This gift of life we got given is somewhat of a mixed box of chocolates. Some parts are genuinely amazing and bring you endless joy. These are the strawberry creams and the mint creams, and represent puppy breath and freshly brewed coffee. Others, well others get stuck in your teeth. These are the hard toffees that no one even bothered to coat in chocolate, why is it there? For instance, the dentist – not fabulous, standing in line at home affairs, even less so.
Then there are those middle-of-the-fence chocolates that could be either, depending on the day. The ginger jelly, the orange cream and that damn green triangle that everyone fights over but no one really loves. These represent things like being LGBTQI+, dating, being a parent, any one of these could be fab or crap depending on the day.
But what happens when life decides to combine those last three scenarios? While I’m a proud queer individual, there are times in our society that it feels like being a wet toffee apple in a tumble dryer with a feather pillow. I was a teacher for 5 years, so I don’t wish parenting on anyone, but I can see why it would be rewarding for some. Quite frankly, dating is an adult-sized game of whack-a-mole where you repeatedly beat back for just popping up and being who you are. So why would you want to combine three of the iffiest qualities possible in life?
Well, Celine Dion said it best, “Love doesn’t ask why”. When you meet someone and the universe aligns, the heart wants what it wants. And if what your heart wants comes with children from a previous relationship, you have some decisions to make.
Being the (gay) stepfather is a bit of a minefield on many levels, and you will need to tread carefully. There are children involved. You might end up facing some backlash from a conservative ex-spouse. Regardless of the reason for their original break up you have to anticipate some mixed feelings from the other parent. They are trying to protect their little ones the way they know how – their methods might be twisted, but I need to believe they want only the best. I was in a relationship with a man for two years who had no access to his children because he was gay. While I wanted nothing more than to meet them, it never happened before things fizzled out. Incidentally, now I live 5 streets away from the mother and kids – still haven’t met them.
The kids come first
You are an A-type personality and everybody loves you, right? Wrong. These children might not. And this is not down to the requisite stepmother hairy mole on your chin, sometimes it just happens. As evolved as we are in modern society, we should be teaching our children to be evolved too. Little Johnny might (still) not understand why Daddy and Uncle Brian are holding hands because they have only ever seen mommy and daddy together. It’s up to the parents to bridge that gap. Take your cue from your partner. He will know how he wants to handle this part of his children’s development. When I was a child of divorced parents, I would plot ways to get my parents split from their partners and back together. It’s natural. It doesn’t make them a nasty little crotch-goblin. Your job is to treat children with kindness. That’s it. Give them time. They either will come around or they won’t, and at that point, you and your partner need to have a conversation.
To the single parent out there reading this and looking for Prince Charming – please don’t think I’m advising you indulge your child being a brat. You are the parent and you make the rules. But you can also see if your child is miserable. And if a man cannot deal with you and your kids as a package, it doesn’t make him a jerk, and it doesn’t make your kids vile, it just means that was not the one. Keep looking. Your fairy tale is out there.
These are the writer’s views, which may or may not reflect those of Engage Men’s Health and its affiliates. Engage Men’s Health offers free and confidential sexual health services to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Services include free HIV and other STI testing and treatment and free PrEP, which prevents HIV.
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