What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post was submitted bLauren.

Photo by: Tanja Heffner 

I want you to know that being a step-parent isn’t for everyone. A step-parent is a special someone with a hidden strength unmatched by any other. They are one who must exude grace and love and loyalty all neatly bundled together in a compact box of humility.

If you think being a step-parent is going to be a walk in the park – you’re right. It’s the kind of park they film in a scene from a scary movie. The kind of park that you creep through slowly until you hear a noise – then you hide, run, and scream like hell. It’s the kind of adventure that will give you one of the most fulfilling rides of your life.

Being a step-parent has MANY add-on perks.

1. Be ready for the anger and resentment.
And get ready to love them through it, because love is the only way you will get through to them. It’s a fierce kind of love that says – I will never give up on you. You can push and push, but you’ll never be strong enough to push me away.

2. It can require giving respect when you may not be receiving it.
Lord knows, they will try every trick in the book to get you to break. Divorce and separation are traumatic events on children no matter their age or gender. Even the best of parents can’t escape the fact that new relationships will be difficult adjustments. It requires a certain level of resilience and love by a step-parent.

3. It’s a full-time position with no pay, no holidays, and no time off.
Maybe you are entering the family situation when the child/children are at an early age and they’ve won you over with their adorable smiles. Or maybe you’ve come into the picture during the peak of their hormonal teenage years. Either way – learning your role is going to be hard work. It can require more attention and nurturing than you ever had to give to your own biological children.

I want you to know that there are no right answers. Every family situation is diverse and unique. The rules and boundaries look differently in every home. Perhaps the children have a strong relationship with both of their parents, in which case you might have to take a backseat as authoritarian. Maybe one parent is completely out of the picture and you have become their main role model as mom/dad. Millions of families do it, yet each scenario is exclusive in its own way. The lack of any hard and fast guidelines can leave you feeling confused and frustrated. Are you over-stepping your limits? Are you doing enough? As you navigate, you will find that children are funny and most situations will feel like you’ve taken two baby steps forward and one giant leap backwards.

You learn a lot about someone’s character watching them step-parent. Some do amazing jobs at showing their love and readily take their step-children into their hearts while others struggle to make the connection. I want you to know that everything you go through in this journey will be worth it – not only for the children – but for you as well.

As a young child, I had a stepfather that I despised (for no apparent reason). I can remember plotting schemes to get rid of him. As an adult, I can honestly say that I am so eternally grateful for everything that he did for me. He always treated me like his own daughter and now that I have my own family, my children absolutely adore him. I am so thankful for having him in their lives.

Ultimately, it’s hard for children to see the goodness in their stepparents. They spend a lot of time pointing out their flaws as a result of feelings they can’t quite process. I want you to know that while being a step-parent can feel like a thankless job, remember to hang in there. One day those kids are going to look back and realize how valuable you are to their lives. Approach the responsibility with the right attitude and you will find – that families are defined by one thing and one thing only: love.”