I will be the first to confess that it was only until I entered high school that the matter of step-parenting became real in my world.
Prior to that, all I knew about step -parents was from the story books I read, with Cinderella story being my most vivid experience. My vocabulary was also limited to step-mothers as these books portrayed and was well tainted to the fact that they were all wicked.
I was therefore surprised to learn differently when I entered the boarding school and made friends with people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. I listened with rapt attention and confusion sometimes as I heard people say “I am going to my mother’s house “ or “I am going to my father’s house”.
Further confusing was the fact that I had friends who were siblings but had different surnames. None of them spoke like their fathers had died and it was a big wonder to me when I discovered that for some of them, they all lived in the same household with their step-mothers and step siblings.
In my child’s eye, my assumption was that if there was a step- parent, the other parent had died.
Of course, you can tell how naive I was and the kind of protective environment I was coming from.
As my interactions grew, my previous stereotype beliefs of the wicked step mother thankfully began to break away. I encountered some people who had a good relationship with their step-mothers while their biological mother was still alive. But I also noticed that for some friends, their modus operandi was a spirit of suspicion and mistrust in almost all their dealings It was later I got to know that the dynamics of the creation of a polygamous home, has a way of affecting individuals and their relationships and outlook in life.
Some years ago ,while I was having my hair made in a hair salon, one of the ladies was complaining about her very spoilt step-son. He did not even flush the loo after using the toilet and whenever she had any concerns, her husband always had an excuse and what made it more painful for her was that she did not yet have her own biological child. I didn’t understand the depth of her pain until she eventually blurted out that Step Parenting was not what she wished her enemy.
Step parenting is indeed quite challenging (see Loretta’s article on Step-parenting ), especially when one is dealing with the nuances of being pre-judged already. It often sometimes appears that as a step parent, you can never get it right but honestly, even biological parents do not get it right all the time. This is not also to say that we do not have some wicked step parents who treat their step-children horribly but if we truly love our partners, we would treat those who have proceeded from them with love and care.
Recently, one of my sisters -in -law lost one of her step-mothers. She has three others. This lady was the first wife of her father but she never had any biological children of her own. That was perhaps the reason the man married other women but the death of this lady was a blow to all the children. They loved her and referred to her as big Iye.(meaning Big Mummy). The testimonies I have heard about her have all been good.
She loved all her step-children, took care of my sister-in- law and her siblings whenever their own mother traveled for business. In short she was the one who brought and handed over my sister- in- law to us as a family during her traditional marriage ceremony. She did the same for all the other female step children in the house and every one of them have their own children. I think one of the big testaments of how good a step mother she was, is that even in these times of COVID-19 with all the restrictions and expenses and inconveniences of travelling with self-isolation, my sister in law’s twin brother traveled from the UK to attend the funeral.
Irrespective of the circumstances that may have led to the creation of a blended family, it is imperative that as step-parents, we do not use our children/step-children as pawns to fight our battles. As tempting as it might be, there is no need of sowing seeds of discord that will result in enmity between step siblings. This can easily be done by using words directly, unnecessary comparison or insidiously treating our children and step children unfairly. It is a myth to think we should treat them equally as the different temperaments of children would require different treatments. We should also remember that being rebellious is not limited to step children. As a step-parent, it might probably be smarter to leave correcting of our step children (especially in their teen years) to their own biological parent to keep the friction down.
So finally, if your children are living with a step parent, do not make the relationship strained by implying via words or actions that you could have done a better job or judge every action of their step parent as being with evil intent. We might be rudely shocked at what it cost to be them, if we exchange places with them for twenty-four hours, so let’s take the time to appreciate them and ensure that our children do the same.
If you have step-parents, honour them for the role they play or played in your biological parent’s life They may have their own short comings but so also do our own biological parents.
And if you have step children, and they live with you partially or fully, determine not to treat them as second class citizens, but give them first class love, always.
Have a Happy Bank Holiday Weekend,