being committed vs. knowing when to cash in your chips

norcalgirl78November 26, 2008 the title of this thread would suggest, I'm interested in knowing when and how people came to the decision to become a stepparent, overcoming whatever odds, obstacles, problems, personal misgivings etc. and committing to staying together for the long haul, no matter what.

BF and I are at a juncture where we are either going to commit to going forward with wedding plans and plans for a life together (we are not yet officially engaged), or going to go our separate ways. None of this is about a lack of love...

Even though I am in love with BF, and he is a wonderful father and supportive partner, and his kids are fun and lovely, deep down I have an ever-growing suspicion that I may not want children (fear of not being suited to motherhood??), or at the very least that I have serious issues to deal with re: my feelings about becoming a stepmom, being from a broken home myself. Please don't judge me too harshly...I am trying to be honest.

BFs daughters came today while I was at work (BM and SF dropped them off at our apartment, so anticipating that I slept for about 5 seconds last night), and even though the thing I think I should want most is to go home and throw my arms around them and play with them until they go to bed, what I also want is to go home and be alone with a glass of wine. Why do I feel so apprehensive and nervous, sitting here in my office feeling sick to my stomach and not wanting to go home to these wonderful people!? I am terrified and almost in tears just feeling like I don't want to "deal with it". I am not even asked to parent them, to buy them anything, to clean up after them - all BF wants me to do is bond with them and have fun - why is that making me feel so weird, when on the outside all we do is have fun and on the inside I'm so afraid of doing something wrong?!

BF and I usually go along through our daily lives, but every time an issue comes up (money, BM, etc.) or we have a discussion that is hard for me I feel that we are so fragile together, and that I am the weakest link. I feel like if we experience half the issues I read about here, I would run for the hills. That isn't fair to me, to him, or to the girls. And it's also atypical as far as I'm concerned - I have never been afraid of committment, settling down, being vulnerable, maintaining emotionally mature relationships, anything! Is it so strange to come to a realization that kids intimidate you, that the very idea of parenting scares you and fills you with dread inside and that you just think you're not mom or SM material??

I don't want to go forward with this relationship and later realize it was the biggest mistake of my life, that I didn't catch the red flags, that I didn't listen to my heart. I also don't want to give up someone who loves me so much and hasn't run for the hills himself with all my hangups and fears. After 2 years you'd think I'd know whether or not we should stay together but I am so conflicted and in such a state of personal distress I hardly recognize myself.

Sorry so negative today! I feel like my feelings on this flip-flop several times per day. Maybe I am having trouble articulating exactly what it is I'm getting at. Can you remember how you overcame any fears to become a stepmom, when you decided it was worth it, anything that could help me, especially from you childless stepmoms? How can I tell the difference between my apprehension and the possibility that I am going in a direction incompatible with what I really need to do?

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Norcal, while I've been a SM for many years I've never raised young SK's so I don't really know how difficult it is. When I married my DH his kids were grown, but not mature. It was difficult for a while but now I love them dearly. Do you enjoy being around any younger children or had you just as soon not be bothered with them? While I was a good mom when mine were young I definitely didn't like all kids so I probably wouldn't have been a good SM if they were around much. My opinion on your situation is that if they are around a lot it may not be the ideal thing for you. If I'm remembering correctly there is a finance problem with your BF. This probably won't get much better. The older kids get the more money it takes. And then there's the teen years to get through. As I'm sure you've read on here it's often difficult. If you only see them for short periods a few times a year you might be able to deal with them but I doubt you will ever really enjoy them. Before I had kids my former H's nieces were around a lot and I didn't enjoy them at all. It's difficult, if not impossible, to make yourself like someone just because you should. I think the answer would depend on how much you're willing to tolerate in order to be with the person you love. Not much help I know but I doubt there is a cut and dried answer.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 5:25PM
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perhaps it is the optimist in me today but...

"I have never been afraid of committment, settling down, being vulnerable, maintaining emotionally mature relationships, anything! Is it so strange to come to a realization that kids intimidate you, that the very idea of parenting scares you and fills you with dread inside and that you just think you're not mom or SM material??"

maybe because it was just never as real or as important to you as it is now....

I am a mom (and sm) and to this day (and probably always) parenting scares the hell out of me sometimes...there are moments when I am sure that I am going to screw up these kids beyond repair. There are moments when I feel wildly inadequate and think of "greener pastures". There are times that I am scared to death of forever and occasionally think what was I thinking getting myself into this (motherhood, wifehood, stepparenthood :-) )

But, in the end the reason it is soo scary... the reason why it is soo stressful... the reason I stay up at night worried... is because these people DH dd sd ss ss are so god awfully important to me... more so than any person, task, or challenge has ever been or ever will be. This is my life...the life I chose... the people I love...and I'll be damned if I mess it up. I think being scared is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes and makes me continue to work hard each and every day to make sure I am doing my very best at raising these kids and being a wife to my husband... in the end that is all I can ask of myself.

Like I said... maybe it is the optimist in me... but everyone gets scared ...everyone thinks they are inadequate at some moment or another....but I truly believe the only reason why they are bothered to be scared is becuase they care. Really, only you know for sure if it is your heart saying this isnt right or if it truly is the fact that it is so important to you.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 5:40PM
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Norcal, Mom of 4 said it best! I'm STILL scared lol. I'm not a SM, but a single BM and I tell ya what, everyday I wonder if I'm doing it right. How can I do it better....

I think it is very normal and healthy to have these feelings. It means you care and are aware of stepfamily issues. So many stepparents step into these roles without the awareness. I think you'll do fine. One step at a time. :)

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 6:15PM
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Hmmm. I understand a lot of what you're saying. I think a lot of your reservations have to do with not having children yourself--so you probably do not feel as comfortable around them.

I always wanted to have kids and loved being around them. BUT after having my own DD, I think I became a little softer and more compassionate and probably related to kids differently.

You might find yourself (if you and your BF get married and have a child of your own) feeling closer to your SDs because they are your child's siblings.

BUT I think you are right to explore these feelings that you're having before making any decisions about your future with BF and his DDs.

Can you identify more of how you feel? Are you jealous of DH's relationship with his daughters? How do you feel when you are interacting with them? Nervous? Tense?

How much of this, do you think, is related to your feelings about BF's ex-wife? Are you having trouble separating the girls from *her*?

There is NO right or wrong answer to any of the above--I am just trying to get a better idea of what exactly is bothering you. (And I realize you might not even really know yourself.)

I will tell you---DH and I have been together for 5 years and we JUST got married two months ago. We were *committed* but we had a lot of issues to work through and I wanted everything as calm as could be when we finally "took the plunge."

I had MAJOR reservations about being in a blended family. Let's face it--it is NOT what we dream of growing up.

DH and I did some counseling together before we got married and we both really benefited from it. I would totally recommend that to you and your BF...or for just you for the time being, so YOU can sort through your feelings.

Hang in there!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 7:01PM
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I think that you might benefit from some counseling before you make any decision. What ever fears you have now will follow you into your next relationship if you should call it quits with BF. Chances are that another man will have kids also unless you are in you late teens or very early 20's now.

I think you are very smart to realize these feelings and to be honest with yourself about them. Too many people aren't and think that enough love for someone will make every thing ok.

When you are involved with someone that has kids I think you need to understand the possibility that someday these kids might live with you. You just never know what will happen and as said before here...the teen years can be difficult.

I was 20 when my FDH at the time ended up with his 5 year old daughter. We were living together and 1 week before school started for her I found myself caring for a 5 year old full time. I was scared to death. Many years later and many hard times later she is now 33 and one of the biggest blessings in my life. Her dad and I divorced but she and I continued. I had 2 kids of my own and now have a SD10.

I don't know what you should do other than seek professional help to deal with some issues from your childhood experiences. You might or might not be able to resolve this conflict over the children but at least you will be able to work through some things for your future well being. Best of luck to you.....It sounds to me like you are a very kind woman....very scared....maybe holding onto some hurt.

It's funny, you know. As much as I am in love with my kids, step included.....I don't especially like being around other people's small children. Some are ok but I don't have the patience for a lot of kids at my age.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 9:23PM
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"Chances are that another man will have kids also unless you are in you late teens or very early 20's now."

I don't think this is true at all!

I am 28 and believe me---having my DD at the age of 21 made me the MINORITY in my circle. Almost NONE of my friends have kids.

Most of my friends are just starting to get married. Almost everyone I graduated from highschool with went to collegegrad school, etc. My girlfriends are focusing on their careers, enjoying being single or living with boyfriends, etc. Most of the guys are the same way.

So really--I think it is VERY possible and even PROBABLE to find a man without kids.

Once you get to 35ish, then you might start having a problem....but seriously...DON'T worry about that!

There are PLENTY of men out there without kids, so don't let that be a determining factor.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 9:36PM
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After 2 years you'd think I'd know whether or not we should stay together but I am so conflicted and in such a state of personal distress I hardly recognize myself.

That was the first thing I thought, and then you said it. Why don't you know after two years?

Maybe I am having trouble articulating exactly what it is I'm getting at.

With what you have articulated to go on, I'd say you should let go or at least hold off. Deciding to go ahead with the marriage could prove rewarding and the very best decision you ever made in your life. You very well could end up happy you did do it. At the same time, we don't make decisions based on what might be, while ignoring such strong misgivings. Those misgiving are the red flags whether or not there exists any others. No point in wishing you hadn't. He and his children will end up feeling the same way, which isn't fair to any of you.

Sounds like what you need is self-evaluation. I question that it's the step-parenting part that bothers you but more so the unwelcomed disruptions to your life(style), even though they may be regular but infrequent (not daily). It isn't every day (though it could end up being every day for some reason), but you don't want to be prevailed upon occasionally. One good way to determine is not to consider the love or relationship, but rather consider your entire life. Have you ever been willing to give of yourself? Give up what you hold dear for the sake of others? Place yourself and your desires aside for the sake of someone else? Regularly? Do you share what you have? Are you willing to give in? Can you extricate yourself from a situation even if it does involve you? There are many questions, but you have to answer them as they pertain to you and not allow your judgment to be clouded by other factors. "I love him" and he's a "wonderful father and supportive partner" are great, but can they carry you through a lifetime of annoyances you didn't want in the first place? "I tried" will be a poor excuse in the end. Effort and desire are commensurate.

On the other hand, I can't be sure anyone feels suited to motherhood until it happens.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2008 at 2:33PM
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Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for these posts. I want to address some of the things that were mentioned, and I will another time when I'm not at work. But I just want to say that Wednesday night, as I stood in front of my apartment building with tears freezing on my cheeks, not knowing what to do or even understanding my own distress, I whipped out my BlackBerry and navigated to this site. I read the responses to my post, and was so comforted and heartened that I found the strength to go upstairs, where the kids had made a big welcome-home-from-work sign and hung it on the outside of our apartment door. Thanks for being there for me in some moments where I was lost.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2008 at 11:03AM
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your feelings are normal and it is very important to recognize your limitations. i had a child every young. everyone my age have little kids and mine is already grown. I do miss having children at home. i love children but if you ask if i want to raise little ones again...I theoretically do, but honestly deep inside I don't. I would not want to have to deal with little kids, mine or somebody else's. I don't think I do. since i do not want to experiment on other people I do not want to even date anyone with young children.

i do not mind men with grown chidlren though. i currently date a man with grown children and that works for me.

there are plenty of men without chidlren or grown children. since you do not have kids maybe it is wise to date someone who also does not have chidlren.

also having children yours or step is a huge commitment no matter what age they are. unless you are sure 100% i would noo advice you to go forward.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2008 at 11:48AM
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Perhaps part of your angst over this is a result of having to host ten people in a very small space for a stressful holiday? That, and financial stress that you and your boyfriend feel due to his debt load. You also have been doubting lately , because of the fact that he has disappointed you by not setting a wedding date or a ring.

I think maybe its not so much kids that are getting you down as it is life in general. Highly ambitious people tend to make a schedule and plan for their lives, and get borderline depression when things dont go according to plan.

I think you are just feeling overwhelmed by a number of circumstances. It might be a good time to do something different. Take up a new hobby; see a therapist for a few sessions to get it off your chest. If it persists, see a doctor. Explore the possibility that maybe you have SAD.

Dont make any decisions in a hurry.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2008 at 11:57AM
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Norcal - so glad you found support here when you needed it most. How is your weekend going?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 11:19PM
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I agree with Kathline, plenty of people in intact families stress out over holidays.

As to finding a guy without kids -- in my world, plenty of people dont have children until late 20s or 30s.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 9:38AM
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I've been thinking about this for a while, and just plain don't see any easy answers.

- It could certainly be holiday stress combined with 'invasion angst'.
- It could be "OMG, this is way too REAL" last minute chickening out combined with committment-phobia kicking in.
- It could be your inner voice of reason finally breaking through your "He loves me/he's wonderful" haze to keep you from making a huge mistake.
- It could be that the weight of his flaws/baggage is beginning to be too much. He's not perfect (no one is), but is he your best friend? Someone you can always respect? You know his flaws now -- Can you live with them?
- It could be your 'should voice' telling you that "If it were really right, I'd KNOW, wouldn't I? I wouldn't have doubts." (not necessarily)

Yeah - At some point, you need to decide that you're either going to "fish or cut bait" as they say down here. At some point, you need to decide if BF and all his baggage is what you truly want, or if some as-yet-unknown other guy with presumably less baggage is a better man for you. Or if perhaps, you're just not ready to settle down with anyone yet. Or if it really is 'just' the kids issue, and you're unwilling to take on someone else's kids. (And that's OK! As long as you haven't actually married their father and are now resenting or trying to get rid of them, it's OK not to want to have Skids.)

That's a pretty overwhelming and messy bunch of possibilities that seem well-suited to sorting out with a therapist. NOT that you're crazy, not thinking clearly, or not handling things well -- I've just found that for 'hazy' problems like these, sometimes a professional counselor can help bring a lot of clarity.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 10:56AM
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I didnt read all the posts,am just commenting.For one,I think the fact that you are so honest with your feelings is a good thing.
I DO see it harder to be able to relate to step children when you do not have any biological children of your own.I'am not saying no one can do this or doesnt,so please people dont start jumping on me.
I'm just saying that if you havent yet exprienced being a parent for yourself,that parenting someone else's kids can seem like quite a Foreign,unknown thing to do.

I think age also maybe has something to do with it,although once again,certainly not for everyone.

I was rather young when I met my husband.I remember thinking,"No freaking way do I want a guy that already has kids!"
Of course,getting to know him and falling for him,I had to start to change those feelings.I admit I was probably too immature to handle it then though.In many aspects,I was still much a child myself.
I had those (what I would consider) childish feelings of insecurity of my own place in the equation.Now in hindsight I see that as my own fears of not being good enough.
No one can really give you the answers.But if you are feeling so much confusion and doubt,then I would just continue to take it SLOW.There is no rush to the finish line.The most important thing that will help you decide what is right for you,is ultimately how your Bf acts and treats you.
My husband was so loving and understanding in trying to help me feel like this was where I belonged,that I came around.
I think anyone here will tell you being a step parent isnt always a party.But neither is marriage or being a biological parent.Sometimes you just have to put your fears aside and jump in.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 3:39PM
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I'm brand new on this forum and the reason I'm here is because I share a lot of feelings with Norca. Well, at least I did...
Norca, I've been in a similar situation for more than four years, except that my boyfriend has only one girl.
The question in your post that caught my eye was if there are specific moments when "you know" what to do ("Can you remember how you overcame any fears to become a stepmom, when you decided it was worth it").
From my experience, I can tell you that there are a lot of moments like that, a lot of moments of decision. It won't be ONE GREAT MOMENT that sets you free and keeps you free...
There will always be the girls' birthdays, their needs, their wishes that sometimes will be more important for your boyfriend than yours, no matter how much he loves you. THIS IS WHAT YOU MUST GET USED TO if you wish for a happy life in this family. If not, you'll suffer as I still do (although, to be honest, it doesn't hurt that much in time, the first 2-3 years are the worst).

As for me, if I must ever chose again, I can tell you that I won't get involved with a man with children again. But this is something you must think about BEFORE.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 8:33AM
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I donÂt post here often. But your post struck very near and dear to my heartÂI could have written it myself.

I am intensely in love and live with a man who has a 7-year-old daughter who is with him 90% of the time. I am 38 and have no children of my own.

Sigh all I can do is (((((big hugs))))) for you. Being childless women make our cases very different from most everyoneÂs here. I love GW, I do, but go to They have a secure message board and the advice and information you will find there is invaluable. Seriously. I too have been at my wits end, sobbing not knowing what to do because I love this man so much. The ladies there have talked me down from many a ledge. And unfortunately there are very limited resources for women without children who are involved with men that are.

I really wanted to just send you a private e-mail. I hope I didnÂt cross any lines.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 4:46PM
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Kids are a very big part of marriage. If you are not comfortable with them now think about how you'll feel 10 years from now when they are challenging adolescents and teens. Maybe they live with the BM now but don't rule out the possibility that for some reason your DH decides he wants them to live with the two of you for a time! You never know with these things and the likelihood that one or more of them will live with you at some time is greater than not.

I had my son late in life and before having him did not understand the feeling and passion people have about their kids. Your boyfriend may surprise you. Look before you leap if you are not in to his kids, like it or not, it's a package deal. Good luck

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 10:24PM
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