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Good Stepmother

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“When Beau and Hunt had been asked about their ‘stepmom,’ Jill, they said, ‘Oh no, we don’t have a stepmom.’ Beau and Hunter had long since made their choice: Jill was Mom.”

The trope that stepmothers are prone to loathe and mistreat their stepchildren can be found in fairy tales and folklore all over the world. So common are Evil Stepmothers that inverting that trope will make things interesting.

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Cue the Good Stepmother, a woman who ends up making the life of her stepchildren better. Far from plotting to get her stepchildren out of the way to secure the family fortune for herself, she instead acts as a mentor or protector to her stepchildren and shows genuine affection for them. Plots usually feature Good Stepmothers as supporting characters who help their fosterlings (the protagonists) succeed in life and "make their fortune".

To fill this role, the Good Stepmother is exceptionally clever and resourceful. Often there is even something supernatural about her, making her somewhat similar to a Fairy Godmother. This tale type also likes to take elements of the well-known Wicked Stepmother stereotype and turn it on its head—for example, the Good Stepmother is quite frequently an actual witch, but one who uses her powers for the benefit of her stepchildren.

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The stepchildren do not have to be actual children. More typically they are teenagers or young adults. Because of that, the Good Stepmother is not always a Parental Substitute. If the stepmother has children of her own, she will get along well with the children of the first wife, and may even form a team. Good Stepmothers are also the norm in dom coms which feature a blended family. Often, there will be an episode dealing with how the stepchildren fear their stepmother or expect her to be wicked, and are then proven wrong.

It wouldn't be rare for the Good Stepmother to want to secure a portion of the fortune for herself. In such a case, the fortune might actually be better maintained, and she'll spend her share wisely, not necessarily perfectly.

Compare and contrast Happily Adopted, which involves an adoptive family, not just a stepmother. Often Truth in Television.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Parade, Yousuke's mother was very abusive and neglectful to him and when she eventually abandoned him and his father, his father remarried and Yousuke's stepmother was a very kind and loving parent in contrast with his real mother. Sadly, Yousuke never accepted her and became depressed to the point of suicide. In fact, in the afterlife, his biggest regret was that he never got the chance to call his loving stepmother "Mom".
  • Bell-Mere from One Piece is a Mama Bear who sacrificed her life to protect her adopted daughters Nami and Nojiko.

    Comic Books 
  • Batwoman: Colonel Jacob Kane remarries when his daughter(s) are adults. She is really invested in being a part of her child's/niece's life, and goes out of her way to be helpful.
  • When Tim Drake's father marries Dana Winters in Robin, she helps Tim and his father to resolve disputes by going out of her way to get Tim's side of the story when his father refuses to allow him to speak for himself and jumps to conclusions and by reminding Jack that he said he was going to spend more time with Tim. She and Tim get along great and she regularly acts as a voice of reason for him with his father but she never becomes very close to Tim due to his age when she becomes a part of the family and her untimely death.
  • Andrea from the comic version of The Walking Dead becomes this to her stepson Carl over time. After the Time Skip the two are fairly affectionate and call each other "mom" and "son" without any problems or issues. Even on her literal death bed, Andrea spends part of what little time she has left to give Carl some good advice.
  • In Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy (a modern graphic novel adaptation of Little Women), the March family is blended. In this retelling, Mrs. March is a white single mother of Jo who then meets and marries Mr. March, an African-American widower who is raising his daughter, Meg. They have two more daughters together, Beth and Amy. Like Phineas and Ferb, it's hard to tell they're a blended family since all four refer to both parents as Mom and Dad.

    Fairy Tales 
  • For some reason or other, this seems to be popular in Icelandic fairy tales:
    • "The Horse Gullfaxi and the Sword Gunnfoder" takes a premise that is typical for Wicked Stepmother stories and completely subverts it: A widowed king marries a new wife who is actually a half-troll. Eventually, the new queen's full-troll sister lays a curse on the king's son, Sigurd, which he then succeeds in lifting with the help and advice of his stepmother. In the end, Sigurd rescues his stepmother from being burned at the stake under false accusations of murdering her stepson.
    • In "Hild the Good Stepmother and Princess Ingibjorg", Ingibjorg's (real) mother puts a Dying Curse on her own daughter. Her father's new wife, Hild, befriends Ingibjorg until she reveals the cause of her despondency, and with Hild's resourcefulness the two women eventually lift the curse.

    Fan Works 
  • Batman/Catwoman fics where Bruce and Selina tie the knot will typically make Selina, who is a Friend to All Children in canon, one to Bruce's adopted children and biological son, Damian.

    Film 
  • In The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), Helen's love for her 8-year-old stepson Jacob convinces the alien Klatuu that humanity is redeemable after all, which is why he desists from destroying humanity.
  • Discussed in Enchanted: Morgan is fretful about the prospect of getting a stepmother because her only knowledge of them comes from fairy tales like "Snow White" and "Cinderella." However, both her father's initial girlfriend, Nancy, and his new love interest, Giselle, are very friendly and supportive of her.
  • Man Of The House 1995 is about a good stepfather who goes out of his way to gain his stepchild's trust and acceptance. In the film, lawyer Jack proposes to Ben's mother some time after her husband ran off with his secretary, disillusioning Ben and making him distrustful of male figures in his life. Through joining the Indian guides (a Boy Scout knockoff) which they initially both find to be dumb and stupid, as well as fighting off a pair of goons who are after Jack's head because he's prosecuting their boss, the two bond as a stepfather and son and Jack is allowed to marry Ben's mother.
  • In Nanny McPhee, Evangeline is the Brown family's scullery maid who settles fights between the children (and is in love with their father). The children and Evangeline talk about why they're acting out and she tries to help. Their father, Cedric Brown, hasn't paid attention to them since their mother died but they don't want a stepmother because of the fairy tales. By the end of the movie, Cedric and Evangeline marry.
  • The Sound of Music: Julie Andrews' character is hired as a governess who develops a dear fondness for the Von Trapp kids. After falling in love with the Baron Von Trapp, she is set to become this trope; when they marry and return from their honeymoon, the children call her "Mother."
  • Stepmom is all about a woman trying to bond with her boyfriend's leery children and to make peace with his former wife.

    Literature 
  • In L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables: Rainbow Valley, the minister's motherless children are told by another child that all stepmothers are wicked, it comes with the role. Nevertheless, the youngest goes to persuade a woman to marry her father because her father is so miserable since she rejected him, and in Rilla of Ingliside, it is clear that she is a perfectly lovely stepmother.
  • While not married yet, Cady from the Arcadia Bell Series by Jenn Bennet has a great relationship with her boyfriend Lon's teenage son, Jupe, who sees her like a Cool Big Sis.
  • In Children of Dune, Irulan is for all intents and purposes Leto and Ghanima's stepmother, being married to their biological father, Paul Atreides, and she loves them as if they are her own children. Unfortunately for her, her Stupid Evil sister Wensicia tries to kill the twins, souring her relationship with them.
  • In book 5 of Gesta Danorum, the sorceress Kraka, second wife to a Norwegian lord, cooks a meal for both her stepson Erik and her own son Roller, but prepares Roller's share with the slaver of a magical snake, which will make him smarter and luckier. But Erik and Roller swap plates, and the spell is upon Erik instead. Rather than being angry at Erik, Kraka decides that from now on, Erik should be the leader of the brothers. She also promises that her magic will aid Erik whenever he calls her name, and helps him in outwitting King Gotar of Norway. When Gotar's assassins attack Erik in his bed, he calls out his stepmother's name, whereupon a shield happens to fall from the rafters, covering his body and saving his life.
  • Howl's Moving Castle: Living in a world filled with fairy tale tropes and their lampshades and aversions, Sophie's stepmother Fanny shows first antagonistic shades before revelation of her best intentions toward both her own daughter Martha and her stepdaughters Sophie and Lettie. The thing is, she loves her daughters equally, but her judgement is flawed.
    • More specifically: Fanny sends Martha to study magic under a famous teacher, but sends Lettie to work in a bakery and Sophie to work in the family-owned hat store. It first appears favoritism, but turns out that she actually believed them to be the best life choices for her daughters: Martha is the youngest child, so she is already destined to have most exciting and lucky life, and having magical skills could help her even more; Lettie is popular among guys, so working in bakery helps her finding a husband quickly; and meek, eldest Sophie can have a secure income in the hat store.
    • That said, Martha and Lettie didn't agree with Fanny, causing them to quietly trade places using transformation spells and making her decisions look more antagonistic. Martha is especially eager to call her mom out for trying to decide what is best for each daughter, and also further badmouths her by revealing the issue below.
    • More antagonistic-looking appearance is upon the revelation of that Sophie's hats are extremely popular in the town, and Fanny lives a rich socialite life on Sophie's earnings. Turns out, this was not due to malicious intentions; she genuinely thought that Sophie was happy working in the hat store.
    • And she is also ready to stab Howl with her parasol when she thinks he caused Sophie to turn into an old woman!
  • The Ray Bradbury short story "I Sing the Body Electric". A robot nanny is brought in as a therapist to help children complete the grieving process for their dead mother.
  • Mercy Thompson who is beloved by Jesse, the daughter of her hot, werewolf neighbor Adam. Jesse looks up to Mercy like a Cool Big Sis, and likes Mercy even more when Adam and Mercy end up dating and then marrying.
  • In the original novel of The Princess Bride, Prince Humperdinck has a stepmother, Queen Bella. He always calls her "Evil Stepmother" (or simply "E.S." for short) because all fairy tale stepmothers are, and he was still a little boy when she married his father. In reality she's very nice, and she and Humperdinck are quite fond of one another; the way he treats her is actually one of his best qualities.
  • In the Old Icelandic Saga of Bosi and Herraud, the brothers Bosi and Smid are after their mother's death raised by their father's magically skilled concubine, Busla. When Bosi incurs King Hring's wrath and awaits his execution, Busla persuades the king to let Bosi live by demonstrating her magic powers and threatening to lay a terrible curse on the king. Later, when Bosi and Smid are hard-pressed in battle against the sorcerous King Harek of Bjarmaland, Busla comes to their aid in the shape of a giant bird, saving her stepsons again at the cost of her own life.
  • When her stepsons Erik and Agnar are killed by king Eystein Beli, Aslaug of The Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok weeps a single tear of blood for them (which is a lot, as she never cries). Afterwards, she persuades her biological sons to avenge their stepbrothers, and even personally leads an army against Eystein, eventually defeating and killing him.
  • A Tale Of... the Wicked Queen is a Perspective Flip prequel to Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It's shown that the Evil Queen started out as a kind and loving stepmother who adored her stepdaughter like she was her biological child. Eventually, she warped into the evil stepmother.
  • After having a bad stepfather in the first book, the titular Percy Jackson of Percy Jackson and the Olympians gets a good stepfather by the final book of the first series.
  • While he fails to live up to his promise to Take Care of the Kids, John Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility has an otherwise perfectly amiable relationship with his father's second wife, the mother of his three half-sisters. The narrative notes that she has always treated him kindly and he in turn is very respectful toward her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kelly, Rick's second wife on American Restoration, is shown to have a good relationship with Tyler, his son from his first marriage.
  • On Arrow, Felicity Smoak is arguably a better parent to William than his father Oliver Queen (partially because William has less baggage with her than he does with his father, whom he both worries is going to get himself killed and also blames for the death of his mother).
  • On The Brady Bunch, Carol did such a good job raising the boys, the fact that she is their stepmother is never even mentioned beyond the pilot - except in one episode (season 1, #10) when Bobby, after watching Cinderella on TV, and being told to clean out the fireplace, convinces himself that Carol is a Wicked Stepmother. His use of the word "step"mother eventually provokes this reply:
    Carol: The only steps in this house are those (points to staircase), which go right up to your bedroom.
  • In The Fosters, though generally given a relatively secondary role, Lena fully intends to and does play a positive parental role in her stepson Brandon's life.
  • Invoked and Played With in the 1981 Chilean Telenovela La Madrastranote  (as well remakes like the Mexican one), in which a rich woman is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned in jail for 20 years, the father of her 3 children told them their mother was dead to avoid the shame. After those years, she was freed and comes back to the house to get revenge on the people who accused her, as well as 'adopt' her children (now adults who don't remember the image of their mother) and marry her husband once again under another name, becoming the "stepmother".
  • In Moesha, Dee, who is Frank's second wife, acts like a mother figure to Moesha and Myles.
  • In The Nanny, Fran becomes the beloved stepmom of the Sheffield children, having gained their love and trust ages before her Relationship Upgrade with their father.
  • In Once Upon a Time, the Evil Queen, who was previously Snow White's evil stepmother, adopts a baby named Henry and raises him as her own. While she never goes beyond becoming an Anti-Villain, her love for Henry brings out her redeeming values and plays a large role in her eventual Enemy Mine truce with Snow White.
  • In the last season of Pretty Little Liars, Spencer learns that her mother's actually Mary Drake, meaning Veronica's her stepmother. The two always had a good relationship, and once Spencer gets over the shock, that doesn't change.
  • Raising Hope: Once Jimmy and Sabrina marry, she is this to Jimmy's daughter Hope. Eventually she adopts Hope. She actually showed maternal instincts for Hope way before she became Jimmy's girlfriend/wife when she saved Hope from a gun toting mama. Sabrina also tries real hard to make sure Hope has a good childhood.

    Video Games 
  • In Ballad of Rapunzel, the seventh installment of the Dark Parables series, Rapunzel is the daughter of the King of Floralia by his first wife Violante; diary entries are found written by his second wife, Melanie, expressing her desire to be a good stepmother to the child.
  • In the backstory of the major religion of Dragon Age, the resident Crystal Dragon Jesus Andraste was a Deity of Human Origin. During her mortal life, she was married to an Alamarri warlord, Maferath, by whom she eventually had two daughters; however, he also had three sons by his concubine. After the concubine's death when the boys were quite young, Andraste raised them, and as far as they (and history) were concerned she was their mother.
  • Fire Emblem Fates features a Big, Screwed-Up Family on both sides due to Corrin and Azura having ties to both yet surprisingly not actually being related by blood to anyone except each other. Among these is Mikoto, who is a good stepmother to the Hoshidan Royal family, since she loves Ryoma, Hinoka, Takumi, and Sakura as if they are her own children. (Even Azura, though Azura is her niece.) Sumeragi also played a male role to Corrin, since he is not Corrin's actual father, and when Corrin learns the truth, Corrin may say that Sumeragi really was his/her father. The stepfather on the Nohrian side of things, on the other hand...
  • Life Is Strange: Before the Storm
    • The major twist of episode 2 turns out to be that Rose is actually this to Rachel Amber. Sera, the woman she and Chloe saw kissing her father, James, is Rachel's biological mother, who James divorced and cut out of his and Rachel's life because of her drug habit. James argues that Rose might as well be Rachel's mother, although Rachel herself is more conflicted on the matter.
    • David, Chloe's future stepfather, tries to be this trope (if only for Joyce's sake), but is Doomed by Canon to have a very strained relationship with her by the time of the original game where he fits much better into the other trope (although not without his redeeming qualities).
  • In The Walking Dead Season 3, Kate is this towards Mariana and Gabriel. Right in the beginning she tells Jarvi how much she loves them and they will also often refer to her as Mom. She also survived 5 years protecting them from zombie hordes.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Triangle Heart 3 and the Lyrical Nanoha Spin-Off series, Nanoha is Momoko Takamachi's only biological daughter: Kyouya Takamachi is Momoko's husband's illegitimate son from an earlier relationship, while Miyuki Takamachi is, in fact, Kyouya's cousin who has been given a new identity to protect her from assassins who wiped out her own family. Nonetheless, Momoko cares equally about all three of her children and is shown to be a loving and understanding mother to them.

    Web Original 
  • Min-Seong from The Friendly Winter is a boy who lives with his stepmother Seo-Ha. He thinks she's the sweetest and most beautiful woman on the planet.
  • Summer Rose from RWBY, was, by all accounts, as loving to her stepdaughter Yang as she was to her biological daughter Ruby, to the point that Yang didn't even find out they weren't biologically related until after Summer's death. Yang continues to hold her in high regard in the present day, referring to her as a "Super Mom" when relating her backstory to Blake.

    Webcomics 
  • In Kevin & Kell, Kell is a loving mother to her stepdaughter Lindesfarne, who accepts her fairly easily, partly because Kell is a vast improvement over Lindesfarne's adoptive mother, Angelique. Kevin also loves and cares for his stepson Rudy, even though Rudy initially tries to challenge Kevin for the position of alpha male.

    Western Animation 
  • Halfway into As Told by Ginger, Lois begins dating a doctor. Carl gets quite attached to Dave easily. His older sister Ginger is a bit more apprehensive at first. She at one point has a fairy-tale Imagine Spot where he is a wicked stepfather, and later Miranda tries to instill worries in her about Dave being her new father. Eventually Ginger does warm up to Dave too. Lois and Dave end up engaged and the finale is about their wedding.
  • In Phineas and Ferb, if it weren't for the hyphenated names and mixed accents, you wouldn't even be able to tell that this is a blended family. The phrases "stepchildren" and "stepsiblings" are virtually never used. Neither parent shows any preferences between biological and stepchildren, and that extends to even the shown grandparents treating all the kids equally.
  • In Rugrats, Chuckie initially worries that Kira will be like the stepmother from Cinderella. She's actually quite nice and caring. One episode even has her adopting him legally (and likewise, Chas adopts her daughter Kimi).
  • In Sofia the First, Sofia's mother, Miranda, marries King Roland II and is a kind and loving stepmother to his children, Amber and James. She acknowledges there aren't many stories with good stepmothers, so it drives her to be as good as she can. Roland, meanwhile, is also a kind and loving stepfather to Sofia.

    Real Life 
  • In Bangladeshi culture, widows with young children are often advised to marry again, as it is perceived a good woman is needed to make the family whole again.
  • Serbian princess Mara Brankovic was a close confidant of her stepson, Sultan Mehmed II, conqueror of Constantinople. Married to his father, Murad II, to secure a political alliance, she chose to remain at the Ottoman court after his death, spurning a proposal from the Byzantine Emperor in the process. Mara advised her stepson and acted as a diplomatic agent on his behalf when negotiating with other powers.
  • Margaret of France, the second wife of King Edward I of England, was this to her stepson, Prince Edward (the future King Edward II). The two were reportedly fond of one another (unsurprising, as Edward was only 6 when his mother, Eleanor of Castile, died), and Edward II once gave Margaret a gift of an expensive gold and ruby ring. Margaret was also totally lacking in jealousy, to the point where she named her only daughter Eleanor after her husband's beloved first wife.
  • Countess Teresa Guiccioli acted as a loving mother to her lover Lord Byron's daughter, Allegra, who had never known a stable parental figure. Teresa visited her as she recovered from an illness and gave Allegra her own childhood toys to play with, and persuaded Byron to have Allegra educated at a convent because of her own happy upbringing there. Allegra called her mammina, or mommy.
  • Sarah Bush Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's stepmother, had a close relationship with her stepson and never treated him any differently from her own children. She's also credited for giving Abe his famous sense of humor.
  • Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin's second wife, was close to her stepson, Yakov, who was only a few years younger than her. When Yakov attempted suicide after his father forced him to break up with his fiancée, Nadezhda rushed to his side to comfort him, called a doctor, and stopped the bleeding. Stalin, in contrast, remarked, "He can't even shoot straight."
  • The House of Tudor can't help having a number of stepmothers in the ranks, considering how many times Henry VIII was married, and three of them fit this trope:
    • His third wife Jane Seymour (mother of Edward VI) was a kindly stepmother to Henry's daughters Mary and Elizabeth, eventually helping them both to be reinstated to the family circle and even naming Mary as Edward's godmother.
    • Wife #4, Anne of Cleves, wasn't the children's stepmother for long, but she established a good relationship with all three of them which lasted for the rest of her life; she and Henry divorced amicably and became Like Brother and Sister, letting her transfer from this trope to that of Honorary Aunt.
    • Catherine Parr, wife #6, was a Protestant, so her bond with the very Catholic Mary was distant at best, but she was close to Edward and Elizabeth and even became Elizabeth's guardian after Henry's death.

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