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Confused about role as Stepmom. What is doing too much and too little?

Samantha Martin
5 years ago

I'm not sure how to word this correctly, but I was wondering from you all that are stepparents yourselves, to what point to you feel like your maybe doing too much for your spouses' kid etc. Like do you ever get to a point where you may feel/say to your spouse that they need to handle it on their own because you don't feel comfortable or feel like maybe they are pushing a lot of the responsibility on you with your stepchild? I'm really conflicted. I've been with my husband for almost 14 yrs. and when we got together his daughter was 1yr. 1/2. She's known me basically her whole life pretty much. He and her mother split when she was only a few months old. Well, today I went to take my stepdaughter to her gyno appt (Dad had to work). Found out her mother never gave the doctor's office her insurance card (Hubby says he's told her more than once). So we were left with having to pay out of pocket, I had them reschedule her so we could get wiggle room to work this out with her mom. I don't know what he tells her mother, cause I'm not around when it comes to these sorts of things. Part of me wanted to call her mom, but the other part of me is torn and doesn't want me to do everything for my hubby. I don't want it creating a habit where he dodges some of his responsibilities with his child. Therefore, I informed him of what happened and told him he needed to contact her. I'm worried it may fall on deaf ears as it has the last time before he's told her. Where do we go from here if she does not give us her information? I don't want my stepdaughter suffering for it because mom won't cooperate. I feel like her father should grow a pair, but he's trying to stay cool so he doesn't push her mom away, but clearly playing nice isn't even helping with that.

Comments (6)

  • Kim Aves
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    There is a lot of confusion over what is SM’s role. Most people tend to think that SM’s role is to be whatever works for BM, bio-dad, SKs at the moment. For ex., BM doesn’t want you to be a mom, but if it is more convenient for BM to have you take her bio-daughter to appts., then “bingo!” you’re supposed to make mom-shoes fit for that hour or so. An added bonus for BM may be to not give you the information she knows you need to stick it to ya’, so to speak. Not saying that is specifically what went on here, but it could be. Step-daughter may not want you to be a mom, either, but if she needs someone to clean up after her wedding, for example, suddenly she is asking you to take on that responsibility as step-“mom.” Meanwhile, you may attend the wedding expecting to be seated with your husband, just like any other married couple, only to find that no arrangement whatsoever has been made for you and your role, and the expectation is that BM and bio-dad, instead, play joined-at-the-hip couple for the entire evening. . . no permission needed from either yourself (SM) or bio-dad. Doesn’t matter how many years you and bio-dad have been married. Meanwhile, your reward for all of those years of sucking it up and taking it, is for you to not be included in any “family” photos, and for you to have to find your own seat and clean up after the wedding ceremony. Nice. And, I’ve heard of this or similar or worse happen to SMs at weddings more often than anyone would ever care to think.

    But, the point I’m trying to make with these examples is to answer your question, “To what point do you feel like your maybe doing too much for your spouses' kid etc.?” It is when YOU feel like YOU are doing too much, it is too much. Anything anyone else does (including step-parents) for someone else’s children should be seen as a gift and not as an obligation. If a babysitter is taking care of someone else’s children and the parents are late, the babysitter gets extra pay. If grandpa and grandma are taking care of their grandchildren, as blood relatives, they get kudos and thanks and hugs and kisses. If SM takes care of someone else’s children, and in some shape or form so often she does, what is her reward? Crickets. Or, even worse. A SM’s #1 role is as a spouse/ partner to bio-dad. A SM’s role is not to fill in for lackadaisical or neglectful parents, and her role is certainly not to say, “How high?,” whenever someone in the initial family asks her to jump.

    As long as you are okay doing favors out of the goodness of your heart or for your husband, or because your husband truly appreciates it, and BM (at least on some level) appreciates it too, along with the SKs. . . then keep doing those favors. But, be careful there too, because it is extremely easy and almost a given that a SM will be taken for granted. Set boundaries early with everyone, and, for God’s sake, don’t do too much right off the bat! If you are dropping the kids off at school for example, before going to work, and your schedule changes and you can no longer do so, guess who is going to get their butt kicked? You are. You are going to be blamed for not finding another way to make your schedule work so you can keep dropping someone else’s kids off at school. Whatever favor you take on, both BM and bio-dad will feel you own. Your DH said, “He's trying to stay cool so he doesn't push her mom away.” What about you? He doesn’t want to be put in the middle of BM and his child? He doesn’t want to be put in the middle of this own divorce, but he expects you to? How nuts is that!? Yet, this is the expectation so many have for SMs it is unbelievable—they actually believe that dad should NOT be put in the middle of issues involving his own children, his own ex-, and so on. BUT, SM, on the other hand, should be put in the middle!? That is plain backwards crazy.

    Start to say NO, and mean NO. DH says he doesn’t want to make waves with his ex-, say, “Fine, that is on your shoulders. You and BM need to find a way to take your own daughter to these appointments.” And, don’t expect DH to agree or like it. He won’t. BM won’t like it either and step-daughter may not even like it. But, you are an adult and you own your own soul. Say No and mean No. I will add one caveat; however, it is a little trickier when you really are like “the mom,” as in this situation where BM is largely absent or where BM has even passed. Sometimes this makes interactions better and sometimes it can make them worse, as it can be very difficult to fill in for a missing mom. Missing moms are often idolized. In reality, you shouldn’t be competing with BM or SKs at all, but if your DH sets it up this way—where your role is more as family servant than dad’s wife, and you feel like your needs are continually being pushed to the back—then you start to feel like you are in competition for being dad’s #1 wife, along with his ex- and his children. Next thing you know, everyone is jockeying for dad’s “main squeeze” role, competing with each other, while dad just sits in his lounge chair and complains about poor-whittle-ol-me, being stuck in the middle. In reality, he’s the numbnuts who set it up that way to begin with. Don't let 'em do it.

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  • Samantha Martin
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    I really appreciate the feedback! I completely understand. If i may further explain our dynamic. When I met my husband, I was 18 and he was 23 with his 1yr 1/2 old daughter. We were together for about 3/4 years before we had our first child together and then our second came 2 years after that. He was never married to his first childs mom. This is our first marriage together. However, fast forward we are about 14 years in and my stepdaughter has been living with us since August of 2018 to current. We normally had her only on weekends, summer breaks and holiday breaks. She decided she rather stay with us because her and her mother were going through a toxic relationship at the time and it's to a point her mother has stopped reaching out to her daughter. I don't get in the middle of it, as I know this can be a testy subject. I've always encouraged that she try and talk to her mother or make a lunch date to meet up outside of either their surroundings. Her mom won't. My stepdaughter just feels neglected by her mother and it's caused a slew of emotional problems for her etc. We encouraged her mother to seek therapy for our stepdaughter time again and she finally did. It took a long time until. My hubby also mentioned to her mother that she should be put on birth control as a precaution at her age, but her mother would not do so. No reason was ever said from her end. We found out she had been sexually active. She hasn't told her mother that she had been and didn't want anyone else to tell her. So when she moved in with us my husband and my stepdaughter talked about it and she got the implant in her arm (BC). My husband and I are always there to talk to SD and lend an ear and a life lesson. Her BM just yells and dismisses her and has hit her. I know how my SD can be and sometimes I think I can justify her mom doing these things ( I know that sounds bad) but I know it's hard to swallow when a child is being unreasonable. Teenagers especially. I've noticed her mom will only do things only when other people are noticing. She has always been about appearances. I'm not gonna say it's been an easy transition, but that's just gonna be years of unwiring so to speak. I really do understand what she's going through as I was a step kid too. I lived with my mom and saw my dad every 2 weeks, every weekend, holidays and summers. In the end I ended up resenting both of my parents to where I don't speak to either. My father's wife was not very supportive of me. I was my dads only child and my mother's second. My stepdaughter on the other hand, has 4 half sisters. 2 from mom and 2 from dad. She is the oldest of both households. All the kids are roughly around the same ages from 8-10 yrs old and she is 15. I know how alone it can feel. I'm sorry if I've gone off course, but anywho, we are taking care of her and now BM mom is moving. My stepdaughter found out from other family members. Now she feels like her mom and stepdad couldn't wait after she left. They were suppose to leave in 3 more years. It's honestly not that far away, but to her, she just keeps feeling the sting.

  • ldvilen75
    5 years ago

    Speaking as someone who is also married, for the first time, to a man with children from a previous relationship, it doesn't matter if BM and BD were married or not. BM will still be thought of and treated as by most as the first wife. I agree, you've never been married before, and yet you now have the title of step-mom and dad's wife. Other than in your own home, you will rarely have the title of just: Wife. Extremely unfair, but there is a lot that is unfair about getting so enmeshed in another family's dynamic. I don't mean to sound bitter, but realistic.

    It sounds like you have gotten, through no fault of your own, right into the middle of quite a messy situation, and your eldest SD, at age 15, has risen to the top of all's attention. First thing I'd suggest is don't lose track of your own children, because, as I'm sure you know, what is going on with your SD will affect them as well. And then I'm going to suggest like others have above that you let your husband and his ex-wife deal with their own daughter, regardless. BM is bio-mom, and always will be. Today, she may appear to favor you and despise BM and be creating all sorts of drama over it, but tomorrow SD may be running back to BM and disengaging from you and her dad for being so critical of her mother.

    Step situations are all unique and there is rarely one size fits all when it comes to advice. The only advice to really give is for you to seek out a well experienced blended family counselor. This is critical not only for your SD, but to protect the entire family as well. As much as I can feel you are concerned for your SD, you also don't want this battle with her own mother to create a double dose of chaos for you and your own as well. Take care. As step-moms, we've all been through this or similar.

  • David&Sue Schoch
    5 years ago

    A few comments:

    1. If [hopefully] either you or DH have health insurance with dependent coverage, It should cover your SD. DH's as the BF & yours since SD is living in your household & dependent on you & DH for custodial care. If it is the SF that is providing insurance coverage for you SD, not BM, it probably is not longer applicable as she doen't reside in his house. It's somewhat like [but not the same] who claims her as a dependent re the IRS.

    2. Who has legal custody of SD? If BM has custody, is making no effort to see her daughter, is moving away, then you & BF should consider [together, than jointly with SD] filing for custody. If all 3 of you agree that is the right thing to do, SD will feel more grounded knowing she has a real home & family where she is wanted.

    3. All 5 of you need to work with a councilor well versed in Blended Families. Individually & collectively. Those 2 younger children are also impacted by the stress & tension in your household. They have known their sister all their lives & suddenly she is around ALL THE TIME & getting a of attention/time that they used to get

    4. Parenting - both for bio & step - is not always easy. Think its harder to make any marriage [relationship] work when there are already children. ALL the ADULTS need to respect each other, communicate, & agree on what is best for the kids. Stop thinking "step" & start thinking "blended" relationships. We have to make the image of the Wicked Step-Mother go away!!!

    It takes work, but it can work. I know. 43 yrs ago I met DH & his 2 girls (11 &13) - fell in love with ALL 3 of them. Married them a year later & I do mean "them" as the girls & I exchanged vows with each other at our wedding. They lived with BM & SF, but we saw them weekends plus. The girls & I have had disagreements over the years but have talked things over & ether agreed to disagree or to understand better the other side an adjust action/attitude accordingly. What the 3 of us know is that we are family with great affection bonding us.

    DH & BM were able to understand why their marriage failed & put the welfare of their kids above their problems. DH & I discussed his prior marriage & my relationship with the girls a lot as we discussed possible marriage. The few times we have disagreed with BM & SF, the 4 of have sat down found an agreeable alternative.

    Neither SF nor I were anywhere in the picture at the time of the divorce. He & BM are nice people - would be good neighbors or co-workers. Over the years, we have been to school events, graduations, the weddings (3 moms down the the aisle), baptism x's 6, G'kid birthdays [there are 6] school events, graduations [HS/college], & most recently, the marriage of our oldest G'kid together. Our new G'daughter's family [also "blended"] was totally impressed that BM & I could sit at the same table & actually enjoy each other's company. At the Wedding 3 sets of G'parents started on the isle.

    1. Your husband is to be HUGGED for taking responsibility & making his daughter a part of his life. And you are to be HUGGED for caring enough for this child [his child] to ask for help. Claim this child as your own - presenting somewhat as a loving doting aunt, mentor. Get councilling for ALL of you. It's worth the effort & cost.

    There is no doing Too Much or Too Little. There is only trying, working - hard, & LOVING. Keep in touch.

  • Kim Aves
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Thank you David & Sue, for me and others. Great advice for all. Just for the record, I'm not saying that SPs or SMs can't have successes. I'm just saying that most of it is dependent on the bios, BM and bio-dad, and on whether you get lucky or not and have a BM and DH that gets it--gets that their marriage is over and they have both accepted this and moved on and both, like is your situation, put the welfare of their kids above their problems. Maybe I'm over-reaching, but it doesn't seem like this is the case in the OP's situation, at least not with BM, and if DH is pandering to BM and expecting his wife to take on things with his own daughter that he is even unwilling to take on, it doesn't seem like her husband has done the best job of moving on either.

    But, your advice is still spot-on, because in this situation I agree it does sound like DH and SM would be better parents. But, a lot still depends. What is in the original divorce agreement, in particular. Who gets to the carry the insurance should be in there, and, yeah, the original agreement can be changed, but that takes time and a lawyer and money, and that could all double and triple, or more, if BM wants to fight anything. In the end, it all comes down to how BM and bio-dad handle things. If BM and bio-dad handle things well, then the nice blended family situation you describe above is within reach, for sure. If they don't handle things well, and I personally feel too often they don't, then everyone can wind up getting screwed, including BM, bio-dad, SKs, SPs, any "ours" children, and even other relatives and friends.