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.
12 thoughts on “Where are the stepfathers and stepsons?”
Very true. I have 3 kid and 4 step children and my role is very underated
Three children AND four stepchildren. Wow. Do you ever know if you’re coming or going??? Life must be insanely busy!
You know, I had never thought about the media presentation of ‘blended’ families before, really interesting post. #MMWBH
Thanks for commenting Sara. To be honest, I think it’s a subject few people think about which is surprising bearing in mind how many blended families exist. Glad you found it interesting.
Great post and food for thought. I couldn’t do without my stepfather 🙂 #mmwbh
Thanks for stopping by to comment. Your experiences as a stepchild are clearly positive which is great to hear…and another message the mainstream media needs to consider!
You’re asking some really important questions here. My diagnosis is that the symptoms you describe are part of a tendency within the media to treat ‘parenting’ and something that is almost all about what the mother dose.
I think you’re absolutely correct Jonathan. It’s very disappointing and depressing because there are a vast number of stepfathers and stepsons out there.
Great post highlighting a serious point!
My stepdad is marrying my Mum next month having been together 20years. I class him as my father and in my opinion stepfathers are never acknowledged. Perhaps that is due to fairytales and lots of stepmothers being perceived as evil old hags that beat children and lock them in cupboards cleaning dirty clothes…despite that rarely happening in real life.
Clearly no room in Disney movies for stepdads! 🙁
I’m glad to read of your positive experiences with your stepfather. I wouldn’t want to duck the fact step-parent relationships are often more complex than natural parent relationships, but the stepdads (and also stepsons) seem to have no support networks to rely on whatsoever. They’re just supposed to sit in the corner and as you say, are never acknowledged. It’s a very strange situation and we should celebrate these guys (and stepmums as well!).
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