Since I’ve always been kind of obsessed with being a mom one day, dating a man with kids has never been a dealbreaker for me, especially since I had a pretty amazing relationship with my own step-mom growing up. Still, no matter how happy I felt about taking on my boyfriend’s kids, it’s a huge deal and something I definitely wasn’t prepared for.
- I have to be constantly flexible. It’s one thing considering your partner in all plans you make, but when he comes with kids, it takes this basic concept up about 1,000 notches. More than that, you also have to be prepared for plans to fall through or change last minute. As someone who loves making social plans and sticking to them, this took a lot of adjusting to.
- My personal space has pretty much vanished. I’m a person who likes my own space—not just likes, needs. Getting it in a relationship requires striking a balance, but it’s ten times trickier when there are kids around. If I want to sit in the bedroom alone and read for a while, I don’t want to be seen as rude or not getting involved enough with the kids. Even wanting to just stay in bed and have a little cuddle time with your partner before getting up on the weekends isn’t really an option because you’ll have a third person clambering on top of you nine times out of 10. Don’t get me wrong, I love those mornings too, but sometimes I just need a little more me time before facing the chaos of family time.
- Nothing could prepare me for how present my boyfriend’s ex is. I’m one of the lucky ones in a lot of ways in that my partner’s ex is perfectly nice, we get along really well, and it’s all very grown up and civilized. They worked really hard to create a good relationship for the sake of the children and I’ve worked hard to fit into that too. I totally respect them for it, especially as a child of a messy divorce. Does that mean I actually like having his ex-wife present in our relationship nearly every day? Hell-freaking-no. Honestly, sometimes I just want to go a day without hearing her name.
- I’m expected to put them first all the time. This is the trickiest thing. I can totally handle the responsibility and care required of being with a guy with kids and I understand that I have to consider them when I’m making plans with my life. However, it’s the level to which it’s expected of me that I struggle with. Sometimes it frustrates me that my partner doesn’t seem to understand that no matter how great my relationship with his kids is, our relationship is what’s most important to me.
- I’m so much stricter than I imagined. I was shocked to realize that I’m actually a pretty strict parent, a fact that is made more obvious because my partner is the exact opposite. Being stricter than him when the kids aren’t mine is really freaking difficult at times and I’m still trying to test the limits of how much discipline is appropriate for me to implement. I also don’t want to be seen as the “evil stepmother” because I’m the only one who enforces the rules that my partner and I both discussed.
- My partner wants me to have an opinion on how to raise the kids… but not too much of one. I’m a pretty opinionated person and that includes having some pretty strong ideas about the best way to raise kids. However, it’s tough trying to figure out how much it’s appropriate to express or suggest. My partner says he welcomes my views and I’m sure he means it, but maybe only to a point. Learning when to bite your tongue is a must.
- Splitting financials is a delicate subject to navigate. One of our first major arguments was about money and how we split it. He expected we’d split the rent 50/50 when we moved in together but I didn’t think that was fair when we needed a three-bedroom house due to his two kids. I thought my point was totally reasonable but it didn’t go down well at all. We’ve managed to find a happy medium, but realizing that the commitment to take them on meant financially as well was a tough pill to swallow. Money conversations can be awkward anyway, but when kids are involved, it gets much more complicated.
- I get the best of both worlds. I love family life, but I also still love quality time with my friends, family, and most importantly, my partner. Co-parenting gives us the best of both worlds. Lazy family Sundays cuddled up watching Disney films? Check. Romantic late nights out with wine and cocktails? Check. We get the joy of being a family plus a lot of great quality time as a couple. It’s a win-win in this regard.
- I had no idea how much I’d love them. While I expected (or at least hoped) to be close with his children, nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming love I feel for them. When that little girl tells her daddy she wants me to read her bedtime story and tuck her in at night, or a 16-year-old boy wants to proudly show me the latest project he’s been working on and see what I think, I can’t help but glow a little. That’s when I realize all the tough stuff is totally worth it.