Just a Stepmom

The Long Hot Summer continues....The weather man says it's raining...photo © 2008 Keven Law | more info (via: Wylio)



The rain falls in soft cold, droplets. Covered by a navy blue shelter, three little Girl Scouts stand outside the Walgreen’s begging each person to buy cookies. I zip the purple coat of my seven year old daughter whose proclaims she is too cold. She stuffs her tiny hands in the pockets of my coat because my pockets are warmer. I chat with the other Girl Scout mother helping sell cookies. We talk about our girls are growing up too fast, getting prettier every minute, then it happens. The mother talking to my daughter says “your mom” which leads to a hurried explanation “she’s not MY mom, she’s just my stepmom.”


Silence, the knowing glance, the cold shoulder. All of the cliched, stereotypical images of stepmother invade that small 10 by 10 shelter. With people all around, I feel the cold pangs of exclusion, judgment. How dare I masquerade as a mother? Do I not know that I’m “just a stepmom,” the second class mother in the world of parenthood? I had forgotten. Maybe, this is why so many feel the need to remind me of my status in the traditional parental hierarchy.


I’m used to the reminders of my mothering inadequacies—the disapproving looks when I stand up in church to be recognized as a mother on Mother’s Day, mothers in the church patting me on the should telling me “I will understand when I am a real mom.” That’s when my emotional heart withers a just a little more inside.


Some days, I wish I were brave enough to wear a t-shirt proclaiming—I’m not the “other” woman, I chose to be a step-mother, so stop judging me.


Some days, I want to lash against the “real mom” clique. What more must I do to prove that I’m more than “just a stepmom” but a real mother? Each school day, I wake up my sleepy, sometimes grumpy step-children, hurry them to school. I sit in the frightfully long car line to pick them up, whisk them to our home and begin the arduous task of homework, snacks, and chores. I failed to mention the laundry, doctor visits, activities—how is this not being a “real mom?”



Frustration and anger tarnish my soul as I so desperately try to prove I belong in the “real moms” club.



Quickly, I’m drawn back to present. My step-daughter wraps her arms around my waist, whispers loudly “I love you.” Standing here in the cold rain, warming my step-daughter’s hands, I’m defying the stereotype, speaking against all of the derogatory connotations embedded in the role of stepmom. Rather than lashing out in anger, I choose to speak love through my actions. A quieter, gentler way of dispelling the myths of the evil stepmother begins with grace and loved filled actions. Being fully present with my step-daughter, spending the time to do something meaningful with her, carries a weightier, more powerful message. It is the message of grace. Not for the “real moms,” but for me. I release myself from the images of the evil stepmother with each grace and loved filled action toward my stepchildren. I become more alive when I focus upon the beauty of choosing to love my stepchildren. Through grace, I am no longer just a stepmom, I’m a mother.


Celebrating Women: Looking To the Future

Feminism, VDay 2007 and Mephoto © 2010 Julie Jordan Scott | more info (via: Wylio)


Where do we go from here?


As women, as mothers, as daughters, as sisters… how do we move toward a better future for women? As this Women’s History Month ends, we have chronicled our personal journeys through feminism, shared our struggles as feminist parents, reminisced about women writer’s we adore. Part of me is a bit sad to see this wonderful time of sharing stories—women’s stories, lives, and celebrating the wide diversity inherent in our gender. This month, we celebrated the silenced, the oppressed, the too often trivialized voices of women. We thank each of you participated, wrote, supported us championing this Celebration of Women.


But we must move on….


We cannot stay here, revel in our past glories of feminism, or continue to rehash our past life journeys. We must move forward. So, where do we go from here? What is the one thing we can do today to improve the lives of women—for us, our daughters, mothers, sisters? While I pondered this one thing, I kept hoping that some great epiphany would descend from heaven, ignite the fire of mind, and reinvigorate my muse. But I must apologize that I have no such epiphany. There it was. The one thing, we women can do.


We must stop apologizing for being women.


We must stop explaining, apologizing, making excuses for being a woman. Why should we denounce our gender’s unique qualities? We apologize for that special time of the month. We apologize for our overly emotional needs. We apologize for maternity leave. We apologize for our choices of career, family, breast feeding vs. formula. We apologize for championing women’s causes. We apologize for being strong women. We apologize for being submissive women. We spend more breathes apologizing for how nature made us. Why?


For too long, we have divorced our identity from its source—our gender’s uniqueness. We feel that we must differentiate between women’s causes, women’s rights and human rights or human causes. Women’s rights are human rights not a bifurcation based upon gender. But we women continue apologizing for wanting more rights for women, for equal pay, for equal humanitarian aide.


Today, we stop apologizing for being women.

Hello, I’m Feminist Parent

Early in my graduate school career, I read Elizabeth Flynn’s piece “Composing as a Woman.” This one piece of writing sparked a whole new fervor for feminism. Not the outspoken feminism of the 1960’s, but a more intellectual, refined push toward celebrating gender differences rather than creating a unisex society. I will admit that I still adore this piece of feminist composition theory(I will also admit that I adore reading various theoretical viewpoints about composition, rhetoric, etc. I’m geek. No denying that one.). Elizabeth Flynn focuses not on achieving gender equality in the composition classroom, but giving voice to those on the margins, seeking and celebrating differences, understanding not everyone communicates in the same manner.

But this is supposed to be a post on feminist parenting not rehashing old graduate seminar papers. For me, parenting is similar to the composition classroom or a piece of writing. As a former composition teacher, I had to learn how to celebrate difference. I guided my students to find their writing style, not to simply copy my writing style. But at the same time, I gently encouraged these students to hone their writing skills, to use correct mechanics, to revise their writing. A good composition teacher always points her students in the direction of their unique voice, a refined voice.


Feminist parenting is much the same way. My two children(stepchildren but I’m the one raising them) have unique viewpoints, talents, interests. Each one has a unique story, a story intricately bound up in differences. My son firmly believes he wants to design LEGOS. My daughter wants to bake cupcakes with ice cream frosting. By no means are these two life stories the same. Frankly, I’m happy that they don’t want the same things, the same life goals. There is something truly beautiful about seeing their unique life stories blossom. More than anything, I want them to choose the narrative arcs of their stories. Now, I know their stories will be far from perfect, full of mistakes in syntax and form. But they will be living their own stories, not my story forced fed into them.

With the caveat, I do not take an entirely hands off stance when it comes to their life story writing. A feminist parent encourages differences in stories but always gently revises. Revision of ill-tempered traits, poor habits is not conformity. Simply put, it allows my children to see their stories more clearly. Through gentle guidance, I point out their strengths, listen to their whims, and engage in their unique interests. Feminist parenting, for me, comes down to one sole statement:


Together, we craft and revise life stories.

Through the beauty of difference, I choose to parent as a feminist. Giving my children a discursive space to grow and mature, to write beautiful life stories.


Question: How do you help your children find their unique life story?




Amazon Kindle 2 Wireless eBook Readerphoto © 2009 goXunuReviews | more info (via: Wylio)

When I first entered the Twitterverse, I learned quickly the value of the hashtag. The hashtag identifies a tweet with all sorts of others just like it—helps the tweeter to see what others have said on the subject. As I read my tweets today, one hashtag kept trending–#amazonfail. I thought nothing of it since I chalking the hashtag up to bad customer service; thus, allowing me to continue my Amazon shopping without much thought. But I was curious. Curious to see what the big “fail” was. Curious to see Amazon’s horrid sin that would cause such an uproar. So, before curiosity killed the proverbial cat, I began following the trend. In the self-published section of Amazon’s Kindle, a book detailing the safe ways to practice pedophilia is available for purchase. Yes, this is why a boycott of Amazon and the hashtag #amazonfail kept streaming through my Twitter feed. As mommy bloggers raise their collective voices against Amazon, I find myself at war between censorship and protecting the potential targets of pedophiles.

I dislike the thought of censorship because I am an advocate for free speech. But I have children and have friends with children. Somewhere, a child has suffered because someone followed the instructions in this ebook. This is where the tension lives for me—between the ability speak on subjects freely or protecting children. But free speech is a fickle creature that we have invented. Initially, freedom of speech protected us from our government’s silencing of its citizens—creating a discursive space in which we can openly discuss and disagree with government.

Now, a private company couches behind the freedom of speech amendment. Under free speech, Amazon defends its right to have published this book on pedophilia. Each customer should determine what he or she buys which negates the culpability of Amazon. Yet, the onslaught of negative reviews for this book were deemed inappropriate and removed. Amazon is not promoting free speech but free speech that protects the profits of Amazon. This interpretation of free speech blurs the lines between public sphere and private spheres. We hide behind the freedom of speech amendment when it suits our needs to make profit.

Even though I have spoken out against censorship, I believe more strongly in speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. For the children suffering in silence, for the potential victims. I know this is hypocritical, but I would rather err on the side of protecting innocents than always presenting a cohesive whole ideology. I choose to support other booksellers until Amazon takes this book off its website. Yes, this is a major #amazonfail.

To a Dying Art

2008.11.12 - The letterphoto © 2008 Adrian Clark | more info(via: Wylio)

After spending a lovely, frigidly rainy weekend in the Outer Banks, I eagerly opened the mailbox for any remaining whispers of my birthday celebration. With three cards in hand, I savored the thought and attention of those who had chosen the cards—what makes birthdays special, the thoughtfulness of others. Reading those cards made me special, loved more than any email or text or Facebook wall post. Of course, I adore my social media and each person who wrote something sweet and kind made all kind of warm, happy, loved. But there is still something magic about going to the post office to get the mail.

I suppose that getting mail such as cards and letters still excites me. Opening the mailbox is still like opening a daily mystery usually with the same ending—bills, junk, catalogs, advertisements. But what keeps me opening the mailbox is the hope that something wonderful, something that does not require me sending in a monthly payment. Unfortunately, the art of writing a letter has been moving towards a slow, painful, silent death. With the age of email and Facebook, we are instantly connected to every action, every random thought, every funny anecdote in our friends’ and family’s lives. As I completed this turn around the sun, I find I miss the art of letter writing.

Growing up, my mother knew the importance of letter writing. Between her and my grandmother, I received hundreds of letters. To this day, I still find handwritten letters stuffed in books for bookmarks, hidden in Rubbermaid containers, or occasionally packed away in dusty boxes. I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of writing letters. Heck, email had just become the cool, new way to communicate so why write long letter about what happened to the dog, or at church or whatever. Even as an English major who savored letters from hundreds of years ago, I didn’t appreciate the letters being sent to me. The text masterfully created upon the page. Word upon word dances together on thin sheets of flowery stationery.

But I am horrible letter writer. I choose to let Hallmark or another card company choose the words, the pictures, so that all I have to do is sign my name. Perhaps, a sentence or two, but nothing beyond a causal greeting—Hallmark speaks for me. I see myself nailing the art of letter writing in its coffin, throwing the dirt over top, muttering the last parting eulogy. Somehow, I think I could invest more time in writing letters, creating my own text, showing the same love that I failed to appreciate.

Question: When was the last time you physically wrote a letter? Do you see as big a difference between email and letters?

Where I Have Been and What I Learned

This past week, I have been ignoring the blogging world, focusing on relaxing, playing with kids and dogs, and enjoying life. This is called LIVING(in case you forgot). I swam, read, and generally relaxed the week away. I did learn some very important things:

1. Pine cones at 30mph HURT(got the scars to prove it)

2. Scheduled activities at the campground are PRICELESS(craft time was my favorite since the kids were happy making crafts and the camper was QUIET).

3. I get highly annoyed when stupid people act stupidly.

I will be back to blogging full force, but for now, I would like to know how your week has been?

What are YOU reading Wednesday?

I HEART reading! Love, adore, passionate about all things with PAPER AND TEXT(excuse the hyperbole, there are texts that I do NOT enjoy but I’m only celebrating my favorites). Since I teach college reading, I am often asked: What are YOU reading? I also read multiple books at one time. Currently, I’m reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith(I love parody), Miracles by C.S. Lewis(I love deep intellectual writings about my faith).So, today I pose the same question to you:

What are YOU reading?

Unplug it!

Awesome idea for the summer, unplug from the time waster’s of TV, computer(yes, no Facebook, Twitter, or blogging).

Love this post: http://pamperingbeki.blogspot.com/2010/05/unplug-it.html