What challenges we stepfamilies face! Not only are we adjusting to a new relationship, a new marriage, and perhaps a new home, but we’re doing it with extra people in the mix who also have needs, demands, and insecurities about the changes life has brought them. It’s no wonder so many of us give up, throw our hands in the air and decide it is too hard. No wonder so many of us end up divorcing again, leaving remnants of yet another broken family in our path.
Stepparenting is difficult. You do all the work of a parent, in most cases, either full time or part time, but get none of the recognition. You raise the children, love the children, financially support the children, and guide them through life, mostly from an unseen and under-appreciated place in the family tree – not that there is even a line for you there!
Throughout the time that Dave and I have been raising our kids, we’ve had our share of challenges. The kids went to one school that refuses to grant me the right to even sign permission slips for my stepkids, even though I was the one who handled all the day-to-day “stuff,” without having a form signed by my husband allowing it. When we wanted to obtain guardianship of our son when he turned 18, because he has Down Syndrome and we still care for him, we had to have his biological mother sign off on it. Step parents are often undervalued and underappreciated.
This month, we celebrate National Stepfamily Day. Stepfamily Day is celebrated every year on September 16. It is worth celebrating; more than 33% of us in the United States are involved in a step relationship and 1300 new stepfamilies are formed nearly each day in our country. The definition of “family” is definitely changing.
With that change needs to come, perhaps, a change in attitude and perception concerning stepparents. It is time to recognize the larger role stepparents play in the lives of children. Stepmothers are not wicked; stepchildren are not to be led into the forest and fed to the witch who lives there or denied their shot at the prince. Stepparents fulfill a key role and fill a gap in a child’s life and heart that might otherwise go empty. It’s time that the meaning of family is updated to recognize all of those people who contribute to the happiness of a child.