubts or regrets about being with him.
He is the man I have fallen in love with, He is the man I know I want to spend the rest of my life with. We bring out the best in each other. We may not yet be married, fro the reason I explained above, but I still stand by him, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.
I could just do with a little help and support during those 'for worse' moments. That why I wanted to be able to let off steam by talking to other stepmums.
There are, as far as I can see, roughly three categories of childless stepmums: those who plan to have children, those who can't have children (either because they're unable to or their partner has had a vasectomy or doesn't want anymore) and those who have never wanted their own and never will.
The biological mother could be just down the road or have passed away. The children might be small toddlers or large teenagers.
Each situation throws up its own problems. Some of the stories have heard break my heart. There are women who have become depressed because they feel so guilty about their lack of feelings for their stepchildren and whose marriages have fallen apart under the pressures.
Some childless stepmums are mortified to admit their true feelings. One woman admitted she was sexually jealous of her husband's teenage daughter because she was young and pretty and her husband doted on her. She felt she was competing for his affections.
I can understand why there are so many stories about wicked stepmothers, from Greek mythology to Hansel and Gretel.
If you don't have someone to talk to, a way to release your emotions, it's quite possible that you will take your anger and resentment out on the children.
My forum is a place to vent your anger and frustrations. Most important, it is a virtual meeting place to share your feelings and emotions, where you will discover that you are not alone and that somehow, with the support of others in similar situations, you can come to terms with your circumstances. And of course, childless stepdads are welcome too.
And the future? I do worry about what will happen when Mark and I have children of our own and how it will affect my relationship with his children.
I know I will have to make time for Simon and Rachel, to make sure I don't exclude them. Mark and I have had stupid arguments about it - I've even accused him of potentially no loving our future children as much as he loves Simon and Rachel.
This may all sound terrible but by being honest, and reaching out to others in the same situation, we stepmums can help each other.