Being a step parent often comes with little recognition and reward but tons of responsibilities that go unnoticed. That feeling you get when people realize you are “only” their step mom is crushing. It’s belittling, disrespectful, and can make you resentful at times. I know I have felt that way, and I know I can’t be the only one.
A step parent has the same emotional and financial responsibilities as any other parent, but the downside in some eyes is the reward. We are forgotten about. We are EXPECTED to do all of these things for little people that we didn’t bring into this world, then step back and let everyone else reap the rewards we worked so hard for. Step parents have the responsibility to teach, to nurture, and help step kids grow into decent human beings, and the reward for doing so goes straight to mom and dad.
I use to ask, how do I raise a child who isn’t mine? The most common response was,”Raise them like you would your own.”, but I can’t. I have a responsibility to raise them not just how I would, but how their mother would too. It’s a respect thing. I respect their mother and her ways of raising the munchkins. It isn’t the exact parenting style I would use, but I respect that. Do you think there is a reward for respecting your step kid’s mother? Uhh…no. That’s just another thing everyone EXPECTS you to do, regardless of how she treats you.
“All this responsibility you have, but what do you get in return?” I hear that statement a lot from friends and co-workers. The reward in step parenting is what YOU as a step parent find rewarding.
I find it rewarding when I pick them up from school and they come running towards me with open arms and smiles plastered across their faces. I find it rewarding when Little Miss comes out of class and the first thing she says is “I missed you today, I’m so happy you are here to pick me up.”
I find it rewarding when they randomly come up to me and tell me they love me and give me a kiss. This is especially rewarding coming from an 8 year old boy who is starting to realize he doesn’t like his parents around all the time. Kissing him good bye at school is totally not cool anymore, but when we are home, guess who is the first one to cuddle up to me on the couch and intertwine their hand with mine? Oh yes, that sweet little 8 year old boy is.
I find it rewarding when they tell me thank you for the little things I do for them. Like when I buy their favorite snacks at the grocery store or let them pick out their favorite cereals. The smiles I get for packing them their favorite foods in their lunches is a reward in itself.
I had to find my rewards. They weren’t just handed to me. I couldn’t just sit around waiting for a Step Mother of the Year Award to show up at my door step, because if I was, I’d still be waiting. I know the older they get, these rewards will all change. The reward will be the respect they show me as a parent figure in their life during the teenage years. The unwavering love I know they will have for me, whether they show it or not. The realization that I did not have to do what I do for them, but it was a CHOICE I made to do. It’s all about perspective. I know it’s hard as a step parent to look at the glass half full, but give it a try. Change your perspective and you can change the entire situation.