Should we use ‘ex-wife’ or ‘mother’ in our subtitle?

Just wanted to let y’all know, “No One’s the Bitch: Ten Steps to Strengthening Families, One Ex-wife/Stepmother Partnership at a Time” will be published by Globe Pequot and out in bookstores in May of 2009.

I know it’s been a bit quiet around here. Carol just got back from a pretty intense two-week workshop in Canada, teaching painting at all hours of the day, and I’m just about to hit the half-way mark for the book. Whew!

Question for everyone that we’ve talked about with our editor: should we be saying “ex-wife” in the subtitle, or “mother”?

I know most stepwives refer to the ex-wife as… the ex-wife, or the bio-mom (have always found this weird, personally, it seems so scientific) or, you know, the bitch.

But I think most mothers think of themselves as the mom or the mother (and maybe sometimes, the bitch?). “Ex-wife” just seems to constantly tie you back to the divorce, instead of linking you to the kids, which is the only reason you have to deal with the stepmom in the first place, don’t you think?

But then we also thought that saying “mother” might be like a subtle way of asserting primacy, like I’m the real mother and you’re not.

Which ties back in to all the territorial struggles that make this kind of situation so difficult for everyone.

So tricky!

What do y’all think? Which seems more logical? Which would you prefer? We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading….

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved

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  1. I tell my girlfriends that I am the “Mom of origin. MOO for short.” It deflates the jab if I refer to myself as a cow first.

  2. Ha! Very funny, Ei….

  3. Well, if you consider both of yourselves mothers, then the differentiation of bio and step is just a way to simplify it for the masses to quickly understand who’s who. I realize that all/any of the titles come with stereotypes and certain conotations, but isn’t the point of your book to dispell some of those stereotypes?

  4. try this on for size…
    if you’re saying exwife, why not say “current wife” instead of stepmom?
    i think mom/stepmom makes it more personal. exwife brings up marriage status. and mother sounds so formal. and it makes me think of norman bates. and you’re right, it is about the kids. the book isn’t about the past or current state of the marriages.
    there’s my two cents =)

  5. Hmmmm, but dragonflymama, that’s just it, if half of the masses are the moms, would they want to be referred to as the bio-moms?
    When I read stepmom sites, I realize that’s just a kind of short-hand and it doesn’t bother me, but I certainly would never call *myself* the bio-mom! It just seems too weird and gothic-science-lab-in-a-dungeon-or-basement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…. : )
    Yeah, we’re hoping to dispel stereotypes, but man, the linguistics of it all are a challenge (and are interesting)!

  6. Hey Yolanda!
    Perhaps if I’d seen “Psycho” I’d have a completely different take on the subject, huh? : P
    I guess I could sprinkle “current wife” into the book a bit more, but not so sure if it flows well with the subtitle, ya know?

  7. I like it as you have it. Perhaps you could include a short paragraph regarding your choice in wording.

  8. I think your target audience is going to be moms and stepmoms that already have some type of positive relationship that maybe could use some more ideas for how to strengthen it. Those moms and stepmoms probably aren’t going to mind as much what the title is, because they are already past the whole “my place, your place” thing.
    The stepmoms that are dealing with BM’s that refuse to cooperate or Mom’s dealing with the “evil stepmom” are the ones who would be offended by whatever you choose for the title and probably aren’t going to purchase the book anyway, just because of the word “partnership.” For some of us that is an impossibility for which every attempt backfires on us.
    I would suggest the two of you decide what you feel the most comfortable with and what portrays the message you are trying to send the best.

  9. I hear you Jennifer. It’s funny how we often take language for granted, or that certain images come up with certain words. It’s certainly a tough one if you are trying to not offend anyone.
    How do you feel about birth mom, instead of bio mom? Less science-lab and not so norman bates!

  10. Can I just tell you why “bio-mom” bothers me? The most common use of that term is when referring to mothers who have given their children up for adoption…a child goes looking for the bio-mom after being raised by a nurturing wonderful adoptive mom. I didn’t give my children up, and honestly, sharing them with another woman was hardly what I had in mind. I think women who give their children a better life by allowing them to be raised in happy adoptive families are wonderful, it just isn’t who I am and I don’t ever want there to be confusion on that point. How’s that for neurosis on linguistics?

  11. I think your choice of words should be what you are most comfortable with; however, it struck me as interesting that you said “ex-wife” ties back to the marriage instead of to the kids. In a lot of ways, that very tie (the divorce/past marriage/issues with ex-husband) is part of the issue between many BM’s/Stepmoms, and it’s quite relevant. Many actions are taken that have more to do with the divorce part of the equation (lingering bad feelings, resentment, etc.) than with consideration for the kids, whether involved parties care to admit that or not.

  12. I see a couple of issues around the use of Ex-Wife/Stepmother:
    1) It is not a logical analogy. You can be an Ex-Wife without being a mother, but you can’t be a stepmother without there being a mother.
    2) Using “Ex-Wife” emphasizes the marital connection, rather than the mothering connection. I think your book is talking about two people who share mothering, not marriage. The focus is on how to partner around mothering not how to deal with the fact that mom WAS married to dad and stepmom IS married to dad.
    I agree with dragonmctt that choice of words should be explained in an authors’ note.
    If the title raises controversy, it will be good for your book. There is no bad publicity, right? (as long as you have been thoughtful about your choice).

  13. I am a Step Mom to a beautiful 18 year old girl. I call myself a Step Mom. She and I have a GREAT relationship, and have for the past 13 years since I have known her. I also have a great relationship to her Mom…we are seriously just a tight knit family and we all have a mutual respect for one another. We spend several days a week together, and refer to eachother on a first name basis. Most people can’t seem to understand us, like we are supposed to hate eachother or something…but that’s ok, because it works for us! It takes a village.

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