let's hear it for the stepdads who changed our lives

An ode to the father figures who stepped up when we needed them

will ferrell on roof with skateboard
will ferrell on roof with skateboard

An ode to the father figures who stepped up when we needed them

By Megan Wallace14 Jun 2023
6 mins read time
6 mins read time

We’re well into June, which means you may well have been served multiple emails from everyone from Moonpig to H&M asking if you want to opt out of marketing emails that mention the notion of DIY-loving, well-meaning dads. Yes, my friend, Father's Day is upon us.

For many of us, there are complicated feelings to be had about fathers: whether they’ve passed and we miss them or they’ve left and we wish they’d stayed. Some of us still have dads in our lives but we might still have a strained relationship with them. Looking around us and at pop culture, they’re plenty of examples that hammer home the idea of a dad who is absent, problematic or really the worst guy.

And as my therapist will tell you, I am no stranger to daddy issues - which is why Father’s Day has always been a major ick for me. I grew up thinking dads were the parental equivalent of that 5p you have to pay whenever you buy a carrier bag at the supermarket: annoying, inconvenient and not worth it. Why would you need a whole day to celebrate someone so superfluous to your life?

But as I have grown up, my feelings have softened somewhat - in no small part thanks to my mum’s partner, who’s shown me that cis-het guys can be good to have around and deserve nice things. He’s held my mum’s hand through grief, witnessed some of my truly terrifying clinical depression days, and pops round to his dad’s every time there’s a Rangers v Celtic game. In short, he - alongside my brother - pretty much restored my faith in men.

And, having been in my life since I was in my mid teens, he’s come to feel like the wholesome, sports-loving father figure I never had. When we’re out and about with my mum, people sometimes mistake me for his child - and that makes me really very happy. After all, he’s the dad who stepped up when I needed one.

But stepdads don’t get much of a look-in when it comes to Father’s Day - no matter the joy and stability they bring to our lives, the holiday is centred around biological fathers. And while I will be lobbying greeting card companies to introduce a separate “Stepfather’s Day” each year, that sounds like a pretty long-winded process (be sure to sign my change.org petition when it comes through). In the interim, though, I’ve found a more simple solution to giving stepdads their due: I’ve rounded up a bunch of people to speak openly about the admiration and appreciation for the brilliant stepfathers they have in their lives.

will ferrell reading stepdad book

"He DJ'ed my rave-themed 10th birthday"

My mum and my step-dad-to-be hard launched the summer of 2003. That summer, he saved my rave-themed 10th birthday party by DJ'ing and even made the super cool collage invites for my Year Six class. Later, when I started to learn how to drive, my stepdad took me out every week for months as I slowly became a competent driver. Then, a year later, he did the same thing for my sister. He’s always been there when we needed him, not just as late night pick-ups from a house party in the town over, but in all the small ways too. Like making my mum happy. I knew at 10 years old that he made my mum happier than anyone I’d ever seen her with before. That’s why I love my stepdad, because he loves us and my mum.

-Elli, 29

"He treats us as if we were his own"

My stepdad is an accountant and I’m training to be one after dropping out of uni. Him and my mum have been my biggest cheerleaders over the past nearly five years and he treats me and my brother as if we were his own, always.

-Hels, 27

"He helped me appreciate my parents more"

Dai came into my life when I was 18, my mam and dad divorced like all parents do, and so suddenly I had a second person in my life who occupied the spot of ‘father figure’. To begin with I didn’t really see Dai as a father figure, more so my mam’s younger boyfriend, partly out of loyalty: my dad and I are incredibly close. But also because I didn’t know Dai well enough to just allow him to be that figure for me. But Dai and I always got along, and my mam was notably happier in her relationship with him. Eight years on, Dai and I have become closer and closer. He’s over a decade younger than my dad, and it’s been nice to be able to learn about the world as he experienced it, almost a generation closer to me. Watching him and his young daughter interact has also allowed me to see the idea of what a father is to a young child, and it has made me appreciate my parents more for the hard work that must have been raising me. He’s also fundamentally just a lovely person who I enjoy spending time with and can confide in. A very welcome part of the family, and a cross between an older stepbrother and a father figure all at once.

-Rhys, 26

"He got my mum to try new things"

My mum and my stepdad Garry have been together since 2013 - ten years now! They’re super cute and he’s pushed her to try new things like skiing and bowls. I love Garry because of how he makes mum happy.

Mark, 29

"I would not be who I am today without him"

My parents split up when I was 16, just as I was waiting for my GCSE results, because my dad had an affair. Simon, my stepdad, came on the scene when I was just about to turn 18. He and my mum had just started dating, I’d popped back to the house to fetch something I needed and stumbled through the front door to see them hanging out on the sofa. Oops! From then on, things got more serious between them. We started to get to know him, and though I’d initially started off as cautious (I wasn’t about to let another man break my mum’s heart!), it soon became pretty clear that this man adored my mum, and would do anything he could to make her happy – and us too.

When he decided to propose to my mum, he took me aside and asked for my permission. I burst into tears. "Of course!!!" Over the years, Simon has become so much more than a stepdad, but a true bonus special of another parent. He’s incredibly kind, wise, generous (with time, money and advice) beyond reason and is such an important support to both me and my fiancée. I could not be luckier. I love Simon so much, and would not be who I am today without him.

-Emily, 29