Should We Lose the “Step” in “Step Family”?

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Step mothers are often seen as evil. Step children unwanted. Step fathers portrayed as overbearing brutes.

But what if we stopped with the “step”? What if we recognize that family is family, whether it’s through blood, marriage, or choice?

I don’t often do lifestyle posts like this, especially stream-of-consciousness ones, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

A few weeks ago, I came across this photo of me as a child, a photo in which I’m clearly choosing to hold back a smile…

blended family photo

Was I in a bad mood? Did the camera catch me at a bad time? Was I being a typical teenager, too cool to show my joy?

Nope. I was told I had an “awful smile” by my step-father’s mother.

“Too big,” she said, “too cheesy!”

And I stopped smiling for months after that.

girl not smiling

Step-Children Are Not Burdens

When we treat step-children as “extras” instead of “bonuses”, we are potentially setting them up to forever think of themselves as such.

I can recall one time when I was around 10 years old when my step-aunt had plans to take my step-brother and step-sister on a day trip. The day came and my step-brother didn’t want to go, he was having too much fun with our other brother. Rather than ask me along instead, the aunt threw a fit. I had no way to understand or process this rejection as anything but “she doesn’t see me as family and therefore doesn’t like me.”

Clearly this is something that has stuck with me 20+ years later.

With stories of Cinderella and the like, it’s no wonder we often think of step-parents as evil; the children often know no better until they themselves experience it. I can’t help but wonder, though, if we took the time to welcome these children into our families just as we welcome newborn babies, would things settle sooner? Wouldn’t the blending be all the better for it?

Obviously I’ve not been a step-mother (and hope to never be one), so it’s hard to come at it from any place but that of a grown step-child. I’m curious, though, if it’s just such a chaotic time that the parents don’t think to work together better to ensure a smooth transition? Or maybe this was just my experience and is an exception, not the rule?

What do you think – is it on the parents to ensure acceptance all around or do we just accept that “blended families” will often have more issues than “first-families”?

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I am a “step” mother and I hate the term. As to my daughter (yes, I call her my daughter, no need for labels in my family) I have raised her since she was 18 months and see her no differently than I do my other two kids. Unfortunately, my daughter has the “step” term pushed upon her by her mother, who has hated the fact that we do not use that term, even though she has chosen to be sporadically involved in my daughters life. I can only hope that when my daughter gets to be older she realizes the reason we never pushed the terms was so that she never had to feel different or left out. Thank you so much for this post!

    1. I can relate. I rasied my “daughter” from 10 months old. Her biological mother had very.little to do with her until she was older and then threatened to spank her, or did spank her for calling me Mom. My daughter didn’t know any different. I was “Mom”.
      We worked hard at raising our kids as “siblings” and not “step” siblings. To this day people in the community don’t know that the 2 that aren’t mine biologically aren’t mine… biologically.
      I use to try to believe like you that when my daughter got older she would know and understand why we didn’t use “step” and she does. She’s grown now and is a “step” mom herself. She literally is “in my shoes” and understands more than ever why I made the decisions I made or didn’t make.
      Have faith…they grow up and know who took care of them and how much you truly love them. Know matter what you call them!!!

      1. Oh my gosh, Kym, that must’ve been so brutal for you. 🙁 You’re spot on, though – it’s the love we all remember, not necessarily the terms!

    2. Good on you for sticking to your guns and doing what you feel is right! I’m sure your daughter will recognize that all the more as she grows. 🙂

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