What is our Role as a Stepparent?

When we moved to Louisiana toward the end of June, my two biological daughters stayed behind in Conway, AR. They both had summer jobs and wanted to stay close to their friends the rest of the summer. At 18 and 21 years old, I knew they could manage on their own but needed a temporary living place before they moved  into college housing in the Fall.

My next-door neighbor, Sara, offered to let the girls stay at her house. She and her husband have four grown children and extra bedrooms. It was a perfect arrangement to get us through a transitional period.

We spent last week-end in Conway helping my daughter, Jamie, move into her college apartment and I observed the relationship between her and my neighbor. It reminded me of a stepparenting relationship in the early years.  

Sara knew her role as an additional parent to the girls. She didn’t try to overstep or undermine my relationship in any way. But she did offer a listening ear and everyday support when the girls needed it.

Late in the summer the girls’ dad came for an out-of-state visit. Because their dad is an alcoholic, his behavior is unpredictable and their relationship with him is tenuous. Sara spent several hours talking to the girls about their feelings and struggles with their dad. She offered an unbiased opinion to the situation  as a third-party observer. The girls needed a maternal figure to talk to and since I wasn’t there, they confided in Sara.

I believe that is how our stepparenting role should play out. We are to provide everyday support and a listening ear for our stepchildren when they need it. We are to be a cheerleader for their every effort in sports, music, school, drama, or whatever. We are to love and care for them as if they are our own. But we are not to undermine or compete with their biological parent. We are not to try to replace their biological parent. We are an additional parent.  

Our stepparenting role may change as years pass. When my stepchildren lost their mother to cancer six years ago, I became their primary maternal figure. My husband has stepped into the primary parenting role with my girls because of their dad’s instability. But for many years, my husband and I both worked at functioning as an additional parent to our stepchildren.    

As we drove away from our neighbor’s house to return to our home in Louisiana, Sara was on the front porch with her arm around my youngest daughter, Jodi, who is staying there another week before moving into the dorm. It gave me a warm feeling to know that, although I can’t be there every day right now because of our move, my daughter is loved and cared for by an additional parent.

What role do you play as a stepparent? Is it a healthy role that benefits your stepchildren?

Related Posts:

Is It a Privilege to Be a Stepparent?

Unexpected Stepparenting Moments


6 Responses to “What is our Role as a Stepparent?”

  1. 1 Anonymous August 18, 2011 at 10:29 am

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  2. 2 Sue August 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Super busy right now, but I had to say, "Welcome back!"I missed your posts while you were in the throes of moving and settling in.Have a lovely day!

  3. 3 Gayla Grace August 19, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Good to hear from you Sue. Let me know how things are going with your new house when you have time. Take care, Gayla

  4. 4 Sue August 19, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    We still haven't sold our house, but no one else has shown interest in the one we put an offer on, so we're still hoping and praying. We extended our offer until November 1, and if ours doesn't sell by then, we're going to take that as a sign that we're to stay put for now … and we're both okay with that.My stepson left for the Marines on August 1, and his twin sister left for college this morning. Lots of adjustments, emotions, etc. in the air around here at the moment, but we'll all be okay. =)

  5. 5 Anonymous August 20, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Lovely that you are back on line Gayla. I hope you find the locals warm and welcoming…it's always a huge adjustment when moving, especially for yourself having to leave grown children. I like your definition of a step-parent being an 'additional parent'…I've always seen it that way, but it is so good to be reminded of that when there is still a biological parent who, after many many years, has issues that there IS an additional parent.

  6. 6 Gayla Grace August 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Sue, I relate to undergoing a lot of adjustments. We're going through it too and some days I cope better than others. Hope things work out for the new house. Keep me posted.Gayla

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