-I don't have step-parenting figured out. It's not always easy but we still have a good time and make the best of it and we have each other.' " Sara Leonardi-McGrath
Ten inspiring stories from the frontline of parenting, including Sara Leonardi-McGrath.
Stepmothers have a bad rap. Who gave Snow White the poisonous apple? Who enslaved Cinderella? Given that one in four Australian families are -blended', it's time to throw out the wicked stepmother image and give people a genuine account of what it's like to walk in her shoes. Stepmother Love tells the stories of ten women who have chosen to take on the challenge of making a positive contribution to the lives of their stepchildren. There are no white picket fences or rose–coloured glasses, but there are many enriching insights into these families' journeys to find happiness. This ground–breaking book reveals how these women overcame grief, hostility and even disinterest to build loving, long–term, trusting relationships with their stepchildren. There are millions of stepmothers working hard on their family relationships and Stepmother Love is an inspiring collection of stories that will uplift, help and support any woman who is doing the toughest parenting gig of all – as well as acknowledge their tough role and the courage it takes to make it work. Most importantly, Stepmother Love celebrates the commitment they show in the day–to–day care of stepchildren of all ages as an act of love.
Sally Collins is the proud stepmother of two wonderful young women and set up her popular website www.stepmotherlove.com to share ideas, inspiration and stories about one of the toughest gigs as a parent. Sally has eighteen years' experience in the corporate sector, is a registered psychologist and a Member of the Australian Psychological Society. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and their two young children.
Simon and Schuster
Author: Sally Collins
Question: What inspired you to write Stepmother Love?
Sally Collins: I wrote stepmother love because I was a stepmum wanting to hear real life stories about other stepmothers and find what had worked for them in building their new family. I struggled to find a book on the topic that was told in the stepmother's voice so I decided to take on the task and set about meeting with many different stepmothers to hear their stories. Once I started it became clear to me that there are many stories out there that needed to be told.
Question: Why do you believe being a stepmother is one of the toughest gigs as a parent?
Sally Collins: Being a step-parent is born of death or divorce. There almost could be no other tougher starting point for a new relationship. Yet this is what one in four Australian, one in three UK & one in two US families seek to do and the trend is rising around the world.
Question: How did you go about featuring stories from other stepmothers, including Sara Leonardi-McGrath?
Sally Collins: When I started the book I thought I would need to advertise for people to interview however in just mentioning the topic to friends and family I was quickly overwhelmed with offers of great stepmothers to meet. Our communities are full of them and often no one had ever asked them how they went about being a stepmother or how they felt about it.
I met Sara through a generous mutual friend who connected us as she rightly thought that this may something Sara would be interested in being involved with. I met with Sara to discuss and after a lot of intense chatting we knew we had made a productive connection and were on the same page for being advocates for stepmothers.
Question: What does it mean to you, to feature Sara Leonardi-McGrath and other stepmother's stories?
Sally Collins: I feel very privileged to be given permission by Sara and all of these other wonderful stepmothers to tell their stories. As I previously mentioned, often they have never been asked yet it is one of the biggest things they do in their lives – what does that say about our society and what we think of the role of stepmothers?
Sara of course is the exception to this rule and her life as a stepmother to Holly and James has been very public and has been under great scrutiny from the beginning. She has done a fantastic job in establishing strong and loving relationships with her step-children despite the intense spotlight.
Question: Who did you write Stepmother Love for?
Sally Collins: I wrote stepmother love for everyone but especially stepmothers, divorced parents, step-children, their families friends and the broader community. My intent was to help build some empathy for the role of stepmother. I have spoken to so many people now about this book and am yet to meet anyone who says that they do not have some exposure to a blended family and many have very direct experience; a friend, parent, sibling or workmate. Many people don't need to refer much past their family to draw on some experience of remarriage.
Question: And, what do you hope that they take away from the book?
Sally Collins: I hope people take away a new awareness for the important role a stepmother plays in making a new blended family work. I also hope that stepmothers take some hints, hope and inspiration from these stories to help make their journey easier and to feel more supported.
Question: How does Stepmother Love bust the myths and -bad rap' stepmothers have received?
Sally Collins: The stories in Stepmother Love allow us all to walk in the shoes of a stepmother and hear first- hand these challenges and how these women not just cope but manage very courageously some incredibly hard situations. I hope that Stepmother Love helps people to appreciate what is involved in being a stepmother and in doing so build some empathy for a role that has historically been so misunderstood and maligned. I also want to challenge the notion that we can't say stepmother and love in the same sentence.
Many stepmothers work very hard to build respectful and happy family relationships and this is an act of love for her partner and this children.
Question: What advice do you have for someone who is new to becoming a stepmother?
Sally Collins: Stepmother Love is full of advice for new stepmothers and in fact each chapter finishes with a list of favourite things and advice for new stepmothers. The most common tip is to allow things to develop naturally and at a pace set by the children as this is not something that can be forced or rushed.
I also know that acting with respect and with the children's best interests at heart is certain way to head in the right direction.
Interview by Brooke Hunter