On Saturday, September 25th at the West Side YMCA in New York, Rachelle Katz, Ed.D., author of The Happy Stepmother and founder of the New York-based Steps for Stepmothers website, will co-present The Happy Stepmother Workshop with Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do.
This article is a continuation of a two-part interview with Rachelle Katz about the importance of meeting other stepmothers, Part I of which appeared on Wednesday, September 15th.
Question: In The Emancipated Stepfamily, Part IV of my recent interview with Wednesday Martin, she said she hopes stepmothers who attend The Happy Stepmother Workshop will have an “Aha! moment,” in which they will feel empowered in their families…a “Hey, this is hard, and I’m not the only one struggling, and I can do it” moment. Do you get feedback from stepparents who feel that these workshops substantially, tangibly, or even just slightly shift their lives for the better going forward? Do you ever have any negative experiences?
Rachelle Katz: Stepmothers who attend these types of workshops have very powerful, positive experiences. They are ready to admit, face, and take responsibility for improving their lives. Some stepmothers are too scared to attend these workshops, either because they are too afraid to admit they are unhappy (which might force them to do something about it) or because they don’t have any hope that their situation can change for the better. Just like you can’t force someone to be ready to give up smoking or to go on a diet until they are ready to do so, you can’t force a stepmother to attend a workshop designed to help them until she is in the right frame of mind. I have deep faith that people get help when they most need it, and I believe this to be true for stepmothers.
Question: Martin also mentioned the negative associations with the cultural use of the phrase “blended family,” and the movement to altogether rid psychological vocabulary of those words. Any suggestions or ideas about a more meaningful, useful and perhaps even educational phrase that parents/stepparents, and even kids and stepkids, could use? I’m certainly game to change the vocabulary whenever I write about stepparenting.
Rachelle Katz: This may be too minimalistic, but why not refer to stepfamilies as stepfamilies, without any extra descriptors, such as “blended?” I also dislike the term “blended,” since it sets an expectation for what stepfamilies should be. While some stepfamilies do “blend” over time, most don’t. When stepfamilies don’t blend, stepparents feel guilty and responsible for this failure, when, in fact, they are not to blame. I wish we could celebrate the diversity of stepfamilies rather than try to fit each one into a cookie cutter formula that does not apply for most.
Stay tuned for a multi-part interview with a family court attorney, who is not only a biological mother, but also a mother figure, role model, mentor and friend to the daughters of her partner, to whom she is not married. We will discuss a website she has begun that offers an alternative phrase to describe “blended” families such as theirs, as well as the swiftly changing definition of “family,” and the complex legal issues arising across the country from the creation of a multitude of diversified partnerships.
Click here to read my interviews with Rachelle Katz, Ed.D., author of The Happy Stepmother and creator of the Steps for Stepmothers website. Click here to read my four-part interview with Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do.
For more info: The Happy Stepmother Workshop, co-presented by Rachelle Katz and Wednesday Martin, will be held from 10:00am to 1:00pm on Saturday, September 25th at the Parkside Lounge of the West Side YMCA (West 63rd Street between Broadway and Central Park West). Cost: $75 in advance, $95 at the door. To sign up, log onto: www.stepsforstepmothers.com.