So, you are on your first date out with someone new. So far, no one has really held your interest long enough for you to commit to a serious relationship. Yet and still, you convince yourself to keep an open mind about tonight’s date plans anyway. As conversation flows throughout the night between you and your date, it hits you! You realize that you
Okay, you’re REALLY feeling him/her. In fact, the chemistry is so perfect that you dread the mere thought of the date coming to an end. You never believed in love at first sight -- until now that is. Heck, you never even thought it was possible to hold a conversation with someone else so effortlessly.
Would you look at that? You two even have common likes and share similar aspirations. You say to yourself, “this is the one.” As soon as you fix your mouth to ask for another opportunity to hang out again your date drops the” P bomb on you. That’s it. Your date is more than the woman/man of your dreams.
Your date is also a parent.
Parent? Hold up! You weren’t ready for that news at all. How are you equipped to date someone with a child when you have no parenting experience yourself? The most exposure you’ve had with kids lately is "liking" a picture of a friend's newborn baby on Facebook. Are you really ready to take on dating someone with a child? Wouldn’t you have to “play” mom or dad? What would your responsibility even be -- do you feed “it”, do you pat “it”, or do you take “it” outside to play? The answer is no and that “it” is a human being just like you.
Relax. You are not alone. Men and women alike find themselves in similar situations every day. This blog post is for you and every other person apprehensive about dating someone with a child. You’re not the first person to fear the idea of becoming a step-parent and you most certainly won’t be the last. Try tackling this particular style of parenting with some of help of 5 SimplyMei tips:
1. Understand The Dynamic: If you decide to further pursue a relationship with someone who is a parent, make sure that you understand the biological parent’s position in the child’s life. Is the other parent active in or absent from the child’s life? Understanding this relationship dynamic is essential.
If active, be open to conversation with the other parent. Nothing is wrong with additional love from a step-parent but there may rules and boundaries already put in place (by the other parent) that you need to respect since you will now be present. Instead of causing conflict, understand that the other parent still has a say so in how their child is being raised even if they are no longer with the child’s mom or dad (your partner). This step-parenting role will require understanding, maturity, and positive communication.
If absent, understand that you are entering into a situation where the child lacks love from their mom or dad. You may very well be the only “mom” or “dad” that kid ends up knowing which makes your role even more critical. Your partner may be used to taking care of that child’s needs all on his/her own. Not only will you be required to gain the trust of the child in this role but you will need use that trust to build a genuine relationship. (side note: Also, understand that your partner may need help but may not reach out because he/she is used to doing it all alone. Be patient with your partner and remind him/her that though you are new to the situation, you are willing and committed to learning and sharing responsibility.)
2. Think Before You Accept: After you have understood the dynamics, it is now time to decide if you are truly ready to date someone with a child. Bear in mind that no one will consider you a horrible person if you respectfully express that you are not ready for what all the step-parenting role entails – at the beginning. However, if you do accept you must understand that you are not making a “one-day commitment.” Once a child attaches to you, it is hard on all parties involved if you just up and decide “it’s too much” one day later down the road.
Even if you and your partner do split up unexpectedly, a true step-parent would still strive to keep an intact relationship with the child as best as he/she could. Zero effort to keep an intact relationship with the child could lead the child to feelings of betrayal, abandonment, and resentment.
3. Build A Relationship First: If you were walking down the street and a complete stranger came up to you and demanded that you take his trash out, what would you do? You would probably think, “Who are you to require me to do anything you ask when I don’t even know you?” You might even chuckle.
Kids are no different.
We are humans. We all think that we have the right answers to everything. I hate to be a buzz kill, but you (Yes, you) are not infallible. PSA: Your way is not always the “correct way.” Before you try to assert your authority with a child, get to know him or her. Kids are more receptive to changes when they feel comfortable and have gained a sense of trust with someone. Furthermore, kids respond differently to different approaches. Find what works best for your new family unit.
4. Be Conscientious: This is a big one. Naturally, there will be times when you and your partner have disagreements. It is a normal part of relationships. However, this can be very tricky for a step-parent.
Try your best to keep arguments behind closed doors. Be aware that the child is always observing and/or listening. Children can’t always comprehend that adults will inevitably run into conflict. Instead, they just view the step-parent as being seemingly threatening or disrespectful to their mom or dad. This misperception could create a sense of resentment or animosity toward you.
Let kids be kids. Leave the grown folk mess separate.
5. Prepare For Backlash: Lastly, brace yourself for the “you ain’t my mom/dad’s.” Try not to let this upset you too much. Don’t involve yourself in an argument with a child and don’t fuel a power struggle. Remind yourself of who the adult is in the situation.
It is okay to say, “yes, you are right. I am not your parent biologically. However, I love you no different and will always make sure I’m doing the best I can for you as a parent.” This approach is more reassuring and less argumentative.
Coming from a person that grew up living with a single mom, I’ve witnessed some styles of step-parenting firsthand -- the good and the “not so fond of”. I don’t bash my mom for a second just because she chose to date. I figured just because things didn’t work out with her and my biological father didn’t mean that my momma couldn’t have a life too.
Though she didn’t bring every Tom and Harry around her children, as her child I did meet a few of her “potentials”. Do I bash her for meeting more than one guy? Absolutely not. It wasn’t as if she brought her guy friends around on the first date. The ones she saw true potential in were the ones that were fortunate enough to meet her children. She even tried her hand at marriage. Love is trial and error sometimes. You can’t always foresee or prevent a break-up.
Reality is, as a child I could sense when someone just wasn’t right -- but what do kids know? Unbeknownst to many adults, kids often know more than what you think because they are observant. Seriously, I could see right through the guy that thought his short “hello’s” and “goodbye’s” sufficed for a relationship with me just to get to my mom. He had no intentions on getting to know me genuinely. I resented the guy that tried to come in and lay down “his law” (style of parenting) without knowing “anything about anything”. I pity the fool that thought I was too naïve to comprehend that his “friend” he was speaking to on the phone was really his mistress -- needless to say he’s not around anymore.
Wrapping Up With Mei
Being a parent is a tough job. You show me a perfect parent and I’ll show you the cow that really jumped over the moon.
No matter how tough it is, when you bring a child into the world that child becomes YOUR responsibility. The unique aspect about step-parents is that step-parents CHOOSE the responsibility of raising a child. A step-parent makes the voluntary CHOICE to get to know a child and love that child as their own. In no way is a person obligated to be a step-parent. However, a step-parent’s qualities of selflessness, understanding, patience, and openness make them one of the most loving individuals on the planet.
Being a step-parent isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. It would do the biological parent a favor if a person expressed that they just weren’t ready for the role beforehand instead of being introduced to their child then walking out. For those that are step-parents keep being amazing for your partners. And your children.
..But what do I know? I’m just a blogger that writes down her opinions. Until next time with #SimplyMei…
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