The Parenting Thing

This blended-family/step-parenting thing is a lot more complicated than I expected it to be.

Partly, I think, it has to do with the fact that CBG isn’t a permanent fixture in our lives. He has relatively little contact with the girls right now, as things stand with our schedules and such. I do hope that will change over time, but only time will tell on that one. Right now he is not with my girls enough to truly get to know them well, and vice versa.

Another part of it is that he and I have very different parenting philosophies and approaches…and from what I can tell at this point, likely always will. Sometimes our philosophies are in direct conflict with one another. I’m okay with that, but really feel as though we need to find some sort of way to work this out. And before now, this isn’t something that we’ve really discussed all that much.

When CBG and I got back together last year, I told him that I didn’t need him to be a “parental figure” in my girls’ lives. They have a very loving and involved and good dad, and I’m certainly not looking to replace him. I told him that all he needed to be was their friend and that the parenting aspect could be left entirely to me and their dad. As time goes on and CBG becomes more of a permanent fixture in our lives, he obviously needs to take a more active role in parenting my girls. It’s not all fun and games for the three of them anymore. Sometimes he’s going to need to discipline them. There will be times when he needs to enforce boundaries with them. I would like, as much as possible, for him to be my back-up when issues arise when we’re all together.

I noticed this past weekend, me reacting quite negatively (if even in my own head) to CBG’s approach with my girls a couple of times. I believe strongly in my way of parenting them, and to him doing otherwise caused my protective “mama bear” instincts to kick in. There were also moments when I could tell that he was thinking that if I’d chosen to do things “his way” that things would have gone a lot more smoothly. My approach might not always be easier in the moment, but when it comes to parenting, I believe more in long-term effects rather than immediate results. Once again, my defensiveness kicked in, in the face of perceived judgment and criticism.

It’s difficult to know how to approach this. I sent him a long email last night, talking about the ins and outs and whys of the parenting choices that I make, in an effort to help him  understand a little bit more where I’m coming from and why I choose to handle my girls in the ways that I do. My hope is that this will spark a conversation that brings us a little more in line with our parenting, particularly when it comes to my girls. Or at least explain the couple of dirty looks he got from me. heh.

This parenting thing is tough! Anyone else have any experiences with this and/or thoughts to share?

21 Responses

  1. I wish the *Sanity Fairy* did have the magic to solve these inevitable parenting style conflicts. You’ve taken the most important first step …spark the conversation. They’ll never be “perfect agreement” because we all as individuals see things differently, especially when it comes to complicated challenges like parenting.

    We’re all rooting for you.

  2. This is a big one and it cannot be easy to find a place in the middle where everyone’s happy. Especially when it comes to an issue that involves your kids. Good luck.

  3. Dude, all I can say is good luck. I am generally laid-back and not judgemental about much…except parenting. There, I admit it. So I can’t imagine being able to connect with another adult who doesn’t parent the way I do and with the same levels of expectation and boundaries etc that I have. It would drive me apey.

    • When I’m 100% honest, I’ll admit that I’m actually kind of judgmental when it comes to parenting, too. It’s a tricky thing, though, when the parenting style you’re judging is someone that you love, you know?

      Part of me is taking a firm stance on this and insisting, “These are MY kidlets, and they are going to be raised the way I want them to be raised, dammit!”

      The more reasonable part of me reminds me that I’m in a relationship with this man, and I need to accommodate him…a little…at least sometimes. ;-)

  4. This is one of the most difficult aspects of dating with kids (in my opinion). There has been only one guy serious enough to bring around my kids and we are so different in styles.

    I found, though, that part of what I loved about him was also what made up his parenting style. He is a playful guy who is always in the moment. He is spontaneous and fun too. So, you can guess that doesn’t work out to be the best at saying no or respecting bedtime routines.

    However, through ongoing dialog we have both come a bit to the middle on parenting style; I am a bit more laid back and he has become a bit more structured. Neither of us changed who we are, but rather respected each other enough to both give a little to find a common ground.

    I think all four of our kids are better for the changes in us too!

    • Some of the areas that we differ on is hard for me find middle ground with. It’s difficult for me to be bending in some regards…because I feel like bending is going to mean doing them a disservice.

      I guess that’s just me being judgmental of his parenting. It’s tough.

  5. I don’t have any good advice, but your post is interesting, as are all the comments.

  6. As I myself re enter the world of dating…. single mamma style… I have thought about this ALOT. My ex..pretty much went along with whatever… he never expressed much of anything… much less about parenting styles… some would say that made me lucky….. but I never agreed… he just followed along…. aimlessly…. and well…. let me do my thing parroting what I said or did if and when he felt like it…. So this will be HUGE for me…. could be great… to have an actual ‘partner’ or it could be a full blown DISASTER… I think the most important thing is to communicate… which you have already done…. and finding common ground…. sooooo important…. I’m sure you’ll be seeing a post like this from me in the future…. : )

  7. It’s easy to feel judged when it comes to your parenting style because we all do the BEST job we can – so when someone says that they would do it *differently*, what we hear is, “I don’t think you’re as good at this as I am.” However, it’s important to note that just as we all relate to people differently, we all relate to LITTLE people differently. My parents were married my whole life, and they have vastly different parenting styles. My mother was my morality yardstick, my father my friend. I trusted them both, but in very different ways. And in turn, they each parented me in very different ways. I think it’s important to note that I became the woman that I am because I had *two* fantastic parents. Very different from each other, but they both had the same agenda – to raise me and love me to the best of both their individual and collective ability.

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this. I do think that it’s important for children to have lots of different experiences in life, and that includes different kinds of relationships with different people.

  8. We are also learning how blend our parenting styles. However, since the boys and I are full-time and his daughter is only around about 9 weeks a year, we have found it much easier. With my boys being older and my 12 yr old extremely defensive about the “Dad” role, we are holding on to the stance that he is their friend only. Thee have been times when he needed to back me up and he rose to the occasion quite well. In 4 weeks, the 4 of us will begin therapy and I’m hoping that it will be exactly what we need to deal with the many issues we face. Anyhow, I hope you continue blogging on this issue of blending families. It’s a topic that really speaks to my heart.

    • Thanks for sharing. It’s always good to hear from other people who are going through something similar. In reality, because of the nature of our long distance relationship, CBG and I actually have relatively little contact with each other’s children. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to remain in that “friend only” role.

      Good luck with your family therapy! Hopefully it will bring about many good things for you.

  9. I haven’t had to deal with this yet. But I could definitely see where you’re coming from. And you handle things exactly the way I would – trying not to overreact in the moment, and then rationalizing through conversation/e-mail. I think you’re on the right track. =)

  10. I can tell you that working together to communicate your feelings is a step in the right direction.

  11. I have experience…My thoughts may not be profound, but I do tend to be a very observant person. When you set out on the parenting journey, you and your partner are figuring things out together. You don’t know what your parenting style is until you figure it out together! So when you enter in a new relationship, you won’t ever come across a patrner who matches your style – except the father. It is tricky! I am a step-mother to 3 kids, and I have 2 of my own. My partner and I have different parenting stlyes. What has worked out the best for us, is to discuss the things we just CAN’T budge on. The rest should be open to discussion and compromise. If there are things you can’t budge on and you are faced with that being the exact issue of the other (ie no compromise), it isn’t going to work. In our case, one discussion was the family bed. I am a light sleeper, and I always put my kids to bed in their own beds. Not becasue i am opposed to a family bed, but I just wouldn’t get a good sleep. My partner is all about the family bed. He wouldn’t budge on it. So, we have a family bed with the youngest child, and the others sleep in thier bed. Do I sleep well enough? nope. but it turns out it isn’t a deal breaker for me.
    For me, I HATE toys all over the place. When i announce i am sweeping the floor, my kids know to pick up their toys, becasue what I sweep up, is going in the garbage. i am hard core. My partner wouldn’t do it. stating, “they love this toy”. My stance – “tthey should ake care of it then”. He now sweeps the toys and tosses them if they are not picked up (after asking the kids to clean up). Compromises in everything, even the things you can’t budge on. Just find out what it is that is the REAL issue.

  12. well i didnt read everyone elses posts, so this could be a repeat, it could also be left field and all the other posters will be like “what the heck?” :) i am ok with either.

    SOo in my situation i am CBG. (i think :) ) my manfriend (similar to boyfriend except we arent in highschool ha ha) has two young girls who are 9 and 12, when we got together they were mmmm 7 and 10. something like this. NO wait they were 6 and 9.. wow, time flies.. … anyhoo. three years have passed and my thoughts on my role are the same. i have a son but he has left the nest (i had him when i was a teenager, so my whole experience with parenting is mainly that of a single momma – in fact, i often think “man how do people share a child? its so much easier when its just one parent. haha)

    so in relation to my “step parent role” my view,

    I am not going to parent these kids. they have two already.
    My role is to support whatever he thinks is right for his kids. if i dont like it, i can go home at anytime :)
    i dont get to judge his style, (well actually i may “judge it” but i dont act on it, unless he asks for help or suggestions) see rule number two, i can go home at anytime :)
    i dont discipline them, although if dad turns his back and they do what they were just told not to, i will tell the child “i am not going to cover for you chickie so you may wanna stop xyx” if the situation arises where its he said she said and i am the only witness – i tell them all not to put me in the middle of it. :)

    NOW, many of you may be thinking “but you dont live together” .. RIGHT we dont but that because its my choice not to. if i was to agree that living together is the right thing for me at this time i would have to agree to all that stuff up there about parenting styles and everything else that goes along with the “blended” family.

    my 2 cents.

  13. [...] weekend” that wasn’t about the two of us at all. It was during that weekend that more of our differences were brought to light. We spent the next week having intense discussions about our differences and the future of our [...]

  14. [...] a while back when CBG and I were having “parenting issues” ? Honestly, I was at a point where I seriously wondered if we would be able to make things work [...]

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