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Really want to love my soon-to-be stepdaughter - she deserves it!

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I am posting here hoping maybe I'm not alone...sorry in advance it's so long:

I have been living with a wonderful man for a year now. He is everything I could ever want... Smart, sexy, hilarious, and so loving.  We are planning to get married and have a baby in the next few years and I know I couldn't ask for a better father for my children.  He has a daughter who is now just 2 (1 when we got together). He has been fighting for 50-50 access but giving his ex 'time'... The current arrangement is that his little girl stays with us all day Sunday and then sleeps over, and is with us Thursdays as well from a.m. to bedtime.  My man adores his daughter and is anxious for more time.

I have really thrown myself into the stepmom role over the past year.  Pretty much any time he's with his daughter, I'm there too, and he's said that's the way he wants it and likes it. He really wants us to be a family.  We do pretty much equal amounts of 'caring' while she's around... Diapers, nap time, bedtime, playing, etc. I do all the cooking. Basically, I've been a pretty big part of her life for a year. 

Here's my problem: I really want to love his daughter. She's a really sweet little girl, very funny, smart, adorable, and fun. I keep waiting for big love feelings to come along, but they just aren't. I feel unbelievably guilty. I can't believe I'm going to admit this, because it's extremely selfish, but I can't help but find myself, once in a while, wishing she just didn't exist. Ugh.

What really made me realize this was visiting my niece and nephew (ages 3 and 5), who live a few hours away, last week.  I love them in that weird, indescribable way where everything they do is so cute or funny or profound, and I just want to hug and kiss them all the time...I wonder what they'll be like as they get older, I know I would take a bullet for them, all that stuff! In comparison, what I feel for my partner's child is a drop in the bucket, and that makes me feel terrible.  It's just weird, too, considering I've spent way more time with her (I see my niece and nephew about once per month). Also, the feelings I have for my niece and nephew make me think when I have my own child, I'll love him/her sooo much I won't be able to hide the huge difference in feelings between him/her and my stepdaughter.
 
I feel like this is truly the only thing in the world I can't talk to my partner about. A while ago, struggling with the things I've talked about here, I felt like I needed some time to myself and gently suggested it might be a good idea for him to have some time alone with his daughter when she's with us.  He looked really sad and said while he agrees that's a good thing, with the current custody arrangement when we have so little time with her, he thinks we should both soak it all up. He said me not wanting to spend all the time I could with her felt like rejection, and he actually got tears in his eyes.

I've taken a "fake it 'till you make it" approach so far...the theory being, if I act like I feel the love, maybe it will come.  I really fixed up her room, I've come up with lots of fun projects and games to do, made special foods, etc. After our time with her my partner likes to look at photos and talk lots about what she did, etc. ("Wasn't it cute when...") and I participate really actively in that.  I tell him I miss her when I don't. Starting to feel like a fraud and a liar and I worry about how that might impact our relationship.

Just hoping anyone has felt this way, and maybe someone can tell me that the 'love' came later for them? Feels like a year should be enough!
post #2 of 11

I'm a mama with 2 kids with different dads.

 

Our custody arrangement is a bit weird.  We think it's better for our DD to live mostly in one place and she's 6 now so she's in school nearer to us than her dad.  He picks her up from school Tues and Thurs and eats dinner with us those days.  He has her overnight on Saturdays and all day sunday then brings her home and has dinner with us on Sunday too (not every week but about half the time).  Consequently most of "his" time with her is "our" time too.  During school holidays we're much more flexible about it all, and she has overnights with him as and when she and he feel like it.

 

My DP and i have a dd too, who just turned 2, and another baby on the way.  He loves DD1.  Now.  When did he begin to love her?  I don't know, but i know he did a SUPER good impression before it happened.  He did tell me when our DD was born it caused a massive shift in how he viewed DD1, she went from being "my" kid to "his kids' sister" and it did begin a welling up of a fresh kind of love in him for her.  He said when he had DD2 he felt he had a family, DD1 being part of it, whereas before he felt it was my family that he was with.

 

I don't know what your OH's needs are like, but i know for me that i didn't even let DD1 and OH see one another for over a year when we began dating and once i did i was fairly limited about it.  I tried to take it slowly because i foresaw a future where XP was going to be on the scene a LOT and there was no way around it.  I wanted OH to have time to potentially grieve the idea of a family he might have had before he got with me.  It seems to have gone well, so far.  OH and XP get along fine, DD1 gets to have a stable family with siblings AND her dada around much of the time.

 

My expectations of OH throughout have been that however he felt about DD1 he needed to treat her kindly and lovingly and equally with his own kids and he has never never disappointed me.  I know he feels she's not his, i can remember him holding a newborn dd2 and saying to me in amazement "she smells like mine!".

 

I think you should be gentle with yourself.  Very few of us grow up thinking one day we'll meet Mr Right and his kid and cobble a family together!  It's ok to feel sad about the differences between how you thought things would be and how things are.  I think with time, and with the arrival of your own kids, things will probably improve as regards your feelings towards your DSD, and i think until they do the really good impression of love you are doing IS enough.

post #3 of 11
You are a good, strong person for seeing this lack in yourself and addressing it early on.

This man is not the right partner for you. He wants his daughter to live with him 50 percent of the time and after a year of caring for her, you still fantasize about a world in which she does not exist.

The world is full of bad stepparents who should never have signed up for the job. You have avoided being that person. It's hard to break up with somebody you love, but you have given yourself a fair chance to develop love for his child and it has not happened. Find a man to love who is free to have children only with you.
post #4 of 11

As someone who has seen this situation from child's point of view and someone who struggled with feelings toward my own DD at times I know how this could be very difficult. 

I second that you need to be gentle with yourself, this child is not yours and you don't "have" to love her. And I believe that for everyone's benefit you need to be honest about you feelings. Fake it until you believe will only work while everything is rosy, no issues and no other children involved. It is much better for her to slowly grow on you, than fake and drop the ball when going gets tought, and if you are serious about stying with this guy, at some point it will. 

When my dad remarried when I was ten my step-mom tried very hard to bond with me and to love me and it had hurt me for life when she withdrew her love when I started testing boundaries and told her that she was not my mother. 

post #5 of 11

Even though I've been in my DSD's life for the past 6-7 years now, there are days that "it would be easier without her" slips in. Most of the time it really means I wish her mom weren't around or being difficult so we wouldn't have to hemorrhage so much money into making her be cooperative. I try my hardest to suck it up even when entire paychecks to go attorneys because I signed up for this even if I didn't plan for it to be an expensive lawyer battle for 18 years. It doesn't have to be a negative that you perceive some times would be easier without a kid. There are truthfully times that would be easier, afterall. I'd definitely be concerned if you just don't want her around much in general. She's not going to go anywhere so you'd "lose" (as you should) if it were to come down to DP choosing between you and his daughter. I don't think it would be fair to put him in that position, so if you think you might be feeling like you don't want her around at all or that you're not in it for the long haul--no matter what comes or how ugly it gets--it is probably best for you to excuse yourself from the relationship.

 

I don't (and won't) ever tell DH about fleeting thoughts of it being easier without DSD but I have talked with him a little about not loving her like my own. He thinks I should love her like my own flesh and blood, and I insist that it's simply not possible--even if her mom decided to permanently move to Tahiti without DSD and we had his daughter 24-7-365 and I became her acting mom. It's a sensitive topic to bring up because he won't get it. To him, she's been perfect and loveable since the moment she was born. And you won't get how much he loves his daughter until you have your own child.

 

Your DP's daughter has an involved mother. She doesn't need you to play that role in her life so it isn't really necessary for you to have unconditional love feelings. Being an always kind and caring female figure in her dad's home--someone she can trust to talk to someday when her period starts at dad's house, or when she has a crush on a boy and her mom doesn't "get it," or whatever--is enough. I strive to fill a gap that is left by DSD's mom and dad and carve out my own unique position in DSD's life. Neither mom nor dad is good at math or music, so I'll be there helping her with calculus someday or helping her work out a solo for band, or whatever else it is that she needs that I can give. But I didn't get dewy eyed because she learned to poop in a toilet winky.gif.

 

I do think it's important to work past the "we both have to be here every minute my daughter is here" situation. Perhaps he isn't confident in his fathering abilities and feels like you provide a security blanket--someone who would say "no, don't do that!" or "here, try it this way." If that's the case, help him figure how to take care of things out that make him feel insecure. If I couldn't maintain my own life, and had to schedule everything I do around when DSD would be at our house--foregoing all events that happen on weekends when she is with us--it would make me crazy. Sometimes things happen on imperfect schedules. For both of us. Maybe I'll watch DSD while he drops in for an hour to a friend's wedding reception, or maybe he'll stay with DSD when I go to members-only knitting club. It's not realistic to expect you both be there all the time. It's also good for her to have one-on-one time with each of you.

post #6 of 11

It is so hard, isn't it? I wish that I had taken a slower approach with dsd and would encourage you to talk to your partner about that, even if it upsets him.  I kind of jumped right in like you did and ended up feeling really overwhelmed and resentful-not a good place to be.  It could be that a part of your not being able to really fall in love with your dsd is that you feel really pressured to do so, by both yourself and your dp, as well as that you are grappling with feeling resentful and sad that your family is not turning out the way you had imagined (i.e. boy meets girl, falls in love, has baby, etc.)

 

I will also say that these feelings really intensified when I had my younger kids.  It was really hard to not have my 1st baby be dp's 1st baby.  It was hard when I felt like he was favoring dsd because he felt overprotective of her feelings towards having a new baby when I just wanted him to focus on our baby.  It was hard all around and caused a lot of stress.  After having my 2nd child, I was better able to see how he was feeling, but it still pops up sometimes, honestly, and I would be surprised if it didn't in your sitaution as well since your dp probably already feels guilty that he doesn't see his daughter more. 

 

Talk to your dp.  You don't need to be as blunt as you were here necessarily, but I would explain to him that you are feeling overwhelmed and need to back off a bit for the sake of your relationship-not all the way, just a little bit here and there.  His daughter is only 2.  She will miss you, but will very quickly adjust to your not being there every second she is.  Hopefully it will give you some perspective as to how you want to proceed.  These feelings will only intensify as time goes on if you do nothing, so I would definitely try to fix it now or walk away before his daughter is really old enough to realize what is happening. 

post #7 of 11

I know you guys don't have a lot of time with her, so this might not be feasible, but I wonder if it would help for you and your "soon-to-be-step-daughter" to do something together regularly that is just the two of you? My situation was a little different, but I also started step-parenting when my step-daughter was a toddler. Early on we did a parent-child gymnastics class and it became "our thing." Caring for a child on your own is a lot different than being there while they are hanging out with their parent, and it can help you two start to build your own relationship separate from her dad. My step-daughter and I have lots of things that she likes to do especially with me, and it gives us things to talk about. I was starting to feel a bit of strain in the last couple years as my biological children got older and I started to see my step-daughter a little less often. For the last two years (she is 9 now) we have gone on a trip with just the two of us, and it helped to renew our relationship a bit-- now we have those experiences and memories to talk about. I think it is good to acknowledge that your relationship with her is its own, unique relationship, and to allow it to develop into whatever works for the two of you. It doesn't need to look like any other relationship, or like anyone's preconceived idea of what it "should" be, it just needs to be whatever is right for the two of you.

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by aricha View Post

I know you guys don't have a lot of time with her, so this might not be feasible, but I wonder if it would help for you and your "soon-to-be-step-daughter" to do something together regularly that is just the two of you? My situation was a little different, but I also started step-parenting when my step-daughter was a toddler. Early on we did a parent-child gymnastics class and it became "our thing." Caring for a child on your own is a lot different than being there while they are hanging out with their parent, and it can help you two start to build your own relationship separate from her dad. My step-daughter and I have lots of things that she likes to do especially with me, and it gives us things to talk about. I was starting to feel a bit of strain in the last couple years as my biological children got older and I started to see my step-daughter a little less often. For the last two years (she is 9 now) we have gone on a trip with just the two of us, and it helped to renew our relationship a bit-- now we have those experiences and memories to talk about. I think it is good to acknowledge that your relationship with her is its own, unique relationship, and to allow it to develop into whatever works for the two of you. It doesn't need to look like any other relationship, or like anyone's preconceived idea of what it "should" be, it just needs to be whatever is right for the two of you.


Such great advice. <3

post #9 of 11

I third Aricha's advice! You need to build your own relationship with dsd, on your own terms, instead of just trying to make your heart fit the role of "mommy".

 

My experience is that with our own babies, we get a big rush of instinctual protection/love/would die if anything ever happened to you feelings, which carry us through all the rough times for 18 years. And, we have the day to day experiences that make love and trust grow. As a step parent, you don't get that newborn bonding thing, so the relationship is just... different. You have to approach those relationships a little differently, and not expect to feel like someone who held that little miracle after 21 hours of labor. It's not your fault you don't feel that way! You are a kind, loving person, you enjoy your dsd, and over time you will grow to love her, but not the way her dad does. Your going to love her because she's such a neat person, with many loveable qualities. When she gives you a special name, makes something at school for you on mother's day, drags you outside to see her fairy garden, cries on your shoulder over a boy, when you two have your first inside joke- those are the experiences that will build love between you.

 

I look at it like any other relationship- you put in the time and energy, and build a relationship the old fashioned way.

post #10 of 11

I am blown away by all of this, I swear I never thought another person would be having these feelings and then here are many women who are in the same boat. I know it's kind of a yucky boat, but boy am I so relieved to see it has other passengers!

 

I'm in a similar position, really similar, and I completely identify with and validate all that you've said. After reading the (super sage and relatable!) advice from the rest of the ladies, I'll tell you what I took from it: jumping in way too far way too soon was a mistake--and we're not the only ones who have made it, and we're not weird for having it backfire; things could change (in a number of different ways) when you have a child together; it's important to carve out a role for yourself that you are comfortable with, and that your step-daughter appreciates and gets value out of as well, and that totally does not have to be anything like a mom (even though your partner and society and your friends and mom and everyone else can't really get that right off--or maybe that's just my life!); it's normal to have thoughts like "I wish our baby was his first baby." 

 

Keep your chin up, and begin grappling with what kind of role you want to play and how you can begin to set that in motion. If it helps, know that I'll be doing exactly the same hug2.gif

post #11 of 11
Totally normal to feel this way and only another stepmother would understand! Love is usually "automatic" between biological mothers and their babies...it's a conscious choice between a stepmother and her stepchildren. It's much like a marriage...you get out of it what you put into it! There are so many issues with loyalty, fear of rejection, guilt and so on with blended/step families so it's no surprise that you feel conflicting feelings. I have to tell you there are days where I wish my own biological child would go live with my parents...did I mention she is a newly teenager--ahhh!
You are not expected to feel warm fuzzies all the time but you can feel them sometimes if you foster a relationship with her. You have to essential date your stepchild! Do fun things together, write her love notes, go the extra mile. I promise you that love with multiply very quickly when you do. Your partner and you should continue to keep the lines of communication open. I totally understand why he cried. It hurts when someone we love does not see or love our child the way we do! It's a lonely, scary, guilt-filled place to be in.
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