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Is it harder to be a step-parent when you have your own?

(16 Posts)
0MrsP Mon 25-Feb-19 16:33:34

Just interested in people's opinions and experiences really.

I'm a stepmum and have just had my miracle baby after years of trying and being told I'd never be a mum. I keep hearing people say it's harder once you become a parent yourself.. is this true?

My eldest stepchild lives with us and just before and during pregnancy I really struggled with this, not because I don't want them here, but at 15 the standard teenager attitude and problems kicked in and I think it's harder for a step parent to forgive and forget than it is if it's your own child. I always did forgive and forget and put on a brave face but inside I remained angry at why this child who we've given everything to was so ungrateful.

Anyway we're coming out that stage and actually seeing the lovely funny person from before horrible teenager return and things are much happier at home.

My babies only a few months old, does it become harder to be a step parent?

OP’s posts: |
OrdinaryGirl Mon 25-Feb-19 16:58:04

I was a stepmum for 5 years before DS1 was born, and my DSKs were about 7, 14 and 17. They were down every other weekend and we had a lovely relationship with them.
DtwinSs were born 2.5 years after that so it has been quite chaotic, but we have worked hard to make everyone feel included and just as much part of the family as each other.

We have poured love and care and shared special times into our relationships with all the kids, paying particular attention to supporting what they're each doing and remembering important dates etc.

Dtwins are now nearly 3, DS1 is 5.5 and DSKs are 13, 19 and nearly 23. Both the girls have gone down the uni route and left home. My DSS still comes down every other weekend and we see the girls as and when. They're now in the same city as us.

I really couldn't ask for a nicer massive blended family. The boys' siblings dote on them and it has been particularly nice for my DSS who has gone from being a youngest child in a houseful of females who mercilessly exploited his place in the pecking order 😄, to being top dog on his weekends down with us, as the worshipped eldest of 4 boys!

I think it probably makes a difference how many stepkids there are - more than one might be easier because the new baby is still in the minority and there's not that theoretical threat of replacement / cuckoo in the nest type thing.

I really recommend reading The Step-parents' Parachute by Flora MacEvedy. I found it hugely helpful - much more so than the other step-parenting books I read.

My best advice is to play the long game. Think about what relationship you want, what family feel / dynamic you want, and work towards that.

Best of luck OP. 💐

OrdinaryGirl Mon 25-Feb-19 16:58:48

Also, hugest congratulations on your baby! 😃💗

AnneLovesGilbert Mon 25-Feb-19 18:55:31

Congratulations on your baby OP smile

It’s something I’m interested in as I have two DSC and I’m due in a couple of weeks. So far, being pregnant has been a massively positive bonding thing between us and I consider myself very lucky they’re so positive and excited about it. If anything my fear the whole way through is that they only see positives and I’m concerned we’re lobbing a grenade into a settled peaceful unit and they’ll be shocked by the noise and mess and disruption a baby will create because all they’re expecting (despite my gentle warnings over several months!) is a cute cuddly human doll to dress and play with. It’ll be too late by then but at least I’ve tried.

It’s helped that really want a sibling, despise the age gap, but things will inevitably change at least for a while and I’m aware that they’ve had so much more of me because I didn’t have DC of my own than if I did. They’ve had my time and energy and money and time alone with their dad while I’ve had time with the other one, holidays are what they enjoy, things run peacefully and easily and I’m going to have my hands full of newborn shortly and all resources will have to stretch further. I don’t anticipate any one particular thing being harder and we’ve talked a lot about how they’ll still get special time with each of us alone, how there’ll be good and bad bits about the early baby days. I’ve learnt so much from being a step parent I’m intrigued to find out what being a parent is like to one of my own.

A heads up from others who’ve done it would be very helpful if there are obvious pitfalls I haven’t considered!

0MrsP Mon 25-Feb-19 19:52:02

Thanks @OrdinaryGirl that's helpful, I'll look up the book!

There are 3 altogether, 10. 14 and the 15yr old who lives with us.

@AnneLovesGilbert I bet you're so excited to meet your little one, it's surreal, no one can truly prepare you for all those highs and lows and at one time, you just can't comprehend it, but it's amazing!

The kids love the baby, for the first few weeks and now they don't really do much with him. They say hello, may hold him for 2 minutes then get bored.. but babies aren't exciting are they.. I think they expected this really amazing little person and actually he's quite boring to them and not even nearly as exciting as their computers or friends. Which is fine, I'm sure as he becomes more interesting he'll grab their attention again.

I just worry that they may feel he gets all my attention, which he does as he's a quite demanding baby but i think the youngest always does get the most attention, I don't want them to think it's because they aren't mine.

We've had no issues so far, I've continued to treat them as I always have and use the same boundaries and expectations I'll have of my own when he's older.

I just keep being told that it'll be harder to parent them now I have my own, so far I don't understand that.

OP’s posts: |
tisonlymeagain Tue 26-Feb-19 08:56:27

Slightly different situation because I have two children already and my partner has two children so I was already a parent. I don't necessarily think it's harder on a day to day basis but I will straight up say the difference for me is that while they are great kids, I don't love them and I find my patience is probably tested a lot more than by my own kids, because you're a lot more forgiving with your own flesh and blood I think!

0MrsP Tue 26-Feb-19 09:11:08

@tisonlymeagain I think that's the bit people much be referring too! as I said I've struggled a lot with the eldest ones attitude and have often been frustrated with how my husband just says don't do that and all's done and sorted. Whereas I'm still furious thinking how can he let him get away with treating us that way. But I guess as mine gets older I'll probably do the same. He isn't a bad child by any means, just typical teenager but I do think as a step parent it's harder to tolerate. X

OP’s posts: |
0MrsP Tue 26-Feb-19 09:14:09

@tisonlymeagain I just reread that you say you don't love them, it made me think that I've actually always struggled with that too.. I care deeply, I treat them with respect and plan for their futures (savings etc) but I've never actually asked myself do I love them.. I always found it awkward when they said it to me. X

OP’s posts: |
tisonlymeagain Tue 26-Feb-19 09:37:28

@0MrsP Yeah, in the scheme of things I haven't known them that long. I do absolutely care for them, and I try not to treat them any differently to my own but I certainly don't feel the same emotion towards them. Who knows though, it's relatively early days, things might change.

Magda72 Tue 26-Feb-19 11:30:47

I'm in the same situation as @tisonlymeagain & I would agree with what she says. I will never feel for my partners kids, anything close to how I feel about my own & while that's perfectly natural, it's something that you're almost not allowed to say & if you do you're deemed an awful unloving person. I think the fact there's so much stigma & expectation around stepparents actually makes stepparenting soooo much harder.
I sort of feel if society let us be honest about our feelings then communication between all members of blended families would be so much easier & less like treading on eggshells.

Bananasinpyjamas11 Wed 27-Feb-19 12:35:02

A level of honesty is good, step kids won’t love you like your parents and vice versa, usually. A level of naturalness is a good indicator, do you feel natural around your DSCs, and do they around you? That can only come from respect on both sides, I believe, and a bit of adjusting and making mistakes, on both sides.

Babies can be very bonding, if you are accepted too.

Anuta77 Wed 27-Feb-19 17:36:20

I guess, it depends on each family's situation and personality of each person (kids, father, SM).

I had a baby when my first son was almost 10, so it's almost like having your first child, because the feelings you have for a helpless baby are not the same as you do for older children. At that age, they have many annoying behaviours and might not be nice with you, unless a baby who seems always happy to be with you.

My SD is only 1 year older than my son and used to have really sweet personality when I met her at 7. I used to feel lucky to have her. She played so well with my son and it felt like we were a family. I would take care of her the same way as my son. She was with us EOW and 50% in the summer. Whatever annoying behaviours she had (just like my own son) would be fast forgiven.
When I got pregnant she was already 10 and was happy about it, I was still feeling good even though it was really irritating when she would strongly shake my belly or greet me with "Hi, big belly". When the baby was born, things started slowly changing and I don't know whether it came from me, from her or both. I'm a pretty protective mother, but I don't remember preventing her from playing with him, as long as it was soft (she has trouble controlling her reflexes and compared to boys, plays pretty rough with him even now). At some point, I noticed that she got overinvolved (giving me "advice", telling me what to do with him, getting him out of my arms, doing with him what I specifically asked not to do). Even telling me that it was her baby not mine. I was making huge efforts to be patient, but my irritation just grew and grew. She would just then go home and I would stay with this feeling. My son also did things I didn't like, but I don't retain myself with him as much, because he's my son and it's my job to teach him. AND the irritation is compensated with other nice moments, with "i love yous", etc. SD stopped being affectionate with me really, it went all to the baby. She also asked my DP several times to bring the baby to her mother (who have seen him 3 times), but she wanted more. So I felt that somehow SD was trying to bring my baby closer to her mother, so my link to him bothered her and she's a girl who seems very close to her mother (even sleeps with her at 12), so she could understand. She also started being disrespectful and even told me and my son in different moments that she would forget about us if/when I break up with her dad. And we never had a fight, it was just comments here and there.

So all this to say that in my case, being a SM became much harder. I felt like I wasn't important to her despite affection and care of the previous years and that removed my motivation about her. I still do what's right, but inside me I know that nothing replaces your own children. No matter what hurtful thing my own son can say in a heat of the moment, I know that he loves me. With SD, I don't know. I actually have no idea what she feels for me at this point. My son is 17 months now, SD stopped being openly disrespectful (I think because my DP finally talked to her), but inside me, I still can't get over her behaviour....

Bananasinpyjamas11 Thu 28-Feb-19 08:58:10

@anuta that’s a very honest account. Sad too as you obviously had a bond which has now gone. There is a loss there. I do think at the heart of many of these strains in relationships are loyalty and roles. The SM role is not well defined, there is competition and the loyalty is not there.

With girl step kids especially, I’ve seen many posts about DSDs having difficulties accepting a SM when they get to teenagehood. It’s like as they become a woman themselves, they jostle for top place in the house. There is a hierarchy, there just is, and that seems hard to accept as step daughter.

I know I had this too with live in DSD. She was 13 when I had a baby with her father. There were always problems tbh, she had moved in with us as her Mum couldn’t cope with her. However after the baby she became pretty unbearable. Constantly trying to be mother, criticising my parenting, being very bossy and domineering. Daily life could be a battle and both me and DP often found ourselves saying ‘you are not the parent here’. Once she had a huge go at me at the dinner table as I had to go out and had asked DP to mind the baby. She was actually shaking with anger that I had not asked her instead. Except when I did gently give her some time and responsibility with the baby, she’d do dangerous things like leave the stair gate open, not realise the baby was crying, and panic.

I guess that is what I was saying about feeling natural. I felt like I could not naturally just tackle DSDs conflict towards me, as every time I did, she would react intensely, meaning a relatively small thing like not wanting her to babysit became huge. There were too many back issues at play I think, it wasn’t as straight forward as it would have been if she were my own daughter. I don’t think it was a lack of wanting to bond on my part, in fact I think I would have done a lot just to have some feeling of closeness with my step daughter. I genuinely don’t ever think she took my position or role seriously as the female adult in the house, the female parent and the female partner of her Dad. That was okayish for her before I had a baby, but when I did she could not cope with me being the one main person making the decisions about the child. I think all I was in her head was a background add on, not in any way a figure who was in charge of bringing up kids, who had priority say in the house on the baby. It became as if she felt she was the female adult and I was just a lesser player.

user1493413286 Fri 01-Mar-19 20:14:14

I wouldn’t say it gets harder after having my own DD but I did understand much better that how I feel about DSD is different to DD. Maybe if she lived with us full time it’d be different too though.
I do have to be careful to make sure DD feels very involved and loved still though as it can be easier to end up focusing on a younger child.
I’m definitely better now at understanding how hard DH finds it all though.

Iseewhatyoumeanthistime Fri 01-Mar-19 20:49:22

My SC are high school pre teenage, my own 2 are 6 and 4, one of my SC interacts a lot more and plays with my own DC. But at times they do all play together. It's good of my SC to interact given the age difference. Its difficult to find things/activities for them all to enjoy.
They have said to DH in the past that I don't spend as much time with them as before my own DC arrived. We have explained there are 2 other children that need looking after and I am splitting my time between 4 kids, (they don't live with us) no I haven't sat and watched films with them as much but mainly because I am tidying up the house, making dinner or getting 2 DC ready for bed, but also they've grown up and their tastes have changed. They spend their time glued to devices.
My problem has always been that my SC have no rules or discipline at their mums. They think the same applies in our home it certainly does not. My own 2 like to try and copy their attitude and resentment at being asked to help with anything but they do not get away with it.
I agree with PPs, I care very much for my SC, would never ever want to see them upset or anything, I look after them, respect them (although I can say that is not entirely reciprocated), i treat all kids fairly, but I don't love them. But I think that's ok, their parents love them, their mum has a partner, I don't know how he feels, but these kids have 4 adults looking out for them. 2 make the decisions but everybody cares for them.
Some things are harder to parent than others, unfortunately my SC believe that we as a 4 are not allowed to go anywhere without them, and I mean things like to soft play, to the park, to just decide were going out for tea tonight. Anything we do causes issues and yes we do plenty together and DH does things with just them, mainly because of the age difference. I find it upsetting that they can go here, there and everywhere, yet they literally expect my 2 to sit in the house all the time hmm
So I think some things are harder than others.

overjoyedmumma Sun 03-Mar-19 15:35:56

Have been a step parent to my partners 3 girls for the last 3 years, I’ve always worked really hard to have a good relationship with them, and now we share a 7 month old DD. In short, I think it does make it harder but that might just be my situation. Their mother has done everything that she can to try to convince the children that our baby isn’t their family, and that their dad and myself won’t love them anymore. Their attitudes and carelessness with our baby have contributed massively to my feelings. I love my stepdaughters unconditionally, but the dynamic for my personal situation has definitely changed massively since having my own daughter.

Congratulations on your little one! I hope your situation/transitition is much smoother and more positive than mine.

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