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As I take the time this summer to reflect on the past 17 yrs with dh, there are many things that I wish I had known before I entered this little slice of heaven called stepparenthood. I was so young that I truly believed that just because I loved him, it would all work itself out - and work itself out quickly! Here is my hind-sight-is-20/20 list of things I wish we had talked about very early in our relationship.

A List to DH:

  1. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of Prince charming coming along a sweeping me off my feet to live happily every after. What I didn't know is that MY Prince charming would have baggage - an ex-wife, a little prince and a little princess. This will take some getting used to on my part, so please give me time to adjust my expectations.

  2. Before we marry, let's sit down and figure out what role I will play with your children. How much leeway I should take with discipline, nurturing, etc. Then let's stick to it, or if it needs to be adjusted, let's talk again. Changes in expectations should be agreed upon by both of us in advance.

  3. I know you will have to deal with your ex on issues that come up with the kids, but please do not make me feel like it is none of my business what you and she talk about. You are now my husband, and if there are secrets to be shared they should be with me, not her.

  4. If your ex's washing machine goes out, or her car breaks down, please do not agree to look at it when you pick up the kids. This is no longer your responsibility, and the child support you pay should help cover the cost of a repairman.

  5. Make sure your ex knows that it is not appropriate to call our home at all hours of the day or night to cry on your shoulder. That's what all night talk radio is for.

  6. While I love you dearly, please do not expect me to be an instant mother to your children. Do not try to push me on them or them on me. You have a history with them that I do not have, and a biological tie to them that I will never have. I will eventually build a history with them, but whether or not we develop any measure of love will have to wait to be seen. If it weren't for you, these kids and I would never be expected to have any type of relationship. You are the one thing we have in common, so give us time to adjust.

  7. When they are in our home, please do not expect me to accept poor behavior, bad manners, or disrespect directed towards me or you. While I am not their mother, I am an adult and your chosen mate, and as such I expect to be treated better than a house servant.

  8. If your children make a mess, please make sure it is cleaned up. The fact that I am a woman does not mean that I am a maid. Just because you only see your children on weekends does not mean that you have no responsibility to correct their behavior. Letting them run wild will only cause problems for us in the near term, and them in the long run.

  9. When we take the kids on vacation, please pay me a little attention. I know it is important for you to reconnect with your kids, but I will get pretty tired of playing second fiddle to a/several kid(s) who only want me to disappear so they can have Daddy to themselves. If you need time alone with them, say so up front and I will treat myself to a few days alone to refresh myself while you all have a bondfest.

  10. When your ex calls in desperate need of $$, please discuss it with me before agreeing to send it tomorrow. If you are up to date on you child support, and it is not an emergency involving a child, she should not be using you as a bank/loan company. I know you are really doing it for the kids (my dh's old excuse), but she knows this too and is taking advantage of you. You are too close to see it, and don't want her to blame you when she can't take the kids to the concert, out to eat, Disney World, etc.

  11. Please talk to me before you agree to change the visitation schedule. I may have plans for us, or I may just have PMS, but I need advance warning to get ready. Remember, for me, when they come over, it is like having company. I need time to prepare.

  12. While I feel that the kids are your responsibility with me in a supporting role, I cannot offer you support if you do not talk to me about your concerns. If you think I am being too hard on your kids for some reason or another, let me know, with specific examples so that I can explain my position. Taking an "it's me and my kids against you" stance will only cause us problems. If we can't talk it out, we can't resolve it.

  13. Most of our disagreements will be because of differences in our upbringings and our expectations for our marriage. Talking these out is the best way to come to a compromise that will work for our new family.

  14. Please know that I want a happy family as much as you do and that I will do my best to support you and your children as long as there is respect and support for me as well.

My husband and I are in a good place at this point in our marriage. Most of the things above were issues at some point in our lives, but we stumbled through them and have grown because of these things. The most important lesson that both dh and I learned on our journey (and ladies I've written this time and time again here) is that our marriage is the most important thing. The children, both his and ours, are a very important part of our family, but they are not a part of our marriage. When we take care of our needs as a couple, the other problems are easier to handle because we are coming from the same place when we try to work them out. I just thought that a few examples of been-there-done-that might give someone else a place to start in figuring out some of the things that they need to address.

The author of essay is Gracie1. She is a regular contributor to the StepTogether Message Board.