Blended families and the role of stepparents isn’t a particularly new phenomenon in the family structure. We see it in celebrity culture – the Kardashian/Jenner clan and Will Smith’s family for instance. As a society, we’ve come to welcome non-traditional family units. Majority of the time, it works out well and the parents involved raise children who go on to be productive citizens in the world.
This wasn’t my reality growing up. My relationship with my father was imperfect and strained. There were stretches of time when he wasn’t around; either by his own volition or my mother protecting us from his disappointments. The same rang true in my friends’ households and even strangers in the neighborhood. It was rare that our mothers openly dated. Either you had a dad or you didn’t.
Having such an inconsistent father was my first example of what kind of father not to be. Over time, I have shaped my own ideas about fatherhood and how I want to parent my children. In some respect my parents’ relationship and not having my dad there full time actually helped me prepare for fatherhood in ways I couldn’t comprehend until I was this age.
Once your late 20s-early 30s, being a relationship with a single mother is a serious possibility. It’s not a situation to be taken lightly because being in a position to shape a child’s life as a chosen, additional parent is an honor.
There will be moments where you’ll have to play counselor and confidant. Kids don’t tell their parents everything. Sometimes, it can wear on a relationship when a child doesn’t feel free to express themselves. As a stepparent, you can serve as a buffer – for both your child and your spouse. The other thing is when the other parent is actively involved, there may be times where the support system will have slight cracks. For example, if one of the biological parents tends to be a harsher disciplinarian, as a stepparent, you become the family’s glue. You’ll be invaluable in reinforcing a safe space.
One thing I learned in dealing with a single mom is that even when a child isn’t yours, they have a profound effect on who you become as a man. In my situation, a lot of times, I felt like the dad who’d been there from day one. My heart was softened by the pure nature of my love for her and it automatically extended to her child. It’s changed me. I now think about financial security and my health differently. I take my spiritual relationship seriously. I want to make sure I’m living to be a good role model. When you take on the role of being a stepparent, it’s not just being a dad as long as you’re married. It’s forever and children deserve that commitment from you.
Dating a single mom and ultimately creating a blended family is extremely challenging too. First of all, you have to even find the time to date. Some women have great relatives who push them to get back out there. Even with that encouragement, the early stages can present such hurdles like quality time and giving your budding relationship the level of attention it warrants. Dating a single mom forces you to learn and practice a deeper level of understanding and compassion. You have to make the most of whatever time you do have.
There’s also the chance that you’ll be forced to interact with the dreaded ex. You can only hope that the environment remains cordial. If it doesn’t, the unfortunate pitfall is that you’ve developed a bond with a child that may find out one day his/her father held negative opinions about you. Kids are very astute about these things. No matter how good your intentions are, it could leave a damaging effect on them as adults knowing that their other parent never accepted you.
The last few women that I’ve met didn’t have children. Coupled with the idea of finding someone to love again, I know that the idea of attaching myself to a kid that isn’t mine is too much. The relationship that develops between a man and his child starts before the child is even physically in this world. Being a step-parent, you don’t have that historical connection. No matter how much you love the child, it may always be different. And at this point, I don’t want to be overwhelmed by someone else’s experience of fatherhood before mine gets a chance to really start.
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