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How do you face the reality of only ever being a step-parent?

Loxy's picture

I’ve been a step-parent now for 10 years and took on my SK’s when they were both still in nappies. Although I had no idea what I was getting into and would never have chosen this life if I did (but that’s another story) I established at the very beginning with DH that we had no future together unless he was prepared to have more kids (which he agreed).

So the plan was always to be raising my own kids along with the SK’s but unfortunately life doesn’t go to plan and I haven’t been able to have any kids of my own.

I’m currently on my last ditch round of IVF now and the odds are very low so I’m really starting to think (and freak out) about what my life looks like as just a step-parent.

And I’ve got to say it looks horrendously depressing.

I feel so much resentment about all the burden and stress the SK’s have added to my life and how that might have impacted my infertility. I also feel so much resentment and depression about the fact that I have another decade of this life ahead of me and the worst (ie teenage years) is yet to come.

It’s not like I can have the life of someone without kids – ie travel, freedom etc. I’ve got all the responsibility, financial commitment and sheer hard work of having kids but without any of the perks (ie biological bond and love).

This week was the first time I really thought seriously about whether I would stay with my husband if it does turn out I can’t have a child. I really love DH and can’t imagine my life without him but I honestly can’t imagine another decade of sacrificing so much of my life and future for his kids – it’s just so unrewarding and unfulfilling.

I’m wonder if anyone else has been in this boat and how they dealt with it?

Acratopotes's picture

Loxy Hon.... who's fault is it you can't have kids?

I think you can not blame DH for this, Make piece with the fact that maybe you can not have children, as hard as it might be Hon, but you can not blame DH unless he got snipped knowing perfectly well you wanted to have children.

Then live your life, you still have 10 years, miracles might happen... a friend of mine was told she will never have children, he husband left her because of that, she remarried a guy that did not worry about it, he simply said although he would've like children it does not matter he loves her not her womb... age 40 doctors told her early menopause.. 5 months later that changed to you are pregnant.... they where very very happy about the miracle and guess what.. 11 months later she was pregnant again...... this time she was not too happy and said... why and what happened, her husband can simply look at her and she's pregnant... the point being... there's still time and miracles do happen,
you can not end a loving marriage because of this....

Loxy's picture

Hi Acratopotes
We have both had every known test under the sun and there is no known issue – it’s just a matter of quality really that declines with age and we are both almost 40 now.

That being said, this current round of IVF is looking more promising than past rounds so I’m cautiously hopeful the situation can still change. However, I’m also a realist and hoping for a miracle is high risk. Yes they happen, but for every miracle story there is 10 other devastated women it didn’t happen for.

As for blame, I don’t resent DH because he already has kids – I resent him because he actively delayed us trying for our own kid together. Long story short, he agreed to have more kids in the beginning and then changed his mind after we married. In the end I was forced to give him an ultimatum – either we break up or we try for a kid. He choose the latter obviously.

So the whole situation has caused resentment on both sides and makes me feel very alone in this struggle because I know that even though he is outwardly supportive to me, he must feel secretly glad every time we have another failed round of IVF.
It almost feels like lose/lose either way. If the IVF fails I’ll resent him for making us put off trying for a baby for so long and if it works DH will resent me because he ends up with a third child.

Despite all of the above issues, it is a loving marriage. It’s just that I don’t know if I can face another 10 years of step-parenting without having my own kid.

Loxy's picture

We have had every test under the sun LadyFace and there is no known issues.

I'm glad you understand my fear. When I took on this gig I always thought I'd have the (for want of a better word) compensation of having my own kid to offset the crap that comes with raising SK's. Now facing another decade of raising my SK's without ever having my own just makes me feel like I don't know if I can do it - or maybe it's whether I want to do it because I guess I know I can but I don't want to.

I'm tired of sacrificing so much for my SK's.

ESMOD's picture

I'm 50 plus and never had kids of my own either. I guess I would give you this advice.

At your age, it is quite likely any partner you will find is going to have kids. If you love your husband then consider the odds of finding another wonderful man to share your life with. If you have both made all reasonable efforts to conceive (both of you checked etc...) it's not really fair to blame or resent him for the fact that he did have children before he met you. So for that you need to gain a level of acceptance and not blame their existence for your inability to have a child of your own.

As far as his kids go.. are they good/decent? Do you get along? Is he a good father? Those are things that might weigh more heavily in my decision if I were in your shoes.

To be honest, you shouldn't be shouldering the financial burden yourself. That should be your husband and his EX but I understand that it does impact the spouse when their partner has a financial obligation to their children.

Anyway, Sometimes counseling can help you put things in perspective Maybe this latest round will be successful also?

Loxy's picture

You're very right ESMOD that it would be hard to find another partner without kids. However, if DH and I did split then I would choose to be alone in a heartbeat rather than ever take on step-kids again.

That being said, I love DH and can't imagine life without him so it would not be an easy decision.

As for the SK's. SS10 is a pretty nice kid and for the most part, pretty easy. SD12 is the issue - I simply can't stand her. She has a range of undiagnosed issues, one most likely ADD and she's also very stunted emotionally, the worst trait there being she has zero empathy. In short, she's just one of those kids that only a biological parent could love. I'd settle for being able to like her but instead I hate her. Everything about her irritates me and her behaviour just clashes with my values. She is the sole reason I can't bear the thought of another decade of step-parenting!

Rags's picture

I love kids... but have never had any drive to have one of my own genetic making. My wife laments not having had one or more together but I have no regrets along those lines.

I am 53 and am the repository of my families "shit" genes so not having kids was not only a luck of the draw thing. It was a somewhat considered decision. The prime motivator for not having children with my amazing bride is that she nearly died from toxemia/pre-eclampsia(sp?) with SS-24 and was always strongly advised by her Docs to not have any more kids.

My wife's health and well being far outweighs any motivator to procreate with her.

sunshinex's picture

I went through this internal struggle after my previous miscarriage and I honestly believed that my options were

1. Live a child-free life, even though I'm with DH. This would require a conversation about the resentment that I had and I would have to let him know that although I love being his wife, I need to experience the benefits of not being able to have children, because otherwise it's too painful.

2. Leave my husband. This was the worst case scenario, if he wasn't happy about me disengaging and living a child-free life despite my stepdaughter living with us. I would hope he'd be understanding, but if he wouldn't, I wouldn't stick around.

You are right. It's very unrewarding taking care of stepkids and sacrificing for them. So stop doing those things, if you need to. DH should be understanding, hopefully. I wish you the best xoxoxo

Loxy's picture

I'm very sorry to hear of your miscarriage sunshinex. I also had one 3 years ago - it's the only time I've been able to get pregnant. Are you still trying?

Completely disengaging is not an option for me. I took on my SK's when they were in nappies and have been actively involved from the beginning so to withdraw now would cause damage to them as they love me as their third parent. Despite the fact that I can't stand my SD, I don't want to hurt or damage her.

That being said, partial withdrawal is on the cards and something I've started to do a little more in the last year. I used to mind the SK's on my own if DH was away for work but now I refuse because there's nothing in it for me. I've also started doing less stuff with SD because she's so difficult so DH drops her off at school now instead of me. If SD continues to be so difficult, I will continue to withdraw more and more from her and I'll be honest with her about it as she needs to understand that step-parenting love is not unconditional and if she makes herself so difficult to be around then she will have to accept the consequences of that behaviour.

I also intend to do more travel (without the kids) if I can't have a child - both with DH or without. One of my good friends is single and has no kids so I'll do some trips with her.

Loxy's picture

Echo – I’m going to assume you’re in the US? I live in Australia where it’s almost impossible to adopt either within the country or from overseas. Average waiting time is around 7 years which would make me pushing 50 by the time it happened so it’s just not a viable option for us.

My experience raising two kids that are not my own has made me certain that I’m not cut out for fostering. I really, really just want my own kid – something that is a part of me.

AJanie's picture

I am not actively trying at the moment, but was a couple of years ago and did not get pregnant. Each month I was devastated. I definitely want a child of my own but the timing is awful and a lot of the stress is related to the skids, so I feel the resentment. When we do try again I want to be in a better place emotionally because it was hell the last time.

If it turns out I cannot get pregnant I intend to foster/adopt.

Loxy's picture

I'm so sorry to hear that AJanie and can sympathise. My skids cause me a lot of stress too - well actually only one does but I often wonder how much that has contributed to my infertility issues given there is no known reason why we can't conceive.

danielledaniel's picture

I am never going to be able to have my own kids. I have a SD11 and on the whole we get along ok. I have been with her dad for 3.5 years and married for 2.5. This is something I still have to work on constantly---the all the responsibilities but none of the benefits of being a bio-mom. I actually get along well with BM and we have SD 50% of the time. I jumped straight into the deep end with parenting and I haven't been around kids much at all.

I think you just have to take it day by day and not think to far ahead because if someone had told me what it was like (1) I wouldn't have believed them and (2) you never know what it is like until you're in it.

SD and I had a big blow up at Easter. She saw me outside in the yard smoking a cigarette and called DH at the gym to "tell" on me. DH hates smoking and I hardly smoke but if I want a ciggie I am going to have one. Well needless to say he went off on me. There was disharmony in the house for 2+ weeks. I was furious with her for being a tattletale and starting drama. I completely disengaged for almost all of those 2 weeks. SD apologized but only because, I believe, DH and BM advised her that would be in her best interest. I have disengaged with SD since and limit time and attention spent with her. DH is picking up on it I believe, but hasn't addressed it with me. The dynamic is always going to be complicated and I will be a 3rd wheel in some cases but I have decided I need to have my own back and do what's best for raw as that may sound. So unless I leave DH this will always be my reality until SD leaves home and starts her own life----so radical acceptance it is lol. Dirol

Whyme79's picture

It's a difficult decision you're facing. My skids are 8,9,11 and I'm facing a grim reality of over a decade of teenage crap. I love their father very much. He's not wanting anymore children and I have none of my own. Do I feel resentment??? Yes very much so. Will I stay?? I don't know at this point in time. 3rd skid was an accident and a turd of a child at times and the resentment hits even harder. I don't love them like they're my own and I won't ever have that bond. As hard as a decision it is, you need to make the one best for you. Not your DH or skid. For you!!!!

Our therapist has said give it a few months and build your relationship. That doesn't help the fact that at the end of those few months, I still have devil spawn and a SO that won't give me what I want.

Sometimes things just suck. Have another wine and have a good think. I do it everyday

Loxy's picture

I think it would be a VERY rare thing to love a step-child like your own. I do love my SS10, he's a nice kid, but it's not a strong love and it's definitely not and never will be unconditional love like a bio parent has. My SD12 is another story - I can't stand her, she's truly an unlikeable kid.

My DH agreed to have more kids with me in the beginning and then changed his mind after we got married. After years of fighting I made it clear that this was a deal breaker for me so he agreed to try, albeit reluctantly. If he hadn't agreed I definitely would have walked.

In my view it's the most selfish thing in the world to ask someone to raise your own kids but deny them their own. So you also need to make the best decision for you - are you prepared to sacrifice having a child for your partner?

Hikinggal's picture

I will never have my own kids, I came into my step-kids lives when they were already adults. I will never even be a "parent-figure" to them. The grandkids, I adore, and I do get running hugs from them when they see me. I cherish those moments, but even at that - they are few and far between. I am not "nana" and my husband is not "papa" (the most active grandparents, his ex and her man). So - I let all expectations go and just enjoy my marriage and what time we do get with them.

My situation is different from yours, I know. If the kids were young and I was having a hand in raising them I suppose I can see where some mixed feelings would come into play, but I see myself enjoying whatever role I had in their lives. Kids need all the loving and supportive adults they can get in all the various roles they may come. No, I will never be "MOM" but I am me and bring something to the table.

As for grief and moving on - for myself, I came to peace eventually. The hole in your heart is never healed fully, it becomes a part of you, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. As they say, will your life experiences make you bitter or better? We always have that choice.

Loxy's picture

Bitter or better - I like that Hikinggal although I don't know if I could be as zen as you about it.

If I could have a real child-free life (ie no skids) I think I could deal with not being able to have my own child better but having the skids (one of whom I really dislike) makes me think that working through the bitterness will be a great challenge for me.

Anyway - all I can hope is that it still happens and that I finally get to be a bio mum to one child at a much older age than I ever imagined Smile

Cecilia's picture

I have also been a stepmother for 10 years. I have never had a child of my own and it is heart breaking. I always wanted one but I'm not healthy enough to have one so the 3 I am currently raising are all I have. I would like to say that all the struggles through the years have led to close knit family but it hasn't. Even after all these years I am still an outsider,an addition that didn't quite fit.

fumblebee's picture

Oh honey, I haven't been exactly where you are at, but boy oh boy do I remember the resentment well. It still bubbles up to the surface from time to time.

I first met my current husband when I was 35 years old. He knew I wanted kids of my own and knew I had 2 failed IVF's with my first husband. He was reluctant to say that he wanted another kid (because let's face it, he couldn't handle his own, nor could I).

We had tons of baby sex for over a year, and "something kept coming up" when we were to go to the infertility specialist. We sure as shit couldn't afford it, because of financial darts being thrown at us left and right from his kids. I blamed them. I grew to hate them, deeply. I blamed my husband, and grew to hate him too. I felt like a tsunami was swirling inside me. Mind you, his two don't even visit us, but once a year. DH goes to them, 500 miles away and my crazy a$$ STILL had issues.

We separated for 6 months while I assessed the damage. I was 38 years old.

One thing I did during this time was a LOT of self-reflection. I'm one of those people that I feel wanted a child of my own out of an unhealthy place in my heart. I determined that I would actually be happier/healthier without children of my own. So, now I consider myself childless, by choice.

My husband and I have been SO much happier/healthier because of this new place I'm at in my life. I'm 42, embrace mothering in alternative ways, have so much freedom, enjoying the heck out of traveling, and hobbies, plan to retire at 50. All things I'm celebrating because you know what? I feel like I've been released from the shackles of infertility and can now live the life that I may have no dreamed of 10 years ago, but man, what an exciting life it is!!

My advice to you would be to do a LOT of soul-searching. Listen to your heart, not your head. There are plenty of moments in life to use your head for. Knowing whether to endure hellions for 10 years is a heart thing for sure.

A possible option? If you decide to leave him, you could have a baby on your own, and keep the door open to him coming back to you after his kids are out of the house. I used to contemplate that option. I love my husband dearly. I didn't want anyone else.

Life is so very short. Follow your heart and do what's best for you!!!

Loxy's picture

I so wish I didn't want my own kids but that's the one thing I know in my heart to be true - I've had a deep desire now for a decade to have my own child that's only gotten stronger over the years.

As for what my life looks like for the next decade, I don't think I can actually imagine leaving my DH as I really love him but I think I'll need a LOT of counselling to work through the anger and bitterness of how my life turned out should I not be able to have my own child.

For now I'm still hanging onto the hope that this last round of IVF produces a little bundle of joy.

AnonymousStepDad's picture

Originl question is truly a tough one. How to deal with this reality, whether it is due to infertility or lack of mutual agreement at any given time to have a child.

I am currently processing the fact that I have come to readiness for my own kids too late for my wife. She was ready like three years ago and her personal window is now closed. I don't blame her because her daughter (my stepdaughter) is 15 and my wife is not willing to start all over.

It is miserable and I don't know if there is an answer. I'm so melancholy all the time I just want to rip my own face off.

I hope it works out for you. If not, I feel strongly for you.

Fucking hell.