Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Writing Prompt: Books that Shaped Us

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Do you regularly free write? Do you wish you did? Several times a month, we'll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook or a blank page and keep your hand moving for 10 minutes. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation – just write.

Then, share a link to your free write in the comments section below. We’d love to see what you did with this week's prompt!


Once upon a time, I met a lovely man, who had a lovely daughter, and was going through a less than lovely divorce. We fell in love, made a home, and I began to help raise his seven-year-old girl. Becoming an instant mother was a challenge as much as it was a joy. It was difficult to focus on parenting because the child’s mother didn’t want me to be a parent at all, and didn’t hide her feelings about me. Suffice it to say that my first years of stepmotherhood were unexpectedly harsh.

I needed help. I needed guidance. I needed a therapist. And so, along with many visits to the therapist, I sought out a cheaper source of support—books. Three books that got me through were Keeping Kids Out of the Middle by Benjamin Garber, Joint Custody with a Jerk by Julie Ross and Judy Corcoran, and Stepwives by Louise Oxhorn and Lynne Oxhorn-Ringwood. All three centered on how to focus your parental energies on yourself, your partner, and your child, rather than take the bait the other side casts out. Becoming a stepmother is hard enough, but entering into a hostile blended family situation is a state of affairs that not all survive. These book offered me more than guidance, they showed me that I was not alone.

Yet, ten years later, the kid grew up, things changed, and I have survived. Even thrived. It’s hard to say now which book taught me what, but I remember learning that I really couldn’t do anything about my stepdaughter’s mother’s behavior. What I could do was choose to be the best parent I could be, step or not. The bottom line was this: It’s not about the parents, however they are related to the child and however they behave. It’s about creating a world where a child of divorce feels safe, loved, and secure in themselves.

And isn’t that the core of what motherhood is about? Care, support, patience.

Before I was a biomother, I was a stepmother. And it was in those early days of conflict and anger, laughter and smiles that I learned what it is to truly be a mother. It means to open your heart to a child, come what may, and love her.

For today's free write, consider the books that shaped you as you've walked your path of motherhood. Share your free writing with us here, and we'll pin it to our Mother's Day Pinterest page.


Do YOU have a writing prompt to share with Literary Mama readers? Send your 150- to 300-word narrative and associated writing prompt to lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com. We'd like to hear your ideas! 

Amanda Jaros is a freelance writer living in Ithaca, NY. Her essay “Blood Mountain” won the 2017 Notes From the Field contest at Flyway Journal. Other work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including, NewfoundLife in the Finger Lakes Magazine, Highlights for Children, and Cargo Literary. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University.

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