When you decide to be in a relationship with someone who already has kids, you are immediately thrust into the game called “What exactly is my role?” The question of who you are to these kids and what meaning they can potentially bring (or not bring) to your life will definitely keep you up many nights. One cannot underestimate the emotional complexity behind this new family dynamic from the children’s perspective, especially when they are still reeling from the fact that their natural parents are no longer together. When these kids are not born of our flesh, do we play the role of mother, “big sister”, auntie or simply “sideline Susie”. When you disagree with any parenting aspects of your partner, should you have a say at all? Even if you approve of how your mate (as well as their mom) is raising these children, how much of your own character, morals and beliefs should you instill in these children when they aren’t our own?
Given my own experience, there is no “one answer” as there are so many variables to consider. Obviously, the age and personalities of the children will help to determine your role – older kids might be more forthcoming with the type of relationship they are seeking of you (and most likely have a fully baked moral compass). Younger kids may be indifferent to you right off the bat or they might take to you right away, clinging like a Bolivian black capped squirrel monkey, seeing all that you have to offer. Some kids will make it known to which box you have been automatically compartmentalized, especially those who feel that they already have a mother, so who needs another! Feeling out these situations will take time and depend upon the emotional maturity of the child. If the children’s natural mother still plays an active role in their lives, you’ll want to be sensitive not to tread on her toes. It will be important to consider what type of a relationship the kids have with their mother - do they seek advice from her, or do they come to you (or your mate) more often for words of wisdom? And when they do, what answers are they looking for?
In the end, your role could be determined not by the relationship you want with the kids, but by need – how much the kids need you in their lives – and only time will tell.
Curious to hear if you agree….