The step-parent – a step up in the parenting realm

I got married in 1999 and for the following 7 years my daily fight was to become a parent. I will recognise it anywhere, I had no idea what being a parent meant: movies, books and other people’s children don’t come even close to the reality of this experience. I will also admit that over the past 14 years there were moments when I dreamt of life without enigmas and obligations – these being just two “fun” sides of parenting. I used to tell myself and others that there is nothing harder than being a parent. Well … I was wrong. Being a step-parent is infinitely harder.

Almost ten years ago when my partner and I became more than best friends, I was too in-love and too eager to actually start living to understand what I was asking her to get into. She was not getting just me, she was getting us, my son and I and …. his birth father. Sure, in the lives of movies, books and other people, we were going to be happy ever after, have conflicts now and then that ended in happy tears and hugs and my son’s father was going to finally join our newly formed family for coffee every Sunday (we were watching The Fosters). For many years I made the mistake to put an equal sign between my being a parent and her being a parent, I wrongfully assumed that I was the one making a bigger sacrifice because I made the decision to leave my son’s father and create a different life for ourselves and changing my son’s life forever. I have come to the realisation (better late than never) that I did not in fact draw the short end of the stick – she has.

Being a step-parent, especially in a same sex couple, in Romania, is an act of courage and true love. Being a step-parent is a choice that one makes not necessarily out of the desire to become a parent, but of the desire to become a couple. Regardless of your daily efforts as a step-parent or the truth of the matter, the child that isn’t yours by birth will see you, at least for a while, as the intruder, the reason for the change in their family and, when one of the birth parents contributes to that image, things become tenfold harder. Being a step-parent, you get all the responsibility and very little of the title, you get to put in the work and most of the times not only not get the credit but have to sit on the sidelines and watch birth parents take the credit, even when they have absolutely nothing to do with the child’s achievements. As a step-parent you invite a child into your heart, you open your heart completely to them, only to have them, at best, take your offer partly and run at the first phone call of their birth parent, regardless of how reckless, uninvolved or absent that parent is.

Many are the times in the past 9 years that I thought I could never be a step-parent. I am not that selfless. If I am honest with myself I will say that I will never be able to pour all of my energy, love and money into raising a child, only to have them almost always look into different eyes for comfort, acceptance and to offer gratitude. Becoming an all in step-parent has been the best gift of love that my partner has ever offered me and my only hope is that, our son realizes how lucky he is to have a step-parent, how his life is changed for the better and how so much richer we all are for being the family that we are today.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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