Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ask Dr J

Dear Dr J

I’m looking for information on dating women with children from a previous marriage or who are widowed. I’m a single, never-married 46 year old and not sure it would be smart to have children of my own at this point. I want to educate myself on the issues when children have step-fathers. I think Dr. Laura advises women not to marry again until their children are grown. Are you of this opinion? Any info you could point me to would be appreciated.
V from Boston

Dear V,

The best I can tell you is this: there are a distinct set of problems that children face in step-father families. Most of those problems can be overcome if the husband and wife collaborate well, and if the stepfather spends sufficient time and energy on the kids. The main source of problems in my opinion: the mother doesn’t allow her new husband to be involved appropriately. The mother tries to shield the children from discipline, on the theory that “they aren’t your kids; you don’t know them.” She fails to realize that biological mothers and fathers often have conflict over discipline on exactly this issue. The mother wants to children to feel good. The father wants them to behave. Hence, moms often have the impulse to shield children from fathers, even non-abusive fathers.

This is an area where our feminist theory that men and women are identical and interchangeable has caused enormous mischief. Mothers and fathers should not be freaked out over the perfectly normal fact that they tend to parent differently. The conflict may have nothing to do with the fact that the father is a stepfather instead of a bio-dad.

So, my advice is this: if you have a particular woman in mind, and you trust each other, you have a good shot at being successful. But if she will not allow you to parent, for whatever reason, the blended family will be headed for trouble.
All the best!
Dr J

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