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Struggling to Step-parent his five kids and my biological son

Megantron22's picture

I hope that I can obtain some useful tips because I do not know what else to do. My future marriage depends on a solution. My fiance and I have been together over 5 years. We are both divorced, he has five children from his previous marriage and I have one. He is 40 years old and I am 30. His children are 18m, 16f, 14f, 9f twins and my son is 6. I have an extensive background in child development, it is actually my profession. He is in IT. His ex-wife after 15 years of marraige decided she was gay and has remarried. We share his children 50/50 although the children openly admit they prefer to be with their dad because he was always more stable and put them first. My ex-husband has never been apart of the picture. My son has no idea who he is and has been referring to my fiance as dad since he was 2.

All of his children have been accepting of me for the most part except for his eldest daughter (16). She hated her mother and grew to have a distaste for females in general. She is your typical "mean girl". She is judgemental and insults people openly, including myself. She is attached to her dads hip and it is very obvious that they have an unhealthy emotional dependence on each other. My fiance is clearly afraid to lose the "hero" status with his children, so he rarely says no. The kids for the most part are great. They all try hard in school and stay out of trouble. My son has some hyperactivity, some people say that is because of his age. I was diagnosed with adult ADHD and would not be surprised if he had some sort of mental illness as I struggle from severe anxiety as well.

ALL of that being said (i feel background is important) my fiance and I will never argue about anything, EXCEPT for the children. We both confront each other as gently as we feel we can about an issue with the other's child. No matter how we approach it, we always seem to get defensive and then fight about it. The same fight will come back. I have tried to explain that I think he should take my view more seriously because I am not biologically connected. He strongly believes that he has mastered parenting when it comes to his children. He says he knows how he has to deal with them in order for things to turn out okay. I can tell you now, that is not the case. He is a pushover (i think due to the divorce) and he does not like to give away control.

One of the biggest problems is that my son did not have another parent so my fiance became his father figure. I told him I wanted him to treat him like his own child because I want my son to have a father. So my fiance will discipline my son when necessary and sometimes I feel he is too harsh. When I tell him I think he is being to harsh, he again gets defensive and says "fine I wont help, you can do it". I think my son gets confused because i DO NOT discipline his children. I feel it is not my place (unless it is severe) and I feel my relationships with his children are fragile. They tend to hold me to a high standard and when I do not reach that, it feels like they turn up their nose. All of his children are obsessed with him and he wants them to be. One of his daughters is reaching her teen years and has made healthy seperation from spending time with us and spends more time with her friends. When noticing she would rather hang out with friends, he immediately assumed something was wrong with her and he needs to spend more alone time with her. I assured him she is just being a teenager. His older daughter (who has an unhealthy bond) wont leave his side and he has come to assume that all of his children need to have that attachement.

It is very clear to me that he treats my son much differently than his own children. He will make excuses as to why but they never sit well with me. I try to tell him to put his own child in that same situation and then make a decision but it doesnt work.

Here is a petty example: My son will take a shower and will dilly dally unless told to hurry up. My fiance expects him to get in and out in under 10 minutes. Which is totally fine with me BUT when his 9-year-old twins take showers they get 30 minutes. When i confronted him about it, he said they need more time, I asked why because they all have the same shower routine. The girls might need a couple minutes more but thats it. He gets mad at my son for taking a while and will go into the bathroom and turn off the water. When his girls are taking too long he gently knocks on the door and says "are you almost finished?" and then will allow them 10-20 more minutes.

There are a lot of instances like that where he has an expectation for my son that he does not have for his own children. I know that it is irrational to think that we can apply the same rules to all of them. They are at different stages of their development, different genders, and personalities.

I think the part that has brought me to find unbiased help is that I HATE fighting with my fiance over this. I honestly take a step back and try to see it from his persepctive and try to justify his point of view. At the end of the day I cant justify his treatment of my son at times. My son is the only one I have and the only one I will ever have because we have decided to not have anymore children. I do not want him to grow up thinking he is any less than my fiance's children.

any advice would be so appreciated, I can give more details if they are needed. I dont know what else to do and I know if we cant stop fighting over the children, we will not make it.


sunshinex's picture

You wanted your son to have a father, which is understandable, but you cannot fault someone for not having the same connection or bond with unrelated children as they do their own children. It's very, very, very likely your husband has unconditional love for his own kids but doesn't have unconditional love for your son. There is nothing wrong with this per say, but the rules need to apply to everyone. 

I think it is so important for all adults involved in step-family situations to be self-aware. He needs to recognize he is treating them differently and act accordingly to fix it. The relationship between him and your son may not be the same, but the parenting does need to be the same. Rules don't bend for his kids. This is your primary point to bring up. 

Don't attack him with "you don't love my son" or "you love your kids more" because that's absolutely true, and being backed into a corner about something biologically normal tends to make us stepparents feel defensive. Can you two sit down and create rules that apply to all kids - in an age-appropriate way of course. Then stick to them. 

When I'm parenting my stepdaughter, I often have to remind myself "what would I say/do if it was my own son?" and usually, my method of parenting or consequences changes a bit. This is normal, too. It's biologically normal to go easier on your own kids. It's biologically normal to be less annoyed/frustrated with your own kids. But this is where self-awareness is so important. 

A lot of rules we had set for my 7 year old stepdaughter have slowly started changing since I had my own son 15 months ago. Why? Because I know I won't be able to uphold those same rules to him when he's older. It sounds awful, but I was much harder on SD than I'd ever be able to be on my own son. 

My DH and I talked it over and made some changes to the rules. He didn't mind my honesty when I told him I felt I was harder on her because she wasn't biologically mine and it's easier to get annoyed with her. He understands the stepfamily dynamic and works with me to help me stay sane and be a better stepmom every day. 

ETA: I also suggest sitting down as a couple and deciding what areas you will allow discrepancies between bio and non bio kids. For example, in my family, rules, treatment, and money spent on gifts/college savings are the same for both. The only area we allow discrepancies is privacy boundaries. Ex. my son can be in the room when I'm changing/taking a bath, SD cannot. He can also sleep in my bed, even if he's older and has a nightmare, SD cannot. 

These minor discrepancies are hard to explain to SD, sure, but I have a right to my own body regardless of being a stepmom and we've explained to her that only the people who created her should be laying in bed with her or naked in front of her.  

SteppedOut's picture

Well, you have already tried discussing with your SO how he is treating your son differently when it comes to rule enforcement. He doesn't see it. Do you think there is another way for you to explain it? I mean, you gave a specific example but he still didn't get it? My suggestion is he does not parent your child because he can not effectively apply the same rules to him compared to his children. And it sounds like he "enforces" much harsher. Not only will your son notice this, but his will also and may start treating your son differently. Also this will cause resentment from your son toward you - and it will be deserved. Please don't let a man treat your son "less than" other kids in the home. No man - or woman - is worth your child being treated like that.

As far as his mini-wife 16yr old daughter. Yuck. This either needs to be corrected, or you need to learn to deal with it. Yuck, personally, I couldn't deal with that.

Honestly, my shot off the hip is it will be very difficult to maintain this relationship. You may want to cut your losses now. Especially if you want your life partner to be a parental figure to your son - I just do not think he will be able to. Which, is ok, not everyone is cut out for raising someone else's child - but that is something that is important to you. 

thinkthrice's picture

that is all.

dysfunctionally_blended's picture

First read about disengagement. 

Short version - you leave parenting to the biological parent. Only step in when the behavior does or will affect you or your bio.

Then set boundaries. Yours being respect from all kids, alone time with just your fiance or whatever else bugs you about blended life and skids behavior.  

Same for him.  

Then live life. If skid is a mini wife - walk away. That is her father's problem. Go do you.

If fiancé is too harsh on your child step in and respectfully decline his help.  

Blended family does not relate to doormat. You can set expectations and everyone can follow them. But they need to be put in place first.  

Glassslipper's picture

Have you got a copy and read it yet? I himmed and hawwed for years over the same stuff as you, been with DH for 10 years, kids were BS9, SS7, DD7 and SD2 now they are 19, 17,17 and 12.
We had all the same things as you describe, I got Step Monster as recomended by everyone here many time and there has been much more calm in the home now that I understand they dynamics more, I would strongly suggest reading it, my DH and I have not argues about children don't remeber, its been that long, I would highly suggest the book!

Chmmy's picture

Ive said many times if i had young bios they wouldn't be subjected to living with the skids. My kids grew up differently and I wouldnt have it any other way as they grew up successful. Living with the skids would have changed the whole dynamic of my kids lives. Your son will always be the outcast...the red headed stepchild.

Your son is better off without a father figure than one who treats him as a 2nd class citizen. You will most likely have financial strains due to the many skids.

I would worry about your son first and next time know to date someone with fewr or no kids.

Thumper's picture

Curious.. Are you saying that you decided to have a baby completely, 100percent without a father? And that bio dad has no clue he has a boy? Everyone has a bio mother and bio father. If bio dad is not in clinker or prior felonies of abuse towards his child, or homeless herion addict---your not being fair to your boy.

2. Would you put your boyfriends kids before you own son? I am not saying hand out cookies to his kids first then yours last. But really PUT his kids first to protect them before your own child? If not why not....

Do you love the neighborhood children 'just like your son"? If not, why not?


I would strongly encourage you to really think about what your doing here with this possible marriage. . The reason your questioning it,  is because your gut is saying very softly---something is not right here, do NOT do it.

He may be a nice let him be the nice guy. You can walk away with your dignity and so can he. Tell him "Its ME not you"

5 minor kids---no wayyyyy...YOU will be working 40 plus hours a week to try to make up the difference he has to pay in cs and all expences. This is not the time to think you can be the best SM ever.....


Phoenix2019's picture

RUN like your ass is on fire!!!! FIVE kids?! Why would you sign up for this? The problems you are having now are just a preview into what awaits you if you get married. I would sooner take a dive off a Cliff than entertain the idea of being with a man with a small army of children. You can do better. Please don’t go down the road any further with this man, chances are very high it will not end well for you.