I’m a step-parent, I don’t identify with that title unless I’m legally bound to or someone asks specifically; and no, I don’t have any biological children of my own. My situation is rare, or so I’ve been told. My husband (the biological father of my children) and I have been married since November 2011, we have had our oldest (now 18) since December 2010 and the soon to be 10 year old since August 2011. Yes, the mother of my children is alive and well, not incarcerated, the children were not removed from her custody, and she has no substance abuse issues.
When the call came in October 2011, to my then fiancé, that his 16 year old son needed him (like all boys do) and that their biological mother was willing to give him custody of him, there was no question in my mind that’s what he needed to do. He so gingerly asked me, literally skating around the question to the point that I had to say it and my response was a resounding yes. And when the question came again in August 2011 for the then 8 year old, my response was the same. (I won’t bore you with the other details)
I’ve often been asked a series of questions by both women and men that have biological children, are in a step-parenting situation, or simply just want to know. The questions range from: why would I take on this responsibility, why would I raise someone else’s kids for them, how can I love and do for them the way that I do. Well, it’s simple (and besides, my momma told me I was more than capable of doing it):
1. Those kids were here before me.
2. They didn’t ask to be here.
3. I would never be the reason why a man wouldn’t be taking care of his kids; there are more than enough excuses that one could come up with, but I wouldn’t be it.
4. If he wouldn’t take care of them, then he would never take care of me. *drops mic*
Though I don’t have any biological children of my own (yes women like me, in our mid to late 30’s, do still exist), I don’t take for granted that I didn’t give birth to my sons. Like one friend told me, I got kids the easy way: no stretch marks or sleepless nights. And if at any time one of them says “you’re not my mom”, that would be a very true statement. But the fact of the matter is, you can’t tell they’re not mine.
So, enough about my story, how do you get to that:
1. Don’t try to buy their love for their respect: at the end of the day they will only love what you buy for them and won’t respect you for it.
2. Say what you mean and mean what you say: rewards don’t come without consequences.
3. Make sure your yes is yes, your no is no, and don’t make promises just because it’s the easy way out.
4. Rules without relationship breed rebellion and a relationship without rules breeds chaos.
5. Make sure you and your spouse maintain a open line of communication as it relates to their child; because yes, at the end of the day, they are legally responsible.
6. Do not discuss adult issues in front of the children, especially if it relates to them or their other biological parent.
7. You are not the biological mother or father, so know your place and make sure to respect that biological parent. Maintain an open relationship with the other parent, whether the children live with you and your spouse or just visit. If the child/children live with you then be sure to involve the other parent in that child’s life.
8. Don’t ever say a bad thing about that other parent to or in ear shot of that child; no matter what. Remember, that is still their mother or father that you are talking about. And the same should go for your spouse also. Issues will arise and bad feelings will emerge at some point. You betta go to God first.
9. Allow the child/children to call you what they are comfortable calling you. Do not force yourself on them, it should come naturally.
10. Where much is given, much is required. Pray for those children and their parents, because ultimately you are really praying for yourself.
Think about it like this, treat your step-children the way you would want a step-parent to treat your child. If you are the product of remarried parents, just remember how you were treated, good or bad – glean from that experience. Your responsibility is to add to that child’s life as another parent, it’s addition not subtraction by eliminating the other parent and it’s definitely not division. It is my desire to be a blessing to my children, but really I am blessed because they are in my life.
Written and Submitted by: Shanterra Carter-Bruce