Kids are a lot of work. They demand tons of attention and care. Not the level of attention a fine rose garden needs, not even the level of small house pets. Kids need that special kind of attention and care that involves focus and of course love. This need never goes away. In fact, it has an inverse reaction to the parent’s ability to give. The less you have, the more they need. I found this unforgiving truth to be my reality 5 years ago when my ex wife made choices that removed her from our lives. As a single dad of then a 12 year old girl, 5 year old boy, and 3 year old girl, my attention was well spoken for.
For 5 years I have learned to survive and now thrive as a dad, focused primarily on being a dad. Now I am engaged and this focus must once again change. My focus must be on my wife; my new wife. Many people believe divorced parents should not re-marry until the kids are adults. It’s a reasonable opinion and I disagree. The value a mother and father (biological or not) bring together is exponential when compared to solo parenting. I have been thinking about the necessities and managing this dynamic for a while. Here are a few important things to consider as you move into remarriage with kids:
1. Money: It’s not your money, it’s not her money…it all belongs to the kids. Kids break their arms, get the flu, need cars, college, birthday parties, etc. Don’t keep score, you will lose.
2. Be careful with opinions of his/her ex spouse. She has emotional memories that don’t include you. She experiences moments (arguments, misunderstandings, etc) with different perspectives than you.
3. God: As a person of faith, I can’t imagine having a blended family with different religions in the house. Some people can manage a multi faith home, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
4. Discipline: However you dish it, talk about it early and often. Disciplining someone elses’ child feels very different. Children, bring “history” into every situation, as a “late arrival” the new step parent hasn’t shared those experiences. Discuss this with your partner and periodically check in. Be courageous and don’t sugar coat. Resentment can build between you if you feel like you have to “defend” your kids or someone isn’t carrying his or her weight with discipline. There’s no perfect formula, but at least have a one.
5. Labels suck. Don’t stress over things like “my kids” or “your kids”. A lot of new experiences, emotions, and worries are coming forth, stressing labels is ridiculous.
6. Sex: You better have sex! Do everything possible to keep the kids from interrupting intimacy. Bed time routines, consistent rules, and communication are key here. Establish early on that sex occurs when either partner wants it. Don’t wait for perfect moments or for both people to be perfectly aligned and in the mood, that rarely happens. Mark and Grace Driscoll wrote a great book on this called Real Marriage: the truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life together. Buy two copies and read it on date night.
7. It’s not supposed to be easy. Don’t worry that it’s difficult at times. Good things are worth working for.
The common denominator here is communication and intimacy. Our kids are special and a huge part of who we are, but they grow up and leave. My spouse should be my best friend. I plan on sitting on rocking chairs watching waves hit the beach on my 90th birthday. I plan on my wife being there with me and us actually having something to talk about.
Rocco De Leo