This autoethnographic study unpacks Sonia’s experiences as a stepmother. Historically stepmothers are the evil, unkind villains in fairy tales. Most research about stepfamilies has deemed stepmotherhood to be ambiguous and stress-laden. This research explores how becoming a stepmother has impacted her evolving sense of self-identity. To do this we undertook an autoethnographic study of Sonia’s experiences. The use of authoethnographic method supports and challenges personal narrative. We reflected upon the specific situations that caused her to question, alter and sustain a healthy sense of self, so in turn she may create a safe and secure environment that supports healthy and ongoing connections within her stepfamily. We found that the growing pains of adjusting to a new role can lead stepmothers into positive self-discovery. Through this process it is vital that one remains true to one’s core self while provoking the development of self-identity within a newly constructed family form. This autoethnography offers insight to both stepfamilies and those researching and working with them to build a deeper understanding of the unique issues and experiences stepfamilies have which may be unexpected, complex, and diverse.


: Stepmother, Stepfamily, Auto-Ethnography, Self-Identity

Author Bio(s)

Sonia Cann-Milland is a first year PhD student and a step and biological mother of five children. She has 30-years experiences working with families in various welfare fields and is presently working at a primary school in welfare. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: srcan1@student.monash.edu.

Jane Southcott serves as Sonia’s supervisor at Monash University.


Sonia would like to acknowledge Jane Southcott, Julia Cann, Graemme Cann, and John Milland.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.