The stepmother is fully ready to go – well, where else would she be?

Elsa Koester ist Freitag-Redakteurin. Am 11. Oktober 2023 erscheint ihr zweites Buch, Stiefmutter sein, bei Penguin. Abwechselnd mit Dorian Baganz, Özge İnan, Tadzio Müller und Alina Saha schreibt sie die Kolumne „Super Safe Space“.

The little one is hungry, so my partner is going to quickly buy fries with him. I go ahead because we are running late for Arianna’s choir concert, and I’m trying to get somewhat decent seats. But everything is already filled with parents, grandparents, and siblings. Only seats at the back left, damn it. There I meet an acquaintance, right, her daughter also sings in the choir. „Oh, you’re here too?“ she asks. „Yes, my partner’s daughter is singing!“ „Ah, wow, and the stepmother is fully involved, huh?“

Urgs. Unten, in den Bauch. Dieser dezente Hinweis: Selbstverständlich ist es nicht, dass du da bist. Würde mir andersherum doch nie einfallen: „Ah, wow, und die Mutter ist voll am Start, ja?“ Ich bin Stiefmutter geworden, vor über drei Jahren jetzt, und doch erwischt es mich immer kalt, dieses: „Ah, wow“, diese Irritation, diese hochgezogene Augenbraue bei „Stiefmutter“.

This is Arianna’s last choir concert, and I have always been there since she joined the choir two years ago. I have also been there throughout the madness of the past few months, commonly referred to as the „Abi-phase“. I have cooked, and I mean really cooked: for example, Capponata, which starts with sautéing onions for 45 minutes. I went through the 5th PK with her (for non-Abi parents: 5th examination component, a PowerPoint presentation on two subjects, like politics and biology: Can algae stop climate change?), until algae started growing out of my nostrils. I have listened to shouting, I have comforted tears. Of course, her father has done all of this too, but so have I. As a stepmother. And then the great joy: a grade average of 1.8!!! Incredible.

Even stepmothers are proud of their stepchildren.

There she stands, up front. And sings. I observe her realizing that this is her final moment standing there. I see her pushing out her chest, shaking her hair back, next to her is her best friend, also finished with school, both on the verge of setting sail into the world, I see the sparkle in their eyes. My chest tightens. I feel my eyes becoming moist, I wipe away a tear. I see Arianna wiping away a tear from the corner of her eye.

Arianna and I have not always had it easy when it comes to becoming a blended family. We were in difficult roles: stepdaughter and stepmother. We fought our way out of it. From the „you’re not my mother“ to „why do I wash, clean, and cook for you then?“. From jealousy and foolishness. And now she wants to travel the world after just three and a half years? I’m crying.

Then the magic is over, the concert is finished. My partner is standing with Arianna’s best friend’s parents. I approach them and they look at me questioningly. „This is Elsa,“ he says, and I extend my hand. „Arianna’s stepmother,“ I say. There is a brief hesitation, then they shake my hand. „Uh, okay.“

Why am I telling you all this? Because this society celebrates co-parenting, because it is completely emancipated and accepts the separation of parents, because we discuss all possible new forms of parenthood and are so open-minded, but when it comes to stepmothers, we wonder why they should be at the stepchildren’s choir concert? Seriously, what century are you all stuck in?