Being that it is now 2020, we can safely assume that most, if not all, Americans have someone close to them who is part of an alternative family.
It could be a friend that got out of a tough relationship, and is now a single parent. Or maybe a family member who takes care of their grandchildren. A sister with step-children. A neighbor who has chosen to adopt.
There are a million ways that families can be formed. Yet, when a family is non-traditional, stigmas follow like a cloud over their heads.
In this blog, I will be addressing families of all kinds. One by one, I will be speaking with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents… Anyone who will share their story with me, in order to provide a picture of family life from every perspective.
For my first blog, I would like to talk about a very real issue that effects my life, along with millions of others.
In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau reported “11 million families with children under age 18, and no spouse present”.
The percentage of children living with two parents continues to decrease, which in turn means that the percentage of children living in single parent households is increasing.
With this many kids living without a traditional set of parents, it amazes me to see the reactions that people have when they hear the prefix “step”.
As a step-parent, one situation that stands out to me is the first time I took my step-son to the doctor’s office by myself.
The nurse was throwing question after question at me, about vaccinations and family history and other things I tried my best to answer. Eventually, she began to peer at me in disapproval.
“You are his mother, right?” She asked.
“Step-mother.” I responded, and the look on her face became smug. No wonder she doesn’t know anything, she must’ve thought. The questions ceased after that.
I spent the rest of our time there feeling out of place and embarrassed. Like I had no business bringing a child that wasn’t “mine” to the doctor.
The nurse left, the doctor came in, and the visit was over.
When I went home and told my husband about my experience, he laughed. “I would have told her the same thing you did.” He didn’t have the list of vaccinations memorized, and most of the other questions I had been asked were fuzzy for him too.
That’s when I realized that the nurse had been wrong to act the way she had. I take care of this child too! I am responsible for him too! I should not have to feel out of place or awkward for doing exactly that.
The embarrassment turned to anger, but I knew I couldn’t hold on to that feeling either. It is ignorance that causes people to act as though what I do for my step-son is less valuable than it would be if I were his blood.
I have experiences like this one all the time, where comments are made or looks are given that make me feel inferior.
Often, it is not meant to come across that way… but even an offhand comment can have a lasting impact.
My experiences as a step-parent have given me a lot of compassion for other parents. I have learned not to think of myself as less than a parent, and not to allow the opinions of others to have an impact on my relationship with my step-son.
My hope is that this blog will spread some of that knowledge and understanding, through the stories of those who choose to share. We can all use a little more of that.