There are a few things I fight about with my partner; in fact we are so alike that on the rare occasions we do fight it’s exhausting and confusing. The most popular topic of debate is our parenting differences.
I do not ever want my love to feel unable or incapable, but conflict arises as I too struggle with my own insecurities as a parent in training. There are no manuals that comes with children, all parents have to help them are the templates that has been passed down to them by their own parents and caregivers. The blended family has even more challenges, whether it is as straight or LGBT family, having a new family member is a difficult adjustment.
The lesbian step-parent, what does that even mean? Sometimes, women will fall in love with women who already have children, either because they were conceived from a previous heterosexual relationship, or a previous lesbian union, or by adoption. Regardless, when a woman falls in love and enters a relationship with a mother, she is not only committing to her but to her children.
Children are often dealing with the burden of their parents’ pasts; that is why accepting a new family member is difficult. Often, children are dealing with residual feelings of loss and abandonment. They are trying to understand situations out of their
control but that they feel directly responsible for. The reason for children feeling responsible is due to the developmental stages humans go through; when we are young we are egocentric. This means that everything children feel is directly related to them, therefore they believe they have control and power to change things.
According to some sources, it takes approximately two years for step-families to gain stability. The journey to a healthy family can be challenging and overwhelming, however the rewards are wonderful and filled with joy.
If your children were conceived in a heterosexual relationship, you must make it clear to your children that it was not their fault and they were not responsible for the relationship terminating. Sometimes, family therapy is needed to communicate this message clearly to children and allow negative emotions out in a safe environment.
Children often have beliefs that there parents will get back together, even years later. This causes friction with a new partner, and could lead to resentment in the child if not treated. That is why it’s important to practice patience, all the time! Nothing is more upsetting to me than couples who force their children to adapt to their time frame, forgetting that it’s a parent’s duty to fulfill their child’s needs first.
There are some important steps when dealing with a new step-parent in a lesbian relationship:
- Have your partner gently develop a relationship with your child or children, perhaps first as a friendship.
- Avoid your partner having a disciplinary role at first, as trust and attachment needs to develop.
- Keep your partner out of conflicts you have with your ex.
- Neither of you should ever talk negatively about your ex in front of your children; it is hurtful and extremely damaging. No matter what your ex does, it’s important to remember that you do not have to act like them to make a point. Have your own standards when dealing with conflict, and that includes keeping your children as far away as possible from that kind of negative communication.
- When enough time goes by, allow you partner to parent. That means letting go of some of your motherly duties. Let her take control in order to build a mothering role with your child. For example, in my home we alternate nights tucking our child to bed. We have our own bed rituals and ways of soothing her to sleep.
- As a step-parent you have to develop your own independent relationship with the child, perhaps even share a similar interest. My partner loves the outdoors, and when it comes to swimming, fishing, and gardening the two of them are out there having fun (I’m the indoor mommy! That likes to read and draw.)
- Don’t argue about parenting in front of your children, it’s confusing and they will feel like they have to take sides.
- Don’t force your child to call your partner “mom” or any other maternal nickname.
- Allow your partner parental responsibilities, such as picking up the child from school or making lunches. In my house, my partner makes school lunches, because our baby says hers our best but I tells the best stories.
- Most important be patient with each other, and remember to be consistent in what you say and do. Children are sensitive and if the pattern of daily life changes than anxiety increases.
Being a parent is hard, but I feel being a step-parent is even more challenging. It requires strength to often swallow your pride and change for a child or children with no guaranties that it will be positive or last. However, I ask that you stay focus in the present, keeping in mind the goal you want to reach with your new family and being grateful for all the steps forward you take with them by your side.
Alex Karydi – The Lesbian Guru
Dedicate to my beautiful partner and daughter, who never stops making me smile. I love you.