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My step-mum

(12 Posts)
sparklesparkle Mon 16-Dec-13 13:35:52


I have been wondering recently about my own step-mum and reading this board to get an insight. She and my dad got together after my mum died when I was young and I lived with her (in a family home with my dad and her kids, DSSis and DSB) from the age of 9-17. I always thought I'd had a good upbringing and that we were close but in recent years, and with retrospect, things seem more complicated.

I was always very different from her kids and have grown up into a very different person to them. It must be true that personality is set in the first years as there is this marked difference even though we all grew up together. I'm doing well and things are happy, I have my own kids now and my marriage and career are both v happy. The problem is I am picking up on more and more signs that she actually doesn't like me very much/isn't very pleased for me. It's a funny kind of silent furiousness and a slight competitive/copying resentfulness of things that I do. She never has been like a mother and has always firmly framed herself as 'dad's girlfriend/wife' though she was an affectionate mother to her own kids.

It's odd to pick up on this now as, though I didn't really love her growing up I was glad that my dad wasn't alone and tried to muck through best I could.

It's not causing a family problem as such but just I have realised we aren't actually very close. As I get my kids to call her 'grandma' I have started doing a double-take as I think on a few occasions she has actually been willing things to go badly for me. I know she is quite unsympathetic about me to my dad and has shown signs of not really loving my DC...

Can you, from a step-mum perspective, see problems like this emerging much later on (I'm in my 30s)?

Looking for any insight. It's such a strange feeling and is making me reassess what happened in our family in retrospect.


stepmooster Mon 16-Dec-13 14:04:39

First of all, she doesn't sound like a very nice person if she genuinely is resentful and wanting you to fail. But I can say as a step mum to a boy who i met when he was 9, it would have been pointless trying to pretend i was anything other than his father's wife/GF. I am not sure that would have changed if his mother had passed away and he moved in with us FT.

It is very hard to know what is acceptable and mainly I am following by DSS lead, things are more relaxed and natrual but it has taken 3 years to get here.

I don't think it's possible to love a child as your own unless you've known them from a very young age and had a hand in mothering them, moulding them, loving them etc. Also I think it would be hard to know whether trying too hard might come across as pretending your real mum never existed.

i have a stepmother of sorts, she came into my dad's life when I was in my 20's. I have to accept that as my dad relies on her to arrange his social life her children will spend more time with him than I do. My father is lazy. When my mother passed away she has kind of asserted herself as grandma, although I have conflicting thoughts about that. My mother did exist, and she is their grandma even if she is deceased, will my children grow up thinking that I never had a mother? my stepmother is trying very hard and doesnt always get it right being a step mum myself i am far less judgemental.

stepmooster Mon 16-Dec-13 14:06:33

meant to say far less judgemental of her now i am a stepmum too.

Loveineveryspoonful Mon 16-Dec-13 14:14:41

Hi sparkle,
You are probably 100% right in your estimation. I can only tell you about our situation which is the exact same in reverse.
I'm a teacher in RL and have spent over 20 years supporting kids (from rather underprivileged backgrounds) and its in my genes at this stage to encourage kids to do or give their best.
So I've always felt a bit hurt when dsc, but especially dsd, want only to see me fail...even if only at a game of cards!
Dsd is 16 ffs and after 4 years I had expected better, but her latest endeavor is to try to "win over" ds to defy me, no matter how small her victory, its so petty and unattractive in such a smart and talented girl.
I don't know why people feel they have to be competitive and vindictive. I try to "blame" her mother for being a difficult person and making her daughter feel loyal to her at all times.
But at this stage I'm just "meh"...
If I were you I'd talk to someone in RL, maybe a counselor, just so you can get some validation. It's very unnerving.

purpleroses Mon 16-Dec-13 14:56:12

How are her own kids doing in adult life?
I'm fond of my DSC and want them to do well, but do also feel an element of competition between them and my DC. Before DP and I met we'd each made some big decisions over upbrining (state/private schools, personal freedom, etc) that were different from each other's, and if I'm being honest there is part of me that delights in seeing my DC do well as it vindicates my choices. And it's a bit harder to see DSC do well if that looks to be a result of things that DP/his ex did differently .

I think I'd find it hard to be completely happy for DSC doing well in life if my own DC were struggling in some way. I'd feel that I'd made the wrong choices in bringing mine up. I find it easier to be completely happy for them when they're doing things that my DC don't do or dealing with different issues.

Can your dad offer any insight?

Kaluki Tue 17-Dec-13 11:30:18

Are your step siblings doing well? Maybe its jealousy.
I feel this a little with DP although I know its not intentional on his part. My DS2 recently passed his 11+ and DS1 is in the top 5% of his year and recently got a special award for effort. Obviously I was so proud of them both and thrilled to bits but I caught a flicker of disappointment on DPs face when I told him about them. His DSC are struggling at school, the divorce has affected them quite badly. I feel for him as he can't help comparing them but on the other hand I won't play down my own kids achievements to make him feel better.

randomAXEofkindness Tue 17-Dec-13 11:50:37

If her children aren't doing so well now, do you think that she might think she should have done more for them? That wouldn't be unusual. And if that is true for her, could she be resentful of the time/money/effort she spent on you, which she might have put towards raising her own more successfully?

sparklesparkle Tue 17-Dec-13 11:53:53

Hi Kaluki it was a bit like that when we were growing up -- but we all lived together all the time, and she didn't spend any money/effort on me! If anything my dad spent on hers (the kids being split 2/1). Objectively it would look like I'm doing better than her kids yes but not extremely so: we all are happy and sustainable in our various lives.

I don't so much get the sense that she'd wish they'd be more like me but rather that she wishes HER life was more like mine/resents me in that way. Is this possible?

I'd never ask my dad.

randomAXEofkindness Tue 17-Dec-13 13:49:31

Maybe. How did her life compare to yours when she was your age? Could she feel like she missed out? She might be envious if she feels like she's had a life of drudgery and you're having a great time. She might be resentful of you if she feels like you added to her burden (it's less likely that she would direct those feelings towards her own children - although I have met women who have). Being a step-mother is usually pretty thankless, and certainly is in this instance - did she really never spend any effort looking after you? It's pretty uncommon for fathers to do all of the cooking/housework, did she ignore you completely? Maybe her own children do appreciate her and that's why she doesn't display the same resentment towards them.

Not having a pop, I'm just musing about it because you asked, obviously nobody here knows her so that's all anyone can do.

cappy123 Wed 18-Dec-13 21:45:41

It's always fascinating - things affect step family members all their lives. I'm a step child and a new step mum. I think I sometimes look back a little too rosily on my stepfamily - I was just so grateful that we were relatively stable (after some years of sexual abuse from my mum's previous partners). But actually my stepdad was passive although the only dad my brother and I really knew. He and my mum met when he was 40 and he'd been a long terms stepdad before so maybe once bitten twice shy. My mum and him didn't have kids. We all get on grand now. I see my stepdad warts and all and love him for who he is, not who he isn't. My real dad is flawed differently and I love him just as much (and TBH not in a particularly different way - I'm just grateful for them).

Remember your step mum is an individual whatever her marital status or journey. She had a past before she met you. Many biological parents also have difficult relationships and insecurities with their own children. Birth order, personality, motivations, gender, etc all affect child-parent relationships. The nature of step families make things all the more complex. You yourself said you didn't love her...

Very occasionally - incl tonight - I get that quiet furiousness (hence retreating to Mumsnet!) you mentioned. My DH and DSD (13yo) are running around and playing computer games and I'm cooking and planning Xmas and getting stressed because we can't have an adult conversation with each other without DSD following us and being in the same room - not DSD's problem - DH needs to speak up.)

My friend in her 40s always talked about the same brooding furiousness in her own biological mum. She always thought her mum just wasn't maternal. Her older siblings are step siblings and she is the only child between her parents. Recently through long term counselling, she's had a revelation into her depression and not being able to settle down into a relationship. She's idolised her dad over the years who's idolised her too. No other bloke matched up. They were always there for each other emotionally. She has started to confront her dad by not bailing him out emotionally, and she has a more realistic view of him as he struggles to stop daddying her. But she also now has insight into the painful longterm impact on her mum too, so she's building that relationship. So again, it's not just stepfamilies. Weirdly I have 3 close girlfriends who were closest to their dads who died young (60s), so my mates (not stepkids) were left with no idea how to relate to these women (their mothers). Not saying this is your case - just that for all our pondering and looking back we have blind spots we're not privvy to.

But where there are stepfamilies I've come to realise that if the biological parent where the kids reside does not speak up for the marriage AS WELL AS be loving and firm with parenting (boundaries etc), the stepkids and stepparents can start to resent each other. The damage done by residential parents giving into guilt, rather than being vulnerable enough to speak up for their spouse and their children (in a balanced way, yes difficult but not impossible; lots more talking gets done in divorce proceedings!) is devastating.

Add to that - no offense - one of the hardest stepparents to be is one where a spouse has died. You may never know your stepmother's true heart. Or what the relationship with your father was really like (from their own points of view).

Perhaps it's better to focus on whatever good she brought you.

sparklesparkle Sun 22-Dec-13 10:57:55

I can see what you mean and you're very wise. I think it's universally acknowledged that my SM is v. needy/high maintenance and my dad has put a lot of effort into keeping her happy over the years. Also it's not like just she had to become a step parent -- my dad obviously had to become stepdad to her 2 kids too and did so with lots of energy so I only got 1/3 of his attention and none of hers. FWIW she was never into doing household stuff -- never cooked dinner or drove us anywhere, or helped with homework.
It is amazing how these things affect you throughout life, but one reason is because the situation does still exist i.e. these people are still your family! Anyway, I had it pretty easy (no real bad treatment).

FrauMoose Sun 22-Dec-13 11:17:37

I am wondering how I would feel if my stepchildren did brilliantly in life while my own daughter - now 16 - struggled.

I am not sure the situation will arise. We recently realised that my stepson has Aspergers (quite possibly his mother knew/knows but didn't say.) He has a degree but so far hasn't done anything other than casual work, and his romantic life is not very stable. He alternates between staying with friends and living with his Mum.

On the surface my stepdaughter is doing well in her first job, and living with her boyfriend in a flat they are renting. He's a successful ambitious young man. However both my partner and I think she may be dodging some issues. In some respects her boyfriend seems to be going his own sweet way rather than taking my stepdaughter into account. And we suspect that they haven't come to what most people would consider a sensible relationship re finances. Plus she has recently found that she will have to keep to a somewhat restricted diet for the rest of her life. So I feel a few concerns. Rather than 'Lucky stepdaughter. It's not fair that everything is going so smoothly.'

I think my stepchildren did have slightly complicated their lives because the values of their two parents were so different, and because their mother refused to communicated with their father (my partner). I suppose that I hope the fact that my daughter has not had to juggle two homes and two sets of values will mean that she's got a solid base from which to grow up. She's a bright girl and I hope that she'll find something she likes to do with this brightness. Romantically there hasn't been anyone we know of yet - so it's a bit hard to tell whether she'll manage to choose people who she likes and who will treat her well.

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