Discussions over stepparenting can oftentimes center on negativity. The challenges, the hardships, the uncertainty…it’s no doubt a scary road. But it’s not all bad. It’s not always hard. And it’s certainly not a death sentence for happiness. Here are three things that stepparenting has gifted me.
1. I get to see my husband as a father, before I’m ready to be a full-time mother.
Watching my husband kiss away tears, dress up as a Princess, and snuggle on the couch watching Frozen ignites a very different sense of attraction to him. He is our Papa Bear, I get to witness his soft and sincere parenting side well before I need him to be a parent for a child I birth. It’s comforting, exhilarating, and another checkmark off the list of amazing qualities he has.
2. My stepdaughter convinced me to wait on having a baby.
Now, I say this in the most loving way possible: My stepdaughter was a huge reality check on how hard parenting actually is. I thank my lucky stars every day she was brought into my life simply because of the fact that she convinced me to enjoy my marriage for a while before having kids of my own. Before this role, I wanted to get married and have kids right away. They looked so fun! And they are…but they also change everything, and there’s no turning back.
As hard as they were, I am so grateful I was around for her Terrible Two’s because they were a giant dose of reality that parenting is not all fun and games. I see so many newlyweds jump into baby making as soon as the honeymoon is over. While I am happy for the adventure that awaits their family, I also cringe for them because they are passing up the one chance their marriage gets to be solely about one another. It’s a time for romance, travel, late nights, spontaneous road trips…having kids makes all of these things insanely harder to do.
I love my stepdaughter very much, and I miss her when she is not with us. Having her in my life has made me appreciate the sanctity of marriage. And one of these days, I’ll thank her for throwing a temper tantrum that night we wouldn’t let her sleep on the front porch tied to a dog leash. Because watching her bark through her tears convinced me that for now, I’ll just stick to being a wife.
3. It challenges our marriage.
They say trees that weather the biggest storms have the strongest roots. Well then our marriage must be darn well planted and it ain’t moving! Having one biological parent and one non-biological parent in our house is a challenge. It forces us to know our boundaries and to respect each other’s limits. I have had to back off in certain situations, and let my husband parent the way he sees fit. Yes, we discuss and debate in private the parenting strategies we wish to use, but sometimes in the moment I have to bite my tongue and let him be the Dad. I have to respect his position as the biological parent, and not overrule him just because I am a woman and my motherly instinct disagrees with him.
On the other hand, just like I have to respect my boundaries when I NEED to step back, he has to respect my boundaries when I WANT to. Raising someone else’s child is no easy task, and there are times where I wave the white flag of stepparenting and give myself a timeout. My husband does a great job supporting this limit, and it makes me fall in love with him all over again when he’s got one pouting kindergartner and a wife who has run out of ideas to turn that frown upside down, and he says “I got this babe. Go get your nails done.”
Despite what the fairytales say, stepparenting isn’t all evil. Sometimes you just have to take a moment and find the silver lining behind the chaos.