The challenges step parent families face can be fraught with varying degrees of highs and lows. For someone to come into the already established family and fit in mid way through is like a runner jumping into a race half way through and expecting the win the race. It takes a very special person to love a child that is not their own especially when the child is pre-teen and starting to become rebellious.
When I met Russell, my children were 8 and 9. They had had the luxury of all my focus and attention directed at them after deciding to leave their abusive father when they were 2 and 3. So for 6 almost 7 years we were just the three of us.
I chose not to work full-time and stayed at home to care for them. I began tertiary study before they started school so I could work full-time when they were a little older. Working through a primary teaching degree part time took 6 years to complete and by the time I had finished my degree there were no full-time teaching jobs for me.
When Russell and I met we were very independent. We kept everything separate and did not move in together until we were engaged which was a few years after we met. I wanted to introduce him to my children slowly so that if anything happened between the two of us they would not be effected as much.
Over time they became used to having him around and it was nice to see the way they interacted with each other. Their own father was not the type of person to spend time with them or take them places. In fact, he was more of an absent father than anything else.
Which is why it was great to have a man around for them to learn from and look up to. It was also nice for me to have some support when it came to parenting them. Before Russell I was on my own and had no support or back up when making parenting decisions.
I was still the decision maker when it came to handing out the correct disciplinary measures for negative behaviour although knowing I had his support to back me up gave me validation that what I was doing was ok. Being a single parent leaves you open to second guessing every move you make.
As their step parent, I watched Russell care for my children as if they were his own and became so thankful for having him in our lives that if we had not met when we did our path would have been very different to the one we have traveled along so far.
There were many things Russell wouldn’t tolerate about my children’s behaviour. One was the way they spoke to me and he wouldn’t allow them to be rude, answer back or argue in a way that would lead to a full-blown argument. He always stood his ground and commanded the respect that a mother deserves. Usually Russell would roll his eyes when they did something he didn’t approve of but when it came to the way they spoke to me he made it known it was not ok.
Having been a single parent for almost 7 years I know how hard it is for people to understand the pressures of everyday life when you are parenting on your own. I know the judgements people make and the assumptions about how you ended up on your own raising your children and how much of a burden you are to the country.
I never chose to raise my children on my own, circumstances surrounding drugs and alcohol with their father at the time led me to make one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. Curled up in a ball, sitting outside in the rain under an open sided shed, fearing for my children’s future led me to find the courage to leave him and everything we had ever known.
Soon after making the decision to leave him an extremely traumatic event happened in our lives and not long after that I knew I had to leave and never return.
Trusting men again was difficult and I developed a sense of anger towards men for a few years. Luckily for me the anger was resolved by the time Russell and I met and I was open to loving and being loved again. I knew that I didn’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, especially when my children had left home and would make their own way in the world.
There were many things that we compromised on and we fought hard to have each other’s back when it came to disciplining the children. We worked through the “you’re not my father you can’t tell me what to do” situations and he made it his mission to care for them, no matter what.
Over the years there were times when they didn’t make it easy for Russell and would resist his efforts to spend time with them or teach them certain things. They were dealing with issues of resentment towards their biological father and were often angry at the situation they were in. They had to endure the lengthy process of the family court for many years as their father decided he wanted more.
All this time Russell was patient and kind, he took it personally when they rejected him but he never let it show. He gave them more than their own father ever did and made us all his number one priority.
Having a step parent in the household will always have its challenges. It is how you deal with them together that will create the loving home that the children so richly deserve. For even though their world was turned upside down by leaving their father, I knew that I had done the very best for them and would always do what was right by them. Whether they realised it or not.
Step parents who parent children who are not their own are amazing and will always be true heroes in my eyes. They have stepped up and decided to love their partners children as their own even when the children make it impossible for them to do so. Keep doing what you’re doing and know that choosing to love someone else’s children even when you don’t have to is something to be commended for. Kia Kaha.
Next week I will share some tips on how you as a couple can survive the challenges of step parenting. We would love to hear your tips on how you maintain your relationship in your step family by leaving a comment in the box below.