perspectives on step parenting

A week ago, I had an intoxicated exchange at a bar that struck me:  I ran into a colleague and we ended up talking about the fun, dysfunction, bliss and mess of broken and blended families. She’s newly a step parent to one child, and is enjoying out-dressing the soccer moms at weekend tournaments and packing lunches each morning. And she freely admits to being too selfish to want more children than her lone stepson.

When I revealed that I had a crush on a divorced man with full custody of his two daughters, she brought up the obvious fact that –were something like that ever to blossom into a genuine relationship — I’d have myself a whole mess of a family. As in four children. As in doubling my brood. And that’s admittedly a lot. It’s something psychologists might refer to as “blowing up the box” — it seems like it would be manageable when you really want to make it work, but you can’t really ever be fully prepared for that sort of change. You just have to grow and ride it, keeping it on the rails as much as you can.

As far as I’m concerned, it would be an absolute honor and joy to take on the additional responsibility and give the love it takes to step into that role.

I didn’t grow up in the sort of home that was the social center for the neighborhood or my group of friends, but I’ve spent time in those homes and always wanted to create that space for my own children — you know, the one where the children are always coming and going and everyone feels comfortable and safe. The home that always seems full of life and chaos. I’m proud of having established some degree of that comfort and safety for my children and their friends (although it’s difficult to compete with the swimming pool down the street for “social center of the block” status).

Further, even though my ex’s children were older (the youngest of four was nearly an adult when we got together), I relished having the extended family, the relationships, the conversations and offering guidance. It’s a role in which I thrived, and I still value my ex-step-children and their relationships with the half-siblings borne of my womb. I was willing to invest in their futures and was — and still am — always available to them. That sense of responsibility comes very naturally to me, and I felt great clarity in navigating the boundaries and communicating the expectations that came with it all. Which is not to suggest that everything went perfectly, of course…

All of this willingness or eagerness to be in a relationship again, to one day form a larger family, isn’t entirely without parameters… I mean, we’ve all got to be able to fit in some sort of reasonable vehicle and have the incomes to support said family and such. I don’t have a great deal of interest in going back to diaper changing or toddlerhood, either. Still, I think it’s easier for me to imagine being in a relationship with someone who has children than with someone who doesn’t.

In the end, it was interesting to find myself in conversation that heightened my consciousness of my own perspectives and where I’m at now in life. I am generally more happy and content, more open and more ready for that next big love — including more children (though not through birth) — than ever. Bring it!

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