I hate to say it but everything on the internet about step-parenting is so negative it makes me nauseaus and those that claim to be positive turn out to be doubly charged with selfish attitude. It was really not helpful to anything we ever wanted to achieve for our family. So, here we lay down a completely different take for you. This list also does not include the perks of ‘blending’ a family, it is just about step-parenting alone.
10 Reasons to Love Being a Step-Parent
(in order that they occured for me)
1. Knowing with certainty what kind of Dad/Mum your partner truly is.
When you are a parent there is no hiding your natural responses. If you respond in a way that is unusual it will immediately show on the child’s face as being puzzled, confused or with a distinct look of distrust. Children have no filter in their facial expressions. So, the truth will tell itself even if your partner isn’t being themselves. I was blessed with a man who wore his heart on his sleeve and the deepest of loves for his children. And it is a distinct moment which opened my heart to the possiblity of us becomming what we have today. If a partner is putting on a show with his kids to impress you it will be an obvious tell when the children look just a little bewildered at how they are behaving. It’s an easy tell for whether they are a keeper or not.
2. You get to learn what real, genuine, self-less love really is.
In a relationship there is often expectation that whatever love you extend to your partner will be returned to you in some way, if not immediately, then at some time in the future. It has the scent of reciprocity. When you have children, yes, you love them, but also on the days when you don’t want to you feel you have to and when you know they are not going to get anything kind in response. It has the scent of obligation.
However, when you have step-children, first they are children, you can’t expect love to be matched in return. Expecting that from a child is a form of emotional abuse and we all must allow children to express themselves in their own way and in their own time. Second, they are not yours, they are not ultimately your responsibility so obligation is out the door. Suddenly you are in a situation where love is entirely a choice. Every day and in every situation, every challenging circumstance, you get to choose love. This is an act, when practised, will change your heart not just for your steppies but in the way you deal with every person in your life and how you interact with others in your community. You will learn and master a love that gives and gives freely. This is a journey that helps you realise that parental love does not have to be biological.
3. You learn what acceptance looks like.
As a society we can face some of the most critical attitudes from our peers. The classic example is how critical Mum’s can be of each other. If we aren’t careful, we get caught in the same trap of judgement and criticism. We are so harsh on our peers and make calls about who they are based on how they respond. It is this judgemental behaviour, also known as stigma, that stops our society from progressing. It is behaviour that stops people from opening up and being able to live a life that is true to themselves.
When a child has abnormal behaviours you get to choose to accept them and love them for who they are in that moment and not apply judgement to it. You have a choice to simply meet them where they are at and allow them to voice their internal dialogue that causes that behaviour. Learning acceptance of a person for who they are irrespective of their behaviours is a rare and beautiful gift. If you get the chance to learn it through a child then embrace it. That doesn’t mean that you necessarily want negative behaviours to remain, but does show a loving kindness that opens the door to you modelling other choices.
4. You get to be their safe haven.
There are things that happen that children simply do not want to discuss with their biological parent for the simple fact that they are concerned about the consequences of the disclosure. Often if the children are scared of their mothers response, as ‘the Mum’, they will come to me instead as a safe female figure in their life to discuss their worldly issue. It is a privilege to be a confidant, friend and accountability partner in their lives. Of course, the same goes for Dad’s too.
5. You get to be yourself because you never have to be ‘their’ Mum/Dad.
With my own children there are days where I simply have to ‘be Mum’ and put my cranky pants on. However, because your role can be less disciplinarian as a step parent and more that of an encourager you have the ability to be less uptight and just be yourself too. The awesome part is that you get to be parental figure who is chill and easy to relax with, the one who is always so much more fun than a ‘real’ parent. It is like being an auntie only better as I found out for more reasons below.
6. You get to augment their realities and demonstrate an alternate ‘normal’.
This is a pretty cool part. You get to be their new example. You get to be an example of what a parent can look like, as a contrast to their biological parents (because parents come with all shapes and sizes of psychological baggage that influences how they parent). Even better, with your partner, you get to be their new example of what a healthy relationship can look like. They get to witness alternate ways of managing differences of opinion, stress, expressions of joy, grief and a range of other emotions in a way that they may not have witnessed before. Of course, this assumes your partner took time to heal from their past and isn’t repeating the same patterns of the past with you. And, before you argue with me that it simply couldn’t be a better model than having Mum and Dad together answer me this – how many healthy relationships end in divorce?
7. You get to be part of the leadership team.
Often, being part of the leadership team is restricted to your own care time. It is rare to have a biological parent who is self-confident enough to allow you to sit down and discuss the values and life goals hoped for in your step children. Nonetheless, you have the chance to lead by example, to be their ‘hand up’ when they are needing assistance in trying something new, and to celebrate with them as they reach milestones and victories.
8. You get to pass a bit of yourself into who they are.
You might not be the two main people in their life but that’s fine. I think of my childhood and I think about that one awesome aunt who just seemed to ‘get me’ and it was really because she extended herself to take an interest in my life. Similarly I have friend’s parents who have a similar role in my life. Being a step parent is kind of the same. You get to be that cool side influence that can be a bit quirkier than Mum and Dad, that can inspire them with those things that are unique about you and be there as an encourager who actively speaks out recognition of their abilities and talents as well as those beautiful personal qualities that make them who they are.
9. You get to watch them grow, learn and achieve goals.
I am not sure I have to say much on this point – because isn’t it simply awesome to watch a child hit milestones or grow in an area of challenge or work their tail off to reach a goal which you can celebrate the effort of irrespective of outcome?
10. You get to see some of yourself reflected in who they are.
Over time, as you spend time with them, like any good relationship yo will see yourself reflected in them and they will be reflected in you too. You might pickup a preteens or teens unique generational slang and in return you will see yourself in their behaviours as they adopt parts of who you are that they think is cool or are behaviours that will likely get them a better outcome than the ones they used before. To see some of yourself in them, sometimes without them even realising, is one of the highest order compliments in my books. 🙂