Sharing your Father’s Day with their step dad

The Council on Contemporary Families notes that of the 30 million fathers living with children under the age of eighteen 11% of those (over 3 million) are considered step-fathers. Additionally, 30 million children live in a step family relationship where the adults are legally married and the vast majority of the step-parents are fathers. In today’s culture with marriages ending at an alarming rate and single motherhood at an all time high the step-father is stitched into the fabric of our society.

Being a biological father intimately involved in his children’s lives, the idea of another man labeled “dad” is an extremely jagged pill to swallow. The ego in me screams out that there should be only one man who my son and daughter view in that light, and I should be that man who get’s their attention each Father’s Day. Rarely does a parent imagine that they could be replaced by someone else or that they must share their special Hallmark day with a stranger. Yet for the last six years it’s this very reality I’ve lived in.

The ink wasn’t dry on the final divorce decree before the ex-wife became openly involved with another man who began spending ample time with my children, within one week of the final alimony payment her suitor moved in with her and the kids and within two years they were married. Almost from the beginning my kids began referring to him as their dad as if he was the only one. Whether this was encouraged is unknown but when I learned of it the poo hit the fan and after a brief ‘come to Jesus meeting’ their other dad has been referred to by his first name every since.

As time moved on I began to notice their new family doing that of any other, they were taking vacations, going to family events and putting up pictures of the four at the park, sporting events, or holiday memories.  I started feeling I had become the visiting uncle who stops by to give the parents a break and take the kids for pizza and a movie; which became ironic when another parent once inquired if I was my son’s uncle.

For any divorced parent, the time will eventually come when the ex-spouse brings someone new into the picture. Someone who will be spending time with the kids doing those things traditional families do. It’s been my experience when this does occurs, the other parent often experiences feelings ranging from intimidation to loneliness. Which can be followed by self-doubt and the fear of being replaced.

For the past six years I have struggled as these feelings ebb and flow depending on the circumstance. One might think that time would have allowed me to figure them out, that I might have discovered the key for coming to grips with this reality, but that hasn’t been the case. Fatherhood, it seems, is not that easy.

Regardless of how often I’m told that I’ll always be their ‘real’ father or recognize the rights I have  under the law as their biological father I have never been able to completely erase the idea of being the odd-man-out. My kids get a traditional family one weekend and a modern family the next, like actors playing dual roles.

Therapy and faith have helped to put many of these emotions somewhat into perspective, reminding me when they surface that:

  • My kids don’t belong to me like a car or a home. They’re only under my care for a short time and will be gone before I realize it.
  • There is nothing that I nor anyone else can do. There are some things out of my control.
  • My identity is not tied to my children. Being a father is arguably the most important part I play but it is only one part that is far from the whole.
  • This should be motivation to be the greatest influence in their lives that I can be.

All the evidence shows that the Trainer loves my kids very much and I know they feel the same about him. He enjoys coaching Bubba’s sports teams which I have let him take the lead one because he is better at it. He does a great deal for them and I know I could be much less fortunate, there are far too many headlines about step-fathers who do everything but love their step-children. The Jap could have gotten involved with an abusive, alcoholic, drug addict or a man who wants to over step his fatherly bounds – fortunately she married neither.

It would be easy to resent that my kids will buy Father’s Day gifts for another man or that they will be thankful for his fatherly influence in their lives.  But I’m mature enough to understand how this hurts only me and my kids as I selfishly try to powder my own ego. It’s pointless and helps no one. Today’s father doesn’t have to fit a ready-made mold nor must they be a Ward Cleaver. The current role of father is so much more than sharing a last name or the same eyes, it’s about the love and attention a man gives to a child and I should feel blessed for that instead of intimidated.

So it is with that and the understanding that my children love their step-dad and need the influence that he has on their lives that I am able to wish him a Happy Father’s Day.

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24 responses to Sharing your Father’s Day with their step dad

  1. Lori

    a) Had it written in my decree that there shall be no other ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’.  Ex thought I was crazy.  Didn’t care!

    b)  Wow, good for you in wishing him Happy Father’s Day, I don’t know that I’ll ever get there… any OTHER woman, probably.

  2. Tara (thedivorceencouragist)

    Great post, CP. I wrote last week and asked how dads feel about their children’s stepfather. I think I’ll edit it and link to this. Thank you for your hearfelt honesty and selfless maturity.

  3. Very mature Chopper.
    I went through similar feelings when my son’s mother re-married and the step dad was coaching his little league team. But then you just have to realize that the more the merrier is probably best for all anyway.
    Nice post.
    Happy Belated Father’s Day

  4. CP Wow, it’s so nice to read a positive Dad vs Stepfather post. I only wish MrGameShow had been like that with The Gamer when I was married to Sperm Donor or The Boss, sadly he wasn’t able to be like you and it ruined my relationship with my son as he was made to chose Daddy over Mom and stepfather + Daddy.

    Props to you for being mature and reasonable. It’s refreshing.

  5. I’m diggin’ it, CP. I think your 4 bullet points sum it all up, whether you are married, single, or anywhere in between. This “job” we have is a constantly changing one, and one day we will be dismissed from the daily operations. I think divorce just serves to put in a sharper focus. If anything, I know that mine made me not take any time with my kiddos for granted.

    It’s hard to look for the positives in a situation, sometimes. I know your kids will greatly benefit from a Dad that can share those positives with them & the maturity to know when it serves to look at the bright side rather than complain about all the things that didn’t come through. Life ain’t a fairytale.

  6. Agree with most of your post.  I will mention that I hate the use of the term “Real Dad” because it implicitly states that anything else is a “Fake Dad” and coming from a family that has had its share of absentee bio-dads and awesome step-dads the idea the idea that the men in my family who have stepped up to raise these kids as their own are somehow less-than or impostors is a hard pill to swallow.

    That being said, the ex-hub has been with the new-wife since my youngest was barely a toddler and sometimes it’s still difficult to share the ‘mom’ role, even though I know she cares about my girls like they are her own.

    I’ve found though, that when a dad makes a true effort to be there if not physically, but at least to make as much of an effort to be a regular and consistent presence in their child’s life, then although they may find themselves sharing the ‘father’ role, they are never replaced.  Kids have a seemingly infinite amount of love to give to those that show them the same.

  7. Andie, you bring up a good point about the dad title. The moniker ‘real’ dad seems to imply that all others are something other than. I think this is our way of labeling everything like our culture is apt to do. It appears that we have much in common in this area of our lives, I can certainly empathize with your struggles. 

    Thanks for stopping by. 

  8. Life isn’t a fairytale and Disney can suck it for making us ever believe otherwise. …:-) 

  9. That maturity sometimes comes and goes however but I’ve learned to keep it under control most of the time. 

  10. Lori, are you referring to the use of the phrase mom or dad in relation to another person? 

    When we can get their you’ll find it isn’t that bad. 

  11. Anonymous

    Aw, CP, this made me want to give you a big ole giant hug.

    My ex-bf had no children and very much wanted my girls to call him “daddy”. I told him outright that they have a daddy and don’t need another one. What they DO need, however, is another positive male role model. That wasn’t good enough for him but my current bf understands completely. He is a father of 2 boys and his ex-wife has a live-in fiance. He has been fine with the new guy being around his son but when the man bought his son a new rifle for his birthday… and my man is a hunter… he was furious. He had to state specifically that some things HE will teach and/or buy for his son, and shooting a rifle is one of them. I understood. His ex-wife, however, didn’t care and didn’t support him.

    My ex has a girlfriend but they keep breaking up so… as much as I try to get to know her, she’s soon out of the picture again. My daughters seem to enjoy being around her and her other children. But it does feel odd to think of my kids around someone that I don’t really know.

    The whole thing is just odd, isn’t it? It doesn’t come naturally at all if all parents remain involved. But I think the kids really enjoy the different perspectives.

  12. zion

    I recently had my daughter through a surrogate just to avoid these exact circumstances I couldn’t bear the thought of my daughter calling another man daddy and this fear has effected all of my relationships allways to fearful to commit to anyone in case I ever got her pregnaunt and dumped being relegated to a weekend dad. Got to say though being a full time single dad is fun no woman to justify yourself to and no fears of being replaced. In England the statistics were frightning somthing like 50% of couples are divorced within the 5 years. Being a forex trader I don’t like those odds. It almost seems like fathers have no value. Having my daughter through a surrogate was probably the best thing I have or will ever do.

  13. Sean Pyka

    Just found your article and I must say thank you and I posted it on a Face Book page I made for Step Parents. Once again thank you and well written.

  14. Papa – Author

    Thanks Sean. If you follow along on my FB page I’ll return the deed, I’d like to check out what your doing.

  15. bruce

    i just stumbled on this as well. thanks. i’m going through it right now and it is brutual. my daughter is five, my ex and i are splitting up, she is seeing some else -has been for awhile. the range of emotions is wide. who is this person who will eventually be around my daughter and will he try to overstep his bounds, etc. etc. powerless to stop it or control it, which i need to keep reminding myself. just need to be the best and tuned in dad i can be.

  16. Karl

    Wow…this is right along what I’m going through. I have a 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son, both of which I’m extremely involved in their lives and extra carricular activities. I’ve coached both of them in all of their sports since day one. My son has since risen to the level beyond where I feel I can effectively coach him, as he needs info coming from higher levels of expertise, so I’ve stepped back from coaching and simply become a parent that helps out.

    They’ve had a stepdad for a little over a year now and now he’s super supportive, which I greatly appreciate. However, I struggle with him stepping in and often feel he’s being overly involved and stepping on my toes. I agree with “more the merrier,” but it’s tough to share that responsibility if there’s not a void there to fill. If I wasn’t at every practice and game, I’d have no problem with it. Being that I am at all practices/games, it often rubs me the wrong way if anything comes from him other than supportive cheering. His stepdad is also at practices/games and helps out, which I don’t mind, but again it gets to me when the coach addresses the stepdad as opposed to me regarding my son.

    Can’t figure out the answer to this. I feel he should politely take a step back at times, but I know that puts him in an awkward position…just wish he’d come to that decision on his own.

  17. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Karl, Obviously I appreciate your predicament, if that’s even the right terminology. If we want to get to the crux of the issue that I believe both of us have it’s this…..”will that man replace us as their dad?” In other words will our children put this man in our place, put him in a higher level of importance, or reject even us seeing us as their distant uncle?

    It’s a very understandable feeling and quite normal. I’ve struggled with it, especially in the last 3-4 years. I can only say that I’ve become convinced this will not happen. Regardless of the other males in our children’s lives we, you and I, will always be our kids’ father.

    There will eventually come a day, whether it’s a coach, teacher, or other man, who will probably become a greater influence in their lives than we will be. That too, is very normal.

    We both seem fortunate to have step fathers in our kid’s lives that truly love them. I still contend it could be so much worse.

    Thanks for your input.

  18. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Bruce, I’ve been where you are. And your last sentence tells me you’re on the right track. Hope that you find something in my site that provides you perspective, insight, and maybe comfort.

  19. bruce

    Kyle, thanks for responding. And, yes, your site does help. this article and the one regarding finding about your ex’s infidelty and the range of emotions hits home. read it three times, and not because i’m dense. thanks again.

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