Single mums aren’t ‘lucky’ to have found a man who accepts their kids

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Opinion: it’s not a ‘sacrifice’. 

So often I have heard stories about women whose partners are depicted as heroes for being willing to “take them on” even when they have two, three or four small children.

While I agree that it can be an enormous challenge for a childless man to suddenly  become part of a family, there’s something that disturbs me about this hero archetype.

Men who are attracted to women with children have a range of needs and desires that they think will be met in the relationship with a woman and her children.

These men  obviously want to be participating in a loving family life. It’s something they haven’t yet achieved and being with someone who already has children adds depth and substance to their lives. The end result is more people to love and to be loved by.

It’s not a ‘sacrifice’  

Lucy Smith* has been with her current partner for ten years, since her child was one.

Bruce has never been married nor had any children. There is no doubt that he liked being in the position to ‘save’ Lucy from some of the challenges of a single mother, but after more than a decade, it is certainly the joy, comfort and security that family life offers him that keeps him in it when times are tough.

But the flip side is, what keeps Lucy there? In every relationship there are changes in the balance of power.

Often, the primary earner has more sway when it comes to financial decisions, and the primary caregiver reigns over the children and their activities. If it is the emotional and financial security of the family life that makes Lucy grateful, how much does she compromise because she was ‘rescued’ all those years ago?

It really bugs me that she feels burdened by his ‘sacrifice’.

“I have to be grateful”

Over the years I’ve seen this martyr like behaviour amongst my friends. Because their husband has accepted them, with all their faults, strengths and children, they feel bound to accept some inappropriate behaviour/expectations from them. They feel that they can’t complain because they remember how hard it was to be on their own.

I’m not saying that their husbands are abusive or inappropriate in any way, just that there is an underlying expectation that the men are the heroes in this situation so they must be treated as such. One woman I know does mention her husband’s faults a lot. She’ll complain that he doesn’t let her spend money/he’s controlling/he’s absent but, she’ll whisper conspiratorially, “I have to be grateful”.

I truly believe that it is a very special man who wants to be a part of a ready made family, but , I’m just not sure that’s enough to make a woman to spend the rest of her life being grateful, just because he did.

“I just wanted to be a part of her life”

Jennifer Scott, met her husband when her kids were one and two. People applauded Sam’s willingness to relinquish the single life for a ready-made family but really, Jennifer says, “he gained two daughters” and they have added depth and value to his life.

Sam says that he couldn’t imagine his life any other way.

“Jen is a wonderful mother, she was doing a great job, and she didn’t need saving. I just wanted to be a part of her life. That she came with two kids was a blessing because I knew exactly the kind of mother she would be when we decided to have kids together.”

Men who fall in love with women who have children can be seen as heroes for only so long. Inevitably, the shine wears off, as it so often does after the first few years of love, and the drudgery that is children’s sports schedules, mortgage paying and family life sets in.

Does the woman still have to be grateful when her husband works long nights, plays golf on the weekends with his buddies at the expense of family life, forgets her birthday or doesn’t show up for the children’s parent teacher interviews? Does she have to compromise because he “took her on” back in the day when she was a single mother?

I think not.

*All of the names in this article have been changed at the interviewee’s request.