Do you really want to be a step-parent?

“Hey you! Yes, you! Single? But you know life with me will be so much better than your ex! Let’s join forces and start our own family!”

And a new journey begins…

The scenario is common place in today’s world. Boy meets girl, fall in love, get married, and have the proverbial 2.5 kids. Life happens. Marriages fall apart. Families separate. Life goes on. Boy meets another girl. But this time…

It’s like a Hollywood film. Now, there’s a demon full of hypocrisy! Movies, series, and sitcoms encourage divorce. They prey on the drama. The new romance is glorified. But, after the nuptials, the step-parents are depicted in the same light as preachers, grandparents, or anything deemed “old-fashioned”. The step-mother is depicted as evil in children’s films. The step-father is shown either as a buffoon or an ogre. Volumes have been written, directed, and produced on the negativity of the step-parent. And yet, the contradictions fly when divorce and re-marriage is romanticized and glorified, not giving consideration to the children…those little characters woven into every scene for that “awe” effect.

His kids…her kids. And thus, the top reason second marriages experience a higher divorce rate than first marriages. With the high number of divorces, even in the church, a divorced person will have a pretty good chance of becoming a step-parent! When a young couple has a baby, they blend and grow with the baby. They develop strategies together. They both have the same rights and privileges with their child because the child is half the other parent. With step-kids, the parents have already established their own system and take offense when a new spouse attempts to make changes. And thus, the drama begins…

Did you think the kids would naturally like you, the new step-parent?

Did you think his kids and her kids would actually like each other?

Most divorced parents fail to contemplate the issues lurking around the corner when they enter into another relationship. I lost count of the couples I have personally known who found themselves in the divorce court for the second and third time. And their #1 complaint? His kids…her kids. Unfortunately, so many disappointed new spouses blame the kids, when the child’s behavior is only a reflection of the emotions produced from the trauma and upheaval in their world. Emotions in which children do not have the maturity level to process.

Even in the best of situations, the children typically feel a gap, or a relational void, between the step-parent/siblings. Why? Even in the best of situations, the children will always secretly dream of their own parents reuniting.

God placed within the heart of every human the longing for family…for roots. This is the reason most adoptees will search out their biological parents. We all long for security and a sense of belonging. When parents divorce, the family trinity is broken and the child feels ripped apart. Two parents. Two homes. Two moms. Two dads. Never fully belonging in either family.

And yet…we do belong. We belong to the Great I Am. Our creator. Our redeemer. Our savior.

So nothing else matters, right? Right?

Except…

We have to live. Daily. With immature people. With fallible people. And they have to live with us. And we have to blend. Adjustments are always difficult, especially with fallible people.

Please understand; the step-parent should never take the place of a biological parent. Contrary to popular belief, it would be a mistake for a future step-parent to assume the kids will consider them a second mom/dad. Most of the time the step-parents end up considering themselves blessed if the kids actually accept the subsequent marriage to their dad/mom! But, to expect a relationship with the step-kids on a level any deeper than that of a niece or nephew is fantasy. It’s no different than living with a teenager in any home…the parent cannot do anything right. Remember as teenagers, we all thought our parents were out of touch and full of marbles, until we became parents ourselves! And it is even more so with a step-parent.

Even though most of my friends who are step-parents never attempted to replace the biological parent, insecurities from their new spouse’s ex-wife/husband created a very dysfunctional atmosphere (I do have personal experience here!). Due to a longing for the security of the union of both parents, the step-parent is a prime target for the kids hostility, especially when one parent portrays their ex’s new spouse as the enemy (more personal experience!). Unfortunately, a lot of parents behave more like the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend than the stabilizing mother/father the child needs. Be aware that quite often, even when a step-parent has a healthy view of the step-child relationship, the ex may not. Not many mothers or fathers want to give up half of their rightful parenting time to another person, especially with their ex’s new spouse. Jealousy flies deep and only backfires.

Many reading this have not yet divorced and therefore cannot yet comprehend the extent of separation that comes with a divided family. This post was written for the most part with you in mind. My prayer is that you will do everything in your power to “mow the grass on your side of the fence” first before searching for greener pastures. They do not exist. Keep the dogs out of your current marriage. Don’t grow old with only regret to look back on! Just because you don’t want your spouse does not mean no one else will want them either. Someone is always waiting around the corner. Are you ready to share your children? How will you feel as you watch your child leave your door every week or month to live where you have no control? And ultimately, are you ready for a step-parent to step into your place to care for your child in a home on the other side of town? Understandably, some parents feel their relationship with their children is threatened when a step-parent enters their child’s life. Their insecurity will not give room for anyone else in the child’s life, especially their ex’s new wife/husband. Though the step-parent should never take the place of the parent, each visitation brings fears of replacement, especially for the mom.

If you are not yet divorced, and the negative scenarios in this post are not the family life you envisioned, purpose in your heart to make your present family solid. The best thing dads can do for their kids is to love their mom. The best thing moms can do for their kids is to respect their dad. You are not alone in your struggles. Do not be too proud to seek help. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” ~ Proverbs 15:22

The adjustments of a newlywed childless couple in a first marriage are no comparison to the adjustments of a newlywed couple in a blended family. My hope is that whoever is reading this will take off any rose-colored glasses when entering into a relationship involving children. Many reading this will be able to relate to the heartache of letting go of part of your children, through divorce, long before they would naturally leave the nest. Loneliness is hard. But, the Lord wants to help you heal. There is hope. God is a God of Restoration! With a lot of hard work, and patience, you will get through the valleys and find yourself on a mountain again.

I know more than anyone how hard it is, but never grow weary in doing good! But most of all…pray! Pray for God’s comfort and strength. You will need it…and He will give it.

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” ~Galatians 6:8-10

~Click here for the 2nd half of this post… “Do you Really want to be a Step-Parent?”

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