Simple Step Parenting? Meet Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

Leo Babauta changed my life.

I’m not the only one.

His blog Zen Habits topped TIME magazine’s Top 25 blogs for 2010 for a reason. I discovered Zen Habits during a difficult time in my life. Slowly, I began to apply Leo’s ideas to my own habits. Things snowballed from there to bring me where I am today – Panic-free, working for myself and living a simpler life.

Here are a few reasons Zen Habits rocks:

  • Leo completely changed his life, then blogged about it. His of list of achievements includes: quit smoking, ran a marathon, got organized, became vegan, doubled his income, wrote a novel, made Zen Habits a top blog within a year … you can read the whole list here. It’s inspiring.
  • Through his writing, he empowered others to change their life, too.
  • He also happens to be a step parent, like me. He has six kids – Two from a previous relationship, two step kids (ages 11 and 14) and two with his wife, Eva. (Note from Leo: “I don’t call them my step kids — they’re my kids just like the other kids. We treat them all the same — some of them just have other parents too.”)

I was thrilled when Leo agreed to be interviewed on Peace & Projects. Even if you’re not a step parent, you can still apply his tips to your kids. Don’t forget to subscribe to Zen Habits for future reading goodness.

Now, on to the interview. Enjoy!

Do you have any favorite Zen habits that apply to step parenting?

Leo: There’s only one habit that really matters: showing your kids that you love them, whether they’re step kids or not. And most often you show them that by just being there for them.

I am there for my kids for their soccer games and guitar recitals, when they scrape their knees or get angry, when they want to work on a project with me or share a victory they’ve had. Another thing I try to do is set a good example — in how I talk to them and in the work that I do and how I get active every day and so on.

What are some of the ways you build a positive step relationship with your kids?

Leo: Do stuff with them. Right now my stepson and I are building a raised garden bed, something I don’t know how to do very well but we’re learning together. In the past we’ve learned a bit about computer programming together, played soccer together, gone on walks, biked. We read when we can. Everything we do together is an opportunity to build our relationship.

What do you know now as a step dad that you wish you knew in the beginning?

Leo: You really have to work to build a close relationship with your step kids — it doesn’t come as naturally as a close relationship with my biological kids. That’s because I try not to replace their father and don’t want to push myself on them too hard, but at the same time I want to be there for them and teach them and do stuff with them.

I should have done that more in the beginning — in a non-threatening way — but I’m trying to make up that lost time now.

Favorite things about being a step dad?

Leo: Oh, it’s the same as my favorite things about being a dad in general: I love spending time with my step kids and passing down my knowledge and skills and seeing their eyes light up when they get excited about something. When they’re happy because of something we’ve done together, it’s all worth it.

Any last words of encouragement?

Leo: Being a step parent is tricky — compounding the usual challenges of being a parent — because of so many different emotional issues. Are you trying to replace my real dad, or are you the reason my parents aren’t together, and will you abandon me once I’ve begun to trust you, and do you love me as much as you love your real kids?

Kids have all these questions and many more and there’s not much you can say to allay their fears. All you can do is build trust by being there for them, by loving them, one act at a time.

And it’s possible. If I can do it, so can you.

    * * *

Thank you, Leo! I think your blog’s tagline – “smile, breathe and go slowly” – is a perfect approach to life as a step parent. Join 200,000+ monthly readers at Leo’s blog Zen Habits for weekly encouragement.

While you’re there, check out his latest book, Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the age of distraction, or download the free version.

Peace & Projects is an enthusiastic affiliate for his other works:

The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life

Zen to Done

Sending good vibes for peace within your family, always.

If you liked this post, please share it. Thank you!

Photo by Eartha Goodwin

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.


1 Living the Balanced Life February 9, 2011 at 8:47 am

I absolutely love Leo and his blog Zen Habits! It has been a huge factor in my major life overhaul in the past 6 months. Thank you for sharing this interview!
Being productive in stressful times

2 Melissa February 9, 2011 at 10:26 am

Zen Habits is the best! Thanks for stopping by today.

3 Lynn February 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm

great interview Melissa! he does have a great blog!

4 Eagle February 12, 2011 at 11:39 am

Great to read about Leo, love his blog and thoughts.

5 Nicone February 26, 2011 at 7:17 am

I’ve been following Zen Habits for years and I didn’t even know two of his kids were stepchildren. As usual he has some very good insights and also share the difficulties on this subject.

Me and my husband have one stepchild each, and three together. Looks like an interesting site you’ve got here, Melissa! I’ll be back. 🙂

6 Melissa February 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Hi Nicone,
Great to meet another step – stay in touch! Thanks for the encouraging words.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: