10 Highs And Lows Of Being A Step-Parent

by Kristen Thiele
Originally Published: 
A stepmom carrying her daughter on her back while kissing and hugging her son.
monkeybusinessimages / Getty

There are many things as a step-parent that fill you with joy, frustration, and bewilderment (sometimes all in a 10 minute span).

Here are 10 things I’ve learned over my almost 5-year journey into step-mommying:

1. That marriage certificate doesn’t make you any more official than a bio parent’s boyfriend/girlfriend.

As in my case, you may have “mom” in your title, but it means nothing to schools, doctors, etc. when it comes to making decisions (or even scheduling an appointment without signed bio parent consent). You also resemble a groupie looking for scalpers when trying to get into a talent show at a school where only 2 tickets are guaranteed to each student.

2. You live in a wonderful limbo of parent with a dash of friend.

My stepdaughter readily opens up to me more than she does her own parents, and is quick to be a little more rebellious in my company. Still, that’s a double-edged sword. When I need to pull out the “mom” card and discipline her, it doesn’t go over very well.

3. The responsibilities without the rights.

You can take on the assumed parental responsibilities of clothing, feeding, and caring for your stepchild, but you have no legal rights to them. I put as much time, effort, and money into my stepdaughter on days we have her (it’s 50/50 custody) as I do my bio daughter, but only one of those girls counts as mine legally and it’s annoying AF.

4. You get to grow as a person.

Yes, it’s true that loving and raising a child who you don’t have legal custody of isn’t always easy. That being said, when you open your heart to loving someone else’s child as your own, you’re a more beautiful and enriched human.

5. You need to know your role.

There are plenty of things I want to discuss with my stepdaughter about her growing body and changes she’s going through, but I feel like that’s stepping on her mom’s toes… intruding on THAT talk we as parents dread.

6. You get to make mistakes and learn from them (in a trial run, almost).

Things that I did or didn’t do with my stepdaughter through the years have shown me how to be a better parent.

7. You don’t get to escape the ex.

My husband will never need to know (let alone be in contact with) my exes. With a kid in the picture, his ex-wife becomes a part of almost every day for us. I don’t love that (or even like it), but I love their (our) daughter.

8. My stepdaughter is two halves of one whole: her parents.

In that equation, there’s no room for me, and when she wishes the whole were one again, I’m the inevitable bad guy in the situation.

9. Jealousy of half-siblings is unavoidable.

For as good of a big sister as she is, my stepdaughter will openly admit jealousy of her 3-year-old sister who gets their dad all of the time.

10. We’re happy in our family unit, but I’ll never be her happily ever after.

She’s a child of divorce who has been going between two homes for the past seven years. I let her yell it out: “it sucks!” on the long walks we take from time to time, all the while hoping she understands she’s luckier than most and going between two GOOD houses isn’t so bad.

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