Well, Mother’s Day has passed. I hope your day went well. I actually received a gift from one of my stepsons and his wife. This really cute balloon was attached to a bottle of wine. The balloon read, “Love You Mom.” Wow!!! The “M” word was used. The name of the bottle of wine . . . “Unruly.” Hmmm…mixed message? I won’t even go there! I’m just thrilled that I was acknowledged for my role.
Now, we look toward Father’s Day. Whether your kid’s bio dad is wonderful or a deadbeat, he will affect your husband. As wives, need to be sensitive to how our guys will respond. My husband (Gil) was kind enough to share a few thoughts.
Reflections From A Step-Dad
Dads come in all shapes and sizes: tall, short, skinny and extra-large. Dads also have roles they are supposed to play such as provider and rule-keeper. Sometimes they offer a shoulder to cry on when a kiddo is scared or wounded. Importantly, Dads are to be someone to lean on except when it comes to not being a Dad in your own family. How is that possible? Enter the Step-Dad who often wants to engage his kids AND his step kids but encounters an internal battle of emotions he does not even know exists.
REVERSE BETRAYAL is an emotion that can sneak up on a man. REVERSE BETRAYAL is when a dad is becoming closer to his stepkids, yet he feels guilty because he may not have that level of relationship with his own kids. Living together in the same home will deepen and bond relationships. Many fathers feel they are getting robbed of the time with their bio kids. When a Dad can only see his kids a couple of times a week, many (or the majority of) conversations are done on the ride back and forth to Mom’s. It’s easy for resentment to spill over into his new family without him even realizing it. No matter what the age of the kids, reverse betrayal is still real.
I have the honor of talking with lots of men who are Step-Dads. I notice that some of these guys have a tough time connecting with their emotions. Add in the expectations and confusion on the path of step-fatherhood, and their hearts become a battlefield of mysterious reactions. How do I “DAD” another man’s kids? They are not my own, but I love them like they are. The times I don’t feel like I love them, I remember that they are a package deal with their Mom…who I love very much.
Respect is important to men. That is the primary sentiment they want not just from their kids but other people. With biological kids, respect is naturally expected. With stepkids, it’s something to be earned. You get what you give. Step-Dads need to respect their kids.
Dads want to be liked, aka – loved, by their family. From a young age, sons and daughters see “Daddy” as fun, adventurous, and a storyteller. Some kids get to see the tender side of what a mature man is really all about. These aspects of a man are sometimes not seen by the stepchildren if the family comes together when the kids are older, such as pre-teen, teens or even adults. The kids may be too preoccupied to notice what a great stepdad they have!
5 Ways to Support Your Husband as the Step-Dad to Your Kids
1. Show respect to your husband so all your kids can see what it looks like.
2. Help create a peaceful environment at home. When he comes home from slaying the dragons of life, what does he like to come home to? Calm, running to a game, the comforting smell of dinner? If you don’t know, ask him. This will help him make the transition from his workday to being home.
3. Realize how hard it is to drive his kids back and forth to their bio mom’s home. Be sensitive to his relationship with his kids. Is it helpful to take a step back, or to step in? Ask him. Support his relationship with his kids as much as you can.
4. “Reverse betrayal.” Don’t take it personally. If he really feels that way; ask him how you can help.
5. Support relationship-building activities between him and your children. A great way to connect with all the kids is to have him “date” them. Is it a trip to the batting cages? A pedicure (for the brave man)? Watching a football game? Grabbing some coffee or shopping? See what he can learn from them! Make sure you applaud his efforts – it’s a great way to build relationships.
Overall, make sure you are a safe place for him to talk about what he is experiencing. It only takes a few negative comments and our guys will shut down.
Let go of your expectations of what he should be doing to father your kids. As you see him making efforts with your kids, encourage him every chance you get.
As Gil and I say…ALWAYS FORWARD!