- Dunn, Tasha Rose; Ly-Donovan, Carolyn
- Blended families are increasingly common, yet, our understanding of these families— especially the role of stepmothers—is limited and lacks a critical focus. Such lack is a problem when recognizing that the stepmother is one of the most culturally stigmatized family positions. Guided by family systems theory, which recognizes the family as an interdependent system where roles are created and maintained through interactions, we seek to provide a deeper understanding of how stepmothers navigate the difficulties that accompany their stigmatized role. Instead of writing about the stepmother role in the family system from an outside perspective, we use critical duoethnography to write from inside the system by composing first-person, collaborative, reflexive accounts of our lived experiences as stepmothers that highlight the unique work we do within our blended families. Our accounts engage an intersectional lens where we embrace our layered identities—as stepmothers, women, feminists, and academics who hail from the working-class and have differing ethnic backgrounds—to write ourselves out of the simplistic, and often negative cultural ideas about stepmothers. Our primary goal is to provide a dynamic illustration of the nuanced, messy, and multifaceted experiences of (step)m(Other)ing—hence the strategic use of parentheses to encapsulate such experiences. We pinpoint the struggles we encounter in striving to find a balance between establishing a close bond with our (step)children and taking on a more authoritative parental role—all while the threat of the “wicked stepmother” stereotype looms over us. Ideally, our insider accounts help to untangle the lived experiences of stepmothers from the grip of a pervasive, distorted, denigrating, and essentializing cultural construct.
- Journal of Autoethnography Journal
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