Ah – the never-ended and never-answered question for a lot of people with Step-parent roles. How do you know when to stop “stepping-up” and step back instead?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the great thing about meeting Monster when he was so small is that I really am part of the furniture, there was no awkward introduction (for him, anyway), there was no finding my role in a very established family or figuring out what I can and can’t say or do. We grew together as a three, and Monster sees me as his family at Daddy’s house – it was automatic, no drama.
So my role at home is very much involved, there are no real boundaries for the day-to-day stuff. I was there for the first overnight, potty training, learning to talk and walk and not forgetting tantrums, tears and pushing boundaries. All of those boundaries and stages of development have been managed in our house by my partner and I together – in fact, its very easy to say I am definitely the disciplinarian in our house, if Daddy says Monster can do something, he often comes to me to double check – much to my OHs annoyance and my amusement!
So, because I’ve always been super involved in everything happening at our house, it can be very hard to step back and say “thats not my decision” or “its nothing to do with me”… and this does sometimes impact things at our house as well as the big life decisions parents should make for their children. Take a later meal out, while I can check the diary and know that we’re available – we have always been very disciplined about Monsters bedtime, so I need to check with my partner if he can be half an hour late to bed. Ultimately, if he says no or yes – that’s what will happen, sure we’ll always have a conversation if we don’t initially agree, but really the decision will be his.
Thats obviously small fry when compared to decisions about education, medical care, hobbies and activities, but here I am very lucky. My partner and I almost always agree on what is best for Monster, based on his personality, apparent interests and a very good dose of research. We will beaver away in the background and he presents his opinion. Unfortunately in the non-custodial household, (thanks instagram Bonus Mums for this term!) none of the adults are actually the decision-makers but knowing we are on the same page is of comfort none the less.
Deciding where that line sits is very tricky, whats a decision I CAN make (screen time, food choices, daily activities etc) and what do I need to ‘escalate’? Neither my partner nor I have worked this out at the moment.. if you ask him I am and should be involved in everything, but in practice he is the majority shareholder in our house – thats the best metaphor I can come up with in the blended family. I’m very happy and proud to have any shares at all to be honest, but a rule book of rights and responsibilities for each stake would be greatly appreciated… until such a thing is published, for us the key is communication and keeping Monster first in the priority list, that way if we don’t agree, we both have the security of knowing Monster’s interests are the priority.
4 thoughts on “Learning to step-back”
Yes. Follow up question: how do you step back/remain emotionally safe in situations/conflict/negotiations between bio parents (your partner and his ex)? I struggle with the way my partner deals with his ex and this generally leads to conflict between us. He said just last night “I fight with her or I fight with you.” I find it hard to fill the parent role in so many ways but be completely shut out of other. Help!
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Hi Ruth, I’ve written & rewritten my response to you about 6 million times now, so I’ll try and keep it simple. I definitely don’t have a magic fix for this and I’ve definitely been through it too, as has my partner! All I can do is share what has helped me manage this better and reduced the conflict in our house:
1. Support – When I’m pissed and emotional about anything blended family related, I try to rant elsewhere. If I have an outburst at my partner, he responds emotionally too and it definitely doesn’t end in a healthy or productive conversation.
2. Pick my battles – If it doesn’t directly impact me or my household, I try to let it go – or have a private rant elsewhere (see point 1!)
3. Be rational – I really think Dads in a blended family are in a super tough spot (perhaps more than Stepmums sometimes) and they don’t always have control; they’re managing the emotions and opinions of a lot of conflicting stakeholders… If I have an emotional outburst (hey, we’re all human) it just adds to the pressure on him and can make him respond defensively. If I can present a logical and rational recommendation in a calm environment, we have a grown-up chat about the best thing to do for Monster and for us.
I don’t know if that will be helpful for you, but hopefully theres some inspiration in there! Sorry for such a long response and thanks for reading 🙂
My partner my stepson
Anything else you want to take from “””bio”””mum?
My partner will always be her ex husband.
My stepson will always be her son.
By being part of their lives I have not taken anything from “bio-mum” (this is the accepted term in the blended family world for clarity) but simply added to the boys lives.
All of us have been many things to many people throughout our lives and they will always be there no matter our futures bring.