“I thought I was the only one who didn’t love her stepchildren”

11 Jan

Not loving your stepchildren can make you feel guilty

A post that I wrote in March 2011 has been getting a lot of hits lately and stirring up all kinds of feelings. “Taboo Topics: Things that Stepmothers Don’t Want to Say Out Loud” was a three-part post based on a conversation I had with Heather Hetchler on The Stepmom Connection. The first topic was, “I fell in love with my husband, not my stepkids”.

More than a few stepmothers have had a “Thank God, I thought I was the only one” moment after reading the post and comments. And then, at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there are the indignant women that believe if you don’t love the kids, you should stay away from the man.

Some stepmothers love their stepchildren as much as they love their biological children. And then, there’s the rest of us experiencing a range of feelings towards our stepchildren, but not love. Yes, kids were part of the package. Yes, we knew that going in. If we didn’t already love our stepchildren, we hoped that those feelings would develop over time. And for some of us, it just hasn’t happened yet and for a few of us, it never will. But even the women who openly admit to not loving their stepchildren still treat them with kindness. We love our husbands, and the children are part of him, so we do our best by them, just as we would for any child.

Loving a man, but not his children is puzzling to us. We think to ourselves, “As a woman, shouldn’t I feel instantaneously maternal towards them?” If we don’t we think, “What the heck is wrong with me?” In a word: nothing. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s no reason to feel guilty. Give yourself time and be open to the possibility of love yet be prepared if it doesn’t happen. You can care for your stepchild his/her entire life and never really fall in love with them or have the same love as you do for your biological children. It’s totally normal. And based on the comments on the original post, it’s more common that you think.

If you’re a stepmother who grew to love her stepchildren over time, please share how your relationship with your stepchild evolved and tell us when you knew your feelings had changed.

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32 Responses to ““I thought I was the only one who didn’t love her stepchildren””

  1. Caitlin L January 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    good article! It’s not that I don’t love them, but I don’t love step parenting. More often then not, I feel like I have to force the affection, rather then it be natural. I have to closet that concept with family/friends that are not step parents, people tend to be appalled by this concept. At the end of the day I do my best, and the kids are still alive so I’m not that bad. I feel unconditional love towards my niece and nephew though, and they are not my bio kids… but then again my niece and nephews’ mother is not actively trying to ruin my life… maybe its hard to love someone unconditionally when they are undoubtedly tied emotionally and genetically to someone you despise.

    • Frustr8d February 29, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

      Yes, that’s a great point that maybe it’s hard to love someone unconditionally when they are tied to someone you despise and who is actively trying to ruin your life. My stepkids are very disrespectful toward me and treat me like an object that is there only to be used and abused. Because of this, I also find it hard to be a “proud parent” to stepkids. First, it’s hard to act proud toward a child who spends every waking moment being disrespectful and downright mean sometimes. Second, being “proud” means you are proud of something YOU did….and I did not have my stepkids, nor did I raise them until about 2 years ago.

      • rainbowbabymaker May 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

        I am curious – does your husband not step in & teach his kids that he is to treat you with respect just as if you were any one of their parents? I’d have a really hard time dealing with disrespect…especially if my husband was letting this happen.

    • rainbowbabymaker May 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

      I feel these days as my step-daughter’s mom has really become a thorn in our side lately that – it definitely makes the part where you should love your step-child the same each day – HARD. There are more days I wish he didn’t impregnate the stupid b**tch.

  2. patrice gehring January 19, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Yes, this article made me feel better. I sometimes feel horrible that i don’t even like my skids. I have learned to accept that I don’t even like my stepkids. My husband is in the military so I tend to his kids while he’s away. But that is as far as my obligation goes these days. I used to exhaust myself and emotionally drain myself trying to instill somekind of integrity in these kids. But after a specific incident with my SD, I won’t do it anymore. After 7 years of trying and they aren’t receptive to it, i refuse to waste anymore of my sanity. And i mean it too, I feel like i could lose my mind sometimes it is so exhausted. I have two biokids myself, they were anything but angels, but their shinanagins were once in a while. With my skids, its a daily basis. Think about it, every day for 7 years they have done something to disrupt the peace int he house. The only peace of mind i had in the past 7 years was when i deployed to the middle east for a year. But i missed my kids and my husband. Tha’ts sad.

    • Frustr8d February 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

      I hear you! It is completely exhausting to have stepkids constantly disrupt the peace of what could be a normal family existence.

  3. D. Outten February 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    I too thought i was the only one. I have been with my husband for 4 years and my feelings for him have grown stronger but “nothing” still for his children. I respect their space and i treat them as kind as i can but i admit its hard. My story is a lil different from others i have read as my step children actually live with us full time. They have a able bodied mother capable of caring for them yet i have all the responsibilities. I admit i am VERY resentful. I did not sign up to be other childrens mother, truthfully i wasnt comfortable with being a step mother but i was coping with it. Having to play the role of mother to children who dont respect you and who want and expect you to do more than there own mother is a struggle. I have my own child with my husband and i HATE feeling as if i am taking away time, finances, and a whole lot more from my own child

    order to care for someone eles children. I treat them very well, however for example if i go out on a mommy daughter date with my daughter my
    step children “tell” on me to my husband and he attempts to make me feel guilty just like his children does. If i go shopping and bring back somethings for just my daughter iys a problem

    • D. Outten February 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      Yet my step children have times where they may visit there mother and receive gifts from her and there step father and my child doesnt get anything nor do they think to bring her back anything. This isnt a problem for me but i surely cannot do the same. They constantly remind me that i am not there mother which i am also good with yet they want me to contribute financially and physically as if im in the role of the mother. They dont respect my rules yet they want my money, they dont respect my space yet i pick them up from practice and afterschool and the mall and do there hair and help them study and wash there clothes and prepare there meals and take them to appts etc. They expect me to do with them what i do with and for my daughter but it will never happen bc my daughter is my,daughter and they have a mother and i dont want that role. Needed to get this off my chest. Sorry i was so long winded.

      • patrice gehring February 29, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

        D. Outt
        We too have full custody of the kids. We had a counseling appt, the skids were surprised that I was in there with them. The councilor explained why i was there and why they both were in the appt. usually it was one at a time. They sat there and looked at me and said “but we still want to come to counseling, you have to take us”. I looked at them and chuckled and their councilor said “uh, no kids, she doesn’t ‘have’ to actually, its not her responsibility, its your parents responsibility”. The girl coped an attitude at first. But by the end of the appt, they both understood what I have been going through. Since then I don’t cook for them, they make dinner for each other, they are 14 and 16. I don’t talk to them at all, except to tell them something i need for them to do. If they don’t feel like doing it, they lose privileges. Like me giving them the passcode to my xbox live. Something they do what I ask without question.
        I spoke to my husband about this and he agrees with me. He pushed me to be their mom, sometimes tried to make me feel guilty. He even once got mad that I sent his own son to live with him when he got stationed at a different base. M husband is in the military. I kept the skids initially in our home state, but his son was acting up so bad I gave him a two week window to make arrangements to care for his son after school, then I flew him out. I remember he got upset with me. “How easy it is to just ship him to me because he’s misbehaving”, and I would tell him.. “Uh yeah, he IS YOUR son after all. Yours and your ex’s or do you forget that sometimes that I didn’t give birth to these kids.”
        He gets it now. I had to go on a year deployment a little bit ago. He had to be alone with his kids for a year. He got to see what I have been dealing with ever since we met, which is now 8 years. He said he couldn’t believe I have stayed with him as long as I have. Yeah, that came from his lips.. lol.. He apologized for forcing me into the ‘mom’ role, and he didn’t realize what he was doing at the time. He just wanted a mother for his kids, cuz his ex never was one and she neglected them terribly. Which, I’m not cold hearted, I get that and I sympathize with his kids. My own biomom was abusive. But I’m not their biomom. I didn’t do that to them. And I tried, in the beginning, to bend over backwards to be sympathetic and to show them love and compassion. But after years of them lieing and messing with my head and breaking my things and so on and so on and so on…. I’m done. And my DH doesn’t blame me now. If they really show you no respect, I suggest you pull back. This is what my counselor recommended to me. He told me to not buy them anything with my money. To let them wash their own cloths and not do anything extra for them. Just because they are children doesn’t mean they get a special pass to disrespect you and still get all the attention and ‘stuff’. And you have every right to go on a mommy daughter date with your daughter without your DH or the kids saying anything. You are not a prisioner in your home. It isn’t just the DH and Skids who get to get their way. You don’t have to buy his kids anything. Especially if they disrespect you. You DH should be responsive to your needs, not just his kids needs. If he truly loves you, he will let you have some space and let you be ‘his wife”.

    • Frustr8d February 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

      I thought I was the only one in that position! I am also raising my husband’s child full time and we have our own 2 year old together. I try everyday to cope and to be nice in teaching his child but she has so many emotional problems from living with her BM for the first 7 years of her life, that she is a social embarrassment to us and she has made it very hard on us with her behavioral problems, including chronic lying & deceit, and total lack of respect. I do also feel resentful when she takes away time and money from us and our future. Her BM is also an able bodied person who has chosen to fraud old widows and military men (including my husband!) through identity theft. She has stolen over $70,000 from other people’s credit cards and is now a convicted felon and on probation for 3 counts of felonies. She will do anything to get out of working and visiting her kids. She has 2 kids from 2 different dads. So, this all makes it extremely difficult for me to want to take on what should have been her responsibility in raising her child and fixing the terrible behavior that SHE created!

  4. Frustr8d March 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    Can my 9 year old SD be exhibiting sociopathic behavior?? Her biomom is a convicted felon, a diagnosed sociopath with bi-polar disorder, and a chronic liar. She lied about the deaths of both her parents, has stolen over $50,000 from others in credit card scams (including DH!), and has spent a day in the police station with SD when SD was an infant for shoplifting on a military base! These are only a few of her crimes. This is the person who raised SD for those vital first 7 years of her life! I’m afraid the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…Today, SD came home from school and asked if she could walk all the way across the neighborhood to her friend’s house. Since it was getting dark, I said no, but told her she could play out in our front yard with her friend. She immediately broke into some serious tears and sniffling as if I just killed her cat. Seconds later, she suddenly stopped the tears, as if the whole thing was rehearsed, then skipped happily across the street. But her act worked, as her friend was busy consoling her and feeling sorry for her. I watched them from my front window as they played on the swing set. Then, they walked next door out of my sight for only about 2 minutes, when my next door neighbor hobbled over on his crutches (he just had ankle surgery) and told me that my SD went to his house in tears and told him that she couldn’t get in our house because it was “locked.” She convinced him that she tried all the doors and didn’t know what to do. WHY in the world would she go make up a story like that to my neighbor??? I told him she is lying and that I’m sorry he had to walk over with his crutches. I suddenly found myself on the defensive for no reason at all! She has some serious mental issues, way beyond the occasional white lie and it really scares me that she knows how to turn FAKE tears on and off within seconds.

    Even more crazy, last night, while DH and I were sitting on the couch and WAY after SD was already in bed, she got out of bed and came into the living room, way after bedtime. She stood by DH with a horrible scary looking scowl on her face and her chin ducked into her chest and said, “Do you want to know what I’ve been thinking about?” He said, “What?” She leaned over and whispered in his ear, “I’ve been thinking about a broken arm.” In shock and confusion, he said, “What in the world are you talking about?!” So she again leaned over and WHISPERED, “I’ve been thinking about a broken arm.” Now, what in the HELL does that mean? Seriously, does this child need therapy? But, I’m afraid she will just lie to a therapist and it won’t be any help at all. I’m seriously creeped out and afraid of what she might do or say next. We have been trying to provide a normal life for her for 3 years now but she just won’t learn from us and she is destroying our family and home. On top of all this, she deliberately hides her library books so they are late and we have to pay a fee, she takes my things and hides them in her closet, and I found some dollar bills in her backpack (we have never given her any money). I feel desperate enough to drive away and leave both DH and SD. What’s more frustrating is these are problems she came packaged with when we took full responsibility for her in 2009 so I didn’t even create this mess that I’m expected to be responsible for since her biomom is a true deadbeat.

    • BioStep March 19, 2012 at 9:36 am #

      It may not be sociopathic behavior as much as attention-getting behaviors. Have you taken her to see a counselor?

      • Frustr8d March 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

        I would really like to believe it is only attention-getting behavior, but coupled with the very unusual lack of compassion for people & animals and the inability to connect with others (even her friends socially), I imagine it’s more than an attention need. For example, when she sees her good friends in public and they say hi to her, she ducks her chin deep into her chest, puts her hair over her eyes, and stares blankly at them. We have to nudge her and tell her to say hi back. So, aside from the behavioral problems, she displays a real set of just plain odd/inappropriate behavior. Even worse, I have witnessed her pinching my 1 year old in the back seat of the car then quickly saying, “I didn’t do anything.” My 1 year old is already afraid of her. One time, she saw my 1 year old fall and hurt herself pretty bad. The only response was a cold, dark, unemotional stare. She looked like she was trying to solve a math problem. We are scheduled to take her for counseling.

    • Wicked StepMom March 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

      Dear Frustr8d,
      Wow, its like I’m looking in the mirror. The only difference is that its my SS. We too have had him since he was 7, he’s now 14. Just got home from his Psychotherapist Appt. Today was a pivotal day. I told his doctor that I’m done with trying to help him. He has been going to therapy for years and is on ADD meds and Anti Anxiety medication. The doctor told me this; “He is getting straight A’s and his teachers love him, his friends parents say that he’s a great kid and respectful when he is at their house (my SS was sitting right there when she was saying this), so obviously it isn’t his mental disorders, its because he chooses to behave this way.” I already knew this but i needed for her to say it to him. His father is deployed right now. He told his son “If you are going to make me choose between you and my wife, you better be prepared for my decision and live with it the rest of your life, because I will choose my wife. You will be out of the house in 4 years, but my wife will be with me until I’m dead. I won’t lose her for a person who has no respect for my house, my wife or me.”
      That is the first time he has ever said something like this. He apologized profusely to me, said that he knows I didn’t marry him to be his kids mother, but that is what I have had to do. It’s a step in the right direction for our marriage.
      About your SD, I would talk to her school immediately, and I would get her into counseling immediately because it sounds like she is definitely exhibiting traits of a chemical imbalance. A lot of stuff is passed down from the mother, unfortunately. My Skids both have ADD and Depression, from their mother. She is also in and out of jail and walked away from her family many years ago. And her kids behave just like her. Fortunately my SD is 16 now and she has finally taken charge of her life and her brain. She acknowledges that she has a chemical imbalance and has taken control of it. My SS blames everyone else for the sad state of his life, and is on a downhill head on collision course into a wall. If your SD is acting like this, you should be concerned and get her help immediately. Have her tested. I know that some medications can be expensive, but its better than her hurting someone, herself or you. Her talking about a broken arm is pretty serious. Especially the way she said it. That is not normal conversation by any means. Don’t wait, take her now ASAP.
      My heart goes out to you. Hang in there! I’m trudging this road with you, trust me, I know what you are going through.

      • Frustr8d March 22, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

        Thank you….and thank God for you! Hearing your similar story and encouragement is the first time I have felt hope. I was starting to think my posts were disappearing to outer space! Up until now, the only thing I’ve been hearing is, “She just needs more love, more attention, more this, more that.” Excusing her behavior has only made me feel worse as if I’m not doing enough for her. Like you, all her teachers, friends, and friends’ parents think she is the nicest, smartest thing ever! This makes me feel even more out of my mind because I KNOW she is tricking them and chooses to act different at home. It makes me feel very uncomfortable that a person is that skilled at acting and manipulating. BTW, I love how your husband expressed his support for you. I felt like cheering when I read that! Thanks again!

  5. Wicked StepMom March 23, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    Frustr8d,
    I go to counceling myself as well. Just taking them will only help half the problem. The counceling is what helped me realize that its not ‘me’. I felt like a failure for a long time. But when i started to get help for myself, i finally realized that “I only have control over how I react, not how they behave”. This behavior of my husbands is only recent. It’s taken years for him to get to this point. We almost divorced. Sit down with your husband and think of a ‘consequences and rewards’ list. Get a white board and write it on there for your SD to see it too. Some times when a kid sees what reward they will get for ‘good’ behavior they will try to do that more. My skids biomom called the other day out of the blue. My SS has been acting different. Nicer to me. My SD talked to him after. They were in her room. I think she talked to him about me, and how I have been here when their biomom hasn’t been. Cuz he really has been talking to me nicer. And his room is clean. That seems like not a big deal, but by keeping his area clean, the counselor tells me that he is having more respect for himself, so he will be able to respect others.

  6. rainbowbabymaker May 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    The one thing I’ve noticed is that once my now husband & I got married, my SD has grown closer to me. I don’t know what happened but some thing in her little head decided to want to be closer to me. She’s told me she loves me & has become a bit more clingy to me. I feel that my love has started to grow for her where as I didn’t feel love towards her genuinely for a couple of years. It doesn’t change the fact however that I enjoy my time with my husband when it’s just the two of us – very much. I don’t LOVE children so after a while it does get to points of me thinking ‘ok little one, time to go back to your moms now!’. I can’t imagine changing my life to the point that we have her more often because I”m not in that place & time in my life. And I feel as she gets older we have more things to talk about & more things to relate to so it’s easier for me to enjoy her company.

  7. Angel June 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    My Husband’s Ex has made it to where his children havent come to our house in 6 years. I dont have a problem with that, to say the least.

  8. brandy July 12, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    I am so grateful to of stumbled onto this website! And thank God that he gave biomom the wisdom and words to write on such a taboo subject in a loving way. I am a mother of two wonderful kids, I strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman, and am marrying the greatest man I have ever known in a week. And we are having a baby together, this will be his first biochild. He does have 17 yo step daughter that he adopted 2 yrs ago that lives with us full time, and everything about her irks me to the point that it is a hugr problem. She is lazy and so ungrateful and unappreciative of all this man has done for her. I pray all the time she will decide to go live w her biomom! This is a very hard situation, and my heart and prayers go out to all of u. I love the advice here, and find alot of comfort in knowing I am not alone. Thank you

    • rainbowbabymaker August 9, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      Hi there…I’m curious, how come his SD lives with him & not her mom?! That is odd, non? I think I’d be quite resentful especially since she’s not even biologically his. Even more of a reason to push her to go live with her mom. Maybe I’m just being cruel by saying this 😦

  9. Hope August 6, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    I did love -& still do- my stepson from my 1st marriage.. Really dont like my 2 step daughters from my current marriage!!

  10. Angela August 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    You all are very strong and beautiful people. I am a young step-mom myself of 2 step daughters of 5 years. One I like and get along great with the other I clash so badly with, not only do I clash with her but so does her own father. Its very hard especially when shes so disrespectful, I just plain ol don’t like her. She hurts MY children and it hurts me to see my babies get hurt because of a little’s girl anger of being forced to spend time with her father. She longs for negative attention and is at the moment going to therapy, what really needs to happen is that her mother needs to go to therapy because that exactly where she gets her attitude and behavior. If you have Facebook, please feel free to add me because its always something when it comes to my husbands ex wife and it would be great to have people who totally understand my point of view. Thank you all…

    http://www.facebook.com/Angela.Blake1986

    • W.t. October 2, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

      I understand and have been in the same place. I felt a lot of guilt for bringing my child into a home where she is disrespected and mistreated by his kids. Where she doesn’t feel the safety of home and family. When I talk to my husband about the disrespect he says they’re just being kids and that my children are just too sensitive.

  11. W.t. October 2, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    I don’t like my step kids. I love my husband but I feel like I can’t be their step mom. I have bio children of my own. I have raised them to be respectful children. His children are disrespectful and have over powering personalities. Their over powering personalities and disrespectful behavior effects my children and my self in a negative way. My husband justifies their behavior by saying they are just like their mom and she raised them to act like that. I have moved out of the house, my husband and I are seperated. I don’t know how to make it work. I love him but dont like his children’s behavior or personalities. My husband says I need to come back it he’s filing for divorce. I feel like I can’t move myself or my children back into the house and deal w all the chaos.

    • amb1986 October 3, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      Im sorry to hear this W.t. My husbands ex wife says that when her daughter hurts my children that its just kids being kids but yet shes 5 years older than my oldest child and hes only 4. You, as a step parent W.t. don’t and shouldn’t have to deal with it, you have to protect your children also. I told my husband his youngest daughter was no longer welcome in my home, but he understands because he has seen first hand the abuse his daughter presents towards mine and my husbands children. I wish you the very best with everything and I pray you and your husband can get things worked out. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

    • poppy October 11, 2012 at 3:32 am #

      i feel your pain im in the same situation and im ready to crack cant take anymore

      • W.t. October 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

        I hope you find peace. I read a lot about step families online and it seems that 75% of step families struggle.

      • poppy October 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

        Hi i dont think theres ever going to be peace so i have to switch off from them and lead a different life,which doesent involve me in their life or them in mine

      • exhausted1 October 17, 2012 at 7:10 am #

        I married my husband 5yrs ago. We met on line,but little did I know the four kids he had custody of would totally wreck my life and keeps me trying to salvage my sanity! Their mother has schizophrenia and doesn’t have any part in their lives. The kids ages are 22, 18, 15, and 14. His only son who is 18, now has schizophrenia and steals everthing in the house on a daily basis. He steals food,money,hides remote controls, washclothes, beats the dog and is a chronic liar. His 22 yr old daughter has autism and has bouts of attitudes like a 2yr old. His 15yr old daughter is showing signs of being bipolar. She had a meltdown because she was asked to move off her sisters bed and cursed me out, tried to fight me, cursed her and and alleged child abuse charges! Now it seems like the youngest daughter will have some kind of mental illness too. She talks to imaginary people and she’s 14. I am at my wits end and have started drinking more to cope. I have also stopped liking my husband because he always defends their irrational behavior,which makes me appear as if I’m the wicked stepmom on the rage again. Seriously I now need therapy. My stepkids and my husband all have mental problems. I should have paid attention to the warning signs but I didn’t and here I am,on the brink of losing my mind.

  12. certificiate October 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    its tough going no,one thinks of the stepmum in this situation,,i feel for you and i hope u are coping not for them but for yourself and your own state of mind,

  13. Sara Huizenga December 2, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    I am a former step-child now bio-step mom … I thought this advantage of being able to see both sides would make step parenting a breeze – it hasn’t quite turned out to be that easy – 😉 … What know and will never forget is the way my step-dad never stopped loving an often unlovable adolescent me – I didn’t deserve his love, I even intentionally tried to make him dislike me – but even then he CHOICE to love me to give me unconditional, never ending love.

    This has helped me to not direct my stepmom frustrations at my stepkids – what I hadn’t planned for was having to deal with feelings of anger towards their dad (my now husband) for creating and not participating in remedying many of the step parenting situations we deal with —

    My amazing Mother from day one made no excuses for putting her new husband first and demanding that I respect and appreciate him. I couldn’t play gamed between them because from the start I clearly knew he had already won.

    Thank God for their example of a rich and healthy marriage – that, in the end was exactly what I craved and to this day value – http://papamore.blogspot.com/2012/06/you-were-my-step-parent-and-now-im-one.html

  14. Sara Huizenga December 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    I apologize for the above typos – the autocheck on my phone is killin me – 😉

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