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Perspective, advice and positive words much needed

(52 Posts)
Fingerscrossed1 Mon 20-Jun-11 10:30:44

This is the first time I've actually posted on here but do occasionally come on and read the threads as I've found there are a lot of people in the same boat and experiencing the same feelings.

I've been with my DP for nearly 3 year. He has an 8 year old son who stays with us every other weekend and 1 night through the week.

For the most part, I can see that we have been lucky in that DP has an amicable relationship with his ex, although we both agree she leaves much to be desired in terms of being a good role model etc.

We are lucky in that my step son seemed to accept the fact that me and his dad were together straight away and has never intentionally tried to make it difficult.

The overall problem is that, even after nearly 3 years, I still find myself fighting against the fact that DP has a son who is not going anywhere. I want so much to be able to fully accept him and whilst I know that to 'love' him may be a big ask, at least to really like him and not resent him.

I know that feeling like this makes me selfish, and I think this is part of the problem. I become irritated and on edge when he is with us sometimes, and whilst I try not to let him see this I know that DP does. I struggle to relax about toys and clothes that are left lying around, feel annoyed when he picks at his food when I have put time and effort into preparing a healthy meal (which he wouldn't get with his mum) and am just generally over-sensitive and almost on the look-out for even slightly naughty behaviour.

Some weekends when my step son stays with us, though not every weekend, by Sunday night I feel frazzled. Although I have broached the subject of him going back to his mums on Sunday night and us having him an extra night through the week instead, DP felt that he wanted to keep this routine and suggested that if I'm getting frazzled I should go out for the day or something to get some space...fair point but I'd rather not feel frazzled in the first place.

This sets DP on edge and I know upsets him, and from time to time we argue about it. I can see from his point of view how horrible it would be to know that your partner was having thoughts like this about your own child and that makes me feel awful.

We have just found out that we're expecting and I suppose this has made me think that I really want to work at this for the sake of us all. DP is absolutely the one, and whilst there have been a couple of occasions in the past when I have considered running away, I DON'T want to do this, and desperately don't want this to come between us.

I can see how lucky we are in one sense...things could be so much worse but i suppose what I am looking for is any advice on how to relax about things, let go and stop trying to control everything so much. It would be great to hear some positive words from people who have managed to overcome, or learn to live with such feelings.

glasscompletelybroken Mon 20-Jun-11 12:55:30

I could have written that. I have all the same frustrations as you do and have tried many times to explain my feelings to my DH. He does try but he doesn't really get it! I snapped once after rushing to get lunch boxes ready in the morning and getting no thanks for it - DH said I wouldn't have expected to be thanked by my own (now grown-up) children for their packed lunches but that's the point - they are MY children and I would die for them - never mind make their lunch for them! There is no comparison - even with the best will in the world!

Things that as a parent you can overlook and be indulgent over just grate on your nerves when you're a step-mum.

We have my DSD's Thurs-sat night one week and Thurs-Mon morning the next. (plus lots of extra times when their mother requests it - such as after school on her days this week and next week) By Monday morning I am beyond frazzled and know I am snappy.

I do my own thing a bit at the weekends although I know my DH would prefer it if we all did more things together. I find it too hard though and too intense to spend the whole weekend with children when I have no say in how they behave, what we do, where we go and how long we stay there - not to mention what time they go to bed!

I am ranting now but it is Monday morning!

and breathe.....

theredhen Mon 20-Jun-11 13:04:45

It is VERY hard emotionally being a step parent.

On one hand knowing you have to let go and stop trying to control the way life evolves when DSC are with you and on the other hand feeling pushed out and not part of something because you are detaching so much!

To be honest, I think you are probably asking a lot of yourself. I know of step Mums who care really well for their step children but honestly don't feel any real "love" for them.

Kids are annoying, even more so, when you don't have any of your own. Don't feel guilty for doing things away from the family, you need that space and time.

fearnelinen Mon 20-Jun-11 13:08:58

I don't understand what the problem is. Are you jealous of the fact that he has a child with another woman?
If that's the case, you have to remember why you fell for him in the first place. He is being an excellent Father (you have to respect him for that) by putting his sons needs around his routine, in front of yours. Also, he clearly isn't phased at the thought of doing it alone. In fact, he has invited you to leave them to it - maybe that's a good idea?
Or is the problem that you are finding it exhausting to do all the mum things with none of the mum perks? I get this, I really do. DH is the stereotypical daddy in our house, works long hours, does all the fun stuff and follows me on all discipline / child rearing issues. This works for us, but when DSD comes to stay, I cannot be the mum because I'm not. So he has to step up to the plate and because he cannot be seen to be behaving differently when DSD is here, he therefore has to be ready step up all the time i.e. ALL DC's need to know that he is equal to me in every way.

I love her, unconditionally, although I find that incredibly hard sometimes. I don't agree with the way she is parented, but I would never criticize her mum for doing it her way, she is on her own with her ffs.
It is exhausting remembering all her little quirks (won't eat certain food, needs a specific light on in a certain spot e.t.c.) but I wouldn't be without them or her.
It would definately be easier if we had had all our children together, but I now certainly see her as one of mine. I have a son, a daughter and a step daughter. I don't love them equally, but they all feel the same level of love from me and they all know I would do anything for them. I am happy that DSD will need me less because she already has a mummy and daddy that love her, but if she ever does need me, I'm right here.

Sometimes when I feel like I don't want the thankless, shitty (at times) task of being step mum, I remember that if I didn't have her, I wouldn't have him.

eslteacher Mon 20-Jun-11 17:10:57

This is spookily similar to a thread I started here a few weeks ago...I think I have more or less exactly the same feelings and issues as you. I really, really understand how you feel. I'm not sure if I have words of advice as I don't think I've "come out the other end" but I felt a lot better after just posting here, admitting how I felt and finding out that a hell of a lot of other people feel exactly the same way.

I'm sure there are no easy solutions. However, I've been trying to take a bit more of an active role with my DSS (6) recently, in terms of making an effort to spend an hour here and there actually playing with him one-on-one when his dad is busy, rather than just claiming busy-ness on my part too. Just at one of his board games, or hide and seek or doing something craft-y or a 2-player video game or whatever. He wants attention pretty much 100% of the time, so it makes him happy to have someone to play with, and even though I don't necessarily "enjoy" playing with him (I mean after 10minutes those 6-year-old games can get kind of dull...) it ultimately makes me feel better about the whole situation. Sure I already "do" stuff for him in so far as cooking, cleaning the house he stays in, going on days out with him and DP, but this feels different somehow. It makes me feel more positive about him and more able to cope with feeling resentful then feeling guilty for being resentful...there's still a little resentment, but less guilt if you see what I mean?

I also try to just constantly remind myself that he is a young child, and at the best of times children just have zero awareness of adults' feelings...they can't be expected to "understand" that it's hurtful and disrespectful when they don't eat the food you prepare, or make a mess of your beautifully cleaned and tidied house within 10 minutes of their arrival. I think I fall into the trap of thinking "how can he be so selfish and have so little awareness of how annoying he is?"... and have to remind myself this is a stupid thing to think. He's a kid. They're never going to be perfect angels regardless of any amount of discipline. That's just the way they are.

matana Mon 20-Jun-11 18:33:48

Hmmmm, i imagine i'll be shot down for uttering this, but surely you knew he had a son and an ex when you got involved with him? I honestly don't understand why people who went into a situation with their eyes open lament how hard it is. Nobody forced you. If he really is 'the one' then you have to accept him and his son or it'll never work. Sorry. I became a step mum to a three and six year old at the tender age of 23 and at the time thought long and hard about the consequences of getting involved with a man with 'baggage'. Ultimately i loved him so much that i knew i had to just put up or shut up - they were a part of his life and had to become a huge part of mine regardless of how tough times got. Nine years on and i'm still with him, we're now married and have an 8 month old DS together - and his sisters absolutely adore him. Yes, there have been tough times and no i cannot honestly say i love them like they're my own. I do love them though and will always try very hard to treat them as equals to their brother. Essentially their mum is a good mum, but i disagree with many of the things she does to raise her daughters.

I know it's not want you want to hear, but if he really is the one you have to find a way of accepting that he has a son.

fearnelinen Mon 20-Jun-11 20:51:36

Hear hear matana

allnewtaketwo Mon 20-Jun-11 21:09:13

Matana - "I honestly don't understand why people who went into a situation with their eyes open lament how hard it is"

Mumsnet is full of thousands of mums talking daily about how hard parenting is FFS! If you don't understand that people find parenting/step-parenting difficult then you clearly have empathy issues

matana Mon 20-Jun-11 21:45:58

Yes, i have empathy issues. That's why i have a perfectly good and healthy relationship with my stepdaughters. And their friends. And my husband's ex- wife. hmm

I understand it's difficult. I don't understand questioning a child's existence just because it's not convenient. And if that's wrong then, frankly, i don't want to be right.

Incidentally Mumsnet is also full of thousands of mums who don't all happen to share the same opinion on raising children. Would be boring (and pretty useless) if we did wouldn't it?

allnewtaketwo Mon 20-Jun-11 21:58:35

But matana on the other thread, which you started, it's clear that you have issues with your DSD. I read the OP and don't recall her 'questionning the child's existence' hmm

Yes mn is full of people who don't share the same opinion. But thankfully, few of them are of the view that others dis-entitle themselves to an opinion/voice through the choices they have made

eslteacher Mon 20-Jun-11 22:00:27

surely you knew he had a son and an ex when you got involved with him? I honestly don't understand why people who went into a situation with their eyes open lament how hard it is. Nobody forced you. If he really is 'the one' then you have to accept him and his son or it'll never work.

It's all very well to say this, but in my experience it's really hard to predict how you are going to react emotionally to a situation you've never been in before, ie being a step-parent. In my case when I first got involved with DP, knowing he had a son, I didn't really imagine he would be "the one" for me in the long-term, and I never even crossed paths with his son for the first few months so I never "seriously" addressed how I felt about the fact he had a child. Even after things got more serious and I DID start to think about that, and to spend time with the kid, all I could feel was being in love and wanting to make him and his kid happy, and how grateful I was that me and the kid got on OK and how cute this little 4 year old boy was. It was only after a year plus of our relationship, when I had already fallen hard and deep that I started to feel some of the very emotions that OP has talked about, and believe me I really wouldn't have predicted that I was capable of feeling like that. So should I just deny the fact that I have those thoughts and feelings? IMO that makes the problem worse, I felt better and less stressed as soon as I admitted them, right here on this forum.

OP is finding step-parenting hard, she is obviously aware that she needs to find a different approach and different way of looking at things to try to change her patterns of thinking/feeling and has posted here asking for advice on how to do so.

matana Tue 21-Jun-11 07:58:35

Yes i started a thread because i care enough about my DH and DSD to worry if i think there's something wrong. At no point did i say my relationship WITH HER is wrong - in fact i said the opposite. And the fact that i manage to maintain a relationship with my DSD's real mum, despite her awkwardness at times, does rather prove my communication skills.

Step parenting, and choosing to do it, is something i feel very strongly about. I may have sounded a tad harsh, but i don't think it does anyone any good to lie. It's true what i say - unless she can find a way of accepting that he has a son then she risks losing the man she loves. And i actually say that from experience. As i said, there have been times when it's been hard for me and my DH, but you have to do anything within your power to do the right thing, especially because it's what you sign up for when becoming a SM.

riverboat - i understand what you're saying. But it was the OP who said she knows her DP is 'the one'. I'm afraid that's the only advice i can give - i can't help her change the intrinsic way she feels about her DP having a son. That has to come from within her i'm afraid, coupled with hard work to bond with him!

Fingerscrossed1 Tue 21-Jun-11 09:57:33

Wow, really wish I hadn't bothered. Not because of the supportive posts from the majority who do share similar feelings (wicked, 'freaks' of nature that it would seem we are!) but because there is always one self-righteous, insensitive person (yes, you are) who has to bring people down.

Please don't misunderstand me, much of what you have said is perfectly valid...I think it's simply a question of your delivery. Perhaps your 'communication' skills aren't what you thought they were?

Had you not perhaps considered that the very reason I started the thread looking for advice on HOW to improve my relationship with my step son demonstrated the fact that I recognised there was a problem that needed to be worked on. And do you not think that by attempting to deal with a very complex issue I have not realised that if I don't I will lose my DP?

Riverboat you hit the nail on the head with your last post which sounds remarkably similar to the way that I entered the my relationship with my DP and step son.

It's great to know there are people out there like you Matana who cope fantastically with step parenting and whilst MN is a place where everyone should be able to voice their own opinion, it shouldn't be about coming in 'all guns blazing', taking the moral highground at the expense of others who are genuinely trying to deal with their issues.

fearnelinen Tue 21-Jun-11 10:15:31

Fingers I think you are being really unfair here.

I have re-read your OP and I have to say, I just don't know what the problem is. You state that:
The overall problem is that, even after nearly 3 years, I still find myself fighting against the fact that DP has a son who is not going anywhere. I want so much to be able to fully accept him and whilst I know that to 'love' him may be a big ask, at least to really like him and not resent him.
But resent him for what? This 8 year old boy, who did not chose to exist, is loved by both his mum and his dad and he has to deal with the fact that they no longer love each other. That isn't easy. And now, a very significant adult, that has been in his life since he was 5, resents him. I just don't get it and it is so very wrong.
I get that there are a lot of supporters out there and there are so many points I agree with, I know how hard it is to be a stand-in Mum. It is much, much harder to be a step mum than a step dad. But it is time to accept that this little boy needs only his mum and his dad, any other adult on the periphery has to be a positive influence. If you cannot do that, then step out, as his Dad has invited you to.
Your DP and his ex have done a good job to retain regular, positive contact and to mantain a civil relationship. All too often that is ruined by resentful partners (and pregnancy is often a catalyst for this), don't let that be you.
The only person that matters here is an 8 year old boy. Do the right thing.

choccyp1g Tue 21-Jun-11 10:33:25

You may find you sometimes feel the same about your own child. I freely admit to sometimes wishing my 10yo would just go away and leave me in peace.

Seriously, are you sure that what you are feeling isn't just normal "kids driving you mad" frustration? The fact that he is a step-child makes you feel more guilty about what are in fact perfectly reasonable feelings. In a "normal" two-parent family, one parent does often take the children out alone, or one parent go out for a Starbucks alone at the weekend.

allnewtaketwo Tue 21-Jun-11 10:38:43

But the OP is not deliberately feeling this way. She is a human being struggling with her feelings.

I saw a thread title a few weeks ago something along the lines of "I don't love my 3yo DS". Now for me, I can't understand that. Absolutely can't. It's so far removed from my own frame of reference that it doesn't make any sense to me. BUT I can accept that people go through all kinds of feelings that I will never experience. I accept that when those people post, they are looking for help. They accept there is a problem and they are trying to resolve it somehow. I didn't feel I could help that particular poster, so I stayed off the thread. Somehow I don't think that going on there and telling her she "knew what she was getting into when she had a child" would have helped

Petal02 Tue 21-Jun-11 11:17:33

Fingerscrossed - please don't be put off my some of the negative comments you've received.

I also find it hard being a part time step mum, the child in question doesn't actually do anything wrong, but it's so damn hard spending half your life with someone else's child. I thought I knew what I was getting into, having been brought up in a happy step family, but nothing could have prepared me for the reality of a blended family.

I think it all boils down to how badly you want to be with your partner. If you love him enough, you'll stick it out. If you don't, then no one will judge you for walking away.

fearnelinen Tue 21-Jun-11 12:02:44

I'm not being negative and I am trying to help. But I don't understand how so many people are identifying with the feelings of the OP, when the feelings of the OP are so unclear?

OP help me understand why you resent this child? Is it jealousy, workload or something else? It's a massive difference.

It was on MN that I read my most helpful piece of advice - actually dished out to someone else by a child of a blended family that had fallen apart thanks to current partner's resentments.
"Step parents need to understand the world from the childs perspective. Children need and want a mum and a dad. Anyone else is extra. If the extra people are a positive influence then great, but anything less WILL damage the child"
I am trying to reframe the OP's perspective to help her in the same way I was. It is hard to see your DP/H as part of a parent team that doesn't include you, but it doesn't. You have to work at that relationship like you would with a friends child. It's too late to get all sulky about it.

allnewtaketwo Tue 21-Jun-11 12:14:47

"But I don't understand how so many people are identifying with the feelings of the OP, when the feelings of the OP are so unclear?"

I think that's exactly the reason that people identify though. I find, 9 years on, that my feelings about my DSSs are unclear

Petal02 Tue 21-Jun-11 13:03:56

It can be very frustrating, to love a man very much, want to share your life with him, but realising that in order to do so, you have you spend a sizeable chunk of your life with a child that you didn't produce, are probably not all that keen on, that you have minimal parental control over, a child that is often over-indulged and disney-parented. You get all the negatives of parenting without many of the positives. Factor a hostile ex into the equation, and it can be very hard indeed.

When a child is your own, of course the love is unconditional, but when that child isn't yours, there's no maternal bond, no biology, and even though you do your best for that child, for all the right reasons, you probably don't love them.

You find their visits intrusive, whilst your partner enjoys the access visits. And managing that mismatch can be tough.

theredhen Tue 21-Jun-11 13:27:29

I think for many it is the frustration of not being allowed to parent fully while having to pick and choose the parenting jobs you are able to take on as a step parent.

If you can parent a child from start to finish you can really feel the rewards when the positives happen and can take responsibility when the negatives do.

When you are neither allowed rewards or responsibility you can really struggle to work out what sort of relationship you are having with the child. You are more than an Auntie they visit every so often, but they are allowed to treat your home as they see fit rather than as a respectful guest. You have more responsibility than an older sister but they have less love for you etc. etc.

You can still be a good influence and role model but that doesn't mean you should feel guilty for not loving the step children as your own.

eslteacher Tue 21-Jun-11 13:30:46

I don't understand how so many people are identifying with the feelings of the OP, when the feelings of the OP are so unclear?

To me, they seem clear enough:

I become irritated and on edge when he is with us sometimes, and whilst I try not to let him see this I know that DP does. I struggle to relax about toys and clothes that are left lying around, feel annoyed when he picks at his food when I have put time and effort into preparing a healthy meal (which he wouldn't get with his mum) and am just generally over-sensitive and almost on the look-out for even slightly naughty behaviour.

To me, OP does not seem "jealous" of her DP's relationship with his son, or of the fact that he fathered a child with someone else. I know that I am certainly not jealous of either of these things myself. I love seeing DP and his son together, having a cuddle or making each other laugh, and both DP and I have a really good relationship with his ex and her new partner. That doesn't mean I can switch off the feelings of annoyance that I have around DSS. Exactly the same stuff that OP has mentioned - shoes lying around in a house that I spend ages tidying and cleaning, childish pickiness at the food that I prepared, video-game music turned up too loud, annoying childish behaviours such as the constant "why"?s etc. Do I know that this is all normal stuff for a child, and that as an adult I should be tolerant of it? Yes. Does my rational awareness of that make it possible for me to therefore switch off my emotional reaction? No.

Because the rational part of me knows that OF COURSE the child has to come first in this situation, I don't act out on my feelings, ie by shouting at him or trying to be a disciplinarian. I KNOW that I have to understand everything from his perspective, that he is an innocent party in all this that he has to come first. Surely any reasonable person does. And I have a lot of compassion for my DSS and think he's a good kid and I really enjoy some of the things he brings to my life. That doesn't mean that it's possible to just shut down my reactions to the not-so-great things he brings to my life or to the limitations he places on it. I think we all have the right to share these reactions and thoughts with people on a step-parenting forum and ask for advice on how to cope with them, surely??

CrapolaDeVille Tue 21-Jun-11 13:31:31

I'm not a step parent, but wonder if you can find your own relationship with the little boy away from your DP? Perhaps take him to the cinema/zoo/aquarium or something.

Also if you have house rules he must follow them, but your DP needs to do the p[arenting until you feel a little differently.

fearnelinen Tue 21-Jun-11 14:31:34

Riverboat, wind it in. No-one has said that you don't have a right to air your opinion, in fact no-one has even said that you are wrong. We are having a debate, there is no right or wrong. Listen, respond, maybe alter your views, learn from discussion...I will not be drawn into an argument when the OP has specifically asked for support.

That said, I still don't understand OP. It isn't clear to me why you would be generally over-sensitive and almost on the look-out for even slightly naughty behaviour. Can you see that now you have written that, it's not OK? Why don't you let father and son have a little time to themselves if it gets to you?

I wish there was some sort of manual for women taking on ready-made famillies. It is so difficult, as shown here, to take care of a child regularly, when they are parented by someone else. When that child is tied up with the love for a new man it makes it even harder.

I really think the answer lies in what is important to the child. All too often their views / thoughts / needs are the ones least listened to.

matana Tue 21-Jun-11 15:03:08

Fingerscrossed - surely you knew that by posting on here, not everyone would be completely supportive of you? I feel sorry that you're struggling, but essentially there's a little boy at the centre of all of this who i feel is more deserving of my sympathy - simple as that really. I've started threads on here and received some pretty blunt responses, but in deciding to start the threads i accepted that it's a discussion forum and much of what i read may actually be quite unpalatable to me. I generally try not to take things too personally and be open minded about what i hear. Quite often there's some truth in amongst the more direct responses, even if i need to reflect on them a while.

By all means call me all the names under the sun if it makes you feel better. I hope you find some peace, whatever your decision. But I stand by what i said, i don't think there's anything you can do about it as such because you can't change how you feel. The only thing you can really do is accept he has a son and it's going to hard, or move on. I am trying to provide the 'perspective' that your title asks for. A different perspective perhaps, but a perspective nonetheless.

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