Snapshot: What being a step-parent means

by singlemomseeking on December 16, 2010

I first “met” Christina, aka “Solo Mother,” via her blog about… you guessed it: parenting her son solo. We became fast email friends and shared some heart-wrenching dating disasters with each other through the years. Well, big congrats to Christina, who got married on December 12!

Here she is, lovely bride-to-be, just before her wedding — to Jim, single dad of a daughter — whom she met online when she declared in her profile “Calling all single dads!”

But Christina and Jim didn’t start off in the most ideal place. Sure, their first date took them to Rocky Horror, during which “I was one of perhaps two people in the audience who actually knew what to holler back at the screen.”

But Christina soon realized that Jim wasn’t ready for a deep, close relationship. “His divorce had left a nasty wound that hadn’t even begun to scab over, a year after it was through,” she says. “He broke up with me about six months after we’d begun dating.”

They continued to see each other off and on, until Christina finally decided “I had to let him go.”

“After my own marriage had broken up, I swore I’d never take on someone I thought I could ‘fix’,” she says. “And this guy needed some fixin’ up — only I was smart enough to know he’d have to do the work, not me….And I went on my way. Next!”

“But he stayed in touch. When I wanted to start a new project, he was there, with helpful advice. When I was down on myself, he was still my supporter, my coach, my bright mirror. When something broke, he fixed it. I could count on him. His word was gold. His presence was a promise. He was my friend.”

You can guess what happened next: Christina kept her distance as they remained friends, but one night she had a health scare and took herself to the emergency room. Jim happened to call Christina when she was on her way to the hospital.

“He stayed at my side, making sure I was warm, that my family was comforted, that my doctors didn’t forget about me. If you’ve ever had an acute attack of vertigo, you know how frightening it can be. He insisted on bringing me to his home that night, and took such good care of me I was in tears… I knew, that night, that here was the soul who was my rock, the place to hang my future, the anchor for my bruised and battered dreams. And I think I am all of that for him, as well.”

After meeting three years ago, Christina and Jim officially blended their family this month.

Christina has been raising her son — whom she calls “the King of Everything, or KoE — alone since early on. His father lives abroad and their relationship is a Skyping one.

“The KoE has a very healthy, positive relationship with his future step-dad,” she says. “KoE still isn’t sure what to call Jim — he says he’d like to call him dad, but right now it feels weird. Who knows what my step-daughter will call me!  We talk a lot about the fact that it’s okay to love your first dad and love this new father-figure in his life. It’s not disloyal.”

Christina and Jim have a vision of being a “whole family,” which she explains as: “I am firm in my desire to co-parent KoE with Jim. Bottom line is, I don’t know how someone could expect their spouse to love their kid and not have some responsibility in raising him or her.”

“Jim and I are very similar when it comes to parenting philosophies. He tempers my extremes. He makes me a better parent. I’m looking forward to years and years of that. He is looking forward to helping KoE grow and thrive, and has a deep affection for my quirky, kooky kid.  We’ll all four of us move into our new relationship and roles gradually.”

Your turn:

If you have blended your family, do you and your new spouse have a similar vision of what it means to be a step-parent? How would you define it?

If you’re a step-parent, how would you describe your role in the family?

If you’re dating as a single parent right now, do you ever imagine what role a step-parent might take in your lives?

~~~

Congrats to the Caseable winner!… Jennifer B!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

T December 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

Again with the perfect timing of these posts!

As we’re slowly blending our families (and we’re just dating), we are tackling each challenge head on.

I read an article yesterday that said something along the lines of give up your idea of your first marriage/family… this one will be different. True, my children already have a father but now they have another male role model/father figure in their life. They have to learn to respect him and listen to him. He will not discipline as I do, however, he does ask for certain things and I think my girls should respect that. The same for his two boys. We’re both working on getting our children to show respect. Period. For BOTH of us.

Slowly but surely… we’ll get there.

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Linsey December 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I was 2 when my parents divorced, 4 when my mom started dating Paul, 7 when my biological dad decided to not be a part of our lives (I have an older brother), and 8 when my mom married Paul… who then became my stepdad.

For a long time he was simply,Paul. His first name. We grew closer through my teenage years and he eventually became “Papa”. I am 25 now and he LOVES being my Papa (and I love him as that, too)!

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Katherine SOLO dot MOM December 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I like T’s comments here. I have been dating my future husband (there I said it) for almost two years and we are working through the process, walking the journey of understanding how each other deals with his own or my own children. (We each have two.) He talks to me about things he observes in the way I interact (especially with my son) and gives me feedback which is helpful not critical. I try to do the same for him. One tip I offer to couples in this stage of blending their families is be patient, time is your friend.

Communication with the children is also crucial: Let them express their thoughts about the developing family. At least that is what we are trying to do. His boys are not as verbal as my kiddos, but we are taking it one day at a time.
.-= Katherine SOLO dot MOM´s last blog ..Snowflakes =-.

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How Does She Do It Mom December 16, 2010 at 6:25 pm

This is a topic that has come up often in my house in the past year. My fiancee, who has no children of his own inherited my two kids as step-kids when he moved in and we got engaged.

We have talked many nights on what the role of a step parent should be…I was very declarative with him when we were discussing getting engaged…”No man will walk into my life forever unless he is willing to love my kids as his own”. He did not for a moments pause consider that an issue. He walked through the door the very first time prepared to assume the role as caregiver, nurturer, authoritarian, educator….basically a parent.

He does a kick ass job at being a step-dad…beats out most bio-dads I know to be honest….and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. If a person is entering into a family with kids I cannot see how they could possibly not assume all those roles….
.-= How Does She Do It Mom´s last blog ..Will 2011 Be Lucky =-.

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buterflymom December 18, 2010 at 5:53 pm

So happy for Christine. I used to love reading her blog. Happy for you too Rachel.

It feels like everyone is getting married. I’m still here single after almost 11 years. My girl is almost grown and going to college next year.

It seems like my time should be coming but I still wonder if it’s possible…………………..

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Momma Sunshine December 20, 2010 at 3:38 am

I realized a long time ago that my girls don’t need another dad. They have a great one now, even if I’m not married to him. My man’s role in their lives is to be their friend, another positive adult role model in their lives, and to support me when I’m making parenting decisions. Same goes for my role in the lives of his children.
.-= Momma Sunshine´s last blog ..Quote of the Weekend =-.

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BlueBella December 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Great topic! I mirror How Does She Do It Mom’s comments.

My husband did not have kids of his own and my 3 are very young, so when we were dating I made it very clear that dating me means taking on the whole package – kids and all. And, since the kids’ fathers aren’t involved at all, marrying me meant becoming a full time, all inclusive, 100% father.

At first MM wasn’t quite ready for that, but after some time and space he was ready to commit to us completely. He took the time to watch me parent the kids before stepping up and taking part in parenting. He adopted my style with them and gradually took over his share of parenting and cargiving opportunities. He asked questions and really listened when I explained why I did things a certain way. He gave me feedback whenever I questioned my own parenting decisions. He allowed me the opportunity to step back from being 100% Mom at my own pace and jumped in whenever we were both ready for him to assume the responsibility.
Most of all we communicated with each other. We talked about our philosophies on parenting, our experiences with our own parents, and our vision for the future of our family as co-parents. This has lead to a trusting environment where we’re comfortable with each other as parents and the kids are comfortable as well with having a father in their lives.
I think the other thing we have done that has led to our success is to always be on the same ‘team’ as parents. We back each other up and don’t let the kids play us off each other. And believe me, they try! But we make sure we are in constant communication or are listening to what is happening with the other so we know how to react consistantly.
Every day I’m amazed at how our family has grown together, and while MM won’t ever be the childrens’ bio father, he’s assumed that role and responsibility in a way that he is not their step-dad in my mind, he is truly their father.
.-= BlueBella´s last blog ..The Great Shoe Eradication of 2010 =-.

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Coachdad December 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Just wanted to wish you and your family a great holiday season. Hope all is well.

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Solomother December 27, 2010 at 10:47 am

I loved reading everyone’s comments here. Thank you for weighing in with your insights!
It’s been two weeks since the wedding and I’m constantly amazed at how hard–and how right!–blending this family can be. I keep waiting for my new marriage to react to situations the same way my old one did, and am always happily surprised to find I’m a member of a dedicated, committed team whose winning goal is to create a healthy, harmonious home. Some day, I’ll stop waiting for the other shoe to drop!
It’s not easy to blend families. We each make sacrifices but not with the expectation of giving something up… rather, of letting go of habits and ideas that are not healthy for our new family.

And keeping expectations low-key (as opposed to low!) has helped us realize how good this marriage is.

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Kelly February 3, 2014 at 7:18 pm

I guess I have a different perspective because I don’t have kids myself. I’m married to a man with two. If I tried to assume a “mother” role with them it would not go well. Nor am I their “friend.” I fall somewhere in the middle, and I don’t pretend to take on the responsibility of their parents. If you place unreasonable expectations on your spouse for what they “should” do as far as raising your children, it will be difficult for them. Maybe they won’t love your children right away. Maybe they won’t know how to handle them. Maybe your children will hate your spouse. It takes time to build relationships – you can’t be false or force them. Allow for them to grow organically.

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