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Another stepmom realization

Steptococci's picture

Hello Steps- hope you're all surviving the dumpster fire that is 2020.
Still reflecting on how I feel about being a stepmom, for better or worse. Can't quite figure out how to love this kid more- now 12- though she's nice enough, not a terror. She's sweet to her siblings and they're now at an age (5 and 4) where they ask about her and when she's coming back and miss her a lot - but I don't. When it's time for her to come back I still feel dread. One stepmom I know said she feels this way too- "it's because I become the 3rd wheel again" and I was like "ahhh yes... that" and then someone else said "it's because I become the 3rd wheel but also the designated driver when skids are here" and I was like,"oh yes, thaaaaat."
SD tends to drive me nuts that she thinks she's one of the adults in our relationship - always trying to weigh in on things we should buy, places we should travel, where we should eat, or interrupt adult conversations to show off her latest dance move, but behaves like an 7-8 year old most of the time unless specifically asked not to. She has her own iPhone and knows how to buy shit online and order doordash but not how to run the washer/dryer or wipe down a counter, and has to be asked to put even her own laundry or money away, practice piano or feed the dog. I feel like she has power but no responsibility.

And as a stepmom it feels like I have responsibility but no power. Through covid her mom is regularly flying her around the US to visit BM's friends/family then dropping her off here straight from the airport, without so much as asking how we feel about this (forget quarantining). 
When SD isnt here dH is a hardass with the little ones, impatient a lot, complains about his job to me all through dinner, then corrects their grammar and enforces them eating vegetables and not interrupting constantly. When Sd is here DH puts on this cheery syrupy attitude of everything seeming perfect and will talk for her or brag about her day to me or let her completely dominate dinner conversation (so I'll finally see how perfect and amazing she is I guess?) and I instead of feeling impressed this makes me feel like I'm a visitor in their world where they share something and I'm an observer, basically like a 3rd wheel. The dd thing I think is interesting because it so often IS the deal- daddy wants to be fun and friendly but keep working and playing the simple hands-off like usual, so just automatically offloads all the real parenting work to the stepmom. DH has told me so many times he thinks I "should discipline SD if I need to and wishes I were her mother and wouldnt hold back" but literally has also said he can't think of any reason why SD would ever need discipline. So I think I'm one of the only stepmoms I know IRL (outside of here) who doesn't pull the parenting weight with my stepkid. But I still have to plan everything in our lives around her needs. And have no real power over the schedule or really anything that involves how she's raised.
So weird, right? No wonder it's so uncomfortable- anyone else live in this cart-before-horse world too? I love my family I just need to get these things off my chest once in awhile. Thanks for the vent. 


itshardbeingastepmum's picture

I get where you are coming from, you're stuck between a place of "I love my little family and my DH but I dont love my skid and that's a problem" It's definitely a common occurance with these DH's feeling guilt for their previous child, feeling that they need to go above and beyond all the time, I think my DH's fear is that if it isn't all fun and games and happy times when he comes, he wont want to come. My opinion is; if he doesnt like the rules of our house & he doesnt enjoy himself just for being with us then that's his problem, not ours. I dont change when he comes, he always expects games and movie nights when he visits, yes i join in sometimes, but If im tired and want an early night or I want to watch my own shows then I will, I dont change my whole routine for his visits anymore. I used to be over pleasing, always trying to make everything special, when i reality, that isnt life, just because he doesnt live with us doesnt mean special treatment when he visits, our daughter together lives with us obviously and she has to go through the routine of us working, getting housework done, everythings not fun and games all of the time and this building up expectance of fun times every visit just makes it harder. I do me these days, i dont worry about his upbringing or arrangements, I figure BM will do whatever she wants anyway (usually alienating DH out of plans and making them with DH's mother instead, thankfully DH's mother now knows to come to him before any arrangements are agreed). So longs as it doesn't affect me, my daughter or the plans we have I no longer care. DETACHMENT all the way sister <3

Steptococci's picture

But dont you feel like still every plan / meal/ summer camp/ vacation/ holiday still has to ultimately revolve around the Stepkid calendar..? We can't plan a trip without finding out if she is here and if she can come- we have dinner on her timeline- and she's never told no so she has a million activities going. And because DH has longer work hours (I work about 30 hours per week and have a nanny who I manage for all 3 kids) I'm still in the role of juggling everything in our lives to revolve around this. It just gets exhausting, especically when DH doesnt bother to tell me that she's coming over from the airport or when she'll be here for her visit.  And for sure DH's fun times attitude is pretty annoying- when yeah, hell no, I am not catering to our kids all day, and want them to understand that part of life is responsbility- but I never seen DH communicating that to SD, so she sort of floats in and out behaving like she's on a vacation all the time. BM is her best friend. She loves reminding us of that- and how she has no siblings around to share with there. Meanwhile our little ones now worship her and treat her like a celebrity when she comes back - so it sort of feels like I'm an outsider even with them when she's here, even though I'm the one doing so much of the work. But you're so right, detaching is the answer. I think this is maybe just a rough phase. I have no doubt anyway by next summer (she'll be 13) she will not have that much interest in her little sibs and may not be around as much. 

tog redux's picture

Well, I think you know this, but your husband is the real problem here. You say your SD is "nice enough", but then go on to list a bunch of behavioral issues that are all caused by your DH's poor parenting. He's a "hardass" with your kids, but a swooning softie with SD, allowing her to act like a mini-wife and not do chores properly, meanwhile hoping YOU will discipline her so he doesn't have to do it. 

Then you feel like something is wrong with YOU that you don't "love her more" and dread her coming over? YOU aren't the problem. He is.  Stop planning your life around her needs. Hold him accountable to be the parent when she's there, and to parent her just like he parents your kids.

Steptococci's picture

DH is partly a hardass with our kids because I set an example of having actual expectations and disciplining my kids. He says he agrees with that and when I take the lead on expectations he will follow thru and parent the same way. He just doesnt want to hurt SD feelings and can't believe she ever does anything wrong, so it's always easy street her for her and he won't expect the same of her. At this point, I'm about as disengaged as I can be - but still dread her coming here and throwing everything off kilter and still wish I enjoyed her company more. I don't. I wonder if it ever changes.

Do you think DH's get defensive when we disengage and then become even more protective of skids? It always feels like he's watching me to see if I'm doting on her or paying enough attention to her- if I go out of my way to do something together with her his behavior towards me is so lovey dovey- but if I check out or do something for myself, he gets pissy and sometimes ignores me or the other kids. Then I read blogs where people say "if my new partner doesnt love and adore my kid then I'm out" - and think oh, this is the societal norm-  we're SUPPOSED to love and adore these stepkids so our partners will love and adore us. That's what it feels like I signed up for sometimes and that's why I question myself a lot.

advice.only2's picture

Yes I lived through all this, except we had Spawn living with us full time. It's bad enough having a skid shoved down your throat EOW, try having it 24/7. I finally had to disengage and allow my DH to run that sh*t show into the ground himself. Only took him two months before he allowed Spawn to move out and never return. This was after 7 years of hell, if I would have known he would fold so easily I would have disengaged the day he picked Spawn up from the police station.

advice.only2's picture


strugglingSM's picture

I can relate to a lot of this...I feel like our world is expected to grind to a screeching halt EOWE when SSs are here. I will say that, that's changed a bit as we've settled in more and now I regularly do my own thing when SSs are around. DH also oftentimes does things that he can't reschedule and SSs just have to deal and be bored. I've reminded DH that it's okay for SSs to see that he has work and responsibilities that often bleed into the weekends. We used to get all these messages from BM complaining that SSs were so bored with DH and he should be more concerned about how bored they are. MIL also gets in on the act repeatedly asking DH what "fun things" he did with SSs when they are with us. But really, their weekends with DH aren't about him entertaining them. They're about him parenting them and sometimes when you are parenting, you havev to focus on responsibilities or you all have to sit around and be bored...that's just part of life. 

I also get frustrated that DH gives SSs a huge pass on nearly everything when they are with us. I can understand why he does it...he doesn't want his limited time with his children to be miserable. But sometimes, he needs to step in and call out bad behavior. Sometimes he'll do that, but he's not consistent. Also, sometimes there are rules we have when I'm around with SSs (e.g. throw away your own trash, clean up your own messes, you're responsible for your own things) that go right out the window when I'm not around, leaving SSs to believe that they don't really have to follow any rules (or operate under the terms of common decency) because Dad doesn't really care about them. It also bothers me that he basically brings SSs into holding secrets against me. For example, we used to have one car that we did not eat in, but when I'm not around, they all eat in the car...and then just leave their trash in the car. 

I think for me, the biggest piece is that our lives go on hold EOWE and it's as if they don't exist...I feel like I live two separate lives. One life with me and DH and one life where I fade into the background when SSs are around or anytime with DH's family, who assume that I should always fade into the background, even when SSs are not around.