Disclaimer: This post is not sexist, I am simply writing from my perspective as a man and therefore my word choice will reflect that. It could just as easily be titled “Down With Step-Motherhood” and written from a female perspective with virtually no change to the content. However, I have never been a step-mother, and barring some extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances, I never will be a step-mother. Please take this message for the spirit of it, and do not get hung up on the semantics.
I am, for tax and insurance purposes, a stepfather. When completing any of the wonderfully complicated forms the government requires of you in the process of begging to get back some of the money they took from you, I am succinctly labeled as a stepfather. But I will never, unless absolutely pressed for my legal relationship to my children, name myself as such. To me, the term is derogatory and implies that I am somehow less than a real father to them. Do they share my DNA? No (clearly they got most of their mother’s, because they are way cooler and cuter than either me or their biological father). But when they scrape a knee, don’t they run to me? Well, only if Mommy isn’t there. When I get home from work, they come running. When they go to bed, they give me hugs and kisses first. When they have nightmares, they come to me (again, if I happen to wake up before Mommy).
So why am I only a step-father? Do I step-love them or step-take care of them? When they don’t listen should I step-discipline them? When they bring home a great report card, am I step-proud? Truth be told, a man who takes on these responsibilities of their own free will has taken more steps toward being an actual father than many who have biological claims on their kids. Yet I consistently find myself hearing “Oh, you’re their stepfather…” when someone notices the different last names or realizes that they’ve been alive longer than I’ve known my wife. If someone hears them call me Jason, I get the most confused looks. One old lady actually yelled at them for being disrespectful and calling their father by his first name. Guess what happened when she figured out why they said it? “Oh, you’re just their stepfather….”
In so many ways our relationship is treated as a byproduct of my marriage. I suppose in some ways it is, but there is so much more to it than that. If, God forbid, something came between my wife and I, would I no longer have kids? Maybe not legally, but can anyone really be a father to children for years and then let them go like they were the second car or the bedroom set? It’s a ridiculous prospect. What if (and again I am praying that God lets me make this point without speaking things into existence) something terrible happened to their mother? Would it be alright for me to just walk away and leave them, saying that my relationship with them was strictly dependent on my living with their mother? I would be crucified by every single person that heard what I did. No one would accept the excuse that I was “just” their stepfather, then.
As a father of three amazing children, I refuse to add the “step.” I refuse to see myself as anything less than their full-time father, and I absolutely refuse to see them or love them as anything other than mine.
And one final point on the subject. This entire concept of voluntary and self-sacrificial love that every parent strives to enact is modeled to us by God Himself. He chose us when He didn’t have to, loves us when we don’t deserve it, and will never leave us no matter what happens to everyone else around us. If we lose our parents, our mentors, or anyone else we rely on; we can never lose God.
If you feel the lack of a missing parent, or if you have both your parents but still know that something is missing, I urge you to open up a Bible and find the love you have always wanted. There is nothing that will fill that void like the love of God and a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you have any questions or need any prayer or support in this, feel free to reach out to me or your local pastor. Reach out to God and know that He will provide someone with the words you need to hear (please note that I didn’t say the words you want to hear), if you’re just willing to listen.
God bless you all, and let’s put an end to step-fatherhood!