When Single Mom's Want to Marry

Recently I was asked my thoughts on things single women with children looking to marry or remarry should consider. I am personally familiar with this topic as I was once a single mom who formed a successful family unit.  I wouldn’t say I am an expert, but looking back on our experiences and seeing the couples and families that are struggling I think I have something beneficial to offer.

Statistics show that 40% of married couples with children in the US are step-couples. This means at least one person brings a child from a previous relationship into their new marriage. Americans marry, divorce, and cohabitate more than any Western society and this means that by age 15, 29% of US children experience two or more mother partnerships (either marriage or cohabitation).[i]

When a single mom is in a relationship that appears to be headed towards marriage, I strongly recommend pre-engagement counseling to allow the couple to receive objective input and to help them determine if marriage is a good idea for them. There are so many additional things to consider when a single mom intends to marry, and it is wise to discuss them before any engagement takes place.

Once engaged, premarital counseling is vital to help the couple begin their lives as a couple on a solid foundation.  It should also include how the couple will define their family, and the roles each person will play in it.  It is important to discuss if the children will be known as his stepchildren, his wife’s children, or the children from her other relationship/prior life.  Does her future husband consider them his children by choice- calling them “my kids” “my boys,” “my girls,” or “our kids?” What will the kids call their mom’s new husband? Will they call him by his first name, or a term of endearment such as Daddy John, Poppa, or Dad? The terminology will be critical because it sets up how the family is viewed from within and outside.

Something else to be discussed in pre-marital counseling is the adjustment the woman must make in parenting. Having a new parent/husband involved will require her to surrender much of the emotional control she has had over the children. She is used to parenting alone and making decisions for child independent of anyone's wisdom or counsel. Because she has been the only authority, allowing her new husband to provide parenting input may be sticky! She may undermine his authority with the kids and have a prideful “I know what’s best” attitude, especially if he has never parented children before. She may be fearful of the children not accepting him as a parent, so she prevents him from disciplining or she is so relieved at having a partner that she passes too much responsibility to her new husband too fast.

As a co-parent, she will have to be open to new ways of doing things, and be agreeable to different ideas and suggestions. She will have to support her husband’s style of discipline and his decisions as husband and father. She will have to encourage and require the kids to respect her husband as an authority in their lives and be willing to present a united front even when she thinks her way is the right way.  

She must accept that if they are “our kids” then “we” have co-responsibility for them.  Both mom and step-father have a responsibility to teach, rebuke, correct, and train the children in righteousness. They will need to bond and show solidarity to the children.

There is much more I could discuss and many more issues to be examined. I will be writing more about these issues in Wednesday and Friday’s posts.