So, a year and a half ago, I became what I call, a “Bonus Dad” . . . better known as, a “Step Dad”.
I must say, I love it. It’s definitely not as hard as I thought it would be. Yet, it’s not as simple as it may seem to be either. You can’t just plug and play. Now, I will say that our “daughter” being only 3 years old helps, as well as her biological dad truly wanting to be in her life.
And while I’ve only been a “Bonus Dad” for a short amount of time, there are some definitive lessons I’ve picked up so far that I’d like to share. These are some attributes that I’ve tried to lean into on this journey:
Depending on what type of person your spouse’s ex is, I think human nature motivates all of us to be cautious towards them. The tension I think all of us step parents live in is when to protect, how to protect, and when to support (love). So consequently, if you’re not careful you’ll protect at the wrong time, protect in the wrong way, or support unwisely. I think the “win” is knowing when and how to do it right.
Compassion solved this problem for me. Compassion caused me to ask “What’s best for the kid?” instead of asking “What’s best for us?” Compassion caused us to fight for the child when we were tempted to fight each other. Understanding how to see God’s agenda in the midst of a storm draws compassion out of us like nothing else does.
If you happen to be in any of these situations right now I’ve got a question for you: Can you see God’s plan within the chaos? If so, what changes need to be made in order to honor His plan?
Nothing grounds you more than remembering you’re crazy and imperfect like everyone else. Having the ability to remember God and others have given you a second chance at something instantly transforms you. Remembering your weaknesses and shortcomings helps you hold on to a modesty that produces humility. This has been increasingly helpful to me as I have had to consistently remember that God does great things through anyone and through anything.
No matter how you feel about your spouses ex, remember that God can use anyone to do anything at anytime. So whether or not they have a willing heart or even a desire to be better, give them the chance to be used by God. Give them a chance to be the best father or mother God may empower them to be.
I’ve tried to meditate on this truth day and night: “God desires to do great things through flawed people.” We are all flawed and therefore should do everything we can to set up anyone to reach their God potential. All fathers and mothers deserve that. Now this doesn’t mean carry their load for them, but this does mean giving them an opportunity to carry their own load.
A strategy is plan of action with an end in mind. I’ve quickly noticed that when we don’t have an intentional strategy for how to “Bonus Parent,” it leads to confusion. Alignment has been key for us as we’ve established healthier rhythms that our unique family can thrive in.
With that being said, I’d love to leave you with a couple of questions to answer on your own time:
- What is your strategy for bonus parenting success?
- What needs to be included in the strategy that will ultimately create peace, alignment, and success?
- Is everyone involved aware of your plan of action and on the same page?
Hopefully, all of this was helpful to you. My goal in writing this wasn’t to try to convince you that I am a hero. My goal was rather to say to other new step parents, “I’m just like you.” I can’t wait to share more of what I’ve learned when I’ve been through it a couple more years!