Step parents are in an unenviable position. Those who are doing an awesome job are often abused by an insecure parent who undermines them at every turn and those who are abusing a child with Parental Alienation Syndrome are destroying live, none more at risk, than the child entrusted in their care.
Adding children into a home, especially when they are not your own, is a difficult thing to do. Well, it can be done, but achieving the goal that everyone gets out alive is a big undertake.
I found this article by Douglas Darnall PhD. for Psycare Inc to be pretty thorough:
As adults, we wake up to the fact we are not only responsible for ourselves, we are responsible for others. Nowhere is that more evident than when children enter the picture. What is more, it is not a symbiotic relationship. We give and take care of them, often ignoring our needs in the process. This is really the way it has to be. You wanting to take five minutes to clear your head, cannot happen when a child has just broken your favourite vase and glass is shattered all over the floor. In addition to the physical realities there are emotional realities as well. You needing a night out with a friend you miss who is only in town tonight, gets put aside when a child has been bullied at school and is devastated.
Step Parents have to know, marrying into a situation with children, means that they are going to have every insecurity button pushed and every need probably ignored at some point. There is no coming out ahead or coming out even. There is raising children, and the thousands of little acts of selflessness all parents make. There will be times alone spent crying in frustration and hurt, that no-one will see or possibly care about. It is just life. You being a step parent is not about what you get out of it. If you go in with that attitude, you will fail. Being a step parent is going to cause you to have to dig deeper into your compassion and humanity than you even knew was there. Your biggest assets will be your openness and willingness to learn. It will be your ability to take the higher road and to always remain focused on one thing, how what you are about to do or say, will ultimately impact the child. THAT has to matter more than being right, or “winning.” It has to matter more than your dislike of the other parent, or the need for retaliation when they do things that make your blood boil or hurt you incredibly. It has to be that way because YOU are the adult and if you don’t understand that or CAN’T do it . . . then you have no business putting yourself into that situation and saying you will parent someone else’s child.
The rewards of raising children are not about what they do for us. It is not a balance that equals out the give and take. It really is the ultimate test of our ability to love without condition, to put the needs of another human being above our own. Parents feel that love and sense of purpose when they see their children happy and connected with the world around them.
None of us are guaranteed that our children grow up, realize all we did, and love us forever, treating us well and seeing us often. Even the best of parents miss out on those perks sometimes. We do it because some things matter more (or should matter more) in life, than ego gratification.
Raising children is simply NOT about us. It is about the child.