"Anti-breeder" is now a Step-Dad - Mothering Forums
View Poll Results: Do you really love the step-kids?
Yes! 14 45.16%
They are growing on me. 5 16.13%
I like them a lot. 3 9.68%
I tolerate them. 9 29.03%
Voters: 31. You may not vote on this poll

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Blended and Step Family Parenting > "Anti-breeder" is now a Step-Dad
cakoala's Avatar cakoala 03:15 AM 12-07-2008
Hello, I am the "anti-breeder." Please excuse the catchy subject line, but I am looking for a lot input on my situation, particularly around gaining a VERY quick education on attachment parenting.

A quick explanation; I have some very well thought out theories around who and who shouldn't have children. I fully recognize that I do not have the "breeders chromosome." I don't find babies beautiful, little toddlers charming, or preschoolers precious. But, I have fallen deeply in love with the mother of three children; 5, 11, and 14. We are both in psychology. I am a third year student, and she is a practicing therapist working on her doctorate. We have the tools and the temperament. But, as you might guess, I have not been concerned (until now) with parenting. Instead, my focus has been on adult positive and personality psychology.

I would like to keep this thread positive. If you would like to address my views on reasons for conception, PLEASE, lets start a new thread. RIGHT NOW, I need input on good reading for a step parent. Particularly one that likes, but does not love the children. So, put your mind in motion, what book, website, or other resource would you recommend to someone that is basically kind, intelligent, playful, but un-enamored with children?

I need to understand how to do "attachment parenting" when your not coming from your "place of love." Luckily, I don't have to do any of the early co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and other 'baby' related issues. I admit that the 5 year old is my greatest mystery. The other two are cognitive and react in predictive ways to cognitive behaviorist treatment.

The youngest still exhibits traits of the age. She is needy, inquisitive, energetic, defiant and lacking the vocabulary to express her concerns. My wonderful love has raised all of her children according to attachment parenting, but I notice that a strong aspect of this seems to center around a true 'love' of the child.

I am a great learner. Point me to resources that are going to show me how to approach the step-person role from one of intelligence and less of "love guided intuition."

bremen's Avatar bremen 04:25 AM 12-07-2008
i must say your post is rather eloquent, and well thought out, but your poll seems rather crass.
how will knowing how many people only "tolerate" their stepkids assist you in your situation?
cakoala's Avatar cakoala 04:49 AM 12-07-2008
Sorry about the quickly designed poll. It really was more about the top three choices than the last. I am curious of those who respond where they are in the continuum. I consider it a completely unscientific survey of what I would assume is a community of largely "loving" individuals. I think that your reaction to the "crassness" of a "tolerate" choice helps to show your devotion to your own stepchildren. I am sorry if that offended, it was only supposed to show the extremes.
2xy's Avatar 2xy 05:01 AM 12-07-2008
I'm not going to vote because I'm not a step-parent and I don't want to mess up your poll, but I want to share a little something.

My DH is my sons' step-father. We've been together for about 3.5 years. He, too, does not have the "breeder" chromosome, but it's not becaus he doesn't find babies adorable or toddlers charming. I watched him hold his brand new nephew today, and he was completely smitten, and I've also seen him interact with other babies and small children.

Rather, his choice to avoid procreating is based on his awareness that he is a selfish person who likes his free time, and he doesn't want to spend a decade or so chasing after rug-rats. My kids were already 10 and 13 when we met, so they were largely self-sufficient.

That being said, he fell in love with them quickly. He doesn't say it to them, but he's told me that he loves them. And he shows them that he loves them with hugs, pats on the back, friendly headlocks, etc. :-) And I know that my boys do not love him like they love their father, but they do love him. More like a big brother or good friend.

I don't have any recommendations for books, but I think that attachment parenting is mostly about putting a child's wants and needs before your own. That's very hard to do if you don't love the child, I would think, but it's imperative if you want to be with the child's mother. For most women, there are far things less attractive than a man who disregards her child. The fact that you are aware of your limitations is the first step. Conscious thought in regards to your behavior with the children will help you develop habits.
Strong Mama's Avatar Strong Mama 11:07 AM 12-07-2008
Well you sound pretty intelligent, or rather at least write so, so here are some tips:
1. Be their friend. You don't have to discipline, rock them to sleep or do anything you don't want to do. They have their mama and daddy for that. Just be there.
2. Support the mother in the best way you can. If she asks to pick up so and so from school, and you can, then do it. If you can't then don't do it.
3. You don't have to love them..for now. But I bet you will, in your own way, eventually.
4. I am guessing you are a perfectionist. This is one area where you are going to have to "let go'. This is going to take time.Try to think about the children, how do you think they feel with mamas "new man" around, especially the older ones.

I am sure that someone will have a good website/book eventually. I am not a stepmother, but my DH is stepdad to my older son(hes 15) and he basically just talks to him like a big brother/friend. He really doesnt do anything for him specifically..if I ask him to pick him up he will, but he doesn't step in for major things unless I ask him to. He doesnt hug on him or kiss him or anything, he will give him a high five or something like that. He loves him in his own way, but definitely not like he loves our son that we have together.

I think you are putting too much pressure on yourself here, what will be will be.
bronxmom's Avatar bronxmom 12:52 PM 12-07-2008
What is your partner looking for? Has she been raising these kids on her own (or co-parenting with an ex) for a while and comfortable with that? Or is she looking for someone to parent with and build a family with? I think that makes a big difference. It's totally possible for you to build a relationship where the mom is the key care provider and parent and you are another caring, friendly adult presence in their lives but with a limited role in caring for the children - IF she's okay with that. If not, then it's tough because you will need to make more of an effort to become a parent and it sounds like, right now at least, you're not up for that.

I highly recommend the book "Stepfamilies". It's based on a large-scale research study and follows a bunch of families to illustrate their point. The thesis is that there are basically 3 kinds of stepfamilies: romantic, neotraditional and matriarchal. Crudely put: the romantics are trying to re-create a new family without recognizing the differences between a stepfamily and the original nuclear family. Often they are looking to use the new relationship to heal past hurts, have a lot invested in being "better" than the original family and can be quite disparaging or wanting to ignore the presence of the ex/other parent. They tend to expect the family to come together quickly, are very romantic and loving and have high expectations of themselves. Neotraditionals also want to create a new family but are aware of and work with the other parent and the differences that exist in this new family. They ease into things, are realistic in their expectations and let the original parent do most of the discipline and primary parenting as the stepparents and stepchild build a relationship over time. Matriarchals are where there is a really strong mother who does most of the parenting, often very strong and independent, and the stepdad does not play a key parenting role to the stepchild but develops a more friendship or uncle based relationship.

According to them, the romantics almost always fail; the neotraditionals almost always work; and the matriarchals succeed about 1/2 the time and fail 1/2 the time. Sounds like there's no danger of you being a romantic and that you might be a prime candidate for the matriarchal. The key dangers in the matriarchal stepfamily are: the mom changing her mind and wanting/demanding more from the stepdad and/or feeling stressed out and put upon b/c she's doing all the work; stepdad resenting the time that must be taken on the child and loss of couple time and not having the patience, willingness to accomodate that in order to be with his partner. The keys to success are over time the stepdad developing some kind of friendly and caring relationship with the children that's not parenting but more like an uncle or close family friend. I believe they say one of the main ways partners do this is through being aware and supportive of the wife's parenting. Also key is carving out time for the couple at the center of the relationship.

Anyways, you can read the book. I thought it was very helpful and then allows you to have a conscious discussion with your partner about what you each want, aspire to and feel you are capable of. A lot of this is unique to the people involved. Sounds like the children here are old enough that there's more flexibility. Also, keep in mind that you might change what you want or feel over time - kids have a way of pulling you in.

Good luck!
Sijae's Avatar Sijae 01:21 PM 12-07-2008
I hope you've been this honest about your lack of affection for the kids with your new wife (before you got married). Perhaps your best bet is to stop looking at them like "subjects" and try interacting with them as people. One hopes that they have a strong relationship with their father.
E's Mama's Avatar E's Mama 01:23 PM 12-07-2008
As a step kid whose step father did not *love* her, I would suggest you be willing to support the mothers choices with the children. You should be willing to allow *her* to make the choices concerning her children and please keep an open mind during the teenage years!
3pink1blue's Avatar 3pink1blue 01:40 PM 12-07-2008
It's hard to have stepkids. I have two and to be perfectly honest, I am not at all close with either of them. I do not like their behaviors, but it isn't their fault - the older one is severaly autistic and I just don't know how to deal with him, and the younger one has learned traits from her mother's side of the family that I find less than desireable.

However, I LOVE them as the beautiful PEOPLE they are. They are just young people, and while we have different pesronalities and I will never see them in a maternal view, I cherish the fact that they have something very important to offer the world, and they deserve to be treated kindly.

Please, do not be hard on your stepkids. PLEASE. I was a stepkid who was not treated well by my stepfather and later my stepmother - both of whom were childless. Do not expect your stepchildren to behave like miniature adults. Allow them to be themselves, to work through the changes of a new adult in the household, and above all, VALUE them as individuals.
cakoala's Avatar cakoala 02:25 PM 12-07-2008
I admit that I started this thread with trepidation. I assumed a 50/50 chance of it being a flame magnet or the wonderful responses that it has attracted. I wish there was some way of deleting that poll. Ahh, hindsight.

Bronxmom, Thank you. I am ordering that book immediately! I think your assessment of the situation is 'spot on'. You even intuited my basic issue, a need for more 'us' time in our early relationship. I can easily see where my own ego needs are causing relationship friction.

3pink1blue, I feel your pain. I was the third child in a conventional family. Unfortunately, I was a late marriage 'opps'. I understand what it is like to be an unwanted child.

E's Mama, how did that all work out for you and step-dad? Were you spiteful of his lack of love? Did his influence help, or was it primarily up to mom to make the difference?

Sijae, yes, we had many conversations about my missing "breeder gene." We decided that this would be something that we could work out based on our combined background. Both Bio-Dads are in the area, but neither are as involved as they might be. I think that I failed to mention in my previous post that these are three girls, so male influence (although important) is less of an issue.
cakoala's Avatar cakoala 03:16 PM 12-07-2008
I was looking around the forum for a FAQ about posting acronyms and didn't see one. Is there a translation chart for things like: DSS, DH...

Just a link to the FAQ is fine, unless you feel up to typing it all out here. Many thank you's in advance.

4Blessings's Avatar 4Blessings 03:36 PM 12-07-2008
I think the very best choice you could make is to find another partner. Truly, if you don't have love in your heart for children you need to find a woman without children.
No amount of book learning will do it. It needs to be felt. Unless you can open your heart to those children they deserve so much more.

And I do not agree that male influence (although important) is less of an issue because the children are female. The way that those girls are loved and treated by you will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Good for you for exploring your feelings.
lovebug's Avatar lovebug 03:46 PM 12-07-2008
i will be back. i have got to ask a friend on this one. he had the very same issue! i will call him and let you know what i find out.
~Megan~'s Avatar ~Megan~ 03:47 PM 12-07-2008
Until I had my own kids I could really give or take (mostly give) other people's kids. Having your own, even nieces and nephews, can really change your perspective. You get to know these people and see all the wonderful things about them which really helps one accept the not so wondeful aspects.

Think of how when you get to know someone and begin to care for them how they become more attractive to you. Same thing happens with kids in my experience.

I don't have any resources for you, unfortunately, but I hope you will consider the needs of the children before anything else. Please do not marry this woman or enter into a long term relationship unless you can guarantee that you will always put their needs before your own.

I hope these little people will become great blessings in your life
E's Mama's Avatar E's Mama 04:12 PM 12-07-2008
Originally Posted by cakoala View Post
E's Mama, how did that all work out for you and step-dad? Were you spiteful of his lack of love? Did his influence help, or was it primarily up to mom to make the difference?

Our problems stemmed from him feeling like he had a role in my upbringing *despite* having told me he had no intentions of being my father. I was not spiteful of lack of love, mostly lack of respect. I moved out at a young age, but watched my (much) younger siblings struggle with their relationships with him.
In the end, I have no real relationship with him other than he is my mother's husband. My younger sister feels the same way. The youngest has accepted him as a step father, but they are not close.
Our situations are much different as our bio dad was deceased, not divorced. I wish you luck and hope you continue to investigate you situation and feelings. Educating yourself is much easier than learning the hard way!
Breeder's Avatar Breeder 04:42 PM 12-07-2008
Not a step parent... but here is the list of acronyms and their meanings.

That should help you navigate the seas of MDC.
cakoala's Avatar cakoala 05:25 PM 12-07-2008
Again, this has been a very rewarding thread for me. I heed the warnings, and the mother and I are "feeling out" the relationship. I will propose that there are personality types that love children easily. Many of you are exactly that type. I will be curious to see how my own emotions evolve over time. One thing is clear, the bio-dads are not coming into the picture again. So, even if I leave, the male influence won't increase. Also, Mom was not looking for a life mate when I showed up, so it is unlikely that another male will be easily brought in.

Breeder, thank you so much for the terms. I am glad I have a break between classes right now to get "up to speed" on this parenting subject. A crash course is usually very effective for me.

And for the rest of you that have blessed the relationship, Thank You! It is blessed beyond my wildest dream. Somehow, I think the "kid" issue will work out fine. In fact, the teenager and I seem to have better repertoire than her and her mother. The mother finds it comforting that someone can 'talk to her.'
jennlyn's Avatar jennlyn 05:35 PM 12-07-2008
I don't have a book recommendation, but as far as breeder/anti-breeder genes, I'd like to comment. Not everyone has a natural affinity for children. Especially if they are the youngest child in the family and didn't have to deal with little ones. I was never wild about anyone's children and didn't babysit either. I'm curious about what personality type you are- are you referring to the Myers Briggs types? However, when I had my own children, I was very attatched to them, but before I had any I wasn't sure if I even wanted any. Feel fortunate that you can form an attatchment to them without bio dad doing anything disruptive, I think they will be more open to you and have no guilt about it. I wouldn't expect as much closeness from the older two, just think of yourself as an extra adult in their lives that cares for them, the littlest one may think more of you as a father figure. Leave the discipline to their mom.
MusicianDad's Avatar MusicianDad 05:52 PM 12-07-2008
I voted yes, though DD is legally my DD now. First time DH introduced me to DD she was not even one. He hands her to me first thing out of my mouth is "Um, what the hell do I do with this?"

For the longest time I never wanted children and never really wanted to spend time with children. For me the big change came because I was spending more time with dd and at one point ended up babysitting when she was two because her dad was litterally stuck at the last minute with no sitter and, well I tend to do thing for my friends I wouldn't otherwise do. The more time I spent with DD and Dh, the more I started thinking it wasn't so bad until eventually reaching the place where I am now which is loving her (and DS) more then anything else in the world.

Other people kids can still irritate the bugeezus out of me though...

The attachment part of attachment parenting had to grow on it's own. The respecting a child part of it was, for me, innate. Children are humans and should be treated like them is something I have always believed.
pinksprklybarefoot 06:42 PM 12-07-2008
My stepdad, that I refer to as "my other dad," did not have the breeder gene. He called his nieces "anklebiters." I was 14 when we met.

He is an extremely important part of my life. I even had his last name (until I got married). He walked me down half the aisle at my wedding and got a father-daughter dance just like my bio dad. I talk to him on the phone about once a week.

He told me that when he met my mom, he looked more closely at my brother and I than her - he was that apprehensive about kids. Just wanted to say that it can work out sometimes!

Stepparenting can be very difficult. But it also can be very rewarding. Good luck on your journey.
wetcement101's Avatar wetcement101 07:06 PM 12-07-2008
I am a new breeder who loves kids but isn't crazy about babies. Learning developmental stages has helped me to connect with her. You might want to apply your psych hat that way, as getting a foundation in development is helping me attachment parent because I understand where my child is coming from.
I also think you need to have a talk with your partner about her expectations to be fair to her and her kids. Kids can be a huge stressor on a relationship, and you can't carry your share of the load if you heart isn't in it. Hoping you are able to develop a wonderful relationship with the kids, too.
bigeyes's Avatar bigeyes 07:27 PM 12-07-2008
Don't let yourself get stuck in the role of disciplinarian.

That's the biggest mistake you can make as a step-parent. Discipline has to be done by the parent while you're establishing your own place in the family.

Don't be afraid to ask for help if you don't know how to deal with something. I think a lot of step-parents are ashamed to ask for help because they think they should be able to handle things on their own, but we're all dealing with so much baggage from other people's marriages we'd be crazy to not ask for help, yk?

It's better to work things out when they're small than to let them get completely out of hand.

If there are relatives who compete for the children's affections, don't get sucked into trash talking. Also, make sure you and mom are a united front, don't let them play the game of asking one of you something and then asking the other if they don't like the answer they got, always consult each other, and always back each other. Don't play good cop/bad cop.

I was an infertile nonbreeder who became a mom at 35 and a stepmom at 42, so I know what you mean. It's all very strange. For me, infants don't usually thrill but I think they're cute, toddlers are the coolest people under the sun, 4 to 6 are still fun, 7 to 9 less fun, tweens and teens are for the most part like adults, some annoy me to no end and some I like a lot. Everyone I know feels differently about the different stages of parenting, so nobody can really tell you how it will be for you, you just have to jump in and go for it. You're one up on me because you found this place before you had a chance to make mistakes.

I think the biggest mistake anyone can make in parenting is assuming they know everything. As long as you keep asking questions and looking for answers you'll do fine.
RomanCarmelMom's Avatar RomanCarmelMom 08:04 PM 12-07-2008
Love isn't just a feeling, but an action. So, you can choose to show love to people through your actions, even though you may not feel bonded to them. You can treat them with respect, be their friend, etc. You shouldn't rush into the situation expecting to play the role of a parent immediately! Definitely leave the discipline to the mother.

Also, stop psychologically analyzing your interactions with them. Don't think about their personalities, reactions, etc, in such a technical way. They aren't patients or subjects you're studying...they're real people with hearts. Don't be afraid to let go and just hang out with them. Don't talk yourself out of fulfilling friendships with them just because you've never liked children. Your relationship with these children doesn't have to be determined by your past. Learning to love these children (if that happens) also doesn't mean you have to be fond of all children.
bigeyes's Avatar bigeyes 08:13 PM 12-07-2008
If you take on the discipline before you've established any kind of bonds it actually hampers the growth of your relationship with your step-kids. Resentment grows before you have a chance to form any bonds. It's important to form a relationship before you jump in as an authority figure.

And I don't know if anyone can tell you exactly when the moment is right for the transition, either.
cakoala's Avatar cakoala 08:22 PM 12-07-2008
Again, all of your postings are adding more insight. Now that I know the shorthand, it is a big help as well. I must admit that even though I am a very intelligent individual, the thought of all that must be learned and executed is very frightening. I know that I can never get it perfect, but there seems to be so many ways to get it wrong. I congratulate all of you who have stable, and loving children. It is quite a feat.
bigeyes's Avatar bigeyes 08:35 PM 12-07-2008
Kudos to you for being smart enough to think about it beforehand.

I think too many people wade in blindly expecting everything to just work itself out.
mild_adventurer's Avatar mild_adventurer 10:33 PM 12-07-2008
Originally Posted by cakoala View Post
Again, all of your postings are adding more insight. Now that I know the shorthand, it is a big help as well. I must admit that even though I am a very intelligent individual, the thought of all that must be learned and executed is very frightening. I know that I can never get it perfect, but there seems to be so many ways to get it wrong. I congratulate all of you who have stable, and loving children. It is quite a feat.
I've read all the posts in this thread and it is, without a doubt, the most personally meaningful thread I've read/posted to since I've been part of the MDC community.

I feel your trepidation and anxiety viscerally. I am a person who, despite having children, probably has the "non-breeder gene." (My conscious decision to have children of my own is another story for another day, or maybe an off-line conversation.)

The other parents here will vouch for the fact that I love my step-children and care for them in the same way that I care for my own biological children.

But I have a secret that I don't often share with others because, in light of my lifestyle, it is embarrassing and difficult to explain. My secret is that I don't particularly like other people's children. I am not drawn to children. I like my non-child-centered activities. I don't often choose to do activities with my kids or step-kids that would necessitate us being around other children. Other people's kids don't make me feel warm and fuzzy, I don't feel particularly drawn to babies and I don't find schools, day-cares or summer camps charming or cute.

MY DH and I each have two children from our previous marriages. We both share custody with our ex-spouses and I often choose not to be home in the evenings when my step-children are at the house, but my biological children are not.

That said, I'm a good mother and a good step-mother. The feelings I have for my step-children are genuine and I never feel the need to pretend to have feelings that I don't. I truly love them.

I feel confident that you can make a relationship with this lovely mama work.

My advice is four-fold:

1. Take care of yourself. Make sure you continue to spend time, effort and money pursuing your own non-child-centered interests. You will be a better person when you ARE around the kids if you don't force yourself to be there when you'd rather not. DO NOT sacrifice your own happiness and fulfillment to make this relationship work, because if you do, it won't.

2. I came to love my step-children not because they are children or even because they are the children of the man I love. I fell in love with my step-children because they are wonderful PEOPLE. I feel very confident in saying that had I ever felt any kind of dislike for my step-children, I would not have continued the relationship with DH (then my BF). Not liking his kids would have been a deal-breaker for me. I recognize that this is a very personal choice and that there are other step-parents who have very successful marriages without particularly liking their step-children. I knew that *I* could never live with people I didn't like - children or not. My advice is that you make an effort to get to know your love's children as PEOPLE. Yes, of course, children come with a certain brand of neediness that grown-ups don't, but they're still people. If you find that you don't like the kids, you should very seriously consider leaving the relationship.

3. BE PATIENT. Just as you don't develop a relationship with adults overnight, you won't develop one with kids overnight either. Take things very slowly. Do not scold or discipline your darling's kids. Be a good listener. Take your cues from the kids. They'll let you know how involved they want you to be in their lives. Always be kind to them. If you feel angry or frustrated, get away and get some space. At first, it's very important that you don't put yourself in the position of having to be overly responsible for the kids. Always leave yourself an out. It's really okay. It doesn't make you a bad person or a bad partner. And BE PATIENT.

4. Keep talking to your partner. Don't leave things unsaid. It sounds like you two are already good communicators, so it likely won't be a problem, but KEEP TALKING.

Good luck, my fellow non-breeder. If this is the journey you're supposed to take at this time, it will be evident.
spring978's Avatar spring978 04:03 AM 12-08-2008
My Dh wasnt that into kids but he was kind and generous and had a willing heart. 11 years later he love my boys like they are his own is their sole provider and would go to the end of the earth for both of them he also decided we should have one of our own
Anglyn's Avatar Anglyn 04:50 AM 12-08-2008
Read, "Holding onto your kids: why parents need to matter more than peers"
I know by the title it doesnt sound like what you are asking about, but it talks about how attachment happens and how the relationship has to be made with the child before you can parent, a fact that a lot of step parents or fosterparents or teachers often miss. Just being willing to parent a child isnt sufficent, you need the child to LET you parent them....by establishing a relationship. And its written by a child psychiatrist so its right up your ally and you wont have any trouble reading it.
cakoala's Avatar cakoala 04:25 PM 12-08-2008
Mild Adventurer,

A very wonderful posting. Thank you. I will heed all your advice. Yes, I do have a habit of being overly committed sometimes. It would be easy for me to sacrifice my own life and then get bitter. It is a character 'trait' that I have to keep a careful eye on.


Thank you for the book reference. My DF (did i get fiancee right?) took me to Borders and got "The Discipline Book: How to have better behaved children, from ages 1 to 10; by William and Martha Sears" But, I will get your book as well. Suggestions always welcome!


Your posts are some of the most interesting reading I have done lately. It is very interesting to see non-breeders step forward. Coming out of the non-breeder closet in this society is tough enough, coming out here, in a mothering forum is truly an amazing display of courage.
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