Changing The Narrative: No More ‘Evil Stepparents’


Frank Savala

What does it mean to ‘Change the Narrative’? One definition I’ve read says, “Changing the narrative is synonymous with changing the story. This means either something has happened that changes things or you are making something happen that changes things. Or, you are choosing to focus on something else that happened which changes the story/narrative.”

Although this definition is good, I still want a more simplistic way of looking at this. So, I’ve decided to look at the movie Jaws. The movie Jaws is a story about an insatiable man-eating shark. All the stories about insatiable, man-eating sharks add up to a broader narrative of sharks being dangerous and predatory creatures. The narrative and stories about sharks rest on powerful deep narratives about the human relationship to nature and a fear of the unknown.

Basically what this means is that our FEAR can be directly linked to our first introduction and mental images of the narrative we’ve been conditioned to believe as true.

This was so interesting to me, especially when I really took a moment and thought about why I can’t stand the ocean. (And why my biggest fear is being eaten alive by a shark.) This fear is largely based off of my untrue, and yet self-created understanding of sharks from the first movie (narrative) in my head.

In order to change the perspective, you have to change the narrative.

Sure, you get the point with Jaws. But what about family dynamics? When I think back and remember the first time I was introduced to the phrase ‘stepparent,’ I remember the quote “NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!” I remember watching that movie as a kid and thinking to myself, man, stepparents must all be evil people who only want to deliver pain and suffering.

I kept that mental image throughout my childhood and into my teen years. Any time I referred to the phrase ‘stepparent,’ I immediately and unconsciously labeled them in my head as evil or scary.

“When you begin to change the way you look at things; the things you look at change.” — Wayne Dyer

In a way, I am grateful for the narrative I had growing up because it prepared me for my future. I knew that becoming a stepparent was not going to be an easy road, but I was optimistic.

I assumed that because I was marrying one of my childhood friends it was going to be a walk in the park. But I learned, very quickly, that my wife, her mom and dad, the grandparents and a few of her friends all shared the exact same narrative towards stepparents that I had. To make matters worse, my wife’s mother and my wife’s grandmother were both abused and molested as kids, so you can imagine how closely they watched my every move until they saw how invested I was in building a strong family dynamic.

Today, I find myself fighting for a progressive narrative change, as it pertains to the way society values stepparents from all walks of life.

As a stepparent, I don’t want to be compared, labeled, or seen as anything else other than someone who stepped up and committed to the journey.

I have worked my ass off over the past ten years to build the perfect amount of trust within my family, but I was only successful because I chose to approach this journey differently. I had to challenge the status quo and change the way I valued myself and my worth within the family. Once I did that, my entire world changed for the better.

I was finally able to narrow my focus and build a strong foundation for the future. The best part was that I finally altered my personal narrative towards being a stepparent and never looked back.

The steps I took required patience, discipline, and most of all compassion:

  • First I worked on myself.
  • Then I worked on my relationship.
  • Then I focused on the kids.

It took years of trial and error before I was able to create this method of positive family growth. The trick, honestly, is balance. And reminding yourself that what you’ve been conditioned to believe doesn’t have to be (and isn’t always) the truth.

 

Franco Zavala HeadshotFranco is an actor, host of The Professional Stepdad podcast60-second storyteller, and stepfather of five who loves sharing wisdom, insight, and anecdotes about fatherhood. Driven by his passion to affect real change, Franco is on a mission to challenge the current narrative around the meaning of being a Step-Dad.

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Changing The Narrative: No More ‘Evil Stepparents’