Monday, July 14, 2014

What's in a name?

Are you ready for a huge revelation, stepmom bloggies?? Here we go...

I'm not perfect.

Can you imagine? Yes, it's true. I, Ruby, make mistakes on lots of occasions. The good news is that I can hold myself accountable when I'm called out for a mistake. Such was the case with this weekend.

I'm on Twitter (you can find me at @RedHeadStepmoms). Twitter can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a dirty time bomb that detonates when you least expect it. Last week, after a particularly icky encounter with Mama Ex (like, Defcon 5 awful), I posted a tweet to Twitter. It went like this:

Fact of Being a Stepmom: Anyone you meet that shares BM's first name will already have a strike against them.

So here's what I meant by this tweet. I meant that most stepmoms have at least some conflict with the stepkids' mom. It's natural and it would be silly to pretend that it doesn't happen. In the interest of being honest, I will admit that when I meet a person and her first name happens to be exactly the name as Mama Ex's, it does cause me to flinch a bit. I don't automatically hate that person (nor do I hate Mama Ex) and I don't want them to die. I don't want bankruptcy and measles to befall her family. But...I do flinch.

I meant the Tweet in jest. In sarcasm. In funny ha-ha. In fact, Mama Ex probably feels the exact same way about me! When Mama Ex meets someone named Ruby, I'm pretty sure she thinks, "Oh, God. Another Ruby. How many of you are there in this world?"

Ya know what I mean? It was supposed to be playful.

Some people did not take it playfully. There were those on Twitter that believed I was yet another stepmom spewing vile hatred toward birth mothers. And you know what? That's fair. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the wisest of tweets. I was in a bad place at that moment and posted a joke that probably didn't come off as joke-y as it should have. I got called out on it, as I should have been. Thank you, Twitter friends!

Lesson learned.

But shortly after all of this happened, a new firestorm arose. There were many people that were quite annoyed at me for using the acronym "BM" to refer to the kids' mom. The general consensus was this:

"Birthmom" is a term used for adoption. When talking about your stepkids' mother, the term BM or BirthMom or BioMom is derogatory and implies that the woman was only used for her DNA, and is not worthy of anything else. The term "mom" should be used instead.

After having a few back and forths with some tweeters, I saw some real value in what they were saying and promised to give it thought. I promised to reconsider using the term BioMom or BirthMom or any word that isn't just "Mom."

And I did think about it. Like, a whole lot. I weighed out all the factors and came to the conclusion that, indeed, it is okay to use the term BirthMom/BioMo/BM/Mama Ex or whatever term is necessary to indicate that I am speaking about the biological mother of my stepchildren. Now, before you all go coo coo on me about why I'm wrong, let me give my reasonings:

1) "Mom" gets confusing

I am a part of the stepmother support community. I write a blog about my experiences as a stepmother. In the stepmom community, the use of the acronym BM to indicate BirthMom is used pretty consistently. As a matter of fact, acronyms run rampant in the community. Other commonly used acronyms are BD (biological dad), MIL (Mother in law), SD (stepdaughter), SS (stepson), etc. Acronyms are a part of the deal. I truthfully don't see that changing because it helps to delineate who you are speaking about. Just using the term "Mom" can get very, very confusing. Let me give you an example.

Let's say I'm telling a story in which I'm talking about myself, my stepchilldren, Mom, my husband, and my mother in law. 

Did you catch that I used the term "mom"? Who's mom? The kids' mom? My mom? The neighbor's mom? It's a little muddy. However, if I say BioMom, BirthMom, BM, or Mama Ex (which I use in this blog), you know exactly who I'm talking about. I do not mean it in a derogatory way. BM is the kids' biological mom and the only one they will ever have in the history of forever. That is a fact and I don't think it implies that this woman is a bad person in any way. It is simply a quick acronym to use as a clarification.

For another example, check out these two almost identical tweets:

1. @RedHeadedStepmoms: "Took SK's to the grocery store and Mom texted to be sure I got them cupcakes for tomorrow's school party."

2. @RedHeadedStepmoms: "Took SK's to the grocery store and BM texted to be sure I got them cupcakes for tomorrow's school party."

Am I nuts, or does #2 makes more sense? Look, I totally get that the terms for my stepkids' mother can take a turn to Negative Town really, really quickly. And that's where we all have to be careful.

Terms for Mama Ex that are not okay: The Bitch, Money Grubbing Whore, Egg Donor

2) Expect unto yourself what you do to others

Yo...Stepmoms. We have to understand that the door opens on both ends. We can't get our panties in a twist if we read an article by a stepfather and he uses the term "BioDad" to talk about the biological father of his stepson. That author is using it in the same way we do. Only fair.

Just like with BioMom, the same rules apply. My Hubs is the biological father of his children. For an author to use just the term "Dad," it can get muddled. 

BioDad, Daddy Ex, BD, whatevs...that's what he is. Right?

Terms for Daddy Ex that are not okay: Sperm Donor, Disney Dad, Bastard Asshole, Dickwad

3) These terms are for articles/blogs/letters/written word ONLY

It truly isn't necessary to use "BioMom" or "BM" in a conversation with another person that is face to face. When we're speaking to someone in person, chances are the context of the situation is already pretty clear. If I'm standing right next to my stepchildren and someone says, "Oh, what lovely children you have," it would be downright ridiculous for me to say, "Thanks. Their BioMom would certainly agree." 

Um, no. That makes it sound like their mother is that robot from the Jetson's.

I would simply say, "Thank you. I agree with you and wish I could take the credit! But that would have to go to their mother and my husband!" The clarification is easily done right then and there. Vocal conversations work faster and easier than written.

4) Stepmom isn't the nicest word either

Hey, all you BM's and BD's out there...I'm not exactly over the moon about the word "stepmom." I mean, I could list out quite a few movies (Cinderella, Snow White, Happily N'Ever After, Enchanted) where stepmothers are basically the axis of evil forever and ever and ever. "Stepmom" is often associated with pretty scurrry stuff.

But guess what? Just like BM and BD, it helps clarify, right? If you just called me "the lady that married my ex-husband and now has my kids part time" in an article or tweet, that would seem:

a) long winded
b) kind of rude

So, "stepmom" it is.

There is a big push to find a different word for "stepmom." Words like Bonus Mom, Extra Mom, or just putting "Mama" in front of the first name of the stepparent, like "Mama Ruby." I personally don't think we need the change. I've tried out "Bonus Mom" a few times, and it never set right with me. It made me feel like a prize at a carnival. 

I am a stepmother. That's who I am. And I can either own it and work to CHANGE the negative connotation with the word, or I can cry and whine about it. I choose to work hard to change the view of the word. I want my stepkids to be proud of their stepmom. I want my stepkids to be proud of their biological mom and their biological dad. I want everyone to get along and be happy.

That's a tall order, I know. But hey, we're all here and trying. We're all learning to be better people and be cognizant of feelings for every person involved. Like I said before, I'm certainly not perfect and I always encourage constructive criticism for when I make a boo boo. 

And I make them a lot.

Terms that are not okay to use for a Stepmom: Other Woman, Home Wrecker, StepBitch, Baby Stealer, Wicked Stepmother

PS: I feel like it bears repeating that this blog is my opinion and my opinion only. I am very open to others' opinions and encourage an open dialog because otherwise we all just sit around and learn nothing new. I welcome your comments! But everyone, play nice, mmk? Super mean comments will be deleted.

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