I have always jokingly accepted my title as a step-monster…why not embrace it at the start, right? I have two step-kids that have to adapt to my rules even though I’m very different from their moms. Somehow embracing humour with children has always helped me…even if they roll their eyes, which is their common response.
Finding out, hopefully early in a relationship, that your new boyfriend/girlfriend has a child can be scary. For some, it is a big sticking point when considering a future with this new person and it should be. It is a huge thing to take on a role as a parent, and that is what you’re considering. It is very hard to choose to be in a relationship with a parent and just opt-out of the parenting job with your partner, you’ll have to accept some role in that child’s life, even if it is passive.
In some cases, the hardest thing for a new step-parent is to come to terms with is that the child takes priority for your partner. Be prepared for your plans to change on a dime because the child needs something from your partner. I’ve known people that have said they couldn’t date someone with a child and if that is a strong feeling then consider your situation closely and don’t feel badly if you have to listen to that voice.
If you do choose to take on the challenge, understand that the child does need to take priority – he/she needs parents and that is your partner’s primary job. You’re not less important in the family, but your role is different. If you’re feeling particularly lost in this regard, being a step-parent typically gives you the ability to have some more free time and you can use that one-on-one time to bond with your partner. Do your best not to try to compare the time you get with the time your child gets with your partner. That will only be a recipe for disaster.
I’ve always wanted to be a parent (you can read more about my transition from Stepmom to “Real” Mom), so although step-parenting can be filled with all kinds of challenges, I had my own fears but was excited to contribute towards the growth of a child and create a family environment in my home. Admittedly, it helped growing up in a blended family because I learned that blood rarely matters when you choose your family.
If you’re considering the big decision to be a step-parent, your first step is with your partner. Here are a few points to discuss as you move forward:
- Talk to your partner about their child and their parenting style
- Talk about how you both grew up and what kind of environment your parents created for you. What did you like? What didn’t you like?
- What didn’t your partner like about parenting their child in their previous relationship?
- Talk about your feelings as a new step-parent.
- Discuss where you feel you can help them and where you will be challenged as a parent
- What do they see as important qualities to foster in their child?
- What do they feel is the biggest challenge for their child?
- Look for any “sticky” points and talk about it – thoroughly.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes – kids will press your buttons and no parent is perfect.
- Rinse and repeat – you’re going to need to keep checking in, keep discussing and working through each stage with each other.
As a grown step-child and a step-mom, I have seen this challenge from many angles. I can see the same patterns, the same processes as I experienced as a child, however, there is no way to predict any situation. Each child is different. They can have different temperaments and challenge you in different ways. They can have a wide variety of changes not just happening in your house but in the other house too. Your only constant is change and you need to show both your spouse and the child that you can all traverse the changes.
Go forth, step-parents. Be brave, you’ve got this. And if you don’t, there is always tomorrow.