It is by far, one of the most thankless jobs in the world. Those of you that have experienced it first hand can vouch for me. I know you are probably thinking, parenting, well you are half right, step parenting. It is one of the hardest and most thankless job that one can do. I know, I have done it for 10 years now. Six years legally, but esentially, for all practical purposes, I have been step parenting for 10 years now.
My stepdaughter has been in my life since she was a year old. In fact, her mom and dad never really were together after she was born, so essentially she has no memory of them every being together as a couple. I actually had a relationship with her father before her mother and father ended up together. We had a “on-again, off-again” relationship and eventually went our seperate ways. Ironically, 2 years later, we came full circle and ended up back together with a toddler from a previous relationship in tow.
As a step parent your relationship with your step child can be dependent upon a lot of outside factors that you do not have any immediate control of. You have to contend with the birth parent and any relationships or people that she introduces into the child’s life. You and your spouse and trying to co-parent with another household, and that in itself can hold numerous challenges dependent upon the rules and the dynamic of each household. Some households and rules may run consistant with one another, while others may have two very different sets of rules and dynamics that can affect the way the child/step child relates to each parent and step parent.
The addition of half siblings and step siblings into the life a child can be very difficult for some children, especially if the child had been an only child before the parent or parents married their new partner and created a new family (blended or extended). Most children at some point in their life do have to get used to the idea of an additional child in the household. For most children, they may be resentful at first, but eventually they come around and they adapt. But for step children, because they are not constantly in the same household with those children at all times it can take some additional time to get used to the idea of not being the only child, the true center of attention anymore. In some cases, the child may even feel as though he or she is being replaced by the new baby or the new family. Getting a step child to realize that is not the case can be a very daunting and difficult task.
When you are raising a step child in a household that is not the child’s primary household, the task of helping the child adapt and feel like part of the family becomes even more difficult. There is a fine line you must walk as a step parent in being fair and impartial, in addition to getting the step child to understand why there are differences between them and their step siblings or half siblings. The biggest obstacle I have as a step parent is with jealousy. My step daughter is old enough that she realizes that her half brothers and sister do get more things at our home than she does. Getting your step child to understand that it is not always feasible to buy her all the things that the other children becomes very difficult. The trick is trying to explain to the child, in a way he or she will understand, that because he or she is not there all the time they do not need all the items that the other children have, the other children do not have another home, everything they have is here, in their home. Whereas, the step child has 2 homes, and most of the step child’s items are going to be at that child’s primary home rather than at a home they are only at for a few days a month. This is a very delicate balancing act, trying to get a child to understand why things are different for him or her, even if they have not known anything different.
Being the step parent of a step daughter has been the most challenging role of my life. It actually was not too bad until my husband and I started adding children to our family. Once we had our first child things have gone down hill from there. My step daughter felt very displaced and we tried very hard not to let that happen. But, again outside factors also affect how things play out and how she feels. She has had so many changes in both of her families at the same time in her life that I believe she feels that she has gotten lost in the shuffle, which is not the case.
Setting consistant rules and getting the step child to abide by them is another difficult task that step parents encounter. My step daughter has this predisposed idea in her head that because she is not at our home all the time, she is entitled to do as she pleases and she believes that she should be catered to when she is there. As a parent to other children in the home, this is not the way it works in our home. What is fair for one child is fair for the other child, whether that child is there all of the time or occasionally. I have held this level of consistancy since the very beginning, but my step daughter still tries to push the envelope.
She has become very good at manipulating the situation to her advantage when it comes other family members. She has a routine that I refer to as her “poor poor pitiful me” act. She plays on the emotions of her grandparents and tries to play on our emotions as well by playing the step child card and the blame game is prevelant in all her antics. She does not accept responsibility for any of her actions, at 11 years old it is still always someone or something else’s fault.
I am probably the most difficult on her and I will admit that. As the oldest child I have certain expectations of her and I expect that she will be able to handle the age appropriate responsibilities that I assign to her. She has become a master at playing up the airhead routine. She acts as if she has no clue water you are talking about and requires additional explanation for the simpliest of tasks, to the point of frustration. She has to be spoon fed instruction that would be very clear and evident to most people. I hate to say it, but there are times that I am more confident in the abilities of my 3 year old to follow through with something than I am of my 11 year old step daughter. She plays the act up to the hilt and by giving in to her ignorance, she wins.
I am trying very very hard to instill some sense of respect and responsibility into my step daughter. It is a very challenging task. My goal is not be the evil wicked step mother, but rather to help her grow into a responsible young lady capable of making her own choices in her life. I am fortunate that my husband supports me and my decisions in the way we raise our children and his daughter. There are many step parents who do not have that advantage, many of them are married to spouses who are blinded to their children’s disrespect and irresponsibility. They enable the child by allowing him or her to get away with not being responsible for their actions. This does not help the child, in fact, it puts the child in the driver’s seat and he or she controls the household.
As a responsible parent, although you may feel guilty because you are not there all of the time, it is your responsiblity to teach your child right from wrong. In essence a lot of step children are very lucky because they have 2 sets of parents looking out for them and loving them. Unfortunately, as a step parent you do no always get credit for all you do in helping that child grow, but I am here to tell you that you should. It is a difficult and emotional job that yeilds minimal rewards at times and usually ends up with more “I hate you’s” than “I love you’s” from a difficult child. Our only hope is that some day they will look back and realize all that we have done was because we loved and cared for them as if they were our own children. Maybe then, someday, we will get our Thank you, and that would be the greatest reward of all, your step child finally acknowledging that they appreciated all that you have done for them.