A single friend said to me the other day that she would be lucky if she finds a guy her age without any children. Which got me thinking about the dynamics of being in a relationship with someone that has children already. I got to thinking about the rules of engagement with both the child and the child’s mom/dad.
I always say that it takes a certain level of maturity to co-parent effectively. I would bet it takes an even higher level of maturity to accept another woman/man into the life of your child. I would also feel slightly threatened if my child’s father had to marry someone else. In my head, I would automatically start thinking that I am getting replaced. This would be a woman that would permanently be in my child’s life. What if my child starts calling her mom? What if they like her more than they like me?
I then started engaging with people that have been or are currently stepparents, and these are the general frustrations that exist in such relationships:
I struggle to love them the way I do my biological kids
I had a slight jaw drop at this one. I started thinking about all the parents that have adopted children, and still manage to love them unconditionally like they would their biological children.
“There is something beautiful that takes place during the pregnancy and birthing process. The kind of bond a mother and father creates with the child is incomparable. We fall deeply in love with our children and we spend all of our days with them and we get to know them very well. We know what they need before they even say it. We know what makes them tick. We understand each other more than I could understand my partner’s children. I had to stop trying too hard to feel for them what I feel for my biological kids which I have with their father. I love them to death, but I will always love my biological kids differently”
I had to stop trying too hard to get them to like me
“I became so obsessed with being liked by his daughter, that I was not investing enough time into my relationship. I would bring his daughter presents as much as I could. I’ve never had kids of my own and thought it was a great idea to try to get this one to open up to me. She had an amazing relationship with her mother. My paranoia was getting to me because I started wondering what her mom was telling her about me in my absence. Maybe she keeps reminding her that I am not her mother. So I always tried making up for it with continously competing for her attention. It was annoying because instead of earning her respect, I yearned for her attention. In the process, I lost both. So, don’t try too hard. Kids are both smart and manipulative. They will even start taking advantage of you at the realisation that you are buying their affection and trust”
Before you marry your partner, get to know their children better
“My partner’s children were a permanent part of his life, and would subsequently be a permanent part of mine should we get married. He had two from his previous marriage. I then committed not only to know my partner well but his children too. Whenever he spent time with them, I would also ask them if it was okay for me to join. Sometimes they would just want to spend time with their father, and sometimes I would be included. This was always a special time for them and their father, but also an enlightening experience for me. I got to learn what type of children they are. They in turn also got to know and understand who I am. It was easier after we got married. The wedding didn’t come as a shock to them because we already knew and liked each other very much.
Sometimes you are asked to parent when it is convenient for the biological parents
“The biological parents always sideline the stepparents when making certain decisions about their child, which is okay. The frustrating part is when the stepparent is roped in when things go badly. Only then is my contribution and assistance required. It is very frustrating to be the child’s parent when it suits both parents. Its either you’re in or you’re not.
Disciplining a stepchild is a big challenge
“When do you step in and when do you stand on the sidelines when it comes to disciplining a step child? At the end of the day, the child still has both his/her parents and you never want to feel like you are overstepping”. This is a difficult one because the parents have their methods of disciplining their children and you never want to feel like you are derailing their efforts by stepping in.
In conclusion, it seems to be quite a challenge for some parents, but not all. Like every other thing in life, we live and we learn. We don’t always get things right the first time. With enough practice, persistence, and love we can learn to be loving stepparents.
Karabo Motsiri is a first-time mom, over-sharer, lover of life, chronic napper and married to her best friend. She loves a good party because the dance floor is her happy place. She enjoys good food, good conversations, laughs a little too hard, and cries during every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. She started her blogging journey because she wanted to share all the ups and downs of being a young modern mama in South Africa. Her blog Black Mom Chronicles has been featured on Ayana Magazine & SA Mom Blog. She has enjoyed airtime on Power FM and frequently writes for the parenting section of Saturday Citizen. She also works with MamaMagic on their Product Awards, Milestones Magazine, Heart to Heart blog, and the Baby Expo, which is South Africa’s biggest parenting expo.