SM - will they always be an outsider?(36 Posts)
I've really struggled with feeling like the outsider as an SM. I still do.
I was incredibly naive looking back! I moved into what was once the family home. The 3 DSDs were older than my DS, they were teenagers. Quickly and perhaps too late I realized that there was no 'equal playing field'.
I was the outsider, when I raised issues I got extreme defensiveness for daring to question the 'status quo', which was their status quo. DP got a lot of flack from his ExW and daughters from any challenges I made within our own home. It reminded me of the psychology of the 'out group' - it makes an 'in group' feel more bonded - so I stumbled into actually making DP, his daughters and ExW feel more like a family simply because I was different and questioned their normal.
Reading these boards, it seems that a lot of happier step families are the ones who
- move into a new house, neutral territory.
- where the Ex has moved on with a new partner.
- where the kids are young enough to be flexible.
- where the Dad isn't being guilt tripped.
- where the SM takes time to allow kids to adjust, but also does asset some authority in a fair way to all.
- where step parent and parent forge a new 'team' - rather than splinter apart pulled by children or Exes.
I'm just trying to learn from my experience I suppose!
I got a stepmum in my teens and in honesty (and I know this will hurt) I never have considered her to be in the "in" group. She moved into my DF's house
although changed all of the decor so it was always "our" territory IYKWIM?
Regarding the "team" issue, sometimes I think the insistence to be seen as part of the team is the issue. The way I saw it was that I had a mum and a dad, who were my team and I was not in need of any add-ons such as step parents and step siblings. It may sound bizarre but in my head I was part of a venn diagram, I over lapped into both of my parents lives, and their lives with their DP's were another section, but not something that I considered myself part of.
I'm not saying that to be hurtful and I know it comes across as terribly cold, but it is just how I felt (and still do feel, 20 years later) I would say though that the role my step parents played with my children made me feel closer to them.
fran That is probably the more common view, I understand that it may not be something that is 'wanted'. But it is the reality.
Having read a lot of different stories on this board, the step families where everyone, including the kids, seem happier, are the ones who have accepted the step parent at some level don't you think? Not to the extent of playing perfect families, the ones who are realistic, know the limits, but also adjust even a little.
Did it not affect your relationship with your parents if you shut off their partners? Or was it cordial and pleasant enough to work?
I too have step parents. My step Dad was too domineering at first, but had a good heart, so we had a troubled start but a good bond now. I felt the outsider in 'his' house funnily enough at first, but now there is none of that feeling at all. We adjusted to each other and I can honestly say that I love him.
My step mum seemed fine to me, I felt she was part of my family, and it was only later that I realised I made 100% of the effort and her 0%. She has always considered me an outsider, and my Dad seems to think this way too by default.
I certainly didn't shut my step parents out, I was perfectly civil with them, but inwardly I did not have loving feelings towards either of them. I grew up from the age of 6 with my SF and my DM thinks that i viewed him as a father figure as she considered us to be a family unit. I didn't however.
Regarding my SM she was extremely quick to try to be a "mum" figure; buying me things, taking me places, telling me she loved me like a daughter the second time I met her etc, yet I knew that she didn't want me in the picture. After a serious of alienation attempts she made I now don't have any contact with my DF (he was aware of her behaviour but was concerned that as she had put money into home improvements that he would have to pay her money if they split up )
I had friends that had step parents and when I look at the successful ones it seems that the families where the children were free to express themselves about their concerns/issues was a key factor. The ones that wanted to be a "family" very quickly seem more problematic. Also where the parents are civil with each other really seems to help.
My DM has been a SM for 20+ years and in honesty she treated her SC like her own. They don't obviously give her credit for this and I know that that really hurts her, but they have their own mother so I can understand that from their perspective she is an "add-on". In these situations I think it is very important for adults to acknowledge that children can be very complex creatures, everyone says "they are young, they will adapt etc" but I really don't think it is as easy as that, and that isn't necessarily wrong.
I met someone recently who is in her second marriage and has children from both the first and second marriage. She was saying that her ex still comes to their house on christmas/birthdays to see the children (who are nearly adults!) open presents and her ex IL's still come for christmas dinner. Her 2nd DH has accepted that and everyone gets on well for the sake of the children, which she believes has been a fundamental part in her DC accepting her DH2.
Sounds like you were very considerate from a very young age fran. It's a really good point, the step parents who insist very early on that they ARE the inside group as it were. That doesn't allow any room for this to happen naturally, or like you said, for concerns to be raised freely by children and step parents.
We are complex it is true. I did feel that as a child I couldn't express myself freely about my step parents, which definitely delayed any relationship. However I also found to my slight horror and surprise that I couldn't express myself as a step mum too! It was met with a big NO.
Do you think some of this is about control? It's not easy to adapt true, but small steps can mean a lot.
I'm a stepmum and i think I'm a good one. But our setup fits all of your bullet points.
I got a step mother when I was in my teens, and I gave her hell for a while. Now, I'm probably closer to her than my dad and I realise how many sacrifices she made (to her career, social life, etc) to ensure that my dad maintained a relationship with his kids. My dad was always distant, working away etc until he married her (which we resented at first as we thought he loved her more than us so stayed home for her etc etc when in reality she made him see that he needed to be home for us)! She's an amazing mother, and had a really tough time with her step kids and it makes me really sad to think about. Teens are definitely the worst age group to step-parent, because they're already so set in their ways. My step mum gained step 'kids' aged 22,21,20,20,16,13 and 11 (yeah, I know). She was a saint and we all shunned her just for being there and we all feel so guilty now almost 9 years later.
What really helped was my mum's attitude to it all. My step mum was welcomed into our home at Christmas (we've always gone to my grandparents, as in both sets of my grandparents live in the same small village in a different country so my parents grew up together and stayed friends after the divorce which I know is an unusual circumstance), my mum went to coffee with her and invited her to stuff with my aunts and suchlike. Honestly, we only really accepted my step mum when my mum remarried a couple of years later (he bought step siblings with him) and when my step mum and my dad had kids together (the same year my mum remarried).
I become a step mum (officially) in January so we'll see how that goes.
Also fran I have a lot of sympathy for your situation with your DF. I have a particular dislike of anyone being false, and your SM sounds very manipulative. It is interesting that you picked up on this straight away. How awful for you not being able to have a relationship with your DF because of this. Your SM has made you an outsider in your DFs life.
My SM was similar, very OTT and friendly at first. Yet she didn't consider me or my siblings as anything but distant relations to her husband. They had children together, and I also tried to many, many years to form a relationship with. But they have no interest, my siblings are very hurt, but I just try and keep up with my DF. Who regularly talks about his 'children as X, Y' and not us at all!! Yes, definitely outsiders there too.
My step mum gained step 'kids' aged 22,21,20,20,16,13 and 11 (yeah, I know). Wow! That is a lot. I bet she felt like a complete outsider!
She was a saint and we all shunned her just for being there and we all feel so guilty now almost 9 years later. I think it is amazing giff that you are able to feel this, and to change your perspective. It shows so much compassion in you and I would say that your SM is lucky to have you now.
My DS absolutely adores me DH but he has been in his life at the age 2 he's now 8. He has a reasonable relationship with SM but not as close as he is to my DH but he has raised him and sees him daily and he's a boy so they tend to bond over football. I do think age has a lot to do with and teenagers in general can be extremely challenging.no think it's also hard for them to accept their parents relationships break down and new partners being introduced especially when they have memories of their parents beinging together. My DS has no memory of me and his dad together and do think that makes things easier.
I know. I can't believe anyone would take on 7 step-kids, my dad was really lucky to find such a gem. She tried her absolute best every day not to overstep the line of parent/step parent and we all really do appreciate her now, it just took time to adjust. We did gang up on her and I never appreciated how much she must have felt like an outsider until i met my OH and his DC and started being in their lives. I've had an easy ride in comparison.
Perspectives definitely change as you get older and have your own experiences, so you just have to hope that your step children will have similar revelations and begin to appreciate you. It's a hard hard job being a step parent.
As a stepmum myself, I agree with those that have said that it's important to allow time and give and take with the relationship. My stepsons had been brought up by their dad on his own for 10 years before he got together with me, and while I moved into the 'family' home, their mother hadn't lived there for years and we soon moved into our own new house so the territory was fresh for all of us.
I wasn't far off their ages either which could have been very difficult but as it happened was never an issue. My younger DSS has said he feels lucky to have two sets of parents (his mum married the man she left my DH for) and for various reasons neither we nor my DH's XW see the older one much.
I found what helped for us was showing how much I loved their dad first, and not making it obvious that I was including them in things to make an effort, but letting it come naturally and not forcing things. I got pregnant really quickly (within a couple of months of getting together with DH) and it could have made things difficult but neither boy resented their little brother.
I had met both boys before we got together and so we didn't have the awkward situation of him having to introduce me as someone they didn't know.
I just read something on another thread that I feel is really important for the MH of a child and I believe can really help facilitate the bond with a SP. The notion of keeping things "separate" in each household may be desirable for the adults who have moved on but can be very difficult for children. With my DM my DF wasn't really allowed to be mentioned, he wasn't allowed to come up the path to the house and a special ringtone was put on our house phone for his number so that he was kept separate from our lives (DF had never been abusive, my DM had an affair ) Equally he was very much a weekend dad, with his separate life during the week. We didn't have any phone contact with him during the week and I remember him going on holiday and me saying I would phone him and he said not to as it would cost him too much.
I think it is very important that children are allowed to acknowledge the fact that they have another parent and that they aren't expected to compartmentalize their lives in the two houses. Fair enough to have rules/expectations in the houses but to be told "when you are in this house we are your family so no talk of your DF/holidays with DF/presents from DF etc" is very damaging. Some people don't explicitly say it but children infer that message from their behaviour/reaction.
I also agree with other posters that giving children time to adjust to the new situation is also key. I completely cringe when I read posts where the couple want to blend families within months of meeting.
Personally I have found that over analysing doesn't make the situation any clearer - I have tried everything over the past 6 years and have now disengaged from one adult SD as I will not tolerate being treated so awfully by anyone - she does not like me, I do not like her - the fallout for her dad is painful....and i hurt for him.
What strikes me from your list is how it reflects on everyone having to change their ways..but the SM. I think that step families that work best are those when EVERYONE accept that they won't get the perfect family dynamics they aspire to and that includes step-parents.
If it was down to the kids, they would still live with both their parents (or at least without a step-parent).
It is was down to the parent, they would start a new relationship with a partner who feels about their kids exactly the way they do.
If it was down to the SP, their partner and their kids would welcome any change that they would bring into their lives because it is for their own good.
Well adjusted step-families fall somewhere in between with parents making most of the efforts and sacrifices because you can't expect the same emotional maturity from children. Well-adjusted families have given each other plenty of time to make these adjustments and accept that doing so is difficult for everyone.
I would say though that the role my step parents played with my children made me feel closer to them.
This is the first time I read this and I have to say that it was exactly the same with me. I considered my SM as part of my family for the first time in my life when she became my kids' grand mother. Maybe because they came in with no baggage and she didn't consider them a threat to her life, she treated them from the start as her grand-children, with genuine love and affection. My kids grew up knowing nothing else but the generous and kind grandmother that she turned out to be.
Today, I will refer to my dad and her as 'my parents' something I would never ever have done before I had my kids (would have been my dad and my step-mum).
I was going to mention the exact same thing: both DH and I have step parents and our relationships with them as teenagers were variously difficult (far more difficult with step mothers than step fathers), but these step parents are all fantastic grandparents. I think my MIL worries about her role as "real" granny being usurped, and I think I've hurt her feelings by making her aware that my step-MIL has equal granny status (for some reason my own parents seem to manage this jealousy better), but from the grandchildren 's point of view, there are eight fabulous older people in their lives.
My kids SM was great. It probably helped that she knew them from being so young. Proof of that is she and their DF split and both DCs see more of SM than they do of their DF.
I didn't meet DH until my DCs were teens. They do treat him as one of the family - and he was often first to know about what was going on in their lives that I was. (e.g. he kept DD1's tattoo secret for a year before I found out )
I think it helped that XH and I were reasonably amicable. More importantly, there were no other children involved. XH and SM didn't have children, neither did my DH. XH is in another relationship and has recently had another child and I can see the strains that brings.
Yes I think that not having more children helps. One of the reasons I believe my SM wanted us out of the picture was because we were a constant reminder that she would never have children with my DF (who had a vasectomy).
moonlight It's really nice to hear how well your DH gets on with your child, partly perhaps because he was 2 when he met him.
lulu - it's important to allow time and give and take. You do sound like you did give your step kids time and didn't steam in, sounds like that paid off!
fran - children are allowed to acknowledge the fact that they have another parent and that they aren't expected to compartmentalize their lives in the two houses. I find this a tricky one, it's probably a bit of a balance! My step kids were encourage to view both houses as one with no compartmentalisation
swing and sunny that is interesting isn't it, how many people feel more relaxed and a bond to their step parents when they have children themselves. Although this didn't happen with my Step Mum, I think she was cross that my DF was interested in us again! It's a good point about what a step parent themselves can do - I did put a line in the list that a SM should give time, but there's quite a lot of patience and having to be selfless at times. Especially at first, even a very moody child deserves a chance and some compassion. We are taking time and energy away from their parent. At some point though, a little acceptance of a SP is needed though from the children, it is a two way street but probably the initial adjustment should come from a step parent?
Other children can make it clearer that a parent is never going to go back to their originally partner. Although I found for a limited amount of time, having a child with my DP made my DSDs a tiny bit close to me. Didn't last though!
chimp Gosh that is something I also think every time I read and write on these boards. I really have been analysing and over analysing! I doubt the ExW or the DSDs or even DP gives it this much thought! It's not necessarily healthy for me.
I am a happy stepparent, and am pretty sure DSS, DP and DP's ex are all happy as well. We tick all of your boxes, so there is probably something in that. I think also for us the key has been the solid rock that is DP and his ex's enduring friendship and commitment to co parenting, balanced with their commitment to 'new' partners (though neither of us are new anymore) and the fact we all get on and are united in working together to provide consistency and a joined up, supportive atmosphere for DSS. And we are all reasonable, normal people who like each other.
It sounds tough for you OP. How old are your DSC now?
I also think it must be easier for SMs who (like me) don't have or want children, either existing or with new partner. I can imagine how either if those situations really brings out some primitive emotions and raises the stakes and the difficulty level somewhat.
Sterling That is a real tonic, hearing how all parents, step and other can all have a united goal and consistency for the DSS. That's amazing. The children's stability must thrive in that supportive atmosphere.
My DSCs are 16, 19 and 20. I think that me and my children will always be outsiders, despite years of living together. They don't count their half brother as an outsider though, even though they don't see him. Noticeable that he is called brother but their step brother isn't. Blood ties I think.
My DH ex doesn't want me around as I do not follow what she says (I should go to church, never ahave an opinion) and she has actively told DSS not to refer to me as mum whilst telling him to call his SD dad. I don't mind the mum thing but she is so nasty and I just don't get involved anymore.
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