6 weeks ago, I became a mom.
To a 10 year old and an 8 year old.
I became their mom by marrying their dad.
Yes, they have a mom already, who they spend the majority of their time with.
But, on April 18th, I became their mom as well, and I became just as responsible to love, nurture, and direct them as the two people who gave them life.
6 weeks in, and I’m already convinced of one thing – There is no room in step-parenting for the new, or “bonus”, parent to sit on the fence. From the first moment, you must be all in, ready to do your part. Ready to love unconditionally. Committed to being their parent until the day you die. When I chose Jon, and I chose the kids, too. Forever.
None of this attitude has anything to do with replacing a parent. For some children, yes, there is a parental void that has to be filled. These special new parents assume the responsibility of someone else, who for whatever reason is unable to perform his/her parental duties. For the majority of step-parents, though, both biological parents are still very much involved and doing their part. The goal, then, is not to replace.
What is the goal then? I’ve been wrestling with this one. Obviously part of the goal is to support their dad and to be unified with him in our parenting. But also, the goal has to be to forge our own unique relationship. That is a beautiful opportunity and great responsibility; one that excites me while making me feel completely overwhelmed. I am responsible for setting a godly example for my kids – regardless of how they became mine. That is a weighty thing.
- I will give lots of hugs, kisses, and reassurances.
- I will ask them questions and listen well.
- I won’t force our relationship to look any certain way. We will create it together.
Additionally, the goal has to include productive co-parenting.
This is a tough one. There is a history here that I have not experienced. There are different personalities and approaches to situations. If I’m being honest, there is also the tendency towards jealousy, because their mother has a connection to my husband that I don’t have- these 2 kids. Despite what we often see on tv shows and in movies, though, I am not in competition with their mom.
This isn’t about winning, or showing each other up, or any type of unnecessary drama at all.
- I don’t have to agree with her all the time.
- I don’t have to disagree with her all the time.
- I DO have to find a way to co-parent respectfully. Which is I why I need to pray for her just as I pray for the kids, my husband, and myself.
We aren’t always going to agree – because we are different people and, honestly, what two people agree all the time? But if all three of us keep the kids’ best at the center of our decision-making, we should be able to work through any differences and consistently communicate to the kids that they are loved and valued.
I know I have to be diligent, keeping these goals ever before me, reevaluating often, but it will be worth it.