I am new to all this, but this seems a good place to start. I am dating a wonderful man who is a wonderful parent to a wonderful six year old boy. Man is on good terms with ex, they co-parent and are with son every other week. Biomom also seems to be very loving parent to boy. Man and I have dated about a year, and I have talked about living together, having kids, etc, but no changes yet. I want to be with this man and understand that means I need to develop a solid relationship with son. And now, while we're spending time, but before living together, and while child is young, seems so important to lay good groundwork. Advice on this, pointers, anyone been there?
I've read through these posts and got some good pointers, stuff I already intuited, like having to define my own unique relationship with boy. I am at times alternatingly charmed and frustrated by him. I have never been around kids a ton in a quasi parent capacity and admit I am having to quick overcome or at least well put aside my own hangups and insecurities about getting attention, love, etc. I am seeing how everything changes when there is a child involved. But I want to do it, I want to totally open my heart to this boy. It shouldn't matter that he already has great loving parents right? There is always room for more love? Any advice on how previously single childless women used to dating childless men so their own relationship always had priority, quick shifting into sudden quasi-parent role and doing something they've never done before- put child's needs first? I think single people can be/are inherently somewhat selfish- I know I have been! Without a child our lives are about ourselves, right? But I want to change, and feel I am, but would love advice and experiences from those who've been there. Being open-hearted to both the child and the man I love who loves his child so much, so enjoying the pure beauty of that, instead of indulging in feelings of neglect or whatever for not having love & attention lavished on me. there I said it.
I came into my stepdaughter's life when she was much younger so you may have to figure out whether/how this would work for you, but one of the best things I did was to have something fun that we did together every week, just me and her. For us it was a parent-child gymnastics class that we went to every week, but it could be anything that you both find enjoyable that you can do regularly. I think it really helped us to establish our own relationship separate from everyone else and gave us time to get to know each other.
It is hard to find your way as a step-mom sometimes, it is a role full of internal conflict. In a way, the more you grow to love your step-child the harder it becomes, but I sure wouldn't want to go through this journey without loving my step-daughter with all my heart. It's one of those things you can never really be prepared for, and you kind of have to be ready to take each challenge as it comes and find your way through to the other side. Being a step-mom is truly one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I wouldn't trade the experience-- I am who I am, as a parent and as a person, because of it.
aricha, thanks for sharing and helping. I am interested to hear more about what you mean when you say, "the more you grow to love your step-child the harder it becomes"?
I appreciate what you said about simply not really being able to prepare for it and it being one of the hardest things you've ever done... I think that's about where I'm at because it many ways it's having to make me have to grow up fast by doing what all (good! :) parents do- put their own needs and concerns aside and focus on the child. With bioparents there is some working up to this point, but here it's bam- suddenly part of the picture.
I think my 'success' and happiness will all be about how I approach it- I want to remain grateful and thankful to both my partner to sharing his precious family and fathering time, allowing me to slowly integrate and be a part of things, and also to the boy himself, for all he will teach and show me about being and becoming a better human!
What I mean is that the more you grow to love your step-child, the harder it can be to deal with the lack of control you have over the important decisions in their life.
For example, when my step-daughter was approaching kindergarten age, I'd been parenting her for 4 years, had given her two younger siblings, and we were a real family full of the same love you'd expect from any two-parent-three-children families. We lived in a unified school district, where you went through this interviewing, application, and sort of lottery process to decide on the school they would attend. I am an educator and former elementary school teacher and I know a LOT about education, school test scores, extracurricular programs, federal funding, kindergarten readiness, reading programs, math textbooks, etc, etc, etc. The schools in the area were very diverse, had a very wide range of quality, and very different offerings.
I love my (step)daughter. I care deeply about her education. I know her very well and know the kinds of classrooms, teachers, and curriculum that might work well for her. I know what questions to ask and what things to look for that indicate quality.
AND I have no decision-making power. I didn't have the right to go to the tours and interviews, to talk to her mother about my opinion, to assist with the application, to decide which schools to apply to and what order to rank them. I didn't even have the right to decide whether or not she would start kindergarten that year or wait another year, or to discuss potential private schools. The best I could do was to do my own research, educate my husband and give him my opinion, and hope for the best.
Throughout the process I thought how much easier it would have been if I didn't care so much. I have the same thoughts when her parents are discussing medical decisions, sports participation, academic testing, or any number of "big decisions". It is terribly hard to care so much about a child and invest so much of yourself into doing the best you can for that child and have no say in the big things in their life.
And, all that said, I wouldn't want to love her any less than I do. I'm not sure I could get through the tough co-parenting moments or the challenging parenting moments if I didn't love her this much. I wouldn't want to raise a child I didn't feel this way about. And I don't think it would be fair to ask her to be part of our family if I couldn't give her that. So I'm willing to deal with it all in exchange for having this opportunity to be part of her life.
i couldnt have said that better, and funnily enough it was that very thing that changed the whole world for me and my dealings with my dd's former smom. unfortunately she has passed away and sadly they do not have her in their lives any longer. even though she and their father had split before she died they remained close and loving with her after their divorce. but it was being given those wise words that lead to me looking more to her feelings and love for them than my own feelings of insecurity and fear that they might somehow love her more, or she might prove the better mother than i in the end.
op you say that you have spoken to your so about living together, having children, forming a family etc... how does he feel about these things? does he speak about them, are you both on the same page about those issues? if you are then i totally agree that now is the time to begin to form a bond with your future ss and planning a special activity that you share with him... something he is interested in that he can share with you, and something that interests you that you can share with him. with my sd's we had tea parties and yogurt <<lol that is what my odsd called yoga. :teehee:
if he has a special name for you that is nice, if not and he is just going to call you by your first name then that is fine too. my dsd's call me a special name, their mom doesnt really like it, but at our house we dont call our sparents mom or dad, those titles are reserved for the parents alone. at their mom's house they call their sdad "daddy" which we are having changed very soon in family court.
for me acccepting that they are my dp's babies, and always will be and that when push comes to shove they would come first. i love that he is so devoted to them, because he understands that i have the same devotion to my children. although we know that we are the primary relationship, and they will grow up and make their own lives, so we too must have a strong and solid bond and understanding that our time will come, when we don't have to put their needs before our own sometimes. our children do not come between us, they have their own place as do we with each other. i ensure that the girls know that they are their dad's whole world and that both he and i love and think of them everyday. they feel completely confident that although he loves me and i am the one that will be here when they grow up and are gone, right now when they are young they feel so secure in their feeling and knowledge that i in no way come between their dad and them. i think that being allowed that little bit of "their own'ness" of their father has made it easier for them to trust my love and respect for them. we are very close and share a super loving and beautiful relationship. they trust my love for them implictly, i think because i allow them that separate special place in their dad's heart. so long story short, although it is one of the hardest things not to feel jealous of his feelings for them, thinking of them first sometimes instead of meeting your needs, feeling left out, seeing her in them if she is negative toward you, all those negative feelings that can come along with being a smom, if you can remember to breathe and get through those moments that are hardest and remember that he does love you and you do have your own special place that is yours alone with him, it will go a long way to forming a positive strong bond with his son, and with him as well and would go even further to forming a strong healthy open and loving blended family.
ooh darn, i meant to ask earlier in this post, how does their bio-mom feel about you? have you met? is she open towards working with you and co-parenting?
even at that young age.. they do see mom and dad as the boss.
you are kinda new.
for example. DD is 3.5. ex has been in her life for a year. after a years absence.
I dont encourage him to discipline DD in the little things. she is not ready for that from him.
it would ruin the friendship they have for him to play a "daddy" role in her life when she doesn't see him as that.
he might say "look both ways" but when she throws her book on the ground I say "we dont throw books, books are love, i have told you that before you are in trouble"
it takes time to grow into those things. alot of time.
while of course you have to have some say. i would reiterate keeping "dads rules" instead of coming across as throwing in your own rules so he doesnt feel resentful. give him lots of attention & look for signs that he has grown a respect for you. and is seeing you as more of a coparent before you get too bossy.
My husband and I have been married for 6 months, which means I've been in his daughters life for 18 months (shes 10 now) and, honestly, it was much more of a learning experience than I expected. You have to define your role... I've decided to be the fun, but stern step-mom. I take her out to eat sometimes or watch movies with her when my husband is at work (we have custody every weekend but sometimes he has to work). But, I still require that her room is clean and do homework first. As a step-parent, most of the rule making and punishment is up to the parents and you are meant to support their decisions. But a few tips, never let the child see you and boyfriend/husband fight, never talk badly about the mom and don't expect that the child will be your best friend. As a parent, you child will not enjoy getting punished so they'll get mad sometimes. You will learn to love the child and they'll learn to love you, but it takes time to establish your role. When dh and I met, his ex and him got along great... then she hated me and treated him badly, told dsd horrible things about me (and it almost ruined my relationship with dh) but now we're back to everyone getting along. Let the ex and the child see that your relationship is stable (and make sure it is before getting involved in the childs life). And, put more posts on this site if things don't go well. But, just be patient, being a step-parent is NOT easy. Also, you'll feel a battle for attention between the child/dad and you/boyfriend. Let the child get their attention but don't let boyfriend ignore your basic needs. Good luck!
Family = me + husband + step daughter
What I mean is that the more you grow to love your step-child, the harder it can be to deal with the lack of control you have over the important decisions in their life.
AND I have no decision-making power.
The best I could do was to do my own research, educate my husband and give him my opinion, and hope for the best.
Throughout the process I thought how much easier it would have been if I didn't care so much.
It is terribly hard to care so much about a child and invest so much of yourself into doing the best you can for that child and have no say in the big things in their life.
And, all that said, I wouldn't want to love her any less than I do. I'm not sure I could get through the tough co-parenting moments or the challenging parenting moments if I didn't love her this much.
I wouldn't want to raise a child I didn't feel this way about. And I don't think it would be fair to ask her to be part of our family if I couldn't give her that. So I'm willing to deal with it all in exchange for having this opportunity to be part of her life.
Yep! All of the above! The hardest part is you have to mother a child who you can't make decisions for. Another hard part is GUILT! Guilt when you feel other than loving feelings for your stepchild (granted, I feel this way about my other kids when they are whiny or defiant) but with him, it will trigger this downward spiral of negative self-talk. It's okay not to like their company all the time. That was hardest thing for me to learn.
I have found step parenting extremely difficult and I have now two grown step children and it is still difficult. My step children are good people and they had a hard time with their parents' divorce. I find parenting my own children, including a set of triplets and a 4th child, much, much easier than step parenting. I agree with the ladies that your role as stepmom is ambiguous and fraught with a long history of evil images (ie. Cinderella). My values are healthy, whole foods, limited media, educational television, lots of nature (hiking, kayaking, x-country skiing, etc) and having children come into my house with a completely different set of values is tough and remains tough, even now that they are adults. Holidays often involve geographical gymnastics and revolve around the ex's schedule and when you "get" the kids. Sticking to your guns and setting limits in your own home can make you look like an ogre. I love my husband and ultimately we have made our relationship work, but it is hard. When I look back 15 years at my 24 year old self, I often think I should have ran like the wind, but I didn't. My husband learned how to support me emotionally while still loving and giving to his oldest children. The payoff is having two friends who love my children and who my children also dearly love, (though now they refer to their older brother as "their brother from another mother" lol). The price is hard work, hurt feelings, and lots and lots of compromise. You may want to read Wednesday Martin's book Stepmonster. It is not anti step mothering, but the most honest book about the challenges that I have ever read, and I've read lots on stepparenting through the years. Good luck, God bless, and remember who you are, what you value, and that you are a good person (your post certainly sounds that way).
My mom became a stepmom to 3 teenage or nearly there boys when she married my dad. We've talked about it, she said her main rules basically were
--she and my dad agreed on rules for when they were living with them or visiting. She never really said who enforced, but I'd imagine mostly my dad with an expectation that they would respect her.
--she NEVER talked about the biomom in front of them. and there were some negatives, like sending one of them in a coat that didn't even fasten in the winter, support checks cashed at local dress shop (this was way back when stores did that kind of thing) They just didn't talk about that kind of stuff when they were in hearing.
--I remember that they actually somewhat got along. Biomom's the mom, they of course wanted their mom at stuff like grandchildren's birthdays, weddings, all that...we all went, and they even would talk to each other...it's not like they were best friends or anything, but they'd interact and be decent at family gatherings.
lovin DH since 1/04, best mom for my 3 boys 10/04, 11/08, 11/10 one girlie (1/07), one 13 wk (10/13) and 5/15 just your average multigenerational living family!!
As a child of divorced parents I can only offer that side of the relationship:
My dad married my stepmom when I was 5, I hardly remember a time when my parents were married to each other, and I feel she's always been in my life. I call her mom, she and my dad had my two sisters, and I have a stepbrother, and I love them all the same. I love my stepmom; but we've had some rough times. I think the biggest issue, as a kid, was feeling like the parents were competing against each other, and using my brother and I as ammunition against the other parent. I only mention this because it's the one thing I really think you should avoid!! [haha, of course, I'm sure you will!!] My stepmom did and said some very hurtful things out of anger towards my mom, and that really had a deep affect on my life. I also think that all the parents should sit down and discuss the big things like discipline and educational problems. I can imagine, as the PP's have said, it must be extremely frustrating for step-parents to care about a child and feel they have no say in their stepchild's big life decisions. I think if the two natural parents have a functional, amicable relationship, it might be worth exploring the idea of an ALL parents meeting - often my stepmom was the one making decisions about education and discipline and a lot of things (she runs that house, my dad just doesn't think about a lot of that stuff)- while we were in my dad's custody. Then we'd go to Mom's house and it was TOTALLY different, (we had a 50/50 split deal, 2weeks with each parent alternating), it was so disruptive and my brother and I struggled in school and learned that we could manipulate the situation- it was really easy to lie to the teachers about why we hadn't done this or that assignment because we were like little ping pong balls and it was just confusing! When my mom and dad talked about it, nothing got resolved because my dad had no idea what was actually going on after school!
Overall, things I wished had been avoided in my childhood:
- Parents talking trash about each other (dad against mom, stepmom against mom, mom against stepmom and dad, etc)
- Stepmom telling me hurtful info about moms family that I was not prepared for (and it was none of her business, she was just pissed off)
- If one parent enrolls the kid in an extracurricular, the other parents should do their best to keep bringing the kid, unless there is a serious time or monetary problem (eg: I was in girl scouts, but only when I was at dads house; I was in dance class, but only when I was at moms. I missed out on HALF of everything, I was always behind, and they were punishing EACH OTHER by making me miserable.)
- Be respectful of predetermined custody times. Ask for alterations with kindness and respect. Don't use custody as ammunition or revenge.
I think it's a hard relationship, and it takes work, but it's worth it. I'm so grateful for all the things my stepmom has done for me, and the way she has made my life better.
Good luck! :)
ETA: I realize that this is like an outline of really terrible things to avoid, that probably aren't even an issue for the majority of parents here. Apologies!
Mama to my sweet boy O age 4; baby girl lost at 13 wks, July '14 ~ I'm a nerdy, treehugging, polytheist lady and a professional herbalist. Three candles that illume every darkness: Truth, Nature, Knowledge. - Triads of Ireland
I agree with just about everything you said (ESPECIALLY about not talking badly about the mom, or about the marriage/relationship between the mom and the dad, or about how much better your relationship with the dad is than mom's relationship with the dad was, or how much better or worse your house/car/collection of butterfly stencils is...just don't go to comparisons at all, and don't take the bait in the inevitable event the child starts unfavorably comparing you or your partner to mom and her partner)...except I don't think it's necessarily bad for stepchildren to see their parent and stepparent fighting, so long as the fighting is fair (no name calling, no threats, absolutely NOTHING physical), it's not about the child/custody/etc., and they also have the opportunity to see the adults make up. Kids need to see disagreement modeled in a healthy way, and that sometimes includes raised voices, and a kid in a blended situation probably isn't going to have that opportunity with his or her natural parents.
Some really good advice on this thread, especially about how hard it is to care so much but to have very little say. It's doubly hard for me because, as an attorney with some exposure to family law, it's VERY tempting to want to butt in, especially if I think my husband's not getting all he's entitled to (I still have to remember that "getting all he's entitled to" isn't everything--we are financially OK, the ex is not, even though my husband pays more support than he legally needs to...but if he pressed the ex about getting the extra $1,500 in value for her car that he was entitled to when they divorced, that would be $1,500 his child's mother couldn't spend on rent, heat, and food---which, that's another good thing to remember; there is a human being on the "other side"). My husband and I have made a pact that I will NOT be his lawyer (officially or unofficially) for anything more serious than a traffic ticket. If he needs to go back to court, he has his own lawyer. If he and his ex agree on their own to modify the child support or something else that requires a court order, if he asks, I will show him where to get the pro se form and where to mail it.
Spouse (the political geek) * Stepdaughter (the artist) * and introducing...the Baby (um, he's a baby? He likes shiny things).
Don't feel the need to rush into kids of your own just because he already has one. Take your time to figure out how the family dynamics work and whether you're ready for the full responsibility of a child and if that will fit for this particular grouping of people. You shouldn't feel like that decision is already made just because you're becoming a "parent". Having your own child will add immensely to your family dynamic if you are all ready for it - but it will also create new pressures. Take some time to get used to this unit.
When my partner and I were first together, the nights my daughter was at her dad's were a really special time for us to do couple stuff. Then when she was with us we had the energy to do things like movie nights or game nights or whatever. Now that time is harder to come by because we have our own toddler, but that bonding time - which most couples get before having kids - was crucial for withstanding the inevitable challenges of step-family life.
The advice on how to relate to the kid is all useful so I just second all of that I'd just add that you can also ease into that relationship as well. Perhaps one night a week when your partner's kid is over, you could do a night out on your own to pursue your own interests - with friends or an activity or going to a movie or whatever. This ensures you have your own time and gives the son a chance to have some alone time with dad. This may or may not evolve into a habit but I think it's a good starting point for giving everyone some space to get used to the situation. I also think gradually adding in some alone time between you and the kid in an unpressured way that is organized so as to minimize any potential discipline issues would be really useful.