Home Featured Raising Someone Else’s Child: Advice for Step Parents

Raising Someone Else’s Child: Advice for Step Parents

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Many will personally experience or know someone that has or will experience the role of step-parent or having a step parent. Like many things in life, there is no cut and dry, right or wrong way to parents. However, there are certain rules we can follow (or not follow) to make the experience better or worse for all parties involved. With this in mind, I asked if anyone on Twitter who was a step-parent or step-child would be willing to answer the following questions:

  • What advice/warnings would you offer a step-parent?
  • What do/did you expect from your step-parent versus your biological parent (if they were involved)?
  • What was your experience as a step-child?

@UrBabyGurrl contacted me and provided the following thoughts on the subject. Please read, enjoy, and share your own personal experiences in the comment section below.

Editor’s Note: *Names have been changed.



My Step Parent Experience

step parents

Let me begin by saying I have an interesting stance on parents in general. For the duration of my childhood and adolescence I was shuffled in and out of family court; the results of which left my elder sister and I in full custody of our grandparents. The longest hearings were between my grandparents and my mother. At 24, she found herself divorced in a country she wasn’t a citizen of (Mummy is a proper Brit) and desperately seeking to show her “fitness” to have her children with her. It was under these pretenses that I met my second step-father.

 “Get up!!”

“What? Why?”

“Your mother told me to wake yall up it’s time to do some chores around here.”

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“Who are you?”

“Mr. David*I thought I told you to get up.”

“Well Mr. David, Mommy doesn’t usually wake us up until breakfast is ready.”

“You must be Janessa*. Your mother told me you were the difficult one. I told your mother that you were too spoiled and too old to be having her do everything around here. Get up before I go wake her.”

The difficult one? In all my almost 7 years of living, mummy had never called me difficult. With hurt feelings I rolled out of bed and ran to my mother’s room. I heard his name but I’d never seen this man before. Who was this stranger telling me what my mother said about me? As my questions poured through my forming tears mummy stopped me mid-sentence: “Mr. David is the man of this house now. If he says get up then GET UP!”

This was my introduction to my 2nd step-father. He stormed into the room I shared every other weekend with my older sister and demanded we clean the kitchen, sweep and mop the floor, wipe down the walls, wash the windows, clean our room THEN make our own breakfast. Literally a week before I had never heard of this person. I didn’t understand how he suddenly was in charge. When I asked these questions I was told that I was “too nosy for a child.” Needless to say, first impressions are lasting.

From that day forward my visits with my mother changed. Mum would pick us up from Grandma for visits, but when we got there Mr. David became the word and will of the house. He gave orders, and if we didn’t obey THEN my mother swooped in to reprimand us. When I sulked home to my Grandma at the end of the weekend she promised to talk to mum my about what happened on the phone. Thinking all was right I almost happily went for my scheduled visit at mummy again, I was greeted by Mr. David who told me: “your mother and I are tired of you giving reports to your grandmother all the time. You need to learn how to keep your mom’s business to yourself.” I began to dread my visits with mummy.

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Mr. David has a son who is the same age as my older sister. When the two of them hit it off I knew I was really stuck with him for good. Though I was the youngest, I tended to receive the bulk of punishments due to my insistence on questioning every direction, refusal to eat anything he cooked, and overall “not staying in a child’s place.” My sister and step brother never minded not having the tag-along to look after so they enjoyed when I wasn’t allowed to play. Because my mother no longer talked to me other than in anger, we stopped talking. I became a problem; rather than a daughter. And while family court protected me from corporal punishment (hence my precociousness) I was nonetheless tormented by the coldness my mother now showed me. To this day she remains cold. Family court may have separated us initially, but her obvious choice of a man over her child is the driving force that keeps us apart.

To those who are step parents or parents considering introducing a new person into their child’s lives, I implore you to be open with your children. They see more, hear more, and understand more than you’ll ever imagine; and we rarely forget. Perhaps my mother felt overwhelmed in her situation, perhaps if I were older like my sister and step brother my voice would have held more weight, perhaps I’ll never know. Do not ignore their questions. Do not make them feel they must choose a side in order to be loved and accepted. It sounds cliché, but such things truly are a recipe for disaster.

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I often wonder how things would be different if I had been introduced to Mr. David as my sister had been. How I would feel if I didn’t have to compete for a parents’ love and that it wasn’t attached to a demand that I have affections for a stranger. I’ll never have that answer. But what I do know is this: from age 6 to 26, to this very day, I have never had a conversation with Mr. David. Quite frankly I have no desire to. When we speak, it’s either through my mother or through my other siblings. When I visit we greet each other with the same coldness I was greeted with as a child. I don’t see that ever changing

If you had a good/bad experience as a step-child or step-parent, what tips/advice/warnings would you offer others? What are some of the key differences, if any, you do/did expect from your step-parent versus your biological parent (if they were involved)?

Comment(41)

  1. See…this story (and mine, but there’s only so much space) is the very reason I’m not a big supporter of children only meeting your mate after you are engaged or otherwise serious. I needed a chance to acclimate, too. Not as a “here’s my man” rotation, but at least a brief interaction. Something so it’s not so much of a damned shock.
    As for the step-parent thing, in my personal experience if the child has two parents, they don’t need a third. All i was, was an adult to be respected and a second enforcer of the house rules, as far as responsibility goes. If the house rules were broken, i report it, not reprimand it. Our relationship (me and child) is separate and different. I was more of an….aunt, I guess. And that, for me, is fine.

  2. WIM in general I love your writing style and appreciate your thoughts. This post seemed rushed and the issue of step parenting is a big one, way too big to be condensed into “effects of step parenting” and “becoming a step parent”

    I was anxious to read the blog post as I read the title. How others were dealing with becoming step parents or mistakes/lessons learned involving being a step parent. What I read was a post about a woman with “daddy and mommy” issues who needs therapy. (Not dismissing her thoughts/needs)

    Can we change the title of this post? It isn’t about being a step parent it’s about a woman’s experience growing up and the main characters who shaped her…

    As a follow up (since I am now invested in her trauma) ask her how she plans to handle parenting and the scenario of dating a man with children.

    1. Thank you for your comment. A few things come to mind.

      1) Most all issues are complex and multi-layered. There is, honestly, no way for I or any writer to address every facet of every issue within the confines of 750 – 1000 words. Further, this is a guest post. Someone who contributed there time, personal feelings and experience for the benefit of SBM. I appreciate your comment, but I have a thicker skin than most because I’ve been writing for a long time. Lets respectfully consider the fact that this is just someone who took time out of their day to share their first-hand experience on an issue they can identify with.

      2) Because the issue of step-parenting is complicated, I chose not to write about it conceptually but instead seek feedback from people who have *expereienced it firsthand. You say there is not much to be gleamed here for step-parents and I, respectfully, disagree. If I were or was going to be a step-parent I would look at this post at how my actions and the actions of the woman I’m dating might impact the child in the process, in this case a young child. There are def lessons to be learned here if you look deeper than the surface, in my opinion.

      3) Lastly, although hesitantly (for obvious reason as she debated posting anonymously) the author shared her contact info above and I imagine she’ll read the comments throughout the day. If she wants to address your questions (or not), that is up to her.

      However, the beauty of SBM is that we do have readers with a myriad of experiences. In general, our posts are meant to INNIATE the conversation, not act as the “expert” voice on all positions of a conversation. This is why, quite often, the most interesting takeaways from any posts is not the post itself, but instead it is the comments section where the most insightful conversations will take place.

      Again, I do appreciate your comment and hope this doesn’t come off as condescending but it appeared you mistook my reasoning for (happily) posting this guest writer’s content.

      – sent from iPhone

    2. There are many nuances to parenting, especially when the child is not yours. Word limit aside I couldn’t possibly give you a step-by-step guide of how to raise a child because there is no ‘right way’ that guarentees a great outcome.

      WIM said this already but I was asked for my experience with my step parent and what advice I would give people in this situation. My issue was that I was that I was that I was never introduced to my step father, but I was forced to follow his rules in my Mother’s house. I knew who my parent was but she relinquished her role to someone I didn’t know. Putting the dangers of that aside, all I really wanted was an explanation. But no one saw a need to explain things to a 6 year old.

      To answer your questions, I have no children. And I choose to date men without children. But I’m a wonderful Auntie and God-mother of 3.

  3. I thank WIM for sharing. My mother gave me the exact opposite experience, that ended in the same results. My mother had many men, but the two I remember most were her husband, married to for 10yrs (from 7-17 for me), and her live-in boyfriend (from 15-20). Met both of them the days they moved in.

    My stepfather was separated from my older brothers and I for the most part, but we could hear his underlying influence in my mom's decisions daily. He stayed clear of me b/c my father stayed VERY active in my life after my parents split. My brothers weren't as lucky, though… The few times we were together unsupervised, he made sure to let me know how my strong will would make me "umarry-able" lol.

    The boyfriend was even more of a knucklehead, and a tad delusional. He was actually 10yrs younger than my mom, so more manageable, but made it his mission to badmouth me to my family. Our communication ended in a "fight", which was basically him beating me up, and ended with my mom's and I's relationship ending for good. Parents, but esp. mothers, need to stop trying to make their new men the second parent out of desperation for a lighter load. That's all I'm saying.

  4. I don't have a step parent, but my Mom and Dad are both step parents. It is definitely a balancing act and it is usually determined first by the role that you want the step parent to play. Many issues come into play. That fool would not have been able to act like an ass if her Mom didn't allow it. I feel so bad that she was terrorized by him and that her Mom chose to take his side. Nothing upsets me more than a mother or father who takes their boyfriend/spouse's side over their kids. I am not saying that it should be an all or nothing thing, but definitely a balance. Her Mom looked like she was trying to place him in a father role with her kids when they clearly did not need it or want it.

    How are you going to just bring some strange dude and have him introduced to your kids that way? It is hard for me to not make a snap judgment about her. But definitely don't have a good opinion about the Mom here.

    1. There are MANY men and women that have said "No one's meeting my kids unless there's a ring on a finger". I don't begrudge anyone's choices but it is a HORRIBLE idea for me, personally. If I had children I need to know how my mate will react to having them around BEFORE I make a life-altering commitment-simply BECAUSE I have so many stories on how kids met their step-parents the day they moved in, and the terror that followed. Vesting my mate with JUST me isn't enough.

      Now I should clarify- in NO WAY do I mean my children must LOVE him, or even "approve" of him, really. He is here for "Mommy", not you (again, this is MY personal experience and how it worked positively in MY situation). But I need to know he can be a positive force in the house and that everyone can foster a mutually respectful (and SAFE) relationship, and that can't happen if they don't meet him until after I have made a permanent decision on a person's place in my life. Too many variables.

      1. I get it, but I guess I don't understand it. How you can swing some stranger in your house and expect your kids to be overjoyed? On the other hand, I am not a fan of having every girlfriend, fwb or boyfriend in your kid's face. smh

        Wow to the fact that people think it is okay to do this. Crazy.

        1. Eh. I think this is the ONLY sentence of Steve Harvey's I've ever agreed with. I believe your child should meet every potential serious contender-just NOT alone or as a "hey, here's my BF!!!". I interacted with my ex's son-in PASSING- at either group functions (like summer BBQ's) or briefly 'bumping into' while they were out for a good six months before I was introduced to him separately as "THE gf". In fact, it was his SON that was like, "oh she's nice, you should ask her out!" **chuckle** By the time it was really serious, it was no big deal that the next time he stayed over for the summer (dad has him on all school breaks) that I just happened to live there, too. Considering how personally devastating it was for me after we split I am really hesitant to do it again but if I do, I prefer it this way.

      2. I don't get it, if you don't care if they meet him or even approve, then why does it matter if they meet him prior to or after the commitment is made? And how does that mindset stave off potential stepchild terror from ensuing?

        1. What I said upthread is I am not going to force my children to LOVE him. What I DO need to know is that they can coexist respectfully and SAFELY. Some people can change when kids are present. Some of those changes are good, some are not.

  5. My father re-married twice after my mother so I've had 2 step-mothers (he's still married to the latest one). My experiences may be somewhat different since I stayed with my mom full-time and would visit my dad for a few weeks over the summer, holidays, etc, etc….

    I never had a real issue with step-parents, personally. The biggest thing I learned is that my step-mothers, generally, really just wanted to be accepted as part of the family….I guess have your approval or what have you. I remember the first time I told my step-mom I loved her (she had just got done making her world famous mac & cheese and I was geeked to dig in!) I didn't think anything of it…but she damn near almost broke down crying and thanked me. I just said "welcome" and got me a plate, lol.

  6. Wow. I thought I was the only one. My stepmother straight up didn't like me as a child and I can't figure out why someone would have someone around who didn't like their child. As an adult, I finally realize, "she who has the p*ss* has the power. Darn shame when people put that ish over their blood.

  7. I don’t have children or a step parent. But I have aunts and uncles who are step parents. What I have noticed is

    1)Parenting styles will differ based on the presence/absences of the other parent. I think when you are dating a single parent (someone who is not receiving any help from the other parent) you take on more of a provider, parenting role; you tend to have a little more say so. (Also depends on the age of the child). When both parents are involved in the child’s life, you act as more of a guardian or third in command. Yes the child has to listen to you but you don’t get any final say so on major decisions in the child life.

    1. 2)I don’t think you should have a whole bunch of potential mates around your children. But your child should be comfortable with that person before you get serious with them.
      3)If you are the step parent. Remember this child is a part of your family. You should make an effort to make sure the child feels included. For ex if my husband had a child before me, I would want that child to be a part of things like family vacations. Some people take family vaca with the new wife and kids, and the other child gets left out. My family is very open and welcoming so, I would have my step child at family reunions, at my folks house, introducing them to cousins, etc..

  8. I have had 3 step-fathers. The first, I was too little to really remember. The second raised me from age 2/3 (I was too young to remember how we were introduced) to adulthood and we've successfully transitioned from parent/child to child/friend. The third has been a great support to me and my children…very welcoming. Great experiences. My Dad played 2nd in command to my Mom. She made major decisions for me and he helped carry it out. The only thing he did freely was spoil me, lol…my current step-dad included. Being the only girl has its perks (both step-dads have boys). 😉

    1. I'm a divorcee with 2 sons. Its my desire to remarry in the future. I intend for my future husband to support ME as I raise them with their father. They are to respect him and OUR rules in the home, yes. He would be able to correct and punish them if they violate those rules in his presence. However, MAJOR decisions concerning their care and rearing would come from their father and I.

      1. Post marriage, one ex-bf met my children right away and they all got attached…only for me to end the relationship…further devasting my oldest son who had already experienced the break-up of my marriage. With that, I've changed how I handle all that.

        1. Now, I allow my children to meet the guy in a neutral, public environment sporadically late in the dating phase (prior to our officialness)…just to make sure that they all get a feel for each other. This way, the kids get familiar without getting attached or even knowing the extent of our relationship with each other. Once official, depending on how the relationship progresses, I allow the person to come our around more often over time…and in more secluded setting (when they kids may become suspicious of what's up but not enough to be super sure, lol). My most recent ex, even after being together almost 2 yrs, was NEVER refered to as my boyfriend in front of my children. And, he only stayed over while they were home during a week-long power outage where he lived…and I asked my children's permission. "Would you guys mind if Mr. ___ came over and stayed a few days? He has no power at his house and it may be out for a while." They were very happy to offer the poor guy shelter, lol. He also accompanied us on a family trip…with their permission as well.

        2. ALL PARTIES deserve a voice! The guy has a right observe your kids. They have a right to observe him. Me? I want a happy, peaceful home. So, I choose to give everyone a voice, a choice, and plenty time to get-to-know and adjust.

        3. They most certainly should have a voice and they should all be able to get along and respect one another. After all, they have to live with him and most likely have no choice in their living situation. Who, child or adult, want's to live with someone they don't get along with? I lived that life with my stepmother. She couldn't stand me, treated me horribly, and damn near made the ish well-known. When i confronted my father(as an adult) about how mean she was to me, he said, "well, she was never really too nice to anyone." Um, okay. Which also begs the question, why were with her then?

        4. Smh…I have no clue how a parent can even be attracted to someone who mistreats their children! I don't get that at all…

        5. I like this idea of allowing the kids to have a voice a lot, especially if they’re old enough to understand what is going on. I think it gives them an opportunity to have a voice on the direction of the ship, even if they’re not captain, rather than just being told “we’re going to a new land.” We saw how that latter theory worked out.

          I’m sleep tho.

        6. Kids are little people. They have thoughts, opinions, and feelings that should always be considered. They trust me to protect them. I take that seriously so I always want them to understand what's happening in our lives…as much as possible.

          Plus…Man, my oldest is 9 and in love about once a month, no lie, LOL. Now, my 5 yr old is going on and on about "Natalia"…who stares at him and always wants to play with him and says he's cute. So clearly my boys know a thing or two about love and relationships, LOL…I gotta be careful what I show them. I have to make love look good. I'm raising future family guys…

  9. I am also divorced with a son and my sons father has remarried. On one token I feel as though his step mother knows her place and she doesn't cross any boundaries, but my sons father thinks I am the step parent and his wife is the mother. I think there should be a clear understanding from both parents what is expected once you start to date and remarry. The biological parents should have the most control and the step parents should be able to support these guidelines.
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  10. I had the best step-parent experience in the world. My step father found the perfect balance(for me) in helping my mom raise me while not trying to replace my father. My siblings disagree…

    Being the youngest I think it was easiest for me to adjust to my step-dad and his children. I consider his children my siblings just like my natural siblings. Not to say we never had fights (and during my HS years I was the meanest child on earth to him & my mother). My mother and father were never divorced. They separated when I was like 3 – my stepdad moved in when I was 5ish. My father died when I was 12 and my mom and stepdad got married 6months after that. From 5-12 I LOVED having 2 very involved fathers. When my biological father died – my stepfather was the person who told me that's how close he & I were. My parents all got along and there was really NO DRAMA until my dad died. Then it was like a switch flipped…all of a sudden my father's family was bad mouthing and hating my stepdad. (My Nana put him out of my father's funeral) Saying he was trying to replace my father. And I being a child internalized all of that. With my dad dying all of a sudden I felt guilty for loving another man as my father. Sadly – my mother thought I was just being a wild teen and I was just too angry to communicate anything. So my HS years were terrible. But even still I remember the day (in college) I called my stepdad and thanked him for loving me and raising me as if I was his own child despite how difficult I'd made that for him.

    You'd think – having the stepfather I had would make me open to being a step-parent to someone else's child but honestly it had the exact opposite effect. I have NO desire to do what my stepdad did b/c I know I am not as big of a person as he was. I KNOW I can't handle smart mouthing from any child (especially one I cannot discipline). I don't think I have the ability to love someone else's child as much as you have to – to be a good step parent. I especially don't think I would hold someone else's child "equal" to my own future children. I am pretty sure there would be some display of favoritism. Also, I don't know how I'd deal with the child's actual parent (especially if the child lives in my house the majority of the time).

  11. I've had three step-dads myself and I agree with the overall premise that this is the type of relationship that should not be rushed into. A child should at least get the chance to know the guy a little bit before he lives with the family imho. On top of that I think there have to be limits for the step-parent/step-child relationship. My mom had a rule that my second step-dad could not spank us. He overstepped this more than once though so *shrug*. I think it's a good rule because an outsider will not discipline your child in the same manner and with the same care you would. Another thing that the writer pointed out that is important is for the child to not feel like the step-parent has been chosen over them. I completely agree with that. The child should even get some one on one time with the parent still so that core relationship is still nurtured. Personally, if my hubby died or we split up for whatever reason, I'd rather just be single. I do not want a step-parent for my children. I'm surprised to find that even some of my own friends who I know are awesome people are still sh*tty step-parents.

    1. Or how about when women are hesitant to data man with kids. You get ALL the hate in the world. *Cold world*

      My opinion Peter; its not a preference, however we all date outside our preferences at times and given the right circumstances, right. Don't count someone out Just because they have a chil(ren). However, everything else must be pretty good considering. *my two cents*

    2. Like most things Peter, it depends. I think step #1 is to determine if you like kids in general. Because if you don’t like kids in general, you damn sho aint gonna like someone else’s kids lol. I personally have never really been against dating a woman with kids that I really like because I know ish happens and I don’t mind kids that much – as long as they aren’t little hellions on wheels. I do, however, have a limit and that limit is 2. I only have so much goodwill and forgiveness in my heart. But, if you don’t like or prefer not to date a woman with kid(s) that is your standard to make and follow and who cares what others think.

      1. Two other factors: 1) you may want to take in consideration her relationship with her baby’s father in terms of how involved he is and if there’s already drama between them. No one likes baby mama/daddy drama. But not every one with a kid is looking for a second parent if the biological parent is already actively involved and doing a good job of co-parenting. 2) If or how many kids you want to have of your own. If you want 1,2, or 3 kids (or 0) this will have to be taken into consideration because there kid isn’t going anywhere. Meaning if they have 1 and you want 3, they might only want two more for a total of three. Also, some people don’t want to have any more kids period so you should have that conversation as you start to get serious to make sure it’s not an awkward conversation/misunderstanding that you wanted (biological) kids of your own and they hit you with the “no thanks” face.

  12. Parents split when I was three. Mom never remarried. I MAY marry one day and I have an 8 year old. My mother is old school in her beliefs in that if I remarry – my child stays with her…you don't put new folk over your children she says.

    Obviously I'm not gonna do that. BUT b/c she so old the new parent is NOT allowed to be the primary disciplinary. She will have to follow the rules in OUR house, but I will be the enforcer of those rules. And I will make sure she gets plenty of one on one time with me should I marry. Her father isn't in the picture so there is no conflict there. Any new man I have will be the primary male figure in her life so that will be a VERY important role he is filling.

    I'm also of the school no meeting (seriously interacting with, casual meets are okay) until we are engaged. From there they can meet and spend more time together. If it seems like things are getting serious I have very real convos on how they feel about being a step parent…and we can go from there.

    But yeah…step-parenting I imagine is very hard. And truthfully If I don't marry it will be b/c I don't know that I want to subject my child to that, even in the best of circumstances.
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  13. The truth is, it’s a coin toss. My experience with my step father was horrible, but my older sister loves him. However she was also introduced to him and had chances to interact with him before I did. I think my mom assumed that I would like him because my sister did. But clearly I’m more aligned with the notion that everyone deserves a voice.

  14. As well as useful, You’re an overly qualified blogger. I have joined up with a person’s supply and turn into way up for around search more of your respective great article. Likewise, I’ve embraced your site around my web sites

  15. Well I see a lady who has a child wirh no backbone from prior non involved dad . I try to be open minded but I don’t tolerate sissy behavior from a boy .
    Thanks

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