With the arrival of Father’s Day this month, seems like it’s just another day for stepdads to hear (and feel) they aren’t “real.” This is incredibly interesting, but it does nothing to shed the sadness off the daily situation for the true American heroes on June 20th – stepdads.
We are heroes because we make real money for our families, offer real emotional support for our families, and most important of all, we attempt to give real time of ourselves to help out with homework and chores. All for the betterment of our stepchildren and spouses.
The obstacles we face even years after becoming what I guess is called “a stepfamily”, are both insidious and daunting. You know, after a while you get used to the “you’re not my real dad” refrain, though it still smarts. What I, a stepdad for almost four years, cannot get used to is the assumption we’re just supposed to be advisors to our stepchildren. Like an Uncle or buddy.
This is completely false and dangerous when biological fathers are absolutely out of the picture. I mean, for years. No phone calls, no weekends, no birthday cards, no nothing. In this case, the stepchild and their mother would be wise to welcome in stepdad.
Personally, I know I should never and do not want to ever be a “replacement dad” to my stepdaughter. You can’t erase biology. You can’t wish things away. You can’t be guaranteed love in return from anyone.
Nonetheless, for a stepfamily to work, the stepdad must have the respect of his spouse and stepchild. Without this, stepdad always becomes the odd man out. Stepchildren themselves must “step up” to the other parent in the house. Only good things evolve when this happens.
Bad things evolve when stepdad becomes the odd man out. The only voice of reason. Of discipline. Of expectation. Of pride. Stepfamilies are destroyed when stepdads are not just taken for granted, but manipulated and made to feel invisible.
I don’t have to tell you all the true and lousy statistics that await children who either refuse to have a “dad” in their life or just don’t have one through no fault of their own. What I can’t get a handle on as a stepdad and a human being is some stepchildren and their mothers say they don’t want or need a father because they supposedly never had one.
This needs to stop. This is textbook – insanity. This is like someone refusing food because they have not eaten in a week. Like, why bother to eat now? Yet this is what I, and so many other stepdads, have to bear witness to. Certainly, horrible things happen to all of us when we least expect it. When stepchildren and their mothers shut out male authority in the house, real opportunities for growth, unity and love are squashed.
What are we to do to make Father’s Day a celebration for stepdads instead of the Sunday slap in the face it has become? Respect us. Listen to us. Trust us.
Above all else, let us in. Because when stepdad becomes the odd man out, a stepfamily then stands on very shaky ground. And what a shame given the fact today’s children could only benefit from the life lessons stepdads everywhere want to share with their stepchildren.
Tony Zizza is a freelance writer who writes frequently about stepfamilies. He serves as Vice President/Georgia of the non-profit organization, Parents For Label and Drug Free Education. You can also visit the Able Child web siteTweet