I got this note from a reader,
“I’m the step dad and all the real dad does is walk in and out of the child’s life whenever he wants to when he wants to play daddy. The dudes a total loser and the mother lets the guy do whatever he wants and it pisses me off. -Rob”
This situation is way too common. There are a lot of good fathers out there who do their part, but it seems a lot of Stepdads have the same issue Rob struggles with. You’re a good Stepdad and you care about the kids, but you see the negative effect the father’s actions have on then. What can you do?
Control What You Can – Accept What You Can’t
We’ve all experienced frustration. What most people don’t understand is frustration often comes from our inability to do something. We feel like we have no control. There is power in accepting you can’t control another person’s actions. What you can control is yours. I recommend Stepdads enter their marriage with no expectations of the father. It’s good to be hopeful that he will be a good, present and responsible parent –but you can’t control that. Adopting the right Dad-titude will help reduce your frustration.
5 Steps to Developing Dad-itude
1) Don’t expect the father to be there for the kids.
2) Don’t expect the father to contribute financially to the kids support.
3) Put the kids’ emotional needs ahead of yours.
4) Accept full responsibility as a parent. Raise them like you made them!
5) Don’t expect appreciation for your commitment to them (though it may come later).
Don’t Rely on the Father
Many guys feel they’re carrying the responsibilities and not getting the credit. It’s helpful to see the big picture. Every Stepdad has the ability to make his situation better. He just needs to know how. First of all, don’t be annoyed with your wife if she doesn’t try to force her ex to contribute more time or money. It’s not a bad thing if she realizes she can’t control him. She understands what he’s willing to contribute and accepts it. That’s a smart attitude.
The big picture: The less she struggles with him, the happier your home will be. Sure, she could nag him about it, but would it really make him change? Trying to control him will only create more stress in your home. If you already know he’s not a responsible man but you still expect him to be, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Expecting him to come through for your family leaves you vulnerable to his actions (or his in-actions). Relying on him gives him an invisible power in your life. You don’t need that.
Some wives will try to force their ex to change because they know his emotional or financial contribution will make the kids’ lives easier. If your wife knows she can rely completely on you as a parent it will free her from having to worry about what her ex does. Showing her the right Dad-itude will give her a reason to stop struggling with her ex.
Raise Them Like You Made Them!
Don’t try to win your stepkids over. They’ll know you’re the weakest link in the parenting chain and take advantage of that. It’s human nature to try to get what you want. Kids aren’t bad if they take advantage of your weaknesses. They’re just human. Instead of trying to win them over, work with their mother to enforce the rules. Be unified in your parenting. Raise them like you made them. Be fair and just. Be a parent! It won’t happen overnight, but they’ll learn to love and respect your Dad-itude.
Taking complete responsibility for the kids will put a heavier financial burden on you. It’s worth the price. Accept it! It will free you from having to rely on the father’s contribution to the household.
You don’t have to be the father to be a parent. The Dad-itude reminds you you’re a parent. Taking full responsibility cements the Dad-itude in your mind. Dad-itude encourages a positive mentality about your role and helps you to feel less stress. You’re not a victim -you’re in control!
Put the Kids’ Emotional Needs Ahead of Yours
Reduced stress will help you develop a better working relationship with their father, which will have a positive impact on the kids. They won’t have to see the parent groups argue and struggle. Kids have emotional needs like the rest of us do. But they’re young and don’t look for the bigger picture. You may not like the father, but the kids have an emotional need to spend time with him. That’s natural and that’s okay. Help them fill their emotional need to see him if you can.
A good father will make an effort to spend time with his kids as often as possible. Many fathers don’t. Studies have consistently shown kids do better when they have a stable home life. It’s your job to help provide that. Being completely responsible for the kids doesn’t replace the time the father should be spending with them, but it gives them a sense of normalcy. It also reduces your stress and helps improve your home life. Frustration and stress have a ripple effect in your home. Your kids and wife feel it. When you’re annoyed and frustrated you can’t be the parent and husband you need to be.
You may have an emotional need to feel appreciated. Remember that appreciation isn’t a natural impulse. It’s something that’s taught and learned over time. Work in your kid’s best interest and you’ll earn their appreciation, you’ll earn their mother’s appreciation -and you may even earn the appreciation of their father. If you’re working in the best interest of your kids there is no negative to it. That’s the right Dad-itude!
Less Stress =More Happiness
Stepdads who assume full responsibility for the family will find it liberating. Most fathers will do their part, but sometimes even the most responsible fathers run into financial problems and can’t make child support –or can’t afford to visit their kids. If you don’t rely on him being there, or on his financial contribution, it’s not a problem if he doesn’t come through. If he’s someone you already know can’t be relied on you’ll be pleasantly surprised when he does makes an effort.
Make a change today! All you have to do is adopt the right Dad-itude. It’s easy! Just take a deep breath and adjust your way of thinking. Make a financial plan to deal with the money details and make an emotional plan to help the kids through it when their father doesn’t show. Talk with your wife and make sure she understands what you’re doing –and why. Let her know you’re going to be the kind of man they need in their lives. She’ll feel less stress and appreciate your new found Dad-itude.