Step parenting is tough.....

Old 04-01-2017, 08:42 AM
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Step parenting is tough.....

Not sure how many of you have ever been in this position, but dang, I am really struggling in my role as a step parent (well, we're not married but technically it's my role here). It's more thankless than being a parent. You don't have a parent/child relationship with someone else's kids. You can care for them, love them as human beings, but your patience just isn't the same as it is with your own children.

I try to use my program and practice detachment. Never realized how useful program would be even when I'm not dealing with active addiction anymore.

My bf's kids are kids, plain and simple. But, his house rules are so very different than mine. He is far more lenient than I am about certain things. He allows behaviors and actions that are bordering on unacceptable to me. I often feel like a glorified maid service and even though I did those things when I was raising MY son and married, I find that my attitude about them is different in this scenario. I'm not serving MY family, I'm serving another family that isn't mine and I don't get any recognition for it. Well, I didn't get recognition before either, but it's harder in the role I'm in today to just continue to serve people who aren't my flesh and blood. I feel like God just picked me up and plopped me down in the middle of a family and said, "Here you go. Now, go serve them, adapt to their schedules and their habits and their communication styles, and take ME with you because you'll need it." It's like I'm the square peg trying to fit into a round hole. They have their patterns of behavior already set and they know each other intimately. I'm the outsider and it often makes me feel very alone.

To be honest, I am jealous of his children because they come first. While I know my son comes first to me, as well, my son is 18 and uses me as more of a sounding board and seems to need me less as in the 'parent' role today. Which basically means that I can give my relationship with my bf much more time and energy than he can give to me/us. It's also hard because my bf has an autoimmune condition that sometimes makes him less available to all of us. He's often in pain or overly tired and I know this disease combined with aging will take it's toll on him.

I just needed to come on here to vent. I don't think my bf understands. He and my son get along ok, but my son is rarely here. He already has a dad, even if that is a huge dysfunctional mess itself. My bf has put me in a role with his kids where I pick them up from school a few times per week, I cook dinners, fold their clothes, clean the house, play board games with them, take them to get their haircut (apparently they want me to do this instead of their mom), and help with schoolwork.

It's just really hard, you know? I didn't realize just how hard it would be. His youngest has some emotional issues, which I've shared about here before, that also tend to rule the house and I wonder how bad that will get once she's a teen. She's extremely attention seeking, filled with drama and anger and she truly can just be mean to everyone at times. But, that's a whole different thread, lol.

If it were just me and my bf it would be great.....but....that's not reality, right? I only had 1 kid and he was a boy. He was easy. Now, I'm finding myself struggling with witnessing sibling rivalry, dealing with GIRLS, and the fact that there's TWO girls makes it hard for me. Throw in the needy dog and the needy whiney cat and I'm at my wit's ends sometimes.

Then, the ex takes the girls and I can settle in and relax and my bf and I can have time to talk, catch up on bigger things, and I can sometimes find my center. I usually hit my max when we've had the girls for 5 days straight. It's about that time when I feel antsy, getting tired of the mess, the arguing and fighting with each other, and the disconnection between my bf and I. I'm on day 6 today. We've had them since Monday and I think we're supposed to have them for the next 6 days but I'm hoping that their mom might want to take them on Sunday or Monday night. I'm getting too old for this!
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Old 04-01-2017, 08:48 AM
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Well, my friend, all I can suggest is that no one can "put" you in a role you are not willing to undertake.

What would happen if you did not do all those things that seem to be building resentments for you? What would your BF do if you were not available to him in that way?
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Old 04-01-2017, 08:51 AM
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Hi Liz - I am a step-parent, even though I have divorced my XAH. My step-daughter is now almost 20, and it was ROUGH. We have a better relationship now that she's older.

I believe step-parenting is mostly a thankless job and if you've never been a step-parent, it is impossible to understand. Kind of like, if you've never had an active alcoholic in your life, you can't understand it.

I feel for you, sister.
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Old 04-01-2017, 09:09 AM
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Agree, liz, with Sparkle. Somehow you have gotten into a role that you are not liking. How can you dial it back, do you think?
I know it's not easy. My bestie extricated herself from a 7 year relationship not so long ago. There were two adult daughters who just weren't nice. They resented my bestie's presence, were very entitled, (he was rich) and gave her the hardest time for a lng time.
Interestingly enough, she and they eventually worked things out. She refused to engage in their drama after a while, and learned how to keep them from running the show when they were there, and that helped. When they saw that they couldn't bully her, things got better. Took a couple of years, though.
She left her SO for reasons having nothing to do with his daughters.
Would counselling help? Talking to someone with experience in family situations like yours who could give practical advice and tools to help you shift your role from chief cook and bottle washer to one with more equality?
Have you talked to your SO about it? Assume you have.
Just because it is his family doesn't mean that you can't change the dynamic to one with which you are more comfortable. He and you can be united in this.
Quiet, but firm boundaries, beginning with "we speak with respect to each other."
Anyway, my two cents. I feel for you. It's a tough one.
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Old 04-01-2017, 09:26 AM
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Please don't get me wrong guys. My bf does his share of things around the house, too. It's not like I'm the only one doing laundry or cooking. The man made us all breakfast this AM and he took care of the yard (which is something I used to do for 20 years in my marriage with barely any help from my XAH) all before 8 AM today.

I think, for me, it's about adjusting to the largeness of our family and al the dynamics between us. I was used to just 3 people's laundry, 2 beds with linens to be washed, etc. Now I've got 4 beds, 5 people (my son does his own laundry usually but sometimes I help him out because he's working or at school for days on end). Even having a cat who walks around crying for you to just run the water in the bathtub for him is driving me up a wall!

And, SParkleKitty is right. My bf will ask me if I want him to take over a certain task if he knows I've been run over with stuff all day long and I just say, "No. I'm good. I got it." His youngest has often pointed out that her dad always offers to help me: whether it's to make dinner, take out the trash, throw in the laundry, etc. But, I get my superhero cape out and I take it all know, because I'm so special....UGH

Recently I complained to my bf about his youngest crawling into bed with us too much and just when I was starting to get resentful about it last night......after he had gone to bed early and she followed him in there......he came out at 10 PM with her in his arms wrapped in her blanket and he took her to her room so she wasn't with us.

So, if anything, this is all on ME, right? My bf tries to give me space. Tells the girls that I'm not their maid service, etc. And, for the record, I don't touch their rooms or their bathroom. That's on him to clean or for them to clean it up themselves.

Honestly, my biggest issue with him is that his time frame for doing stuff does not align with mine. I'm a git 'er done and get it done right now kind of person. He's a 'I'll get to it eventually so just let me get to it, ok" kind of person. So, if dinner's not being prepped by 6:15 or so I get impatient and then ask him if he wants me to cook dinner and he'll say, "I can make something. What do we have?" Then I wait another 10 minutes and sometimes he's starting something and sometimes he's still reading his book or watching the news, lol. I'm salivating and the kids are whining about 'when's dinner going to be ready' and he's completely oblivious!

And, if he needs my help with the girls and their school schedules I sometimes say no and tell him to figure it out if he can without me. I also tell the girls no a lot when they want something from me. I go to meetings, play tennis at night sometimes, and try to meet up with friends. I make it clear that I have things that I need to do that are important to me that might not include helping them study for a history test.

Again, I think it's just the dynamics of everything. When you're in your 20s and you move in with someone, you only have to adjust to 1 person and you get to expand your relationship with them. You get to know them more intimately. For my bf and I, those times are limited and there are other priorities. It's just very different at our age. I'm trying to figure out how to live among 3 completely different humans. I'm just not very laid back and tend to be uptight so my feathers get ruffled very easily. It's totally NOT a walk in the park, that's for sure!
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Old 04-01-2017, 09:45 AM
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Okay, so I have a clearer picture.
Well, hang in there. Be the best self you can be and try to come from a place of peace. Order pizza if dinner is not forthcoming. I would let him know about that plan ahead of time though.
Teen years are never a picnic, so don't envy you there.
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Old 04-01-2017, 10:07 AM
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liz - are you HAPPY? because to be honest, you haven't sounded happy, or at peace, or comfortable for quite some time now. go back and just look at the titles to your threads.

maybe.......liz really needs to be on her own? maybe liz doesn't WANT to do a blended family. maybe liz doesn't even really want to pass all these exams for that license. maybe as nice as the BF is, it isn't "enough". maybe liz doesn't WANT to try to find a way to fit IN, because it means TOO MUCH compromise. too much bending and twisting and doing. maybe with a now 18 yr old son, liz is ready to be done with hands on child rearing.
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Old 04-01-2017, 03:42 PM
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I've been struggling with your posts as well, Liz. Life is not perfect and of course your step-family is not going to be the same as a blood family. But this is a safe place for you to put things out there about your feelings and I respect that. You have jumped from a relationship in crisis with an addict to a very intimate family-style arrangement with other people. Of course there us going to be bumpiness. Be sure to count your blessings that you have caring, loving people that give a sh*t in your life!
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Old 04-01-2017, 04:22 PM
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Sometimes it sucks having choices, doesn't it?

Seriously, though, I think that's part of the problem. When it's YOUR kid, you obviously can't just walk away--even though, let's be honest, there are always days when you feel like it. The kids' dad and I used to say on a regular basis (before there was war and terrorists training there) that we wished we could put a stamp on ours and mail them to Afghanistan.

I don't think anyone is a horrible person for not wanting to establish a household with somebody else's problem kids. Or even non-problem kids, if you don't like the dynamic or the living situation. Just like I wouldn't criticize someone for not being attracted to someone not physically attractive to them. It doesn't make you shallow or selfish.

The thing is, everybody comes with baggage at our ages (yeah, you're a LOT younger than I am, but even at your age it's true). You don't find people without it after the age of 25 or so.

Look, you don't have to get married to the guy. I do think, though, since you are acting in the role of stepparent, and you are an adult in the home, you should be able to assume a parental role IN THAT HOUSE. There were a lot of things I disagreed with about how my ex and his wife were disciplining OUR kids. Stepmom was big on what I would consider bribery--paying the kids to hang up their clothes, for instance. But they were with them the majority of the time, and unless they were doing something I felt risked serious harm, I took the position that they had the right to do things their way in that house. I DID, however, let the kids know that *I* expected them to do what they needed to do without getting paid. And I insisted they do that. Yes, they were MY kids, but I certainly felt that their stepmom had the right to discipline them in HER home.

Kids can adjust to stuff like that. Obviously, if it's something BIG (like grounding them for life or mailing them to a remote country), you wouldn't want to do that without Dad being on the same page. But little things, like a time out or withholding a privilege, is something you should be able to do on an as-needed basis, without its becoming a major source of contention.
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Old 04-01-2017, 06:00 PM
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I know a woman who tried the blended family thing. they were both very successful real estate agents....but, there was a lot of conflict over her son....the son was a sensitive artist type and the stepfather was a "manly man"....
the mother felt, she decided to move back into her own home and "date" the stepfather (who she also worked with in the same realestate office). they agreed to move back in together when the son left for college.
The son left for college and had his own apartment. the couple moved back in together and then, got married. That was several years ago, and they all seem to be doing fine.
I really admired their problem solving ability....and, the ability to recognize the reality of the situation.....
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Old 04-01-2017, 06:42 PM
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Hang in there. Maybe you can accept more help from your bf and also talk to him about having the kids help out more at home. As far as your different personality styles, you probably balance each other out. Maybe you can relax a little more about some routines and help him be a little more structured about the things most critical to you.
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Old 04-01-2017, 07:39 PM
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I can picture it Liz. I don't feel comfortable with other people's kids being over-indulged (in my eyes) and I don't live with it every day. That's just my example, not necessarily yours.

OTOH my son lived with his s-mother and father when he'd just left school and started his apprenticeship. I am not too focused on housework, she is v v fussy, so there was a lot of conflict. That plus my son resenting this other woman with his father. I didn't interfere, as I could see her POV as well as his.

And my son's father really did have a wicked s-mother who caused real harm to him and was fairly open about being jealous of him. We all felt disappointed that his father was too weak to stop it.

I can see that if you stay the course your problems will gradually reduce as the children become more mature, like your son. All I can suggest is keep an open mind, keep talking to your BF so things don't build up, and possibly start a family meeting, say monthly.

I'm sure you're handling it as gracefully as you can, and know that young people can be painful, whether step or your own.
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Old 04-02-2017, 07:02 PM
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Thank you all for your support and perspectives. I know that what I need to do is just finish my testing process. I also have to actually have a difficult conversation with my bf about just how I feel in this role and how I feel about us having the kids more. When we only had then 50% of the time I handled it much better, but with us taking them 80% of the time, it's killing my serenity and my need for privacy.

Anyway, I also know I don't have to make any rash decisions today. I love the man, I know he loves me. But, love alone can't make a relationship work so I need to weigh the pros and cons, pray daily about my path and where I want to see myself, and think really hard about whether I want to be in this 'mom' role for another 10 years. Dang, that's a long time!!!

Truly appreciate all your support.
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Old 04-03-2017, 07:27 AM
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I can see how it's hard for you Liz. However, I also see that his kids should come first. If there are things that are legitimate and bother you, maybe you should sit down and talk. If not, I would say that unfortunately, kids are kids, and you have a choice to accept that or.....not.

This is not a marathon, it's your life. No decisions have to be made immediately. You have been under a lot of stress, sometimes it's just nothing but time that makes things a bit better.

Hugs to you.
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