Being a Step Parent is a Privilege, Not a Right

kids b&w

It’s a funny thing, becoming a step parent. I’m not sure if I have ever heard of anyone who said, “When I grow up, I really want to be a step parent”. For whatever the reason, being a step mom is that one step further away from anything anyone ever dreamed of. I mean the negative depictions of the evil step mom are enough to frighten off even the boldest and the bravest of soles. What’s even more “funny” is that moment when you come to the realization that you are in fact in love with a person who has kids. Whoa. Okay. Breathe. Time to assess what this means for me, for them, and most importantly for the kids who are involved.

Every family and every situation is different, albeit I feel there are some truths, morals and decisions that should be universal. I cannot speak of every situation, but, instead, I will speak of one I know well, my own.  When I first started dating my now husband I had never given any thoughts to having kids, raising kids, or really anything having to do with kids. When he was ready for the kids and I to meet, I wasn’t even in the slightest bit nervous or scared or anything to the like. I was always a person who was well liked and well received. It never occurred to me that meeting his kids would be any different… BOY WAS I WRONG. Without getting into too many of the details, let me just say that things did not exactly go as I planned. It was NOT love at first sight. I tell the story now, 15 years later, with a smile on my face and love in my heart, that the daughter of my soon to be husband made me cry more than any other single individual in my life.

At first, in my naiveté and lack of experience, I thought…forget this. What is her problem? I’m a good person, I’m funny, I’m nice and to quote Stuart Smally of Saturday Night Live Fame: “Gosh darn-it, people like me”. I fought back tears at every meeting.  I dreaded being in the car or alone with her. There was however a defining moment, when I came to the realization, okay, this person is a child, I am an adult. I need to be the one who makes the effort, whether reciprocated or not, I need to make more of an effort than I have at anything in my life. I am in this for the long haul. I need to embrace, accept and love my husband’s kids as if they are my own. It is only fair to them. I need to change the way I go about making decisions, and make them now, with their best interest at the focal point of all things I do. I also realized that these kids need to have positive adult role models who have mature relationships that are respectful and cordial. I came to a peaceful acceptance that the kids’ mom is a person with whom I will forever have a relationship with, so, why not be nice to her. She didn’t do anything to me personally, and likewise me to her.  So, that is what I set out to do. It was not easy, and it did not come over night. But what I came to realize over the course of the next several years can be summed up in the following bullet points:

  • Being a step parent is a privilege not a right.
  • Being a step parent means having to make sacrifices of a biological parent knowing that you may never be rewarded or even recognized for them.
  • Being a step parent means making every effort to participate in the lives of the kids of the person you love as an “extra” parent/adult who loves and cares about them.
  • Being a step parent means sometimes being on the outside or not being included in family photos or older memories and having to choke back the tears so no one notices that it hurts.
  • Being a step parent means making lifestyle changes to support being the best parent figure, friend, role model and person you can be.
  • Being a step parent means you sometimes have to hear others speaking about how they wish your spouse and the kids other parent were still together…for sake of the kids. Even if their bio-parent isn’t better suited for the job.
  • Being the step parent means being introduced as the step-parent. You cannot image some of the weird and judgmental looks this brings about.
  • Being a step parent means helping with homework, and talking about drugs and sex and morals and friends and bulling and finances and right from wrong and a whole host of other subjects that come up that you never would have dreamed of discussing with you parents.
  • Being a step parent means attending concerts as the chaperon or should I say chauffeur, attending sporting events and plays and parent teacher conferences and all those other “parental” events.
  • Being a step parent means back to school shopping is now more important than shopping for your own wardrobe.
  • Being a step parent means, somehow, with all the effort along the way, being proud of the young person who you have helped to shape and mold.
  • Being a step parent means feeling proud when your step child does something good for the society, themselves or others.
  • Being a step parent allows you to love and be loved in one of the most unique, misunderstood and underrated relationships in our society.

So, is being a step parent worth it? YES! In more ways than you can count. Remember, when meeting and falling in love with the person who is already a parent you are entering a relationship that is more than just about you. If you are not ready for all that being a step parent brings about, gracefully and maturely walk away, it’s not about you, it’s about the kids. If you are ready, jump in with both feet and a full heart. Enjoy every moment, even the ones that at the time don’t seem all that enjoyable. Every experience happens once in a lifetime.

Anne Sleeman is the President and co-founder of Kids On Time, essential tools for co-parenting. She knew her life changed forever when she met and married her husband Joe, and became step-mom to his two children. Anne is excited to offer her stories and expertise to all parents, step, blended and otherwise. Anne’s website is :www.kidsontime.com. Follow Anne on Twitter: @KidsOnTime and on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/mykidsontime

Anne Sleeman

8 thoughts on “Being a Step Parent is a Privilege, Not a Right

  1. I think this is a great article and good for both “moms” to see the others point of view and then remember to put the kids first. I’m the biologic mom in my case and it is very hard when you try to open up the door of communication to the “step mom” just to have it slammed and then not know the values of the person who is now part of your kids lives. In my last year of this new experience I have seen my kids hurt by their dad returning their birthday gift because the new mom was hurt that the watchbox was bought by my money (their 3&5 so yes my money needed) and they can’t bring anything from our home to theirs because it causing sharing issues with her kids. I hope she has an eye opening moment soon. It is eye opening for me to hear the other side of things like with pictures cause I have had those same sad moments when it is the other mom who got to experience the beach with my children for the first time and as I plan our own trip for next year I hear we already did that with Dad and x. It is hard but you said it right, you choke back the tears, smile and remember it is not all about the adults, it is about the kids. Your article reminds me it probably is not all roses for her either. Thank you.

    • Nickole, I’m so sorry that the door was slammed in your face. I am a mom who works with my kids’ step-mom, and I can see both sides. Try to remember that the step-mom in your life has only heard one side of the story, your ex’s side, which is probably emotionally charged. She does not yet know you as a person. Try to take all of the emotional history between your ex, and put it in a box in your mind. It is not needed in this situation. The past is over, and the only person you can change is you. Try not to let her behavior tarnish how you see her, and remember she is new to all of this. Try to reach out again, approach it in a business-like manner. Treat her like a business colleague, and be polite. Keep in the back of your mind that you get to know everyone else in your child’s life, like teachers, doctors, etc. Why not the other mother? You are a wonderful mom to want to do what is best for your babies! Good job!

    • Thank you for your feedback Nickole.
      I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it is not all roses for either. Also,and not that this lessens the hurt, but, it seems to be a trend (unfortunately) where clothing and other items purchased at one house are not allowed in the other. I have heard this story over and over again and it never ceases to amaze me how childish the parents can be. With more awareness and more people striving to do the right thing for the kids, this hopefully will dissipate. Until then, try not to bad mouth her in front of your children (I’m sure you do not) as they, over time, come to realize who has their best interest at heart and who is more self centered. Keep being the best Mom that you can be…that’s all your kids can ask for. If you ever want to run anything by me personally, please feel free to do so. anne@kidsontime.com Cheers.

  2. Usually I hate articles about step parenting from the step parent’s point of view. I do feel sometimes that some step parents are looking to be praised for raising another persons kids. I hate how some people act as if step parents are saints. I don’t feel that at all here.

    I say that because I was raised in a step family and sometimes I feel when you’re a child your opinions (even of decisions that do affect you) don’t matter to the adults involved.At least that’s what I get when I hear some adults talk o the second marriage and their children. I personally do not like my step dad. I didn’t as a kid and I don’t as an adult. It’s not because he replaced my real dad. I don’t care about that. He’s the type of person I would not be around if I didn’t have to.

    But the real reason I’m commenting is to say I’m glad that there are good step parents. I was raised by one that in my opinion shouldn’t have been able to raise any child at all. Because of that I was extremely anti divorce and remarriage but I guess it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If I ever marry someone with kids I’ll remember the advice given here. Although I’d rather co-parent. I want to be a parent but not really a wife.

  3. Usually I hate articles about step parenting from the step parent’s point of view. I do feel sometimes that some step parents are looking to be praised for raising another persons kids. I hate how some people act as if step parents are saints. I don’t feel that at all here.

    I say that because I was raised in a step family and sometimes I feel when you’re a child your opinions (even of decisions that do affect you) don’t matter to the adults involved. At least that’s what I get when I hear some adults talk of the second marriage and their children. I personally do not like my step dad. I didn’t as a kid and I don’t as an adult. It’s not because he replaced my real dad. I don’t care about that. He’s the type of person I would not be around if I didn’t have to.

    But the real reason I’m commenting is to say I’m glad that there are good step parents. I was raised by one that in my opinion shouldn’t have been able to raise any child at all. Because of that I was extremely anti divorce and remarriage but I guess it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If I ever marry someone with kids I’ll remember the advice given here. Although I’d rather co-parent. I want to be a parent but not really a wife.

  4. HI Angel.
    Thanks for your comments. I totally agree with you, that there are a lot of people who act like step parents are saints and also that there a lot of step parents who take the role of being a “parent” for granted. I think that it is even more important when people are about to become step parents…ie involved with a person who has kids, that they really take the time to realize that their lives are about to change, and that they are about to become a role model (whether good or bad) . It is a decision FAR too many people take to lightly. On the flip side of that, there is no class or other way to prepare for all that being a parent or a step parent brings, so knowing that you will have moments of triumph and moments of failure, is important. All that you can do is focus on what is best for the children whose lives YOU chose to enter. Thank you again for your comments, cheers to you and a fun and successful future:)

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