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Thread: Confused. Step-parenting. Help needed.

  1. #1
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    Confused. Step-parenting. Help needed.

    Hello community,

    I need some fresh perspectives. I have been dating a man with a 2 and 1/2 year-old son for about 1 year. (My bf was married before and his ex-wife left him for another man when their son was an infant. They have shared custody.) I have no children of my own, and was also married before. My bf and I have similar interests and are compatible in a lot of ways. We get along well, and have fun times together.

    The concern is, I don't want to be a step-mom. I love my bf's son, and he loves me too, and I help with his care a good amount. I don't want to be a "replacement mom" and I just can't seem to shake the feeling that it's not going to be easy, that I'm setting myself up for years of hardship and heartache if I continue with this relationship. On the other hand, it's really difficult to say good-bye to a man who treats me well and who is compatible with me simply because he has a son.

    My concerns are some of the common ones with step-parenting: worried about step-son rebelling and not treating me with respect as he gets older (which I can see happening due to his mother's permissive parenting style), sadness about if my bf and I have a child together in the future it would not be his first child (loss of that specialness to the experience), annoyed with ex-wife's passive-aggressive communication style, and anticipating more problems with her in the future if her current relationship does not work out (i.e. coming after bf for more child support, her jealousy, etc).

    The thing is, I know this is a choice. If I choose to stay with my bf, then I choose to deal with all that comes with it- step-parenting, the ex, and such. And if I choose not to stay with my bf, I know I will be sad and missing a wonderful man. It's a difficult choice.

    A further complication is that my bf and his son live with me in a house that I own, so if we were to break up, they would need to move out. It breaks my heart to think of destabilizing my bf and his son after all they've been through. But yes, I know that is better than staying in it solely to avoid a time-limited painful transition. But I don't even know if that's what I want!

    Part of what attracts me to my bf is how responsible he is. My bf is a great father to his son, and shows maturity with being able to take care of another little soul. Men I've dated in the past who are not parents often can't seem to see beyond themselves, though it's not that black-and-white. I know there are dead-beat dads out there and there are kind, mature childless men out there too.

    It's so discouraging. I sometimes don't really even want to date at all anymore. It's silly really, because I so want to be married/have a partner and have children and share my life with someone who loves me and treats me well, but there's this other side of me that just doesn't want to deal with the complications and challenges of relationships.

    I don't know what to do.

    Any perspectives/advice is appreciated.

  2. #2
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    My girlfriend moved into my home 2 1/2 years ago. Shes quite a bit younger so her children are young too. I have an adult son living wth me. And try as I do, I have a very hard time bonding with her boys. I find one of them annoying - he is a ten year old who still whines and cries....yet out of the two, I like him the most. I have tried hard with him, regarding the "baby behavior" - and since I know it's a special needs thing, I knew how to handle him. And after 3 years together, (2 1/2 living with me), he's still annoying, but I like him. The other one is older, 12, lies, has a high level of expectations, has a low level of care (leaves garbage, half empty open liquid containers all over the place, leaves clothes everywhere, leaves doors ajar when going outside), the list of issues with the older one are long, and don't seem to be improving. He is an instigater with the younger brother and as a result, alot of yelling and arguing takes place...increasing annoyance. My son and I have lived a quiet private life for a long time. His mom was always gone (second life) so this kind of thing was difficult to get used to. My son can't stand either of my girlfriend's children, but does his best to treat them respectfully...although sometimes it's a challenge being nice while their being annoying.

    I have worked with them both, and both tend to be very respectful to me, and have been very good about following my house rules...which really amounts to one guideline. "Respect" - I expect their behavior to be respectful, of each other, myself, my son, their mom. Treat others as you wish to be treated, respect space, noise level, communication,...and in return, so shalll they receive. Respect given, is respect gained. As a result of consistantly working with them on this, they are both better behaved with me, than with their mom.

    When it comes to the parenting part, the part you're concerned with. Maury says it the best. "You are NOT the father." And I'm not. I am a positive male role model, whom they call me by my first name. I am involved with school issues, esp with the younger who has special needs, and since I've been down that route before, and the school is sort of afraid of me, I plowed the road for the younger one. My girlfriend, as a young single mom, tended to have chronic problems with the schools regarding services for the younger son. So, I have been able to help with that immensely. He's all set, a yellow brick road now. The other one, the older problematic one, I try to engage on an "as needed" basis. I am mindful of the words I use, and am mindful of his... I don't know if I'll ever bond with him but I will treat him well, but thats the best I can do at this point.

    You have a child much younger than what I had to deal with. Young....and theirs only one. I think the trade off for getting a good man really isn't a bad thing. The child is still moldable....and who knows, maybe in time you will bond, and he will call you mom. If he doesn't, so be it.
    Last edited by morrowrd; 03-02-2013 at 05:22 AM. Reason: Needed to add

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    My girlfriend is an angel. I have never enjoyed the level of female affection, and the unique quality of that affection, the way she gives it. I adore her, and love her with my whole heart. I enjoy making her happy, and giving her security. The issues with her children, while challenging, are worth it for what I am getting in return. An added benefit is her family, whom I was worried about since I am the same age as the parents, aunts, uncles, in some cases older. They have been so good to me and my son. My son's job at the local college, was handed to him as a result of this family. They all know I love her, and love seeing her happy. This is as opposed to my ex wife, whose family hated me all along, and treated me like an outcast. Beat our age diifference over my head, a 6 year difference....thats probably why I was worried this time around. I have not been this happy in my entire life.

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    If you don't feel you can do it get out now. Both of my stepfathers loved me too bits and accepted me as their own and a child deserves nothing less.

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    Originally Posted by Victoria66
    If you don't feel you can do it get out now. Both of my stepfathers loved me too bits and accepted me as their own and a child deserves nothing less.
    I agree. Children know when they're being "tolerated". It can lead to a lot of resentment as they get older.

    OP, while its great that your examining some of your reservations about being a stepmom before "making it legal" it would have been much better to do so before you moved your boyfriend and his son in. As they live with you, that's a commitment right there. To that boy, you ARE his de-facto stepmom already.

    Search your heart and your feelings to see if you can ever love this boy like your own. I know he is not born of your own body, but could you truly accept him as a "bonus" son? A child whose presence adds to your life; not a complication?

    I get that the ex-wife may always be trying to deal with, but this boy shouldn't. You will never replace his mother, but as you live with him you have the opportunity to be another trusted parental figure who he loves and feels close to.

    My parents divorced when I was young. My dad had one longtime girlfriend who was like a stepmom to us growing up. She baked us treats, helped us with our homework, she truly cared and it showed. That is a world of difference from someone who merely tolerates the children of their SO. Kids aren't stupid. They will pick up on these things, and will combination of hurt, confusion (why doesn't she like me?), resentment (well, I don't like her either!), and spite (he's my dad!).

    I'm going around in circles here, but I hope this helps. Also, I get you may worry about how having children with him wouldn't be "new" for him. But in all honesty, loving children is a bottomless well. He's going to love the children he has with you unconditionally. It won't be the same as first time parents, but do you think when couples have a second baby together it's somehow less of an event to them because they've done it before?
    Last edited by Iggles; 03-02-2013 at 08:24 AM. Reason: Typos

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    Since you've been a part of this little boy's life since he was 18 mos old -- and he lives with you -- I doubt he'll grow up thinking of you as his "step-mom," in the traditional negative stereotype sense. He's more likely to think of you as his mom, or as his 'other' mom.

    Treating you with respect as he gets older isn't something that you can necessarily predict with any kid, whether biologically yours or not, but kids are pretty great about loving and respecting people who genuinely love and respect them back. He'll likely accept your boundaries as much as any growing kid, even if they're different than his bio mom's boundaries, because he wouldn't have ever known anything else. This would be different if he were 13 and encountering new sets of rules for the first time, but that wouldn't be the case here -- he'd have known you his whole life.

    But yes -- if you're worried about being able to love the boy, and/or if you are strongly wanting a more traditional relationship process with a partner (date, commit, enjoy being a couple with few responsibilities, THEN decide to have a child and go through all those "firsts" together) -- this may not be the best situation for you. And that's ok! It's certainly a lot of responsibility to take on. I mean, after dating for only one year you essentially have a complete new family in your home. Not to mention dealing with the ex-wife problems.

    But I'll also caution you not to underestimate the awesomeness of a mature man who has demonstrated his ability to love and care for a child, and to commit to the kind of life that you do ultimately want for yourself (and who presumably loves you and treats you well!). Sounds to me like you've got a very good situation, even if more complicated than one you would have designed for yourself.

  8. #7
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    >>worried about step-son rebelling and not treating me with respect as he gets older

    Well, even your own children will rebel and not treat you with respect when they become teenagers. That is NORMAL for kids to do when they are learning their own indepedence at certain stages in life. So you kind of need to get over that idea for ANY child.

    Life is full of all kinds of challenges. So you need to decide whether you love this man enough to accept that he has a child and that that child deserves to be loved and nurtured rather than thought of an an alien interloper in your life who 'spoils' a girlish fantasy of herself and her husband in a perfect little love bubble where nothing ever interferes and reality doesn't intrude.

    If you can't stop thinking of this child as an 'outsider' then just break it off now. Personally, when i see a two year old (ANY two year old) i see a fascinating and totally exasperating little creature who can bring absolute sunshine and absolute chaos frustration to mind. But there is a little human being in there who is NOT defined by the fact that you are not his mother. You are just casting him as that 'thing' that is baggage that isn't there to be loved and molded and shaped by you. You are not his mother, but you could be an amazing force in his life and share in the parenting experience with him. You have been in his life from close to the very beginning of it and can have an ENORMOUS impact on him and who he grows up to become if you are living with him as his stepmother. I know MANY people who really hate their own parent if their parent was problematic and love a stepparent more than that parent because they were a loving and nurturing and positive force in their lives.

    So can you rise above your own pettiness and self interest to accept this child as a little individual person whom you can love, or will you resent the child and be overly harsh when the child is just doing what ALL children do at particular life phases that might be inconvenient, annoying, difficult? And honestly, i had to chuckle reading your post because you are obviously not a parent yet if you don't think your own child will be equally annoying, difficult, disrespectful, challenging and any number of other things that children do to drive a parent crazy. People dream of their own 'perfect' child, but children pop out with their own personalities and their own set of wonders and problems and you can't choose your perfect child because the child will be who it is. So you are ruling out your BF's child because he doesn't match up to being your own 'perfect' fantasy of how a child in your life should be.

    So what i'm saying is if you can't start looking at this child as an individual who you can enjoy and help raise without predjudice against him simply because you didn't give birth to him, then leave, and leave now before the child gets more attached to you. And if you want to try to love this child, then read some parenting books and try to nurture generosity and open-mindedness in yourself rather than faulting a rambunctioius two year old just because he MIGHT end up acting some way that irritates you because of your own selfishness and lack of understanding about what children are and how they will impact your life and behave.

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    I agree with everyone else all teenagers rebel and can be disrespectful, it is all a part of growing up and becoming independent. Even your own biological children will do this. So that is not a logical reason. I have a teenager and he is pretty respectful 95% of the time but he has his moments of disrespect and they ALL do.

    Children and parents are packaged deals, for FOREVER. Children should be loved and cherished and appreciated and guided. If you can't do it then this man is not for you no matter how well you get along with his dad or how much you love each other. This is about a child's life.

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    Blending families is one of the hardest things I've been through, but it's also one of the most fulfilling things you can do.

    I have had custody of my step-daughter since she was eight years old, and she'll be sixteen in May. At the time, my husband and I had been dating for about 18 months (one year of that a LDR) and he had moved into my house about three months prior.

    To be honest, it was him I wanted, but he came as a package deal and since I also had a daughter (16 at that time) and I came as a package deal as well, I remember thinking that this was my chance to give my oldest daughter a sister, and a bigger, closer family. I could give that little girl a mother she could count on. We could build a family together that would always be there for each other.

    To my surprise, it was hardly ever his daughter that caused most of the issues I faced while step-parenting - it was him!

    One thing I didn't consider when we got together was how much guilt he'd have over everything that happened with her bio-mom. This led him to make decisions that weren't always the best for her, even though his intentions were good. This led me to resent him for undermining me and I resented my step-daughter for knowingly smirking when (for example) she didn't have to get ready for bed after 9 pm because her dad was playing on the Xbox and decided it was okay for her to "watch for awhile."

    That was six or seven years ago now and we have gotten much better about being on the same page. Once we got into therapy and learned that it was better for his daughter to follow a routine (it helped her feel secure, knowing what to expect each day) and that sometimes, he just had to trust me and let me be "the mama" things got a LOT easier.

    I did go through periods where she argued with me and was disrespectful, and right now I'm dealing with teenage BS, but she is my daughter. Her bio-mom passed away three years ago, effectively making me her only mom and we have a good relationship today. I feel that everything I went through was completely, totally worth it. I love them both, I want them both in my family.

    I hope our stories have done a little to appease your worries. My thoughts are if you love this man and he's a good father, then you will both do what's right to keep your family unit together. If that means getting help to understand a situation better, then why not? And since his little boy is so young, I agree with catbird that it's likely he'll think of you as another mom.

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    Thanks for the perspective, Morrow. It is uplifting.

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