By Fungayi Sox
Barbra Nyangairi recently rewrote the “stepmother narrative” at a colourful book launch in Harare when she launched her debut book titled Thriving As a Stepmother, Equipped for Success.
The book, whose ultimate aim is to debunk stereotypes associated with stepmothers, explores how women can equip themselves for success and thrive in the role of a stepmother. It examines the multiple approaches to creating blended families, managing complex multi-level family bonds and challenge dilemmas that inevitably arise which are unique to a blended family.
Nyangairi is the executive director of Deaf Zimbabwe Trust and is also the founder of Blended Families Forum, an organisation that supports blended families. She herself is a stepmother and together with her husband, they are raising their five children in a blended family.
The beautifully designed cover of her book has an image of a blossoming flower with a predominantly green colour at the bottom, but whose top is blooming or flourishing with a pinkish colour. In my opinion this could be a metaphorical representation implying that blending, although considered an anomaly as per African customs, is something which indirectly surrounds each and everyone of us.
In the preface, Nyangairi described her journey as a stepmother as that of “climbing a mountain” and added that her mountain top moments was when a staff member at one of her boy’s school shared a touching anecdotes with her.
It was during a class at school as the children were discussing family structures that the topic of stepmothers came up.
One of the students referred to her (the author) as a stepmother to which her boy (the stepson) objected and vehemently said: “Not stepmother, justmother!”. She added that when she heard this her heart warmed up and reassured her that their family was headed in the right direction.
Nyangairi’s mother described her daughter as a “friend of the less privileged and a great giver” who would take her clothes and donate them to other children even when she was young.
She also pointed out that Nyangairi possessed an unwavering passion for the less privileged having learnt with children who were blind, part of the background which has resulted in her success and impact in her current line of work.
In her speech at the launch, Nyangairi explains how she was inspired to write the book by the confusion around experiences of stepmothers.
She added that her quest to understand narratives and stereotypes associated with stepmothers made her want to be a better step mother and admitted that her blended family had experienced a mixture of fun times, cry times and what was more important was that they had survived.
In the first chapter, she outlines the “Elusive family portrait”when she states
“The reality is that the family portrait we are brought to strive for may not look anything like we have been taught to imagine. For those that that will foray into the arena of a second marriage, the picture will look like mine on my wedding day–a bride and a groom with a readymade family. Everyone looks different. No one belongs, yet we are bound together by love and marriage. The picture looks odd by traditional standards. This is known as the blended family or stepfamily. It is non-traditional, yet considering the statistics on divorce, a more realistic rendering of reality’” –(pp.9)
Thriving As a Stepmother, explores how women can equip themselves for success and thrive in the role of stepmother by providing solid, tried and tested principles gathered from a rich and diverse study in building successful blended families.
She also debunks stereotypes associated with “the wicked stepmother which portrays stepmothers as unloving to their step child including unfair treatment of the step child and multiple disagreements which occur and how these can be solved.
The book bears solution to those who may find themselves struggling in a blended family setup through addressing complexities including the relationship between the biological mother and the stepmother as well as the relationship between the stepmother and her in-laws.
Most importantly Nyangairi’s book is endowed with scriptural references which provides solutions for parenthood and strengthening the blended family setup so as to thrive in a blended family.
Nyangairi seems to be pointing out that love, courage and patience will create unified blended families so that children do not grow in dysfunctional families.
- The writer Fungayi Sox is a communications consultant specialising in writing,book editing,education,personal development, digital media and publishing. He can be contacted on +263 776 030 949 or follow him on Twitter @AntonySox or connect with him on LinkedIn on Fungayi Antony Sox.