The ink was barely dry on my divorce papers before the “s” word came up in conversation: stepfather. Stepdad. My kids ask if I’ll ever remarry (not tomorrow, kids!). My parents are already letting me know their criteria (um, thanks?). And my boyfriend’s kids have questions about his future relationship with my kids, too.
But I do think about the future, and one thing I know is that my kids and I don’t need a stepdad in their lives. This doesn’t mean I’ll never remarry or have a partner full time, but finding “Mr. Perfect Stepdad” is not my priority less than a year after my divorce. Plus, I don’t assume that I will remarry or live with an adult man again any time in the foreseeable future. I don’t feel like part of me is missing just because I’m the only adult in the house. I realized this during a recent conversation with my father. He began, “Your boys need a stepfather who–”
“Wait,” I said, “my boys don’t need a stepfather.” That’s when it struck me for the first time: they don’t. And I don’t have to have someone in that role either. Here’s why.
1. My kids already have a great dad — and grandfathers
My ex-husband and I have our differences, obviously, but one thing we’ve always agreed on is parenting. We worked out our basic philosophy early on and still agree with each other on issues such as behavior, discipline, routines, and priorities. We trust and respect each other as co-parents. Of the many arguments we’ve had before and after the divorce, none of them had to do with parenting.
I realize how rare this is, and I appreciate it. I’m glad that we can work together when it comes to our kids. We share custody 50/50, so they seem him a lot and are very close to him. They don’t “need” a replacement father; they already have one who is loving, engaged, and devoted to them.
They also have two grandfathers who live in town and are involved in their lives on a regular basis. My boys aren’t lacking in positive male role models!
2. I like being a single mom
This might sound strange, but I like single parenting. Yes, it can be hectic and stressful at times, but since we share custody, it’s only half the time. I realize that my situation is not one-size-fits-all: if I was truly on my own with the kids, or if I needed more economic support, I might be looking for a full-time partner. I can imagine a number of scenarios that would lead me to want a stepdad for my kids. But that’ s not my situation, and I’m not the only single mom who feels this way.
I like being on my own with my kids because when it’s just the three of us, I’m focused on them. My attention isn’t divided between them and my significant other. We talk, we laugh, we watch tv and eat dinner together. I’m not eager to throw a new person into the mix full time and cope with the extra stress that would bring.
3. Blended families are complicated
I love reading about fellow blogger Katie’s blended family, but I know their love and success came with a lot of hard work, stress, and adjustment on all sides. Combining households and families is a messy, complicated business. It’s a wonderful blessing to families when it works well, but ask any step-parent, and they’ll tell you that it’s not sunshiny, Brady Bunch-style happiness all the time.
I’m still grieving my broken marriage and adjusting to my new life as a working single mom. And a lot of my emotional energy goes to my kids, as it should. Adding a partner and (potentially) his kids into the mix doesn’t appeal to me now. I know that the most important thing for me to do now is focus on my kids and my own healing. If I did partner or remarry, it would be after we’ve all had time to heal from the divorce — me and my kids.
4. My kids don’t hate my boyfriend
Technically I’m single because I’m not married, but I actually am in a relationship. My boyfriend has a relationship with my kids, but it’s a far cry from a stepdad role. Every once in a while he joins us for a meal or a walk to the park, but that’s it. He’s not disciplining them, babysitting them, or inserting himself into our family life. His role now is much more “family friend” than stepdad.
My kids like having him around because we’ve kept things casual. If he moved in tomorrow or started coming over every time they were home, they would quickly grow to resent him and how my focus is divided when he’s around. He and I are both aware of this, so we limit how often he comes over and for how long to avoid this resentment. We’re letting our relationship with each other– and his relationship with my kids– grow slowly and naturally without forcing ourselves into “second family” roles too soon.
5. I’m not looking for a sugar daddy
I’m not remotely economically dependent on my boyfriend, and I’m not looking to become a stay-at-home mom again … ever. My dating life is not focused on finding someone to “take care of me” or my kids. I’m doing just fine on my own (no, really, Mom, I am.)
My current relationship is based on mutual trust, respect, and friendship, not economics. This is the 21st century, and women are more than capable of being educated, having a career, and supporting themselves. I worked part time when the kids were small, so I wasn’t coming back to the job market after a long absence. I have two degrees and a lot of experience. I’m not in a panic over how to support myself or my kids, financially or otherwise.
I realize that my experiences aren’t identical to every other single parent’s experiences. But I think that the old stereotype of single moms being “on the hunt” for a new dad for their kids is less relevant for women today than it was in decades past. Taking that pressure off gives me the opportunity to be the focused and relaxed mom my kids need me to be … and the independent woman I need to be for myself.
Photo credit: flickr.com
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