Where are the stepfathers and stepsons? This may sound like a very blunt question but seriously, where are they?
I’ve been inspired to ask this question by the Times newspaper. Just the other day it published an exceedingly dreary and dreadfully predictable feature. On the front cover of its Body and Soul section it promised, in big letters, a feature about “stepfamilies.”
My heart sank when I read the headline because I’ve seen this before in the mainstream media. When a newspaper or magazine claims it is going to write about stepfamilies it generally means stepmothers and stepdaughters.
Sure enough, the paper scored a huge own goal. The resulting feature was based on two interviews with stepmothers and a large article written by a female academic (and stepmother) who had carried out a piece of research that involved interviewing 250 stepmothers.
The article provided some very unhelpful advice to men. It stated that a stepparent should “act like an agony aunt or Godmother.”
I recall the Observer making exactly the same mistake some years ago. Promising to write about stepfamilies, it featured three interviews with stepmothers.
For whatever reason, stepfathers and stepsons are invisible. If I look at my twitter feed I can think of numerous women who state on their profiles that they live in “blended” families or are “stepmothers”. I can’t think of one solitary man that makes such a claim. Not, of course, that one should put too much credence on what happens in twitter-land. It is simply an interesting observation.
Okay, so I have to declare an interest. I am a stepson. I feel no shame about this. This blog post being the exception, it’s not something I scream and shout about.
I guess we have Snow White to thank for the fact stepmothers and stepdaughters have a considerably higher profile. That being the case, I have every sympathy for stepmothers and stepdaughters because the story perpetuates a ludicrous and very unhelpful stereotype.
Perhaps I should write something to redress the balance? Instead of Snow White it’ll be called Cloudy Shades of Grey. It’ll feature a divorced set of parents with both sons and daughters.
The mother and father will go on to remarry and have further children. The main characters will be the father’s new wife (The Stepmother) and the mother’s new husband (The Stepfather).
There will be happy times, bad times, jealousy and love. Ill-educated people will erroneously refer to the children’s natural half siblings as “stepbrothers/stepsisters” (anyone relate to this?). The stepparents will try their best, but sometimes get it wrong. You know, a bit like natural parents.
The children will never, ever scream the phrase “you’re not my mother/father” at The Stepmother / The Stepfather (has anyone ever actually done this?). The crucial aspect to this story, however, is that it will simply feature a stepfather and his stepsons because, you know, we are out there and we do exist.