Monday, May 20, 2013

Ask Single Mom in the South: Parenting Each Others Children


 A semi-regular column that addresses your questions about single motherhood. Got a question about which you'd like my opinion? Ask in the comments or email me at singlemominthesouth@gmail.com. 

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I was single for a long time... like totally single.  If you've been with me for the duration, you know I really only started actively dating in the last two years.  Actively being a relative term because really I've only dated two men in that time.  Both had children. As you may have figured, Lawn Boy and I have gotten quite serious, being together for about a year and all, and at this point, we spend lots of time together will all of our children.

Y'all know I'm always saying how I've been in total control for all this time and it's hard to let go.  I have a certain way I've always done things with my children and I've not really had to co-parent with their dad, so it's sort of always been my way or the highway.  Let's just say that LB and his ex have a different way of parenting that I do. If you don't believe me, let me refresh your memory. *grins*

It begs the question:

How do you handle parenting each others children?

It's come up recently because his daughter has been testing limits, mostly with her parents, but apparently there was an incident involving her being disrespectful to her mother's significant other. This sparked LB's ex texting me and telling me I could "feel free to put her in her place." After a round of "What the ???"  I gave the idea some thought.

Thus far, we just don't play that way.  He handles his children and I handle mine.

That's not to say we each don't set boundaries for our homes and personal space that everyone has to follow.  There are definitely more "rules" at my house than at his and I've been known more than once to say, "Kiddo, that just will not fly with Miss Leigh," or "You can keep asking, but Miss Leigh isn't going to change her answer."

For the most part, the children respond.

On the rare occasion that I felt something needed to be addressed, I went to LB privately and he handled it accordingly.  He's done the same in return. So far it's working. Oh don't get me wrong, his children test my patience all the time and mine his.. they are kids, after all...but when it's something bigger... like disrespect or deliberately not following a rule... which has been, as I said, fairly rare, we let the parent handle it.  I'm also not counting situations where someone is in immediate danger, which would need to be dealt with RIGHT THEN... fortunately, that hasn't happened yet.

I just feel that, more so for his children than mine, there has been a lot of change in the last 18 months. Mommy and daddy each have someone new in their lives. They just don't need more people correcting everything they do, especially if it's something mommy and daddy always allowed.

So there you have it.  

How do you handle parenting each others children?
You don't. You let the actual parent handle it.

9 comments:

Michelle Nahom said...

I think that is really, really good advice. I'm not a single parent and I can't imagine the kinds of challenges you face, but I always enjoy reading your posts. I have a lot of respect for single parents. It's hard enough for us to juggle everything with two of us. I think what you say makes a lot of sense.

Leah said...

Oh boy - this is a can of worms you have opened!!

I go totally against the grain with the answer to this question. I read lots of books that said, "You discipline yours, I discipline mine", we went to a counsellor that told us to do that. We tried it, and it did not work - for us.

Of course, I think you have to spend time building a relationship with the children. If you come on in and start setting the rules, you will fail. So, perhaps if you are not living together, it is a good rule to stick by (which is what I did initially). However, once we were all living under one roof, we explained that in our house, "WE" were the parental figures. Yes, they had their "real Dad" and their "real Mom", but in this home, we were the ones who were in charge. I think we got a "You're not my mom" thing maybe once - to which I replied, "nope, but I'm your stepmom, and in our family we do this..." End of story. I'm not competing. This is just the way our house runs here.

I also explained to them, if they want all the love, support, time, kindness etc. that i want to give them as my stepchildren, then they also have to deal with my discipline, my expectations, my freak outs too:))) I love them enough to treat them as my own - and that means if they need discipline, I will discipline. All kids are treated "fairly" around here - you don't get away with anything because you are my step children or my bio children.

The most important piece is that you and your partner are completely on the same page with this. Otherwise it will divide you. If you discipline, then your partner has to back you 100% - so you might want to discuss your feelings and expectations up front. If the kids sense it is "your rule" and not their bio parent's rule, and they can get another answer by going to their bio parent, I think that is trouble. They need to know - it doesn't matter who you ask - we support each other and we back each other. If one person has made a "mistake", then it gets talked about privately and then "fixed" together (bcs let's face it - we all screw up and it is a learning process. Non blended families deal with the kids trying to divide parents too - it's just extra sensitive when it is a blended one so you have to make sure you show the kids you are one team).

Very tricky - but we've been married for 5 years and I don't think I could have survived always biting my tongue, waiting for my husband to do something that I could easily have taken care of. I actually think my relationship with my skids is stronger because of it - it is "OUR" relationship, with no mediators for us. We build our own thing - the good, the bad, and the ugly:)))

Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

Leah! Thank you so much for weighing in! This is exactly why I asked you to. You are further in this journey than me and I appreciate your perspective. I imagine things will change if we all end up under one roof.

The Dose of Reality said...

Interesting to read the post and then Leah's answer. I would imagine, especially if marriage became a part of the equation that you would have to find the balance.-The Dose Girls

Aleta said...

I like the idea of parenting your own children, because it IS your child... you can support one another but not the parent.

Cyndy Newsome said...

I do believe it's a personal decision and what works for one family may not work for another. But in MY opinion - keep doing what you're doing. Having someone else discipline YOUR children (other than their father) (and sometimes even then but I digress) can cause some major resentment. For one, from your kids, but also, from you as the parent. I am very sensitive when it comes to my kids. I don't even like for B to comment on them leaving a mess or something totally trivial like that. I admit that it's my issue and I need to work on that. But he will not ever discipline my kids and vice versa. Now, our kids are a little older, but I was married when my kids were younger and we tried the disciplining-each-others-kids thing. And well...we're divorced now. That was only one of the problems, but yeah. It can really be a slippery slope.

Mimi B said...

Great question, and I think where we're at in our relationships with our boyfriends is very similar. I'm nowhere near in a place to discipline my guys' kids and no way is he going to discipline mine. But, a day will come when I believe that will change, and that will be when we have "our" rules. Right now it just wouldn't be appropriate. I think what Leah said is really spot on. We definitely need to have each others backs! =)

Ilene, The Fierce Diva Guide to Life said...

I think you handled this beautifully and with great sensitivity and in a way that put the kids first. Kudos! And I will remember for when it is my time to have to do this!

Mommyof1 said...

Interesting post. I agree with each parent disciplining their own kids. This is one of the reasons that I choose to remain single until my son is at least 18. I'm not interested in dealing with any of that. Good luck