The Madness is Upon Me


Gentlemen, for the first time in my life, I have met a lady and I am thinking about settling down and having a child or two. I do not find myself in a particularly advantageous situation in any respect, but nevertheless here I am. The lady in question has two children from a previous relationship, and while I never wanted to be anyone’s stepfather, this is the position I find myself in. It happened to me as a child, and I did not enjoy the experience, but on the whole I got off lightly and it was more down to my instinctual teenage sullenness. Perhaps what is most concerning about the whole matter is that once I knew the lady concerned, not doing this was never an option.

While it seems like the purest japery to seek advice from Stately Play about matters of the heart, I ask for your thoughts on fatherhood, and so on and so forth.

Yours reprehensibly, etc.


Congratulations! Happy that you’re happy!

Whilst I can’t offer advice on stepchildren, never having been nor had one, my own children are simultaneously the best and most frustrating things I have ever experienced - and that’s considering I was an inner city paramedic for ten years and have a police officer for the last fifteen, eight of them as a supervisor / manager.

Again, can’t speak to older children (mine are 4 and nearly 7), but they’ll make you want to string curse words together one second and squeeze the cute out of them the next. I think maybe the best advice I could offer, both in marriage and child raising, is to keep a level head. It’s certainly difficult at times but goes a long way in treating a long term relationship like a marathon, not a sprint.

I’ve certainly been lucky to have married a woman who complements the best in me and counteracts the worst. Maybe that’s the best advice? Tbh, I’m fingerbanging my way through this too lol.


Fatherhood is both a challenge and a joy. The advice I’ve given my friends is that there are thousands of books on the matter and none of them apply directly to you; you’re never truly ready but you learn on the fly. You’ll make mistakes like with anything in life but you learn from them.

Also, congratulations.

Also, it seems rather telling that your topic tile could just as easily refer to Cthulhu as it does to family life :joy:


Fatherhood is hard. It is awful. It is also rewarding. Having correct expectations is key. You will mess up. Try to recognize when you do and own up to it with the kids. The kids will be challenging. That is part of their growing up process. Remember they are the child and you are the adult. Keep coming back to them and be good to them.

I’m relatively freshly divorced with one son and have found a wonderful woman. She has four kids. This is not what I expected in my life.

If you can, form some sort of a relationship with the kids. When you decide you want to get married/ live together, or whatever, you need to include the kids in that decision. You can ask your lady about being together, but the kids don’t really have a say. So give them one. Before I asked my fiance about getting married, I talked to her parents (old fashioned, but very appreciated). You don’t just marry your lady you become part of the family. Having them on your side really helps. Then I had them help me meet with the kids (without my girlfriend) to talk about asking their mom to marry me. This way they had a say. If they were against it, I would have talked with them about it, and would have been willing to put off asking my girlfriend until they thought it was okay. You want their buy-in. They will also enjoy being part of the two of you getting together.

Being a step-dad has its own disadvantages (and advantages). You are not their father, they may let you know that. Hopefully, by them wanting you around they won’t say that. (But then you can also tell them, no, I’m not your father, I chose to be with you). It will be hard to get them to respect you at times. But you also get the easy out of deferring to their mother. You will also have an enviable detachment where they will not upset you as much because they are not your children.

Loving them as though they are your kids will ultimately be rewarding for you, them, and especially your relationship with your lady.

Ii recommend finding some books on positive parenting. While not the main point of the book, I’ve been reading Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex (my ex is not the best). It has a very helpful section on positive parenting and building a bond with children. Wish I had read those parts years ago.

Congratulations, the best of luck.


I’ve had two step-fathers in my life, one of which is the father of one of my half-brothers. The other half brother was via my Dad remarrying, but I didn’t grow up with him as I lived with my mum.

I ended up resenting my first step-father quite a lot - I always knew he wasn’t my dad but it was fine until after my mum and him got divorced, but I was still made to go visit him even though as time went on I didn’t really want to. What really did it though is that he’d use me as a weapon to try and get my younger brother to behave. (“Why don’t you behave like your brother?”) I don’t think I ever really forgave him for that but he’s not been part of my life for over a decade.

My second step-father (although he and my mum aren’t married) turned up in my late teens and he was a lot better. He knew his boundaries, but also didn’t take any nonsense when it came to him or domains that were legitimately his. He never tried to ‘raise’ me or my brother, but neither did he completely keep to the sidelines either. They’re still together to this day and while he’s not a father figure to me, I don’t really consider him a ‘friend’ either but he’s a cool guy and he makes mum happy, which is good enough for me.

I could try to give you some specific advise by reverse engineering the above but to be honest, every situation is going to be unique so just try to exercise some common sense. They’re not your kids, but neither are you a complete stranger and they shouldn’t treat you like one. I imagine going over boundaries and trying to solicit the advice/support of your new lady will be key. Not sure if my mum/step-dad(s) every really had conversations like that.

I’m now a father myself and yeah, like others have said, it’s hard but very rewarding. My daughter is nearing two and she’s getting to the point where her cuteness is now being overshadowed by her tantrums, but there are still moments of pure joy that just floor me.

The hardest part about being a parent, I’ve found, is being a parent with someone else. And that’s not to say single parents have it easy (lord knows, they don’t), but trying to come to decision of ‘what’s best’ with someone who’s equally as invested in the health of your child can be incredibly stressful. There are things my wife is genuinely better at, and things that I prefer leaving to her, but I consider us at-large equals in the parenting thing and my opinion is equally as valid as hers. We argue a lot more than we used to, and it’s all because we’re both trying to make sure our daughter is safe and happy.

The bitch of it is, neither of you are wrong. You just can’t both be right.


Oh, and congrats!


Felicitations on having succumbed to thee madness. Our greatest hope should be that it gets us all in the end. As for the many things that go along with it…that can be complicated indeed.

First: no man is “prepared”. All of the advice given so far is good and worthy of attention, certainly, but none of it, or mine, or that in books will serve to fully “prepare” you for what awaits. Our minds are overcome, and then doubly overcome (and more puzzlingly so) with the arrival of your own children. Fear it though you rightfully may, that terror is normal, and it shall ebb once the child is born and you find a new pattern of life. Though I never wanted the experience, though I dreaded it, I’m now very glad to have it every day.

Aphasia: Step-parenting is about communicating with the lady (What does she want your relationship with her kids to look like? How can she help you make that happen?) and with the kids (What do they miss about having a dad in the house all the time? Can you provide any of it? What if anything do they like about you? What if anything do you like about them?). They have a family unit—they need to welcome you into it, and you need to want to be there. Create boundaries immediately and respect theirs. And always try to speak clearly to each other.

Chaos Theory: Someone above mentioned that you’re not just getting the three of them, you’re getting your lady’s parents in the bargain as well as her siblings, her ex, and her other family, and that is very true. Your own existing family are also going to be mixed in. Your family will be happy and excited for you and then elated when your own children arrive. It will feel chaotic and strange to navigate at first (and maybe for a while). Whose parents do you spend the holidays with? How often do you want to see family X even though they live nearby? Are certain family members just allowed to come by any time? How do vacations work? Agree on rules about everything with your lady or the chaos will overwhelm all of you.

Time travel: Being around children as a parent (or even a step-parent) does this neat thing that no one told me about. You have moments, often fleeting, where you flash to a memory of your younger self that you may have all but forgotten. You also notice small things in your kids that remind you of your partner, or of some family member. It is a little like getting a glimpse at something about yourself that was otherwise lost to time.

Transmutation: I hate to tell you, but once you are a dad, your previous self-identity crumples. Yes, the identity that you’ve spent all these years creating. It can be unpleasant to feel it, and it can cause a lot of doubt about whether you, the real you, is gone for good. But it comes back. Slowly, facets of your old true self start to re-inflate and fit together with the new parent-self in ways that are surprising. And things you maybe didn’t like about yourself can be left deflated and cast off more easily somehow. You can sort of become a better version of your self than you had ever imagined. I don’t understand it, I just know the experience of it.

In the end, you are lost to madness. You cannot change it. You know this. Accept it and do all you can to define your new reality, and know it will be shattered again (and possibly again, depending upon your breeding aspirations).

We’ll all be here to monitor your dwindling sanity, worry not.


On the grounds that I am twice-married (once-divorced, for clarity) and have no children, I have no authority to give advice on either relationships or parenthood. I can however say congratulations, such moments are to be seized, and if it turns life into an emotional rollercoaster, better to experience the moments of exhilaration and terror than forever stand on the ground wondering :blush:

Also, with skilful work you’ll never be short of a boardgame opponent again. :+1:


Thank you for your trust in sharing with us. I wish you all the best indeed.

I have two children of my own and I’m living with them. They are the best things in my life and I couldn’t bear the thought of them coming to harm. I love to see them after work and I am so happy when I feel how much they love me. Weekends and holidays can be quite tiresome sometimes, that’s when I renew the feeling, how much my wife is doing every day.

Both boys, so I am in the luck of having four little eyes looking up to me as a role model (hopefully).

I do not know how it is to be a stepfather. It probably depends a lot on the age of the children, their gender and their need of a father figure in their life. Most of all I think it depends on your willingness to tolerate frustrations. I can imagine, that it can very difficult at times. For example, if you have a total different view a topic concerning the children (maybe specially when they are boys) the mother might let you feel that you are an “outsider”. Don’t know, but it’s imaginable and could be quite hurtful.
I often have a different standpoint than my wife when it comes to certain topics. But I can always say “they are my children as much as they are yours…bla, bla bla”. So you could have a much weaker standpoint there. It doesn’t have to be that way but if it comes to that, it might hurt. Especially if you really feel for your stepchildren as if they were your own.
So you could have a much weaker standpoint there. It doesn’t have to be that way but if it comes to that, it might hurt. Especially if you really feel for your stepchildren as if they were your own.
I hope I don’t sound discouraging, I don’t want to be. It just came to my mind and I thought I’d let you know my thoughts.


Congratulations! I’ll echo all those who say that fatherhood can be both incredibly frustrating and even more rewarding. My kids are simultaneously my biggest source of headaches and the most amazing part of my life. I wouldn’t change the experience for anything.

Being patient is definitely a huge key to parenthood … it seems like every time I’ve lost my patience with my kids, I’ve made a bad situation worse. With that said, I’ve also learned that it’s important to not beat myself up over those mistakes. Learn from it, apologize to the kids when necessary, then move on. There are no perfect parents–don’t expect to be one.

My parenting style tends to be: try to do the things my parents did well, try not to do the things they did poorly, and make up the rest as I go. I honestly don’t ever feel like I know what I’m doing. I’m just trying to figure out what’s best for the kids–which usually isn’t the easiest thing–and go from there.

Can’t speak to the experience of being a stepfather, as my wife and I were both childless when we met. I think what we do best as a couple, though, is communicate, so we’re on the same page as much as possible with how we parent the kids. (I’m filing that under “not doing what my parents did poorly”–they never seemed to agree on anything and, shockingly, got divorced shortly after my sister went off to college.)

Finally, I’ll say that the stepfathers I know have done a great job of figuring out how involved to be in their stepkids’ lives. Two of them have basically replaced deadbeat dads and are the only fathers in the kids’ lives, while a third married a woman whose ex is still positively involved with their kid. You’ll find the right boundaries, probably through some trial and error, but you’ll figure it out.

Best of luck with all of it!


I have a stepfather, and although growing up he and I clashed quite a bit, I never resented him for being “not my real dad” or anything like that, and we have a cordial although I would not say close relationship now, although I imagine it wouldn’t be any closer if he was my real dad; I think that’s just how he is.

As far as fatherhood itself goes, I have known for a very long time that it is Not For Me. In another context, perhaps, but we live in the world we live in, and…no. If you don’t feel the same way (and it doesn’t seem like you do), I am reliably informed by practically everyone in our socioeconomic bracket (I assume everybody here is broadly similar in that respect…no chimney sweeps–at least not hereditarily–or heirs to Vast Fortunes) that parenthood is ultimately rewarding beyond measure.


Congratulations! There’s a lot of good advice in the thread that matches my own experience as a husband and father. I will try to offer some stuff I haven’t seen mentioned and reiterate some of the big ones.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen on marriage is that love is not a feeling. Love is a choice There will come times when you aren’t going to feel so great about your prospective spouse or the kids. If love is a feeling, then there’s little preventing things going downhill once the feeling is diminished. You have to choose love — consistently — for marriage to work.

I can’t speak to stepchildren, but I will echo that kids are simultaneously rewarding and frustrating. As a happy and level-headed coworker phrased it years ago, “Your kids will bring you so much joy. They will also make you more angry than you ever thought you could be.” Working on patience helps, but remember you aren’t perfect and neither are they.

A friend just came from a wedding where the groom had kids from a prior marriage. They included the kids as part of the ceremony in which the whole new family made a commitment to each other. It strikes me as a great idea as an echo of getting buy-in from the kids. It’s possible it will take time and effort for them to get to that point.

I like this quote since it’s better than the glib saying, “You can be right, or you can be happy.” Being right comes down to who is making the decision. Hopefully for the important stuff it’s together and with agreement. If it’s her decision, she will make the right decision for her in the time she makes it. The best you can hope for is she listened to your perspective. Even if you turn out to be “right” in the future, that type of accounting helps no one.


You need a license to drive.
You need a license to fish.
You need a license to own a cat or a dog.
You need a license to get married.
But you don’t need a license to have kids.

Somehow, most of us survive to adulthood.

I disagree. Infatuation is the feeling that someone is perfect. Love is what you feel when a person does things that drive you insane, but you can’t imagine life without them.


I am a stay-at-home parent by choice. I knew at least as far back as my teens that I wanted to be a parent, and considered staying home to do it plausible even then.

I haven’t figured out anything. Parenting is the river you never step into the same one of twice. Kids don’t follow consistent, tidy rules you can deduce by observation; everything’s changing all the time, and it means that nobody takes their preferences as seriously as a more settled adult’s, which just sucks for everyone involved. The kids have just enough constancy to their characters that they feel like some things are predictable, but they never know what might change next month, so even they can’t take their preferences seriously for long-term planning. So about my only insight is that you can’t hope for any stable guiding insights; you’re going to be continually approximating and revising your guesses.

Obviously, I dig it. But I suspect it helps drive my preference for turn-based games with discrete and well-defined choices in my recreation.


Ah, I skimmed over this before. My girlfriend’s younger brother (which makes him a significant percentage of my life younger than me) is in this boat, and he seems to be doing a very good job of it (something I think that no one who knew him as a kid would have suspected, from the stories I’ve heard), and the kid loves him, so depending on the situation I think it could go very well for you.

Regardless, this little forum has definitely cooled down from what it was, but I nevertheless keep returning to check it out, and that means something. There’s no corner of the internet that I would rather everything work out for the best for everyone who frequents it, and I’m glad you have seemingly stumbled on a chance at happiness. Good luck, buddy.


Some really good advice in this thread. I would suggest you play the game I wrote, The Parenting Simulator, and not in the ‘I’m shilling for my story’ kind of way but in that even if you just did the first few chapters that are free it might give you a decent idea of the ups and downs of having a little kid. Link if you want it:

The only thing I would say that I don’t think was mentioned yet is to only do it if you’re sure. Which goes for both getting married and having a child, ultimately. So many people do these things because they are expected to, because it feels like the logical next step or just another life milestone to pass. Most of those are the ones who flame out when you are sitting there exhausted from days of sleep deprivation and arguing with your spouse about whether Christmas Eve should be with her family or yours. Or trying to hold your cool while your formerly adorable little’un has grown and moved on to actively desiring not to spend time around you and you realize that after devoting so much of your time and energy to them you will now have to find a new meaning to your life. It’s not only okay to not have kids if you’re unsure you want them, it’s perhaps the most mature decision you can ever make.

That being said, you seem like you’re in a pretty good place with it all based on how you’re approaching it here.


Thank you, gentlemen. Some great advice there. Now to see if I can put it into practice.