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struggling with step parent role

(18 Posts)
avocadosarentmiddleclassed Sun 23-Nov-14 12:54:19

my step daughter lives with her mum next door to me and my husband, we have her every other weekend and every Wednesday and Friday.
I am great with kids and my career to date has been either child care and now I'm nearly qualified as a primary school teacher. I am really struggling to cope with the complexities of being a step mother.
Over the passed few months I have totally absented myself from my lovely dsd (aged 7)

I struggle with so many elements of my role. She is well behaved and seems to love me but I just feel like I'm an unnecessary waste of space when she's around. sad

Her Dad lets her watch TV/play on the iPad, etc so I feel like I don't get to chat to her much.

My own step other was very abusive and fucked up and my oen mother I only used to see every other Thursday my whole childhood because she couldn't cope due to her mental illness.

At first I was a very involved, positive step mum and now I feel myself becoming invisible.

I hide in my room because I cant bear the TV blaring out and the mess in the living room.

DH mentioned today that he feels I'm really absent I suppose I just lack confidence and find myself feeling like she is just a list of demands.

It's weird for e to struggle with this because I adore children but the pressure of being a good step mum has made me buckle and I feel powerless to create a relationship with her.

My mum always used to go for a lie down when we (my sister and I) were kids and we hated her absenting herself and now I feel the same. Help!

Catsarebastards Sun 23-Nov-14 13:04:05

Hi OP. sorry you are struggling with this. Is it just the 'side effects' of having a child in the house that you struggle with? The noise and mess? Or do you feel pushed out?

I struggle with the noise and mess of my own children but i feel able to tell them to keep the volume down and tidy up after themselves. Do you feel unable to do that? It is your home so you have the right to ask for certain rules to be followed.

avocadosarentmiddleclassed Sun 23-Nov-14 13:09:57

Yes I feel like I have withdrawn from her a bit lately due to feeling powerless, I don't feel comfortable asking her to tidy up her stuff. I snapped at her yesterday because she ran up behind me saying boo and I shouted OW, really loudly. She apologised profusely, as we walked out of an indoor play area she asked for one of those plastic toys you get from machines and I bluntly said no. sad
I just don't want to be around her because I'm not feeling positive, I think I might be a bit depressed at the moment.

Catsarebastards Sun 23-Nov-14 13:13:15

Do you know why you feel powerless to ask her to tidy up or keep the volume down? Are you afraid of upsetting her? Are you afraid of stepping on your DH's toes? Have you done it in the past and had a bad reaction?

avocadosarentmiddleclassed Sun 23-Nov-14 13:21:03

If I felt close to her or like I had some kind of positive interactions with her I would happily ask her to do things like that but at the moment my only interactions towards her are reactions such as; don't drop that on the floor, hello, goodnight, it feels cold and functional I want to relate to her authentically and I don't want the only interactions I have with her to be just telling her what to do.

Catsarebastards Sun 23-Nov-14 13:28:37

Ok so lets think of what you can do to create positive interactions. She is 7 so will be happy to be seen out in public with you for a few years yet grin plan some outings for the two of you. Xmas is approaching so there are some great opportunities to go out and do fun things. You can take her to pick out her dad's xmas present for starters! That's a good one as it is doing something nice for the person that links the two of you together. You could spend time planning what to buy, planning what shops to visit, set off early and spend the day shopping, have a lovely lunch and then secretly wrap the present together that evening. Theres something to start you off. I'm sure your area has lots of other xmas things planned that you could go to as well.

avocadosarentmiddleclassed Sun 23-Nov-14 13:32:57

Thanks, I will try that.
I struggle because she has a strop everytime you have to make her leave the house /TV.
She just goes quiet and you can't talk to her, I would have to be brave enough to deal with that in order to get her out of the house. But I'll give it a go thank you smile

chocoraisin Sun 23-Nov-14 13:34:51

You have had a very difficult relationship with the mother figures in your own life, abusive and absent. I suspect that feeling depressed about your role with your DSD has a lot to do with it bringing up childhood fears and memories of your own, that are unresolved. Would you consider going to see a counsellor to talk through your feelings and work out what you think you want in this role, as an adult? You don't have to be the kind of parent you had. But changing patterns does often mean taking a look at what's going on under the surface in order to heal. Big hugs to you x

Catsarebastards Sun 23-Nov-14 13:42:07

Ahh so she is stroppy! I have one o those too grin

Ok so you make it so that there's something in it for her. Would she be unimpressed with the idea of secretly planning and shopping for her dad's xmas present? At 7 i would have thought that would be exciting. My two get all giggly and excited by things like that (9 and5) what sort of thing would she get excited about leaving the house for?

avocadosarentmiddleclassed Sun 23-Nov-14 13:43:31

Thank you.
I see a therapist weekly and she is helping me see the unique role I have to play in this little girls life. I just drop the ball sometimes and feel like I can't do what is required of me my painful feelings get triggered then I feel like I'm no use, thanks for the responses.

Catsarebastards Sun 23-Nov-14 13:50:40

Would it help you to have a routine for refocusing yourself when you feel under pressure and as if you cant cope?

Something like a mantra to remind yourself of the important role you play and the effect your actions have on this girl?

When my depression was really bad i struggled to engage with my dcs and they really felt it. They didnt get why mummy wasnt interested in their drawings of didnt laugh at their jokes.

What worked for me was reminding myself that i was pretty much the most important person in their lives right now and for a few years yet. I am a single parent so if i wasnt showing them they were valued and to be proud of themselves then no-one else would. I reminded myself that they needed me to be engaged more than i needed to wallow and withdraw and so i faked it til it just felt natural. Its the fake it til you make it saying. It works for me. When i catch myself being dismissive of them or sinking back into depression i summon up a bug fake smile and i throw myself into whatever they are asking me to do. It is a great distraction from whatever i was feeling low about.

avocadosarentmiddleclassed Mon 24-Nov-14 10:22:10

Thanks so much for your help I really appreciate it...

I spent ages crying in the bath yesterday, I know depression well, I allow it to pass through me, I don't ask why because it's just a chemical thing that seems to be cyclical (my external conditions are great).

Yesterday afternoon, DSD asked me if I would go swimming with her and her Dad. I said yes and made an effort to make eye contact with her and chat to her, we had ever such a lovely time, she held my hand, decided to be the swimming teacher and taught me and her Dad lots of the new swim skills she'd learnt at school, she hugged me at every opportunity and was just in her element!

What was really interesting was that when we got home we only had an hour to get her spellings practised, and her tea made before she went back to her mums, I did her spellings with her (first time) and she didn't mess me about at all like she does with her dad!
She tried really hard and then I said you can have some TV now, she didn't want it she wanted to cook tea with her Dad (I nearly fainted at this!) It showed me how well she responds to me being fully present what a positive impact I can have on her. Making myself invisible makes everyone unhappy we all miss out.

When she left I gave her a hug and a kiss which I don't normally do and it felt well received.

I've realised I'm massively scared of being rejected by her. And when she asked in a quiet voice "can you come swimming with us?" I thought, well if she can risk being rejected then so can I!

Thanks so much for helping me get through a stage of my role.

chocoraisin Mon 24-Nov-14 10:42:57

what a lovely update! and massive well done for trying so hard.

HesNotAMessiah Mon 24-Nov-14 11:15:02

I cried !! blush

Keep it up, you're doing brilliantly. Your DSD is very lucky to have someone so emotionally aware.

Catsarebastards Mon 24-Nov-14 18:44:01

Oh wow! That is brilliant Op. i am so happy for you. Its great that you were able to recognise it was your fear of rejection. What a leap forward you have made in just one small interaction. That good feeling will be like the carrot dangling for you to keep up with the effort. It really is worth it. And she will feed off your positivity towards her.

CalicoBlue Tue 25-Nov-14 19:50:15

Well done. It is hard step parenting, but she seems so keen to have you as a SM.

Just think in small steps. Maybe the two of you can make some Xmas decorations, bake bread or find something that is just for the two of you. Maybe the spellings.

avocadosarentmiddleclassed Tue 25-Nov-14 20:18:10

Thank you all so much, it made me cry too! I feel better now thanks to you I really appreciate it.

avocadosarentmiddleclassed Thu 27-Nov-14 10:06:56

This morning I offered to take care of her because she was off school ill.
She and I had a great time chatting, she told me about being worried at school about a video she had deleted yesterday I felt really honoured that she confided in me.
She then wrote her Santa letter and three of the 5 things she asked for were a "present for Mum, Dad and {my name}
I am finding I feeling the rewarding nature of being there for her.
I just thought I'd share this.

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