The majority of my upbringing fell to my stepfather. My mom was dealing with her own issues during my childhood, and wasn't around as much as she probably should have been. I hesitate to say anything negative about her; she's made up for lost time and is my closest confidant now. But it is what it is, and the fact remains that I was raised by my step-dad. Even after he and my mother divorced, my step-dad retained custody of myself and my two younger half-brothers. I love my step-dad more than I could ever put into words; he never made me feel as if I wasn't his child, and he made just as many sacrifices (if not more) for me as he did for his biological children. And now that I am in the process of becoming a step-parent myself, I realize even more so just how much he sacrificed for me.
Fast forward to present-day. I have no children of my own, and I have never been married. I am now engaged to a divorcee with a five year old daughter. My fiancee and I have lived together now for almost two years (as roommates first, who eventually fell in love), and I have pretty much had a (I hate to use this term) babysitting role in his daughter's life from day one. That has progressed a bit and it is true that I have started to fall more into a parenting role than a babysitter role, but at times it does feel like my opinions and respect as a parent are only encouraged and welcomed when it benefits my fiancee directly. I struggle at times because I feel like I am the one who interacts more with my SD when she is with us. I'm the one in the yard playing with her, taking her to the parks, constantly trying to come up with new things to do with her instead of just sticking her in front of the TV. I feel at times that now that he has me, he's stopped trying - and he's started to take me always being there for granted. For instance, this past Sunday my fiancee was suppose to be off work. Without talking to me first, he switches his schedule with his co-worker. So basically, he just assumed I would be there to take care of his daughter Sunday morning till he got home from work. I have really been wanting to start going to different churches in the hopes of rekindling my spirituality. I have expressed this to him. But without even bothering to ask if I had plans that Sunday morning, he just assumed I would be there and that his daughter's care would fall to me. It irked me.
I'm somewhat lucky where it concerns the BM. There is no love lost between her and my fiancee. Their marriage was tumultuous, and they married simply because she become pregnant. Although neither of them were happy in the marriage, the way in which she left him was quite cruel and the way she treated him thereafter was cruel as well. He was very bitter and angry for quite a while, but that has passed and they are friendly with each other. She has been nothing but supportive of my relationship with her daughter, and has even told me that she would not mind it one bit if her daughter decided to call me "Mom." And after reading some of the other blogs, I almost hesitate to vent about her because I really do think I have it much better than most.
But, this is suppose to be a venue for venting and for advice - and where it is true that my concerns are minimal, I would still love to be able to express them here, because I don't really have anywhere else to go or anyone else to talk to. And I will be perfectly honest in saying that my frustrations are just as much with my fiancee as they are with the BM.
The BM is well educated and had a tendency to look down on people who are not of her "status." I sometimes feel that she is kind to me simply because she has determined that I am beneath her, in that she feels she is prettier and smarter than me, better educated, and has better employment, etc. And most of that is true (except for being smarter). Her family had money and was able to pay her way through college allowing her to earn a master's degree at a well-respected university. My family struggled with money and I have struggled for years trying to earn a degree through the community college system, with no financial help other than the government. I have a decent job and work for a decent company, but it is certainly not on her level (I easily make $30,000 less than her). And she is quite pretty. Don't get me wrong - I think I am cute enough and my fiancee certainly loves the way I look, but I lack the boob job, the expensive haircuts and design clothes, the manicures and pedicures, etc. My point is that I get the distinct impression that she looks down on me, and so therefore is able to feel better about herself when she is nice to me. I know for a fact that she looks down on my fiancee. When they were together, it was a commom knowledge to him, and anyone else that would listen, that she felt he was holding her back. And it's true that he doesn't make a lot of money, and that we struggle to put food on the table most weeks. Our only hope at this point is that I will finally be able to finish school to earn a diploma first, then eventually keep going till I turn that dipolma into a masters degree.
My frustrations are just as much with her, as they are with my fiancee and his handling of her, and with this ass-backwards state that we live in.
Despite the fact that the BM makes more than the both of us put together, and despite the fact that we have the SD in our home at least 50% of the time, the fiancee still pays child support because the BM has primary custody. The only reason she has primary custody is because in this state, the BM is *always* awarded primary custody unless she's an all out crackhead. It doesn't matter how equally good the father is; he gets no say. In my hometown, joint-custody was often (still is) rewarded with neither parent paying child support to the other. In my case, for instance, when my step-dad and BM split up, joint custody was awarded. My brothers and I spent 50% of the time with my mom, and 50% of the time with my step-dad (actually, more time was spent with my step-dad) but neither parent paid support to each other. Costs such as school fees, school clothing, doctor's bills, etc., were split evenly between my two parents. In this state, that is unheard of. The one time I brought up the idea of getting a lawyer and looking into maybe changing the arragement, it was met with anger. It would cost too much to hire an atty, and once the BM got wind of what was happening, she would likely make life hell. And that is true.
And that brings me to my next frustration. The BM's needs are always met. If the plan was for the SD to be dropped off at a certain time on a certain day, if she gets wind of somethng better to do, some party to attend, for instance, then she will call and ask us to drop the SD off later, or in most cases, keep the SD for another night. The fiancee ALWAYS says yes because he feels that if he doesn't, then the SD will just end up being pushed off on a babysitter instead and he's would rather her be with us. Now I hate sounding as if I don't want our SD with us, because I do! And I take joy in knowing that she loves being with us and often hates to leave us. But honestly, I sometimes need a damn break. And when I have been counting down the hours till the time that she is suppose to go back to her BM's, and then the BM calls because something better has come up (it's never an emergency or because she is sick - it's always because she wants to go out), it annoys the piss out of me...especially because I know that entertaining her and taking care of her most often falls on me these days. So when the moment arrives and I found out that the SD is, in fact, going to be staying another night, it can sometimes cause me to run to the bathroom to hide my tears of frustration.
There seem to be little in the way of boundaries. What the BM wants, the BM gets.
And I know what I am getting into. I realize that if I am really unhappy with it, then I should just leave - maybe try to find a man without children. But the fact is I love my fiancee, despite our differences, and I am head over heels in love with my SD. I have honestly never thought about having a child of my own. I had never felt ready; and because of this, I have been on the pill since I was 16. And I still don't feel ready to have a child of my own. But I've got this little person in my life now who had grown to depend on me, and who brings tears to my eyes each and every time she tells me she loves me out of the blue. And I feel she deserves to have as awesome of a step-parent as I did growing up.
There are several things with my fiancee that have me disheartened, to the point that I have seriously considered calling off our engagement. But some force is telling me to stick it out; that I will regret walking away. So it seems I am in it for the long-haul, which means my focus now is to be the best step-parent I can be, and to learn how to handle the complexities of step-parenting with grace and confidence and maybe even with humor. So I am hoping this site will bring that to me.