When many of us are looking for a partner, and thinking of getting married, there is some kind of standard narrative at play. Meet someone attractive and fun, someone who you really enjoy spending time with. A person who shares your values and with whom you can see spending the rest of your life. Perhaps even having a family.
The fairly tale doesn’t necessarily include the idea of a built-in family, where there are stepchildren involved. How many people have this as a part of their vision? My guess is that not many do. It’s just the way it is.
However, as we get older, we tend to gain life experience. For some people, a part of that life experience is becoming a parent. It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do, and one of the biggest responsibilities you could take on. Really, could really be more important to someone than their own children? Personally, I find it hard to imagine finding anything more important.
This makes the idea of becoming a stepparent one that involves understanding that the person you married has children that are a major responsibility – in terms of providing for them, handling their emotional development, and many other things. It’s the most important job the person you married will have in life.
Having said all that, this makes a particular situation I know about quite hard to understand. There is a couple I know where the two people got married with the man having custody of a young child. The woman did not have kids of her own.
Apparently, when dating and in many detailed conversations, it was mutually understood that the guy had a major responsibility for his kid, and was a devoted parent. This meant handling all aspects of parenting, including – quite naturally – spending money on the child.
Well, once married, the woman had a difficult time sharing money, and having joint finances in marriage. This wasn’t something she indicated would be an issue before, apparently, but she couldn’t handle income being spent on the child. Thus, she kept her finances separate, with paychecks going to a personal account. Her income may actually be higher than his, not that it necessarily matters, but just something to consider.
Without getting to into too many details, some of behaviors of this stepparent that would catch your attention were:
- Insisting that the husband personally pay for more housing than her – as in a 60/40 split – because of the presence of his kid.
- Making him pay for a majority of utility bills because theoretically the kid could result in extra electricity or water costs
- Getting angry at him if he bought new clothes for the kid, demanding that he return them and stretch older clothes for another season
- Throwing fits if he wanted to sign the child up for more than one extracurricular activity
- Becoming very upset and screaming over his spending money even $100 on Christmas gifts for the kid
- Generally expecting to be the #1 priority in his life, ahead of his kid
Her overarching thought was that he should be the primary breadwinner, and responsible to take care of his family – including her. However, her money isn’t to be used on the kid.
- This is entirely crazy bonkers wrong to treat a stepchild that way.
- A single parent - man or woman – should get some empathy for their hard work.
- A stepparent should “step” up and try to help her (or his) spouse
- It’s perfectly understandble to prefer to marry a person with no kids, but if you actually do it, you need to embrace them - to be a good person, and to have basic consideration for your spouse
- Nobody should be jealous of a child in this way
- A child shouldn’t be put on the back-burner financially (or otherwise) by any parent, just because it isn’t a biological child of the new spouse that’s a stepparent
- Money earned by both husband and wife should be shared together, and used to support the family – including stepchildren.
Bottom line: When two people marry, they become a family. A kid is a part of that family, whether biological to both or just to one. If a person can’t fully accept the reality that their spouse will spend on kids - then don’t marry the person, or be ready to fully accept it. Kids deserve kindness, patience, and love.
What Do You Think?
In this situation, do you think the biological parent has a legit reason to be stressed about his spouse’s behavior as a stepparent?
Or, do you think that the stepparent has a valid outlook on this?
Purely hypothetical here: how would you handle this topic, and approach money and family, based on playing either role here (biological parent or stepparent)?