10 min read

Richie: My journey as a stepdad

A man doing boxing

Richie Hardcore is an educator, speaker and activist working in the spaces of family and sexual violence prevention, masculinities, mental health and fitness. He’s also partner to Claire and Dad to baby Rafael and his eight-year-old step son Jack.

While many know Richies story of how fighting (Muay Thai) saved his life or the multiple Muay Thai champion titles he carries, our korero looked deeper into his journey of fatherhood. We explored the ways in which Richie seeks to build a positive relationship with his stepson, his co-parenting journey and the advice he would give to new stepdads. 

Tell us a bit about your role as a father

I am a father to two wonderful boys Jack and Rafael.

I first became a parent to my stepson Jack five years ago when I met my partner, Claire. At the time, Jack was three years old and now he is eight. My son Rafael was born three weeks ago. Becoming a Dad is a really positively transformative thing. I think it's brought a peace into my life that I've never really experienced before. 

What was it like becoming a stepdad?

Claire and I started dating and she was really mindful about not rushing into meeting Jack. I was cool with that, because kids make attachments and I wanted to take my time too. Eventually I moved in and developed into becoming a father overtime.

I remember needing to learn to soften into the journey of fatherhood to help build my relationship with Claire and Jack first. Now, he’s my son and has a wonderful biological father too who I get on quite well with. 

What was it like building a relationship with your stepsons biological father?

I guess it’s kind of odd at first. I’ve never had my lovers ex come and hang out, you know? But, you’re not at high school anymore. You have to learn to accept that your partner has got a past and that’s actually a great thing because you learn lessons through all your different experiences. You have to be mature and be willing to have constructive conversations together.

Luke (Jack’s father), is a really intelligent and thoughtful dude who loves his son. He gave up a lot to be an active parent and I have a lot of respect for him. We’ve always had a mutually respectful relationship. We all communicate well, accept that we all have different takes on parenting and have Jacks best interests at heart. 

Why is it important to have a healthy relationship with Jack’s father  

Well, I love Jack. If I approached the relationship by being small-minded, insecure or jealous, I’d actually be doing my son a disservice. I want to give Jack a life and childhood that is different to my own. I can’t do that if I’m playing small.

It’s important to me that Luke and I can agree to disagree on things. He loves barbeque, I’m a vegetarian. But, he’s told me, “You’re a good role model for my son.” And that actually means the world to hear and I think the same of him.

Luke and I have different ideas and ways of doing things. This is good because Jack then gets to have different experiences of life. We compliment each other in a lot of ways. I’m also not trying to take his place. I’m mindful that Luke will always be Jack’s father and I have to continually figure out how I’ll walk alongside him as another father figure. 

What advice would you give to someone becoming a stepdad?

I think you need to stay curious about yourself and your own behaviours and values. It’s important to figure out where they come from and what does or doesn’t work.

Remember that you have no control of anyone’s behaviour but your own. Sometimes that means you have to be the bigger person. 

Finally, keep the communication lines open. You have to learn the best time and place to communicate. What are your responsibilities and what is OK for you to address. It takes time and practice and there’s always going to be little hiccups. 

What are you most proud of as a father?

I’m proud that my children’s childhoods are so different to my own.

I’m proud that I’ve taken the lessons and struggles of my life and used those as opportunities to learn about myself. I’ve found myself now in a relationship with a wonderful woman who had a child that I could apply the learning to. Now, I have a baby, a beautiful boy and stepson and I know their childhood will be nothing like mine at all. 

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