Is there anything more terrifying when dating, than the words “I have children“?
I mean, children were a career for me but I hadn’t anticipated having to be responsible for them outside of my line of work for a good few years.. Having two suddenly appear in my day to day life and on my mental life plan was terrifying.
There are so, so many intimidating articles out there which are enough to terrify any potential step-parent in waiting, so I thought I’d put together my side. I’m sparing you the gory details, as this post isn’t about that. This post is a celebration and an acknowledgement of what I’ve learned over the last five years – because years ago, I’d have really appreciated someone on the fence telling me what it was like. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and every person has their own way.. But I did learn a few things that I think every person facing step-parenthood should try to keep in mind.
You, are not their Mother or Father.
That’s self explanatory. Don’t punish yourself over it, and don’t think that just because you’ve assumed this sudden change of dynamic that you’ve forgone the pregnancy stage and blossomed into.. Well, Mum. Or Dad. Depending on your family dynamic, you might get called Mum/Dad. You may see them more than the biological parent. But you will never have that relationship a parent has with their son or daughter which is build from pregnancy and birth.
That said, you can still have a wonderful, loving relationship with your stepchildren! It feels fantastic to be a part of their life, because they’ve adopted you as that. You might not be Mum or Dad, but you are a strong, responsible adult they have in life and when you realise that you can start fully embracing it.
It’s okay, its okay to not feel okay.
Its a new thing. You haven’t done this before – or maybe you have with your own children, but you’re adapting to this new dynamic when it comes to parenting.
I was lost – completely uncertain of my boundaries, frightened of making the children hate me, naïve to the ‘do’s and don’ts of step-parenting‘ but.. It does come naturally. Not only do you learn the boundaries of your relationship, so do the children. It takes time, of course – they’ve gone through a family displacement and they have to heal after that before you even come close to being okay. They’ve had a family break up around them and adapted to that, and the you’ve come onto the scene. They need to test you and make sure that you fit their ideals ad much as you need to ascertain your own boundaries and what you yourself are comfortable with.
Never compare yourself to others – they have no idea.
I’ve encountered this a lot.
“The kids love me! He/she do anything I ask! Its brilliant!” as I’m clawing my way around the dinnertime routine in our household. Or the worst of the worst – that cringy over-the-top kiss and cuddle and exclamations of love and endearment. Not that there is anything wrong with that – it just might not work for everyone. Comparison is soul destroying in the step-parenting world. But what works for one child, might not work for another. Every family has its own dynamic and you know what? You are doing just fine. Don’t let anyone make you think any differently, or make you feel bad because you have a different way of doing things.
As I previously mentioned, it takes children a long time to recognise a partnership forming in the ruins of their parental unit – it could take weeks or months. But it does happen. I struggled for months to know what was okay and what wasn’t, yet it wasn’t until one of the children embraced me that I felt like everything was fantastic. I didn’t need to force affection, or to overdo it when I didn’t feel ready.
It would happen and it would feel amazing, when it happened on its own.
Obviously, these are my own experiences and opinions.. I wanted to write all this down as something that might stand out to someone else who was as terrified as I was. It really is okay to feel that way. It’s a long road ahead of you, and if you’re willing to walk it its very worth while in the end.. But it’s your choice. It is a responsibility and it really isn’t for everyone. But the rewards at the end of that road are perfect for me.