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John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as Babble, TLC, YahooShine, and the Huffington Post. He was also referenced by Jezebel one time, but he’s pretty sure they were making fun of him. While he’s name dropping, it’s only fair to point out that Ashton Kutcher tweeted one of John’s YouTube videos, but it may have only been because Ashton felt sorry for him. After all, John went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months thanks to marrying a single mom, then quickly conceived triplets. Since then, he and his wife have added one more to the mix, a little boy they named Grand Finale. They all live chaotically in Knoxville, TN with Briggs the dog.

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15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know

By John Cave Osborne |

You know what’s hard? Being a parent. You know what’s harder? Being a stepparent. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In my six years as a stepdad, I’ve experienced plenty of ups and downs as my stepdaughter and I do our best to negotiate what has to be one of the most complicated dynamics in the history of ever.

That said, I’ll never have the right words to express how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to be a stepdad. For like most anything else that’s difficult, the rewards are worth the price you have to pay to get them. There’s such texture to gain from the grind, much beauty to see as you climb, for the love you have to carefully consider, delicately court and ultimately earn might be the most precious of them all.

I’m no stranger to writing about the stepparent experience, three times here on Babble, once on Yahoo and another time on TLC. And though I’m by no means proclaiming victory, I am proud to say that as it stands right now, I have a wonderful relationship with my stepdaughter — not without its moments, mind you, but what parent-child relationship is? I’m also proud to report that I’ve learned many things along the way. Here are 15 of them.

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My Blended Family: 15 Lessons I Learned from a Child of Divorce

It's a package deal

If you're dating a single parent, it's imperative you understand something right away. It's a package deal. So if you marry that single parent, you've also made a lifelong commitment to his or her child. Honor that commitment, for it's a big one. Are you up for it?
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Read more of JCO Multiplied like, say: The 7 Deadly Sins of Fatherhood, 8 Reasons Family Road Trips Kill Your Soul Dead, Raising Pretty Girls or The 7 Phases of Chuck E. Cheese
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About John Cave Osborne

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John Cave Osborne

John Cave Osborne is a writer whose work has appeared on such sites as Babble, TLC, YahooShine, and the Huffington Post. John went from carefree bachelor to father of four in just 13 months after marrying a single mom, then quickly conceived triplets. Since then, they have added one more to the mix, a little boy they named Grand Finale. Read bio and latest posts → Read John's latest posts →

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30 thoughts on “15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know

  1. Dawn @ The Momma Knows says:

    Right.On.Target. I’ve been a stepmom for 20 years, and I love my stepkids to pieces, but it’s the hardest, most frustrating job you’ll ever love. (How do you think we got those 5 Kids and a Dog? lol I only birthed 2 of ‘em and adopted 2, and inherited 2 steps- yes that’s 6. I can add.) Some years were easy. When they were really young it was tough with lots of mom drama on their side. Then grade school years were fairly smooth, with everyone getting along really well. Adolescence brought hormonal drama, divide and conquer tactics, but we stuck to our guns and a united front and it worked. Now those two are 20 & 23 and those relationships endured the hard stuff. Our kids are our kids, and my stepkids are also MY KIDS and I wouldn’t have it any other way. :) Great post John!

  2. Angus Nelson says:

    As a stepfather who came in at age 10, I’d say you’re spot on, John. Navigating our relationship over the past several years, she’s going to be 17 soon, has been an enormous amount of trial and restraint. As you stated, I never call her my “step”, she’s my daughter and I love and treat her as such. The natural father is emotionally distant and mostly detached so my role as a ‘consistent’ dad is heightened. It’s been a hellish ride, but she’s tested the boundaries over and over and I’m still standing. I can’t imagine life without her. Thanks for the great reminder!

  3. [...] BabbleVoices and read this one. It’s got a piece of my heart is trapped inside of it. Click HERE to read 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know. (function() {var s = [...]

  4. Emily says:

    Beautifully written. For a Babble slideshow to actually bring tears to my eyes…well done.

  5. [...] Cave Osborne has a new blog post up right here at Babble Voices, titled “Fifteen Things Every Stepparent Should Know.” And even though I’m not a stepparent myself –  again, I am freely admitting here that [...]

  6. Shannon Bradley-Colleary says:

    My stepmom single-handedly brought me up from age 10 on as if I were one of her own. Congratulations John!

  7. Joan says:

    I am thrilled you have such a wonderful relationship with your oldest daughter. I wish all stepparent/stepchild relationships could run this way. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the complete opposite up close and personal. When your daughter grows up, I have a feeling she will know she was loved unconditionally by three parents and will feel very lucky.

  8. Miss A says:

    Great post, as always. What I admire the most about you is how you define fatherhood. One day your kids will read your blogs and that might just be the most beautiful day for them.
    I love my stepmom to pieces. She’s not great, she has weaknesses, she even sucks sometimes, but I’ve accepted her as a full on parent. And I think you’re right. Being a stepparent, if you mean it and respect the role, is much harder than being a parent, which is why I work harder at being a stepdaughter than a daughter.

  9. Juli says:

    This should be mandatory literature for every couple with a child/children who are getting divorced.

  10. farfalla says:

    I agree with Miss A — being a stepdaughter is much harder than being a daughter.

    I got a stepmother when I was 14 (I’m now 29) and I wanted to say that these are great, and I think relevant for teenage and even adult stepchildren. It’s definitely complicated, and that doesn’t stop being true just because the stepkid is old enough to think more complexly. Feelings are tricky at any age.

    For me, the most important of these for my stepmom to get right was respecting the relationship I have with my biological mom. Never, ever say anything negative about the bio parent. Seriously. Not only is it really hurtful for the kid, it will damage your relationship with the stepkid.

    I would also say that while I think it’s great that you’re encouraging stepparents to think of their stepchildren as “theirs,” don’t necessarily expect stepchildren to think of their stepparents as just “parents”. That’s a lot of pressure, and just because I think of my stepmom as a stepmom rather than a mom doesn’t mean I don’t care about her.

  11. Megan says:

    ABSOLUTLY BEAUTIFUL!! Brought tears to my eyes and I cant wait to get my husband to read this. What a lucky girl your step daughter is!!

  12. heather says:

    you sound like a wonderful stepdad!

  13. Angela says:

    Wow, this made me cry. As a single mom my biggest fear is who will end up being my son’s stepdad. I am a package now. There’s two in this equation. I am printing your 15 points and will someday pass them along when someone comes into the picture. I don’t want a father for him but I do want a partner that will love and respect my child.
    You sound like an amazing man and what a lucky little girl to have all three of you!!

  14. J says:

    All of those things are spot on. My stepdad entered my life when I was 8. He never made me feel any less of a daughter than the two girls he and my mom had together. He cried when he held my kids, his grand kids, for the first time. I never said the “You’re not my dad line.”
    My first husband and I split up when our son was 4 months old and because I knew how good a stepparent could be I refused to be with anyone who didn’t also do those things.

  15. Rachel says:

    Wonderful!!!! As a stepchild myself with an amazing stepdad who stepped up to the plate- even when I pushed HARD away- this is great to read. He stuck with me through my hardest years and we now have an amazing relationship. I am hoping the same for my children, blood and step, and I love to be able to focus on that end goal.

  16. Candice says:

    This is a really wonderful piece! I’ve been a stepdaughter for 25 years and it has taken such an emotional toll on my life. I wish I could of handed this piece over to my stepmom when I was young. The worst thing for a kid to feel is that they have to “fix” the situation. I always felt that if I changed or was different she would love me and let me spend time with my dad and my 3 brothers. Her own insecurities about my mother took so much away from my experience with her, and all I ever wanted was a big family. Thanks for writing this piece and being a great stepfather..she will thank you someday if she hasn’t already!

  17. Mary says:

    It is so encouraging to know that there are MEN out there that feel the way you do about stepchildren. My daughter is divorced with two beautiful little girls whose bio father is mostly out of the picture. I pray that she will find a man who shares your understanding of the complete package! He will basically be Daddy so he needs to be looking ahead and not just at the sweet beautiful lady (and she is beautiful) he is attracted to. Thanks for the tips, I will share this!

  18. Stephanie says:

    Great post John! Being a step -mom is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever taken on but you are completely right that the benefits outway any negative. I hope one day my step-son can see me at his graduation or thank me for all I did in his wedding speech. You sound like a wonderful dad!

  19. Lia says:

    Good, but one caveat: my second husband and I deliberately chose NOT to have any children together and are instead raising the children from my first marriage. He’s very close to them without having to add any extra humans to the planet, and our financial and time resources are not strained with adding more kids to the mix.

  20. Desiree says:

    Wow! What a great piece. I am a step daughter and my relationship with my stepdad (who I call Dad) is amazing. But as a child there were many moments I didn’t realize how much I must have wounded his heart. Correcting him when he introduced me as his daughter, telling people he was “not my real Dad!” and I’m sure the list goes on. Being 6 years old I had no filter, and didn’t understand what the problem was. He was patient and he always gave our relationship the perfect amount of room to grow. This is a subject that is not often given the huge amount if respect it deserves. I haven’t seen him in a few months and miss him terribly!

    Thank you for writing this, it truly warmed my heart!

  21. [...] more of JCO Multiplied: 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know, The 7 Deadly Sins of Fatherhood, 8 Reasons Family Road Trips Kill Your Soul Dead, or Raising [...]

  22. [...] more of JCO Multiplied: 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know, The 7 Deadly Sins of Fatherhood, 8 Reasons Family Road Trips Kill Your Soul Dead, or Raising [...]

  23. [...] more of JCO Multiplied: 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know The 7 Deadly Sins of Fatherhood 8 Reasons Family Road Trips Kill Your Soul Dead Raising Pretty [...]

  24. [...] more of JCO Multiplied: Mission Statements of Parenthood 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know The 7 Deadly Sins of Fatherhood 8 Reasons Family Road Trips Kill Your Soul Dead Raising Pretty [...]

  25. [...] more of JCO Multiplied: 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know The 7 Deadly Sins of Fatherhood 8 Reasons Family Road Trips Kill Your Soul Dead Raising Pretty [...]

  26. [...] of JCO Multiplied: Beach Vacation by the Numbers 10 Things I Wish My 10 Year Old Daughter Knew 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know Follow me on Facebook and Twitter Read me on YahooShine and AimingLow Check out my personal [...]

  27. [...] write much about Alli? I mean, sure, I’ll go 30,000 feet on her and maybe pen something like 15 Things Every Stepparent Should Know, but I don’t tell a lot of specific stories about her and the reason’s [...]

  28. Soniya says:

    I just came across this post. You have such great advice here and I hope someday to take this to heart. I’m a newly single mom with a young child and I can only hope to one day meet someone who will treat my child that way you treat your daughter. Should I be given the opportunity to be a step parent myself, I want to be one just like you.

  29. Alyssa B. says:

    I like your points, but as a stepchild (four times over…twice in my mother’s side and twice on my father’s side), I wanted to add a caveat to your “daughter vs. stepdaughter” point. It’s a touchy point. I think it should be the child’s decision. Your stepchild might not want to be considered your child for many years–if ever–after you marry their parent. They might see it as a betrayal of their other parent by allowing you to call them daughter/son. Or they may feel that you are trying to replace their biological parent and resent you for it. This goes double with teenagers. I’d say let them come to you. I called my two stepmothers “Mom” because my own mother lived ten hours away and because I was young (under 10) when my father married them. I never called my stepfathers “Dad.” The first one I didn’t spend enough time around, and the second my mother married when I was 16. By that point, I had no desire to be considered anyone’s “daughter.” I was happy having an amiable relationship with my stepfather and I didn’t need nor want labels for it. Even though he and my mother divorced a few years ago, we still enjoy talking and really have more of a friendship.

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