One of the things I like best about being a stepparent is the rather large swath of territory, I have labeled in my mind as “No Man’s Land” for stepparents. If you are a stepparent, you may know what I mean. This land is the barren, desert-scape place of being encouraged “to love the children as your own” (ie. please feel free to sacrifice yourself completely for children that are not yours) while at the same time being told “remember, you are NOT the children’s parent” (i.e. Stay out of the children’s lives, b/c you are now doing something that I, as the parent, do not care for you to do. Of course what I, as the parent, want you to do may change from day to day, moment to moment; but regardless, you SHOULD know what I want, b/c I AM THE PARENT).
Let’s see it has taken me about 3 years to begin to recognize when I was in stepparenting NO MAN’S LAND. Before, I used to traverse this area with all the grit and determination of a parched desert traveler seeking the next oasis. Hoping, I would get it “right” when I was involved with the kids the next time.
Here are the things I am encouraged to do for the children: babysit, drive to practices and games as needed, help with homework, remember school dates and times, find and hire the tutor, suggest piano teachers for the children, coordinate and write check for the tutor, get children off to school every morning they are at our home, be available for the children if they become sick at school, remember where their items are located in our home, organize and write check for babysitter, etc.
Here are the things I am encouraged not to do for the children: act like a parent.
I am actually fine with not being a parent to my stepchildren. I get it. What I would like, though is for parents who divorce to be a bit more clear about their expectations. As a stepparent- I react to and support what the parents do. Why? Becasue I am not the parent, and they should be setting the course for their children’s development. The problem arises, though, when the course set by the parents is not clear. Then my reactions become muddled as well.
The other day the tutor asked me, “What is the plan for tutoring for the kids this summer?” Uh…. I don’t know. I would assume the parents had some thoughts about this. She then asked me if I could find out if the parents had any thoughts on this.
I told her, “No”. I had not deasire to be put in Stepparenting No-Man’s Land”. Once again, I was being asked to coordinate, envision, “figure out” the plan for the children- that is the job of the parents.