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Stepparent Facts. Once and for All.
Just the basics
Your divorce was more than ten years ago when your kids were very young. It's been a hell of a struggle but you've learned a whole lot about yourself, right? Maybe. Wouldn't it be ideal if throughout those years, you came to realize precisely what you want in a life partner?
How exactly did you find the time to make many personal decisions? Working a full-time job, running a household on your own and as custodial parent, there's the kids. Yeah, the kids. Dating hasn't been a priority. In fact, the truth is, it's been a few brief dates or encounters with an assortment of prospects that resulted in asking yourself, "Why do I even bother?"
Hold on a moment. Rest assured it's not you. More than likely, it's not even any of those prospects. Face something once and for all. Having failed at marriage....you know, when we married the love of our life, with whom we would spend all eternity, divorce simply wasn't a thought. Naturally we carry guilt, regret, doubt and the monster that grows from all this is paranoia....lots of it. If we weren't at all paranoid, we'd need to question our sanity.
The good news is, even if we base this solely on statistics and nothing else, Prince or Princess Charming does eventually appear. There we are holding that second chance in our hands, albeit at arm's length during the testing period.
Something that cannot be avoided at this point in considering a relationship is that it's not just "us." Those little people we brought into the world who mean everything to us, have to be (hopefully!) our main focus. Thus, let's consider the numerous different types of combinations we might expect if we're thinking about joining forces.
All Step Parents are not created equal
Now seems as good a time as any to understand something and put it to rest once and for all. If one of your parents marries after you have reached the age of eighteen, are off to college, in the military or otherwise living on your own, you have not gained a "step parent." For all intents and purpose, a parent helps to raise, guide and supervise you through your important formative years. By the time you are a young adult, whether you consider this 18, 19 or 20 years old, the person who marries your parent is technically, legally and appropriately your Mother's husband or your father's wife.Similarly, you are to them, their spouse's son or daughter.
There are individuals who have never been married nor had children, who decide to marry someone who is divorced or widowed with children. Still others who are both custodial parents of small children and choose to make their families one big happy blended family.
However this works out or whichever situation you find yourself in based on some serious soul searching, it's acceptable to assume you're hoping for and striving for what's best for all involved.
Because prior serious consideration and lengthy discussion between the couple, as well as their respective children is of utmost importance, avoiding this or postponing until the last minute is highly frowned upon. Experienced blended families, bio Moms and Dads and those who fill the role as Step parent will confirm without question the egregious and avoidable consequences which often occur when these steps are ignored.
If listening to the wise voices of experience isn't enough, take yourself on a tour of websites dedicated to the trials, tribulations and pitfalls of Step parent tragedies. All the pleasant scenes of dreams you may have once had, can very sadly become the worst of nightmares. There should be no need to worry quite as much about these fiascos rearing their ugly heads with a sound and stable original plan.
It is not unusual that we happen to meet a step parent who is the perfect match for the family they married into. We may wonder, is this simple luck or the result of some very determined efforts and a whole lot of compromise? Whatever the case may be, this sort of situation is a breath of fresh air in the world of what can be step-parent disasters. Raising children is a responsibility of enormous planning while simultaneously filled with surprises that call for us to think & act quickly to an immediate issue. In other words, just when we think we're in great shape, expect the unexpected!
The Non-custodial Bio Mom or Dad
Opinions abound when it comes to the details set forth in divorce. The only interest I have here for my readers are matters of the minor children. The mere thought of the battles back and forth, the depths some parents will stoop and the gross neglect of what is truly best for the children, can never cease to startle and astound. This is just the way it goes folks and far too often. Make a vow to never be a part of this type of selfishness and shame.
Whether pleasant or despicable, we must deal with hard core facts of reality. There are those so-called "parents," who choose to walk away from it all, the spouse, the families, the home and the kids. For reasons known only to these persons, they just want OUT....from all and everything that resembles their former life. So off they go, giving it up, signing it all over to whomever will assume the responsibilities.....usually the other spouse.
If the parties agree, the Attorneys work things out and the Courts do not object, that's it. It's over. No more marriage, no involvement of any kind, no splitting of assets and one parent forever missing in action, taking their support of any kind with them. Most of us can't think of anything more tragic. It happens.
Thankfully, this is not the most common of scenarios when it comes to dissolution of a marriage. As stated, there are any number of various battles going on daily in our court rooms. Some parents have bitter, downright nasty fights over custody, child support and visitation. There are State by State laws that come into play, yes, but this doesn't seem to stop the constant vitriol. This is when the most precious beings in our lives, our children, are reduced to being used as pawns and weapons.
As of more recently, joint custody is encouraged by lawyers and family court. Many couples are coming to terms with the fairness and equality of this situation, not to mention common sense and benefits afforded the children. When joint custody is not an option, one parent or the other is considered the "custodial parent," while the other is granted liberal and/or scheduled visitation. Child support is a necessary part of this.
Once Upon a Step Parent's Shadow
Do you know the statistics of parents of young children who remarry? Neither do I, but I can simply take a good look around and be alert to their existence enough to know there are many more who do remarry than those who do not. So then this would account for an enormous number of step parents floating around among us. In fact, I'd venture to say that either you are a step parent, will be one day or your own children have a step parent. Yes, exactly. I knew I'd guess that one. Pretty easy bet.
Step parents fill a pretty damned special role, wouldn't you agree? It doesn't seem that too many of them receive the notice and appreciation they deserve. Is this because bio-parents are so glorified? Could be and I wouldn't disagree with this. I often feel a little pain for the step parent because like it or not, they walk a fine line.
It's not an easy position and way too easy to take advantage. If we're really honest, bio- Moms & Dads.....we want their help, their encouragement and support. We appreciate the stories read and baseball games.....the rides to and from and the help with school projects. This is all so helpful and terrific. Then there's the probability a step parent will hear, " if you don't mind, I'll hear of no harsh words nor negative scolding.....they're MY kids and I'll handle this. I hope you understand because I don't want to repeat myself. If you have a problem with MY child, please let me know....and we'll work it out. By the way, I'm sure you're aware my kids are my PRIMARY concern and they will always come first..?" I'd say this clearly leaves a step parent feeling a little sting.
Then there are the most dreaded words a step parent can hear.....and at one point or another they ALL do hear it: "I don't have to do what you tell me.....you're NOT my Dad or Mom!" This is the comment no one wants to touch with a ten foot pole. It's just not easy being a step parent. Nor is it easy being a step-child. But we all should know this starting out. We should also believe that with love and patience, a little understanding and a lot of dedication, it does get easier. Easier, better, stronger and worth it in the end.
Parents are the adults and rarely can this be dismissed. Realize how precious, vital and exclusive our relationship with our children is in terms of allowing them a healthy, happy home life. Whether married, divorced or remarried, parents owe this to their kids. Step parents play a major role. Choose wisely.