Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Is It Like to Be a Part-time Parent?

What is it like to be a part-time parent?

I can't answer that in one entry. In fact, if someone really wants to know the answer to that question, they'll have to keep following this blog or maybe get to know me preferably in a non-stalkerish way offline.

Like I said in my first post, Brian has two boys from his previous marriage. When I first found that out, I knew I wanted to date Brian. There's a lot to be said about a dad who has a great relationship with his kids. It's evidence of responsibility, commitment, and that he knows where his priorities should be. I knew I had to at least give him a chance. Obviously, I made the right decision. :-)

On the flip side, I was far more apprehensive about meeting Brian's kids than any of his friends or his ex-wife or his parents. In fact, I did not meet them until I had dated Brian for over six months. I felt like before meeting the most important two people in his life, I needed to make sure my relationship with Brian was solid; I needed to make sure he was the "real deal." I also realized that if my relationship with Brian was serious, my relationship with these two boys as a possible "step-dad" (a term I am not fond of) was just as important. Initially, I often worried that my relationship with Brian would be short and that the boys would get to know me for just a few months before I disappeared off the radar.

But what is it like to help raise these boys? Yeah, they are young, but I am twenty-five! Most of my friends either have no kids or kids who are just a couple of years old. Is it weird for me?

The quick answer is no, I don't feel weird or awkward around them. We love having them over. We love spending afternoons at the park or the museum. We love battling round after round in Mario Kart or seeing how tall we can get the Jenga tower before it crumbles to the ground. We love having milkshakes and a movie with them on the Friday nights we do have them.  I love helping them with their homework while Brian puts together dinner. And we love giving them responsibility by assigning them chores to do while staying with us. Their room better be clean before we have to take them back to Suburbia!

But despite only having the kids every Wednesday and every other weekend, I really underestimated how much personal free time I would be losing once I became included in their lives. If we have the kids on a weeknight or on a weekend, I officially declare that period of time in my mind as booked. "Family-friendly" entertainment is the only kind of entertainment allowed. Unless it's Chinese buffet, we rarely eat out with them. No shopping, unless we can separate the boys. No going out with friends either. On top of the days we have them over, there are also the activities the kids are involved in which require us to make regular trips to Suburbia: Little League, basketball, school functions, and more. I feel like I can now look at full-time moms and full-time dads with much greater appreciation. And although I have always been impressed with my parents for raising ten children, I now feel like I don't know how they managed to raise those ten kids without going bonkers.

I know. Full-time parents probably feel no pity for me and my part-time duties. But being a part-time parent kind of sucks, too. Sometimes I wonder how much of an impact we have with what goes on in their lives. I do get a little frustrated that I do not get as much of a say in what goes on. Not only am I (basically) their step-dad, but between their mom, their dad, and their other step-dad, I am the one that sees them the least, thus I am the one that often feels least involved. Ultimately, they always go back to their Suburbia home where they live by the rules of that house. Daily decisions and discipline are given by their parents there for at least two-thirds of the month.

The worst part of our days is the awkward silence of having no children in the house after we have taken them back to Suburbia. No yelling. No one running around. No one asking me for pretzel Goldfish. No one to clean up after and no one to play Clue with. Just silence. Brian and I sometimes talk about the possibility of us adopting or fostering another kid. I do not doubt that we would raise a child well with all of this part-time experience we are getting. But even the thought of having a child on a full-time basis brings about a bajillion other questions I could write multiple entries on.

Maybe just a dog to make some noise will be our only option if adoption is not in the cards for us.

Edit: I should point out that when I say "part-time" parent, I know some people might cringe. So I should clarify that although I do not see the boys on a full-time basis, my love for them is still full. I want to see them be happy and I want to witness their successes in life. When I say "part-time", it should be interpreted in a physical sense.