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Any childless stepmums?

(33 Posts)
saysa Fri 22-Nov-13 15:18:03

By childless stepmums, I mean no biological children!

My partner has 3 young children, and he is the sole parent as their mother died last year. I have known my partner since before the death of his wife, and love him to pieces. I completely accept that if we are going to work, I need to embrace these children, who have made wonderful progress but at times are still so sad, and of course miss their mummy so much.

I began seeing the children last year, and all was fine, I genuinely thought I could do it and one day we could all be a family. But we went away for 2 weeks on holiday, and I found it so difficult. I was used to the children going to school / preschool in the day, then being around for 4 or so hours until it was their bedtime. But the reality of 3 young children 24/7, being isolated in the countryside of France, and with no babysitters or quality time with my partner... I struggled, I feel so sorry for my partner because I was so upset with the situation, and he was stuck in the middle.

Since then I have seriously been questioning whether I can cope with the life my partner is offering me. I realise there are 3 very fragile children involved here, and that my partner and I can't just amble on aimlessly, and that I can't have an on-off relationship with the children. We are long distance, which doesn't help, and I have little time to even see my partner let alone time for him and the children too.

The main struggle for me is - I really really miss my partner. I feel so sad to think that we won't ever have time to just be us, and I think that affects how I feel about spending time with him and the children. Given the choice, I would always rather see my partner alone than see the children as well. And I think largely this is because we are long distance, and I only get 2 nights with him once a fortnight. I feel like I am mourning the loss of a stage in our relationship that we will never had - the stage where you are just a 2, before you decide you want children.

I am wondering if and how I can get to the stage where I feel just as happy to spend time with him and the children. I know we can't move forward if I am always secretly longing for the children's bedtimes. I also know that I will be their only mother figure (if ever we move in together) and that they will need to feel completely cared for and loved by me. That is what they need, that is what my partner needs for his kids, and that is what I would want if they were mine.

So - basically looking for tips and advice. I am not ready to walk away from the situation yet, but I know that ultimately I have to find a way to accept and be happy with it, or let my partner find someone new.

Please - I really don't want to be berated for struggling. I don't hate the children, I don't want them to disappear, I am so sad for them and for my partner and frustrated for feeling this way, for not being able to slot into this life easily. I want us to be a happy family and am trying to find ways to get there.

TheMumsRush Fri 22-Nov-13 16:16:46

Op you sound lovely, this is a very sad situation. And I really feel for those kids. Being a step mum is one of the toughest things I've ever done, I still struggle 5 years down the line. Only have the kids eow and know for a fact a couldn't cope with it full time. This is going to be a very hard decision for you. I really don't know what to suggest but I'm sure some of the SM on here who have their sc full time will be along with more practical advice. I wish you luck thanks

Petal02 Fri 22-Nov-13 17:47:10

That's such a sad story. I don't have children, and struggled immensely for the 7 years when we had DSS EOW. I confess I couldn't have coped with one full time step child, let alone three, especially when there's been such a huge loss.

There are some fab posters here who should be able to give you sound advice.

Eliza22 Fri 22-Nov-13 18:18:49

I think you're amazing, really I do. Think about it, this is not a situation you would seek to find and yet, here you are. You may find over time, that you develop affection for these children who have had such a sad time, as has your partner. It won't come all at once. Why on earth should it? The long distance thing can be good in giving you perspective and allowing you to work out exactly whether this is do-able for you, or not. You sound lovely and like you want to make it work but I think, personally that it is a very big ask! You don't mention your ages. The thing is that this man has three kids who are at a vulnerable stage and they MUST be his priority. Can you subjugate your own needs and hopes for this "ready made" situation? Only you know. thanks

daftgeranium Fri 22-Nov-13 20:27:24

OP - offering you bags of support - you have just described in a nutshell how many of us feel when we are getting together with a guy who has kids - grieving the time we should have had alone with him, let alone all the grief and baggage you must be carrying because of your circumstances.

My advice is: talk to him. Not to create more problems or make things more difficult for him, but to tell him how you feel, gently. And offer a solution: is there any way you two can carve out some kid-less time, once in a while, so that you can just be together the two of you? are there grandparents who can help occasionally? I feel that your relationship deserves a chance, as much as you can give it within the circumstances. If you can work at it together, it will feel that much less lonely for you, and he will feel that he has your support.

Lookingforthebrightside Fri 22-Nov-13 21:09:23

OP, I was you 10 yrs ago. I was 26 and childless and met a man who had been widowed 18mth earlier and had 2 kids aged 2/12 and 4.
I became involved with the DC much earlier than I wanted and in fact was introduced to them by him way before I was comfortable. Which I now see I should have heeded as warning sign. The DC were mainly being cared for by both sets of GP's so he could continue to work, in fact all he did was bedtime during the week and had his weekend nights free.
It was all very chaotic with GP's handling the DC very different ways.

To cut a long story short I moved in 6mths later and married him 14mths after meeting him and took on full time care of those DC. We then went on to have 2 DC together so I am now a mum of 4 great kids. However we are now in the midst of divorce.

The main reasons being that he effectively treated me like an unpaid nanny, but had little involvement and gave little support to me in raising the kids. But I also found myself resenting the fact that by marrying him I was robbed of sharing 'first' experiences with him ie he had already been married, had a baby so was old hat and thus very unenthusiastic about my new experiences. I would say that his emotional distance is very much specific to him as a character not just because he was widowed. Whilst I certainly didn't want him to put me on a pedestal and be forever grateful to me I did feel he never appreciated how much of a commitment for me it was taking on two kids as my own.

I have a fantastic relationship with my two older DC (I never refer to them as step children as I have been there mom for 10 years) and in fact they so far have chosen to remain with me since the split.

I often think that if I had my time again I would steer well clear, mainly because my XDH is a truly difficult person but also because having been involved with the kids from early on our life was generally more regimented and not at all care free and focused on the kids and their needs/ well being which left little time for fun and bonding as a couple. Being widowed meant there was very little respite but also two sets of in laws on his side to deal with plus my parents as well.

I think that if we had been able to spend a significant amount of time together minus DC just being a normal carefree couple I would have picked up on our incompatibility a lot sooner and most likely wouldn't have stayed with him for that long let alone married him. But as it was I think looking after the DC was the glue that kept us together and hid the flaws in our relationship because we were so focused on them ( well I certainly was, him not much so!)

Anyway sorry for the long rant. From my experience it is very hard and your feelings of resentment are perfectly normal. It is absolutely fine to want time on your own with your DP in fact I would go so far to say that it is vital and he does need to make time away from the DC to spend exclusively with you. Even if it just going for a coffee together.

Take it slowly and don't take on too much responsibility for the kids too soon. Accept they will always be his priority but you don't have to make them your priority just yet.

Good luck and pm me anytime.

eslteacher Fri 22-Nov-13 21:12:59

OP, the last thing I would ever do is berate you. You are in an incredibly difficult position. I think you are realising that the fact that you are long distance is shielding you somewhat from the reality of the situation (that you then discovered on holiday), but then again you can't move in together and discover the true, permanent reality of the situation until you are ready to commit. It's a vicious circle, and the reason I HATE when people berate stepmothers with the old 'well you knew what you were getting into...' line. Impossible to know beforehand!

I am a childless stepparent. I was in my twenties when I met DP with his 4 year old child.

The truth is, I have only had to deal with one stepchild, who is with us every other weekend plus extra in the holidays. Absolutely no problems with the ex, no behavioural problems, everything simple.

And yet still, I have questioned whether I can do it. For some of the reasons you've talked about, and more.

If it had been THREE stepchildren, FULL TIME, probably damaged from their mother's death, with no mother of their own...honestly, there's no way I would have been able to take that on. Absolutely no way. DP is the only man I have ever loved, but I know without a doubt I would have had to walk away in that situation. I am simply not ready for it, and I couldn't have coped. I applaud you for even being able to think you might be able to do it, but unfortunately I have no advice for you. I really hope you do find some good advice here though.

GiveItYourBestFucker Fri 22-Nov-13 23:41:11

OP, my partner is a widower with older children. We are LDR, like you. I have no children. When he and one teenager and I went on holiday I found it so, so difficult, and he didn't really understand why. We had a big row. I would suggest just taking it slowly and not judging or being harsh on yourself. It is bloody difficult! PS I think maybe lots of mums secretly wish for bedtime too.

moreyear Sat 23-Nov-13 23:42:04

I was a childless full-time stepmother for 6 years as DP had sole custody of SD, and we were long distance to start with too. ( Though we now have two children together as well)

It was absolutely, without doubt the hardest thing I ever did in my life. You do miss out, you are cheated out of the romantic part of a relationship. And in all honesty 9 years later I am still a little sad and resentful of it (if I stop to think about it). It certainly means there are no shared bonds and memories of you as a couple to fall back on when times are tough.

In some ways being a full-time SM is easier because you have to accept from the outset - this is it, this is my life, this is our family. It is the norm - you don't spend your weekends or holidays thinking the children will be going home to their Mum soon. They are with you 24/7 - it's all you know. That high and low trough some StepParents live with of anticipating arrivals and departures isn't there.

But there are obvious difficulties - no time off, no time as a couple, people feel they can judge you and your actions without stopping to think that you are a person with needs caught in the middle of this too.

Finding someone or somewhere you can discuss your feelings about your situation with support and empathy is incredibly important. Almost all scenarios will focus on the children and their needs - if you are to get through this you will need an outlet that will let you focus on what you are feeling/thinking. Even if you think your feelings are 'bad', even if others (who have never gone through anything like it) would judge you. Most likely that place will be on the internet, with anonymous strangers who are going through what you are going through. They are really the only ones who understand the pressures and stresses, the sadness and bewilderment of being a childless stepmother.

I had one SD, who was just preteen when we got together so I knew that the day to day realities of step parenting had an end for me in 10 or so years. I don't know that I could have done it without that knowledge or with 3 children. That is really, really daunting.

On a practical level I would advice you not to shift in together for a long, long time even if you move closer to each other. You need to know in your heart whether or not you want children of your own and what your partner feels about that. These need to be decided upfront.

Those things you are feeling don't go away though they may become minimised and you can learn to live with them. But entering a relationship as childless step mum does come at a cost and I think it is far kinder to yourself to acknowledge that and let yourself mourn it and see if you can work around it than pretend that loss doesn't exist.

Goodluck xx

saysa Sun 24-Nov-13 17:18:15

Firstly - thank you, everyone. I am so touched by your responses, I have a lot of guilt and sadness about my feelings and don't really have anyone to talk to about it, besides my partner who can only try his best to understand.

TheMumsRush - thank you, not feeling very lovely at times! Obviously my partner and his children have been through a lot, and sometimes it feels like I'm just making things harder. How pitiful I sound smile

Petal02 - thank you, the fact that the children are so young and that there are 3 of them very close in age is extremely daunting. I never even had much to do with children before I met my partner (since being one myself, that is...)

Eliza - thank you, I really really hope that I do. Completely forgot our ages - I'm 25, partner is 39. You are right about asking whether I can sacrifice my own hopes and dreams - lots of things that I took for granted, like living with a partner for a while before becoming a family, having a choice in how big a family we wanted, being free to move house if we wanted or live abroad... as much as I want a future with this man, it's hard to picture as it will be so far removed from anything I ever anticipated for myself.

daftgeranium - thanks, so glad others feel the same way. I have told my partner how I feel about us having missed a stage in our relationship, and feeling sad about that. He tried to say that we would have time alone together in the evenings, but I pointed out that the children won't be going to bed at 7.30pm forever! And then he agreed that yes, the expectation would be that evenings would be spent together as a family. His parents and sister are supportive, and they provide the childcare every other weekend, but it is a big ask of them to look after 3 small children so often, and considering how long we will likely be long distance for, the frequency might have to be cut down.

Lookingforthebrightside - thank you, sounds like we found ourselves in a similar situation. I'm sorry to hear how it ended for you, but quite a testimony to you and the children that you have such a good relationship. I'm studying at university at the moment, and will be for another 2 and a half years - my aim is to work afterwards, and my partner is agreed that childcare would largely be down to him, in terms of the day to day school runs and so on. He has no expectations on me in terms of looking after the children, apart from to be caring and loving and for us to be a happy family. If only it were that easy!

riverboat - thanks, you hit the nail on the head with the vicious circle comment. That is exactly how it feels, and when my partner and I discuss the situation, we just go round and round. Ideally, I would be nearer, and would be able to pop in for a few hours / the odd evening, to get a better feel for the situation. As it is, it's hard to know how we will ever feel secure that it can work. Sometimes I think I should walk away, when I feel sad about the long distance, scared about potential future step children, when my partner is sad because of me - but I always come back to the fact that I love him more than I have ever loved anyone, and that if it were just the two of us I genuinely believe we would have a very happy relationship. Hard to walk away from that. sad

GiveItYourBestFucker - thank you, so you've been in the holiday situation too! I have never felt so isolated, frustrated, bored, scared... my poor partner, part of me wishes I could have kept a bottle on my feelings until we got home but I was so devastated to suddenly feel like I was out of my depth. I'm sure a lot of mums do wish for bedtime, I know my partner is glad to have time to himself.

moreyear - thanks, that is exactly what I miss / think I will miss - memories of that time before you had children. We are going on holiday together in a couple of weeks - it will be the longest time we have ever had alone together, so might be a bit strange! We try to do nice things and build some nice experiences together, but to be honest a lot of what I miss already is just the day to day things. Coming home to your other half, having dinner together (uninterrupted dinner), lie ins at the weekend... so much so that lately, on our weekends together, I have preferred just being at home to going out and doing anything - just that little bit of domesticity is what I miss! Not so good for building memories together though...

I'd like to say again that I really am grateful for all of the comments. I've had a lot of sleepless nights over this, and realise that there no real answers, but it has helped immensely to hear your thoughts.

copcake Thu 28-Nov-13 10:08:59

Hiya -

I think you're taking it for granted that you'll have to be their mother figure and take on a very serious role in the household. Perhaps you would eventually, and of course if you move in together, but for now your DP is entitled to be in a relationship and there's no reason you can't do it like any other relationship would be. It is possible to carve out that special time for you two, and also it's normal to be wondering if you're in it for the long term or not and waiting to see -- all relationships are like that at the start!

If he wasn't with you he would still need to date someone else before a longer term relationship started.

I think you should keep in mind (and phrase it to him) that you want to take things slowly. Then also suggest that he get a babysitter for one of the nights you see him each month. This isn't selfish at all: if there's any man who sounds like he deserves to be bought a drink, have an adult conversation and a kiss on the way home it's that man!!

saysa Thu 28-Nov-13 15:15:41

Hi copcake

I see what you're saying, and we are quite fortunate in the amount of time that we get to spend without the children. I have been pushing for that a lot more since our failed summer holiday, mostly because I'm so scared of the whole thing at the moment, and am probably avoiding the reality by just spending time with DP.

If it were just him and me, I wouldn't have any particular qualms about the future. I am extremely happy and settled as a 2-some. But I have had such negative feelings about the future with the children lately, that I don't want to just amble on and pretend everything is fine, then freak out and leave 2 years down the line. I've read a lot of posts on here from stepparents in varying situations, and it seems that the feelings that I have now don't really go away. Right now I just feel like I'm never going to be able to cope with the inevitable future situation, as much as I want to be fine with it.

And yes he does deserve all of those things smile

AlyssB Sat 30-Nov-13 16:07:33

Hi OP. I'm childless and am a step mum to a seven year old girl. We have her every weekend, and have done since she was three. I was 23 when we got together and my god it was difficult. We went on holiday the three of us after around a year and I was bloody miserable, having a four year old all week abroad. I have never been so board & fed up, and it came as a shock that this was our holiday, not mine.

I really struggled to share my DP blush. I kept telling myself I wouldn't want to be with a man that didn't put his child first, but I very much felt second best and pushed out. She wouldn't cuddle me or c

AlyssB Sat 30-Nov-13 16:14:33

(Posted too soon) or come near me, interrupted all our conversations, stuck herself in between us on the sofa and it made me really sad and upset.

We moved in together after about 18 months and time has changed so much. In fact DP has gone out & me and DSD are about to settle down for snuggles and a film together for a girly night!

It's still not always easy, and sometimes I still feel on the outside, but things have got better, because DP is worth it. I'd rather have both of them than neither.

You have plenty of time to work things out for yourself, and it really does get better & easier. There will always be something to make things hard, but I think that's the same for all relationships, and it's worth working on for the right person. No one is making you make a decision now, just see how it goes, and do feel free to PM me if you want to talk smile

nkf Sat 30-Nov-13 16:22:35

Are you very keen on him? I don't feel that you owe it to him to marry him or live with him. If you don't like it and it's not what you feel you can cope with, then I think it's okay not to go ahead with the relationship. But if you do go ahead, then try to embrace it and make it work. Think of France as a taster of what your life with him/them would be like.

All mothers long for bedtime. We live for it. But we love our own children so much that the utter exhaustion and annoyance and lack of privacy and money is bearable. Without that intense love, I don't know how anyone would put up with it.

It's okay to choose an easier path.

tinkertaylor1 Sat 30-Nov-13 16:31:34

op you sound lovely!

Not much to add to the sound advice above but I wish you luck in what ever you decide.

What wonderful support from MN .

nkf Sat 30-Nov-13 16:35:23

Goodness. I just read that you are 14 years younger than him and only 25. He's a lucky man to have you even consider it. You are so young, so wonderfully young. At your age, I wouldn't have done it. And I wouldn't want my daughter at the age of 25 to do it.

fackinell Sat 30-Nov-13 17:12:45

Hi Saysa, I am a non parent SM to be and my DSD was 14 when I met her. We have t always had it easy, there was a lot of adjusting to be done on both sides, but I can honestly say we got there and I thinks she fantastic.

Perhaps your holiday wasn't the disaster you think, can you try seeing it as a building of relationships exercise instead? If be shocked if it had went swimmingly tbh. I second the babysitter for one of your nights.

Do you see yourself having your own child with your DP? (We lost two but still trying.) You have a great head start in knowing what an amazing Dad he is already. Your DSC will grow up with you as a role model, you sound like a very caring person with a lot to offer them.
Any chance you could try a little one to one time with each of them? Playing Lego or drawing for example. I'm a great believer in fake it till you make it and shared experiences speed that process up.

He sounds like a keeper but in the end only you know of you can make this commitment. It must have been so tough for all of them, sounds like he's doing a great job.

wishing you luck. smile

saysa Sat 30-Nov-13 18:12:14

Hi everyone - thanks for the replies. My head's going round with it all at the moment. We are going on holiday (just the 2 of us) next week and I'm trying to forget all the troubles and just enjoy it, without starting any conversations about the future... think we both deserve time where we can have fun and leave our difficulties to when we get home!

Hi AlyssB - I know what you mean about it being hard to share, which is ridiculous because the children were very much there first, and will always come first! When they are all cuddled up on the sofa together, with no room for me - can feel a bit like being left out. But the children have generally been accepting and affectionate towards me. The eldest one is desperate for a new mummy, gives me cuddles and kisses, and asks if me and her Daddy are going to get married. It's hard - I don't want to get their hopes up (not that I'm much of a catch in the stepmother department) but don't want to rebuke their affections, and there are times when I really just want my DP's affections instead! Well done to you for making it work, like the sound of the girly night smile

nkf - unfortunately yes, rather fond! Aw I shouldn't say unfortunately. I don't feel obliged at all - I just want to give it a fair shot, which I don't feel I have at the moment. France was a taster but I think (perhaps naively) that it wasn't very realistic to how our day-to-day life together will be. I was literally stuck there - couldn't drive the car, couldn't go out unless it was with DP and kids, no school for the kids or work for me... But it's quite hard to gauge how day-to-day life will be because of the long distance and lack of free time to spend any significant amount of time with him and the kids. And as for being 25 - my mother isn't too thrilled at the prospect either, bless her.

tinkertaylor1 - thank you, indeed wonderful support. Never posted on a forum like this before, and did expect to be flamed a bit - a widower, 3 grieving young children, and me moaning and saying it's hard for me!

Hi fackinell - lovely to hear you think your SD is fantastic. Although I never really wanted such a big family, I don't want to miss out on the experience of having my own children because DP already has 3, so yes. And DP wants it too (one day, vasectomy reversal depending). Doing things with them one-on-one is a good idea, 3 is very daunting at times as they all want the one-on-one attention. I feel like I was getting somewhere with the children, but then post-France I haven't seen them a lot and I have visions of turning up soon and being back to square one because I haven't been around as much as I used to be. But I haven't got much time at the moment to dedicate to them. It's all a bit catch-22.

Thanks again everyone, so appreciative.

fackinell Sat 30-Nov-13 18:38:46

Enjoy your holiday. It'll be lovely to be a proper couple for you both. smile

saysa Sat 30-Nov-13 19:38:15

Thank you! thanks

tessa6 Mon 02-Dec-13 17:03:52

Have a lovely time, saysa. 25 is so so young. Please don't settle for something that's not right for you, if your core tells you that's the case eventually. Take your time working it out but it's harder to extricate yourself way down the line.

saysa Tue 03-Dec-13 12:22:11

Thanks Tessa!

Mimishimi Tue 17-Dec-13 08:09:48

OP, I can't really see a resolution to the things you say that you want more of from the relationship. He simply can't give you the long periods of time for the two of you just to be a couple nor should he feel pressured to. It goes around in circles because what can he be expected to do (beyond the occasional babysitter etc)? I do feel though that you have a very idealised notion of what couplehood would be like without the children and that it would be equally shattered even if he didn't have (and never had) the girls and the two of you went on to have children. It would be best to walk away now rather than commit yourself to a life you don't want to lead because he has to put them first (not all the time but when it comes to their care).

cappy123 Wed 18-Dec-13 23:35:12

Hey sayas

Childless SM right now of DSD (13yo). DH was lone parent so DSD lives full time with us. We were long distance too. If any slight thing was different about our relationship (toxic mother, more kids on either side etc) I don't believe we would work.

I feel quite privileged to be married to someone whose child is blossoming thanks to her parents work (and my contribution). It makes my life easier and it's great to know DSD will learn about marriage from us (her parents didn't marry or live together). Lord help her - it's still early days! :-)

But it's a challenge!
- all healthy relationships need you to be a fulfilled person first, someone else cannot fulfil you, esp if they have pre-existing responsibilities to kids
- don't ignore poor behaviour from your partner or make excuses for him
- you need a thick skin, it'll get emotional confused
- 'mum' will still be around
- never underestimate what the kids are going through
- read good stepparenting books. I found The Smart Step Family good (don't let the faith aspect put you off - it's not preachy and still relevant)
- do not move your relationship too fast. We extended our wedding date 3 times despite our DSD wanting us to marry about a year earlier.
- relationship dynamics can change in any direction over the years - prepare yourself
- keep in mind many biological families go through some things step families do - rest assured it's not just about being a 'step.'

Hope that helps!

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