Since You Asked…


Dear Caroline,

I’m a single mother to two elementary school-aged children. Last year, I started seeing a great guy, a single father whose kids are in the same school. Things between us are getting serious. The problem is our parenting styles are night and day.

I have been daydreaming about marriage and a blended family, but when I wake up to reality, I can’t envision it working out.


…Ex-Pat Mama in Mérida

Dear Mama,

If I had to break parenting styles into two general groups, here’s what they’d be:

Group 1: Parents who think home should be a reality-based mini-version of the outside world. That style of parenting is based on cause and effect, so responsibilities, rewards and consequences are consistently prescribed and administered. At a glance, that parenting philosophy makes sense. However, the real world can be unfair, arbitrary and unpredictable. A child raised in this curated “cause and effect” environment stands to think the world operates on a level playing field. That viewpoint, when carried to an extreme, can make them less inclined to trust their instincts, less compassionate toward others and less resilient to their own misfortunes.

Group 2: Parents who think the home should be a nurturing respite from the real world. That style of parenting tends to be a less-structured and more empathetic “to each child according to his needs” environment. At a glance, that parenting philosophy makes sense too, except that in some families where this is the norm, the children are treated unequally. Even if those inequalities are minor, they can lead to lifelong resentments between siblings. And of course, a child raised in this curated “safe place” environment, when carried to an extreme, stands to go out into the world unprepared for the reality that most people have no desire, nor obligation, to grant them favor or latitude, regardless of their needs.

I think your blended family presents a unique opportunity that can work out splendidly if you and your future husband can sit down and thoroughly analyze the goals and thoughts behind your different parenting philosophies and then derive a combined approach that will offer your children the best of both worlds.

Here’s to future generations!


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