Single moms dating single dads, are you prepared?

 

I can’t count the number of times a single mom has declared that it is easier to date a single dad than it is to date a single man especially if you are looking for a long term commitment. I always wondered is it really? Sure it’s easier to hit it off, understand each other and bond over kid-talk but when the warm fuzzy feelings die down and you now have to focus on partnering to raise a blended family is it still easy? Well I don’t think so and here is why. There are far too many issues that get overlooked and yet need to be carefully considered before taking the plunge whether you are a single mom or a single dad. If you deal with these early enough then you will be in a much better position than letting the issues creep up on you unexpectedly and creating fertile ground for serious conflict in your family. What exactly do then look out for and need to know well in advance before you take the big plunge?

 

 

It’s a complex family

Think about it, two parents, two sets of children who now have to accept and adjust to new siblings, two exes to deal with, two extended families or four if we count your exes family has close tie with the children, four homes that the children will be shuffling to and from, and that is just on the relationships side. Add on to that schools and church, visitation schedules for the other parents and finances. It’s a lot to handle not just for the couple but for their children as well. This complex dynamic needs to be addressed by the couple because it will definitely not be a seamless fit. Ask yourself the following questions;

  • What is the current custody agreement and how will you manage as a couple in future?
  • How old your children? This is important because it will alter the order of birth in your new family and the children will have a hard time adjusting. For example a child who was first born child when with the mother is now a middle child because moms new partner has an older child.
  • How are the exes involved with the children? Are they active or passive?
  • How will you handle your respective exes?
  • Where are you going to live?
  • Which schools will the children attend?
  • Child support? Who is getting it or paying for it, how much? how frequent? What does it cover?

Make sure you are the right fit

Take time to observe the relationship between you and your partner as well as between your children and his. It has to be more than just love if you want a successful long term relationship.  Ask yourself

  • Are you the right fit?
  • Do your children get along and are they OK with having new step siblings?
  • Are you  willing to share responsibility over all the children not just your own?
  • Do you intend to have children with your new partner?

Get involved at the right time

All children regardless of their age love their parents and dream of them being together again one day. Introducing someone new to them kills that dream and so it is important that your new partner gets involved at the right time. Introduce them gradually so that your children can get used to the idea of them. Get to know them better and form their own relationship at a slow pace. This also gives you time to have private chats with your children and find out what they think about the person and address any fears or concerns they might have about your new partner.

The older the children the harder and longer it will take for them to adjust

Set new boundaries

You have been raising your children now for ‘x’ number of years now. You have your own style and know whats best for them, what works and what doesn’t. All this changes when you have a new partner who is now a new parent to your children too. You will have to trust him to do right by your children and yet he has been raising his children in his own style with completely different set of boundaries. You will therefore need a new approach to parenting that is inclusive of both of you. A new set of boundaries for you and the children to live by. The boundaries are not just with regards to the children but also apply to your exes, communication with them and visitation for the children, extended family involvement, basically on every matter. You will need to operate a team and the only way to do that is by playing by the same rules. Make time to come up with your new family rules.

Couple time

Your blended family will only be as strong as your couple’s relationship. Its easy for couple time to be sucked up by parenting duties. Too much time spent on making sure the home is running smoothly and that there is peace and harmony among all involved. You will need to be very deliberate about setting time apart to spend with each other as a couple, away from the children. This keeps your friendship and bond strong. The stronger your relationship the more capable you are of positively driving your family onto the path of love and happiness.

Parenting Styles

This is a biggie. You need to look out for signs that that your parenting styles do not conflict. Does how you approach your own children work well on his children and vice versa. Who is the strict disciplinarian and who is the liberal? Once you have these details then sit down and discuss on what the best approach will be for all the children.

Are you single mom dating a single dad? what was your experience like and what lessons have you learnt from it? I would love to hear about it. Drop your comment below

 

 

 

 

Dating a single dad? Here’s what you need to know

At 25 years of age I met the man who I would later call my husband. Of course I had no idea back then, it was not love at first sight  or anything like that. Well at least not for me. Before we even became an item he was very open with me about being a father. Something that I never gave much thought to at the time but which would later play a very big role in our relationship. I thought it would be a relationship like any other but experience revealed that the dynamic was quite different. I grappled with ego issues, jealousy associated with the ex, feeling like I was not his number one priority; the list of emotional challenges is endless. These are all challenges that we had to work out as and when they came up which was not easy. I wish someone had given me a heads up on what to expect, then maybe I would have spent less time trying to fit the relationship into the traditional relationship mould where there are no kids involved, and more time into understanding my particular situation and making the best out of it. In a bid to pay it forward I have summed up some of my crucial lessons and what you need to know  and expect if you are a single woman dating a single dad.

Loyalty is to his children first

Be prepared to hear a lot about the kids when you spend time together, after all he is a proud single dad. I know it doesn’t make for good conversation when you are out on that date. He may have to cancel a few dates, postpone some plans due to some conflict with the children’s events or unforeseen circumstances like the illness of child; all of which may hurt or frustrate you but remember, THAT IS A GOOD THING. It means you’re not dating a deadbeat dad. It says that he has his priorities straight and he will not compromise on his role as a father regardless of what happened between him and the mother of his children. Give him some time, be supportive and patient and eventually he will get to the point where its it is about you and him.

On the flip side should you meet a single dad who drops everything, alters his plans with the children for you then that is a serious red flag for your relationship.

Respect his children and the relationship he has with them

You have to respect them before and after you meet them. Your actions towards his parenting responsibilities will tell him if you respect his relationship with his children and his responsibility over them. Say you had planned this romantic getaway to spend some quality time together, God knows you need it right? After all, you never really get to spend quality, uninterrupted time with him. Flights booked, hotel booked, itinerary is all set and then at the last minute he has to cancel. For some reason baby mama who was supposed to have the kids this weekend is suddenly not able to and needs him to step in. That’s enough to make any woman flip. Taking it out on him doesn’t help you nor the relationship. If he feels attacked of course he will back off, have reservations about making plans with you in advance, may be even end things. Instead try and take a more supportive approach, express your disappointed but willingness to try. By doing so you are indirectly encouraging his parenting and he sees that you understand his situation.

There is no escaping the EX

Unless of course he is a widower there is definitely an ex somewhere. Whether you have met her or not, know about her or not; know that she exists and there is no way you can ignore her presence and influence. If you still think this is not an issue for you wait until you get a little closer to the kids. Its not uncommon for some mothers to be completely out of touch with their children, hardly seeing or speaking with them or being in any way involved in their lives only for them to come out of the woodwork when they hear their kids are getting close to daddy’s new mate.

Avoid trying to be a replacement mother or trying to make everyone get along. If you did not break it, you have no reason or right to fix it. Understand and support the fact that due to co-parenting responsibilities your man will be in contact with his ex every now and then especially if she plays an active role in their lives. Its not easy being with someone who’s past is in your present, who has shared so many of his big firsts with somebody else who is now permanently in the picture. You will have to be honest about how you feel and deal with the challenging emotions as they come along with your partner. Knowing when you have genuine concerns or are just being driven by emotions and feelings.

Expect a different dynamic

A lot of the expectations you will have will be based on your experience dating men who had no kids. Some of the dynamics will definitely be different. For example you may find yourself dating in secret for a while simply because he doesn’t want to introduce someone he not sure about to his children. He doesn’t need his children to be emotionally attached to you and then have to explain things when you break up. I dated my husband for a little over a year before I met his kids. Something which I didn’t understand then and made me question his love for me because of it but which I now fully understand and appreciate as a wise decision on his part.  A dad with physical custody of the kids means he has less availability than one who has visitation so be prepared to share his time. Just roll with the punches. Experience has taught me that when it comes to children so many unpredictable things can happen that will throw out your ‘plans’

Decide if this is for you

Single dads come as a package. You cannot have the man without the children. If you say yes to the man you are ultimately saying yes to the children and all the responsibility that comes with that decision. Think about it in advance and decide whether you can do it or not.

 

 

 

Married to widower? Tips for a better relationship with his children

Last week we looked at some of challenges that women face when they marry a widower. The transition can be challenging for everyone. As a stepmom to his children how do you best handle this complex and emotional family situation? The truth is, there is no single answer to this; simply because grief is a very personal experience, not forgetting that it never quite goes away but is re-experienced with the presence of certain triggers. That said here are a few tips will help you and your family move past the hurt and challenges to a comfortable place of love and acceptance.

Embrace your feelings

There is nothing wrong with you. No you are not weird and neither is your situation. If anything, it is perfectly normal and all step-families of this nature go through this.  Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling! Many women suppress their feelings because they want to appear as the perfect stepmoms while deep down they are hurting.  Bottling things up only makes the situation worse and builds resentment towards your partner and your stepchildren.  The very same people who you are trying to have a relationship with. Deal with all situations with your partner and protect family.

Build a rock solid relationship

Your relationship with your partner determines whether you will make it through or not so make sure it is rock solid because the journey really is rough. Realize you are marrying him and his children, they come as complete package.
You will have to embrace and love the children as they are a part of him and you have to be all in, otherwise do not bother yourself as it will only lead to more heartache and loss. If you and your partner commit to your relationship and to being a family, to making it work despite all the issues and you give it everything you have got, you will definitely reap the reward.

Allow your children time to grieve

The children’s biggest fear at this time is that their deceased mother is being forgotten. Seeing their father moving on with you will make this fear even greater. You need to address this fear and allow them to grieve, work together with your partner and step-kids to find appropriate ways of honoring their departed parent and help them to remember her significance. Don’t be afraid to talk about the loss and the parent that has died, speak freely about them, allow them to take  a trip down memory lane whenever they feel the need to and listen to them carefully when they do. Allow them to celebrate anniversaries such as birthdays and the day their mother passed away. This will communicate that you respect their parent and how important they were in their lives. It also demonstrates to your stepchildren that you are not trying to take their mothers place.

Step down

It’s normal for stepmoms to feel pity on their stepchildren, to want to help them overcome this loss and make them better people. Its not unusual for stepmoms to desperately want to build a good relationship with the children but this will obviously take time. A lot more time than many anticipate. When the children pull away from you or openly reject you, your natural instinct will be keep pushing, trying to force them to see that you are a good person who is only looking out for their best interest. This usually back fires. As counter intuitive as it may sound it important to know when to back off, especially when it comes to the children. Give your stepchildren the space to allow them to get used to the idea of you.

Patience! Patience! Patience

If you have ever lost a parent, then you know that it changes your life forever. Take things slowly and be patient with yourself, your partner and his children. Remember that they are adjusting to a very difficult situation and it will not happen overnight. The sting of death never quite goes away, you just learn to accept and live with it as time goes by, therefore accept that your stepchild’s time scale will be completely different from yours or your partners. You need to be ok with this. Not taking things personally but realizing that each situation will present a different challenge that will need to be addressed slowly, with patience and in love.

 

 

5 things no one tells you about marrying a widower

One type of step-family dynamic that we don’t seem to talk or hear enough about is being married to a widower. There is a notion I have heard from ladies when it comes to this subject matter. Many of them believe that its easier to marry a widower than it is to marry a single dad or a divorcee. The main reason being of course that there will be less stress because the ex in this case is no longer alive so there is no bio moms to battle with, no child custody or visitation issues, no child support and so on. However, the women who have been in this position, women who have dated and married widowers will tell you its a whole different ball game. They are clear that it’s not as easy as people will make it out to be. They confess that supporting a grieving partner and stepchildren is an uphill task and that they do face serious challenges in their new families.

What many stepmoms in this kind of situation forget is that grieving the loss of a loved one is a very personal journey. For some, it’s brief, they seem to move on pretty fast and get on with life as usual while for others, it’s long and onerous. Your partner will be grieving and so will his children. The kids may grieve differently from their parents and a lot of it will be influenced by the kind of relationship they had with the parent they lost. That is why our stepchildren may react very differently to us once we step in as new parents.

So what is it that couples in this kind of family need to know, look out for and handle graciously in order to provide everyone with a comfortable transition? From my work with stepmoms who are married to widowers the following five challenges are common and you will experience them should you be in a similar relationship.

A guilt ridden partner

When my dad passed on, I found myself thinking of what I could have done better or changed while he was still alive. I felt guilty. Guilty I didn’t call as much as I could have, guilty I didn’t take as much care of him while he was alive and more so when he was taken ill, guilty I didn’t visit him at the hospital in what would have been out last afternoon together. I should have been more patient with him, a little more aggressive with his doctors. I could go on and on. The list was endless. I kept feeling that there was always something more that I should have done. If you have ever lost someone dear to you then you know exactly what I am talking about.

Its not different in the case of a widower. They are bound to feel guilty about some things they did or did not do while their partner was alive. They may try to compensate for it in other ways either personally or through their children. For example, a dad may worship and adore his children more than ever to compensate for not being supportive of his wife or children, before her death. This may in turn affect parenting or discipline. He may not be able to say NO to his children when he needs to and this affects his relationship with his new wife.

Grieving stepchildren

Children tend to be a couple of steps behind the adults when they lose a parent. Not all the children will grieve the same way or learn to live with the loss at the same time. Some children may take this out on the newly introduced partner especially if the relationship is perceived to be too soon. Grieving stepchildren are not sure how to take the prospect of having a new parent figure. It feels like a betrayal to mom if they do and chances are they will feel that their dad is also betraying her by marrying you hence their rejection of you.

Living up to an angel

When someone dies, we tend to elevate them to some sort of sainthood. Our minds block out any bad they did and chooses to recall only the good. This means that when you come in as a stepmom the children will compare you to a perfect image of their mother and so will other members of the extended family especially those from moms side. So how on earth do you live up to an angel? How do you respond to constant comparison and always playing second best? All this adds on to the stress and strain of your relationship with them as well as your partner.

Extended family and friends that disapprove

You may endure a long list of opinions offered up by extended family and friends. These opinions may not always be positive. In fact some will be downright disrespectful and hurtful. You may be compared to the mom at every turn and no matter what you do never measure up. Some may make it very clear that they do not approve of you nor do they accept you into the family.

Living in a home that you didn’t choose 

There are cases where your partner or children or both are against the idea of moving to a new house. Their old home has more sentimental value now that “mom” is no more. Its not a surprise that they would want to hold on to it to uphold the memories and special moments shared in it. As the new wife you may find yourself with no option but to move in to this home that has memorabilia that serves as a continual reminder of your stepchildrens mom and this may present some challenges for you. Simple things such as redecorating, moving paintings or family pictures, packing and putting away moms old stuff may cause serious conflict between you and your partner and or the children.

All these are dynamics that you have to deal with when you marry a widower. The earlier you become aware of them and discuss them with your partner early in your relationship the better chance you have to avoid some of them or be well prepared to tackle them should they materialize. In next weeks blog we shall explore how you can overcome these challenges.

If you are dating or married to a widower what was your experience like? What challenges did you face, how did you overcome them and what advise would you give ladies who are in similar relationships? I would love to here from you. You can share by commenting directly on this article or write to me wendy@livinginstepafrica.com

 

 

 

 

How to let your step-kids know you’re not a threat

When I first met my stepchildren I thought we would get along like a house on fire. You see, for one year while I was still dating their father I had soaked so many stories about them. He spoke so fondly of them, like all parents do about their little ones. You know that feeling when you have heard so much about someone that you feel like you already know them? That’s exactly how I felt. The only thing missing was for us to meet and I couldn’t wait. “Boy would they love me” I thought. We would have so much fun together from music, to video games, dancing, lets just say I had a fool proof plan in my head. Never did I once think or even imagine that they would not warm up to me.

My much anticipated day came after a dinner date with their dad. He asked me whether I was ready to meet the kids. “Of course I am ready, I thought you would never ask” I remarked and with that the wheels were in motion. For the first time I spent the night at my boyfriends house. It was pretty late when we got home, obviously the kids were fast asleep so I would get to meet them in the morning. And so it was that morning. We were introduced to each other and it was nothing like what I had imagined. There was an awkward silence after the initial greetings. I did not know what to do with them and they had no clue what to do with me either. My daughter looked at me from head to toe with curious eyes not knowing of what to make of this new lady who had spent the night in their home. I have never felt more intimidated in my life. Today when we look back we have a hearty laugh about all of it but trust me, back then? it was no laughing matter. My son simply said hello and continued watching tv and that was it, much to my dismay.

The subsequent meets did not get any easier. In fact it took about 3 years for all of us to get to know and appreciate each other and even more importantly for them to realize that I was not a threat to their relationship with their mother. You see that’s the main reason why children are skeptic of stepmoms. They do not know how to react to your presence. If they love you, they feel like they are betraying their mother. Its therefore important for you communicate the “no threat” message with your words and most importantly with your actions. So how do you do it?

Here are a couple of things I learnt on my personal journey that set the right foundation for me to have the great relationship I enjoy with my children.

  1. Allow the kids to spend time with their parent without you being present

When you first meet the children they don’t know where to place you. They were used to one mommy and/or one daddy. You are an extra person whom they have no idea where you fit in. They have to share their parent who is now your spouse with you in terms of both love, affection and time and it may not be easy to adjust to that. At least not instantly anyway. In a bid to bond with the kids most stepmoms want to be there for everything. Every single visit and time daddy spends with the kids they make a point to be present. This works against you as it only increases the feeling that you are stealing their daddy away from them. There should be a balance between the time you spouse spends with the children alone and the time spent with you.

Intentionally stay away for some of the visits if you are dating or if you are married set some time apart and let the children bond with their parent alone.  If you also have children of your own do the same with yours as they slowly adjust to sharing their time with others. It might seem counter-intuitive but this allows the children first to maintain the bond they shared with their biological parent when they were single and secondly to let their guard down and stop seeing the step parent as competition. With time you will find that you can now spend longer periods of time together as one.

  2. Accept to be background action for a while.

Before you came into the picture the family had their own way of life, a shared family history which you are not a part of. This is what makes stepmoms feel like outsiders in their own homes when they start out. Do not let this discourage you. It will take time to build your own new family traditions and memories that include you as part of the family. In the meantime get comfortable with being background action for a while. You see how in a movie scene of there is always the main characters who you focus on as the main story tellers then you have some extra people in the background who make the scene look more realistic. That will be you for a while, an extra person in the background. Some things will happen and you feel like you don’t exist. Like you need your effort and contribution to be recognized, and when you are not acknowledged your natural reaction will be to be more aggressive and show everyone especially the children how much you love and care for them so that you can win their affection, love and respect and not appear to be the “evil” stepmom.

The truth is that it takes time to develop the relationship and bond with the children. It may take a year or even longer so be patient and be comfortable being in the background. Do not feel guilty about not doing the things that typical parents do. When your stepkids become comfortable with you they will invite you into their circle slowly by slowly to the point where they recognize and respect you as a parent; but you cannot force your way through, they have to invite you.

For as long as I can remember my daughters school morning routine would end with a very adorable, heart warming goodbye to the dad. She would stand at the foot of the stairs and call out “Daaaaaad! have a great, wonderful, marvelous, successful and blessed day today” and she would stand there and wait until he responded in the same manner. If he mixed up the order of the words he would have to start it all over gain until he got it right. Then she would go to school. I heard this ritual every morning for a long time but I was never a part of it. Then one day as I lay in bed listening like I always did, after dad responded she said “tell Wendy I said the same”. I was overjoyed. Finally! for the first time in what seemed like forever I got my morning goodbye. I became part of the ritual. The same was to happen for the first time they said I love you, the first time they invited me for a sports day and many other activities that I initially did not take part in.

   3. Allow the kids to freely express their love for their mom

If you are full-time stepmom like me it means the kids live permanently you and then visit their mom occasionally based on the arrangement. They will automatically miss her and miss spending time with her. Its not easy for them because they are usually torn between liking you or God forbid loving you and loving their mother. If you insist on being treated just like their mother simply because you do the everyday mommy responsibilities in the house then you are in for a rude shock. You cannot and will never compare to mum no matter how good you are or how bad she is for that matter. The same rules just don’t apply. If you are incessant about it, you put them in a position where they are conflicted between loving you and being loyal to their mum. They will always choose to stay loyal to their mother.

Its therefore important for you to show them that you do not have an issue with them openly and freely spending time with and loving their mother in your home. Allow them to talk freely about their mum, their experiences with her and other family members like their aunties, uncles and grandparents. If they want to hang pictures of her in their room allow them to do so, along with many other gifts that they may receive from her. These are important for them since they do not get to see her often. What this does is that it tells them that you are ok with that relationship and you support it and in turn they let their guard down allowing themselves to be open to knowing you a little better.

4. Show genuine interest in your stepchildren

Children have hypocrite antennae and can smell a fake person from a mile away. They will know if you are genuinely interested in them and care for them or you are just faking. It’s not enough to love their dad. You have to genuinely care for them. Stepmoms may find themselves buying their way into their step children’s hearts through gifts and all manner of treats but it more often than not backfires on them. You cannot buy you stepchild’s love and respect. You have to earn it and the only way to do that is to start showing some genuine interest in who they are and the things they love, passively to begin with then more actively depending on their reception. In your interactions with them try and spot areas of common interest and activities that you can do collectively with all of them and those that you can do with each child individually.

In my case when we first started out, I would sit with the kids and watch Disney channel for an hour or so as they watched their favorite shows. There no conversation, it was not comfortable sitting there in silence but I did it anyway. What it said to the kids was “I am interested in you and what you do” and slowly it opened up avenues for random chit chat. After that I discovered my boy and I both loved cooking so we would exchange recipes and I got more involved in his cooking activities. The girl loved to dance and as luck would have it I had an Xbox so we would  play Dance Central on some afternoons and switch it up with FIFA for the brother so everyone was happy. Doing this helped me bond with them without the added pressure on them and me as well.

Don’t be afraid to let out the inner child in you. They already have a mom and dad to take of the serious stuff and that leaves a lot of room for fun stuff with you. Don’t pass up the opportunity.

5. Treat all children equally

If you and your partner both have children from a previous relationship ensure that you treat all the children equally regardless of their age and sex. The same rules need to apply to everyone. Make sure to communicate this verbally to all the children and make good on your word should anyone flout the rules. Children are very sensitive and they will quickly pick up any favoritism you apply. If you are going to get gifts make sure you get something for everyone. Older kids tend to be left out with the assumption that they will understand. They don’t. They are still children with different needs but still having the same craving of love and attention that little kids display.

These simple but powerful choices can enable you create the right perception of you, your role in the family and open up avenues for healthy bonding. They confirm that you are not there to compete or replace mom but you are another loving care giver and friend. A neutral third party that the children can turn to for anything they might be comfortable sharing with their biological parents.

What worked for you and what totally backfired in your journey as a stepmom? I would love to hear it, just leave a comment down below and if are already a stepmom or are dating someone with children from a previous relationship and you would like to learn more about what to expect when it comes to raising stepfamilies download a free copy of my ebook “The Truth About Stepfamilies” HERE

 

Money questions you should ask before marrying a single parent

When I was doing my pre-marital counseling sessions there was one thing that really frustrated me, all the content, good as it was, made reference to the ideal first time couple. The virgin couple who would experience sex for the first time on their wedding night. The one that had no children from previous relationships, no exes constantly in your business and no extra set of relatives to put up with. The couple whose past remained exactly there, in the past. My hubby and I didn’t quite fit in this mold and I am pretty sure we were not the only ones. The advice we got was good for an ideal situation but we needed a little extra because some wheels were already in motion. We were a ready made family therefore the questions would be different and would require a different answer and approach all together.

Money is one of the biggest causes of friction and conflict in a marriage.  Anne Landers said “All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principles of equal partnership”.

 

Discuss every dark detail of your financial life before embarking on marriage to your new partner

In order to have that healthy and constructive battle there are some specific aspects of marriage that every couple needs to discuss and address before they marry. Aspects such as the family values to be upheld, whether to have children or not and how many, dealing with in-laws, finances, spiritual life, couple sex and intimacy and many more. That is why we are encouraged to get pre-marital counselling in order to bring these areas to light and to give the couple an  opportunity to air their views of each matter and then together agree on what the family approach will be.

Couples with no children have the benefit of starting on a blank page and defining everything a fresh. They have no one else to consult but each other. They call the shots. For those who come into marriage with children from a previous relationship this is a much more complex and difficult discussion. The budget will include more items and considerations such as the children, the ex, already established lifestyles; making it an even more crucial discussion to have.

Discussing every dark detail of your financial life before embarking on marriage to your new partner will make your lives easier and help your marriage succeed. Here is a list of twelve questions that you should ask your spouse to get the conversation started and agree on the way forward for your family’s financial well being. During the discussion please adhere to the ‘no heat, no judgement’ rule. Do not go off on your partner for having a different opinion and don’t judge them either. Let it be a safe space to share and agree on what you will do for your family going forward.

 

‘no heat, no judgement’. Let it be a safe space to share and agree on what you will do for your family going forward.

 

  1. What are your current financial obligations?
  2. Are you financially supporting your children/ Are you receiving child support ? What is the agreement with the ex spouse? How much and how frequent are the payments? Will they increase or decrease in future? When will they end? What do we do when we don’t receive scheduled child support?
  3. Do you have any joint debts with your ex spouse? (loans, mortgages, businesses, credit cards etc) If yes, how do you plan to remove yourself from these joint debts?
  4. What expectations do you have for me to support your family?
  5. Do you have any financial commitments to your parents, siblings, or other family members?
  6. Do we both have active employment? How will we handle childcare given our work schedules?
  7. What will our individual financial responsibilities towards running the home be? rent,utilities,insurance, education
  8. How will we handle the holidays?
  9. How will we unify our finances? Are we comfortable with one bank account or will we have “yours,” “mine,” and “joint”?
  10. What do we want to teach our children about money? Will we give allowances and in what amount?
  11. How will we resolve differences in spending and saving practices?
  12. How will we handle investments, property titles/deeds, insurance, wills?

Remember that whatever plan you come up with will not be static but will evolve as the seasons of life and other factors come to play in your every day life, so set some time discuss this and adjust the plan as and when change presents itself.

 

What nobody tells you about marrying a man with kids

Yaaaaaaaaaay! You’re getting married. I assume that this will be your first time. You might be engaged to a man with children. Perhaps you are dating one and have seen him as your life partner. Maybe you have children of your own or not. If you are a girly girl you have already started going through tonnes of magazines and websites looking for the perfect dress, the perfect shoes, the perfect venue and the latest ideas for all elements of that day. All this bliss may be quickly dismissed by thoughts of hostile exes and future stepchildren who may not be thrilled about this day that you have dreamt of since you were a little girl.

I am not here to burst your bubble but from my own experience it’s better to face stepfamily life situations fully prepared for the obstacles that may come your way. Unlike the ideal situation where your prince charming has no children, if he does have little ones, the truth is your wedding will be dependent on other players and other factors for you to be able to pull it off successfully but most importantly be happy.

So here is a small guide to marrying a man with kids. If you heed the advice here, you may have that perfect wedding you want or at the very least, a day that you could look back on with a smile, positive thoughts and a great start to your forever  with the one you love.

  1. Step out of the fantasy and into the reality of what step-family life is really all about

The most common confession I hear from the stepmoms or step couples when I first start working with them is, “We had no idea it would be this hard!” I completely understand because I felt exactly the same way when I started out and still do to be quite frank. First of all, this is not the dream you had about your wedding day. There were no children, no baby mamas with all their drama. Just you, him and the perfect wedding. Yet here you are now.  As the saying goes “love is blind” and most of us when we are smitten with love only see our future through the love blinders. We have high hopes for our step families and truly believe that love will conquer all. It’s only a matter of time before you discover that it’s not what you envisioned it to be.

Take time and get yourself educated about what really works and what doesn’t work before you get married. This will help you out a great deal. Read books, articles like these and seek the help of a professional to help you get on and stay on the right path to successful stepfamily life and a fulfilling marriage.

 

  1. Remember that a wedding is only one day but a marriage is for the rest of your life.

It’s very common for couples especially the bride, to be so focused on the actual day and forget to build the right foundations for a strong family. Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually quite enjoyable to plan the day and all its festivities but it’s good to also bear in mind that the real work begins after the wedding day, with you and your partner on the steering wheel of your family ship. Unlike your counterparts who get into marriage without children, you will not have time to get to know each other and make all sorts of plans before the babies start rolling in. Once you come back from that honeymoon you will be required to roll up your sleeves and make your contribution to your new family. If you were ill prepared for this, frustration, stress and conflict will be a daily occurence in your home.

Take time beforehand to discuss and focus on what kind of family you want to have. What values are important to you and would you like to instill in your children? What sort of parenting backgrounds are you coming from and how can they influence you as partners and parents? How will you handle finances now that there are at least 2 homes to consider, holidays, what about parenting and discipline? Do you intend to have your own children? How will you co-parent effectively? All these are important things to discuss since they are major sources of conflict for blended families. You can take a weekend retreat with your partner to go over these, it will go a long way helping you have a mutual vision for your family. This makes you an even better team

 

  1. Don’t take things so personally

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I know first-hand that this is easier said than done but over time I have come to experience its liberating power. The reason we stepmoms take everything so personally is due to the high, usually unrealistic expectations we have of ourselves, of our stepchildren and our partner. We have painted this picture in our head that we live by everyday and when things don’t match this image we get upset and take it out on our partners and stepchildren.  A lot of things will happen in your stepfamily that have nothing to do with you and are not a personal attack on your character. For example if your partners children are not excited about your wedding it is probably because it’s a reminder of the loss of their mom or dad or that by being even remotely  happy, they are betraying the other parent. They are also confused about how they feel and do know how they are supposed to react. Instead of fighting it and being hurt accept it. It is classic and happens to everyone who is the same position as you are. You cannot be everything to everyone one so accept the things that you cannot change. Most importantly learn how you can spot the difference.

  1. For crying out loud don’t go on the honeymoon with the kids.

Sounds absurd right? Like isn’t this obvious? Well it’s quite common for step couples to do this simply because they don’t want the kids to feel left out. In stepfamilies kids come before the partner so there is usually a tug of war of sorts between the step parent and their partner’s children. Also there isn’t much of a honeymoon phase since the needs of the ready-made family have to be met after the wedding.

As a couple it’s very important to understand that your marriage should come first. You will have to set boundaries between your life as husband and wife and your life as parents and be very intentional in order to achieve this delicate balance. The honeymoon is a good opportunity to start cultivating this. So make arrangements for the kids to stay with their other parent or any other trusted family members or friends and go and have fun at your honeymoon.

Don’t forget that the kids have already witnessed one broken marriage or union. They may have already formed negative perceptions about marriage and relationships with the opposite sex. They will be watching you closely and either have a positive outlook on marriage or a negative one. There will be plenty of time to work on this when you get back

For now go ahead and book the honeymoon of your life, indulge and spoil yourselves.

  1. Have fun at your wedding

You, my dear are very brave and bold and courageous. You have chosen to marry your partner despite the wrench that divorce or death might have left behind, despite the baby mama and children and the messiness that sometimes comes with being in a family that you did not start. You have chosen to love and accept your partner despite their former life. That right there sounds exactly like what family is all about. A safe haven despite the messiness of life.

You deserve to be happy on this day. Your wedding is one day so plan it, and when the day finally arrives enjoy it thoroughly and make the best memories ever!