If being a parent is the hardest job in the world then no words are sufficient to describe the job being done by the army of step parents around the world.
Raising other people’s children with the love and dedication of a birth parent but whilst battling the stereotype of the “evil step mother”or “wicked step father” created by fairy stories and perpetuated by Disney for centuries, step parents are every day heroes as far as I’m concerned – did I tell you about my lovely stepson Jack? *giggle*
Ok I admit it, I am slightly biased when it comes to the subject of step parents because I am a step mum to one of the loveliest young men I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He is now 21 years old and living in the US for a year as part of his degree and I couldn’t love him more or be more proud of him if I tried.
Don’t get me wrong, the way I feel about Jack is very different to the way I feel about my own two (I wish I could jump inside your heads and see what you are thinking now, unless you are a step-parent I doubt it will be what I’m thinking!). I do feel very differently about Jack, I didn’t carry him in my body for 9 months (or 7.5 in Laura’s case!), I didn’t feed him and change his nappies, I didn’t even know he existed until he was almost 7 years old. I loved that beautiful little boy from the moment I met him. We spent every weekend together, often without my now husband because he was working, we baked and crafted and went for walks on the Chase and sometimes we just sat watching films, but we spent time together. I was lucky, he was a great kid, don’t get me wrong he had his moments, but generally he was good company and a sweetheart. I was also lucky because he was the same age as the children I was teaching at the time, so I knew what he would be interested in, where he was at developmentally and how to talk to him. But it wasn’t easy.
Then Laura came along and I spent most of my pregnancy worrying about how to make sure Jack didn’t feel any less loved or welcome than he had. I have always worked hard at being as good a parent as I know how, but I worked even harder at being as good a step mum. If we did something for Laura we did it for Jack (as far as possible when he lived almost 2hrs drive away), we spent time with him and made a point of having family days out while he was with us and we always made sure he was able to come to birthday parties, anniversaries and we even had two Christmases, complete with presents and even Christmas dinner some years!
When I was ill I was told I wouldn’t be able to have any more children and for the first time in my life I realised exactly what a privilege it is to be given the gift of children. Having a child is something many people manage to do without much effort, being a parent however takes time, effort and sacrifice.
Being a step parent though is so much more complicated. You are often the victim of attacks by the child’s parent. Even the child you love so much may turn round and tell you you have no right to tell them what to do because “you’re not my mum/dad!” and you are not legally secure or able to be involved in decision making.
I just wanted to share the greatest joy of my birthday this year though. For the last few years Jack has sent me a birthday card, completely off his own back, and they have always said “World’s Best StepMum” or something similar and that made my heart warm. This year though I will never forget as long as I live.
My card read:
What is a mum?
A mum is the one who believes in you more than anything.
The one who cares for you and about you all through your life.
She is the one person you can count on to help you out, back you up and never let you down.
There is no one else as kind and generous, as patient and helpful, as warm and understanding as a mum.
And no one is loved as much all year through.
Can’t thank you enough for all the wonderful things you’ve done and for the special times we share.
To say it touched me would be an understatement. I would first like to thank the card company for creating such a beautiful and clever card and secondly I’d like to thank you, Jack, and your gorgeous girl Becka, for making me cry and for making my birthday so incredibly memorable.
Being a step parent is such a wonderful gift. I don’t feel the same way about Jack as I do about Laura and Daniel, not because I love one child more than another, but I love them each in different ways. Laura I am proud of beyond words because she is strong and free spirited and she knows what she wants and she works to get it. Daniel is my little man, he gives the best cuddles and he’s passionate and just pure joy. Jack, Jack is a strong, courageous young man, who has a strong moral compass and a big, big heart and I couldn’t feel more proud that I have been allowed to be a part of his life and that he has chosen to love me like a mum. Not as his Mum, he has one of those and I would never want to replace her. But to have earned anything even close to the love of a parent is a rare and very special thing.
When my children say “I’m the best Mum in the world!” that is wonderful, but it’s a given, they only have one mum, it’s like me telling Laura she’s my favourite daughter, it can’t be any other way. Earning such a beautiful card from Jack means SO much, because he has a Mum who he loves unconditionally, he could choose to totally reject me, but he hasn’t, I embraced him and he hugged back and for that I will always be grateful.
Step parents all over the world are achieving that level of love and commitment and they are working incredibly hard to earn that love. Yes there are bad step parents, there are always going to be good and bad whatever you are talking about, but most step parents are honest, caring, hard working heroes who love their children, all their children with all their heart.
If you are just embarking on your journey as a step parents why not read my blog: Tips for blending families, it is a long but incredibly rewarding journey and I wish you so much love and luck on your path.