Without a doubt, you can be your own stepparent.
I have been a stepparent since 2017. In my experience, there is a paradigm about us. It's "we are not as important as the biological parents."
Often, the biological children, the biological parents, and the stepparent him/herself share this point of view.
Granted, I will never have the same unspoken, inexplicable connection that my wife has with her girls.
Unwittingly, this comparison leads to more comparisons about how I am different or "less than" her.
The following article tells of this paradigm: Why Stepparenting Can Be Harder Than Parenting.
Definitely, the default context for being a stepdad or stepmom is dangerous.
Specifically, adults who see themselves as, "not as important," suppress their desires to parent.
Then, the children don't respect the stepparents. Personally, this is what happened with my stepdad and my stepmom; that is, they held back. They didn't speak up. As a result, I didn't respect them nearly as much as I would have.
So, when I got married, I told my wife that I would parent the children as if they were my own. She agreed.
For sure, this has been hard sometimes, but my work has paid off.
When I came into the girls' lives, the they were 4 and 6; now, they're nearly 11 and 13.
At first, I wanted too much from them; for example. . .
- hugs and kisses
- also, reading them a book before bed
- and, sharing personal things, like they share with their mom
Then, I became patient. Also, I continued to do the things that biological parents do:
- making meals
- helping them with homework
- asking questions about their interests
- attending parent/teacher conferences
- disciplining them
- driving them to and from sports and piano practices
- investing financially in their futures
- planning vacations
- helping solve sibling conflicts
Eventually, the girls started showing me affection. They opened up to me. They trusted me. And, they even told me that they loved me.
Here is an article about another stepparent who busted up the paradigm, too: On Stepparenting and Being the Outsider - Within.
Certainly, the best advice I can give to stepparents is this:
- First, catch yourself noticing your own thoughts about your second-class parenting status.
- Let it go.
- Then, ask yourself, "If I were the biological parent, what would I do/say right now?"
- Or, ask yourself, "What kind of stepparent do I want to be?"
- And, ask yourself, "When the kids are much older, what will they say about the kind of parent I was?"
Then, feel free to express your love for your stepchildren; for example. . .
- First, tell them that you love them.
- Also, tell them what you want for their lives.
- And, tell them that you want to spend time with them, and how you want to spend it.
- Courageously, invite them to tell you how're you're doing as a parent.
Lastly, whatever you do, don't give in to the default context for stepparenting.
Seriously, you're only a second-class parent, if you think you are.