*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Being a stepdad needs lots of patience, love, and determination. And sometimes, despite trying hard to make sure everyone has what they need, there will still be different ideas inside the family about what your contribution actually means.
How would you react if your in-laws rejected what you do for their grandkids and decided on things without asking you?
My friend Steven has been married to his wife Angela for 22 years. They have one son together, and Angela also had one son and one daughter from her previous relationship.
Steven agreed to be a father figure to both her kids when they got married since their dad didn't want to get involved in their lives.
"I didn't mind being a dad as soon as we got married because I felt close to them. Both Diana and Charlie warmed up to me, and we had fun together from the first time we met. I truly see them as my own kids, just like Dan is," Steven said.
As time went by, he took responsibility for all three kids and supported each one of them while doing his best to make fun memories with his family.
His wife became a full-time mom and made sure their kids had homemade meals and the house looked neat and tidy.
"I felt my family was my priority. I couldn't be pleased being at work and thinking about what a babysitter might be doing in my home; I didn't like daycare much either. I had to be the one to look after the kids, and Steven agreed," the mom said.
Steven didn't feel like a stepdad. Instead, he decided to think he had three kids and his wife and just be happy together as a family.
His in-laws, however, saw things differently. Even though they knew he paid for everything and tried to take his family on trips and vacations so they could see new places together, they always asked his stepkids' dad over and tried to convince him to meet them.
"In the beginning, I thought they meant well and simply wanted to make sure they didn't lose touch with their dad, which wasn't a bad idea at all. But then, they started dismissing all my efforts. And they didn't listen to me when I advised them how to handle it without upsetting the kids. I think I have some say in it since I live with them and look after them each and every day. They couldn't care less, though," the dad said.
Angela went to see her parents and talked to them to understand why they couldn't warm up to Steven. As it turns out, they couldn't stand the fact that he called himself a dad instead of a stepdad, and they liked her first boyfriend more.
During the past year, Steve's in-laws have had difficulties paying the expenses for their home, and he's currently covering their bills until they can get back on track.
But not even this made them change their mind about him.
"I pay their bills and support my stepkids; they don't care about my opinion. I handle their expenses, and I will be helping them for at least the rest of this year, but I never hear a good word from them or praise. It's like I offended them as soon as I got married to Angela. I tried to earn their respect and show them I was a good person, but they were determined to dislike me. And I don't like to feel they're using me to get money only while saying unpleasant things to the kids about me when I'm not around," Steven said.
The grandparents are still trying to convince Angela that her first relationship could be saved, and her ex-boyfriend comes by their house every Sunday. Angela and Steven have decided to avoid visiting them until they stop receiving him, and the kids won't go there unless it's a birthday or a special occasion.
How do you think this should be handled? Is it ok for the grandparents to simply ignore Steven's efforts and keep trying to bring back their grandkids' dad? Should they appreciate his support while they're struggling with expenses instead of criticizing him in front of all three kids?
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