One of the things I have learned in Step-Family life is that you cannot rely on anything to go the way you would “expect”.  Expectations take the backseat to reality – and sometimes reality isn’t based in…. well… reality.  The life of a step-parent is often times full of double meanings, hidden agendas and covert operations.  No wonder the life of a step-parent is so misunderstood in so many ways.

Let me give you some examples:

Behavior

On one hand, the step-parent is usually made out to be the villain for expecting the children to behave properly in the proper context – running around the play ground, laughing and chasing each other is fine – doing the same in a restaurant at dinner time is not.  We are told it’s not our place to suggest, tell or otherwise voice our opinions towards the bio-parent about any comments or concerns regarding the child’s behavior.  Any comments from the step-parent to the bio-parent (whether the significant other or the ex) is construed as criticism of their parenting abilities and opens up the wrath of the “real” parent.

On the other hand, the step-parent is usually expected to treat their step-child(ren) better than they would their own child and any deviation from that opens up the accusations that the step-parent is showing favoritism.  Or, if there are no biological children by the step-parent, the all too familiar statement of “You have no children, so you obviously have no idea what you are talking about” is thrown in your face all too easily.

Availability

Step-parents may be expected to bend over backwards to be available for their step-children.  Weekend plans may be thrown out the window at the drop of a hat based on whims by one bio-parent or the other.  The child(ren) may show up without the basic necessities – socks, underwear, properly fitting clothing – and are told to tell the bio-parent and step-parent that it is THEIR responsibility to make sure they have everything they need.  Never mind that the visitation before was spent buying everything the child(ren) need, only to be told they must take it with them as they don’t have what is needed at their other home.  Countless numbers of toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and other items are supplied – willingly at first – and increasingly suspiciously afterwards – when the same items are needed week after week, month after month.  After all, how many tubes of deodorant can a child actually go through in 4-6 days a month?

The step-parent’s income is regarded as disposable, extra, to be coveted by the other bio-parent with impunity.  That extra paycheck is to be spent on the step-child(ren) – didn’t you know that?

Emotions

As a step-parent, you are expected to hate the step-children – after all, that’s what all the good fairy tales insist on, right?  In most instances of turmoil within the blended family, the step-parent is looked at as the instigator and the cause of all of the problems.  After all, the bio-parents and children had such a perfect life going before the evil step-parent entered into the picture.  Daring to try and correct that assumption gets comments of “you’re NOT my parent”, “I don’t have to listen to YOU”, and “how DARE you try and replace ME as the bio-parent – the child only has ONE Mom/Dad and I’M IT!  NOT YOU!!”

Heaven forbid that the child(ren) is/are actually happy with the choice of step-parent.  They might suddenly be thrust into a whirlwind of confusion by the jealous bio-parent that insists that the child’s feelings are wrong.  They might be told that it is wrong to call the step-parent Mom/Dad or any version similar to that.  They might be told the new step-grand-parents are to be ignored.  They might be made to shove their feelings way down deep, hidden, and concealed – less the truth come out.  The step-parent is demonized and made out to be less-than-human.  After all, step-parents don’t have feelings, step-parents don’t care about the child(ren), and step-parents can take the abuse – no – step-parents DESERVE the abuse.

After everything listed above, is it any wonder that 2nd marriages are more likely to end in divorce?

For what it’s worth, I have been subjected to everything listed above in some way, form or fashion.  In my case, I have the support from Hun that I need to overcome the trials and tribulations thrown at me.  It’s still stressful.  There are days I wonder if I will regret anything in the future that I’m doing today.  It sometimes makes me wonder if the sacrifices I make for my step-children are worth it. 

At the end of the day, I still say yes.

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