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Stepfathers Need Love Too
Unless you've done this before, once you enter an established family with children that are not your own, saying it will be a challenge is an understatement. And if you never had children to start with, you are quite simply awesome. There aren't many men these days who walk into an "instant family" without hesitation but because of increased single parent homes, men are left with less choices.
According to the census, as of 2010, there are 15 million children in the United States living at home without a father. That amount has doubled since 1960, when most of us were children ourselves. There's no need to get into why the family unit has evidently deteriorated. I'm sure we can all agree that it has and we each have our own theories as to why. Today I just want to give credit where credit is due and to look deeper into the role of the stepfather.
Assuming he is a positive mentor to the stepchild, he is already doing a good job. If he is replacing a vacant birth father, whether he's dead or just not in the picture, he deserves kudos. It's not easy walking into an instant family in the shadow of someone else.
The mother plays an important role in the acceptance of the presence in this child's life. She is the one who guides the relationship between the two and the rest of the family. She is the master who pulls the strings that determine his welcome.
Mothers, this one's for you; You are responsible for your children. It is your job to explain who this new man is and that he is not replacing his real dad. This doesn't mean he has to stop loving him or forget him. Just remember, your child did not pick this man, you did. If he has issues you don't like or you don't agree with his parenting style, then I would hope you discussed this together before you involved your children into a mess they didn't ask for. And if you think it's wrong to call a stepfather a father of any sort,because of loyalties to the birth father, especially when this man is now helping raise your child you had with someone else, I'd wonder why you took this man in to share your lives in the first place.
Let's say the birth father is not in the picture. What happens when the child and stepdad don't get along? You set rules together as a couple. One parent shouldn't override the other because mom is no longer solely in control. Decisions should be shared if this is going to be any kind of a union.
If the birth father still has visitation rights, this is now a very different scenario and the initial parents hold the reigns. Stepfathers should never take this personally. If the real father is around, you have to let go of your duty as a father when he's around. This is not your place but there are exceptions, of course.
What rights do stepfathers have? He has as much rights as the mother will allow. But something is very wrong if he feels inadequate or unappreciated. That means there are sides being taken and he is being excluded at some point, which is why he is resentful and feels unloved.
In that case, the blame falls right on the mother...again. If this new man is supporting the family financially, emotionally, trying his best to make things right but the child is still not accepting him or the rest of the family seems to leave him out of decisions completely, then this needs to be addressed.
Case in point: My personal experience as a single parent for over 20 years has taught me that I am a great mother. I'm not perfect but who is? I was careful in searching for a husband that would be their stepfather. When I finally did find this man who was never married, never had children of his own, willing to take on me, my son and daughter, complete with adolescent drama, I thought I hit the lottery. I made sure he was recognized and introduced in my family as "stepfather" without quotation marks. He was accepted, loved and included in every decision I ever made involving my children. He never had a Father's Day without at least a card, that I of course got for them to sign and give to him. This continued until they were old enough to buy it themselves.
Maybe you never got a Father's Day card from your stepchild. If he wasn't old enough to buy one on his own, mom should've stepped in. Maybe you look on your stepchild's Facebook and notice you aren't even listed in the Family section, instead just a friend. How does that make you feel? And what happens when you look in your wife's family pages and see the same trend? Not being acknowledged creates resentment. Nobody likes to be ignored.
Stepfathers are awesome. There are bad ones out there too but let's assume you're a good guy. Stepfather; you should be praised, acknowledged, respected and loved for being the father figure that child so desperately needs and shame on mom and anyone else in the family who isn't instilling this into that child early on. You are important. You do matter. You have evolved into a figure that the modern family calls Stepfather; "a man who takes over all the functions of the real father."
You've done well.