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June 23, 2022

Life of a stepdad

 

 

Life of a Stepdad

 

Being a stepdad for 20 years was both rewarding and challenging. If you become a stepdad and think it’s going to be a breeze, then think again. I would describe it as a rollercoaster ride. It can be amazing and exciting but also unbelievably stressful and can be scary. It can be a battlefield with land mines in every direction you turn as you walk on very unfamiliar territory. No one can prepare you for being a stepdad. If you meet your future wife and have children together, you grow into your parental role together as mum and dad. You grow your family together and with this comes making your own memories and experiences within your biological family. Coming into a blended family is a whole new ball game. Your stepchildren and your partner already have a history together. They talk about memories and people they have met. This is completely normal, but it can make you feel like an outsider. Given time you will create your own memories within this new family dynamic.

 

FAMILYLIFE gives a wonderful example of explaining this:

Did you ever play the game Lock Out on your school playground? The game begins when kids form a circle by interlocking their arms. Then one person on the outside attempts to infiltrate the circle anyway he can. But the more the outsider attempts to push, poke, or pry his way in, the more the circle bands together to keep him out.

 

This can be how some step parents feel when they enter this new family dynamic. They try hard to get in the middle, sometimes to hard which can be counterproductive. The biological family already has these interlocking bonds which have been established over the years of family bonding. I remember as a stepdad I was an ‘outsider’ but I wanted to be an ‘insider’ but how would I achieve that? This is where many step parents make the same mistakes that I did. I wanted to be to the coolest, funniest and kindest stepdad in the world. Surely this would make my stepchildren love me and want to be around me all the time. Wrong!! So, then I thought my next step would be buying presents, sweets or even money to win them over. I was the most amazing stepdad for a few minutes whilst giving these gifts and then it kind of went back to what it was before. This is when I started to realise that this was going to be a long-term thing. This wasn’t going to happen overnight or in a few weeks.

I needed to be patient and not so forceful. Don’t try to make things happen, watch and see how relationships can naturally grow with time. It takes time to build trust with stepchildren. The more you push the more resistant the stepchildren become.

 

What is my role?

Great question, what is my new role I have taken on as a stepdad? I’m the stepdad and I should take charge and fix everything? This was my biggest mistake when I became a stepdad. I had good intentions to be the man of of the household. It’s a male role and that’s what I am so that is my role. These roles are based on either what we imagine the father role to be or what we experienced when we were growing up. Where did this vision come from? Our dads? What we see on tv? Is it our masculinity that tells us to fix and protect our family unit? I remember watching Tarzan as a child and he fixed everything. He built the house in the trees, protected Jane from wild animals and any other enemies, he was the hero and the problem solver. Is this where my role as a stepdad was generated from?

 

 A few tips I would like to give to any stepdad reading this:

 

  1. Don’t expect to be the disciplinarian of the family.
  2. Be careful that you don’t find yourself resented for the very role

        that you thought you was meant to fill.

  1. Don’t take it personally if your stepchildren act out.

        Some stepchildren live in a fantasy that their parents will get back

        together so will not want to accept you as part of the family. 

  1. Try not to expect that your stepchildren will like or appreciate

        everything you do for them.

        You might have to bite your tongue or walk away when you are

        disrespected. Discuss what happened with your partner so you

        agree together what is the best way to deal with this disrespect.

  1. Take things slowly and be patient.

        It can take 4-7 years to create a fully functional blended family. Give     

        yourself permission to take things slowly.    

  1. Remember to allow yourself to make mistakes and accept that you

        will always be learning.

        Make time for you and your wellbeing.

 

To Discipline or not to Discipline?

 

Another difficult question every stepdad asks himself. Do I discipline my stepchildren, am I allowed to discipline my stepchildren? what will my partner say if I do?

My advice is talk to your partner and see where the boundaries are. Your partner may not want you involved with the discipline side of the family. If you are bringing your own children into the blended family then it is crucial that you and your partner sit down and be very clear on how you decide about house rules and boundaries for both sets of children. It will cause awful tension and maybe a divide in the family if everyone isn’t treated on the same level. To be on the same page as your partner is so vital to prevent any unfairness and so you and your partner can support each other in enforcing what you have both agreed.

One of the most important things I learnt as a stepdad and it took me a few years to learn this, was to support my partner and her decisions. If I had any questions or disagreements, then I would discuss them in private away from the children. My situation was a little different as I had no children of my own. When I first joined my stepfamily, I wanted to fix everything and discipline everyone. I was the male that would take control and deal with everything. Now this does work in certain situations as sometimes it is what’s needed to settle the boat. But most cases when you are moving in with your partner and their children you should leave the discipline to the biological parent. I can assure you that it is easier said than done because us fellas like to take command and take control. Without a strong and stable relationship with your partner, there is no family. Your relationship is the foundations of the whole family. It is harder to take care of the relationship in a blended family because you don’t have the time to adjust as a couple like in most first relationships.

 

My advice to you - Support your partner

 

                                - Discuss any issues away from the children

                                - Leave the discipline of the children to the biological

                                   parent.

                                - Be a patient and caring presence

                                - Don’t try to compensate for the absent biological

                                   father.

 

Remember that you parent together and work as a team. Communication between you and your partner is vital to blending a family together and checking in with each other keeps you both working from the same page. Enjoy being a stepdad but look after yourself and keep talking and sharing your feelings.

 

                      

                               

 

 

 

 

 

        

 

                                         

 

 

 

 

       

      

       

      

 

     

                                       What is my Role?

Great question, what is my new role I have taken on as a stepdad? I’m the stepdad and I should take charge and fix everything? This was my biggest mistake when I became a stepdad. I had good intentions to be the man of of the household. It’s a male role and that’s what I am so that is my role. These roles are based on either what we imagine the father role to be or what we experienced when we were growing up. Where did this vision come from? Our dads? What we see on tv? Is it our masculinity that tells us to fix and protect our family unit? I remember watching Tarzan as a child and he fixed everything. He built the house in the trees, protected Jane from wild animals and any other enemies, he was the hero and the problem solver. Is this where my role as a stepdad was generated from?

 

 A few tips I would like to give to any stepdad reading this:

 

  1. Don’t expect to be the disciplinarian of the family.
  2. Be careful that you don’t find yourself resented for the very role

        that you thought you was meant to fill.

  1. Don’t take it personally if your stepchildren act out.

        Some stepchildren live in a fantasy that their parents will get back

        together so will not want to accept you as part of the family. 

  1. Try not to expect that your stepchildren will like or appreciate

        everything you do for them.

        You might have to bite your tongue or walk away when you are

        disrespected. Discuss what happened with your partner so you

        agree together what is the best way to deal with this disrespect.

  1. Take things slowly and be patient.

        It can take 4-7 years to create a fully functional blended family. Give     

        yourself permission to take things slowly.    

  1. Remember to allow yourself to make mistakes and accept that you

        will always be learning.

        Make time for you and your wellbeing.

 

              To Discipline or not to Discipline.

 

Another difficult question every stepdad asks himself. Do I discipline my stepchildren, am I allowed to discipline my stepchildren? what will my partner say if I do?

My advice is talk to your partner and see where the boundaries are. Your partner may not want you involved with the discipline side of the family. If you are bringing your own children into the blended family then it is crucial that you and your partner sit down and be very clear on how you decide about house rules and boundaries for both sets of children. It will cause awful tension and maybe a divide in the family if everyone isn’t treated on the same level. To be on the same page as your partner is so vital to prevent any unfairness and so you and your partner can support each other in enforcing what you have both agreed.

One of the most important things I learnt as a stepdad and it took me a few years to learn this, was to support my partner and her decisions. If I had any questions or disagreements, then I would discuss them in private away from the children. My situation was a little different as I had no children of my own. When I first joined my stepfamily, I wanted to fix everything and discipline everyone. I was the male that would take control and deal with everything. Now this does work in certain situations as sometimes it is what’s needed to settle the boat. But most cases when you are moving in with your partner and their children you should leave the discipline to the biological parent. I can assure you that it is easier said than done because us fellas like to take command and take control. Without a strong and stable relationship with your partner, there is no family. Your relationship is the foundations of the whole family. It is harder to take care of the relationship in a blended family because you don’t have the time to adjust as a couple like in most first relationships.

 

My advice to you - Support your partner

 

                                - Discuss any issues away from the children

                                - Leave the discipline of the children to the biological

                                   parent.

                                - Be a patient and caring presence

                                - Don’t try to compensate for the absent biological

                                   father.

 

Remember that you parent together and work as a team. Communication between you and your partner is vital to blending a family together and checking in with each other keeps you both working from the same page. Enjoy being a stepdad but look after yourself and keep talking and sharing your feelings.