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Bonding with a child who isn’t yours...(16 Posts)
I’ve met someone, it’s early days but I can definitely see a possibly future with him. At the moment I’m enjoying the relationship and seeing how it goes. But I’m also thinking that sometime in the future I may decide to introduce my partner to my little girl (she just turned 3) and just wondered if everyone bonds with their step child?
The guy in question adores me but it would be a massive deal breaker if he couldn’t bond with my DD. Her father has never been involved and my partner doesn’t have a child of his own. So if all works well, he would fit into the role of her father which would be lovely. No blended family going on which I realise is less complicated. But he doesn’t have the same experience of someone with a child - which again may be an issue (he is about to turn 39)
I guess I just wanted to know if you naturally love your step child if you love their parent? She’s so young that I would hope the bond would be easier to develop.
So if all works well, he would fit into the role of her father which would be lovely
My suggestion? Put all of that out of your head for the time being and start with introducing them.
One step at a time.
It's perfectly possible he'll grow to love your child over time, but it's also perfectly possible he won't. Maybe he'll just like her a lot, and they'll get on well. Are you ok with that?
And there's a huge difference between 'bonding' with a kid and stepping into the role of their father.
He's never done this before - if this relationship goes anywhere you've all three of you got a huge learning curve ahead of you. Blended family or not, it's always going to be new and unfamiliar.
Either way, if you're genuinely hoping he'll fit into the role of her father, I'd suggest you let him know that ASAP so he's in on the relationship dynamic.
Otherwise you're setting him up for a hell of an unfair ride...
Thanks Lady, very wise words and also extremely helpful - thanks.
We did discuss what I’m looking for when we intially met, and I said first and foremost I’m looking for someone for me. Secondly I’m looking for someone who will love my child as their own. And he seemed very happy with my answer so we carried on seeing one another. He seems to want to fill the role of her father (over time) but like I said if they don’t get in it’s a dealbreaker and I’ll walk away. I’ve nevet done this before so it’s all a new territory and my DD will always come first.
Oh that's such a big ask!!!
You cannot guarantee that this poor man will love your child. At best he will be proactive and care about them. He may be totally up for that but the emotions themselves don't happen overnight and sometimes that love just doesn't happen.
A step parent bond at its best is that both parties like and respect one another. That the parent sets expectations and boundaries with the child and this is relayed to step parent so that they understand and can uphold these.
But to ask for love and to treat them like their own child. That's so huge.
My DP did that to me and I almost left as after 2 years I was unable to love his children. It almost broke me and I thought I was bloody defective. I was trying so hard and the feelings just wouldn't come. I have eventually come to accept that I may never love them and that me putting them first and providing and caring for them is enough. On hard day's I treat it like a job so that every day is different and my best is good enough. It took the pressure off me and now my relationship with sc is caring and close but not trying to fill any role. Please remember a step parent is not under any circumstances a replacement mother or father.
Let your DP and child explore the bond naturally. I would only consider it a deal breaker if you have different parenting ideals and if there is no respect or care happening.
Go easy on him. And I hope the 3 of you are very happy and it all works out.
You sound like you're clear, and if you've had that conversation already and you're both happy with it, then for everyone's peace of mind, I'd suggest you put it out of your head and take things as they come.
Every situation like this is different - you'll have blissful bits and really tough moments, and it will almost certainly end up being a very different journey than you expect it to be!
Relationships happen moment by moment, day by day, and they evolve in weird and stretchy and unexpected ways. Be where you're at, enjoy where you're at, and give everyone plenty of space to freak out and jump for joy and be unsure and all that stuff whenever they need it.
As long as your DD is comfortable and safe, remove all semblance of pressure and you'll figure it out one way or another.
I care about my DSC and my EXs new DC with OW who he has now left but love is a big ask.
Exs new DC is 3 and often comes round to see their siblings and likes just hanging with them. Major tantrum if not let in the house!! To be honest it does not bother me, innocent child in a fucked up world his parents created but love - no.
My DSCs are older, we are in the process of moving in together but taking it slowly, one I really like, one is cool with me but fine, the other not sure. Their DF left mum 10 yrs ago they are now 15, 17 x2.
Love is something you can not expect or ask of someone else
There are no guarantees that either of them will like the other, let alone develop a father/daughter bond.
However, the plus sides - she is young and therefore more open to new people - older DCs can be more tricky, she doesn't have another father figure to make your DP's role more complicated, he seems to understand what you are hoping for and isn't daunted by it in principle, he doesn't have his own DCs to bring out any split family dynamics etc.
As long as he is allowed to develop a proper parental role, be involved in decisions, parenting, discipline etc then that will help him to fulfil a fatherly role. If he's expected to try and be a father but is always reminded that he's not her 'proper' dad then you will have problems.
I guess I just wanted to know if you naturally love your step child if you love their parent? No, it would be nice if that were the case, and the fact that your DD is only yours and doesn't have another parent involved may well help, but children are individuals and are 50% someone else's genes, so her being yours won't necessarily mean he loves her.
I found it very difficult to bond with my XDP's DD as she was so clingy, he clearly adored her (to the detriment of his other DD) and she resented me being involved, so played on that. Their bond was so close that it was difficult for anyone else to be part of their family. They were the team and I was always the outsider. I imagine having had you to herself your DD might resent someone else becoming involved, but hopefully as she's so young, she will be a bit flexible as she grows up with a new person in her life.
We did discuss what I’m looking for when we intially met, and I said first and foremost I’m looking for someone for me. Secondly I’m looking for someone who will love my child as their own.
Love is not something you command. You feel love or you don't. He is spending time with you and as such, he may be falling in love with you and experiencing all those feelings that mean that he wants to be with you as often as possible, enjoys your company if he hasn't already. However, he would need to go through the same process with your daughter and there is no guarantee that the same will happen, for a start because she might not be as enamoured in him as you are, which would make bonding much more difficult.
You can't plan the dynamics of love and the more pressure you put on him with your expectations and the harder it will be. It might be that indeed, him not loving your daughter is a deal breaker in you committing to him, but if that's the case, you'll have to accept that it is your decision and your doing, not his. Also, do consider that he could adore your DD for a few years, and then find that he has nothing in common with her when she goes through teenage years and suddenly feel very remote from her, all the previous bond gone.
Ooh it's nice to be in a new relationship
When my partner and I started going out, I knew it was deal breaker if I didn't bond with his daughter.
As my relationship with him grew I came to realise that I was taking advantage of the weekends he had his daughter to live my own life, which was nice for me, but not fair to his daughter - if we were to build something I could not just dip in and out of her life as I felt like it.
So organically my understanding of how to be in the life of a child grew together with my commitment to her, and of course the bond grew too. (she's almost four now, so I have the joys of the teenage years that Swing refers to far far ahead of me.)
I tell you all this to say that there's no way I could have had a rational conversation about all of that at the start of the relationship. I had to learn and experience some things first. Any words on commitment at the start of a relationship are just words.
I thought I would love my dsds as an extension of their father, because I was (and still am) utterly besotted and totally in love with him... I thought it would naturally follow I would love them too.
It doesn't work quite like that
But because I wanted it to work I tried really hard with them and now I definitely love them. The younger is easy to love but the oldest knows the whole history of me and her father so it was definitely harder for her.
I think OP that you have the advantage that you aren't blending families, your dd is very young and your new dp sounds OK, keen even? To be part of her life.
I'd start very small, with short fun activities... Who could resist a cute 3yr old playing in the park for example?
Thanks so much everyone, this is so incredibly helpful to me. I guess I had a slightly idealised view of this, hence why I thought I would start doing a bit of research first. I’ve never introduced my DD to anyone before, but this feels different so it could be a possibility I introduced partner to her in the future.
I’m going to take your advice and not put pressure on the relationship between my DD and new partner. I think one thing I’m more concerned about is that my partner has no kids of his own, so I’m not sure how he will deal with the everyday issues of bringing up a young child. He seems to want to know a lot about my DD and I’ve purposely not tried to gloss over the bad parts.
I think for me more of a dealbreaker is that he just is rubbish with kids, he wants a child of his own so I’m sure he will adapt. But it’s one thing talking about it, it’s another doing it!
Some great advice from previous posters.
No blended family going on which I realise is less complicated.
Not necessarily, if the step parent is childless it can bring its own complications, they might struggle having to live their life around the dynamics of a child's needs especially if your alone time as a couple is limited because the dad's not on the scene. Being childless myself I found all the little things that had never even occurred to me about living with someone with kids started to add up, such as not being able to pop out together to the shops let alone for a quick drink, or enjoy a lie-in with DH (we had his DCs every weekend and they were always up early). He couldn't even use annual leave for us to do these things together because it was all taken up with school holidays. At least if I'd had kids of my own I'd have been used to this dynamic.
If you're going to date someone you need to be prepared to sometimes prioritise your relationship with them over your child's wants (not their needs). Resentments come about if you don't remember to nurture your relationship.
I think it all depends on them and how they bond you cant make it happen it just does, I have been a step parent twice, First time I found it very easy to bond with her, Adored her we clicked very well was gutted to not be able to see her anymore. Second time I care for him but I dont have that bond with him, He is a very complex child though and totally different to my first stepchild. I am always kind and his needs are met when he is with us, You cant force it it just happens.
I agree with other posters on here, this is a lot of expectation to put on a new relationship and quite frankly a huge burden to put on your partner.
How long have you been together?
IMO the only thing you can ask (after you've given your relationship time to bed in) is that they get on. What/ how they then get on is totally dependent on the two of them and how they get on/ their natural interactions.
The other thing I would be very mindful of is that you need to know that this guy is committed before introducing them and letting your DD get attached to him. Which she could do very easily given how young she is. If she doesnt have a father figure and (like children can just do), asks him one day 'are you my daddy?', what is he going to say? What's your expectation of the day to day? Right now I assume you do everything for her. Do you expect him to change his life and help you with the day to day? Is your expectation not just emotional but also practical? What about holidays? Will your DD be with you on all of them?
I know this is early days, but the things I've raised is the reality of bringing someone new into the lives of your children. I also think that the reality of introducing someone to a young child who isn't a parent already brings its own complications. 'Blended' brings complications but at least you know that the other half knows just how annoying/ amazing children can be.
I was 38 when I moved in with my girlfriend and her two daughters (2 & 6 at the time.)
I've been living with them for about 18 months and it's a tiring but rewarding life (the difficult bit is when they want to pull you in opposite directions - both insisting I spend more time playing with the other! So your guy wouldn't have that issue ) I very genuinely love them, not a father's love I guess but I've been lucky enough to be fully accepted, they see the four of us as a family and that brings its own type of love.
However, their dad is still a feature and has them ever other weekend. He was a lousy dad when he lived with them but does a great job now (better than many of the Disney dads I read about on here I think!) Ironically since he left, they've finally formed a fantastic bond that children should have with their parents, and it's wonderful seeing how content they seem when they come home to us.
But it's difficult, really difficult, to put up the emotional blocks required constantly to step that little bit back and not step on his toes. I talk about him a lot, positively, when they're home so they feel comfortable and feel his presence here isn't taboo or anything - even though at times it hurts doing it. Trying to give them as much as I can but holding back just enough to be clear that I'm not 'trying to be dad' is a constant stress.
So, that's literally the only difficult thing, and your guy won't face it. I envy him.
As for advice - don't worry about the word 'love' - it's a concept that every person defines a little differently. There's only two points to tick here:
1) Will you daughter's life be better for him living with you? Will the way he treats you be a good example for her growing up? Will she feel like she's gaining something rather than losing a bit of you?
2) Will your partner enjoy the life? To be honest, I think us guys in our late thirties that find this hit the jackpot a bit. It's a point where we want a little more.. fulfillment? in life and bam! Ready made family. That probably sounds terrible in a way but I when I come home and have two kids run to the door to greet me enthusiastically, when I can remember being a single guy not so very long ago, makes it feel like a lottery win. So hopefully he's at the same stage. Like I mentioned earlier, I would have loved to ease in gently with one kid first sometimes - two is going straight to hard mode!
A lot of the elements are in your favor I think, the age is young enough to be accepting, no blending etc. Don't push the 'love' - my girlfriend wanted the same in a way (not a dad, but a family unit that did the things she'd dream of - go out on trips as a family, instead of one staying home on the sofa every time etc.) but I don't think I can love them the same way. I'm happy that me and the girls have something else that is our own thing. It's definitely love to me. But I could have been the kind of guy that is a little tense with the word 'love' and hesitant to describe it as such, but it would still be the same thing, if that makes sense?
He needs to be something fun for her to begin with. Her feeling when he comes round or you meet should be that it'll be fun. No kid is going to react well to having a new parent forced on them.
And if he starts being there a lot / eventually moving in - whenever you feel that she craves a little 'just mummy' time make sure she gets it.
I hope it works out
Wow excellent advice!! New levels what an excellent reply, really interesting so thanks for sharing. My partner is 38 too and seems more than ready to want to have a family.
It’s too early for me to answer those questions right now, I’m still working on the relationship and deciding if I want to introduce him to my DD. But my feeling is he would be a welcome addition to our family and bring something I most definitely can’t to her life. I think we potentially would work really well together as a team to bring her up in a fun environment.
So watch this space! X