I've been thinking a lot about my stepdad lately. Even though he only raised me for a few years, he changed my life immeasurably. He walked into our lives and filled a gap that I hadn't known was there. He went from a single 20-something bachelor to a father of three in a very short time. He fed, clothed and housed us. He had a calm, loving and affectionate presence that created an imprint in my psyche of how a father and husband should be.
I watch my partner with my child now and can't help but recognize the shape of their bond. That unexpected deep connection makes such a difference in my son's life. It has already changed who he will grow up to be. I see my partner's kindness and mannerisms in my little boy and I feel overwhelming gratitude for their connection.
Here are some reasons I think stepparents are amazing:
They don't have to be there. They choose to love and nurture a child that they did not intentionally create. They have absolutely no obligation to do so. The emotional generosity of this blows my mind.
They sometimes take second place to another parent who puts in less work and time than they do, and they don't take it personally.
The change in lifestyle must be tremendous for stepparents who don't already have children. One day they might be having martinis on a white couch, and in the blink of an eye they are lying on a foam alphabet mat being tackled by a sticky toddler in a diaper. This has to be a shock to the system.
The responsibility is huge. Most parents are so used to the weight of being responsible for a tiny human that we stop thinking about it. It becomes a part of us. For a stepparent, it's a conscious choice, every single day, to be responsible for a child they did not create.
Stepparents have the pressure of dividing their attention between their partner and the child. Yes, we all have this pressure, but it must be even tougher for someone who is building both relationships at once.
There's something magical for me in watching my son and my partner together. Their bond is a chosen one. My partner is very much like the man who stepped into my life and chose to parent me when I was a young girl. They have the same kindness, patience, and strength. I see my son looking up at him with the same surprise and adoration that I used to feel for my own stepdad.
Stepparents don't always get the thanks they deserve. They take on way more than we sometimes recognize. As parents we are so used to the pressures and routines of raising our kids that we may not fully notice or truly appreciate the heroic efforts of those who choose to love and parent our kids.
So, to the ones who show up and step up when they could be doing almost anything else: thank you. You are amazing, and you are appreciated.