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No joy in step parenting anymore.

JSB_84_UK's picture

It's been a long time since I posted here but I am really at my wit's end. For some background, my partner and I had our first (and only) biological child together in January of 2021. I absolutely adore my boy and even though it is difficult especially now he is a toddler, I wouldn't change a thing.

If only that were 100% of the situation. My partner came with two autistic children, one girl (now 13) and one boy (10).

At first, even with its challenges, I found myself falling in love with the entire family but more recently, I just don't feel the same emotions for the step children. As they are getting older, I am finding more and more that their autism needs and just general teen/pre-pubescent behaviour is making me resent them. I know they are just kids and can't help it.

Furthermore, their biological father has always been a massive problem. Negligence notwithstanding, he recently had another child so between him and his partner they have 5 children. He already wasn't paying enough or spending enough time with the two he has (my stepchildren) and it's only getting worse, yet he is still held up as being a good father. We have to listen to stories about him sland their new blended family so often that we had to place a rule about the dinner table being our family's special time.

I find myself feeling genuinely frustrated at the sound of their voices sometimes. I feel ashamed of that because again, they are just kids. I guess I just feel sad that a lot of my time is being eaten up trying to raise them and I end up missing out on time with my biological son.

Their autism means that frankly, no matter how much help they are getting to understand basic life skills, they just will never get there. Where ever "there" is.

My son (21 months) is showing really strong cognitive abilities that way surpass where both my step children were at the same age and without exaggerating, he even manages to surpass the older siblings now through their mother's own admission.

I appreciate this all must sound so cold and heartless but I have provided them with a stable home, we're about to move from a three bedroom house to a four bedroom... I hate myself for saying this but I would just rather they weren't here sometimes. My partner and I seem genuinely happier when they go to their Dad's and we get a break. I'm open to any suggestions on how to rebuild some of that feeling I have lost because it is starting to manifest in our day to day life and I can't hide that resentment anymore.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

JRI's picture

I think your feelings are perfectly understandable because "Mental health is an ongoing dedication to reality at all costs" and you are merely stating your reality.   I'm sure your wife secretly finds her two oldest as exhausting as you do though she has the mother love filter which you dont.

If you are providing a stable home, which it sounds like you do, and if you're keeping them safe and being polite and civil, that's all we SPs can really do.  I dont have any experience with autism so can only imagine how tough it is.

When I saw the title of your post, I thought, "Somebody found joy in this?" So I applaud you if you ever had those feelings.  Being a SP is just plain tough.

One last comment.  I realize how aggravating it must be to hear the bio father praised.  But its important for the kids to retain as positive a view of him as possible.  In many cases, the kids are delusional.  It's such a balancing act to keep them grounded in the truth while letting them retain a positive view.  Another of the million reasons why step-parenting is so tough.

Good luck, you sound like a nice guy.

JSB_84_UK's picture

I appreciate the comments. They say parenting is a thankless task, doubly so with step parenting.

The Stepchildren often come home and complain about stupid things their Dad has said or make complaints about the living situation there (2 bedrooms for 5 kids and two adults, all the kids are different ages and one of them is a girl!) so it's made all the more.difficilt to keep my mouth shut and just let them talk about that side of their life without comment...

When they start acting out, I can't help thinking "fine, f*CK off and love there then if it's so special!" Of course I would never say that to them but the thoughts are there. It's for that reason that I don't feel like a nice guy... Surely nice guys don't have thoughts like that?

I work from home primarily and the only peace I get is when they are at school... Often when they leave I breathe a sigh of relief and say awful things about how "stupid" they are to myself and the walls of my house. Again, not something a nice guy would do.

Maune it's just the age they are at but right now, I just wish I could be a Dad to one kid and not all three.

Thanks again.


JRI's picture

I bet every SP on this site breathes a sigh of relief when they walk out the door.  So, don't think you're not a nice guy for feeling this normal emotion.  Frankly, I often felt that way with my bios and you will, too.

I know what you mean about the chatter about bio dad's house.  I heard this from my SKs, too, how great BM was.  Except that she dumped all 3 of them here full time.  If it's any help, back in the day, my counselor told me they'd understand one day how BM was and appreciate DH and me.  It's true.

I hope you can give yourself a break and know you're a nice guy trying to do your best but you're human.  

Rags's picture

focus on enforcing the standards of behavior and performance that are expected of children in your home.

Behaviors are choices, as choices when standards are violated, the consequences are also a choice embraced by the kid choosing to violate the standard.

Keep it simple.

Yes, they are Autistic. I get that. However, they cannot be allowed to jeopardize the toddler experience for your own child or be allowed to joepardize the sanctity and peacefull state of you home and family. So, if the pre-teen and teen pull shit behvavior, they are isolated from the rest of the family. Lather.... rinse.... repeat.  


ndc's picture

I had a lot more room in my heart for my two SDs until my bio was born.  Once she arrived, it was as if reality slapped me in the face.  The two SDs were not mine, and I would never love them like I love my DD, nor would they ever love me like they love their mom.  That combined with the time I needed to spend with DD pretty much changed our relationship.  I used to look forward to them coming (we had 50/50), now I look forward to them going back to their mother's house.  And these are neurotypical children with a BM who is a good mother and decent person. I can't imagine how I'd feel if they were autistic and had a problematic parent.  It's also become more clear to me how much of the parenting of all three kids my husband pushes off onto me.  While I'm perfectly happy to do all the parenting of DD, I no longer feel that way about the SDs, and it feels like an imposition, more so as they get older and have that tween attitude.  I'll bet that a lot of the change in your feelings toward your skids is related to the birth of your son.

In any event, don't feel bad about your feelings.  It's natural to feel that way, and stepparenting is an unnatural thing.  As long as you treat them with kindness and they don't know what you're thinking, there's nothing wrong with looking forward to their departure and wishing things could be different.  Many of us do just that.

JSB_84_UK's picture


Thank you for your kind words. It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one that feels like this and that it's normal. I think you're right, things definitely did change when my son came along. Suddenly I felt less inclined to use my time in the evening with the older two and even once the little one was asleep, I still wanted to stay up there with him. My partner and I both work full time and my boy is in nursery all day, 5 days a week so any time we do get with him is precious. When the older two interrupt that time, I feel nothing but resentment.

I try not to make them feel that but when I stay upstairs with my son even though he's been asleep for an hour rather than say goodnight to the SKids I can only imagine, long term that will make them feel bad.

strugglingSM's picture

My DH always said to me that maybe I'd feel more loving to his children after we had our own child. Nope, the opposite was true. I love my DD so much that it only highlights that I feel nothing but indifference for my SSs. That wasn't always the case, but years of alienation and bullying from BM and years of drama from the two SSs, combined with their total lack of respect for our home, entitlement over DH's money, and constant belly-aching about all the slights they perceive or all the things DH is supposedly doing wrong, has led me to view them as nothing more than an inconvenience. It doesn't help that DH has given up on parenting them and has higher behavioral standards for our 2-year old than for his two teen boys. That's the stepparenting part. 

The other piece you're dealing with is that it is difficult to parent children with special needs. I have a friend with three children, one of whom has been diagnosed on the spectrum and it is exhausting for her to manage everything her child needs. This is compounded when it is not actually your child. 

JSB_84_UK's picture

I wouldn't say I feel indifference to the step kids but there is definitely a disconnect now that my son is nearly 2 and developing a real personality of his own. His feelings are frankly more important to me than the step kids. Even saying that feels wrong but it is the truth of how I feel.

Even knowing they are awake and making their way downstairs, I feel my anxiety levels spike because I know I have to pretend to be happy to see them... I know they didn't ask for any of this. I do want them to be safe and happy and looked after bit it's getting to the point where I don't want to be the one responsible for it. I can totally understand from their Mother's point of view though that she loves all of her children equally.

It's just that all of the kids aren't mine, one of them is and to me the one that is mine is more important. It doesn't help that the step kids don't have any respect for the house or their belongings, let alone mine. Sounds silly but the boy (10, autistic) picked at the TV remote which has a sort of rubber finish and now it's all dirty and tattered... There are so many examples of a disregard for things. I want them to learn to have respect for the house and of they can't, I'd rather they just weren't here and it sometimes feels like I don't give a damn whether or not their bio dad actually looks after them as long as they aren't ruining my life. Overly dramatic I know but I guess we all go there from time to time.


Steppedout22's picture

I totally understand why you feel bad about having those feelings, and of course the kids can't help how they are. I feel like that about my step kids and they aren't even autistic. I can't imagine how difficult it is for you. I wish I had more advice to offer you, but the one thing I can tell you is that it is 100% okay to feel how you do and you are not a bad person for feeling that way. I really hope it gets easier for you. I do wonder if maybe there are w activities they could do outside your home where you could have more of a break on a regular basis? Maybe that would help.