Guest Blog: Conscious parenting: A stepparent’s perspective

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This week’s guest blog is from my stepdad Jim:

As a person “of a certain age,” I have to admit to an occasional bit of amusement at Shelly’s parenting tips. Some seem a little odd (as I suppose my ideas about parenting seemed to my parents) and some just seem like old ideas dressed up in new words. But the basic theme of this blog, Conscious Parenting, isn’t a concept I ‘d encountered before and it’s one that has a lot of meaning for me as both a stepparent and a biological one.

I believe that being Shelly’s stepdad helped me be a much better parent when my son came along later. I believe that because, in my experience, becoming a stepparent is a much more conscious decision than becoming a parent the old-fashioned, biological way. It may seem counter-intuitive but think about it.

When you meet someone with a child and decide whether the relationship is worth pursuing, the presence of the kid is a major factor in your decision. And the kid usually isn’t just a cute little, happy paperweight of a baby but a complex, confounding and totally unique individual. The developing relationship isn’t just hugs and kisses; it’s a tricky three-way negotiation of how you will fit into a preexisting family unit. By the time you walk down the aisle you have a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into and you know when you say, “I do” you’re committing to parenting as well as marriage.

Contrast that with the way we become biological parents (and I’m not talking about the mechanics here). We talk about “starting a family” or “having children” but rarely do we ask our spouse or ourselves if we want to become parents. Once we’ve decided to have kids (assuming things work out) we have nine crazy months to plan for the birth, hold showers and decorate the baby’s room. We might even take a “parenting” class but the odds are the class will focus on infants and probably substitute an inanimate doll for the baby.

While we might occasionally lose sleep over the sudden realization that, “OMG, I’m going to be a parent,” we usually get past it without really coming to grips with what that means.

Personally, I didn’t accept the reality of parenting my son until one night when he was a couple of months old and I found myself standing in the parking lot of the local grocery store tossing Pampers (forgive me for I have sinned) into the trunk of my car. As I stood there, staring at the Pampers and wondering, “How the heck did this happen?” I realized I once again had a commitment to make: accept the responsibility to parent my child or run from it (figuratively or literally). I pulled myself together and drove home.

Whether you’re a step, biological, foster, adoptive or some other type of parent, that commitment to parent (rather than just be a parent) is the core of Conscious Parenting. And it’s not a commitment you make once and move on, but one that needs to be continually and consciously renewed as your child grows and changes and offers you the chance to grow and change with her.

Please share your thoughts about your own parenting journey in the comment box below.

And have a good week,

James Cook

Jim is Shelly’s stepfather and a brand new grandparent. When he’s not busy spoiling the baby (or Shelly) he does illustration, web design, and teaches the online Dominate Dreamweaver web/design and development course.

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Your blog is so insightful and real for a stepparent, "blending" a family is trying at times and often fails because of the lack of "conscious parenting". It would be great if we, as parents, stepparents, or some other sort of caregiver were required to learn to be self-aware before we took on these roles, imagine how much easier and more successful it would be to blend families! Love this, thanks for sharing...Shelley and your son are so very lucky to have you.


Karin, Erica and Tina, thanks for the kind comments. I'm very lucky to have Shelly in my life too!


Jim, thank you for this. I actually just wrote a post this morning about step-parenting from the child's point of view. I love, love, love your take on it. Shelly is a lucky girl!


Jim, I love your distinction between being a parent (noun) and parenting (verb). I lost my dad when I was 7 to cancer and my mother deliberately and consciously chose to remarry only if she found a man committed to parenting, not just loving my sister and I. My stepfather has been and continues to be my mother's partner in guiding me through my own parenting and partnering issues. I have recently left my husband due to, among other conflicts, his lack of commitment to parent and partner with me, so I know what I am looking for should I ever choose to connect with another man. My children do not necessarily define who I am, but they are certainly a part of my identity.

Karin W
Karin W

I *love* this! Bless you, Jim, for articulating it so well. I am the single parent of a beautiful 6-year-old, and I would like to be partnered again at some point in the future. I am well aware that I am not just choosing a partner for myself but a stepparent for my precious child, and it better be someone who is up for - and committed to - the job!