I feel like a horrible step mother

(31 Posts)
Nell741 Thu 08-Aug-13 17:49:42

I like to consider myself a good person and I try to translate this as much as possible in my step-parenting. I have 2 step sons aged 7 and 9 and I have been lucky enough to have them accept me into their lives from day one. We have them for half the school holidays and some weekends. I like to cook for them (in particular watch them wolf down my meals!), help them with their school work, go on child centered outings with them and enjoy playing games with them when at home. I am no stranger to disciplining them (although I have never and would never smack them) e.g. by telling them to pick up their rubbish and when they are being unkind to each other (which fortunately is not that regularly). Unfortunately we are in a situation where I have to carry the financial can at the moment, including when it comes to the children. In short, I strive to be the best step mother a human can be, and I fully believe that the children strive to be the best step children they can be.

However, after all my trying, I am still beating myself up and really hating myself, because although I am good to them and do my best to look after them, I still have feelings of jealousy towards the children. For example, I emotionally struggle to see the father carry them about, see them clinging to him and struggle with interruptions from the children when we are having a conversation. I feel resentful towards having to financially support children who are not mine. There have been occasions where I have snapped at them, only to realize later what I have done, and I apologize to them, to which they greet me back into the fold with a hug. Although in one respect this makes me feel happy that they can forgive me so readily, it makes me feel really angry that I find it so emotionally hard to be a step mum.

I am really really trying, and I place no part of the blame on the children, they are not perfect, but that is part and parcel of being a human being, and given the situation, they have shown remarkable resilience in the face of their parents breaking up and then accepting new stepparents into their lives. The problem lies with me. On a day to day basis, by my actions I am doing fine, but emotionally, I find it very hard not to be jealous and feel like a tantrum throwing child.

I am desperate to know if anyone else has been in the same situation and how they have dealt with it? sad

Blu Sat 10-Aug-13 22:01:51

R&Repeat - oh, I see what you are saying.
I think you are probably right - re the guilt and uncoditional love.

What strikes me about this discussion is that if someone is perceptive and aware of these feelings, as you and the OP are being, then they are being a good (S) parent!

(I was a step parent for 6 years)

teatimesthree Fri 09-Aug-13 13:16:24

Nell, I am not a step parent, but I just wanted to say that if you were step parent to my DD, I would be really happy. XP has a new partner, and DD spends 2-3 nights a week with them. She is lovely, and you sound lovely too, very thoughtful and kind.

"There have been occasions where I have snapped at them, only to realize later what I have done, and I apologize to them, to which they greet me back into the fold with a hug."

I do this with my own DD. Usually because I am stressed about work or in my dealings with somebody else. It's completely normal in my view. I don't think it's healthy for kids to see anybody - parents, stepparent, teacher - who is always calm and happy. Children need to learn that adults have emotions and make mistakes too.

I think it's totally ok not to love your stepchildren as your own - to be honest, as a parent I would prefer it if my DD has a loving relationship with her step-mother, which is nonetheless different to the one she has with her parents. To my mind, it's more akin to the sort of relationship you would have with an aunt or a godmother or a very dear family friend. (I realise this is very dependent on residence arrangements, and anyway it's not up to me!)

Looking after stepchildren and taking so much financial responsibility can't be easy at all. You are being way too hard on yourself - you sound like you are doing a brilliant job. thanks

RinseAndRepeat Fri 09-Aug-13 13:02:44

When you're a step parent you basically constantly feel guilty and hate yourself.

RinseAndRepeat Fri 09-Aug-13 13:00:47

"and RinseAndRepeat: " Every time we kiss or start to get into a conversation she interrupts us....We don't speak or interact in any decent way really while she's around."

You realise this is actually the norm with biological children too?"

Yes of course! But when I get annoyed with my own children for doing it I doubt I'll feel as guilty and shit about myself as when I get annoyed with DSD for doing it.

Because I feel like, because she's DSD, not DD, I'm a bad person for ever feeling anything negative about her. Perhaps because the unconditional love's not there to underpin our relationship.

sweetpea13 Fri 09-Aug-13 12:04:59

I think most Mum's (biological and step) and guilty of not doing enough for themselves and then feeling guilty when we do treat ourselves. It's something that my GP and my counsellor have mentioned time after time to me, that I need to put myself first a little more and as my counsellor pointed out - it actually teaches the kids that we are important.
I really should listen to my own advice lol

Sam100 Fri 09-Aug-13 11:10:02

I think it might help to look to the future too - these children are not a temporary "problem" that you put up with. Assuming you stay with their father then they are in your life for ever. I am a step daughter and I am sure at the beginning my step mum could well have said many of the things you have written. I was 10 when she came into our lives, my brothers were younger. I am sure there was a lot of resentment on both sides while we learned about each other and got to know each other. She also had to support my dad for a period while he was out of work - which probably meant that she was also supporting us too. But we have become a blended family and she is now my other mother and as much a grandparent to my children as my own mother. She is very much loved and valued and we have a good relationship. I often tell her that if she and my dad were to split (not likely) that we would fight for custody of her and dad would have to go off on his own!

It takes time to become a family - with your own children you have all the baby years to get to know them but with step children you are chucked in the deep end.

brdgrl Fri 09-Aug-13 10:58:28

Yes, that's it - my parents have been married for over fifty years. I know for a fact (not only have I seen it, but she has told me) that my mum has felt jealous at times of me/my sisters or resented us for 'playing up' to my dad at times. Which we absolutely did do. My DH has told me that part of the reason his first wife wanted to have a second child was because she felt jealous of his closeness with their daughter. Personally, I've experienced it when DH and DD get to spend a whole day doing fun things together, then I come home from work and have to be the one trying to get DD to do something she doesn't want to do - being the 'bad cop' to DH's 'good cop'. I have another friend who told me quite honesty that - like sweetpea said - she did not immediately love her second child "as much as the first" but that it had to grow a bit more slowly. My older sister yells at her kids sometimes and has a filthy house and never cooks, but their's is the most openly loving family I know... she is an amazing mum with three lovely sons that adore her and seem to feel completely secure in themselves.

People don't like to admit it, and there will be lots of people on MN who will tell you that they've never felt a moment of anything but perfect unblemished love for their wee doteums, but I suspect most of us feel these kind of things once in a while for our own children. That's before you even start taking the complications of step-relations into the mix!

I think you're right in that I need to have a bit more time for myself when the stepkids are around and stop putting so much pressure on myself. My partner has often said that to me too!
Why don't you try it for a couple of months, at least, and see how it goes? It might be tough to break your habits, so really make an effort at it - plan other things when they're coming around, treat yourself. You might even find that the kids feel less pressure, too.

needaholidaynow Fri 09-Aug-13 10:49:20

No my partner thinks its ridiculous thank god. He knows my feelings and he accepts them. If I said that to him 2 years ago though before I eventually put my foot down he would have gone mad. But I've told him and told him not to expect too much of me or I will detach.

needaholidaynow Fri 09-Aug-13 10:46:30

Yeah don't put too much pressure on yourself or you'll set yourself up to "fail". Just take all the good and the bad as they come and just try and relax.

I've got to admit I still put too much pressure on myself as a mother. I feel like I'm letting them down all the time, and put too much pressure on myself to give them an equally good life as what DSD has got. She's always doing fun things with her mum and my bloody in laws (they never invite DSs but that's another story). So I completely beat myself up when I can't meet that for my boys. DS2 is only a baby, but DS1 is nearly 3 now and I don't like to see him sad or bored, whilst knowing that DSD is having a ball sad

As a stepmum I put too much pressure on myself to make her want to be here with her dad, but she's always bored here and wants to go to her mums or nanna's where she will be spoiled. My in laws are ruining that girl.

Nell741 Fri 09-Aug-13 10:39:59

needaholidaynow Wow. That's a pretty big thing she expects! Does your partner think the same thing as her?! (sorry, that's just out of interest, don't feel obliged to answer!!)

Nell741 Fri 09-Aug-13 10:33:29

crazykat happy to have a hijack! The snapping is very rare - I think I can just be a little hard on myself in this situation!

Blu To be honest, before posting on MN I never really thought about it being the norm with biological children too as I don't have my own children. That's why it's been really helpful to talk to people on here.

sweetpea13 my partner's kids have done that too and there have been times when I have definitely felt that he has put them first, and I have got upset, but it must be really tough for the dads - rock and hard place springs to mind! I think you're right in that I need to have a bit more time for myself when the stepkids are around and stop putting so much pressure on myself. My partner has often said that to me too!

needaholidaynow Fri 09-Aug-13 10:20:31

There is a natural instinct to just want to protect your own children. I know my DSD's mum wants me to see her daughter as equal to my DSs, and she can't stand the fact that her daughter isn't the centre of my universe. She's got her partner wrapped around her little finger, and I just know if he dared to say he loves his baby son more than he loves DSD then she would give him hell to pay. But the simple fact is that DSD has 2 parents, not 4. I am and always will be my boys' mum and I don't ever see myself being a mum to DSD, a child I did not give birth to.

Blu Fri 09-Aug-13 10:13:09

OP:"There have been occasions where I have snapped at them, only to realize later what I have done"
and RinseAndRepeat: " Every time we kiss or start to get into a conversation she interrupts us....We don't speak or interact in any decent way really while she's around."

You realise this is actually the norm with biological children too?

crazykat Fri 09-Aug-13 10:09:07

Sorry for the hijack smile

I was trying to say you sound like you're doing the best you can and its normal to feel a bit jealous. Even when it's your own DCs, they take away some of what you and DH had before they were there. So long as you don't show you feel that way it's okay.

sweetpea13 Fri 09-Aug-13 10:08:01

I will say though - I do get jealous of the way DSD can manipulate DP, she texts him saying that she's crying because she misses him so much and asking for him to go and see her. He then texts his ex and she says that she's absolutely fine, that she's happy and smiling, not a tear in sight.
She turns on the water works to get what she wants all the time. I know that's quite normal but it still just bugs me and there are some feelings of jealousy that another person can have such emotional control of my partner and therefore our family. I'm not sure that that will ever totally go away.
When our relationship began there were no feelings of jealousy of resentment at all, but every time he has picked DSC over me or our daughter it has made me resent them a little, and then every time we have had grief off their Mum that has made me resent them a little more, and then every time he has ignored a call or text cos he's too busy indulging DSC then there's a little bit more resentment and every time my children have had to go without something because we've been so skint because DSC were costing us so much then there was even more resentment so on and so on. As the resentment grew then so did the jealousy. I don't know whether it will ever go away again. I really hope so.

As I've been saying in another thread I have been suffering quite badly with PND since having baby so recently in an attempt to get better I have emotionally detached myself from the kids to some extent. So maybe that's why I don't feel jealousy so much. I've not been spending as much time with them, I just do what I need to.
Would it be an option for you to think about yourself a little more when DSC are with you? There's no law that says that you have to do everything with them. You might feel less jealous if you weren't missing how things normally are when you're at home with just you and DP. Maybe arrange to meet a friend for lunch? Go for a spa day? Go to the gym? Take up a hobby? Catch up with family you've not seen for a while? I'm not saying avoid spending time with the DSC but just take the pressure off yourself a little. If you're still enjoying your weekends then you'll probably enjoy the time you spend with DSC even more, you won't resent them for making things change so much if you're out having fun with your friends etc.

crazykat Fri 09-Aug-13 10:07:06

IMO it's near impossible to love step children like you do your own. That's not to say you don't love them as much its just in a different way.

Don't worry about occasional snapping, I think we all do it from time to time when tired/stressed even when it's our own DCs. As long as its only once in a while and you apologise it's fine.

I know the feeling of fun things having to be on hold when DSD isn't here. She's just been on holiday with her mum and stepdad yet when I suggested taking our DCs for a day out DH wouldn't hear of it as DSD wasn't here. There's a five year gap between our DD1 and DSD and the place I wanted to go is geared to little kids so DSD would refuse to go, which is why I suggested it. DH also won't go anywhere dSD won't like too so I feel our DCs miss out sometimes. Yet when DSD has something better to do and doesn't want to be here he's fine with it. It's the double standards I hate. When I was a child it was do what you're told not what do you want to do.

Nell741 Fri 09-Aug-13 09:50:12

sweetpea13 Thank you so much, everyone's been so helpful and reassuring, and it really helps to get these things down and to know that other people can feel the same as me! smile

sweetpea13 Fri 09-Aug-13 09:41:15

Nell I really don't know, I'm not a model stepmum myself. I've been with DP for nearly 4 years, lived with each other for about 2 so you're actually more experienced at it than me.
I also get feelings of jealousy but less so now that we have a baby together. My problem isn't so much jealousy of the kids but I hate the way DP changes whilst they're around, it's sometimes as though I'm none existent, he used to exclude me from things, if he was to take them out for the day I wouldn't even enter his mind, he'd ignore my calls and texts (although he'd always have an excuse for it) and there's been many many times when he's picked them over me. I know that sounds so pathetic and immature but that's how it feels. But there's been so many times when we've had plans and he's cancelled or changed them because of the kids. He even missed an antenatal appointment when I was pregnant because of them. I was heartbroken that they were more important than our baby.

But as I said, it has changed now that we have our own baby. He's not perfect, it sometimes feels like he puts our baby to the back of the queue but I now understand that he's in an impossible situation. He can't win whatever he does. I'm sure the DSC are jealous that daddy is now living with another lady, he has a stepson who he spends more time with than he does with them, he has a new baby. So I know that he's just trying to compensate for his absence.

Nell741 Fri 09-Aug-13 09:01:41

sweetpea13 Do you think it's possible that the feelings of jealousy will go away? It's much less so than before and I have been with my partner for 5 years now. Thank you [happy]

sweetpea13 Fri 09-Aug-13 08:45:49

You will see a lot of stepmum's on MN claiming to love their DSC as much as their own but I never truly believe them, not 100%. There will always be times when you hear a bang from upstairs followed by the sound of a crying child and just for a split second there's a moment when you're secretly relieved that it's not one of your kids who is hurt.
I think it's a natural human instinct to put your own children first and want to protect them.
Regarding having an instant bond between mum and baby - well I have 2 kids and I would say I definitely had it with my first born, it was love at first site and within an instant he changed me and my life forever, we've always been very very close. But with my second baby our love grew over time, we fell in love with each other gradually. I think that was partly due to me feeling guilty for having another baby and I just couldn't see how it could be possible for me to love another child as much as my first.

I remember a lady saying to me "parenting is a lot easier when you just accept that you're a shit Mum".
I don't actually quite agree with that, but I do agree that parenting (of your own or step children) is a lot easier when you lower your expectations of yourself, if you accept that you're not perfect, the kids are not perfect, life is not totally perfect but you're all just doing the best you can then I think life becomes A LOT easier.

Nell741 Thu 08-Aug-13 23:52:33

rinseandrepeat I like what you said: 'I actually miss him while she's here. We don't speak or interact in any decent way really while she's around'. I totally get that.

Nell741 Thu 08-Aug-13 23:47:18


'There is nothing wrong with you - if there is a problem, is it possible that you are imagining a model of parenting that is simply unattainable?'

I never really thought about that. That's a really useful thing to point out.

Nell741 Thu 08-Aug-13 23:42:29

Wow, this is my first post on here, I wasn't expecting much response (and partly I was expecting more 'GROW UP!' messages, so thank you all so much for your helpful responses to let me know that I am not totally alone in how I'm feeling.

I do apologise, I wasn't very clear in the financial part sweetpea13 and needaholidaynow. My partner is self employed, and because of the economy, his work has been very thin on the ground (sometimes non-existent sad). Unfortunately because of the guilt he has about not being around all the time he actually pays extra on top of the maintenance into his ex wife's account. (I would just like to say at this point that I've always been ok at 'managing' his ex, which can be a double edged sword as he tries to get ME to deal with her as he doesn't like to talk to her!!!!) I have spoken to him about this but he wont seem to budge! I'm not angry with him about the work side of things, I can see that he is really doing his best.

I'm not paying off the maintenance side of things, but as his workload is so small atm I'm paying to keep him and also the children. The children have had a few months with us full time as the mother had a few issues to work through, and I felt like a real kill joy by having to be very strict with spending, but if I hadn't I could have got into debt myself! The extra money I had at the end of each month I decided to take everyone out for a family outing because they took to the belt tightening really well and the children were very grown up when I sat them down and explained that we needed to be a bit careful with the £'s at the moment (thank goodness!). I really think that if we weren't struggling so much financially on my wages there would be a lot less resentment (again, feeling pretty bad that I feel resentful!)

needaholidaynow I find this whole stepparenting thing really bizarre in the media - I feel like there's only really 2 camps which are 'acceptable' to be in - 1) the stepmum who loves the kids like her own 2) the wicked stepmum you read about in fairy tales. There appears to be little in the middle area of 'stepmum is doing her best but finds certain aspects really tough!' I don't have any children of my own, so I can't really say much about loving them like your own (and as my partner has had the snip, I'm not sure if I ever will have the pleasure of my own, but I'm settled with that and am happy to take each day as it comes). But what I will say is that I can't imagine that the love I have for my own children would be the same, I always imagine that there would be an instantaneous bond between a mother and child? As a stepparent I think you do have to work at creating a bond, and that is a completely different kettle of fish!

brdgrl Thu 08-Aug-13 23:24:12

Honestly? I think your expectations (of yourself, of the kids, of the situation) are unrealistic.
These phrases in your post really stand out -
The problem lies with me.

There is nothing wrong with you - if there is a problem, is it possible that you are imagining a model of parenting that is simply unattainable?

It makes me want to weep. You're describing emotions that many parents - step or otherwise - feel about their children. We get angry, we snap, we are impatient, and yes - "real" parents do feel jealousy, too.

I have never, ever strived to be anything close to a perfect mother or stepmother. I'd never want to set myself up for such failure, frankly. As for being the best stepmother I can be...well, no, not even that, not in such a 'concerted effort' sort of way. I feel as though what I am aiming for, with my stepchildren, is a relationship that allows us to live as a real family, warts and all, and still accept one another. I don't like to think of my DSCs trying to be the best stepchildren they can be, either...it sounds exhausting and a bit...false.

I'm not saying this very well - but I think you could be setting yourself up for real depression.

RinseAndRepeat Thu 08-Aug-13 23:09:04

"wait patiently to do anything fun until she's here again and then roll out the red carpet when she does arrive, and that I am expected to bow down to DsD's mum at my own ... expense."

God this sounds so familiar. I hate it.

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