The Reluctant Parent

24 Apr

With Mother’s Day just around the corner I can’t help but to think about how recently I became a stepmother. It’s a life change that I hadn’t really anticipated. I thought, in my youth, of what it’d be like to become a mother. It was a notion that seemed like a dream. As I got older I realized that it was a dream that was to remain just that. I made the conscious decision that I would not have children.

It’s one of those tough decisions in life that many women face. In my case there are a number of health reasons why having a natural-born child is not in my best interest. That works out considering how business-minded I am and the lack of an overwhelming desire to have any. However, I must admit that I am very nervous about being a stepmom. Right now I feel like it’s a ceremonial position. The kids have great parents who have a wonderful system that works for them and as a result I’m hesitant to step in.

My stepdaughters, wow, that sounds so strange, they’re still intrigued by their “Aunt LaToya.” I keep my distance, unsure of how involved I need to be. Am I to be the cool aunt? Am I to be another parent figure? It’s always so interesting, the things in life that aren’t planned. There’s so much in life that isn’t planned. I’m what you’d call a reluctant parent. I know how I’d planned to treat my children if I had any of my own but now, I feel lost, confused and even overwhelmed.

I never had traditional pets. In Jamaica we had two outside dogs that lived at the house and that we named but were never cuddled or played with. With extreme allergies I’ve had my fill of pet fish. I can tell you that fish in no way prepares you for child rearing. I do have a niece and nephew but with the exception of occasional babysitting, I still have no real clue on what to do. I’ve even spent some one-on-one time with my stepdaughters but I still feel like an outsider.

Overcoming my fear of failure is difficult. I often wonder how it is to successfully navigate the waters of being a stepparent. Sure, there are many books on parenting but I also know that life experiences often dictate how we’ll be as parents. We lament on how we won’t treat our kids the same way we were treated but more often than not we are just like them.

How much control do we really have over how we’ll be as parents? What role is a stepparent to play if both parents are actively involved in their childrens’ lives? There are few things in life that are more important than the upbringing of a child. They’re the legacy that we leave behind. They carry pieces of you long after you’re gone, ensuring that your memory lives on. But how much of being a parent is nurture versus nature? It’s not a test that you can definitively pass or fail. What is important is in making the decision that’s right for you. Even if you don’t plan to be a parent, sometimes you’ll have to fill that role. Reluctantly or not, playing a substantial role in any child’s life requires you to take a good look at who you are as a person and what parts of you that you’d like to pass along.

This article appeared on page 5A in the 4/24/13 issue of The Union-Recorder.


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