Not a Mother 5/5/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

Once again, Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga) has been making offensive and ill-informed statements.  According to The Hill, during a conversation with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers by the Subcommittee for the Coronavirus Pandemic the Congresswoman again went overboard.  “The problem is,” Greene reportedly said, “people like you need to admit that you’re just a political activist, not a teacher, not a mother and not a medical doctor.”  The reality is that Weingarten is a stepmother, making her a mother by marriage.

The problem is that Greene is not really a politician.  She was put in office because she ran unopposed, which she takes as a referendum to push her hatred and bigotry from the people.  You cannot possess a referendum from the masses running unopposed any more than a turtle on top of the fence post can claim credit for the climb.  Now she has taken to making a name for herself with inane comments and uninformed opinions based on intolerance and conspiracy theories.

Being a stepparent is not easy.  When I was married, my wife brought with her four boys from her first marriage.  I can’t say that I was really their stepfather because my wife fought that concept from the first day.  She would tell me that I am not their father, and whenever I tried to do something with the boys, even in support of her, she would literally tell them that they didn’t have to listen to me because I’m not their father. 

Having obtained a new game system, the oldest boy monopolized time on it and refused to share, going so far as to lie about the ability for other users to create independent characters claiming that if anybody else ever played it that he would lose all of his progress.  I pointed out that this wasn’t true, but without his mother’s support that just became the norm where the other boys, to the best of my recollection, never even played it. 

One day as she was making supper, their mother made the statement to him, “ten more minutes”.  I looked at my watch, and fifteen minutes later, I said to him that his mom said ten minutes fifteen minutes ago.  The next sound in the house was my wife’s voice from the kitchen saying, “you don’t have to listen to him, he’s not your father.”

It’s hard enough being a stepfather.  Children love to use the “you’re not my dad” argument, and it makes it worse when the biological parent joins the chorus.  But I certainly felt like a parent when the second oldest child had night terrors and I stepped up to calmly deal with the sleepwalking child as he said crazy things that was frightening everybody else in the family.  I acted like a father when my wife and others in the house came down with a horrific flu and I took care of them.  I certainly tried to play the role of father as I attended their school performances and invited them along to my activities. 

Being a stepparent can be as real and significant as being a biological parent if given the opportunity, and perhaps more so.  To be a stepparent means caring and loving your new children as if they are your own, but its more than that.  It’s putting up with resistance to be accepted by the children.  It seems as if every child who understands the concept falls back to the “you’re not my real parent”, and it stings every single time.  One could argue that there are those stepparents that do not assume the role wholeheartedly, but the reality is that even biological fathers fall into this void.

How often do we hear about proverbial “deadbeat dads”?  And yet, we never question whether or not these “men” are fathers.  It feels as if, of late, women are going so far as making the decision to get pregnant specifically with men who will not want to be a part of the child’s life.  One of my former students had made such a comment to me, and my own cousin told me, back in the ‘80’s, that she knew exactly how many children she would have to maximize her social security without getting married as that would negate the benefits.  There was a movie some years ago that I never particularly enjoyed, but one of the lines from it struck me.  I’ll have to paraphrase since it has been some time, but the young and seemingly irresponsible young man said to his pregnant girlfriend’s mother, “You have to get a license to own a dog or a cat, but any tool can be a father.  It takes effort to be a dad.”  Double that effort to be a stepparent, like Weingarten.


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