Stepparenting: A Bummer and a Blessing

In the Childfree community, there’s a lot of talk about how having children can mess up a marriage. Check out the new book Being FruitfulWithout Multiplying or any “childfree” website for lots of testimony from writers who cite that as one of the reasons they didn’t want to have children. There’s no question that having a baby can lead to sleepless nights, attention going to the child instead of each other, endless expenses, and physical and emotional changes.

But what happens when a child from one of the spouse’s previous marriages is thrown into a childless marriage, especially when the other biological parent is still involved in their lives?
1) You find yourself helping to raise a child who has been formed by someone else. Not only do they have the ex’s genes, but they spent their critical early years learning how to walk, talk and think from somebody whose values may be very different from yours.
2) You find yourself responsible for a child you barely know without any experience at being a parent.
3) When conflicts arise, your spouse’s loyalties are divided between the two of you, and sometimes you lose.
4) A serious amount of your money is being used to raise somebody else’s child.
5) The children know you are not the “real” mom or dad and may decide they don’t need to do what you say or worry about your feelings. You and your partner may, no, probably will, quarrel over discipline.
6) On major occasions, such as graduations, weddings and court dates, both biological parents are likely to be there, making you feel left out and barren.
These are just a few of the things that happen. I’ll bet you can add to the list.
But I can make another list of the good things about marrying someone who comes with children from a previous relationship.
1) You go from being single to feeling like part of a real family.
2) You have someone to complain about and brag about when everybody’s talking about their children.
3) Coming in without the baggage of their early years, sometimes you can become a special friend and confidant, a mother without so many rules.
4) You might get to be a grandmother without ever giving birth.
5) You have an opportunity to love and be part of the life of a young person who shares many of the qualities you love about your partner.
6) They might even friend you and send you baby pictures on Facebook.
If for some reason, their biological parent is not in the picture, having died or gotten sick or abandoned them, you may find yourself taking care of these kids full-time and loving them every bit as if they were your own.
I know this is a big issue for a lot of us. We don’t have children mostly because our partners already have these other children. So that’s my list. I’d love to hear what’s on your list.
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You’re probably sick of hearing about it, but if you haven’t gotten my Childless by Marriage book yet, the Kindle e-book version will be available for free Oct. 28-31. That’s this Sunday through Halloween. You don’t have to have a Kindle reader to read it. You can download the free Kindle reading program onto your computer, iPad or whatever.
I can’t afford to give away the paperback for free, but if you promise to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or elsewhere, I can send you a free copy. Just email me at sufalick@gmail.com.
Also, my novel Azorean Dreams, which is a Portuguese-American romance with a lot of suspense, will also be available as a free Kindle e-book Oct. 28-31.
Have a great weekend!

Does having children take the romance out of marriage?

Are you or your partner hesitant to have children because of the effect it would have on your marriage?

I’m reading this book called Marriage Confidential: Love in the Post-Romantic Age by Pamela Haag. It’s not about childlessness, but about marriage. It’s very interesting, and it makes me feel about a hundred years old. Apparently things have changed since I got married in the last century.

In Haag’s view, marriages alter irrevocably with the arrival of children. Instead of focusing on each other, the mother and father turn all their attention to the children. They become sexless partners in the business of raising children. One of my favorite lines is: “As far as erotic charge goes, one day you’re sleeping with a lover-husband, and the next you might as well be in bed with a toaster.” In this age of two-income families and “helicopter parenting,” Haag suggests, there is no time or energy left for each other, or for a social life outside the family.The romance goes away.

I think back on my marriage to Fred. We acted like newlyweds for over 25 years. If we had had children, would that romantic feeling have been destroyed? Is that part of what happened to his first marriage? I’ll never know. I do know that when I was raising my two puppies, everything was about the dogs, and I sometimes made their needs a higher priority than Fred’s needs. Would it have been even worse with children? I don’t know. Maybe this is just how it’s supposed to be; you have children and marriage morphs into something different–but not necessarily something bad.

What do you think? Have you ever experienced this or worried about it happening? Is this why your partner doesn’t want to have children?