Originally Posted by FrancesAnn
I know I'm not crazy to feel any of these things...
Then good for you. Each reality you've mentioned - responsibility without authority; a sense of disproportionate return on your investment of time and effort; the difficulty of feeling parental love for a child who isn't in any way a reflection of you (due to biology and you not being one of her two primary influences
) - can be tremendously hard to admit to oneself, much less acknowledge publicly.
If you can see these things so clearly and understand that your feelings are reasonable, maybe you're capable of changing your expectations of the relationship.
1) Obviously, you can't change that you have less authority in her life than her parents. Quite possibly, when she hits puberty (and starts really
challenging even her parents'
authority), you'll feel you have even less. But you might resent
it less, if you took less responsibility for her. I'm not saying detach. Keep doing for/with her the things you enjoy, as well as basic courtesies for your partner. (Sorry for this bad analogy, but just as you would pick up his dry-cleaning if doing so fit into your schedule better than it fit into his
; so you should drive his kid to school or to the dentist, if you're better-able to do it.)
But hypothetically, let's say it drives you crazy that neither bio parent makes your step-daughter take appropriate responsibility for her school work. You can
detach from that. You're neither her paid tutor nor
her mother, as you are subtly reminded, each time her mother - or even your partner - discounts, undermines, sabotages or otherwise counteracts your efforts to improve her study habits. Thus far, you may have overseen her homework during your partner's parenting time, out of kindness, caring and feeling that you have something valuable to contribute. But it's not actually your responsibility
If your partner were to balk about you handing that responsibility back to him, you could be honest: As the parents, he and his ex have the right to disregard your input about their daughter's study habits; but you're not obligated to keep doing a job where your wisdom and authority are not respected. You may find that - once your partner stops relying on you to handle that area of his daughter's life (or whatever area is actually an issue for you guys) - he will rise to the occasion and handle it better. Probably not the way you'd
like it handled, but better than how he handled it before.
2) If your step-daughter doesn't love you the same way she loves her bio mom
- if her love is tainted by some resentment and role ambiguity - would anyone say "she's just not cut out for being anyone's step-daughter"? Of course not.
I'm not suggesting you stay with your partner, if you're truly miserable and think you should leave. But perhaps you're not ill-suited to being a stepmom. Maybe you just expect it to feel more like being a mom than is reasonably possible
. And maybe you can let go of those understandable, yet unreasonable expectations; take on a more sustainable, fair
amount of responsibility for your SD; and embrace whatever unique relationship develops from there, instead of holding it up against the gold standard of "how I'd feel, mothering my own biological child".
You said you wanted to avoid making this "all about bio vs. non-bio", but I think it is
. You're in a deeply unbalanced situation - acting
as a mother, but not receiving the "perks" that we instinctively understand ought to accompany all the personal investment of mothering. The most basic reason behind that imbalance is that you're not
the mother. If you give yourself permission to act
less like her mother, it may change your resentment.
3) Whether you stay or go should be about your relationship with your partner
. Your SD won't be at home forever. In fact, you won't believe how the time will fly by, as she gets older.