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What is the hardest thing about being a step-parent for you?

(66 Posts)
CaptainBinker Wed 16-Oct-13 23:11:53

I have been a step-mum for 6 years now and like most others, it's been an up-and-down journey, mostly up though, thank goodness. Although I feel that all the adults involved are really amicable and that the whole situation is good, there are still things that bug me sometimes...

1. Knowing that someone I wouldn't normally choose to be part of my life (i.e. not someone I'd naturally choose as a friend) has actually now got quite a lot of control over my life

2. Having totally different views on parenting to DSS' mum but having to go along with what she wants even though I am not in agreement with it.

I don't want this to sound like a moan but I know that there's probably very few step-parents out there who can say that having stepchildren is always (and has always been) 100% a positive experience in every aspect.

I just wondered if I'm weird to feel this way and is there any way to get through it?

CaptainBinker Wed 16-Oct-13 23:12:54

And also what things do other people find most difficult?

TwoStepsBeyond Wed 16-Oct-13 23:29:06

For me it's knowing that I will never come first to DP. We are not married and don't actually live together, but he spends 50% of his time at mine and we usually spend one night a week all together, so I am only really a 'SP' once a week and that's probably enough

When he changes his plans with me because the DCs want to spend an extra night with him it does hurt, even though I know as an adult that his kids should be his priority. I feel so selfish for being bothered about it, but I suppose I want my DCs to learn that, while they are important to me, they don't always call the shots and I have a life of my own too.

Also our differing parenting styles. He is much more permissive than me, gives them anything they ask for, wants to do whatever it takes to make them happy, whereas I'm a bit stricter. Perhaps I look at the big picture a bit more as I'm the main carer for my DCs 90% of the time, so every decision I make is like some big 'learning opportunity' not just a yes or no.

TwoStepsBeyond Wed 16-Oct-13 23:32:20

And yes I agree with your points too. I am very different to his ex in lots of ways, so it's weird that her needs and opinions shape what happens in my life to a certain extent.

His DD's are lovely, I'm very lucky yo have found them all, but it is a strange situation where you are suddenly in a relationship with all these people!

daisychain01 Thu 17-Oct-13 06:50:47

The aspects of being a SP I have found most challenging have been

1. Like you, Captain, the hold that DSSs mum had to begin with. Over time it has diminished significantly and having a straight 50/50 split really helps. It was always around changeover times and holidays where the pattern was open to negotiation, that caused the headaches. Unfortunately the breakup was acrimonious. Nowadays things have settled down but those early days were ghastly and it used to upset my DH a lot

2. Not having DSS over any Christmases only New Year just to keep the peace. It was a sacrifice worth making but it didnt come without sadness.

3. To begin with, me not knowing how much to get involved in DSSs upbringing during our period of care. Time, patience and DHs support in me having "a say" and DSSs receptiveness towards me caring for him (without stepping on his mum's toes) has helped. I saw no value in doing or saying overtly controversial things that would stir up a hornets net. Over time it has paid off! We have zero contact with DHs ex due to proximity of homes and DSS using school transport as a means of transitioning between households. It works seamlessly and DSS will remember a largely trouble free childhood which is what we care about.

I got involved with DH with my eyes wide open that DSS was his world, and falling in with that was something I told DH I would take on board from our early days of dating. I havent felt I was second best, thankfully.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Thu 17-Oct-13 07:27:31

The feeling of total impotence when it comes to protecting the DSC from abuse at the hands of their Mum.
Even 'being here' for them is damaging in its own way because it creates more emotional conflict for them.

(Sorry - it's not been a good week).

Tuckshop Thu 17-Oct-13 07:54:48

Both the things you have put, what China said and that feckin' line you have to tread like tightrope. Too far one way and you're overstepping and that's not welcome, take a step back and that's not right either.

purpleroses Thu 17-Oct-13 08:33:39

Interesting thread. Unlike most of the posters above, I wouldn't say dealing with the ex is the biggest problem for me. She dictates our holiday schedules, and largely ignores me, but otherwise very much leaves the DSC up to us during our time. DP and I are free to decide between us how to parent them.

The hardest thing for me I would say is balancing being a stepmum with being a mum. My own DCs are similar ages to the DSC and I constantly feel I'm treading a tightrope between being what my DD needs me to be, and being a SM to the others. They need treating fairly, and a relationship slowly building up. DD still needs me to be her mum first and foremost.

The other hard thing is accepting that my DSC are not the children they would be if I'd been their main parent from the start. The lack of independence and life skills that the younger ones have is quite frustrating sometimes.

UC Thu 17-Oct-13 09:55:10

like purpleroses, balancing being a SM and a mum. Exactly what she says.

And although all amicable, and I like DP's exW, dealing with the different parenting between my DP and his ex. He is the stricter one, she's more permissive. sometimes I have to explain to him that it might be worth thinking how he's reacting to something so that he isn't ALWAYS the bad cop, leaving her the role of sympathetic good guy.

And actually, the regret that I sometimes feel that my kids aren't growing up with their own dad. Not really a step parenting issue though I suppose. They have a lovely relationship with him, he is a great dad, and they miss him in between seeing him. I wish things could have been different - but they aren't. Both DP and I have commented before that in an ideal world, we wouldn't be in this scenario - we'd both have chosen better the first time around!!!!

And sheer numbers.... I never set out to have this many children!

toomanypasswords Thu 17-Oct-13 10:11:41

Walking a tightrope is such a good analogy and fits how I've been feeling for a long time perfectly! The thing I find the most difficult is that there is barely any relationship between myself and my DP's DS, despite him spending every weekend with us. DP puts him largely ignoring me, not speaking to me unless I ask him a direct question down to him being shy (he's 12 yo). I can see this to a degree and also the fact that he is practically a teenager, so likely to be a bit more 'difficult' . The second thing I find difficult is that he's not expected to do anything to help or do anything for himself when he is here and DP still treats him like he's a much younger child, which I actually think isn't helping him to grow and develop into a balanced, responsible teen and, ultimately, adult although maybe I'm being unreasonable and expecting too much. Out of interest, how much do parents with 12 yo DCs expect them to be able to do for themselves and do around the house?? My own DC is still a toddler, so I'm a 'novice' with older children, with the exception of him!! We have discussed some of the issues previously but it didn't go particularly well and now I feel that I can't say anything that may be deemed vaguely negative as it's not an argument I'll win. I could go on all day but I won't!! smile

purpleroses Thu 17-Oct-13 11:02:54

And sheer numbers.... I never set out to have this many children!
Yes, that too grin

needaholidaynow Thu 17-Oct-13 11:25:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FlyingBlind Thu 17-Oct-13 11:36:04

First post so please be kind!

Hardest things are:
1 DSD's Mum constantly rearranging plans and can't keep to a schedule.

2 Two of the three DSD'S are terrifically fussy eaters, this just does not compute as I love food.

3 Total culture shock of being in the thick of it with three girls off different ages all wanting something different at the same time, having absolutely no experience with kids.

Fortunately OH is a star and has made it all a painless ahem as possible.

Lozcat86 Thu 17-Oct-13 12:39:49

Completely agree with having DHs ex playing a larger part in our lives then I'd like, I.e we have to arrange things according to her needs too.
It's difficult trying to help raise 2 DSS when I disagree with a lot of things that their real mum does in terms of parenting. Nothing major or worrying just difference of opinions. But I feel very responsible for the boys when they are here and then have so little control over anything tat happens when they aren't e.g schooling. I realise it probably isn't my place but it's frustrating when you know that their real mum hasn't sorted out a dentist yet or been working with youngest DSS on his reading/writing....

Nellie72 Thu 17-Oct-13 14:19:25

seeing how much pain their dreadful behaviour and violent actions cause people I care about.

TwoStepsBeyond Thu 17-Oct-13 15:35:54

I also find birthdays and special occasions tricky. Having to be all grown up about your man going out for dinner with his ex and the kids like a big happy family, when really it's the last thing you want. And vice versa, having to play happy families with my ex and the kids at Xmas rather than spend it with the man I love. But it's only the odd day and it's worth it to make sure the kids are happy.

Petal02 Thu 17-Oct-13 16:37:24

The hardest things:

(a) DH’s Disney parenting
(b) Knowing that the pattern of our lives was, initially, controlled by a woman I’d never met – she was an anonymous and omnipresent dark cloud
(c) Having to spend 7 years watching DH obediently carrying out the most ridiculous logistic feats, purely in the name of Extreme Rota Compliance and Not Rocking The Boat.

DSS is now at Uni. Petal does celebratory backflips around the room

Since his departure I’ve been reflecting on that chapter of our lives. And I quickly came to the conclusion that DSS wasn’t the problem. It was (both) his parents.

missmargot Thu 17-Oct-13 16:43:42

For me it is the lack of control over my own life and the complete inability to plan things in advance- where and when we are going on holiday, where to spend Christmas etc. There is a court order in place for contact but unfortunately we still have a lot of issues.

I love my DSS very much but I glad we have waited until he is older (almost 14) to have a child of our own. By the time our child is old enough to really be aware of the issues DSS will be an adult and hopefully the majority of the conflict will have passed.

Aroundtheworldandback Thu 17-Oct-13 18:03:44

The word that comes through all these replies in one form or another, as in my own situation, is resentment.

In my case dh's ex lives far away and doesn't pose a problem on a day to day basis, but there is so much resentment on both my part and the dsc's, even jealousy, for so many reasons. And because they refuse to communicate, it just escalates, with dh feeling torn between us all.

I guess the one ingredient missing in a lot of step parent relationship is unconditional love, and that's what makes it so hard.

balia Thu 17-Oct-13 22:11:13

10 years down the line, lots of the things that used to be huge problems have now diminished (thanks mostly to a very robust court order). Some things that seemed like difficulties actually turned out to be quite positive (eg cooking for DSS whose mum is a strict veggie with MH issues that involve food - I'm now quite a reasonable veggie cook and found loads of recipes that we all like that I would never have tried.)

I still get irritated by little things like his Mum's refusal to do things like wash his football kit when he goes to matches on her weekends or to sort his tea out when DH picks him up for midweek football so we have to sort him out a pack-up or he'll go hungry. I'm aware that this resentment stems from the fact that DH and I both work full time and she doesn't work at all so it feels like she's just being difficult for the sake of it, and bloody lazy, too so i do try to quell my judgy-ness.

But worst is the helplessness. DSS shares a room - and bed - with his gran, despite the fact that his mum has a 3-bedroomed house paid for by the tax payer and his life is massively limited by his mum's MH issues and there is nothing we can do about it.

brdgrl Fri 18-Oct-13 00:04:17

1. Disney parenting by DH
2. Having to negotiate the different habits/expectations/values of the DSC with my own values and the lifestyle I want for my DD. The DSC are not small kids, so there are some things which I cannot reasonably expect to change (there are others I do!), but which I find very difficult to accept.

heidiwine Fri 18-Oct-13 07:42:00

Very interesting thread. I don't have my own children so I don't have any of the stresses that come with that. For me the most difficult things are:
- my life and choices being inhibited by the entitled, lazy (and most worryingly) manipulative woman that my DP married. In my view the way that she treats children is emotionally abusive and I feel completely powerless an unable to help.
- watching the eldest child grow up to be insecure and always worried that she's not liked
- being a mum in respect of all the household stuff and lots of the emotional stuff but not getting the the thanks that a mum gets (not feeling appreciated by the children)

VerySmallSqueak Fri 18-Oct-13 07:49:07

I found it tricky to find a line between caring, and interfering.

I firmly felt it wasn't my place to interfere - I felt in a caretaker role,and I didn't want to overstep my boundaries while still showing that I really did care.

MsColour Fri 18-Oct-13 09:52:04

It's early days for us but think the things I'm struggling with are similar to others.

1. Balancing my own children's needs with dss's.
2. The ex trying to control what happens in this household.
3. Me and dp having already developed styles of parenting before we got together and having to reach compromises that suit every one.
4. We both admit that we find it harder to 'forgive' each other's children when they play up because that unconditional love you have for your own children isn't there.

Petal02 Fri 18-Oct-13 10:12:59

I don’t think blended families, shared residency etc work very well at all, but I’m at a loss to come up with any alternatives. What else can you do when families break down?

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