Well, I had my first official professional-writing-endeavor-rejection. In short, I sense I am being told I am too provocative or confrontational. The business-side of me can certainly understand how various websites and publications must safe guard against what might be deemed defamatory and/or liability-inducing content. Yet, the academic, scholarly side of me sets its feet, throws its head back, and sends forth a “Rebel Yell” (thank you, Billy Idol). So, the content I originally crafted will probably never see the light of—publication—day, but I will certainly share my unabridged thoughts in the blog-o-sphere!
Recently, I stumbled upon a couple of articles that made me angry, and for those who know me, this is a big deal. I am not easily angered or disturbed. Let it be known, when I say “articles,” I am not talking about writing found on someone’s personal website. I am referring to articles published in high-volume print and online magazines, promoted and stamped with celebrity names and statuses. Let’s just say these articles are in the mainstream not the periphery.
Fuel for the rage tank…
“Something’s got to give, and neatness should be it. If the situation is desperate and the kids are growing subspecies in their space, get Dad to go in there and organize a cleanup. Life is messy, and it’s even messier when you choose a man with children. But remember: it’s better to have a man with kids than one without kids who flosses his cat’s teeth.”
“You’re better off being wicked.”
These are direct quotes taken from Rosemary Rogers’ article 12 Things a Stepmother Should Never Say, featured in the May 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
Like The Matrix, I cannot tell you what the article is; YOU must read it for yourself. Formulate your own opinions then grace me with your thoughts. In the meantime, read on to see why I am so outraged.
An Excerpt from my formalized retort:
Rogers’ eight admonition glosses over the real, on-the-ground, experience of the stepmom role in the blended family. For example, prior to marrying me, my husband and his mom instructed his kids to see me as a figure of authority and trust. Therefore, it is necessarily part of my role and responsibility to care for, interact with, and discipline—as necessary—the kids as set forth by me and my husband. I relay important information about the kids and my interaction with them to my husband. There are several issues involving the kids, accountability, and discipline of which he takes the lead, because particular instances call for his direct involvement. Yet, overall, as adult friend, guardian, and parental-figure (whichever term “we” land upon to denote the role of stepmom) the implementation of accountability, discipline, and respect are enacted. Moreover, it does not mean that I or the kids think of me (myself) as their Mom simply because I hold them accountable in ways that are healthy for children, and this includes picking up after themselves in appropriate ways. Heck, even some babysitters ask kids to pick up after themselves! Think about it.
There are several existing and emerging blogs and websites that propose helpful suggestions for the healthy formation of blended families. I am not suggesting that all articles, writings, and postings on stepmom and blended family have to deal only in positives. In other words—when taken on a case-by-case basis—there are likely to be drama-ridden, if not harmful, actions taken on behalf of SOME stepparents (stepmoms) that sow to the detriment of healthy blended families. Commentaries made in response to SPECIFIC “bad” behaviors and habits are necessarily important to stepmom conversations. However, a problem exists in the fact that retorts addressed to SPECIFIC situations, dynamics, interactions, and behaviors have been taken up as POPULAR, MAINSTREAM, GENERALIZED discourse lumping stepmom into a perpetual valence of reproach, repulsion, revile.
Stepmom articles do not anger me because they offer admonishments—NUMEROUS PARENTING ARTICLES ARE FRAMED AROUND ADMONISHMENTS. Anger arises because such articles are sardonic and antagonistic while being reductionist. There are huge differences between offering advice and broaching a topic with generalized disdain and sarcasm.
I cannot emphasize enough my overall argument that the social and cultural landscape is overwrought with STEPMOM TALK that is lacking the nuance of which discussions of stepmom require. These articles hint at the complexity that is stepmom and the stepmom/stepchild relationship then completely abandon complexity and nuance at the cost of relegating stepmom to the bowels of confining, ill-addressed boundaries and role-specific ambiguities, which are never teased out.
Stepmom is a role that is and will be donned by numerous women: all sorts of women with varying idiosyncrasies and foibles of character. Every family unit is different, particularly in contemporary society where the face of family changes daily. One thing that one woman in the role of stepmom does may look very different from what I say or do, which may also differ from what the woman living next door to me says and does. Reader, are you with me?
Women and behaviors exuded while operating in the role of stepmom are VARIABLE, while the ambiguity, obscurity, and complexity of the role itself remains the same for every woman—the obscurity of stepmom, as role and identity, is CONSTANT.
If we accept all of what I just posited as a new frame or lens by which to discuss stepmom then we avail ourselves the opportunity to work within various concepts, conceptions, and ideologies and find areas of resistance, enlightenment, awareness, and reform. Whoever wrote the article around which I framed my retort will not subject me to contrived absolutes. (Obviously, I am aware of who wrote the article—insofar as I know her name, but my writing is not about the author(s). My writing is about the discourse purported into the social scene.)
The title of Rogers’ article so perfectly illustrates what my blog is building upon: the “lack” (or blocking?), so to speak, of language which keeps stepmom outside certain forms of recognition, ownership, possession, agency. Think about the weight and all the implications of churning out an article that lists things a stepmom should NEVER SAY, when we are so behind in our discussion of what it truly is to embody such a role! Furthermore, the discussion of language is merely entryway into a bounded-ness that goes beyond language. Stepmom is the embodiment of ambiguity, interim, oddity, and—as I hope my book will support—is itself (the role) indefinable.
(A new frame or frames...)
Stepmom has been lost for too long. Actually, stepmom has never been FOUND. I am not trying to tell stepmom who she is supposed to be. I am only digging to excavate a site for stepmom to be…to glean sight into how the role oscillates, and the effect/affect such a state has on human beings.
We have arrived somewhere. I do hope YOU, reader, will walk across the threshold with me. Stay tuned for my next post, which will outline the differences between “Assimilating” and “Blending.”
Humbly Pressing On...