Stepfather Kieron Casey wonders what it means to be a “real” father.
For all of my adult life the thing that I have wanted the most was children of my own. Yet, in order to keep the family I have since become part of, becoming a biological father is something I will, miracles aside, never achieve. While there is no physical reason why I could not procreate, it is my dedication to my family and being the best stepdad I can to two children who are not my own which is stopping me.
My family consists of me and my partner, and her two children from a previous marriage—a boy, 6, and a girl, 4. It would be impossible for my partner and I ever to have another child, despite us both being perfectly healthy, as we simply cannot afford another one. I’ve tried as much as I can to get jobs which pay more and bring me closer to home, as I used to work some distance away, but, despite earning more than a decent wage, there’s no other way of putting it other than this emasculating conclusion—my attempts at being a “provider” for the family have fallen way short. Unlike her ex-partner, who had rich parents who would regularly pay off the loans and debts he would run up, I’ve had to try to make something for myself and, although in other circumstances I would be enough, I have to accept that with my current family situation I’ve failed as a man in making enough of myself to responsibly afford to have a child that is biologically my own.
All I can offer, instead, is my best attempts to help raise my partner’s two children to know the differences between right and wrong, and to be the best male role model I can. I want them to grow up understanding that it’s not right to be selfish and it’s not okay to bully women with words or otherwise—it’s particularly out of order to pick on the weight of a lady who has just had your two children, as my partner’s ex would apparently do with regularity. So, with this in mind, I’ve tried my best to raise the children as if they were my own. I taught my partner’s daughter how to spell her name, I’ve encouraged them both to learn while having fun, and I do my best to entertain them with bedtime stories. Plus, I’m the only person who lets them climb up and all over me—something that was put in a Father’s Day card for me. Something which, when I received, made me prouder than anything I have ever achieved in my life.
This is not to say things have been easy for me or that, indeed, I have been particularly great at accepting how life has turned out for me at all times. The first Christmas when I realised I would never have a son or daughter of my own who would call me “Dad” was especially hard for me and seeing the kids get excited and run off without saying goodbye when their real Dad turned up (late) to pick them up broke my heart. As it does every time they hurry off and seemingly forget my existence when their dad arrives. The fact that I’ve had to volunteer my own infertility of sorts to have a family in which I will never receive the unconditional love their biological father does, despite his many shortcomings, is something that depresses me from time to time. Yet, on occasions like when I received the Father’s Day card, I’ve never been happier.
Removing myself from the circle of life is the most difficult thing I’ve had to do but, in order to be the best dad I can be in the wonderful family I’m blessed to have, I’ve had to accept that I will never be a biological father. Some people who do have kids, and do so irresponsibly, fail to understand their responsibilities and forget, or do not know, that their children should come first in all circumstances. So while I can never be a “real” father, I am going to make sure I’m a real dad—better that than fathering children and not being a dad at all.
Image credit: macinate/Flickr