By: Matt Woodrum – Founder of Wrestling with Fatherhood
One Hard Job
One of the hardest jobs as a parent comes from a difficult spot: The step parent. A step-parent is a person who is a stepmother (the wife of one’s parent when distinct from one’s natural or legal mother) or stepfather (the husband of one’s parent when distinct from one’s natural or legal father). This important for a number of different reasons including:
- 40% of married couples with children (i.e., families) in the US are stepcouples(at least one partner had a child from a previous relationship before marriage; this includes full and part-time residential stepfamilies and those with children under and/or over the age of 18).
- Approximately one-third of all weddings in America today form stepfamilies (demographic estimate, Deal). In 2001, 38% of all US marriages were remarriages for one or both partners (15% for both; 23% for one) (Wendy Manning, personal communication Jan 2010, National Center for Family and Marriage Research).
- 42% of adults have a steprelationship–either a stepparent, a step or half sibling, or a stepchild. This translates to 95.5 million adults.
- 13% of adults are stepparents (29-30 million); 15% of men are stepdads (16.5 million) and 12% of women are stepmoms (14 million).
With step-families becoming more of a reality, it is easy to forget how important step-dads are. Step-dads are people who give their step-children a second chance. Please do not get me wrong, this is a difficult job. Being a step-parent can be met with resistance from both your family and your new children.
My Bad Attitude
As someone who has a step-dad, I know it can be difficult to know where the lines should be drawn. My step-dad showed my sister and I that he cared but let us know that he was not our dad. My dad had decided that he did not want to be in the picture and my parents ended up getting a divorce. As a child, I had no understanding of what this meant or who was to be my dad. When my mom married my step-dad, I can remember thinking that it felt like two families living together. As a child, I did not appreciate the work that my step-dad was doing for our family. Sure, he was a (really) hard worker, was a deacon in my home church, was taking on two children that wasn’t his, going through his own life struggles, and trying to make marriage work with his new wife. However, all I cared about was myself and who my dad was, and he was not it.
My Secret Dad
My tune changed after I was married. You see, my step-dad used to tease me saying “if I find a woman half, just half as good as I did (my mom) you’ll be doing pretty good”. Even though I never told him, I tried to find that woman that was “half” as great as my mom. After meeting and marrying that woman of my dreams, I knew that I had finally married someone that was pretty special. One of the other awesome memories of my step-dad (while I lived at home) was something that he would do every Thanksgiving Day. He would wake my sister and I up and take us trapping, one of his hobbies that he was very passionate about. He would wake us both up and all of the sudden it felt like Christmas morning. There were also a couple of times that he took our family fishing and camping, which was awesome! He also intended to take me hunting on more than one occasion. He did all of these as someone who wasn’t my dad.
As an adult, someone who has children myself, and has an amazing wife I have come to realize that my step-dad played the part of a dad. Even though he never took the title of my dad and I don’t know if I will ever call him my dad, he showed me what it was like to be a fantastic dad to my children. You see, even though he was my step-dad, my second chance came with his care and his love. He gave me a second chance that I did not deserve. He decided to share his personal life with my family. He showed me how to camp, fish, trap, and be a man. This is something I can never repay him for.
When looking at my own step-dad, there are some lessons to be taken to become a great step-parent.
- First, show them value and love. My step-dad showed me through his actions that Im worth it.
- Second, invite them into your interests. As a child, I never appreciated how much he took time to take me hunting, fishing, or trapping.
- Third, encourage your step-children to shoot for the stars. My step-dad supported me in my goals, including through my failures.
- Fourth, love their mother (this should be #1). My step-dad showed me how to treat my wife, how to love her, how to hold the door open for her, and how to respect her.
- Fifth, live out what you believe. One of the things I love about my step-dad is that he was always involved with his church and could always be found reading the Bible at the kitchen table in the evening. He was living out his faith.
As a step-parent, you have a special job. You take on the role and responsibilities of being a parent to a family who has been hurt, through a divorce, and through other pain. One of the best things that my step-dad showed me is that even through there were issues between my (real) dad and I, that I was still worth the (large amounts of) time, (A lot of) money, encouragement, and faith that he put into my family. He loves my mother and treats her right, showed me that I am loved, shared his faith with me, and believed that I could be a great husband and dad.
What are your biggest challenges with your step-children? What can you do to encourage them to break out of their shell? What does a relationship with your children mean to you?
This month my Guest Blogger for May 2018 is Matt Woodrum. Matt is the founder of Wrestling with Fatherhood, a husband, and the proud father of two girls (Ages 5 and 3). After an injury (broken tailbone) playing dodgeball, Matt gained a lot weight, from eating too much ice cream. Matt noticed that his weight was getting out of control when he maxed out at 275 lbs.! Eager to give his girls the father he never had, Matt decided it was time to take action. Matt has lost 20 lbs. in the last two months and looks forward to continuing his weight loss journey while helping others to accomplish their own health/weight loss goals. You can visit his website at http://www.wrestlingwithfatherhood.com