I know about step Parenting first hand. I also know that step parenting challenges can destroy a marriage. Looking back, I never wanted or had any children of my own. So, its easy to see now that I would have been wise to not date women with kids, or at least not marry one with kids. Subsequently, I learned that parenthood isn’t for the faint of heart and being a stepparent makes an already difficult challenge, that much more difficult.
Step Parenting isn’t Easy But….Well, It isn’t Easy
The following quote speaks volumes with respect to what I learned. Nikhil Saluja implies that a mothers heart will never belong to her husband. Alas, I found this to be true. Even though my wife loved me dearly, I was number two. Perhaps I sound like a child, saying that. Some men, wouldn’t have a problem with that. Tweet This
“Being a mother means your heart is no longer yours; it wanders wherever your children go” – Nikhil Saluja quotes
If you want to read something that’s more of a manual, try this advice on Step Parenting Dos and Don’ts from WebMD. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy my writing.
I wasn’t entirely naive, having already been divorced from a gal who would have eaten her own young for sure. A mere 28 years young, I was life inexperienced in so many ways. Then I was introduced to this professional gal who was very kind and laughed at my jokes, I fell in head first.
As far as ready-made families go, this one was pretty non-dysfunctional. What I mean by that is that the daughter was young (4 yrs.), the exhusband was unintimidating and friendly, and very little drama seemed to exist. Mom was very much a nurturer, which suited me well because I’m a guy, and what guy doesn’t like a little nurturing.
5 Simple Questions I Might Have Asked Myself Before Considering Step Parenting
- Are you ready to be third in a relationship? – First is your spouse, second her child and you are third. Note – it’s not last place. It’s just down the ranks a bit.
- Can you subordinate yourself to not dishing out discipline? – Maybe not always, but there will be times that mama bear rules. Hint: It could be a lot.
- Will you be able to step out of the way at times? Related to 2., but different. You may be on the outside while Father and Mom hash it out.
- Do you have agreed upon boundaries and know your role in the relationship? Note to Younger self: Don’t just have a 5 minute discussion on this. This will define your married life until you die, your wife dies, the kid dies or the marriage dies.
- How much control of your life are you willing to surrender? This is also a good question for my younger self contemplating marriage, in general.
Bonus Question For The Aspiring Step Parent.
- Can you put your stepchild’s emotional needs ahead of your own need for attention – I admit this is the question of an emotionally unprepared and unaware male. This is where I struggled the most. The answer to this question requires some serious soul searching, as I discovered. If you’re not ready to be entirely unselfish and non-self centered, rethink your plan or plan to be very unhappy in your marriage. I’m saying this now out of unselfishness to the reader. There is nothing that will save you if you don’t heed these words and have some serious introspection time with yourself. I guarantee when the child has needs, yours are going to have to wait. That’s your new life.
My Shortcomings as a Step Parent If I’m being Honest
At 52 years of age, I now look back and admit my deficiencies as a stepdad. No, its not an apology for how I was or how I behaved. Really, its an acknowledgment of the step parenting challenges that can, and ultimately did destroy my marriage. I wouldn’t be inclined to change, had I to do the step dad thing all over again. Except for one small, critical point — I’ll get to that in a bit.
You should know, I was a stepdad for nearly 15 years. So, It sure sounds like I made it through, doesn’t it. Well no, I didn’t. The reality of step parenting for me was that it got harder in the later years, as my step daughter gained more freedom and autonomy. Here’s a few of the key points I learned throughout the process of step parenting;
- I made a great playmate when my stepdaughter was young. Later, I wasn’t much fun and not even funny as she got older. Where I went wrong was in being too much of a climbing thing and not enough of a parent.
Parents Aren’t Perfect
- Mom made mistakes and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. It became increasingly more difficult to stand by and watch my wife make unilateral decisions about her daughter, my stepdaughter, when those mechanisms were mere enabling devices. Had I been able to eat humble pie and just enjoy the fireworks, life may have been rosy, but no. I couldn’t do that.
- I was selfish with my own time. As things became more difficult, I found hobbies that would keep me away from home. At the time, I thought they were just hobbies. Now, I look back and recognize I was trying to escape and avoid painful conflict. In hindsight, perhaps I should have not done that. I should have stayed a homebody, a family man and worked to improve things. As I said before, I wouldn’t change it, but recognize I came up short due to not being there to nurture the relationship(s).
- Children become smarter than their parents when they start driving a car. I don’t know if its because of the car, the hormones or discovery of self, but kids grow into this stage of needing independence, even though they really are pretty helpless. This by itself, wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was that my wife enabled her daughter to misbehave, at the expense of having tire tread all over my face, figuratively speaking. I was deficient in that I couldn’t quiet myself in the face of poor discipline. You know, It’s really tough to forget about being King of your own Castle. Not surprisingly, It was impossible for me to do, but that’s what I needed to do to survive.
True Feelings Can Only Be Supressed So Long
- Resent comes for me. I’m not sure what the lesson is here, but I had no control. I think there is or was an expectation that when kids go to college, life will be easier. In my case, that expectation came with disappointment and another dose of reality – My wife was still attached to here daughter, or was it the other way around. I felt then and feel now as I write this, that I could do nothing to help. Hell, I didn’t want to help, I just wanted the daughter to be responsible and her mom to stop bailing her daughter out emotionally every time something upset her. That was a daily thing.
my purpose isn’t to go into the daily strife itself or find abundant faults in my exwife or stepdaughter. That was done, years ago. You just need enough background to make sense out of my experience as a stepdad and husband. I praise my ex-wife for being a very good wife and a loving mother. Her daughter was and probably still is a beautiful child, just not without issues. But, who am I to point fingers. I was the one who “walked away”, filed for divorce and couldn’t stay the course.
The single regret I have in all of this, is that I quit. Indeed, I did. Undeniably, the light at the end of the tunnel was perhaps 2 years away, 3 tops. Yet, I couldn’t finish, just plainly and simply didn’t persevere. Had I pulled up my big boy pants and stayed the course, I wouldn’t have been compelled to write this. My wife loved me deeply and the pain I caused is irrevocable. For that, I am sorry. I was a quitter. It’s Cliché to say, no regrets. People do it more often than they admit they would change something. Now, I’m going to fall short of saying I would reverse this, if only for the reason that I now love my life, love my girl friend and am looking to the future.
Summary – Step Parenting Challenges Can Destroy a Marriage
Parenting is next to impossible, so what does that make step parenting? Impossible? I don’t think so. my final judgment on myself is that I was not a terrible step parent, contrary to everything I wrote above. I simply was not what I could have been, had I had my mind right to face the challenges. The sad part is that I am no longer in any way part of my former stepdaughter’s life, having helped raise her from a very young age. I am sure she has lasting scars, knowing that I essentially abandoned her. I’m not proud of that.
It’s been eight years since my divorce. I have a wonderful life and seldom do I visit this topic. I’ve never written about it. Perhaps this is my way of forgiving myself. I learned, less than a year ago that my former step daughter has taken up permanent residency in Poland, where she is a teacher and apparently adjusted. I don’t know anything else about her. She must be about 27 years old now.
You should realize that being a step parent can be beautiful. I truly believe that. I was correct to believe that parenting for me was just never intended. Not everyone should be a parent. It’s a personal choice that everybody needs to figure out for themselves after carefully considering the consequences and benefits.
If you are wondering if being a step parent is right for you, ask yourself;
Checklist for Future Step Parents
- Am I okay not being in charge all the time
- Can I be a good parent knowing that this isn’t my flesh and blood
- In terms of my giving, am I ready to be totally unselfish in my relationship
- Do I know what my role will be in raising the child
- Is it okay that my feelings will come after the needs of the mother to care for her child.