Blended Families & Father’s Day: How Should Step-Fathers Celebrate?

Child giving his father a father's day cardMy husband was surprised the first time he got a Father’s Day card from our kids. Not having any kids of his own, his assumed role of step-father was one he was utterly unfamiliar with. He had been raised by his mother and has never known his father. Perhaps that is why that the whole concept of celebrating Father’s Day was foreign to him. When he first saw the cards lying on the table, he did not realize they were for him. After a few moments, it sunk in and a look of confusion and trepidation came over him. After graciously accepting them from the kids, and thanking them profusely, he shared with me his true feelings.

He was uncomfortable at first, being recognized as a dad. He had no frame of reference for this title, and felt very awkward accepting gifts that he did not feel he deserved. My husband saw himself as an active parent in my children’s lives. But he shared that role, and does to this day, with their biological father. Their “real dad” is very present in their lives and sees them weekly. He speaks to them almost every day and is pretty up to speed on the events that transpire in their worlds. But my husband, their “other dad,” is the one who interacts with them daily. He is the one who bathes them, shops for them, tucks them in, attends their events and listens to their problems. So as each year passes, I wonder how sharing that title sits with each of the dads.

When there are two dads, how do the parents, and the children, reconcile their feelings of allegiance and affection? Even if a biological father is not present, but maintains a long-distance relationship, does he feel less loved if the children merely call him, rather than spending time with him on Father’s Day? If the kids go gangbusters for the Disney Dad that only sees them occasionally, and play down the festivities for everyday dad, how does that make the step-father feel? If the mother pushes the children to acknowledge a step-father as just as valid as their real father, do the children feel guilt? Are they emotionally torn hoping that neither father finds out about their gifts for the other? Or vice versa, if the children ignore their biological father in favor of their step-father, does this set the stage for future animosities, between children and parents, or worse yet, between the fathers?

Fortunately, both of the fathers in my children’s lives are mature, loving parents. But that is not always the case. Too often there is significant resentment toward one father, whether from the children, the mother, or the other father. The relationship between a father and his kids is unique. It is different than the usually nurturing, tender relationship a child has with his mother. And when the father is distant, forging that bond between father and child becomes more difficult. Because men are less likely to vocalize their feelings than women, many dads watch this holiday come and go with little commotion and never mention how that affects them.

If a father is deeply emotional about lack of attention on Father’s Day, it may be because he longs for a different relationship with his children. If a father has a healthy relationship with his children, and interacts with them regularly, chances are that being acknowledged more or less than other father figures will not be that big a deal. But if the attention he receives, or doesn’t receive, stirs something inside him, maybe he should look a little closer at just what role he is playing in his children’s lives.

In our house, I let the kids pick the gifts and cards they want for each of their dads. There is never discussion about who gets more or who to spend the most on. As my children have gotten older, they have chosen gifts that celebrate the unique relationship they have with each of the fathers. And to this day, whether it is a macaroni necklace or a new watch, not one of the dads has complained.

© Copyright 2011 by Jen Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Ron

    June 20th, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    You know,there are families where there is no feeling or warmt left between a father and his kids,there are families where kids have never their father.And to know about this where there are two fathers(if I can call it that) and the kids get along with both of them well it is very nice if you ask me.Just keep the thing going and hopefully this continues for a long time and the kids also grow up with values of a family and the importance of parents.

  • KJP

    June 21st, 2011 at 4:27 AM

    They should celebrate the day like any other dad- celebrate this day is for you, step dad or not!

  • NaThAn

    June 21st, 2011 at 7:45 AM

    These non-conventional family structures can put you in a spot of confusion,I know.I have my step dad living with us and everytime somebody asked us “are you guys father and son?” it used to be weird.That was in the past.Now that we have gotten to know each other well,I do call him dad and he likes me too.

    I believe we have crossed a line and there’s no looking back to those weird moments now.

  • elisa

    June 22nd, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    now thats a good setup right there.what could have easily become a very odd occasion has been turned into a happy and joyous occasion and I should congratulate your family for the same :)

  • Ruben Barrett

    June 22nd, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    Stepfathers should be celebrated the same as anyone else who is a father. A father is any man that raises you like a son or daughter of their own, not just someone you share half your DNA with. I have much more love and respect for my stepfather than I do my biological father and would never slight him by making him feel being the stepdad makes him any less important. Good article!

  • Dionne Joyce

    June 22nd, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    I personally absolutely despise my biological dad to the point where I refuse to call him that. I refer to him either by his first name or a derogatory one-never Dad. He doesn’t deserve that title.

    My stepfather however gets a present on Father’s day and on his birthday because he’s more of a dad to me than the other one ever was. He took me on board when he didn’t have to and I’ll always be grateful for that.

  • Elliot Bruce

    June 22nd, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    If you’re going to be marrying into a family, you need to expect the children to initially reject you simply because you’re not their real mom or dad.

    In the same breath, you need to also prepare for when they eventually do accept you as a ‘real’ mother or father. Kids are brought up to believe connections based on genetics alone are important. It takes time for them to figure out there’s much more to being a parent than blood ties.

    Your family has a wonderful balance there, Jen. Congrats!

  • Up, Down and All Around... with Jen :-)

    June 23rd, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    I knew before I wrote this article that my family was fortunate to have harmony between all parties (most of the time!). But your comments have made me appreciate it so much more. As a child of parents who are married almost 48 years now, this whole step issue was completely foreign to me. I guess we’ve all done something right!

  • Valerie Donohoe

    June 23rd, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    @Elliot Bruce: Those blood ties honestly really aren’t that important too. Too many parents out there think that being the parent entitles them to their child’s devotion and that is completely false.

    I feel a parent is someone who properly raises a child to be an adult and a civil, compassionate human being-while also being a friend to them. You earn that love and cannot demand it.

    @Jen, you all sure have done something right! :) A very good read, that was. :)

  • douglas edward

    June 23rd, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    It can be hard to choose which dad to spend time with on Father’s Day. It’s even harder if they don’t get along, but if they do get along, they should pool some cash together and do a two fathers and son/daughter thing. Just because he’s married to your ex doesn’t mean you have to be on bad terms with each other.

    Guys, please put it aside for your son or daughter’s sake because it upsets them if they like you both. It’s unkind and childish to ask them to choose.

  • Charlie Alden

    June 24th, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    @douglas edward— Nice fantasy you’ve got going there. Let’s throw some realism into the mix, shall we? With so many marriages ending in divorce for multiple reasons and cheating being one of the main ones, few fathers and stepfathers will get along so nicely.

    It all depends on why the original breakup happened and if it was on amicable terms. It wouldn’t be easy playing along even if it is for the kid’s sake when the guy across the table from you was having sex with your wife behind your back. I know I sure couldn’t do it.

  • Paulette Frank

    June 25th, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    You have 365 days in a year, don’t you? Just because it’s marked on the calendar that a particular date is Father’s Day doesn’t mean you have to find a way to appease your stepdad and your real dad.

    You can give them a present on Father’s Day and set a guaranteed day aside on their birthdays, then surprise them with little gifts throughout the year “just because”. :)

  • Cassie Glenn

    June 25th, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    It’s good that you let the kids decide how and if they give something to their dads, Jen. If I had had to give a present to my dad that is certainly not on good terms with me, there would have been a massive blowup between me and my mother over it.

    I know his family would have attempted to guilt me into doing so too if they thought for a minute it would work. Letting the kids decide is the best way to do it by far. Kudos to you, Jen!

  • Karine Glover

    June 25th, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Great article and on a topic we don’t hear much about. I’d like to throw in my two cents here.

    It’s also the responsibility of both dads to accept the presence of the other and not try and manipulate the children into favoring one or the other. Contrary to what you read in women’s magazines about divorce, children know full well when they are being manipulated from a young age and they don’t like it any more than adults do!

  • Matt

    January 4th, 2015 at 11:49 PM

    I became a step father last year… I’m going to be 100% honest here. I do feel very uncomfortable, confused, and jealous at times. I grew up with my mom and dad under the same roof in a happy marriage. As much as I thought I’d thought I was prepared and ready to become a step-father, I really wasn’t ready for the roller coaster of emotions that was to come after saying “I do”. I love my step-son, but it took awhile before I felt a certain level of love that I never expected; I know it sounds strange to think of love in any other way than absolute, to conceive of levels is unusual but I have no other way of describing the way I felt then and do know towards my step-son. At first I loved him because I loved his mom, then he continued to grow on me so to speak; one day it just hit me… I knew that I loved him as a son the day I felt jealous of his biological father… His dad is as close to a “dead-beat” or “absentee” as they come… I was genuinely upset that a kid as great as him wasn’t mine, and absolutely jealous and a little angry that his biological father gets the title of “Dad”, while I’m just “Matt”… He just turned 5 and I know it’s not his fault and that He should just call me and his dad by whatever he feels most comfortable with but his dad makes it clear to him he’s never to call me dad and even goes so far as to lie to him about what his name on his birth certificate. His dad didn’t sign it and didn’t want the responsibility of being a father and doesn’t to this day; he sees his son as a means to spread his genes and honestly control his mother as much as possible while being attached as little as possible to all the emotional, developmental and financial responsibilities of being a “dad”. He’s since had one other child he’s never seen and is expecting his third, meaning he’s managed to impregnate 3 different women in the span of 5 years without ever committing himself to the mothers or his children. It’s hard for me to bite my tongue in regards to his biological father but I do because I don’t want my step-son getting confused or feeling guilty or any other emotion a 5 year old shouldn’t have to deal with. I’m not going to lie, I pray the day comes he sees his “dad” for who he really is and how little he deserves the title, regardless if he ever gives it to me… though I wouldn’t be opposed… However if that day ever comes I may have to choke back my tears.

  • sierra

    June 15th, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    I believe you and my boyfriend are going through the same issue only difference is I have two different baby daddies and 3 kids which neither of them are active in my kids lives. My kids don’t know the difference and see their dead beats for who they are right now, but I know one day they will be hurt when they realize it, and it hurts my boyfriend to know they’ll have to go through this. He tells me all the time I love you but I love your kids so much more because they have no father in their lives, my oldest son’s dad has never been involved with my son, my youngest son and daughter’s dad left me right after I had my daughter and hasn’t been involved period. My boyfriend and I have have been together about four years now he’s been an amazing role model but is jealous of the fact that my kids call their dad “dad” because they don’t understand.

  • Lee B.

    June 10th, 2016 at 11:07 PM

    My situation is different from most. I married my former wife, that had a son, who was four months old at the time, so yes, I changed his diapers, and all those other chores. As for my self, I had what I thought was one of the best pops around, until he got caught banging his secretary at work, and knocked her up. So as many housewives would do, she tossed him out of the house, and filed for a divorce. His new bride ended up giving birth to a baby girl. My mother remarried, about four years latter, to a pretty good guy. Was always a little proud of my stepfather, as he served four years in the army to Corporal, then he pulled a twenty-two stint in the navy, he was a veteran of WW-2, Korea, and Vietnam. My real father was a navigator during WW-2. My real father, who came from a very wealthy family, moved to CA. Back in the 1970’s, when that happens, good luck collecting child support and spousel support, so my mother had three children that she had to raise on her own, no help from my real father. It takes one hell of a man to marry a woman, that already had three children. I was the youngest at 12, my brother was 21 months older, and I had you could call a sister, that was six years older then myself. My stepfather was a very quite man, and he did drink a lot, but never once ever raised a hand to my mother or my siblings. Yet I was hoping for a father he could teach me how to fish, hunt, camp, even float down an Ozark streem, but it never happened. I enlisted into the navy, one week after I turned 17 years old. So the youngest boy enlisted into the navy first. My older brother enlisted into the navy, about one year after I did. After my military service, a few years latter, I married my FIRTS wife, and as I said she had a son, that I have been a father to since he was four months old. I hate to say, but his mother was pretty much a cunt towards me, so I canned her when my stepson was eleven. I am the only father he has ever met or known. This is because his mother (my ex-wife) got knocked up while she was in the army. She would not list the name of his father on the birth certificate either. I believe she just got pregnant, so she could get an early out from the army. Money was tight then, so I told her that her son has every right to know who is real father is, and since he was still army, it would be no problem for the army to make him pay up, for the chold he had, but she refused to do so. I had a blast raising my stepon, taking him with me, every place I went to, his mother was not into taking him with her. So he lived with his mother from eleven, until he was sixteen. Once he was sixteen, she dropped him and his dog off, to live at my house with me, never even asked me if it was OK, but she knew I would never turn him down. She did this, because she wanted to move in with her boyfriend, in his apartment. She had a tiny little house that she was buying, was making pretty good money, as I got her a job working for the postal service, as I am a ten point veteran. While living with his mother, she used me big time. His highschool prom was comming up, but she refilled to purchase his prom tickets. So I purchased them for him, and took him shopping, so he does not pick out some needy shoes, belt, and other accessories. And I gave him some spending money for his prom, his mother did nothing, maybe she was never asked to the prom, who knows. When I said that she dumped him at my house, as she asked him if he would like to live with her and her boyfriend, in his two bedroom apartment. He thought about it for a second or two, then he said that he would rather live with me, in my house, where he still had his old bedroom. She also told me that if i was kind enough to let his dog live with me, she would pay for any vet bills that the dog my get, for his shots, and whatever. Three years latter, his dog developed a large tumor on her rest end. So I called her at least five times, she would not answer, so I would leave a message that the dog needed to see a vet for her tumor. After five times, without her replying to my phone calls, I got pissed, so I went to the loading docks at the post office where she works. But she happened to be off that day, so I asked several letter carriers to take note of the dog’s tumor, and tell my ex-wife, that the dog needs to see a vet. Then one of those temp. bosses comes out on the loading dock, tells me it is restricted area, and to leave. I gave him a few MF’s, as I am retired from the postal service, still a member of the letter carriers union, and no boss, who was most likely a letter carrier a few says before he got temp premoted to a 204-B boss going to tell me that I am not allowed on the loading docks, but I just left. A few weeks latter, I get a knock on my door by a process server, my lovely ex-wife filed a restraing order against me for STALKING HER? HAVE NEVER BEEN TO HER APARTMENT ONCE, SO I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE SHE LIVES, but I am accused of staking her, for leaving five Voicemail on her phone, telling her to hold up to her end of the deal, and pay for the dog to see a vet. My stepson was all bummed out, because she did this to me. She has also never thanked me once, for being a very good father to her only son. I could have walked away from the divorce, washed my hands over everything, and go back and live my own life. No legal obligations at all. BTW, took the dog to the vet, cost me $300.00, and the bill was made out to the registered owner, my ex-wife, was the registered owner. What did i get, for everytime I have done for her son? I had my life saved twice by him, each time he came home from work, found me on the floor. I had gone into a diabetic comma twice, with full renal failure. Had my son not found me, the doctor said that i would have been dead, before the sun came up. So everything i have done for him, I think the Lord has his special way of payback. My son is 27 now, but still comes out to our house, about once a week. I say our house, as he gets a nice $300,000.00 house, and everytime that is in it, will go to him. He intaduces me to friends, as his father, and seldom even sees his mother, except for hollidays. So I could not be more proud of him now, as he has a decent job, and is pretty much on his own. Once in a while, he hates to ask, but needs a few extra bucks. I have no problem giving it to him either. It would have been nice to get a thank you from his mother, but for a booby pize, his grandmother (which i never got along with), she did tell me she appreciated it, that I never gave up on being his father. One footnote. She filed another restraing order when he was in grade school, to stay away from him. So I purchased a cell phone for him, and said just call me, ant time you want to go to luck or whatever. She let him sneak in and out of her house, any time he wanted. His bedroom was a totaly unfinished basement, with a walk out door. When with me, he was a B student. With his mother, he was a D student. Not sure if fifth grade was way over her head, yet I think she just did not care. I had hoped he would go to college, as the veteran’s administration would have paid for his school. As even the VA considered him to be my son, so he got all the perks he wanted, as I am a 100%, service connected, disabled veteran. Still, love him like he is mine, and he feels the same about me.BTW, Where is that young man, I have a bunch of mulch that needs to be spred, and I am no longer allowed to go up on my roof, as I have fallen twice, so my son knows this, and only to happy to help. Forgive me for such a long post. I have no idea how a person can just walk away from their children, and just forget about them. One of the most meanest things I think a man could do. I could not walk away from my son, that biologically, is not even mine. Does anyone else think it was wrong for her to keep any info about his real father from him? He was a Spanish man, in the army, so she says. Ask me, he was a coward Mexican, that spoke spanish, and never even cated. What a shame. But for all the stepfather’s out there, I salute you for what you have done.

  • Lee B.

    June 10th, 2016 at 11:17 PM

    Please excuse the many typos, I have to type on a cell phone, and that is worse then typing with one hand, as you have to hit each letter, using a styles. It will correct the spelling for you, without telling you, even if the first word you typed was correct. So typing on a cell phone, plane old SUCKS! THANKS!.

  • Dan

    April 7th, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    I’m sorry. My kids mom divorced me because she was banging the pain guy at lowes. She then went on to take my kids up to a Mormon singles event (they were the only kids there) and threatened to move them up to Chicago out of state and 6 hours away to be with this guy.

    I was there to cut the cord for both of them, I was there for all their stuff. I’m sorry, they are my kids with my DNA and I would be insulted if they gave him a fathers day give and called him day

  • Lee B.

    June 10th, 2016 at 11:41 PM

    Need to cut they guys prick off next. What a scum bag, and I bet your ex-wife foots the bill for everyting. Sorry to hear about that. My ex wanted me to go to concealing for our marrage. Just so happens that the therapist was one of the biggest advocate for men’s rights when they get divorced. He laid into her, but she picked him. I knew who he was as I have sent a few emails back and forth with him. Great job on picking that guy. She was so pissed off after that session, that she gave up. This was wife #2, I filed for divorce, and did it pro say, as I did not paying some attorney to do it, as they have an office in the court house to help you fill out the proper forms. On the day of our trial date, my ex-wife #2, did not even show up in court. Should be a no brainer right? The prick judge, DENIED MY DIVORCE, AND WOULD NOT GIVE ME HIS REASON FOR HIS DENIAL, SHE WAS A NO SHOW. So I had to pony up the money for an attorney, she pulled another no show, but because I used an attorney, she demand that he hear the case anyway, and I got my divorce, and she did not get one penny. The nice part of being a 100%, service connected, disabled veteran, is that is not countable income, for the judge to know, even the IRS does not count it as income. It may never be garnished, off hands to any creditors, even a shiester attorney can not touch that money. I get $4000.00 a month from the VA, deposited straight into my checking account each month. Yet on paper, I am puss pore, as I only get $1,400.00 a month for my civil service retirement, after I pay for real insurance (no VA doctor will ever cut on me, nor will I stay in VA hospital. My mortgage on my house is $2000.00 a month. So they have no idea how i am able to do it. Like slick Willie, our commander and chief said, don’t ask? Then don’t tell (lol). Take cste, and good luck, a boy needs a real man to raise them correctly.

  • Mitch

    October 12th, 2015 at 12:32 PM

    Thank you all for taking the time out to comment and share on this post. My daughter is 5, I met her when she was 4 and she splits time between us and her father. She calls me Mitch. Sometimes she calls me , DA-DA, but that is only if we are playing baby ( a game she likes to play) part of me hopes that one day she calls me dad too but I don’t think it will happen. Her father is a good guy and seems to understand that we have her best interest in mind but it is awkward for him and I to be around each other. My biggest fear is in the future when my wife and I have a child that he/she will hear their older sister calling me Mitch and follow suite. My biggest want in life is to be called “Dad” but I guess sometimes it is more important to be a Lion then to be named a Lion. The 5 year old understands that mommy and mitch are parents and daddy and marie are parents. She even refers to me as her parent so that is better than I could expect at this stage.

  • Lee B.

    June 11th, 2016 at 12:06 AM

    When my stepson first started to talk, his first word he could say was “E”, short for my first name Lee. Quite a few months latter, did Mama come on sceen. Don’t think she was not all pissed off about that, but I never taugh him to say either name. I guess “E”, is a lot easyer to say. I don’t think she ever realy cared for her only child. The only reason she had him, was for an easy out of the army. She got pregnant, so she says, by a Spanish man that she was in the army with. I say he was just a Mexican, that spoke Spanish, and she would not even put the real father’s name on the birth certification. I say it was wrong to not let her son to know who his real father was, plus money was tight, I was paying for everything. The army would have done a quick DNA test on him, and in less then two weeks, she would have gotten child support from the real father. I guess she just figgured, what’s the differance? She had me paying all the bills, but had no idea how much I struggled, as I was only rated at 30%, service connected, disabled veteran. Took a whole bunch of letterers to my Gongressman and my Senator and ten years, but I went from 30% service connected, to 160%, service connected. If you are rated at 100%, service connected, for one service related injiluries, and your other injuries add up to 60% or more. They have to place you in a housebound status, even if you are not, and that pays extra, as well as different “K’ awards that I won. So I went from $160.00 each month from the VA, to now it is $4,000.00 a month, tax free, and not touchable by your spouse in a divorce, by a creditor, they can’t to check it either. Even a shiester attorney can not touch that money, as it was awarded to me, for injuries that I got while on active duty.

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