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Being a step-child...

(15 Posts)
hoobnoob Sun 04-Nov-12 20:54:16

Hello, first post here, I hope this is in the right place.

I am just about to turn 30 and my partner and I are planning on starting a family in the new year. I am in a loving and happy relationship and life is good.

I do have a serious problem with my family though.

My biological mother died when I was 5 and my father re-married when I was 7. My stepmother was young and, I feel, treated myself and my younger brother (he's a year younger than me) really badly and it's something that I just can't seem to get over.
I always felt unloved and unwanted, like I was a second class member of my family. My stepmother never showed affection to us and would often send us to bed without dinner, and make threats that we would be sent back to England (we lived abroad when I was young)
It's hard to explain, but I do feel like we were the victims of psychological abuse. We were not allowed to play in the house, we always had to play outside. We weren?t allowed friends over, ever, and we were not allowed to eat meals with our stepmum and dad, I clearly remember being given breakfast cereals for dinner night after night while they eat delicious meals after we had been sent to bed.

My stepmother went on to have two other children with my dad, and of course, things were very different. My brother and I refer to them as ?the darlings? as they could do no wrong and still can?t.
I also remember, once the younger kids had come along, my stepmother discussing us with a friend and saying ?I wish I only had two kids?
I would have been about 10 then.

My stepmother would laugh at me and call me fat and tell me I was ugly and smelly, often in front of other people which left me feeling mortified and embarrassed and with really low self esteem.

I was sent back to England when I was 11 to live with my biological mother?s family and went back to see them for school holidays. They never sent money or letters and they would call maybe 2-3 times between me going to see them.

My brother was also sent back to the UK when he was a similar age.

My younger siblings have had a charmed life, going to private schools, they both still live at home and are in their early twenties. They have had cars bought for them and have never wanted for anything. They wouldn?t even help me out financially when I was at university and I got in to a mountain of debt as a consequence.
When I asked for financial help, they said they couldn?t afford it.

My Dad was always at work, he ran his own business so was never at home. He is totally in love with her and will never hear or say a bad word against her. We once went 3 years without speaking because I had a row with my stepmother.

Now, my stepmother is like a different person. She makes out she is the perfect mother, calls me darling, tells me she loves me and my partner says he can hardly believe that this woman could have treated me so badly as she seems so nice now.
My younger siblings don?t understand and always take her side as she is the perfect mother to them.

But she did treat me badly and I just can?t seem to get over it.

My full brother cannot stand the woman, he lives abroad and has virtually no contact with them.

I don?t want to cause problems in the family but I just don?t think I want this woman to be around any children that we may have. I will never be able to trust her not to do or say nasty things and I would not feel comfortable having my child around her.
If I come out and say this, I will lose my dad, and most likely contact with my younger siblings which would be hard. I am always filled with jelousy when I am around them as I see the life I could/should have had, but never got, but I do love them and I know it is not their fault.

I have been thinking I may write her a letter explaining everything but I know this will cause a huge fallout.

I?m sorry this is so long, but I am constantly thinking about it and would really appreciate any thoughts/advice.

theredhen Sun 04-Nov-12 22:02:17

I really feel for you. Your post just shows how step parents and natural parents can make some pretty big mistakes.

I suspect your step mum feels terrible guilt and she's being nice to you now to try and appease that.

I really think you need some counselling to help you come to terms with things and move forward.

The letter might seem like a good idea but how would you feel if she completely dismisses you and your feelings? I suspect you're looking for some acknowledgement of how badly treated you were so you can start to forgive, but you might not get the acknowledgement you want.

Would you consider counselling?

hoobnoob Sun 04-Nov-12 22:40:13

Counselling is something I have thought about but I have no idea of who to go to or how it would work.
All I know is that in deciding to become a mother, it has made me think about my own experiences and I am thinking about it all the time

theredhen Mon 05-Nov-12 06:29:51

You can find a counsellor through the bacp website, I think. It's not cheap but it could be a worthwhile investment.

I also think there's an ongoing thread in relationships called "but we took you to stately homes" or similar, which is about dysfunctional parents and how it's affected them in everyday life.

There's someone in my extended family who has been through something similar with his step mother, so unfortunately you're not alone but sometimes just knowing that can make you feel better.

Kaluki Mon 05-Nov-12 10:08:57

How appalling! Its women like her who give the rest of us a bad name. angry
I think by refusing to let her see your dc you will risk losing your dad and half siblings and this is where I think counselling would be a good thing for you, to help you come to terms with your childhood and deal with the fact that you are unlikely to get an apology or even any form of acknowledgement from this woman that she treated you so badly and give you strategies to deal with her now.
That is a separate issue from your own child though. If you allow her to see your dc, you can ensure she won't be on her own with him/her and your child will not be completely at her mercy as you and your brother were.
It all depends on how important it is to you to have your dad and siblings in your life. Your dad isn't entirely blameless, he let her treat you that way and your siblings must know deep down how you were treated by her.
I understand that having a child yourself makes you dwell on your own childhood, but you can use that to make sure you are the best mum you can be, and make sure that your own child will never ever feel the way you did.
Good luck

sanityseeker75 Mon 05-Nov-12 10:22:08

This is a very sad situation to be in. There is nothing that can be said to take away the pain and even if SM acknowledged what she did. I think that theredhen is right about counselling and the guilt that SM probably feels, either that or she is complete denial (I am not making excuses but you did say she was young and that your dad was at work a lot - sounds like he left her to cope even though she was ill equipped to deal with the pressures of a ready made family) . I also think that it is not all just down to SM - your dad allowed this to happen.

I don't think this is something that you think of as being able to "get over", but let it have a positive impact. Whilst you won't be a "perfect parent" (nobody is) but it will make you more aware of the long lasting impact your actions have on children, your SM and Dad will be as involved or not as you like when you have your own family.

I wish you all the very best

brdgrl Mon 05-Nov-12 17:44:26

My response is pretty much the same as it would be (and has been to others) if you posted this about your own mum or dad. I firmly believe that grandparents do not have an automatic "right" to have access to their grandchildren. I do think that it is possible for people who were crap parents (or stepparents) to 'work' as grandparents, so long as you are very clear in your own boundaries and expectations. You can (and should) protect your kids, but the drastic measure of cutting off a segment f your family may not be necessary...perhaps you could separate out 'what is best for the kids' from the anger you still feel and the desire to express that anger, IYSWIM. I agree that a counselor might be able to help you with that.

Have you never spoken/shouted/written to your stepmum about any of this?

I do wonder why you blame your stepmum almost exclusively (or so it seems) for what you characterise as abuse. If your dad allowed her to treat you in an abusive manner, he is also to blame, and in your shoes, I'd be even angrier with him and asking the same question - is it safe and healthy for my kids to be around him - too.

As far as family members and abusive environments...I was in a long-term relationship with a man who had been very seriously abused, physically and sexually, by a relative in his home. His parents, as far as I was concerned, were responsible for allowing the abuse to happen - the circumstances in his case meant that they had to know that abuse was occurring, even if they were not aware of the extremity of it. When we were planning a family together (something that never happened, partly because of these issues), I was very conflicted about the role that his parents would be allowed to have in any future children's lives. We agreed that they'd never be in a position to provide overnight care or to take the kids to their home. Maybe you and your DP could agree on some very firm limits about your stepmum and dad's role; it might make you feel more comfortable to say "they can see the kids, but only in our home", or whatever.

hoobnoob Mon 05-Nov-12 18:51:58

Thanks to you all for taking the time to reply.

I think counselling could really help me but I am worried about the cost. I will investigate this further

I have never confronted her about it as I know it would all be denied and it would create a huge family rift but I am getting to the point where I need to do something. It's just so hard as she comes across as a nice caring person to everyone but I sit there seething as I know what a horrible woman she really is.

It's interesting that it looks as tho I have placed all blame on her, and that my dad is also responsible in his in-action.
They live a long way from me so I only see then once or twice a year, but in the last few weeks I have been avoiding their calls and not wanting to speak to them.

It's just so hard to know what to do.
If we are lucky enough to have a child I am going to maje sure I don't make the same mistakes they did.

theredhen Mon 05-Nov-12 18:58:30

You used to be able to get counselling free via your gp. Might be worth asking?

Cloverhoney Thu 08-Nov-12 06:29:02

I've got to say the reading your post made me shiver a bit hoobnoob! I'm a step-mum to one young child and a BM to two more. I can see my DSC levying similar allegations at me in the none too distant future...

I'm not as vile as your step-mum by any means - I certainly have never sent my SC to bed without dinner, told her she was fat / ugly / smelly or made her play outside - all those things are abusive - plain and simple.

BUT the fact remains that her experiences are going to be different to my own childrens'. My kids are at a great schools and I'm on the committees at both so I help out a lot with trips etc. My SC is at a school that Ofsted declared as 'failing' over a year ago. My DH and his ex have failed to agree on moving her and although my DH is on the committee at her school, he works full time so he doesn't get to go on trips, attend assemblies etc in the same that I do for our kids. I've recently volunteered to start going into my DSD's school each week to help listen to kids read but it hasn't started yet and when it does, I'm expecting her Mum to kick off (regardless of the fact she has never volunteered to do anything for the school herself).

My kids always have friends over to play and go to friends to play, my SC... not so much. Her school friends don't live near us and I simply don't know the parents like I do at my kids school. During the school holidays I've had her friends over to play but it's always involved me picking them up and dropping them home (an hours round trip) and she's never been invited back. My kids very regularly see their friends at local events and after-school clubs but my SC doesn't. It doesn't help that her mother doesn't have friends over or take her to any after-school clubs either. My DSD seems to get invited to about 4 parties a year whereas my kids have them most weekends. I always ask if she can go along but it's not always possible.

It's a sad situation and I fear, something of a ticking time bomb.

Like the previous posters, I think your Dad needs to carry some of the blame for your experience with your step-mother. He was responsible for you when your Mum passed away and if you suffered this level of abuse / neglect while you were in his care then he needs to answer for it.

I also think you should speak to your GP and ask for a referral for counselling. I think you're being very sensible trying to come to terms with some of this stuff before you have your own family.

Finally I'd repeat what Kaluki said, ultimately you can use your experience to make sure you're the best Mum ever!

Good luck.

Ray75 Thu 08-Nov-12 14:37:42

I had a similar childhood, my mother died when I ws very young although parents were already divorced and Step mother on the scene. We came to live with them my sibling and I but my father worked away alot so were left with SM alot. The beginning was fine but as time went on her treatment was that of jelousy and at times cruel. As a young teenager she wouldnt even my you sanitry needs and deoderant etc and then tell you you smelt. She would always have new clothes etc and we would be in shoes with holes (literally) It was an awful time.
Father and her divorced when i was 18 and so my life started - i had never been happier to be free of it all. for several years i had no contact but as she didnt have her own children we did re establish contact and over the years i have learnt to forgive her, it took a long heart to heart and her admitting the things she had done. We have all managed to put that behind us now. What I will say is that you shouldnt aportion all the blame to her, yes she has treated you very badly but your father should have stood upto her, you were ALL his children and he had a responsibilty to make sure you all had a childhood and were treated the same, he has behaived very weakly and this this is something I grew to learn of my Father.
I think the only way you can really move on is to ask her the questions you feel you need to but you have to decide irrespective of her answers what you are prepared to do from the outcome ie: forgive or walk away. xxx

hoobnoob Thu 08-Nov-12 19:10:56

Cloverhoney - I don't think you have anything to worry about. I appreciate that a step-parent can never have a relationship with a child EXACTLY like a bio parent has, that's not possible. There will always be differences. But there is a difference between a certain distance, and actually resenting the child and treating them badly. It sounds like you want the best for your SD, my stepmother certainly did not want the best for me.

Ray75 - Our stories are incredibly similar. I'm glad you have found peace. I agree I do need to have a good long chat with her about it all.

I have started the ball rolling with getting some counselling. I am going to wait and see how I feel in a few months and decide what I want to do then.

Thanks for all your advice, it has really helped

Morien Thu 08-Nov-12 21:24:33

I grew up miserable in a step-family that just didn't work. No wicked SM for me - it was my stepfather that was the problem. I see now that he was bent out of shape by the endless custody battles for his own children, but all my sister and I knew when we were teenagers was that whatever it was, he took it out on us (and our mum). At the time and for years afterwards I blamed him exclusively, but I've come to understand that my mum let it all happen.

I don't have children of my own but I do have 3 wonderful DSCs. I was initially very conflicted about being with a man with DCs because that meant a step-family. My DP understood my fears from the start and therefore, strange as it may sound, encouraged me to meet his children very early on, which was actually the best thing he could have done. As soon as I met them I understood that history didn't have to repeat itself, and that I was free to choose NOT to do to others what had been done to me (helped by DP's assurances that even if I wanted to treat his kids like that, he wouldn't let it happen). It's been immensely liberating.

My sister, meanwhile, has DD2. Our relationship with our SF has calmed down over the years - we have forgiven but not forgotten - but during her pregnancy we talked a lot about whether she should limit DD's exposure to our SF, and if so, how. In the end it was immaterial because, to our surprise, our aggressive, unpredictable SF turns out to have mellowed into the perfect grandad, far, far better than our dad; 30 years after he came into our lives, the way he treats my niece has finally allowed us to accept him. He doesn't have as much contact with my DSCs because we live abroad, but they, too, adore him - and he's a much more hands-on grandad to them when he sees them than is DP's father who lives around the corner from us.

What I'm trying to say in a fairly long-winded way, hoobnoob, is that I think I know where you're coming from and I'm sorry you've had to go through that...but that happy endings are possible so don't give up. Good luck!

HKnight Fri 09-Nov-12 06:19:03

Hello Hoobnoob, I want to give you a big hug. What you went through was awful. I can relate to similar but it was my mother and my father saw it but didn't know how to act, he told me later after they divorced he was frightened of losing my sister and I if they split when we were kids and we'd have been alone with her, he swears also he never knew how bad we had it. I can sort of understand this but we're
Not amàzingly close.

I can say for my sister and I that once my father left my mother we never wanted anything to do with her. I had self harmed and become depressed always questioning why I never got her love. Then I realised the problem was hers, she lost her children and I chose to let it go. She died last year alone, some well meaning types said my sister and I should've forgiven her, all I can say to that is why?

That woman abused you, you owe her nothing and if you're dad continues to ignore that you were abused and not be supportive to you then you owe him nothing either.

Live your life honey, don't let her destroy what precious time you have on this earth. Don't let her steal your happiness. I vowed when I had kids I'd keep them away from my mother's poison, thankfully death has made that inevitable. You don't have to expose your kids to her and the last thing you want is them to be turned against you as well. You can't change your past but you can be in charge of your future.

Best wishes for your soon to be new family, having a family of your own helps I promise.

MadameCastafiore Fri 09-Nov-12 18:32:30

God sounds like my life! I have no contact with my father or step monster and it has made my life so much better, cut the toxic out.

Same as you though both patents deny any maltreatment or wrong doing, telling me I was fat, resulting in eating disorder and low self esteem. She also broke my nose and treated myself and my sister as second class citizens. Unlike you last time I saw her she told me her and my father were so much happier without me in their life. Well you know what fuck them. My life is much happier now and if my father came sniffing round I'd tell him he doesn't deserve that title because he should have protected and cherished his children especially after they had lost their mother.

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