Reader Delicate Balance writes:
My fiancé and I met when my daughter was 6 months old. He has been AMAZING with her and stood by me through a nasty, emotional court battle. Now that the dust has settled I've realized something. You talk often about how the relationship of the parents should be the most important in the home. But what about stepparents? I have a hard time figuring out what it would look life if my daughter had joined our lives rather than my fiancé joining ours. We particularly have a hard time with the stress. I still feel like my biggest priority is her feelings and needs and put him last often. I know I shouldn't but it is hard. Any tips for fully integrating step parents? Especially those of toddlers, I mostly see stories and advice for older kids.
First of all, I am happy for you that you found such a great fiancé and stepfather for your little girl. You must be a great person to attract a man who is so willing to get on board with parenting a baby. Since your fiancé came onto the scene when your daughter was so young, he's really more like a second father than a stepfather. So, I don't think much integration is necessary in her mind; she doesn't remember a life without him. It's probably you that needs to integrate him in your mind as an equal partner in parenting, which he should be if he's going to be your husband.
I definitely do think that the parents' relationship should be prioritized, but this looks different at different ages. It is unrealistic and unnatural to think that your toddler won't take up most of your energy. It's a matter of making it clear to your fiance that even when you're stressed and overwhelmed by parenting, you still love him. This can be done with verbal affirmations, physical touch (even a brief touch on the arm), or by setting aside special time for the two of you to spend together. In addition to date nights, it is important to make sure to keep up some semblance of regular sex, as this is the love language of most men.
In your daughter's presence, every conversation should not stop if she needs something; instead, she should be taught to wait for her turn to speak, and that "Mommy and [whatever she calls your fiance] are talking now." If you don't have a sitter for date nights, this is a good time to start. It is also important to say things like "Grownups who love each other need special time to talk and spend time together, without kids." Your daughter may not understand this now, but your fiance will appreciate your efforts to prioritize your relationship with him, and, as she gets older, your daughter will understand this lesson and hopefully carry it forward into her own relationships one day.
It would be great to express gratitude and appreciation for how involved and loving your fiance is with your daughter. And hopefully he also appreciates your attempts to balance him and your daughter while taking everyone's feelings into account. It's great that you care enough about both your fiance and your daughter to write in with this question, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Loves Guys Who Date Women With Babies, Because They Are Probably Pretty Stand Up Guys.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.