Parenting is hard at the best of times. But when you are parenting a child that is not biologically yours, well, it can be even trickier. I see it every day with my own family and sometimes I don’t know how my partner handles it.
Taking care of me is one thing; taking care of my children too? Well, let’s just say it takes an incredibly patient person to do that.
So, in honour of stepparents and step-partners everywhere, here are some of the many reasons why you are extra awesome. And here are some of the many reasons why parents like me (and any other mum or dad out there who is given a second chance) appreciate you every single day.
You don’t get the new relationship phase, yet you take it in stride.
Unplanned weekends away, Sundays spent in bed, late nights out…. yeah, probably not going to happen when your partner has children. But, step-partners take it in stride, even if weekends away take months to plan, Sunday sleep-ins do not exist and a late night out usually involves a restaurant that has a decent kid’s club.
You are never going to be put first.
Because your partner’s children will always come first, no matter what. The best you can ask for is second. This can be a frustrating thing to deal with and always requires a lot of integrity and maturity.
And there are so many stepparents out there that absolutely nail it.
You are literally thrown into parenting.
You don’t get nine months to prepare. And even if you are not the official “Mum” or “Dad”, you still have to play that ever important part of a role model to a younger generation, even if you’re not quite ready for it.
And you pretty much have no idea what you’re doing.
Neither do most parents, truthfully, but, when you’re a stepparent, it can be hard to know what you are allowed to do. Can you discipline them in public? Can you take their toys away? Can you take them away fishing for the weekend? It’s a fine line and one that varies with each family.
You have to learn tricky manoeuvres in minimal time (ones that parents have had years to master).
Like how to perfect the ultimate blanket tent. Or how to pull off a spinny airplane (without making the child too dizzy). Or how to spread the exact right amount of Nutella on bread so a fussy toddler will actually eat it.
You learn to adult, even if you don’t want to.
Because being hungover and exhausted after a night out and waking up in the morning to a house full of energetic children is hard, even when they’re yours.
You deal with all sorts of unpleasant emotions.
Like frustration when a child doesn’t listen to you. Or anger when he says, “You’re not my real dad.” Or guilt when you discipline him and he ends up in tears.
You have to stop swearing.
Pretty much immediately. And, if you enjoy a good curse word every now and then, it can be tricky (and can result in losing a lot of coins to the swear jar).
You deal with your partner’s ex… forever.
In a normal relationship, when it ends, it ends. But when kids are involved, this isn’t usually the case. Not in all instances, but, in many cases, the father or mother of the children will be present in their lives which means the step parent gets the pleasure of dealing with that person too.
You also deal with so much more junk than ever before.
Triple the washing, triple the food intake and triple the amount of tidying up. Because kids may be small, but they certainly have a lot of crap!
And your stuff (which you’ve saved months for), becomes their stuff.
What’s yours is theirs.
You get the joy of experiencing bodily fluids that are not biologically yours.
Poop. Wee. Snot. Vomit. It takes a cast iron stomach to step parent.
You learn how to appreciate the finer foods in life.
Such as chips and nuggets soaked in tomato sauce. And cheese sandwiches with no crusts.
But, most importantly, you love them like they are your own, even if you don’t have to.
Step parents not only love their partners, but their partner’s children. And this has got to be one of the most admirable qualities in the entire world.
To those stepparents everywhere, you are doing an amazing job and you are appreciated every single day by the partners and the children that have suddenly taken over your lives. So, put your feet up and reflect on just how incredible you are.
And have a beer. Actually, have two. Because you deserve it.
To all the single parents out there, we also have a long list of why you are amazing – so share the love with all the single parents and stepparents in your lives!