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In Love with a Single Mom but Not In Love With Her Kids

SweetClover's picture

I'm in a relationship with a wonderful man. He's hands down everything I could ask for and the feeling is mutual aside from one aspect. He is not sure if he'll ever be ready to take on the role of SD. Now to be clear, I'm not pushing for us to move in together, get married, or have kids; additionally I've explained that I simply need a supportive partner. As for the kids, they really just need a positive male role model. Someone who's going to show up; a person that will guide them, and help when they've fallen. Overall someone they can trust has their best interests at heart. I'm not looking for him to come in and cover their expenses or anything to that effect if that makes sense. I have two children and I'm divorced, their dad is not particularly involved in their lives outside of child support. My partner wants to work on changing his mindset and start getting comfortable with the idea of stepping into that role in the future, but it's got him pretty nervous despite my telling him I'm in zero rush. Do any of you have advice for how you became comfortable with stepping into the role of SD and how long it took you to feel ready? 

Elea's picture

"As for the kids, they really just need a positive male role model. Someone who's going to show up; a person that will guide them, and help when they've fallen. Overall someone they can trust has their best interests at heart."

Considering that your man isn't interested in having kids, 99% of this is unrealistic.  The above things are what a PARENT does, not a reluctant step-dad. He can be a decent man and therefore a decent role model but he isn't going to "show up, guide them," or any of that.

That doesn't necessarily mean you can't be together but probabaly the best case scenario is if you're happy together as a couple so your kids see an example of a healthy relationship between the two of you but I wouldn't be putting any parenting responsiblities or expectations on a man (or woman) that doesn't want kids. Step-parents relationship with SK's is often more like a distant aunt/uncle or a teacher or an aquaintance rather than a parent, even when the step parent enjoys children, a parent child type relationship takes time, work and may or may. not ever happen depending on personalities, history, and it sounds like maybe this isn't the case for you, but for many, the ex/bio parent's poisoning influences the child's view towards the step-parent.


ESMOD's picture

If this man is not inclined to take on a parental role with you.. then he is probably not a realistic option for a partner for you.. if you are looking for a person to replace their father in their lives.

And.. you have to understand.. that even if your EX is currently not showing as much interest in his children.. that CAN change.  If your kids are very young.. perhaps he will be more interested when they are older .. (don't need diaper changing.. can communicate.. he can do fun things with that aren't completely child centered).

I was a childless woman who never had a strong desire to be a mother.. and ended up with two SD's who were 5 and 9 when I met their dad..  I think it partially worked (they are both adults now.. 20 plus years in).. because I didn't try to step in and put my self in a parental role.  I used to joke with them.. I'm not a role model.. I'm a cautionary tale.. haha.. The reality is that I'm an independent.. well educated professional who has always made a good living that was able to support myself.. and even help my DH out over the years when he had gaps or struggles. The kids benefited from that somewhat.. though I did not feel obligated.. nor was I asked to spend money on them.. they lived in our world part time.. so they benefited from doing things with us.. some of it funded by me.  I was always ok... as long as it was my choice.. not an expectation I would spend money on his kids...

Right now, your obstacle is that your SO is not inclined to want to be a parental figure for your kids.  You want your kids to have a male father figure.. You may have to adjust your expectations.

You should look to others for that male parent/influence.  Certainly.. your SO can just live his life as a good person setting a good example.. he may even over time feel comfortable sharing and mentoring your kids.. but he may not want to do any actual "parenting."  You can also encourage your EX to spend more time with his kids.. is there a CO.. can you try to ensure that his kids see him more? Maybe over time he will show more interest.  Do you have a father.. brothers.. uncles that would help with that role?  Do your kids' father have a father that could also help?

Keep in mind that part of the risk your SO faces is if he DOES try to embrace the role.. your kids may not want it.. or their father could show up and leave your SO in the parental dust... 

I honestly think it's better that you place NO expectations on him other than he will be kind and respectful to your children.. that he will be a good person.. which is a good example.. that they can see of a man that lives his life with a good moral compass.. hard work ethic etc..   They can see him as Mom's husband.. and still be a person they respect.

Harry's picture

How much of a father role do you expect SO to take.  Your kids have a BM and BF ,  SO isn't one of them. Your kids have a father. And if SO invests his time, money, effort to be a father.  Then two years from now BF sees the light and becomes father of the year. Where is SO.   Those Graduations pictures. It's it SK, with you and SO. Or BF.? 
With BF alive. You can't assure SO role in your kids life.  He the one who is going to get hurt.  Not you . 
'DID you discuss having more kids , to make it  a big family.  

Dogmom1321's picture

If this were flipped and a Dad were asking for SM to step up and take on a motherly role, we would all say absolutely not (esp if a bio parent were still alive and in contact with said child). I have always thought there is a double-standard when it comes to stepmoms vs. stepdads. It's simply not his place and also a role that should not be pushed upon him. 

ESMOD's picture

I think most every post paints this as something that isn't a realistic or good expectation for OP to have for her SO.

It is absolutely her SO's choice whether he wants to be more or less hands on and involved with her kids.  It also depends on her kid's perspective because they may not WANT someone to come in and "dad them".

I would say that even though it is his option, he should be very mindful of the fact she has kids.. and the issues it could cause.. the complications.  Whether he likes it or not.. he will become, to an extent, an example or roll model for them by his constant proximity.. he also may find he becomes attached to the kids.. and vice versa.. so a breakup involves more people.. and there is the actual BF.. who may or may not continue to be less present.  

Rumplestiltskin's picture

In Rags' case it worked because the biodad was so far away and such a person he didn't have any real influence, and Mrs. Rags allowed him to take on that role completely. But the reality is that a lot of single parents unrealistically expect the new partner to be *better* than the ex bio parent, to make up for their shortcomings, but then don't give them the full authority of a bioparent. The ex can breeze in and suddenly "but that's their father!", etc. Even if it is easier for stepfathers to be accepted than stepmothers, i wouldn't blame anyone for not wanting to buy in. As someone who was a divorced parent for years, that was disappointing. Who wouldn't want Prince Charming to come in and fix all their problems while also deferring to the bioparents as the "real parents?" I have found that this does not exist. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I agree that the fact that if you break up, you may never see your stepkids again, is a very real risk. I remember SO and I getting into an argument once and he said "I'm taking MY boys and leaving!" Instead of immediately caving and begging, it was a lightbulb and led to me being able to disengage some without guilt. 

ESMOD's picture

You are given that role by a bio parent.. you are "allowed" to be in a minor child's life.. that permission can be removed.. and honestly.. I think there was a case here where some guy was acting as "dad" to a kid that wasn't even biologically his from a prior relationship.. and it was complicated.. and having that connection was frustrating.

When my SD's were young.. I understood that our relationship was going to be contingent on mine with their father.  Now that they are adults.. I am fairly certain that my YSD would probably keep up a relationship with me if something happened to their dad.. or we divorced.. OSD.. I kind of doubt it.. unless she thought that playing "nice" would get her some payday... some how

I guess for me.. people going in and out of my life is not as difficult because I was an army brat.. moved like 14 times before went to college.. so I can be your friend now.. but if you move across the country.. and don't make an effort to keep up with me? I likely won't push it either.. we had a good friendship.. but sometimes these kinds of relationships are convenient.. and that's just how it goes sometimes.

Rags's picture

to partner with her in raising my SS.  If he is not willing to be StepDad to your kids, boot his ass and save your kids from him.

Save yourself.

If he is not willing to be your all in equity life partner, including being an equity parent to any children in the relationship regardless of kid biology, he is not man enough for you to choose to make a life with. IMHO.

All in equity life partners do not get to pick and choose what they will partner on.  They partner.

That said, you owe your mate that you will parent your prior failed family progeny to standards of behavior and standards of performance that are acceptable to your mate.

Our blended family journey has been pretty much a Unicorn experience.  DW and I met when SS was 15mos old. We married the week before he turned 2yo.  DW had full physical and legal custody from birth and the SpermClan had zero visitation until SS turned 2yo. Visitation was long distance. We never lived nearer than 1200miles to spermland.  If they took visitation at all. They refused a number of visitations over the years. There were several year long periods where SS did not see the shallow and polluted end of his gene pool.  Visitation was 7wks per year.  5Wks summer, 1wk winter, 1wk spring.

We raised SS-31 together to be a man of character and honor, and a viable adult of standing in his profession and community.  Sadly, his three younger also out of wedlock SpermIdiot spawned half sibs by two other baby mamas are disasters. Spawn #2 is a Dole Queen, Spawn #3 is a convict serving a long prison sentence, SPawn #4 is not far behind the inmate.

SS asked me to adopt him when he was 22.  We made that happen.

Do not engage in a life with this guy if he is not man enough or partner enough to be all in as your partner. Including setting an example for your prior relationship children. If you do choose him, do not let your kids run amok and sabotage your relationship.  As the partner with prior relationship baggage, the onus is on you to balance the new relationship for both your new mate, and the kids. Though the mate and that relationship must be the only priority. The kids are not the pariority. The kids are the top adult relationship responsibility. Two very different concepts.

Good luck.

Take care of you.

ESMOD's picture

Man of Character vs Main Character Energy..... is a very key distinction.. children are not the main characters in their families.. they are a part of the family.. a subordinate in the chain of command.. they are valued as family members and loved but they are not the sun that the family planets revolve around.  I actually detest the child centric way things are done now.. I think kids actually enjoyed their childhoods MORE when they were not forced to take on the tip of the pyramid role for the household.. we had freedom to be kids.. and live within our comfortable boundaries.. knowing our parents weren't micro managing our lives.. like child centric parents do.. the parents have "no life".. which I think is stiffling.

Crr18's picture

And the children know they are the sun and don't think their parents should have lives. My SKs actually don't want to be around their dad but think he should just sit around and wait for them to ask him for something. It has now been said to him several times " you are the dad and you should do and give us anything we want". It is my SO , BM, and grandfather's fault that they have always put these kids like you said at the tip of the pyramid. There has been no life skills taught and no parenting done.  I know this happens in a lot of households now. It is hard to digest. What happens to the world when all of these types of children become adults. 

Elea's picture

I agree with this sentiment. BM has no life other than step-diablas. She relies on them to meet her emotional needs and to be surrogate mini-partners. She considers them to be smarter than she is. (They are but that doesn't mean they feel secure when their parent is too stupid to guide them.) She has never dated in the 15+ years since the divorce. She is a hoarder and a hermit. 

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I agree. So many single parents say things like, "My kids will always come first! If you can't handle that you aren't man enough to be with me!" If that's the case, no wonder some people are hesitant to take on the role of stepparent, knowing they will be looked at as a secondary member of the family. And besides turning the kids into little a-holes, it's also too much pressure on them imo. Imagine if you are a kid and your parents let you dictate the visitation schedule. Having to worry about hurting one's feelings or being disloyal, stepping on toes, all to determine where you will sleep on any given night. Where they sleep and when should be decided for them. 

BanksiaRose's picture

"Though the mate and that relationship must be the only priority. The kids are not the pariority. The kids are the top adult relationship responsibility. Two very different concepts."

 Can you explain a bit more? I feel like there's something valuable in your statement, but I'm not sure if I'm really grasping it. Do you mean that both adults are a united front, not allowing kids (or anyone) to cause any splitting, who then focus on parenting together?.. Or is there something else?

Rags's picture

Banksi, sorry for the late response. Traveling for the holiday and down to one car while mine is still on ice after a major hail pounding.

You absolutely grasp the message. The adults in the equity life partnership and their marriage are the sole priority. Nothing else is.  Any kids in the family that those partners are the center of are the top adult responsibility.  They are not the priority. The equity life partners are also equity parents to any children in their relationship regardless of kid biology (BioParents).

Kids are cared for, provided for, parented, and disciplined.  The goal is to prepare then for life. The goal is NOT to protect them from life. One perspective creates quality viable adults. The other creates life failures.

Anything less, is a likely recipe for adult basement trolls, sofa surfers, and eternal financial burdens that never launch and are a life long burden for the equity life partners.

You nailed the not allowing kids or anyone to cause splitting. 

I hope this helped clarify.

And... I am one with no BKs. SS is an only child in our marriage.

BanksiaRose's picture

"Though the mate and that relationship must be the only priority. The kids are not the pariority. The kids are the top adult relationship responsibility. Two very different concepts."

 Can you explain a bit more? I feel like there's something valuable in your statement, but I'm not sure if I'm really grasping it. Do you mean that both adults are a united front, not allowing kids (or anyone) to cause any splitting, who then focus on parenting together?.. Or is there something else?

Harry's picture

A man with kids. So you can blen family's roles.  He can be a SF and you equally be a SM.  OR two. You need to have a child or fel with this SO. so you can have a real family .   You are asking a man to take on a thankless job. Opening himself for major hurt. You can't control your ex.  He the unknown factor.  Your ex may see "THE LIGHT". become father of the year. Where does this leave your SO.  

LittleCloud9's picture

Sorry I know on this site we can come on strong sometimes and I hope you don't feel like you got too many negative responses. But honestly there's a lot of people with experience and wisdom here who are just trying to help. The thing is every step family is very unique and has to find its own right path, or not find it at times. Maybe things will work out for you and your guy, I hope you find a good partner one way or another. I'm a SM w/o bios and I just want to share a couple points for you to keep in mind as you move forward with your SO.

1. Step parents have to make sacrifices other people never see. Your partner will need to be able to be selfless at times even if he's not in a dad role because he's never going to really get all of you at least until those kids are adults- and maybe not even then. He needs to be truly ok with that dynamic. He will also need to make sacrifices for kids when there may not be any emotional payoff like with your own child. You just do it because you're a good adult, not because you're getting thanked.

2. Step parents get hurt a lot. It can be really lonely at times and leave you feeling misunderstood. You need to be tough and you need to learn to care for your mental and emotional health on your own. Even if you're not trying to be a 'parent,' you get emotionally affected by your partner's kids. They like you, but now they don't, they want to call you dad this week but then they don't even want to talk to you. It happens even with good kids in good step families. And the fact that you're not their parent will pop up and smack you. Maybe when family court drama comes up and you're suddenly reminded that you're nothing to the court even though your life is being turned upside down by the judges decisions. Or the two of you don't agree on house rules or behavior expectations for the kids and the step parent gets reminded they're not "real." You might think that will never happen but it does. All it takes is different ideas about what is an acceptable amount of chores for kids to do or if it's ok to eat snacks in the living room and it can kick off a power struggle where the step is left feeling like the person who doesn't count. A good partner has to really pay attention and listen to counteract those feelings. 

when you love your partner you try to be good to the children you know they love but any role, even just friend/babysitter is tough. Your guy needs to be resilient even if he's not playing dad. If he's not cut out for step life, you'll both end up getting hurt. So be careful, be realistic, and go slow. Maybe you can build a life together. But if not, be honest with yourself about the long term future and protect your heart. Nobody should have to change who they are to be with someone. I hope you end up happy. Hugs