That friend telling you "how it is" has NO IDEA what she's talking about.
“Welcome to always being second choice."
Those words hit pretty hard. My girlfriend was describing a conversation she had with her friend about dating a single dad and how things were progressing. The friend apparently wanted to deliver a dose of hard reality.
As a divorced father who looks forward to getting married again someday, this was hard to hear. I've never thought about it that way.
I would never ask someone to be a part a relationship that is built that way … like some life sentence to never being priority.
When I think about my future and what a relationship looks like for a woman coming into my family, the thought never crossed my mind that she would be second place.
We are building a family. Is it a little “out of the ordinary”? Maybe. But as I see it, my daughters are lucky. They are part of two families — both of which love and support them.
That statement above has rolled around in my mind quite a bit since then. I’ve thought a lot about what building that family actually looks like. I'm sure it will be a challenge to maintain balance and build the respect and love that makes for a tight family. And of course, as any parent would say, my kids' well being is central to all decisions I make.
But that doesn't mean someone else has to be less than.
These are the four goals I have for my own relationship, and that I believe will be best for me, the woman I love, and my children:
1. Putting my relationship with my wife first in many ways, as an example to them of how they should expect to be treated.
For example, date night still has to happen. Yes, I have other nights when my girls are with their mom and stepdad, but everyone has busy schedules and taking time for the occasional night out while the girls stay with their grandparents or a sitter is an important part of life for all of us to experience.
2. Creating an environment where they build respect for their step-mom — a woman they didn't choose and who isn't their birth mom, but who is still an authority figure and significant part of their lives.
I would imagine that the hardest part of coming into a family with young children is understanding how to play a role in discipline. I certainly don’t envy anyone who has to take that on, but I believe the only path to making it work will includes lots of encouragement from me — on both sides.
Just like any parenting relationship, including the one their mother and I work to maintain as co-parents, it is our jobs as the adults to not allow the girls to drive a wedge in between us when it comes to discipline.
3. Respecting and continuing to communicate to the kids the fact they have a great mom and who will never be replaced.
My girls have been through this already, having a had great step-father for several years already. They have a positive perspective on how this looks, so in that sense I’m lucky.
Continuing to give them opportunities to FaceTime their mom whenever they want during their time with me, to tell stories and share how great she is, encourages and comforts all of us.
4. Marrying a woman who neither wants — nor feels the need — to compete with them.
Frankly, any woman who doesn't understand that marrying a man with kids means choices aren't always so simple doesn't deserve to be in their life. Like every other parent, I know my kids are special. It is a privilege to take on such a significant a role in their lives.
A woman who doesn’t see it that way, in my opinion, simply doesn’t deserve that honor. Certainly, our situation isn’t perfect and it isn't simple, but it is worth it.
Discussing all of these thoughts, feelings and concerns up front is crucial so that we are clear about what we see ourselves getting into from the start.
It takes a special kind of person to take on the challenge of being a step-parent. It certainly can't be easy all the time.
But it doesn't require a life-time commitment to being second place.