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Evil Stepmom


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A Bio-Dad's Perspective: Time Alone with the Kids

The first time Kimberly (the Evil Stepmom and my wife) pressed me to go visit my daughter in New York by myself, I must admit I whined and resisted. “But the three of us always have such fun’ll miss out on a great time in the city...I’ll miss you.. it’s important that we three spend time together, etc.” I had all kinds of reasons that I shouldn’t go alone, but I was wrong and she was right.

I went to New York by myself and stayed with my 27 year old daughter for three days. It was amazing. We walked all over Downtown, kicked a soccer ball on the Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park, talked over long dinners about her work and school, hung out in her apartment and watched Family Guy on her Mac. It was three of the most memorable days of my life.

Since that visit, Kimberly has continued to push me to spend 1:1 time alone with each of my “kids”, who range in age from 23 to 30. It doesn’t take much pushing anymore because every time I go visit with them alone, good things happen. They are at the stage in their lives where they certainly don’t need their Dad bugging them too much. But I get the impression that they like spending 1:1 time with me as much as I like it with them. 

Here are some of the payoffs I’ve received:

  •  I’m more calm and relaxed in general when I feel connected with each of them. Even though they are adults, I am so wired to them that I get antsy when I don’t know what’s happening in their lives, what they are struggling with, what they are learning and enjoying, who their friends and lovers are, what they need help with, and what they don’t. It’s good for me to go back to my life and work refreshed and more at ease.
  • Being connected 1:1 paves the way for having hard conversations when we need them. When they come needing support, I’m already aware of how they are managing their lives...finances, work, relationships, etc. So I’m more comfortable in bringing up or responding to sticky topics.
  • They also know me better as an individual. I’ve changed a lot in the years since the divorce and spending time with each of them alone has given them the chance to get to know their Dad in a different way, as another struggling adult as well as their parent.
  • I think they are more relaxed and comfortable as members of our new stepfamily. They know that Kimberly is happy to share me with them and doesn’t feel compelled to be with me every moment. They know she is comfortable and confident enough with herself that she can go off and do her own thing when they need or want to be with me alone. This makes our times together as a stepfamily more relaxed, flexible, and open. It also sets the stage for them to want to get to know her as an interesting individual in her own right; not just as “Dad’s wife.”

I’ve watched other stepparents of young adults handle this very differently than Kimberly does. They cling to their husband or wife, afraid that if they let the kids be alone with their bio-parent, they’ll always be the outsider or worse, they’ll lose their spouse to the kids. It’s understandable, but this impulse to cling and keep the kids away from their bio-parent backfires for everyone.

You can give your spouse a great gift by urging him to spend regular 1:1 time with his young adult children. Try to relax when your spouse is off doing his parenting thing with one or more of his kids. The more you let go, the more attractive you'll be as a spouse and as a stepparent.

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