Friday, May 12, 2006

A Need On Mother’s Day

As we wish all our moms a Happy Mother’s Day (mentioning this now in case I forget on Sunday), I want to bring back this article from the archives that appeared about a year ago in The Philadelphia Inquirer from a lady named Jennifer Gold.

Remember there are stepmoms, too

Sunday is Mother's Day. I've been doing something I do every Sunday lately - looking through my local papers for stepmom support group notices.

I'm a stepmom of a 12-year-old boy I've known since he was 6. Despite weeks of looking, I have yet to find a single stepmom support group in the entire Philadelphia area. Shocking really, considering that with one in two new marriages nationwide ending in divorce, and 75 percent of these divorcees remarrying, there must be quite a few stepmoms in the region. And, if these stepmoms are anything like me, they could definitely use a stepmom friend to talk to. Trust me.

We stepmoms are in quite a difficult spot. We spend a tremendous amount of time and energy on many of the same things biological moms do. We cook and clean, do laundry and shop. We worry about our stepchildren's health, development and education. We help them with their homework. We nag them to wear a coat, brush their teeth, and clean up their rooms. We play games and laugh with them. We struggle and cry with them. We go on vacation, have family meetings and enjoy holiday rituals. We grow. But, somehow, all of this just isn't that apparent or acknowledged by the outside world. It's like we stepmoms are invisible.

My name has never been listed in my stepson's school directories. These directories are printed yearly and help parents and students collaborate and communicate with each other by providing names, addresses and home phone numbers for all children and their parents, showing two sets of contact info for the children whose parents are divorced. Some even include multiple ways to look up the same information (by child's name, by class section, etc.), but none I've seen include any stepparent information at all. It's as if the school is saying that no one calling our house about or for my stepson would even need to know I exist.

The community interest/calendar-type sections of my local newspapers nearly always include regular notices for groups with names such as Parents Without Partners, Fresh Start (Divorce Recovery), Single Moms, and Mothers & More, alongside other, more numerous, notices for groups focused on a wide variety of health, community and hobby interests. On the family front, I find lots of mom-centered support, but no stepmom groups. I find in one local paper a directory of more than 50 support groups, but again, no stepmom groups.

Where are all the stepmoms? Where are all the community service organizations that profess to serve the comprehensive needs of families?

I try the Internet. The Web site for the Step Family Association of America shows stepfamily support groups in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Ingomar, North East, and Tunkhannock, but none close to Philadelphia. Like many similar organizations, the Stepfamily Foundation provides fee-based counseling and materials, but no information I can find about local support groups. Oodles of Google searches have not led me to any groups. I have sent e-mails to area churches asking for information about any stepmom support groups they sponsor or know of. No responses yet.

So, what's going on here? These days, the difficulties and challenges of parenthood are widely discussed and documented, talked about and therapized. There is an endless myriad of products and services to aid the expecting, new, every phase of your child's life parent. We see child-rearing books, classes, articles, support services and ads for it all everywhere. Yet somehow, the particular needs of stepmoms are largely unmet. I cannot fathom why.

What we stepmoms need most is another stepmom to talk to. Support groups are a great place to focus our immediate efforts to aid stepmoms; each group offers a small community of individuals who share this fundamental aspect of their lives. For many people, this community is what matters most - the simple sharing of life in an environment where those listening have a certain empathy having stood in your shoes.

In honor of Mother's Day, and as a gift to myself, I'm going to start a stepmom group on my own. I think I'll call it StepMoms Seeking StepMoms. Any stepmoms out there want to have coffee and a chat?

This Mother's Day, if you have a stepmom, remember to call her or send her a card. Thank her for whatever moves you most - something you appreciate she has done for you, something valuable she has taught you, some time she was there for you when you needed her. Your thanks and acknowledgment will be the best antidote for her invisibility.
I did a bit of looking on my own and came up with this among other links. I hope it helps.

1 comment:

Philly Stepparent said...

Hi there. I have also searched high and low for some kind of stepmom support group in Philadelphia, only to come up empty handed. I can't believe we don't have a group for stepparents, considering we live in a major US city, and there are many people in the same situation.

I'm interested in starting a stepparent support group in Philadelphia.

I'm looking for others who are interested in helping to form this group.

For more info, please see my site on blogger:

Thanks and best wishes.