Q: I am getting serious about a woman that has two kids; an 11 year old son and an eight year old daughter. Do I need to have my head examined to even think of getting serious with this woman? I am 29, single, and never married. Give it to me straight.
A: Do you have to have your head examined? No. Do you need to make sure it’s screwed on good and straight? Yes. What I mean by that is that this is a situation you need to approach with your eyes wide open and give it the respect and consideration that it deserves.
I believe that in matters of love and life mates, we need to let our hearts lead the way, but this is an instance where your head definitely needs to be in the game as well…big time. Is this an incredibly challenging state of affairs? You bet. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. I am convinced that the very best way to approach this is to ask yourself first and foremost, could this be the person I would love to spend the rest of my life with? When kids are involved I don’t have time to hear, “well she’s really nice, we have fun together and she actually likes football.” If that is as infatuated as you are at this point…move on. If however, you would walk down the aisle tomorrow save your caution around the fact that she has kids then the two of you can look forward to some long and meaningful conversations at this point. Does she want to get married? Do you want more kids? Does she? Does she have primary custody? Is their dad involved in their lives and if so what kind of factor/influence is he? How will she align herself in matters of parenting and discipline? Is she willing to create a united front with you or does she feel that the parenting needs to be left to her because she’s their mom? I believe strongly that if she wants to be with you, but doesn’t want you to have some say and influence with the kids, that is an enormous red flag. Did she introduce you to her kids right away or did she protectively wait to expose them to any relationship until it was fairly serious? I hate to see parents that parade a laundry list of boyfriends and girlfriends through their children’s lives. I think it goes far beyond irresponsible and borders on cruel. But I digress.
To make matters even more challenging, western society has done a bang-up job of vilifying the step-parent role. You need look no farther than Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, etc., etc. to realize that those of us that have taken this on aren’t starting on an even playing field. I don’t say this to put you off, but personally speaking I can say that I wish I had been better prepared. Where my naiveté left off, other people’s perceptions took over. So keep in mind that if you want a B+ in the step-dad department you are going to have to seriously over achieve. Is it a challenge worthy of your efforts? It can be that and then some. But in this situation, ignorance provides little bliss.
On the truly positive side, I actually think you are in a position of having wonderful vision and insight about her than most people lack for quite some time in relationships. You get to see what type of mother she is. How she treats and responds to her kids. Her morals and ethics around family and those relationships and this can, for you, be akin to fast forwarding the movie and getting a glimpse at the really good stuff long before most people would enjoy such a benefit. As well, I know with my whole heart that often times, being and becoming a parent brings out the very best in people and it could well be that she is, in fact, the person you are drawn to today because of the fact that she has kids and life has asked her to grow and become in those ways. But now it will ask the same of you. As I’ve mentioned before, her kids are people in their own right with feelings, emotions and dispositions that belong uniquely to them and you will need to forge a relationship with them independent of their mother. This is a complicated, complex situation to be sure, but what I can tell you is that Greg’s kids have been and ENORMOUS blessing in my life. Has it always been easy? Hell no! But has it been worthwhile? Utterly and completely. At heart I’m a romantic and I do believe that love…real love conquers all. But I also know that you owe it to yourself and her to be as aware and sure of yourself as possible as you go down this path. After all, there are extra hearts at stake in the matter and they are the most tender of all.