Step parent families- they are different
The Brady Bunch depicted the ideal. We all wanted to be a brother or sister in that happy household, no arguments, no fighting, a maid so no chores and the best of all...a step parent that loved us unconditionally.
Ok, lets get rid of that unrealistic image, it isn't going to happen! If you are in a step parent situation and its working, you are both happy, I applaud you not only for your efforts but also for your luck, for luck has a vital role in the chemistry of the step parent family. Why?
Because of our "nature". Our nature has implanted things like mood, tolerance, character like laid back or volatile, our personal needs, humour and most important of all...our natural ability/inability to nurture any child.
Nurturing- ok here is a scenario. You are single no kids, your new boy friend of 2 months walks hand in hand along a shopping strip and you spot a school friend of many years pushing a pram. You introduce your boyfriend to your old friend but really, you cant wait to see her new baby and give attention to her 2yo toddler hanging onto the pram. Your boyfriend is eager to leave but initially shows patience. He answers but there is no interest with those children.
Now, add the fact that you have 3 kids any ages. Would you, now having realized that your boyfriend hasn't much nurturing in him, advance your relationship to a defacto one?
One of the problems with step parenting is that its a balancing act. Do you do this introduction early in the relationship? Before you fall in love? After you fall in love? My concern having been a step parent in two long term relationships is that I was "falling" in love with a lady that had two teenage kids and my girls 9 and 6yo. I'm the nurturing type but I was really hoping she would endear herself to my girls after all they are perfect right? Who wouldn't love them right? I introduced them to her after only 4 weeks. They came every second weekend and I can recall sitting them on a couch and asking my girlfriend to sit in the middle so I could get a photo. I should have realise with the signal, that obvious signal...my GF wouldn't put her arms around them. This made my girls uncomfortable/unaccepted.
My eldest came to live with us at 12yo. When she did something wrong my wife would say "if you do that again you'll be going back to your mother". "No way"!. It turned out in that case she was jealous. It often happens IMO.
The line was drawn. Try to recognize a toxic step parent early in the relationship.
This is an interesting topic. I'm not a step parent. A friend I am very close to had a child before she met her partner. And I do see the challenges it brings to all parties regularly.
The thing I notice most of all is my friend is constantly caught in the middle and it's not great for her mental health. It's like she is a referee to keep everyone civil.
I am curious... How did you manage situations such as soothing hurts when a step parent is told "I'll just ask my real Dad".
You mentioned toxic step parents but I also think there is the relationship between the biological parents, interaction between step parent and biological parent and most importantly the relationships between children and all parents involved. It can be a minefield of toxic and hurtful behaviours!
Firstly I'll explain. In my 20's I was step dad for a boy for years years (2-9yo)
In my 40's I was step dad to 2 teenagers (14 and 17yo) boy and girl. The 17yo girl was about to give birth to her child. Their mother my new defacto was step parent for 19 years to my girls 9 and 6yo at the beginning.
I am curious... How did you manage situations such as soothing hurts when a step parent is told "I'll just ask my real Dad". Yes, I used to get "you're not my dad, you cant tell me what to do" when in my 20's. That situation is really alarm bells as to the step parent a/ forcing authority and b/ not having connected with his/her step child. That's my view. The reason I have that view is- no matter what, the child has far less control over a conflict so he says whatever is natural for his feelings. The step parent has the ability if he so chooses to connect strongly to the child by not presuming his/her role is indeed a parental role.
A step parent role is not parental unless they are left alone to fill the void of the parent. The step parent's ideal attitude is one whereby he is a friend, a supporter, a mentor, a persuader and a loved one. Then the step child will do anything the step parent wants as any actions will please the step parent. Eventually the child might say to his parent "no mum, **** (step dads name) wont make me do it". Then that situation is reversed and when the child approaches his and says "mummy is making me have a bath can you stop her" He can act accordingly, like " well you have to have a bath, how about I get that boat for you to play with in the bath" Then he plays with him for a minute or two and leaves.
I did the same when my step son 15yo was taking interes tin a car. He was about to learn to drive in my big V8 Jaguar. So I told him I'd buy a Holden panel van and we could do it up together. His father wasnt healthy enough to do this activity. So every second weekend we'd work on the car. His main focus was using spray cans to paint items I worked hard to restore. But that's ok, it didn't matter. His mother insisted he get a part time job nearby that was offered to him but he didn't want it, had no need for it and came to me asking "I don't want that job. "Well, I cant afford to pay for everything mate, if you work you can buy a new engine and get this car sprayed a colour of your choice". He eagerly went inside the house and wanted the job.
The common alternative would be to yell at him and hated festers.