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I've detached from my DSD, but realise this is no solution. Looking for advice...

(17 Posts)
EssexInnit Tue 19-Jan-16 12:16:22

...just that really.

DSD (12) lives with us full time as her dad is a single parent.

I have a daughter the same age as DSD and a DS (9).

I've had many issues of my own, around feeling rejected and undermined, around things not being fair amongst the all kids. I also often feel resentful. I've no idea how imagined or real these feelings are anymore. I feel that DP is overprotective and overindulgent of his DD - but why wouldn't he be?! She lost her Mum when she was 6 and has been through a horrible time. They both have.

I don't know if I'm unreasonable expecting DSD to abide by (what I think are the very simple, very few and jointly-agreed) house rules or whether I should cut her and her Dad some slack as they only moved in last Summer. DP is easy-going, but I think sometimes he parents out of guilt and doesn't realise how undermining it feels when he goes back on what we've agreed

The result has been that I've pretty much withdrawn from DSD and leave her Dad to eg. ask her to bring her washing down (which he then brings down himself!). This feels easier short-term, but it means that I don't really have a relationship with DSD. My kids are often at their Dad's and when it's just the 3 of us, I tend to go out or do something separate to DP and DSD.

How do I engage again? I sometimes feel like an outsider in my own home, but I know a lot of it's of my own making and I need to grow up and stop feeling so hard done by.

Has anyone managed to break through these feelings and found a way to be an active happy Stepmum?

Bananasinpyjamas1 Tue 19-Jan-16 12:48:07

Resentment is really damaging. I do understand how it builds up but if you can work hard at getting out of that feeling then that would be really beneficial.

feel llike an outside in my own home I've felt like this for years in the past, such a common feeling for step mums! I would start being more 'natural' in your own home if you can. Although I've done this and my DSD just shunned me, but in the end it was far better than keeping totally disengaged from her which was horrible for the whole dynamics of the house, unfair on my own son and not workable at all.

swingofthings Tue 19-Jan-16 19:09:09

I think it is very admirable that you are asking how you can change your behaviour to make things better with your DSD rather than expecting your OH and her to make all the adjustments.

I think the first most important thing is to trust your partner. He has chosen to bring up his daughter in a way because he genuinely believe that it is the best way. It might be different to yours, but that doesn't mean his will yield worse results when all the children are adults. Yes, it will mean that things will initially be a bit different between the children, but they are not little and your children will also be set in their ways to some extent, so it is fair that everyone should respect that harmony in the way things are done might take some time.

Then try not to expect too much too quickly, it might take quite some time for you and her to fell more comfortable about each other and that's ok. The last piece of advice, and that's going from my experience as a child with my SM and the experience of my OH with my son is to watch your tone of voice.

OH doesn't feel as close to DS as he does to DD, however, he knows that he has to make an effort to not treat them differently. I do believe that he doesn't mean well, but I can pick out how different he speaks to DS compared to DD. If DD's bedroom is untidy, he might say something to her along the line of 'hey Miss, your bedroom is not looking too good' and use a jokey tone of voice. If however he makes a comment about DS room, it will be more likely come out in an annoyed tone of voice, no eye contact and he'll say something like 'Full First Name, have you seen the state of your bedroom, it really is disgraceful'.

He is not fully aware of how negative he sounds with DS, but DS is inevitably receptive to it, so it can easily become a vicious circle in that DS will most likely respond with a grunt, whereas DD will give a cheerful/funny/obedient response.

Wdigin2this Tue 19-Jan-16 22:50:54

He will inevitably be parenting her with a guilt angle....and I suppose it's understandable. But, if you are all to live together harmoniously, there will have to be equality in respect of all the DC, especially the two girls! You cannot allow his DD to be treated noticeably differently to yours because, a) his DD will soon realise she's getting away with more and begin to work the situation to her advantage, and b) your DD will resent being pulled up on stuff that the other girl is isn't fair and it's not workable!
I too admire your willingness to change and adapt, but that must go for the whole household! Perhaps hold weekly 'family' meetings where expectations are considered and agreed by all, and where they can't be, some compromises can be discussed....but at the end of the day, you and your O/H are the adults, and final decisions have to be agreed between you, and stuck to rigidly!

BertrandRussell Tue 19-Jan-16 22:52:52

When you say "lost" her mother- do you mean she's dead?

EssexInnit Wed 20-Jan-16 08:24:02

Thanks all

Bananas I know it isn't workable and you're right about being more natural. I often anxiously rehearse what I'm going to say and then it comes out all weird!

swing Yes to the tone of voice and eye contact. I need to try harder with this. DSD often won't make eye contact with me so it's 'easier' to do the same. I need to reestablish myself as a grown up the house.

Wdigin I think because I've 'given up' DP and I haven't been presenting a united front. I've been dealing with mine and he with his. We started out with such resolve and then it sort of petered away.

Bertrand Yes her Mum died when she was 6.

I can only change my own behaviour - I know this. I also can't expect to change others' behaviour. The theory's great - it's the living it which can be a bit tricky. confused

merrymouse Wed 20-Jan-16 08:30:46

The other solution is that you don't live together. The situation isn't sustainable unless you can reach some kind of parenting compromise as you both have many years of parenting ahead of you.

If, as a family, compromise isn't yet possible, maybe you aren't yet all ready to live together?

Bananasinpyjamas1 Wed 20-Jan-16 11:38:54

Is it because you don't you that you have any say in your household? After a while of living together you should be able to introduce some parenting rules of your own. You are inevitably going to be in a parental role some of the time - just a few things to start with that you feel are important. If you explain to DP and your DSD, and they are able to adjust, then there is a chance to feel less resentful. If they are not, then that is more difficult.

Cleensheetsandbedding Wed 20-Jan-16 11:50:57

I think ultimately the seperate parenting methods will cause the two DC to never really grow a bond with each other. If one gets treated differently it will always cause a rift even with blood siblings - which will then transfer in to you and Dh.

I think you and Dh need to regroup again and replan where you both want to go with your parenting styles.

Eg. Both pick rules that absolutely can not be broken. And your Dh has to stick to.

Try and relax some of your rules - ones you know are going to be probally broken.

The buck stops with you and Dh as you two are the adults of the house. If you both mess this up its going really impact on the two kids. Speak to Dh in a 'this is best for kids to be level' for their growth together.

My SM was actually a nice woman untill my dad this with me and also my grandmother chipped in to override her, so we ended up ignoring each other and it really effected my teens more than they would care to admit.

Good luck

Cleensheetsandbedding Wed 20-Jan-16 12:16:26

Also has the Sd ever been encouraged to build a bond with you and visa versa - away from Dh and your DC? Just going of my experiences of being a step child, we wasn't. I always felt like I was being baby sat even though she did 80% of my care. So it was hard to love and respect a woman that nobody 'helped' me to bond with. And she probally struggled as she would get told to 'give it a rest' if she pulled me over somthing. Another thing, did/do you show her affection? A hug, cuddle, stroke of the hair, a complement? Maybe she needs that and it could build bridges so that she can start to respect and like you.

I don't want to be patronising, sorry if I am - just going off my own experiences.

If you want to stay in this relationship, is scrap the past. Speak with Dh about moving forward, how your feeling and really love bomb and embrace Sd and have some opportunities on your own together. BUT it does all hinge on Dh sticking to what you have discussed flowers

Scootering Tue 26-Jan-16 12:20:33

I too find this incredibly hard. I've definitely'done' detaching to a certain degree, but the problem is, while that helps me cope, it widens the gulf between the two 'sides' of the family.

DH does veer towards the Disney though and I am much stricter. So it's detaching or else vodka getting really frustrated about something I cannot change.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Tue 26-Jan-16 18:29:31

I agree with scootering. It's the last resort and I've done this now. But it is the end really. confused

cappy123 Tue 26-Jan-16 21:18:16

Wow, props to you OP for being so honest. I liked what cleansheets said too, nice to hear empathy from an adult DSD. Being a stepmum to a DSD of 5-18 years old is said to be the most difficult step family gig. And there is a halo / pedestal effect when a parent has died too. You're doing well though. Washing at 12 - OK, with help! We're still cajouling DSD at 16!

You will have to say things to your DP, but the line between what to say and when is delicate and ever changing. I'm highly sensitive to exclusion, fairness and respect too. Could you write to DP, validating his and daughter's experiences, sharing your own and saying what you'd like to be different too?

Don't be hard on yourself about "growing up", you're being mature and vulnerable which is completely natural, and responsible in assessing your place in it all. A dad's bond with a daughter is v special (although it's not good to favour a child over another, agreed). My situation was similar. Came into my DP's life when DSD was 11 and I baulked at some of their interactions. :-/

I get the impression you haven't been together long (a year?). If you can focus on where you're both going in the relationship, that will help. If you really want to be together long after the kids move out and you have a plan, great. If not, be honest with each other, you've got your own kids to think of too. If it is for the long haul though, what a wonderful opportunity you've got to be a maternal role model. I know that film Stepmom is quite cheesy, but I love the scene when mum and stepmum reconcile and they agree that her mum had the daughter's past and the stepmum had her future.

Men aren't always good at doing the emotional thing and bringing family members together either. So you could reach out more olive branches to DSD by smiling at her, showing interest in her life, offering odd favours to relieve DP etc. Then maybe you can all agree some house rules for the 5 of you. Make it fun and playful, stick it up somewhere. Do you all go out places and see each other in different settings, like theme parks, zoos, bbqs, restaurants, stage shows etc to break the ice and have a good laugh? Balance this with picking your battles, seeing your own friends / doing your own thing too.

But I do think your DP should keep telling his DD that it's OK to keep loving and remembering her mum, you're not replacing her, and it's OK to like you and grow closer to you too. We drowned DSD in this early on she was like "OK I get it!!" smile , (mum's still very much with us sees DSD every day, so it was v important to emphasize this).

One thing I found worked well was asking my DSD for her permission / agreement that I could tell her when she was rude. I remember she looked pleasantly surprised to be consulted, but had an air of responsibility too. I've only had to pull her up about 3 times.

Remember she IS still a child and kids develop at different rates, as you've probably seen with your own. Go at her rate, she WILL start to come to you for stuff.

Finally couple of book recommendations, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal and The Smart Stepmom, Laura Petherbridge. They are from a Christian faith perspective, but side stepping that, they are really good in general and practical terms. Reading The Smart StepFamily opened my eyes big time and helped me answer the question, "Knowing what I now know, do I want to go ahead with this marriage?" A big yes.

Good luck.

Primaryteach87 Tue 26-Jan-16 21:29:26

OP, What I've found works is my own version of love-bombing. This consists of three things. I kept doing them for about 6 months before there was ANY fever bible change from SD. So you really do have to be consistent. 1) I make a conscious effort to look, really look in that way Mums look at newborns and smile twice a day. First thing in the morning and before bed. It doesn't matter if I don't feel it, it became real from doing it. 2) I tell her 10 nice things a day that are true. It can be anything but it has to be true. 3) I tell her dad about her achievements, accomplishments etc in front of her. E.g Bob you'll never guess what, Lily did this beautiful painting at school, you have to see it!

Primaryteach87 Tue 26-Jan-16 21:30:13

Change whatsoever, not fever bible! Silly phone.

Wdigin2this Tue 26-Jan-16 23:21:32

Sometimes detaching is the only way to stay sane!

paxillin Wed 27-Jan-16 10:25:51

Maybe you should have two households. You say they only moved in last summer, is anybody happier since then? You are not and dsd is not. Are your dd and ds happier than before? Is your dp? If the majority of (or even all) you are less happy than last year this time, move out again, see if it will work in 3 years' time.

It is hard being a step-parent, how much harder to be one to a child whose mum died and who really wants her mum not you. Maybe at some point during teenage she will be looking for a mother figure, be there then.

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