There are No Ex-parents, Only Ex-Spouses

If you are a single mother who is dating someone you must have at one point felt like this. Questions race through your head. What about my children? Will they accept and love the new man in my life? Will my new partner accept them or take off like the last guy?  What will my ex feel about another man coming near his kids let alone raising them? How will I make this relationship work despite my heavy workload at home as a mum and with my job? When will I ever have some ‘me’ time?

If you think that single dads don’t ask the same questions then think again! they do, and can be just as stressed out about the situation like any single mum. Some common aspects about single parent families irrespective of who permanently has the children are;

  • The parents want to find new love, start a new life with new partners. Whereas they could be ready to move on,the children are always not.
  • The guilt of breaking up the home may result in loss of proper parenting and discipline for the kids. The mum/dad may focus on pleasing the children, showering them with gifts, lots of entertainment. One parent may end up playing both good cop and bad cop.
  • Bad mouthing of one parent by the other.This completely confuses the children as they feel torn between the dad and mum and this may affect their self esteem
    The new partners in the parents lives may disagree with their parenting skills which brings conflict between the couple
  • Parents may willingly/unwillingly decide not to co-parent. The gaps in parenting are clearly seen by the children and they may play the parents against each other to get their way.

These are just a tip of the iceberg. There are other aspects that have to be acknowledged and proactively dealt with. Single parents are potential step-families and if they don’t realize this early and start working towards a working co-parenting model then this strains the relations with their children, their former spouse as well as their new partner. So here is

Lesson #5

There are no ex-parents, only ex-spouses. It doesn’t matter what the hell happened between the two of you. How angry or resentful you might be to your former spouse or how willing, accepting and loving your new partner is to your children. Your children need you to parent them together. They need your guidance and discipline throughout their lives so do not deny them this right. Work out a co-parenting structure with your ex for the sake of the children and for a solid foundation should you want to make your future blended family work.

Top 5 things that all stepparents have to deal with

So you knew your spouse had children before you met them. Now what? Most people do not think about the next move in the game. They are clueless about just how different stepfamilies are to biological families. They jump in with the mentality that all will be well, that they will apply the knowledge from their own family experience, apply it and BOOM! success. This is one of the greatest misconceptions. Ever tried cooking lasagnia with a mandazi recipe? That’s sheer ridiculousness right? Well in the same way don’t try and cook your stepfamily with a biological family recipe. You will fail miserably.

The reason the two families are so different is because of some additional factors that biological families don’t have to deal with. Here are the top 5 factors that everyone getting into a stepfamily situation should have in mind and learn how to deal with each for a successful family

1. The Ex

You can never get rid of the the Ex husband/wife, girlfriend/borfriend. Baby momma and baby daddy are here to stay so deal with it especially if they are actively involved in the children lives. Bad mouthing them in front of the children will only make things more difficult for you. Children view this as a threat and will defend their mum or dad fiercely. Their loyalty is with them, even if they are junkies, imprisoned or absent. So keep whatever negative opinions you may have to yourself or speak them to your spouse in private. Never in front of the kids. Respect is the bare for the sake of raising the children well.

If you think because the ex spouse is dead it will be easier, you are wrong. You might find yourself competing with a ghost as the children measure you against the memory of the lost parent.

Consider also the fact that its possible that you could be dealing with multiple Ex spouses. Which is even more complex

2. The Kids

If your spouse has children, just know that children are part of the package. You cannot have one without the other. Neither can you compete with them. They are blood. We all know blood is thicker than water. The sooner you realize this and start respecting the children and trying to earn their respect as well the better for the family. You will need to be patient though as this doesn’t happen overnight. According to the children you are the person in between mum and dad, you are the threat. Don’t try and be their mums or dads replacement. Just be you. Let the kids accept you as you are. When they see you are not a threat to their relationship with their mother or father, they will start to let you in slowly

3. Child support

Who has permanent custody of the children? Who pays for what? Does your spouse also support his Ex? These are some of the issues that arise here. The problem is that the stepparent in this situation feels the pressure of having to support another family so to speak. This is unavoidable. Do understand that your spouse has to take care of his family as well, especially if he does not have permanent custody of the children. Also discuss this with your spouse especially if you have concerns so that you can work it out together as a team

4. Visitation Schedules

One parent will definitely have the kids permanently and the other will have the visitation. Visitation schedules can be a serious source of conflict especially if they are random. You may find yourself a s a stepparent having to pick or drop off the kids when you had made other plans. The key here is have a schedule that all parties agree and adhere to. That way everyone can manage their time and personal schedules as well

5. Legal Issues

There are various legal issues that come into play with stepfamilies. Child custody arrangements, legal guardianship for the stepparent, child support, succession and the will. These cannot be ignored. It would be best to engage a family lawyer to discuss your unique situation as they vary from family to family. As well as have your concerns addressed from a legal perspective. You and your partner can then agree on the best decisions to make for your family.

At all times remember that you and your partner are a team so look into these issues together and plan together for the success of your family.