Step parenting is not for the faint of heart. Its pleasures are nuanced and hard to recognize. Its pains are not so subtle. Step parenting is about supporting your spouse in being the best parent they can be to his or her children. Step-parenting is about biting your tongue, smiling through tears and being the number one fan of a person who is the coach of a team that may very well never allow you to play in their game. I don’t mean to sound negative. I’ll talk later about all of the great things that come from step parenting, but not yet. Cause right now we’re talking about what’s hard, what’s frustrating and what really, really sucks about being a step parent. And you know why? Because kids deserve to have a step parent who is realistic about their role in their step children’s lives. These kids deserve to know that their step parent isn’t in competition with them. They need to know that their relationship with their parent won’t always have to include you, that you’ll back off, sit back, and smile from the sidelines. They deserve to know that even if their Mom and Dad fight, their step parent will not become a third (or fourth person) in their lives who fights over them. Honestly, I think if I could boil the whole lesson down to three magic words, they would be these three, “stay out of it.”
Wow, even I think that sounds bad, and I’ve re-thought that phrase, wondered if I could phrase it differently, but you know what? I can’t. Stay out of it. Before you become a step parent ask yourself, is staying out of it that something you can do?
This whole discussion arises from the First rule of step parenting. The first rule of step parenting comes in to play way back. Back when you were the girlfriend or the boyfriend of that handsome/beautiful person with that cute son or daughter (or 2 or 3). Back before moving in together, before the engagement, way before. You’ll think I’m exaggerating when I say that, “If you don’t like rule number 1, then walk away.” If you don’t like Rule number 1, then Rules 2 through whatever are totally pointless.
Rule Number 1: If you must come first in your beloved’s life, don’t become a step parent.
I get it, that sounds harsh. Of course you want to come first. Lots of people who are smarter than I will say that you “must” come first. But I stand my my Number 1 rule. I’ll explain more in Part 2.
I’ll be posting my thoughts about how to be the kind of step parent who helps kids survive their parents divorce and re-marriage and live to tell about it.