When a single parent dates a non-parent.

The whole question of dating as a single parent is a very sensitive one. Many single parents avoid it all together and devote all their time outside of work to their children. Others decide to date but will only do so with another single parent as they feel that another single parent will understand their situation and have real empathy for them. Yet others are open to dating singles who have no children of their own. Whichever option one chooses, there are unique challenges that will present themselves.

Being socially active is important because it helps free you as parent from obsessing over your role. Vicki Lansky in her Divorce Book for Parents says that “Letting your adult life revolve around your child’s is actually very hard on your child.” As a single parent, you have adult needs for companionship, intimacy, romance, encouragement among others that can only be fulfilled by another adult not the children.

So how do you develop a long term relationship with a single person who has no children?

 

The truth is each person lives in completely different environments. You might be very compatible with your boyfriend/girlfriend but your environments are worlds apart and are very difficult if not impossible to mesh. Therefore its only a matter of time before they clash. Initially what promises to be a very fulfilling relationship can easily prove to be the most difficult experience of their lives.

 

For the single adult, their life does not involve children or a divorce. It is self-controlled. It is as simple or as complicated as he/she makes it. It is consistent, scheduled, orderly, and predictable. He/she knows exactly what kind of evenings and weekends they will have. Its easy to make decisions right off the bat as they only consideration is theirs.

 

For the single parent its a lot more complex. They may still have ongoing difficulties with their ex-spouse, they may still be suffering emotional heaviness from the divorce/separation, all while bearing the responsibilities of providing a roof over their head, food and clothing, education and entertainment for the children. Being a great parent has very many sacrifices which they will make that the single adult will not necessarily understand simply because they are not parents themselves.

So does this mean that your relationship is doomed to fail? Not at all. But you need to be aware of the factors in your environments that are not equal. The key to a successful relationship lies in understanding each others environments and proactively dealing with potential clash points. Being supportive of each other and discussing certain situations.The single adult must understand that sometimes the parent will make the final decision in some situations. And that this is not a rejection of them nor an oversight of their contribution and what they bring to the table. Always think of the bigger picture especially if marriage is the goal. All this determines how successful your stepfamily will be.

Finally remember to praise each other for what you are doing right. And the contributions that you both make in the relationship, instead of always focusing on what is not going right. We all like to be praised for the good things we do and this will always motivate your partner to do more and to be more.

As wonderful and I’m sure you are, You can’t fix what you didn’t break

One of the biggest mistakes stepmoms make when they get into their new families is to think that they will be able to fix the family. I made the same mistake. I really thought I would be able to solve everything and everyone if I just tried. It was a waste of energy and I am glad I discovered this sooner rather than later. It saved me a lot of time and energy as well as shielded me from unnecessary hurt and disappointment. Not all women are as lucky as I was. If you are one such woman as wonderful as I’m sure you are, always remember “You can’t fix, that which you did not break. 

There are so many issues that step-families face that come from the divorce/separation of the biological parents which the stepmother had nothing to do with. Yet due to the evil stepmother perception that is always floating around in every stepmoms head every now and then, we find ourselves under enormous pressure to prove to ourselves, to our partners, to our stepchildren, to our partners ex and to the whole world just how capable we are. That we are in fact good, may be even perfect. We tend to overcompensate for everything and feel guilty when we don’t act or behave the way a mother does.

The truth is it not in our place to replace the mother in any way. And most importantly its not our goal to fix everything. The smart stepmother knows that she is valuable and that she brings something new and different to the family that is nothing like what the biological parents can offer and she is OK with that. She has accepted her role and is comfortable with playing her role regardless of what others may think, say or do to her.

It takes time to be in that comfortable space and it will need adjusting every now and then as the seasons of the family change. If you feel stuck in the “Super Stepmom Syndrome” here are some few pointers that can get you started and help you come into your own in your new family.

Forget the title

A lot of stepmothers are stuck in thinking the only role they can play is ‘mom’. They get offended when they are not addressed as such. The truth is you are not the children s mother. They know that and you should know that. Forget about the title, what they call you doesn’t matter. Its who you are to them that counts. So depending on how deep your bond is with the children, focus on what you can do for them. Start with the things you enjoy doing, these are usually good ice breakers and opportunities for everyone to get o know you for who you really are and when you are happy. You may slowly involve the children as you go along.

The Only Person you can Control is You

You cannot be held accountable for things that you don’t control. If you do take on such things then its only a source of great stress and pain for you in the long run.  Let everyone own and handle their own feelings, emotions and responsibilities within the family whether its your partner, his ex, the children or the extended family.

Be aware of the things that you can change which are within yourself such as your words, actions, efforts, mistakes and behavior. Changing your own attitude and behavior may in turn result in a change in those around you.

Stay Committed

Your partner and your stepchildren have a great need for stability. Especially after the loss of their spouse and parent. You are important in their lives right now and they need to know that you are committed both with your actions and with your words. The kids need to know they are safe in the relationship they have with you. Reassure them often together with your partner.

Plug into a community

Sometimes only fellow stepmothers will understand what you are going through. Be a apart of one such community where people get you. You get an opportunity to interact with stepmothers just like yourself, share any challenges you may be facing and get solid advice from real life experiences.

L.I.S.A has a closed Facebook forum which you can plug in to right now if you are not part of any community at the moment. Join Stepfamily Success with LISA  and Living In Step Africa