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 stepchildren make you a mother?

I’m sharing an excerpt from my book today. In many cases, people who are childless by marriage find themselves becoming stepparents to their spouses’ children from previous marriages. Sometimes it can really ease the pain of not having your own children, but at other times, it just makes the pain of childlessness worse.

A waiter in a restaurant I frequented during my Saratoga News days asked me one day if I was a mother. I gave my standard answer: “I don’t have any children of my own, but I have three stepchildren.”

He rolled his eyes. “Oh, then you got kids.”

Well, yes and no. A stepmother is a lot like a substitute teacher. The kids know she’s not the real teacher, so they don’t have to listen to her or do what she says. She has all the responsibility without the love and respect. If she sticks around long enough, they might get to like each other, but when the real teacher pokes her head in the door, they’ll all abandon their desks, screaming, “Mrs. Smith, you’re back!”

It also feels like being the babysitter or the nanny. When the folks come home, the dad gets out his wallet, hands you some money and says, “Thank you very much. We’ll take over now.”

Have you experienced this? It’s a big issue for a lot of us. Let’s talk about it for the next few posts. Do you have stepchildren? Do you feel like a real mother or father to them?

You can read a lot more about stepparenting in my book Childless by Marriage. If you have a Kindle and haven’t paid the crazy low price for the e-book yet, the e-book will be available for free Oct. 28-31. Just click here for the page to download it. You can buy the paperback or ebook from Amazon.com.