Step parenting (usually step mums) have a history of bad press and more often when you say step mum people automatically want to add "evil"! We're right up there with mother in laws for the public bashings.
But the reality of being a step parent is far different to the stereotypical images and so today I want to dispel four myths of step parenting.
Fairy tales did us step parents a huge disservice with tales of evil step mums. Both Cinderella and Snow White suffered cruelty at the hands of their respective step mums and unfortunately that image has stuck with children. After all, as children we believe fairy tales to be real!
In reality though, the majority of step parents love their step children and want what is best for them, just as they would their own children. We make enormous sacrifices every day for the sake of our step children and often that goes unnoticed. No evil step parents here!!
"We are trying to replace their mum/dad"
Many separated parents are incredibly fearful of the introduction of a step parents as they feel scared that they will lose their child to this newbie. Someone exciting and fun who doesn't have to deal with the everyday arguments of parenting will seem like a favourable option to moaning mum or dad.
The reality is that, as hard as it is to define, step parents know and respect what their role is in the child's life. We choose to love the children and be their friend giving the child more security and love. We only want what is best for the child and in no way are we trying to compete for place of mum or dad. No child ever died of being loved too much.
"We never really love the child"
This one angers me the most because to me, sharing DNA does not equate to love. There are plenty of examples where step parents have actually demonstrated MORE love for the children than their own parents. Now I know this is rare but step parents have an overwhelming love and desire to protect the child. Adults and children can form strong and powerful attachments with people other than their parents and they help teach children the importance of a different type of love. I love my step children and would do anything for them. They are an integral part of my life and I wouldn't want it any other way.
"Our own kids are more important"
It can be hard to parent your own children and step children when you are all in the same house but we never demonstrate favouritism. Having a supportive partner can help make discipline an easier issue but this is an area that a lot of step parents I have spoken to struggle with the most. We want to treat them as our own and as equals in the family but we walk a fine line between doing it right and doing it wrong. Get it wrong and the child can go back to birth mum/dad, telling them we were cruel and jeopardising the contact arrangement. It may APPEAR to the child they are being treated unfairly when a step parent disciplines them because they are not their parent but without clear boundaries for ALL, it would be impossible to have all the children in the same house.
I'd love to hear your own experiences of being a step parent. What is the best thing? What has been your biggest struggle? I am building a campaign to get step parents' rights and responsibilities talked about more because I strongly believe we play a huge part in shaping this and future generations. Modern families and the step parent are here to stay!