Step Parents, Obligations, and Assholes

If you tell a person who is lovingly taking on the major challenges of being a step parent that they are locked into this role for life you are an asshole.  Let me explain.  There are many people out there who live in a fantasy world of happily ever after and all that jazz. If these people find a single parent to be a part of their inner circle of friends, the goal seems to shift from praising that single parent for being a strong and amazing individual towards finding that single parent a partner.  That is all well and good if that is what the single parent really wants and needs, but then what pressures are being put on this proposed step parent should a partner be found?
Let me outline the following based on a lifetime of real world experience.  In actual fact, the step parent is one of the most difficult roles to play in a family. For anyone to put the added burden that they are now a parent for the rest of their lives, through thick, thin, divorce, etc is asinine.  They in no way made the decision to create life, and therefore do not have the implicit responsibilities of a child for the rest of their lives just because they are in a relationship with the biological parent.  I cannot stress this enough, you are an asshole if you think that the step parent needs the extra burden of being locked into a relationship with the child for the rest of his/her life.  It’s a crappy gig, and in no way shape or form is that extra pressure a requirement, or should be placed upon especially by an outsider. 
Many step parents are amazing individuals who have the ability to not only form a loving bond with their new found partner, but also agree to take on a surrogate role of parent to the children.  But the role is only under the implicit understanding that those two adults involved stay together.  There is no rational judge who would order the step parent to assume the rights and responsibilities of a child that is not legally theirs if the relationship failed.  I am horrified to hear that some single people think that remarrying is a way of sharing their offspring type burden.  It just is not the way.  Step parents do not pay child support when they divorce, they are under no legal obligation because they did not create the human being.  And I believe this is rational and just.
Now, if you know me, you may be asking yourself right now if I am being a hypocrite in that I maintain a relationship with my stepdad post divorce from my mom and have for a number of years.  And absolutely I do, and it is a relationship that I value much higher than most in my life.  But it was a not a relationship that existed because it had to.  When my parents divorced, my step dad and I both agreed that neither of us were going to allow the divorce to have any impact on our relationship.  Together we happily agreed that he was my dad and I was his daughter even if he was no longer with my mom.  This was not an expectation, or an obligation.  At the point of divorce we both could have walked away from each other, or just maintained a friendship.  Instead we mutually agreed to continue a father daughter relationship.  And there are thousands of examples out there of walking away, and or friendships and continued parent child dynamics.  It is a personal decision between the step parent and the child. 
So then let me repeat.  If you try to force a step parent to have the lifelong burden of your child as a price of admission for dating you, then you are an asshole.  If you are an outsider to a relationship and you suggest to your single friend that their new partner has to make a choice to have your child in their life for the rest of his/her life then, yes, you are an asshole.  Clearly this post touches a nerve with me, and I hope that I have changed a few of your preconceived notions regarding step parents if you had any.  I lucked out with one step parent that I will have for life, and others whom I will never see again.  And I do not judge these people for not keeping me in their lives.  It’s a two way street and sometimes being a step parent is just too tough a job to keep when a marriage ends.

2 thoughts on “Step Parents, Obligations, and Assholes”

  1. K,
    Although I understand the sentiment of your article, the premise is untrue. In Canada, step-parents may be liable to pay child support for the children of their partner upon dissolution of the relationship (common law or marriage). This hold true whether or not the child is still in touch with their biological parent (it is a factor that the judge will consider, but not determinative of whether the step-parent will pay child support).

    It is not as if it happens every time, that a step-parent will be held liable, but it is entirely possible. This has been the law in Canada since about 1999, so perhaps that it why you were unfamiliar with it as it may not have applied to you when you were young.

  2. Thank you so much for the reply on this. You are absolutely correct, as always our laws are changing and adapting to new circumstances. Upon further research I did discover though that it is incredibly rare for this to happen and it is a very hard case to prove to a judge. Also it is almost unheard of if there are two biological parents still living. Just one more example though of how old I am getting that laws are different from when I was a child 🙂

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