I get a lot of email from women telling me heart-breaking stories about not really wanting to be step moms. If you are thinking about marrying a man with children, please consider carefully the following information.

There are real differences between dads who only have their kids every other weekend with two weeks in the summer, and those dads who have full or shared custody of their children. These very real differences significantly affect the women who choose to be step moms, as well.

Dads who are granted shared or full custody of their children used to be an extremely rare occurrence. In fact, out of all divorced couples with children, the mother has typically been awarded primary custody in over 90% of cases. But this pattern is changing, as dads take a more active role in fighting for custody and judges stop assuming that only women can care for children.

More and more women who are choosing to marry a man with children are going to find themselves helping to raise his kids. However, even if the man you are planning to marry does not have custody of his children right now, that could always change. Stepmoms have shared instances with me about bio mom passing away, about the situation at bio mom’s house become so volatile that dad had to take custody and even situations like mine, where bio mom chose not to keep the kids.

The point is, if you are considering joining your life with a man who has children (and the same holds true for the man in your life if you are a mom planning to remarry), you need to prepare to be married to a man with children.  Men don’t give up their children for their wives; in fact, if they were involved in a divorce, they may treat their children with kid gloves and be too lenient because they feel guilty, leaving you, the step mom, to come in and wonder why the kids are getting away with murder.  Your man’s children will also not disappear when they turn 18.  He will continue to love them and they will continue to be a part of his life – and yours.

I believe that being a stepmother can be a rewarding, fulfilling experience. However, I don’t think that happens unless you and your man spend a great deal of time talking about how you will all live together.  You need to know before you are entrenched in the situation whether he will undermine your authority by always taking the kids’ side and whether you have similar ideas on child rearing or not.

Most of all, you need to do some soul-searching to know whether your love for your man is enough to sustain you through the unavoidable stresses and challenges of building a new family together. Talk to my sister Tiana and I … we have had much different experiences with stepmothering … talk to the other women who are joining us in conversation here and gain some insight.

This is one case where looking before leaping is strongly recommended.

Get Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle.