The Reality of Being a ‘Stepdad’

The Reality of Being a ‘Stepdad’

A Guest Post by Dad/Blogger Extraordinaire Keith Kendrick

Originally posted at reluctanthousedad.com


hate the term ‘stepfather’. For me, it conjures up images of distance, not intimacy.The media have turned it into a term of suspicion (and thanks to Cinderella, stepmothers have it worse!)

Even in these modern times of complicated, ‘blended’ families, eyebrows are raised when a husband’s relationship with his wife’s daughter is a ‘step’ one.

But I am one. Legally. I am married to the mother of my wife’s daughter. And I use the term ‘stepdaughter’ all the time, both in the blogs I write about parenting, but also to everyone who, on introduction, asks: ‘So, is this your daughter?’ To which I reply, ‘No. She’s my stepdaughter.’

But I never use the term stepfather, or Stepdad within our family. And nor does my, er, stepdaughter. We call each other by our names: in her case, Daisy, or Dais; in my case, ‘Beef’, or ‘Cheeseglasses’ (don’t ask!).

K-Kendricks Family

The Kendrick Kids

It is this informality between us that makes my relationship with her very different to the one I have with my two sons. I am very much ‘Dad’ to them, and I am very proud of that fact.

Logic, therefore, suggests I not proud of being Daisy’s Stepdad. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. I am immensely proud of the 10 year-old girl who has been part of my life since she was one year old. And I am immensely proud of the relationship I have with her.

Occasionally, this is frustrating for both of us. If one of my sons is upset, I pull them onto my lap, stroke their hair and kiss their tears away.  If one of my sons steps out of line or back chats, I give them hell. I am their dad. It’s my job.

But I don’t feel comfortable doing either of these things with Daisy.

I put myself in her father’s shoes, and imagine how he would feel if his life and soul was being cuddled and comforted by a man who wasn’t him. I put myself in his shoes and imagine how defensive and protective he would feel if a man who wasn’t her dad was tearing several strips off her in the way I do my sons.

So I keep my distance.

And instead, what has developed over the years, is not a father/stepfather relationship with her, but a friendship.

Yes, she’s only 10, but she’s an ‘old’ 10.  She’s finding her way in the world; she’s full of questions and curiousity. And it’s me she turns to with these questions.

It’s a different relationship to the one she has with her mum or her dad. She tells me stuff she wouldn’t never tell them – and I would never tell them, either.

Reluctant Dad

Keith “Don’t Call Me ‘Stepfather'” Kendrick

It might be struggles with homework; it might be issues with classmates. But she comes to me because she knows I’ll listen; because she knows I’ll never break a confidence. Because she knows I won’t judge her.

Yes, I’m her Stepdad, and I have all the stepfatherly responsibilies of feeding, clothing, running around and nagging.

But hopefully, with my own approach to step-parenting, I will never have to suffer that moment of teenage rebellion when one’s stepkid reacts to an instruction with the cruel retort: ‘You can’t tell me what to do – YOU’RE NOT MY DAD.’

No, I’m not. Never pretended to be. Never want to be. I’m ‘Beef’. And to me, my wife’s daughter will always be Daisy. Mates. Forever. Hopefully.

• Bob blogs at Onlydadsbob.wordpress.com. For help and advice go towww.OnlyDads.org


  1. The_Step_Dad
    August 8, 2013

    Thanks again to Keith Kendrick. Love this article. For me it sums it up: Raise them like they're yours.

  2. 2_step_dads
    August 11, 2013

    You are the lucky one. You started in her life at age one. I started in my step-daughters life just before age 13! She's 27 now. We have moved from her trying desperately to prove me a jerk for about 7 years. Her father isn't in her life. She preferred to believe that all middle aged men were horrible. It was easier then believing that it was just her father. She "tested" me over and over and over.

    I guess I passed. We have a much better relationship now. I did give her away (with her mom) at her wedding. But, it's not what I had hoped for. Keep your expectations low.

    No matter what I do she'll never feel equal in my eyes to my own kids. No matter what she does, she'll never really want to be my daughter. She wants her "real" father in her life and she'll never stop wanting that.

    • The_Step_Dad
      August 11, 2013

      Thirteen-14 is the hardest age group with girls.

  3. Alan Murfee
    August 13, 2013

    The most important thing or the greatest challenge to the step father is that how quickly he can make his children feel comfortable with him. That’s quite important.


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