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Step Parenting, so weird...

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
So, I'm new to this thread (in fact, I haven't been on the forums for awhile! But, jumping back in :-). Just crazy busy with a high needs 16 month old. Anyhow, maybe this has been addressed-- if so, someone can hopefully point me in the right direction? I have a 7 year old stepson and my bestfriend has a 14 year old stepdaughter and we both have VERY similar feelings about stepparenting. We think it sucks (I hope that's not too blunt). I want to be honest-- I want to have a place where I can honestly talk about it. My feelings have become even more polarized since having my own child. My bestfriend feels the same. Its very interesting... I'm wondering on research around stepparenting. I'm rambeling I know, just feel like I need to get it out... My stepson is a great kid-- he's kind and is just all around pretty good. But, he irritates me. It's like I have very little patience for him (totally different than my own child) and he gets under my skin very quickly. I don't feel comfortable with his closeness (I don't think he would ever notice)-- what I mean is I don't like him in my bubble really. It feels kind of unnatural. Which is so weird to me! Because I love touch! I love closeness! I don't know how else to describe this. I"m so thankful for my bestfriend so we can chat/vent together. Its just so strange! Not at all what I expected being AP, etc. The best way I can describe it to non-blended friends is that you know how your kid may have a close friend that's at your house a lot? And it could be a super great kid, but it's like you still want them to go home eventually cause they're not yours? That's how it feels to me. I hope that you all don't think I'm awful-- just trying to be totally honest and get some feedback-- does anyone else have these issues?
post #2 of 8

You are NOT awful. What you feel is very common but at odds with some of the myths of stepparenting. The more people who speak about the truth the better! It is normal to feel differently about a step child than a bio child. Even the National Stepfamily Center has this as the number one myth: http://www.stepfamilies.info/stepfamily-myths.php Check out Wednesday Martin and her book "Stepmonster", lots of good info there :)

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Grisandole~ Thank you soooooooooooooo much! What a relief to find I'm not the only one! I was starting to think I was crazy! I'm totally gonna check out the resources you recommended and I'm relieved to find a place where I can talk honestly and hopefully get suggestions/support. It's hard because you can't really talk to your partner about it you know? I am very thankful my bestfriend is a stepmother too because people not in the situation have no clue what it's really like.
post #4 of 8

Hi OP, I know I'm late with the reply but I wanted to chime in too. I'm not a step parent, but my fiance is a step dad to my DD and we have one DS together. He often struggles with these same types of feelings. It's hard for me, because I so badly want DD to feel loved and excepted and that she's no different than DS...but the truth is that it is different for my fiance. Of course he does his best to not show that to DD. He loves her, and wants the best for her. He tries hard to treat her fairly and the same as DS, but he has a shorter fuse with her I think, and it goes that way in reverse as well. She has less patience for him as well and is less likely to listen and more likely to mouth back or disobey his rules. That makes it even harder for him to feel close to her. He often says he feels like she hates him and she's doing in 'on purpose'. It's a hard dynamic and I'm stuck in the middle. I'm usually the mediator, telling DD she needs to be respectful and telling DP he needs to be more patient and keep her delicate feelings in mind. They have really good moments as well. They both love each other, and they miss each other when she's away at her dads. There is just a whole different beast that you deal with when you're a step parent on top of all the things parents already deal with. 

 

You're not alone, and I do believe this is a very common, but often not talked about problem in blended families. My best advice would be to do your best to remind yourself how your step child is feeling. I can't imagine what it would be like to be going back and forth from house to house. To have two totally separate lives and two totally separate families. Two sets of rules, two sets of siblings, etc. It must take a lot for them to adjust back and forth, and the need to want to please ALL of their parents I'm sure is strong. When DP and I have those conversations I can literally see his compassion for DD increase. I know, at least for him, it helps to put himself in her shoes. It also helps him to be able to vent to me. It's good you have your friend to talk to, but are you able to talk about this with your DH about your feelings? It could be hard to hear for him, but I think it's invaluable to have him aware of your feelings so he can help you through it. Like I said, it's been great for us because I can now see when DP has had 'enough' and can step in or take over before he gets too irritated. 

 

Hope that helped a little from a little different perspective. Don't sweat this, though, again you are not alone, these are very normal feelings. It's basic human instinct ;) we have a biological connection and instinct to protect our own, and although most adult would act in a heart beat to protect ANY child, that drive is in constant 'go mode' with our biological children. 

post #5 of 8

This is totally normal and something I deal with too. At first I really hated to acknowledge the fact that I wish my fiancé's kids didn't exist. But most times I really really wish he wasn't a package deal. I mean, no one grows up thinking "gee, I can't WAIT to be a stepmom". His daughters are fine. Very nice girls, I like them, they like me - but loving them is a daily choice. It doesn't always come with feelings of love. But love is an action, not a feeling. So I choose to treat them with love and hope that someday the feelings will become permanent. Until then, I take it a day at a time and enjoy the moments I do feel love for them and try to hold on to that.

 

A quick question for MamaB21:

Here is another feeling I hate. When I am married to my man and we have children together, I want those kids to be the "real kids". I mean - they will be for me because I accept and love his daughters, but my children are the ones I will be able to discipline and raise and influence as I see fit, and the ones I will have the bio connection to. So part of me feels like that is the "real family" and then there are the stepkids. Awful right?! It sounds horrific and selfish and callous...

Here is my question. What is it like from the other side, as a parent to children from different partners? How does the fact that you still have an emotional and physical connection to the father of your new baby affect things? Do you experience more of the nuclear family feeling when your older child is away?

post #6 of 8
Quote:
A quick question for MamaB21:

Here is another feeling I hate. When I am married to my man and we have children together, I want those kids to be the "real kids". I mean - they will be for me because I accept and love his daughters, but my children are the ones I will be able to discipline and raise and influence as I see fit, and the ones I will have the bio connection to. So part of me feels like that is the "real family" and then there are the stepkids. Awful right?! It sounds horrific and selfish and callous...

Here is my question. What is it like from the other side, as a parent to children from different partners? How does the fact that you still have an emotional and physical connection to the father of your new baby affect things? Do you experience more of the nuclear family feeling when your older child is away?

 

Hi PhotiniJ, and welcome to MDC! First, I would have to ask, do you have biological kids yet? It sounds from your post that you don't. I only ask because I remember telling DP before DS was in existence that he would feel differently when he had his own child. Meaning, I truly believed that once he felt that very strong love that a parent feels the minute they see their baby for the first time, it would all fall into place for him. I felt like he would have a better understanding of how I feel and relate to my DD, and how she grew to be the child that she is. Step parenting is also challenging because the step parent usually comes in when the child is a little older, so they don't get to nurture that bond right from the beginning, when the child is not able to talk back to you :wink

 

To answer your actual question, I feel our family is complete when both of my children are here and we're all together. But we also function as a family unit just fine when DD is at her dads. For me, it's always been a mission that DD doesn't feel like we're the family and she's the outsider. Even though, in all reality those feelings are going to be natural for her. I also have to remember that she has a whole other family, another mom, another dad and now another sister.......and we need to leave room for her to feel bonded, connected and a part of that family unit as well. I hope I explained that okay and actually answered your question. It's hard sometimes to put it into words, but I do think that as the biological mother to both I feel the most like a family unit when their both here. 

post #7 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by MammaB21 View Post

Hi PhotiniJ, and welcome to MDC! First, I would have to ask, do you have biological kids yet? It sounds from your post that you don't. I only ask because I remember telling DP before DS was in existence that he would feel differently when he had his own child. Meaning, I truly believed that once he felt that very strong love that a parent feels the minute they see their baby for the first time, it would all fall into place for him. I felt like he would have a better understanding of how I feel and relate to my DD, and how she grew to be the child that she is. Step parenting is also challenging because the step parent usually comes in when the child is a little older, so they don't get to nurture that bond right from the beginning, when the child is not able to talk back to you winky.gif

To answer your actual question, I feel our family is complete when both of my children are here and we're all together. But we also function as a family unit just fine when DD is at her dads. For me, it's always been a mission that DD doesn't feel like we're the family and she's the outsider. Even though, in all reality those feelings are going to be natural for her. I also have to remember that she has a whole other family, another mom, another dad and now another sister.......and we need to leave room for her to feel bonded, connected and a part of that family unit as well. I hope I explained that okay and actually answered your question. It's hard sometimes to put it into words, but I do think that as the biological mother to both I feel the most like a family unit when their both here. 

You explained it very well, and yes - it is super hard to put into words! I do not have biological kids, although I can sort of understand the connection because I have been involved in raising my sister's kids from day one (the youngest sometimes slips and calls me mom!)
I don't even have step kids really yet because I don't live with my finance. So the dynamics will all shift massively once we all live together. I would never expect him to somehow love our kids more. That would be mega dumb and wrong and unnatural. Of course I will have a closer connection to our kids. But I hope over time I will also get to the point of feeling like we are only a complete family when the girls are with us. It will take time since we will have them so little. But regardless of my feelings, my actions will always, always aim at making them an integral part of the family so they never feel left out. That would be too horrid!

It will be interesting to see how the dynamics play out. Part of me wonders if (especially since they are girls) it will be more natural for them to feel most connected to their mom's home and family. There they have a step dad, step brother, and half brother. They also spend 90% of their time there. They love their dad, and his world revolves around them. But day-to-day he does and will have less time to give to them than he will our kids that will live with us all the time. Golly this is complicated stuff! Ah well. If everybody just tries their best to love everybody else we should be fine wink1.gif
post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhotiniJ View Post
 

His daughters are fine. Very nice girls, I like them, they like me - but loving them is a daily choice. It doesn't always come with feelings of love. But love is an action, not a feeling. So I choose to treat them with love and hope that someday the feelings will become permanent. Until then, I take it a day at a time and enjoy the moments I do feel love for them and try to hold on to that.

 

I think this is acceptable.  It contradicts the popular idea that a good stepmom "loves her step-kids like they're her own".  But I think that ideal can make a stepmom who's doing just fine feel like a failure.  And whom does that benefit?

 

Our stepkids aren't our own.  They have a mother, with whom they share all the history and deep attachment that we share with "our own" kids.  In the rare case that a child is very young and his/her mother is totally out of the picture for some reason, perhaps a prospective stepmom really should love that child like her own (or ought to bow out and let the dad find a wife who does).  But even in my case (my step-son has lived with my husband and me since he was 8.5 and only visits his mom 3x/year), my DSS is clear who is mother is, and it's not me.  If he doesn't need/want me to be his mom, then why shouldn't it be OK for me to love him in a unique way, without stressing over a comparison to how I love the three children who do identify me as their one-and-only mother?

 

Most people who've had teens know that there are periods when it's hard to like, trust or feel very close to your own kids.  But even so, you have been the major (or one of the major) influences on their development, so many of their faults will be things with which you can identify.  You have watched their personalities and characters - good points and bad - develop, since birth.  Even if you don't like something you see, you know how it evolved and you may bear some responsibility for not nipping it in the bud. 

 

Our stepkids are heavily influenced by their mothers and may be a lot like them.  And their mothers are people with whom our husbands could not get along, well enough to stay together.  We may not like or get along with their mothers and may resent how we think they hurt or mistreated our husbands.  Rather than being failures if we don't love our stepkids "the same way" we love "our own"; in some cases it may be quite an accomplishment that we like and/or love our step-kids more than we like their mothers and that we strive to be good to them and focus on their needs, even though that may not always be easy or pleasant.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

I've been thinking about this issue recently, with regard to my step-son.  For the last ~6 years that he's lived with us, I have felt I needed to "love him like my own", especially since he is so separated from his actual mother.  Only recently have I begun to relax and feel more secure, that it's OK for my relationship with him to be different from the one with "my own" kids.

 

do love my step-son and care about him very much.  I do feel like he's an essential part of my family.  But I don't have the same history and closeness with him, that I do with the kids for whom I'm "Mom".  And I struggle a lot more, in dealing with his behavior.  Honestly, if "my own" kids behaved in some of the same ways, I would feel angry, baffled, frustrated and offended by it, too!  It's reasonable that I feel as I do.

 

However, I recognize that a lot of his problem behavior stems from the extreme conflict between his parents and how he was stuck in the middle and shaped by that, through no fault of his own.  His mother quite likely has a personality disorder and he spent key formative years very isolated with her and naturally copies some of her off-putting behavior - also not his fault.  Plus, when she had custody (and now, when he spends long summers with her), her approval/disapproval of him and discipline or failure to discipline him is hinged on her own emotional needs from their relationship, rather than an effort to teach him to behave in socially acceptable ways, so he can get along with other people.

 

As you said, love is most importantly an action.  The effort I make to empathize with what has influenced my step-son; to try to understand what he needs from me (when that's nowhere near as clear as what "my own" kids need from me); to remember that he's entitled to be different from me and my kids; and to seize on, appreciate and love every positive thing I can find, about him...THAT is the way I love him.  It's not the same way love the kids I gave birth to; nor does he love me the way he loves his mother.  I love him as my full-time, custodial stepson.  He's the only one I have and the only person on Earth I love quite this way.  

 

It IS love.  That's the key.


Edited by VocalMinority - 10/5/13 at 2:15pm
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