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Accepting your Feelings as a Step Parent

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 26 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Parent Feelings Child Emotions

Parenting can be tough. Tending to the needs of children can be a never-ending endeavour and while the rewards of parenting are plentiful, they aren’t always tangible.

Stepparents often take a great deal of responsibility for their stepchildren, performing many of the same parenting tasks as natural parents, yet they may not be given equal credit for the influence that they have on the children’s lives.

Good stepparents often share deep emotional bonds with their step-kids, yet it may be the natural parents who are considered to be “important” to the kids. It’s no wonder that while most stepparents wouldn’t trade places with anyone, they may have feelings about the experience that aren’t all bluebirds and sunshine.

Loving Difficult Stepchildren

Natural parents have an endearing love for their children long before the little ones ever throw their first tantrums, but stepparents typically come into the picture a bit later, once the kids have established a wide range of personality traits. Anyone who has ever spent time with children understands that they aren’t always cheerful, pleasant, and cooperative, and while babies may be known for their sweet smiles and equally sweet powdery aromas, there are plenty of times when they are fussy and don’t smell that great.

Kids are people, each unique and special, yet like all people, they have their moods. Often, they are funny and delightful, but sometimes, they can be obstinate enough to test the patience of even the gentlest of parents. Stepparents (and parents, too) may feel guilty when they find themselves wishing for a break or wondering how they got themselves into this position, but by taking a step back and realising that all parents feel overwhelmed at times, stepparents can accept their negative feelings about the children as well as they accept their loving ones.

Taking Time to Develop Relationships with Stepchildren

Many stepparents expect to fall instantly in love with their partner’s children and then are disappointed when they don’t feel an immediate connection. Relationships take time to develop, though, so stepparents should give themselves time to get to know each of their stepchildren and allow the bond to grow naturally. In all likelihood, the children will also need time to adjust and accept the stepparent, so there’s no need to rush things or feel bad when love doesn’t come automatically.

Dealing with Family Conflicts

All families have some level of conflict, at least once in a while. Stepfamilies may have more than their fair share, especially when problems with exes seem impossible to overcome.

Ideally, when a couple breaks up, each partner would be emotionally ready to let go of the past and refocus their attention on creating a happy future, but that is not always the case. The end of romantic partnerships often cause hurt feelings, anger, and extreme disappointment, leaving one or both of the people with unresolved emotions.

Stepparents may find themselves in the unenviable position of being the brunt of the angry feelings held by their partner’s ex, who may resent the new romantic relationship as well as being uncomfortable with an ‘outsider’ taking on a parental role with their kids. Unfortunately, there is little that anyone can do to control other people’s behaviour, so while it is important to try and make peace, stepparents should forgive themselves if they find that they just can’t seem to like or respect their spouse’s ex.

The Importance of Accepting One’s Feelings

Everyone experiences a wide range of emotions, not all of which are pleasant. It is the rare person who skates through life without occasional bouts of anxiety, sadness, regret, or self-doubt, but these feelings are perfectly normal and need to be both expected and accepted.

Stepparents may anticipate that they will have nothing but positive feelings about their spouses and stepchildren, but that is not how it usually works. Real life has its ups and downs, and parenting, while rich with joy and pleasure, can also be demanding and exhausting. Stepparents who are doing their best to raise happy kids should give themselves a pat on the back, rather than feeling guilty when they occasionally feel less than grateful for their blessings.

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@Kellie - sometimes there is little you can do to make people like you or accept you. Sometimes if you just kick back and stop making an effort, you might find they may begin to make an effort back. But boys are different to girls, girls need their mums and once boys find a wife they tend to disappear (even from their biological mums - how many times do you find mums complaining their sons never come visit). Even when they have grandkids, it's often the girls mums that do most of the caring. The fact they are now out of the house means you can relax a little. I would just sit back and wait to see if they come to you. If not, you've lost nothing really, if there was never much of a relationship to start and if you can't get on with the wives, then you really just might have to put it down to differences in personality.
ClaireBH - 28-Nov-17 @ 4:05 PM
I have been a step parent to 2 boys for 20 years. I have a daughter from a previous relationship that is between their ages. In the beginning it was rough and then it worked out. It seems to be going backwards in the last few years. Once the boys got engaged their attitude towards me changed and they became distance. Then they both got married and it's not getting better. I'm having a hard time connecting with the two daughter in laws. We use to see them all the time and now they hardly come over and I've talked to my husband about this. He says it bothers him sometimes, but he workes with them so helets it go. I feel my daughter and I are strangers to them now and I constantly get a feeling to just leave and stop trying.
Kellie - 26-Nov-17 @ 4:26 AM
We have a blended family, my ex is not in the picture but my husband shares 50/50 custody with the toddlers mother. The issue that we are facing is, his ex calls the shots for everything; from schedule to, timing, and location of pick and drop of. My husband drives 60 miles extra every week because the ex doesn't want to meet half way. When I complain that he is spend more money on gas with this he says she is probably spending the same amount since she has to drive through the hills. When I ask him for anything he says I don't have money.My husband caters to her every need, she says she doesn't want the kids today, so he goes and gets them, she wants them at certain time he goes; and on top of that my husband makes time from his shared days to send the kids to their maternal grandmother. My problem is he doesn't tell me or make me part of any of this. I don't know when the kids are coming and when they are going; I don't get to spend alone time with the kids because when he is working they are sent to the grandma. A few times I had plans with the kids and the grandma asked for the kids, and they are sent to her. He has told me the grandma is a priority as she has been there for them since they were born. I am sorry I didn't know you back then and didnT know I was going to be their step mom, or else I would have been there since the beginning.I don't get a say in anything. I am the house owner, the bread winner/full time worker, and I do all of the house chores. I pay for the bills and he spends max 300 a month on food,he is a part time worker and works mostly on weekends. He says he is able to accommodate th pick and drop of time according to her because he is available, but the time can't change when we have something planned. I don't know if this marriage is going to work. I feel like I am his and his kids financial provider and nothing more. He has also told me if she gets the full custody then he might move closer to the kids, meaning 60 miles away from me.Every time when we argue it's because of the kids schedule and it has brought our relationship to almost end, is we have only been marri e for a year. The kids love me, I don't have problems with them I don't feel like I am his partner in any sense. He doesn't talk (over the phone) to the ex in my presence and deletes some of her messages, and lies to me about their schedule. He says he lies because I am going to get mad and start a fight. Can you please advice, is this marriage going to work or am I wasting my emotions and time.
Confused step mom - 23-Dec-16 @ 10:31 AM
We have a blended family, my ex is not in the picture but my husband shares 50/50 custody with the toddlers mother. The issue that we are facing is, his ex calls the shots for everything; from schedule to, timing, and location of pick and drop of. My husband drives 60 miles extra every week because the ex doesn't want to meet half way. When I complain that he is spend more money on gas with this he says she is probably spending the same amount since she has to drive through the hills. When I ask him for anything he says I don't have money.My husband caters to her every need, she says she doesn't want the kids today, so he goes and gets them, she wants them at certain time he goes; and on top of that my husband makes time from his shared days to send the kids to their maternal grandmother. My problem is he doesn't tell me or make me part of any of this. I don't know when the kids are coming and when they are going; I don't get to spend alone time with the kids because when he is working they are sent to the grandma. A few times I had plans with the kids and the grandma asked for the kids, and they are sent to her. He has told me the grandma is a priority as she has been there for them since they were born. I am sorry I didn't know you back then and didnT know I was going to be their step mom, or else I would have been there since the beginning.I don't get a say in anything. I am the house owner, the bread winner/full time worker, and I do all of the house chores. I pay for the bills and he spends max 300 a month on food,he is a part time worker and works mostly on weekends. He says he is able to accommodate th pick and drop of time according to her because he is available, but the time can't change when we have something planned. I don't know if this marriage is going to work. I feel like I am his and his kids financial provider and nothing more. He has also told me if she gets the full custody then he might move closer to the kids, meaning 60 miles away from me.Every time when we argue it's because of the kids schedule and it has brought our relationship to almost end, is we have only been marri e for a year. The kids love me, I don't have problems with them I don't feel like I am his partner in any sense. He doesn't talk (over the phone) to the ex in my presence and deletes some of her messages, and lies to me about their schedule. He says he lies because I am going to get mad and start a fight. Can you please advice, is this marriage going to work or am I wasting my emotions and time.
Confused step mom - 23-Dec-16 @ 10:28 AM
@STRONG MOMMA - it wouldn't be a wedding if there wasn't a good ole punch up! It'll all blow over I'm sure.....
JIM - 13-Oct-16 @ 12:11 PM
I am struggling after everything I have done for my stepdaughters we had my oldest stepdaughters wedding this past weekend where my youngest stepdaughter age 17 decided that she was going to drink alcohol against her dads and my wishes as her mother stated that it was okay. I saw my stepdaughter getting ready to take a drink of a beverage that has 10 different liquors in it and went to take it away from her and that when her mom's boyfriend started to emotionally start to attack me then her mother started in and then my oldest step daughter's husbandstarted verbally attacking me so it just kept escalating to the point where I went off and almost punched my husbands ex wife's boyfriend and my mom grabbed my hand so I ended up smacking my youngest step daughter on the face. My mom took me away from the facility and the words just kept coming up along with things that happened in the past. My husband is so supportive that my oldest step daughter is babysitting for us and he told her that he thinks we all need a break and that we would not need her for a couple weeks to give people there space and time as we all need to heal. My step kids have seen all this stuff in the past as there mom is the type of parent that smacks them around and calls them names.
STRONG MOMMA - 12-Oct-16 @ 3:16 PM
JJ - Your Question:
I don't know how to put this into words but I feel incredibly selfish and guilty for being resentful towards my 10 yr old step son. He has had a less than perfect life being with his mother who with held visitations from his father (my husband). Finally social services got involved and my step-son along with his 2 half brothers were removed from the home. My step son instead of going to foster care like his brothers came to live with his father and I and our 3 year old daughter. He rarely visited before, just a weekend here and there, and I new right away I didn't like this kid. He is resentful to his sister and not kind to her, he is irritating, annoying, grating, and has a severe lack of social skills. He has a special program at school made for him since he is behined in learning, and has to be supervised at all times with other children. He has no respect for rules or grown ups. I know mentally that this kid has had a hard life and is being thrown into a new home and needs attention and love, etc, but I just can't stand him and his behavior. Since he came to live with us he is now calling me mom or mommy which I detest but dont tell him since he now has not mother (no contact rule). I feel stuck and claughtrophbic in my new role that I never asked for. I love my husband and my daughter who both love my step son and want him to be with us, but I can't help wondering if I would be happier leaving. I dont want to sound selfish and nasty when this kid is having trouble with his live but Im not sure how to handle this. My husband is aware how I feel and is handling it quite well but I feel guilty about adding the burden to him. Now with him living with us full time and me thrown into the mother role I never asked for I am so overwhelmed and stressed. I am worried my 3yr old daughter will be affected by his bad behavior and presence in our home.

Our Response:
I am very sorry to hear this. Obviously, your step son needs love from his father, which is unconditional and his son obviously wants love and acceptance from you, especially if he is calling you mom. However, if you do not feel the love for your step-son, you cannot force it. Being honest about your feelings to your husband is the best way forward as otherwise resentments will intensify, while also trying to protect his son from any feelings of resentment from you (as it's not his fault he has had the upbringing he has and has found himself away from his mother). Plus, you may find solace from sites such as the link here which I know is not directly applicable (as you have another child), but the sentiment is there. This may help you find the support and resolution you need to help get you through this time and come to a decision about whether you should stay or leave.
BeingAStepParent - 6-Jul-16 @ 2:55 PM
I don't know how to put this into words but I feel incredibly selfish and guilty for being resentful towards my 10 yr old step son. He has had a less than perfect life being with his mother who with held visitations from his father (my husband). Finally social services got involved and my step-son along with his 2 half brothers were removed from the home. My step son instead of going to foster care like his brothers came to live with his father and I and our 3 year old daughter. He rarely visited before, just a weekend here and there, and I new right away I didn't like this kid. He is resentful to his sister and not kind to her, he is irritating, annoying, grating, and has a severe lack of social skills. He has a special program at school made for him since he is behined in learning, and has to be supervised at all times with other children. He has no respect for rules or grown ups. I know mentally that this kid has had a hard life and is being thrown into a new home and needs attention and love, etc, but I just can't stand him and his behavior. Since he came to live with us he is now calling me mom or mommy which i detest but dont tell him since he now has not mother (no contact rule). I feel stuck and claughtrophbic in my new role that I never asked for. I love my husband and my daughter who both love my step son and want him to be with us, but I can't help wondering if I would be happier leaving. I dont want to sound selfish and nasty when this kid is having trouble with his live but Im not sure how to handle this. My husband is aware how I feel and is handling it quite well but I feel guilty about adding the burden to him. Now with him living with us full time and me thrown into the mother role I never asked for I am so overwhelmed and stressed. I am worried my 3yr old daughter will be affected by his bad behavior and presence in our home.
JJ - 5-Jul-16 @ 9:25 PM
Mac - Your Question:
Please helpStep mum to 14 yr old and 12 yr old. Three children of our own aged 2, 6 and 8.Husband very protective of his two children treats our children differently he says he overcompensate a for their mother who is a bad mum.I feel like a visitor in my own home they ignore me unless dad is at work, ignore our children only speak to dad, make demands are very spoilt don't have any boundaries or discipline as husband hates discipline or boundaries denies he has any guilt over them but he does he is riddled with guilt and has been for ten years. Puts their wants needs before our own children acts differently when they are around his life revolves around them and I am left to parent our three children he feels guilty being a dad when his other children aren't around.I have lost the desire to catty on in this marriage I have tried so hard to be a good step mum and a friend but all to no avail. My children are beginning to notice the stark differences in the way dad behaves when they are and aren't around and I have to consider their feelings not just my own. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Our Response:
I can only suggest that communication is the key here. Perhaps you could either try marriage guidance counselling, or sit down with your husband and discuss your feelings along with the fact that his actions are putting a strain upon your marriage and that you are contemplating separation because of this. It sounds as though your husband has become accustomed to his 'learned behaviour' over this guilt, which is possibly now so deeply ingrained, that he may not notice or feel he is doing wrong. The fact the children are disrespectful also needs to be dealt with and perhaps it is something you should discuss between the four of you. His children are both approaching teenage years, so any resentments and frustrations will invariably come out in the next few years (it's a tough time for natural parents never mind step). If you separate, the fact you have three young children will create its own set of problems. Therefore, if you can, it may be better to try and sort out the problems you have currently and attempt to work together with your husband to establish and enforce a set of standards for behaviour that your step-children are expected to comply with. Please see link: Dealing with Teenage Stepchildren, here. I hope this helps.
BeingAStepParent - 6-Jan-16 @ 10:54 AM
Please help Step mum to 14 yr old and 12 yr old. Three children of our own aged 2, 6 and 8. Husband very protective of his two children treats our children differently he says he overcompensate a for their mother who is a bad mum. I feel like a visitor in my own home they ignore me unless dad is at work, ignore our children only speak to dad, make demands are very spoilt don't have any boundaries or discipline as husband hates discipline or boundaries denies he has any guilt over them but he does he is riddled with guilt and has been for ten years. Puts their wants needs before our own children acts differently when they are around his life revolves around them and I am left to parent our three children he feels guilty being a dad when his other children aren't around. I have lost the desire to catty on in this marriage I have tried so hard to be a good step mum and a friend but all to no avail. My children are beginning to notice the stark differences in the way dad behaves when they are and aren't around and I have to consider their feelings not just my own. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Mac - 5-Jan-16 @ 12:38 PM
Ron - Your Question:
One thing I can't find any information on is how as a step parent, one can feel like an outsider quite often. I've been a step dad for 17 years. The children are now grown and have children of their own. They are both single and come over all of the time, which is great! Right? Actually my step son and his 10 year old live with us.Now, case in point. Both step kids have tattoos. The daughter (33) has seven and the son (31) has four. The wife just got her first tattoo 3 months ago. I have none and have never really though about it. Until now.You see, now that the whole step family is tatted up, I feel like an outsider. Like I don't "fit" with this family anymore. It's not just because of the tattoos, it's the mindset that they all seem to share regarding them that I don't. "it's no big deal." "It's just a tattoo." To me a tattoo is a VERY big deal.Starting there, it makes one look at other aspects of thought that differ between the "step" and the "bloods". Fashion style, introvert vs. extrovert, work ethic, attitudes, when they share memories of times before the step parent situation, etc. As a parent, one can always see a resemblance of a family member in things that their children do. As a step, I will never see that. which lead to the "outsider looking in" feeling. A sense of not fully belonging.

Our Response:
These are very interesting points you have made. As you say, most articles deal with step-parenting younger children. While most step-parents can see the subtle differences in genetics and idiosyncrasies passed on through families, it seems with you the tats are screamers that highlight your differences more. However, looking on the positive side, you must be able to share plenty of history and memories which have developed over the years because you have been a step-parent for 17 of them. The main thing is whether your stepchildren value you, and whether you have a good/close relationship with them. If we were all the same, we would be boring. However, for you to notice this now and not have noticed it before may mean there are some other fundamental issues in question here. When you are happy in a situation, such as at the beginning of a relationship when all is a novelty, you would not notice these differences, or if you did notice them, you might willingly embrace them. The fact you are questioning your own position in the family after all this time, when generally most step-parenting issues will have been resolved, is one that only you can reflect upon and answer. I hope this helps.
BeingAStepParent - 18-Dec-15 @ 11:40 AM
One thing I can't find any information on is how as a step parent, one can feel like an outsider quite often. I've been a step dad for 17 years. The children are now grown and have children of their own. They are both single and come over all of the time, which is great! Right? Actually my step son and his 10 year old live with us. Now, case in point. Both step kids have tattoos. The daughter (33) has seven and the son (31) has four. The wife just got her first tattoo 3 months ago. I have none and have never really though about it. Until now. You see, now that the whole step family is tatted up, I feel like an outsider. Like I don't "fit" with this family anymore. It's not just because of the tattoos, it's the mindset that they all seem to share regarding them that I don't. "it's no big deal." "It's just a tattoo." To me a tattoo is a VERY big deal. Starting there, it makes one look at other aspects of thought that differ between the "step" and the "bloods". Fashion style, introvert vs. extrovert, work ethic, attitudes, when they share memories of times before the step parent situation, etc. As a parent, one can always see a resemblance of a family member in things that their children do. As a step, I will never see that. which lead to the "outsider looking in" feeling. A sense of not fully belonging.
Ron - 17-Dec-15 @ 4:20 PM
@Marmite - Let's put it a different way, it's rare a teenager doesn't have a problem with one or both of their parents at 14! Anyone with a teenager in their house will known that almost overnight our once sweet, child has turned into some kind of pre-pubescent moody monster. However, parenting has to remain consistent at all times as it is vital that children do not get mixed messages from their parents. 'Two's company, three's a crowd', can also overspill into families and the fact you say you have a very close relationship with your son, automatically pushes your husband into the background, especially if you spent (if I have read this right) the formative years with your son and only lived with your husband for the last five years. The best thing you can do is communicate with each of them and encourage them to communicate between themselves. Someone described teenage parenting to me as being pushed through a big tunnel until you shoot through the other end. Us by David Nicholls, is a good fictional book that sums up the differences fathers and sons can face, and how mothers always seem to have the relationship angle sorted. At least it may shed some light on what's going on in their heads! Iz :)
Izzy - 13-Nov-15 @ 12:15 PM
My husband and I are happily married, my son (aged 14) and I have a great relationship. My son is no trouble, at home or at school. The problem is that my son is having a terrible time with his real dad, and understandably is upset and frustrated by this, they are at the point of not seeing each other (long story, but it was going to happen at some point), but my husband just sees him as whining on and goes into a sulk with me when I give my son my time and comfort him at this difficult time.By his own admittance my husband is jealous of how close I am to my son, and feels pushed out, but I have always ensured that he and I have grown up time together, we've been together for 11 years, lived together for 5. My husbands jealousy is driving a wedge between he & I, putting me on pins when my son wants to talk in case husband hears and makes comments.My son feels that husband doesn't want him in the house, and thinks that he's being rejected again.And just want to bang their heads together! Please, any help will be appreciated.
Marmite - 12-Nov-15 @ 1:04 PM
I'm struggling and I need help. I'm 21 years old and I have been with my partner For 4 years. Her children are 7 and 8. Both children have additional needs. Of course I love them but I'm struggling. I get annoyed when we can't spend time as a couple and when we do, she either Talks about the children or about their disabilities. Does anybody else struggle with this? Please, any help or comment would be appreciated. Thanks.
Jen. - 7-Aug-14 @ 6:55 PM
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