Watch your ‘step’

It’s a truly life-changing thing to blend a family: adding “Step” to your name, intertwining family traditions, having little ones not born to you suddenly look to you for guidance.

Life is already chock full of ups and downs, helping to raise children who aren’t biologically yours, definitely adds some twists and turns. There are times where running away might feel like a decent idea. If you’re in a situation where there are jealous ex-spouses and/or confused loyalties of your stepchildren, it can be almost unbearable.

Why? Because it’s HARD. And sometimes people don’t want to talk about how hard it can be. If you have a difficult time with adjusting to being a ‘Step’ then you’re the bad guy. When you’re a “Step”, you actively choose to be a part of a child’s life. You make a conscious decision to do a large chunk of work for not a lot of credit. You enforce the biological parent’s decisions without the benefit of parental authority. You “step” back when you want to lunge forward. You don’t have the lead role but try your very best as supporting actor/actress. Sometimes you don’t get the same rewards as a biological parent, the cuddling or snuggling or unconditional love that comes with automatically sharing the same birth surname. (Sometimes you don’t want these things with your stepchildren… and that’s OKAY too.)

Not only do you have those hurdles… but if you’re slammed into a volatile situation with ex-spouses you are automatically suspect. The Enemy as it were. Constantly having to prove that you care about all children equally, whether biological or blended. Trying to give appropriate guidance and discipline without earning the dreaded “Stepmonster” title. Attempting to calm the fears of biological children that no one is going to “take their place”. Juggling emotions of children transitioned from one household to another, remaining impartial; attempting with every fiber not to react to horrible things being said about you… when all you try to do is your very best.

Yeah. It’s HARD.

All that difficulty aside… it’s important to remember the positives. There is an upside you know.  Parenting isn’t about praise even at the best of times. We don’t have children for them to love us… we have children to love THEM. To see children grow and change and adapt and even flourish is the very best unspoken thank you can receive. It’s not about getting credit, it’s about seeing a child’s joy. It’s about showing little ones, who you chose to be with, and little ones who were born to you… the wonder of how to celebrate life.

The most important thing you can do is to show all the children in your life what’s truly important. The little things that aren’t so little. Not just buying things but the present of “being present”. Making each instant about kindness and love. Kids don’t remember what presents they got for Christmas but they sure remember how special it was to play board games with mugs of hot chocolate and lots of laughter by a twinkling tree. They might not remember the toy they “had” to have for their birthday but they’ll sure remember laughing and dancing and playing in the dark with glow sticks on their special day.

It’s certainly okay9780618758197_p0_v1_s1200x630 to feel whatever it is you’re feeling in regards to being a ‘Step’. Some of you might not even LIKE your step-children. Some may feel the same about them as your biological children. For some of you the step-kids may be your only kids. The important thing to remember is to use equal parts kindness and boundaries no matter what, practice tons of patience, and give yourself time. If you have biological children, the bond was there even before birth. To have a life grow inside of you is a magical thing. Bonding with your step-children won’t happen overnight. Whether your relationship with your ‘steps’ grows into a loving relationship or is based on simple mutual respect, it’s all okay. Talk about your feelings with others and remember to take time for yourself. It’s very easy to get sucked into drama NOT of your own making. No matter if you love being a ‘Step’ or loathe it… you HAVE to let go of the negative judgment. Step-parenting is tough enough without beating yourself up on top of it.

There are tons of great books about being a step parent. One I particularly like is ‘Stepmonster’ – it’s an extremely real and in depth look at why stepmothers feel the way they do.


I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below! Let’s talk about it.