What is our Role as a Stepparent?
My next-door neighbor, Sara, offered to let the girls stay at her house. She and her husband have four grown children and extra bedrooms. It was a perfect arrangement to get us through a transitional period.
We spent last week-end in Conway helping my daughter, Jamie, move into her college apartment and I observed the relationship between her and my neighbor. It reminded me of a stepparenting relationship in the early years.
Sara knew her role as an additional parent to the girls. She didn't try to overstep or undermine my relationship in any way. But she did offer a listening ear and everyday support when the girls needed it.
Late in the summer the girls' dad came for an out-of-state visit. Because their dad is an alcoholic, his behavior is unpredictable and their relationship with him is tenuous. Sara spent several hours talking to the girls about their feelings and struggles with their dad. She offered an unbiased opinion to the situation as a third-party observer. The girls needed a maternal figure to talk to and since I wasn't there, they confided in Sara.
I believe that is how our stepparenting role should play out. We are to provide everyday support and a listening ear for our stepchildren when they need it. We are to be a cheerleader for their every effort in sports, music, school, drama, or whatever. We are to love and care for them as if they are our own. But we are not to undermine or compete with their biological parent. We are not to try to replace their biological parent. We are an additional parent.
Our stepparenting role may change as years pass. When my stepchildren lost their mother to cancer six years ago, I became their primary maternal figure. My husband has stepped into the primary parenting role with my girls because of their dad's instability. But for many years, my husband and I both worked at functioning as an additional parent to our stepchildren.
As we drove away from our neighbor's house to return to our home in Louisiana, Sara was on the front porch with her arm around my youngest daughter, Jodi, who is staying there another week before moving into the dorm. It gave me a warm feeling to know that, although I can't be there every day right now because of our move, my daughter is loved and cared for by an additional parent.
What role do you play as a stepparent? Is it a healthy role that benefits your stepchildren?
Is It a Privilege to Be a Stepparent?
Unexpected Stepparenting Moments