So wrong: Gwyneth Paltrow is so shy away being a step mother.
Gwyneth Paltrow, that font of familial wisdom, says she’s decided to live apart from her new husband because she doesn’t want to upset his two teenagers.
‘It’s pretty intense, the teenage thing,’ explains Gwynnie, who has a daughter, Apple, 14, and son Moses, 12, with ex-husband Chris Martin.
‘I’ve never been a stepmother before. I don’t know how to do it.’ None of us do, Gwynnie. I certainly didn’t when I became a stepmum.
Yet if she gets it even half right, her relationship with her stepchildren will bring life-long rewards.
That’s why I think she should move in with new husband Brad Falchuk, and truly become part of his family, whatever her apprehensions.
Yes, all stepmums face challenges. The children are immediately suspicious, indoctrinated from a tiny age to believe in ‘wicked’ stepmothers in fairytales — the ones who abandon Hansel and Gretel in the woods, poison Snow White, abuse Cinderella.
Then there are the resentful real mothers and ex-wives to contend with. Little wonder research shows stepmothers are more prone to anxiety and depression.
All I can say is, it’s worth confronting your fears and getting to know your stepchildren. My stepson, now in his mid-20s, is one of the abiding joys in my life. He and his girlfriend — and even his dad, whom I separated from a decade ago — will come to help me decorate the Christmas tree and we’ll spend time collapsed on sofas watching bad movies.
And that’s despite my being a pretty hopeless stepmum, unsure if my role was confidant, cleaner or counsellor. As for those teenage hormones Gwynnie’s talking about, they can turn a suggestion about unstacking the dishwasher into nuclear war.
You have to work at it, find a role, keep your distance when necessary and accept it when they say: ‘You can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my mother!’ Nothing can replace the bond between mother and child.
But the dividends are immense. When I first read of Gwynnie’s reluctance to take on the role, I thought she was just copping out. Yet as a deeply flawed stepmum myself, I can tell her she’s actually missing out.
In the past, Poldark actress Eleanor Tomlinson, 26, said she was reluctant to disrobe on screen, even in love scenes with Aidan Turner. ‘I won’t do it because I’m still so young and once it’s out there, it’s out there.’ Now she’s baring her perfect pertness for a lesbian love-in with Keira Knightley in movie Colette. My, hasn’t she grown up fast!