Many of us single or divorced mothers will one day decide to give love another shot. The act of opening our heart again after it has been broken is simultaneously terrifying and brave as hell! It can be challenging enough to trust a new person with our own destiny, but quite another prospect to expose our children to someone new.
We all deserve companionship, adventure, and romance, and motherhood does not disqualify us from these things! Motherhood, however, gives us reason to pause and consider more deeply who we bring into our (and our children’s) lives. When it’s just us, we may think “well, if it doesn’t work out, no big deal!”; but, it becomes much more complicated when we start allowing our kids to form relationships with others, and it’s not as easy to just date for fun when we have a little audience for everything we do.
So, when the right guy finally comes around and we’re certain he’s the right one for us, how do we also know that he’s the right man for our children?
Many, including myself, have a stepdad to thank for playing an integral role in their life! My own stepdad was the #1 man in my life during my childhood. He was the one to teach me how to ride a bike. He exercised the patience of a saint to help me with my math homework. He cheered me on through every concert or recital, lit up every holiday with his laughter, and gave me away on my wedding day. My “Dad” (as I always called him) set the bar very high for me for what a stepdad should be; but, at the same time, he proved to me that family is so much more than blood!
My stepdad passed away last year, but I still consider myself blessed to share my life with another top-notch stepdad: my husband! My stepdad made me believe that a heart is big enough to expand as far as it needs to so that love can be shared with many people, not just the family we’re born with. I knew that anyone new to enter my life after divorce would not only have to be good enough for me, but good enough for my children! I am pleased that my kids have another dedicated member of their family who is always there for them and truly cares about their wellbeing.
Who is he? All of us need to be wary of who we get close to. It’s a crazy world, and let’s face it: even notorious serial killer Ted Bundy filled the role of a stepfather for a while! While it may not be practical to run a background check or credit report for every potential mate, it is essential to know- really know- who is coming into our home and allowed around our family. Too many statistics and news headlines have formed around parents who were too trusting too soon. There’s simply nothing wrong with being selective and taking a reasonable amount of time before taking major steps!
Is he already a dad? Many of us who date or re-marry following previous relationships will discover that almost all potential partners also have relationship history. If he is already a father, you will have a good opportunity to observe his parenting skills and his behavior with children. Even if he shares custody of his children, you should be able to determine how involved of a parent he attempts to be, assess what his relationship is like with his kids (and their mom), and gather other clues about his willingness to make kids a part of his life.
I knew that anyone new to enter my life after divorce would not only have to be good enough for me, but good enough for my children.
Watching the way my husband interacted and cared for his children gave he a lot of reassurance about introducing him to my own kids. He showed me that he was dedicated to providing his sons and daughter with a loving and stable home, he was very involved in their activities, and not afraid to dive in deep in all aspects of parenting. Had he presented as self-involved, inattentive to their needs, or as a “deadbeat”, I could certainly never expect for him to invest himself in my children’s lives!
Does he understand it’s a package deal? Step parenting is not a role to carelessly jump into, so it’s very important to make sure that he comprehends he is not just gaining a life partner, but also children! When my husband and I tied the knot, we also incorporated our dual commitment to one another’s children into our ceremony. It wasn’t as simple as he and I joining forces, because his four children were as much a part of him as my two kids were of me. Becoming a step parent requires a willingness to welcome our partner’s family as part of our own, just as we hope that they will accept ours.
Raising kids, especially step kids, can be a challenging task; so, this is a tall order to ask our mate to fill! Children are not always ready or willing to accept new parental figures into their lives, and a step family includes extra complications including co-parenting with exes, recovering from the grief of one’s family breaking apart, and establishing a new way of living with new people. Is he up to the task of taking all this on, and does he understand what he’s potentially in for?
Is he (and are you) clear on the expectations? In some cases (such as my own as a child), the child’s father is absent or minimally involved, while other times he remains a very active parent after divorce. Depending on the circumstances (and relationships and attitudes between everyone), the window may be more or less closed to allow a stepdad’s participation.
Mom and Dad are always number one, as long as they choose and are available to fill those roles. So, a stepdad’s role is often a supporting one. Mom and Dad should still be given the primary rights and responsibilities of making important decisions, providing discipline, and bearing the majority of the weight of parenting tasks. A child is never harmed by having more people in their life who care about them, love them, and offer support! Just make sure everyone’s on the same page about what each person’s role is and what is and is not approved of. Is your man on board with that?
Is he (and are you) in it to win it? No one knows what the future holds, but kids need and deserve consistency and stability, as much as we can give it to them. Children who have experienced the break-up of their parents have already endured more than their fair share of stress and sadness. If we bring someone new into their life, especially when we label them as a “parent” of some sort, it’s important to deliver on permanence!
“Stepdad” is an important title to bestow on a partner because they have a unique opportunity to influence and impact the lives of the children they share. Be careful of awarding this role to anyone who’s not ready to sign on for the long-term. Does he have it in him to work through problems together, love unconditionally, and put in the effort to keep your relationship strong and healthy?
If love is offering a second chance, it may become a family affair! A stepdad can be a wonderful addition for both mom and children! As with any important life decision, it’s important to take time to get to know who he is completely enough to know if he’s not only ready for the job, but the right person to do it! Step parenting is a lifetime commitment not without priceless moments and unique trials. With proper planning and a dedication, a stepdad can not only be the life partner we’ve always deserved, but also a gift to our children.
Is he stepdad material?
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