Generally, in most societies the step-parent is the proverbial whipping dog for many a fairy tale. Step parents most especially step-mothers have been portrayed as villains; cruel and downright mean. Does this mean it is impossible for step-parents to love children that are not of their own blood? Perhaps we would all be a bit more sympathetic if we walked in their shoes.
The challenge of being a step parent is better imagined than experienced. They must prove that they can be excellent parents even though they don’t share the same blood with the children. They are expected to fulfil all the parental obligations and responsibilities under the watchful eyes of the larger society.
Should they falter, it becomes a big issue. People may forego the mistakes done by biological parents but no step parent enjoys such latitude.
They have no rights to enjoy all the privileges and authority of a parent. They are constantly reminded by their step-children, their own spouses and the ex-spouses, consciously and unconsciously, that they are not the children’s ‘real’ parents.
Building relationships is difficult but trying to step into the shoes of a parent when the children are indifferent and downright hostile, can be a truly uphill task.
To succeed, it is important that step parents receive the unflinching support of their spouses. No step parent deserves to be a second-rate parent. Parenting is much more than the mating of a sperm and an egg. It is a lifelong commitment and stepparents must know they deserve all the rights and privileges of being a parent and not just the duties.
In addition, step parents should avoid mistakes such as
- Being overeager to establish parental authority; safer to ease into the role
- Taking rejection of parental authority badly. Don’t back off to the other extreme, it only worsens things
- Clinging to silent resentment. Instead express your need to have your contribution recognized and acknowledged
Everyone has hopes for themselves and their families, but because the future is unpredictable, it’s wise to keep an open mind and adjust as situations unfold. Part of the pleasure of living comes from considering the possibilities, but even more pleasurable is letting go of our expectations and simply enjoying the ride.