• Michelle Zunter

Step-Parents Are Redefining Parenting — One Step At A Time


Step-parents have been around for a long time.


They’ve stepped in, stepped up, and they have patiently allowed themselves to be painted into the background on many occasions.


There are stories of wicked stepmothers both in real life and in fairytales as well as plenty of horror stories about abusive stepfathers — this is true. These kinds of ugly stories are sometimes the only information someone may have regarding what a step-parent is or does.


However, there are arguably countless more stories of warm and compassionate step-parents who stepped into a family and really made a difference in a child’s life.


No step-parent is perfect by any means — just like any biological parent.


To be a step-parent is not for the faint-hearted. It is emotionally grueling, tiring, and exasperating no matter how often you see your stepchild or stepchildren regardless of what the family dynamic is.


Step-parenting can take a real toll on a person that those who have no experience with this kind of role do not readily understand. It can also take a massive toll on a relationship and/or marriage.


Becoming a step-parent is an often tumultuous journey down a path that can seem endless when you’re searching for answers that you simply don’t have.


Step-parenting a child who does not accept you is the kind of experience any person would dread and even if your stepchild or stepchildren do accept you as a step-parent, there are still so many mountains to climb. However, while the rewards of step-parenting may be few — the useful life lessons gained from it can be vast.


And it’s those lessons a step-parent must hold onto if nothing else.


Step-parents come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. You can’t always recognize who is a step-parent by just looking at them — but trust me — they are everywhere.


There are even step-parents who have become so vital to their family unit and who have built such an impactful bond with their stepchild or stepchildren that their stepchildren actually ask for them to adopt them.


That’s huge.


In recent years, there has been much more awareness and appreciation of a step-parent’s role. There are now a growing variety of step-parenting blogs, podcasts, and support groups online.


While many of these online resources are predominantly led by stepmoms as opposed to stepdads, there is indeed a new rise in stepdads getting onto online platforms and expressing how they are navigating through blended family life while offering their own advice.


There are now online groups and resources for childless stepmoms, African American step-parents, as well as same-sex-couple step-parents because if there’s anything a step-parent knows best — it’s that the idea of the “traditional” family and how we thought it was supposed to look in the past simply doesn’t apply anymore.


Every step-parent is dealing with a unique dynamic within their own blended family. Each journey is distinctive in nature. Each lesson provides its own individual insight.


With the divorce rate continuing to rise and unmarried parents choosing not to stay together, step-parents have and will continue to become significant parenting soldiers at the forefront of raising the next generation of humans.


Raising humans is no joke. Either is being a step-parent.


Any biological parent will tell you how challenging it can be to raise a child. There are constant doubts, feelings of failure, and what seems like a never-ending barrage of wants and needs coming at you from all sides when you parent.


Imagine attempting to jump into that kind of role as a step-parent without any of the familiarity that a biological parent has — especially when you’re stepping into a family situation with an older or teenage stepchild who may not be as accepting as a younger child might be.


As I said, step-parenting is not for the faint-hearted.


This is why — we — as a society of people who say we care about the future of our children and who claim to want to raise the next generation of children to the best of our ability need to take the time to acknowledge and validate the role of the modern step-parent.


Step-parents are not in the background anymore. They’re at the forefront of raising our children — and more so every day.


It’s time to look around and see the good work being done by step-parents and accept them into the mainstream parenting tribe. Believe me — we need their help more than we may realize.


More from Michelle: How My Divorce Changed My Opinion on Marriage — For Better & For Worse

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