20 June 2016


Step Back Website

I first met Margit Bernard through a mutual friend, who told me Margit was looking for a writer to help create an heirloom memoir, intended as a gift from her husband to his grandchildren. At our first lunch, we immediately recognized a comfort level between us; she invited me to meet her husband, to see if he and I would find a similar rapport. After we shared a delightful dinner, they decided to move forward with me on the project.

During the months we spent producing the memoir, Margit occasionally spoke to me of a book she’d been working on for a few years, and asked if I’d cast my editorial eye on her notes. I already enjoyed working with Margit. The fact that her book was about stepmotherhood, and she wanted it to be an unvarnished portrayal, captivated me. I had my own perspective on the subject: I’d been a stepmother for 16 years.

It isn’t terribly difficult to find an editor with a command of the language; it’s a bigger challenge to find an editor who hears the writer’s heart. Margit felt she’d found in me more than someone who’d organize her ideas and check her grammar. Because we are like-minded about many aspects of life, our ability to finish each others’ thoughts regarding relationships, spirituality, marriage, and parenting made our work together enjoyable, almost effortless. Although she has a decidedly European voice, I knew Margit’s theories would be familiar to any woman in any part of the world who has married a man with children, and it was my job to make her ideas readily accessible.

While working on Margit’s book, it was inevitable that I’d find myself wandering through memories of my own time as a young stepmother. I remember being in a continual struggle to find a balance between the little joys and the enormous challenges, at a point in my life when informed stepmothering advice was nonexistent. What would I have given to be supported by at least one other person whose own experience could guide me - or, at the very least, comfort me? I wish I’d known a woman like Margit when I was twenty-five.

It is always a pleasure to work with a person whose integrity is intact, whose confidence in her understanding is unqualified. Margit’s candor about her own experiences as a stepmother, with her realistic clarity of hindsight, her search for a balance between heart, mind and soul, and especially her enthusiastic desire to help her fellow stepmothers find each other and support each other, comprise the core of her value. These attributes are precisely what I needed in an advisor when I embarked on my journey as a stepparent. Margit shines a bright light on the road, helps us recognize the pitfalls, suggests course corrections designed to protect the woman first, then the wife, then the stepmother, helping us to be more informed and better prepared stepmothers.
My mother recently referred to Margit as “the godmother of stepmothers” and, after 50 years in the role, she has unquestionably earned that moniker. I needed Margit when I was a stepmother. You may very well need her as much as I did. Fortunately, you now have her wit and her wisdom as your guide.

Alexandra Barnes Leh
Los Angeles, California