Why stepparenting is harder than parenting

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A common expectation from divorced dads is that their partner will step in and parent their children. They might think that if their partner spends more time with the child, a bond will occur quickly and they’ll be a “real” family. But this can often backfire as there are many challenges a stepparent faces that usually don’t exist for the parent; challenges that make it exhausting, and sometimes impossible, to “parent” another’s child, especially early on in the relationship.

The relationship between stepparent and stepchild will take years to develop and forcing it may actually delay things, or prevent it from ever happening, as negative feelings and resentments build.

But since a lot of dads don’t know this, they get frustrated when their wife wants a break or is resistant to parenting their child. The fact is, there are some very good reasons why it’s often harder to stepparent than it is to parent.

  1. Children are more forgiving of a parent than a stepparent. Parents might learn as they go as too, especially first-time parents, but the cost is less. There may already be so many negative emotions around having a stepparent, that one wrong move might cause the child to hold a grudge, making it impossible to ever get close to him. Stepparents often live in fear of misstepping, especially when they don’t know what that might be until it’s too late.
  2. A parent has a higher level of tolerance for their own child than the stepparent has. The stepparent didn’t go through nine months of carrying the baby in their womb. They (usually) didn’t have those very precious first few years with the child where they bonded. The child is not an extension of the stepparent. It’s just natural to have more patience for something that’s yours, than something that isn’t. The mess, the noise, the tantrums, the stress – I don’t believe any parent loves these things, but they tolerate it because, well, that child is theirs. Something happened when that baby was born that gave them unlimited ability to put up with anything and everything the child throws at them. Even when they do need a break or get angry, their love for that child never wavers and they’re ready to get back in the saddle in record time. Most stepparents don’t have this super power and it can often take a long time to trust the child again or have positive feelings towards them.
  3. A stepparent never knows when they should speak up. A stepparent is often worried about stepping on toes, getting backlash for something she said, or even something she didn’t say – something that was misinterpreted by the ex or incorrectly passed on to the ex by the kids. And because of #1 above, there’s always a fear of her stepchild not liking her anymore. What an awful existence, living with someone who doesn’t like you – but often holds so much power in the house. It’s exhausting to be so unsure of oneself. And walking on eggshells for an extended period of time will wear out even the strongest of spirits.
  4. The child wants to be parented by their parent, not their stepparent. Children are craving time and attention from their parent. They don’t initially see their stepparents as authority figures, meaning the child doesn’t see them as someone they have to listen to. If they feel resentment that they even have this extra person in their life, listening to and respecting them as an important person in their life isn’t at the top of their to-do list. And even if the relationship is decent between them, it can still feel an intrusion when a stepparent tries to intervene.
  5. Children naturally want to please their parents, not so with stepparents. Children don’t look for the approval of their stepparent the way they do their parent. There’s not a natural sense of wanting to be accepted by them. Don’t get me wrong, we all want to be liked, but what I’m referring to is happening on a much deeper level. In fact, sometimes they want to make things as difficult as possible for them, hoping on some level that maybe they’ll just leave and the child can have their parent all to themselves again.
  6. A parent has unconditional love for their child, whereas a stepchild can feel like a foreign entity to a stepparent. People love to judge a stepmom who doesn’t automatically fall in love with her stepchild. But the reality is these are basically two strangers who didn’t choose each other, now finding themselves part of the same family. Research shows it takes 4-7 years for a stepfamily to feel and function like a family, so those first years are an adjustment, to say the least, for everyone. A child doesn’t automatically think of their stepparent as a parent – or of any importance to them at all. That bond will take years to develop. And sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
  7. There might be an unhappy ex in the mix, discouraging the kids from having a relationship with the stepparent. When a parent places a child in a loyalty bind, the child thinks “If I like my stepparent or have fun with her, it will hurt my mom.” Therefore the child may resist a relationship with their stepparent, or even worse, start acting out against her. Research shows that the more a child actually likes their stepparent, the worse he may act towards her. The guilt he feels may be too overwhelming, as he thinks he’s betraying his other parent.

Dads: If you want to be your wife’s hero, listen to her when she says she’s having hard time trying to parent your child or when she’s asking you to do more of the heavy lifting, that is rightfully yours. It’s not because she “doesn’t like” your child, it’s not because she doesn’t care for you. It’s simply because this is the nature of stepfamily dynamics and sometimes it’s just impossible for her to be what you expect.

The development of the stepparent/stepchild relationship doesn’t happen overnight, so If you want to preserve the space for that relationship to happen, honor the process by letting it evolve naturally, at a pace everyone is comfortable with.

Well, stepmoms, what have I left out? What have your experiences been?

© 2015 Jenna Korf     All Rights Reserved

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94 thoughts on “Why stepparenting is harder than parenting

  1. These are such valid points, Jenna. I shared this on my Twitter page. I remember when I was doing research for my book proposal, I found similar information about the dad wanting to basically throw the “new mom” into the family, as in, “Here’s your new mom! Enjoy!” 🙂 Yeah, it just doesn’t work that way, does it? It really is such a process that requires patience, understanding, and knowledge.

    • Thanks for sharing, Shawn! And yes, a lot of families just aren’t educated in the specifics of stepfamily dynamics and what works and what doesn’t. They assume they’ll function like a first family, and it just isn’t so! 🙂

  2. The ironic timing of this article. Being a stepmother is soooooo hard, especially when you don’t feel the child(ren) are getting all that they need on various levels from their biological parents.

    In my case, we (my husband and the mothers) agreed I would not be involved with the affairs of the children. When standards and customs of child rearing are on 2 different planets, it’s impossible to cohesively raise a child.

    When it comes to stepkids … I would tell the potential stepparent to think 10x before joining into a relationship with someone who isn’t on good terms with the person they are co-parenting with … it will only lead to drama in your relationship.

    • One of the hardest things I had to learn as a stepparent is the art of letting go. Honestly, it’s something I’m still woking on, 10 year later. But, it’s the key to not dealing with any drama. It was so hard for me because I had similar issues as you- I did not agree with the parenting style of the bio mom. I cared about these kids who I felt deserved better. But, there is a saying about stepmoms, “We have all the responsibility, but none of the authority.” This is why letting go is so important for your sanity and happiness. Trust in God, or the universe, or whatever you believe in, to know what’s best. I wish you good luck! 🙂

      • It is hard to let go. One thing i struggle with is I provide insurance yet I have no rights. Can’t sign if kids need surgery, yet I’m providing something very personal and expensive. Neither bio parent has insurance. It stinks.

        • Carol, I know exactly how you feel! My husband and I have been married for five years and I have really struggled with this concept of step parenting. I’m supposed to do all of the things for my step daughters but the natural mom tells me I’m an unfit mother if I can’t take them to a function that she signed then up for when I can’t take the girls because my kids have something they have going on (my husband is not always available either). No matter what I do for her children I can never measure up. I’m so exhausted with this situation!

    • Bianca, when the parents don’t agree on parenting, it definitely makes things more challenging, but it’s not impossible to still have a great marriage despite that. Many co-parents *don’t* agree on a lot of things, but you don’t have to let that get in the middle of your marriage. A lot of the work I do with my clients is helping them preserve their marriage (and their sanity) in the face of drama with the ex.

    • You didn’t leave anything out. This is my second time being a step mother. Been there seen it done lived it. Its not easy at all.one of the hardest thing’s I have dealt with in my life.
      Every work you said. You hit the nail right on the head.
      A step mom.

    • I agree. I often day dream that there is time machine and I can see my future to think X10 prior accepting the step-mom role. We stepmoms no matter how good are our intentions, we are always ignored.

  3. I’m curious to know (as you said research shows) why does or do you think a stepchild take things out on the step mom(dad) the more they like them? I am currently going through this, and its hard!

    “Research shows that the more a child actually likes their stepparent, the worse he may act towards her”

    • Hi CN, it’s because the more the child likes you, the worse the betrayal must be (in the mind of a child experiencing a loyalty bind), therefore the guilt is greater. The greater the guilt, the worse they’ll treat you.

        • My advice is to always back off. If you initiate hugs, if you do extra special things for them, just stop. Don’t be rude or disrespectful, just don’t be overly nice. It will help lessen their guilt and they’ll often respond positively to that. Also, general rules about manners should still be implemented. 🙂

          • Really great question and answers!!!
            I almost never initiate affection, just verbal praise and that works really well. Stepdaughter is 8, and her mother makes her feel horrible for liking me. Even to the point of emotional , verbal abuse and abandonment (we had to call CPS/police before, because of it). So its like walking on eggshells sometimes. However, the daughter always initiates contact with me, seeks out hugs, stretches out over me when we watch tv. So it’s still there, it just comes from her. Its better that way. Verbal praise and comfort comes from me.

  4. Thank you so much! I was beginning to think I was alone in this. I Love my step son but sometimes it is a very difficult relationship. Thank you for validating my feelings so I do not feel like the evil step mother that is so often shown in movies.

  5. I agree with the points above. Being a stepmom is way harder than I ever thought. Bio-dad (DH) sides with step kids, even if I disagree with something. I feel like I lose no matter what. There are acceptance issues, resentment issues, communication issues, jealousy issues…the list goes on and on. One thing I’ve learned is to take care of myself. Don’t sweat the small stuff and the season will change in due time even if it feels like an eternity living with step kids. Bio-mom is a big factor as well. I’ve also learned to take walks to get out of the house, learn a new hobby, etc.

  6. This article is perfect timing for me. I am coming up on a year of marriage and it seems like since we got married things got worse. My daughter ( who has no other parent in the picture) loves my husband; however, his daughter (who’s sees her mother only every other weekend) hasnt taken to me like i hoped she would. We constantly have drama with the other parent. I’ve tried being extra nice to his daughter hoping she would come around and it seems she resents me and my daughter more and more. Thanks for the advice. I will def try just backing off and letting things work out for themselves. 🙂

  7. I have never been able to really express what its like to be a stepmom. Right away ppl hear stepmom and they act as if they have heard the word “stepmonster” !! Everything you said on here is everything i have always felt. It took me 4 long slow years but i think my step son has finally came around. Its been the hardest thing ive ever dealt with but at the end of the day it was all worth it. I just had to show him who i was and let him know my place in his life. Thank you so much for this!!!

  8. Pingback: Truth of the Day | Jacquelyn's Space

  9. This is very true and interesting points. My husband and I have been together for 10 years/married 8. My step-daughter was 4 when we met. She actually took to me very well and liked me a lot. Things changed over the years and her mother didn’t care for me or for the fact I was with her ex plus there was a color issue. I always took her to the doctor/dentist. Maybe this is why she became estranged because I wanted to be apart of her life. Her mother did not always make the best decisions when my step daughter was younger and we tried getting full custody of her….Let’s say that didn’t go over well. We didn’t get full custody but did get more time. Her mom always acted like she was the only parent when my husband has been there since day 1. This made things difficult. It did help change her mother’s life around which we believe this is why God pushed us to fight for custody. Now thru all this, my husband and I have always stood about on the same ground for parenting. I do/did have those same feelings as I could only say so much towards my step daughter without causing problems. Especially when she would go back and tell her mom everything. We are a very structural household and her mom’s house is not…so that caused problems as well…..We recently had to let her go (our decision) live with her mom for good. This was a very difficult decision for my husband/us. We haven’t heard from her in almost 3 months…We continually pray that she will call us one day or at least call her brother and sister….They miss her tremendously. Step-parenting is extremely difficult. Thanks for this insight!

    • You’re welcome, Dawn! It’s extremely hard when one child goes to live with the other parent and doesn’t choose to stay in contact. Your husband should keep reaching out to her just so she knows you guys still care. Even just calling every now and then or sending a text, even if she doesn’t respond. Hopefully when she gets older she’ll realize you guys were always there. Good luck!

  10. I am new to the whole step parenting thing. My husband has a 6 year old boy whom I love to death. Bio mom is in the picture BUT not very often and doesn’t say much about parenting her child unless she disagree in which my husband deals with. I take the most care of my step son and yes ,while I don’t always have the patience my husband does, I can get burnt out some days. On those days I decide to go be by myself and take a long hot bath and relax. I only give my husband my opinion on what should be done but the ultimate decision comes from him. As for other family members however, I never tell them a parenting answer or even try to get caught in the middle discipline wise. That is my husbands job and if anyone has a problem with his discipline styles they can go to him not me. In my eyes I am fully there for my step sons well being BUT I will never take the place of his mother even if I do love him like he was my own. I do have hard days when I feel like I do sooo much for him and all he can talk about Is bio mom. However I remind myself he is not trying to hurt my feeling he is simply expressing how he feels.

  11. Great article! My situation as step mom is a bit different from most. My step daughter is 6, her mom died when she was only 16 months. I came into her life when she was 3. She actually asked me to be her mom. And so I am really the only mom she knows. But one particular thing that comes to mind is, I work 12 hour shifts, when I come home from work, 80%of the time, my step daughter is laying in my bed watching tv…… This drives me crazy, because when I get home, I wanna be able to go into my room, and change and just relax for a moment. I have a 22 year old son, so it’s been awhile since I’ve even had deal with little kids. So I usually shut the tv off & make her get up & go out of my room. But the other night, my husband made me feel bad about it & was saying “babe, she was watching tv”….. I told him, “so, I don’t care what she was doing, it’s my room & I should be able to come home to my room & not have to have toys in there and/or cartoons on & I should be able to get undressed & just chill for a few minutes! He kinda gave me the evil eye over it….. But I’ve always looked at, your room is yours, it’s your own personal space & my husband grew up as everyone typically gathered in his moms room, & is ok with it. So I’m not sure how I can convey to my husband that I NEED this personal space. That it doesn’t mean I Don’t love my daughter. I just need it for my own personal sanity & a way to download from the day.

  12. Sometimes I feel nothing I do is good enough for my stepkids and they purposely try to break me and my husband apart. Ive been with my husband for about almost 5 years and nothing has changed with his kids they still treat me like crap and disrespect me it hasn’t changed yet and I don’t think it ever will and enough is enough I’m ready to be on my own and focusing on my kids happiness instead of mine.

    • Stephanie, the kids shouldn’t be allowed to disrespect you. Dad needs to ensure everyone in the house respects each other. But I agree, you should definitely be focusing on your own happiness and your kids’. Sometimes stepfamilies just don’t mesh. It’s sad and difficult when that happens, but hopefully your marriage makes it worth it.

  13. I can understand how some step parents may have these issues. But I just can’t agree with this in my case. My husband has 3 children from his first marriage (whom he has full custody of) and 1 child from his second wife that we are fighting for visitation. I also have 3 children from my first marriage that my husband has now adopted. We have 6 amazing kids in our house 24/7 and we wouldn’t change it for anything. We have had a few bumps in the road from the damage his ex’s have caused. But it’s never been the kids lashing out at me. They have lashed out at their father but mostly their birth mother. I have loved these kids just as I love my own from day one. My oldest daughter asked me to adopt her just two weeks into me dating her father. My boys typically come to me first when they are upset just as most kids go to mom first when there’s a problem. Especially if they are upset with their daddy for some kid reason. I have never had an issue speaking up when there was an issue big or small and my kids show me the same respect they show their father. Even my oldest who was 11 when I came into the picture is a major mama’s boy. Every night he makes sure to give me a hug goodnight, and even if he’s with his football buddies he always tells me he loves me before getting off the phone. Even my husband’s one child that we don’t have custody of is as close to me as possible. His ex doesnt exactly like me but that’s ok. I can easily ignore her drama for my husband and his child. These are my husband’s children. I knew when we got together that it was a package deal. I love all of him including our children. Maybe our family is an oddity but it works. It takes patience, a lot of love and understanding. I only hope our family can give others hope and encouragement that a blended family can be 100% functional.

    • Hi Mandy, yep, you’re an oddity. Haha. 😉 But seriously, I’m always *really* happy when someone can’t relate to an article I’ve written. 🙂 And there are definitely some stepfamilies that work right from the start, but it is rare. Most of them really do take years to work through all the challenges. Good for you guys, though! 🙂

      • Hi Mandy and Jenna! Mandy, as I was reading the comments to this posts (which I really liked, thank you Jenna!) I was so happy to see someone share your point of view. I am in a similar situation, although we don’t have 6 six kids (eek!) but we do have full custody of my husband’s two teenagers. I am 15 years younger than my husband so you’d think it would be a recipe for disaster, but it actually has been such a unique perspective. Since I come from divorced parents myself (which was an ugly, ugly divorce) I can relate to my stepkids AND to husband be a foundation, sounding board, and supporter. It’s amazing how much influence a stepparent can have. Way to go Mandy – you keep rocking it!

  14. My Son and The Mother of there child are no longer together. She has married a man that we all get along with and has been in my Grandsons life for 3 plus years out of his 4.
    Recently My grandson has started addressing his dad as my real dad whenever he talks about him or we are getting something he will say can I get one for my real Dad. He said he was told to call his stepfather by Dad too. We love The stepfather and appreciate our great relationship with him this has caused confusion with our Grandson and hurt feelings for my son his Real Dad ( as he is referred too )
    We are just wondering if others experience this and what step parents are usually referred by. Does this mean when my son eventually marries it will go both ways and he will call his stepmom mom too?????
    Please Help This Grandmother Understand

    • Hi Christina, we typically do not recommend kids call their stepparents mom or dad, unless all parents are okay with it. But it does happen. But the kids know who their “real” parent is, regardless of what they’re calling them. 🙂

  15. This is excellent advice for anyone is this situation. I am 8 years into being a step dad (step son was 2 when I came in his life) and for anyone who may be discouraged it does get better. One thing I realized is that I’ll never be his dad and don’t try to be. I was raised by my step dad and even though I hated him when I was a kid, I started to respect him as an adult for everything he did for me. I know that one day when my step son is raising a family of his own, he will look back on what I did as a parent as an example for what’s right. So even though we many never have that magical relationship that biological parents with their kids, I am confident we will have a positive impact on each others lives and will probably be good friends in his adult hood.

  16. Im very happy I found this. I think in my relationship I can relate like feeling like I’m stepping on toes and walking on eggshells. And it’s very frustrating and upsetting. Was so close to losing my sanity and I feel like this article threw me a life raft

  17. These are very, very valid points. Honestly, I consider myself pretty lucky because my stepkids are 8 and 10 and I’ve been in their lives for 8 years (the youngest was 6 months when we met). They are the sweetest kids I’ve ever met. The biggest difficulty in our situation is the fact that my husband HATES communicating with his ex-wife (even via text). I think there is a lot of resentment from what happened in the past (and his feelings are valid) and I think it’s one of those things where he’s just never going to be able to be friendly. He tolerates her when necessary and that’s about it. I tend to be the mediator a lot of times and that gets a little hard to handle and I have to take a step back and just let them figure it out once in a while!

    I love your advice about “letting it go”. I also like to say “bless and release”. There’s really nothing else you can do sometimes!

    • Same here, I’ve been there 4/6 years and he has tons of resentment towards birth mother for taking him through court draining him physically, mentally, and financially, especially when she had a 2nd kid and hasn’t done ANYTHING as far as custody. They just trade her off and on. Sometimes he’s like, YOU deal with her and sometimes he uses me as we are united she (I) is wrong.

  18. Even though I already commented above, I forgot to say a big THANK YOU, JENNA! Even though I may not relate 100% to all of the points in your post, I shared it with my husband anyway 🙂 Just in case he forgets how hard it is to be a stepmom

  19. I’ve been dealing with issues (6+yrs) that till I found your site, I felt alone, depressed and just unappreciated. My husband now by me sharing your comments and articles has started to see what happens to me happens to other stepmom’s. Well it has helped with 1 of the girls. The other daughter he can’t see anything. At one point she’s threatened to “pop off” on me. In school she’s an honor student, has been recognized by the house of Congress and many other awards. They are very close. I’m a full time stepmom, bio mom left them and started a new relationship with 2 new boys. She (bio) leaves the country with her new family and doesn’t call for months. When she comes back things get horrible. Twice I’ve been accused of things that could’ve landed me in jail. All so bio mom would take/save them from wicked stepmom. All lies by the way. Anyway my biggest problem is that I have no escape, not even our bedroom. As he will spend private time with his perfect angel in our bedroom, watching TV on my bed in our room just the 2 of them. I’m left out in the living room with my kids and his other daughter. It’s so bad sometimes, I wonder if our marriage matters at all. All the other kids have boundaries my daughter and his other 1. He gives her permission to take my things without my permission and she will put them back without my knowledge broken. We are about to purchase our 1st home together and honestly I’m thinking this should be my exit. Any advice? ????

    • Hi Mary, did you read my blog post about having a kid-free zone? You absolutely need one. An ideal place would be your bedroom, but if your husband isn’t willing to abide by that, find someplace else. I even know a woman who transformed a small closet into her space! 😉 It’s great that your husband is willing to read these articles and educate himself on what works and what doesn’t. I also think that things could really improve for you if your husband just changed a couple of things. First, he should never allow her to take things that are yours without asking. That’s just basic manners. No one should do that with anyone’s things. It’s fine and actually good for your husband’s relationship with his daughter to get one-on-one time with her, but not in your bedroom. They could go outside or use the living room or a den. But your bedroom should be your sanctuary. And at the very least, if he’s not willing to make that a kid-free zone, you should have the right to interrupt them if/when you’d like to use your bedroom. Good luck!

      • When my step children are here. We Never sleep together. His children sleep in my room an he sleeps on the living room couch. This has been going on for 5 years. The children are already 11 & 13. When will this ever stop. I believe its ruinning our relationship. I miss sleeping with him. At first I allowed it cause I knew he had not seen them for quite awhile so they would sleep with him an of course I’d sleep else where. But now they sleep with me in our room. Being he works a lot an is never home but when he does come home we can’t spend intimate time together.
        Lonely stepmom

  20. An excellent article and tips!!!
    I am not a stepmom as of yet. But i feel I go above and beyond. I dont get the reciprocation back from the children. My boyfriend does acknowledge what I do, but the “mother” has not the same values of teaching her children manners or how to even teach her children just how to be respectful. My boyfriend sees them every other weekend and he just wants to be with them. And not disipline. I dont want to be the ” evil stepmother”. Thanks for your lessons!!

  21. I am so glad I found this blog. #3, 6 and 7 really resonate with me in this article! This is just what I needed to read right now. It has been a rollercoaster few weeks with my stepchild and I feel like everything I do is wrong, yet at times we seem to have a good relationship. I am not convinced my husband really understands this feeling. In addition, he and his ex were never married; I am interested to see more research, articles and blogs on the never married segment of the step family population which I imagine is growing. While many of the challenges are still the same, I think it adds a stigma to the situation for all of us on top of everything else. Thank you!

  22. You didn’t leave anything out. This is my second time being a step mother. Been there seen it done lived it. Its not easy at all.one of the hardest thing’s I have dealt with in my life.
    Every work you said. You hit the nail right on the head.
    A step mom.

  23. I’ve been in my stepson’s life since he was a baby, he’s never rememebered me not being around. I’ve loved him, doted on him, and been there for him all those years. <3 This year he just graduated from high school! This article is great and I needed it over 17 years ago for validation I wasn't crazy! It's very difficult to grasp how little you're thought of by your stepchild even after the involvement and love you've given to them. My SS moved in with bio-mom without resistance from us upon graduation. Biodadd and I offered him free rent and stipulations about needing a job/etc if he chose to live with us but he turned us down. He's now trying to figure out if he wants to go to college and doesn't come around to see us or his PreK siblings unless it's because he wants something – stereo installed, etc – never asks for money thankfully. However…it's incredibly hard and I continue to struggle with how often to contact SS because the negativity of his biomom towards me was so strong throughout his life; now he lives with her 24/7. His dad and I attended all his doctor appts (dental, annual, emergency, specialty) when biomom simply didn't trouble herself to attend any for years or even call his doctors – he had ADHD so we had 4 appts per year and a school counselor we saw regularly – still without biomom attendance! We fronted money for all activities to allow his mom time to reimburse us even though she didn't pay us back for 6 months to even a year at a time… Now we're treated like second class – when previously we were the first people he'd call if he needed advice which I attribute to our being dependable and he could rely on us…maybe I'm wrong?! Now – my SS only calls ME to ask for things like his SSN or to look for something specific for him – nothing like it was prior to graduation. Thankfully he calls his dad to ask his opinion on things at least weekly so he's maintaining that relationship alone. It's very heartwrenching…what do you offer to stepparents for the step children who have graduated high school and just completely disconnect – it's not like this is even "our son" anymore. 🙁

  24. It can be hard sometimes to get along with kid’s that aren’t yours. I have a step son that will be 10 in November and I have been around children all my adulthood (I am 30 years old now) but I would babysit and work in daycares and would always have children that would get attached to me easly. My husband says it’s because I am laidback and understanding of situations that may come up. I have a very bubbly personality and also encourage my husband to spend time alone with him and he does all the talking to my step son and the parenting. I just let him come to me and now of how close we are the Bio mom is pretty jealous and unhappy. But you would think she would want to try and have relationship with him, but nope not at all. She just complains about it and gets mad at my step son. Which is unfear to my step son.

  25. I love this article. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost a year and a half, we got together a couple weeks after him and his ex split up. She had their baby up until a few weeks ago (he’s 18 months old now). He is now living with us as she was deemed unfit by Child Protective Services (long complicated story). This would be no biggie to me except I’m 9 months pregnant with our first which wasn’t planned. So in a matter of just a few weeks I went from soon to be mom to both soon to be and step mom. It’s terrifying! And I only met my stepson a month and a half ago.

  26. I have been narried to my husband for almost a year and my step daughter has just moved in full time with us. Your post hit right on in everything. I have a 14 year old son and the transition was a lot easier with him than with my stepdaughter. My husband is very supportive of me but carries a lot of guilt ans is too permisive with her. It worries me to be handling to 2 parenting styles in one home.

  27. I have found step parenting easier than parenting in many ways, and one of the reasons for this is actually the opposite of no.2 above. Since they aren’t my children, they don’t have the same ability to push my buttons as my own child does and I find I am far more patient, forgiving and gentle than I was when my child was the ages of my step-children.

  28. I wish I would of had this information about 8 years ago. My stepson is an adult and we have a good relationship now, and we always had a pretty good relationship until his mom would put things in his head. He had a lot of the loyalty issues, didn’t want his mom upset that we got along. Every time you think the storm calmed his mom would stir things up.
    After he turned 17 my husband told his ex I’m not playing your games and started to concentrate on our family. Our family dynamics are different now and I thank God where we are today.

  29. Thank you for writing this, Jenna. I think it is most hurtful when my husband doesn’t understand the nuances that I am dealing with as a stepmom. I have tried to explain to him that I feel a “lack of control,” in my own home. He says that he has empowered me (and he has), and that I have no more or less control with my step daughters than I would with a natural daughter. But I disagree. I *do* feel that I “never know when to speak up,” and I am worried about backlash. I don’t believe I would feel that way with my own child. I don’t have children of my own, but hubby and I were talking of having children and I was trying to tell him that I worry about the “environment” where I don’t have a strong sense of control over disciplining the step kids (which isn’t my role) – or being a strong enforcer of the rules. He doesn’t understand this at all and he believes it is “my problem” and that it’s just because I am not assertive enough with the kids. That I don’t set enough boundaries. I admit I am not good at boundaries, but this situation is tricky. It hurts me that he doesn’t recognize that, and he sees it as my failure.

    Cari

    • Hi Cari, it’s great that your husband has given you authority. It just sounds like you both could benefit from a couple of things: You learning how to enforce healthy boundaries and him understanding (educating himself?) that for most stepmoms it is MUCH different than having your own child. Even if he gave you all the authority in the world, the kids may still be resistant and even hold a long-term grudge against you, whereas your own child may say “I hate you!” and then love you the next day. 😉

      • Hi Jenna! For me the worst part is that I am not a natural mother of any children. So I feel that my husband finds me sorely lacking (and he tells me so) in any parenting skills. It is really hard to be a step parent without having been a parent first. I believe my husband sees my failure to enforce boundaries as my lack of parenting skills – but I feel that even if I WERE a natural mom, it would STILL be tougher with my step daughters. I wish he could understand that.

        • Well, if he doesn’t expect you to know how to “parent” because you’ve never been a parent, then he should acknowledge that he can’t possible understand what it’s like to be a stepmom since he’s never been one! 😉

          • My husbands kids have very bad behaviors. I am fed up with the lack of parenting on both bio parents ends and having the repercussions. How do I handle this? How do I keep resentment from over riding when chaos is ‘normal” for everyone, it seems, but me. I am strict and expect good behavior from kids, however, I didn’t create the bad behavior and am expected to handle it-and I’m not talking about typical kid stuff. I’m talking about pathological stuff. I’m beyond frustrated.

        • Hello Cari – is there any way you can attend the step mom retreat? It might be helpful to speak face-to-face with blended family experts as well as other step moms who are struggling! I am going and I have told my daughters that I am going on a “spa weekend”.

  30. And then there’s the dynamic of dad being broke because of child support, so all the good things are paid for by the stepmom. Birthday parties, Christmas gifts, vacations, eating out, going to the movies–you name it. Don’t waste your money — save it for the day spa treatments and vacations with your bestie–you will so need that time away from the entire grateful lot. Or make sure dad knows he will need to pay you back when his financial situation improves. There is nothing like being told by your husband that he can’t afford a 10th wedding anniversary gift for you only to announce a week later that he’s saved up $50 so he can go see his kid be in the ensemble in a minor college play. Finances are a huge resentment factor.

  31. I have 7 yr old stepson who doesn’t know his real mom. She abandoned him as a baby and I’ve been with my husband since he was 2. He still treats me like pure crap. It’s so bad that I can’t even just stare off to space in his direction without him getting in this poutty attitude. My husbands daughter is 11. And things with her have gotten so bad. She’s even gone as far as lying to her mother about me. Which in turn has now caused us to have to go back to court. Every time I try to remove myself from his kids he gets mad and doesn’t understand. Says they’re just being kids. And that I can’t give up on them. My son who is 6 doesn’t treat my husband the way his kids treat me. His daughter has caused a lot of stress on our marriage. And I’ve actually threatened to leave if he doesn’t do something about her.

  32. I just discovered your article and I am engaged to a man with a baby, a little over a year old, and having no children myself. I have never felt motherly or had the notion to have children, but I find myself in this family trying my best. This article nails every single thing I have been feeling! I couldn’t figure out why sometimes I felt like this or if it was normal, and honestly I was scared I was a terrible person. I can’t express how refreshing it is to read that I’m not alone.

  33. I have such a Type A personality and I feel like there is a large part of me that would like to reach out to the ex and let her know that I know it is hard for her but whenever she is ready I would love to try to get along.

    I just don’t know if it is appropriate or if the timing is right because I know that her and my boyfriend struggle with co-parenting and I don’t want to feel like I’m trying to involve myself before they have all of their eggs in a basket.

    Opinions?

    • Hi Kayla, I think you’re right to wait on this. Usually if the 2 co-parents are struggling with each other, the ex isn’t able to be open to hearing from the stepmom. I’d wait it out and see if things change for the better. 🙂

  34. It is such a ridiculous comment to say that step parenting is harder than parenting. I have two daughters, 17 and 11 and the youngest has Aspergers. I am with my children day in and day out. Their father and step mum have them 4 days a month if that. I do not disagree that being a step parent raises all kinds of new challenges but to say they have it more difficult is utter rubbish. I have basically single handedly raised my girls and the last year has been such an emotional roller coaster getting the ASD diagnosis and the dad has been no where to be seen yet I have had to fight for my daughter every step of the way. He then thinks he has the right to post on social media how difficult it is living with a child with autism and his partner wastes no time in bragging about every second she spends with my children on social media. You have to understand that it is not the step parents place to parent someone else’s child. An earlier post mentions that there is a disparity between the bio Mums parenting and the step mums but I don’t see how the step mum should have any say in the matter. Unless that child is being neglected or abused then stay the hell out of it. Who says that your parenting technique is any better than the bio Mums. And just for clarification a step ‘mum’ has never and will never be a true mum to the child, friendship should be the goal, yes, but my children certainly only have one mother. It is also worth bearing in mind how hard it is for the bio mum to have her children around another woman behaving as a mother figure. I never ever signed up for a strange woman co parenting my girls, I never asked for that. I strive every time to stay neutral and positive for my girls and obviously work hard to promote a good healthy friendship between them and the step mum but make no mistake that this cuts me like a knife, I would obviously much rather my daughter be with me today than out spending a girlie day shopping with her. Some things are sacred to mother and daughter, I mean will she be there when we shop for wedding dresses too? Yes I am jealous, I don’t mind admitting that, I am not perfect but if step ‘mums’ knew their place then I wouldn’t have to be now would I?

    • Nikki,

      If you actually read the article you’ve commented on without jumping to conclusions from the title, you would see that the article is aimed at explaining to a father why his wife (you know, that evil step mom) might need a break from parenting his kids for the aforementioned reasons. Quite frankly, this article has nothing to do with the bio mom, although I think it’s quite telling that you’ve made it a comparison about you and the step-mom who has to deal with you. A step-parent has a “place” as a parent regardless of what the bio mom thinks. Her amount of involvement in her step-children’s lives, her “place” as you’ve called it, is determined by her husband (the kids’ father) and the kids in their own home. That doesn’t involve the other household or the bio mom in any way, although most bio moms I know try to force that issue. We also deal with a bio mom who is so possessive of *her* children that she attempts to micromanage at our house and makes her daughter feel guilty when she wants to spend time doing “girlie” things. Fortunately, we implemented strict boundaries early on to prevent that and now she is not able to see into our lives at all. Unfortunately, she is also too caught up in how SHE feels about things occurring at our house to see the stress she has placed her children under by having to deal with their own mother forcing them into loyalty binds and making them feel responsible for her feelings. As both kids have grown older, they have actually turned against their mother because of her behavior and cling more to the stability and sanity of our home. My poor step daughter has talked to me about shopping for wedding dresses and has actually brought up eloping so she doesn’t have to deal with the loyalty bind she KNOWS her mother will put her in when she tells her she wants ME by her side to shop for her wedding dress. Poor girl fully understands that her mother is so insecure that she’s just considered eloping so she doesn’t have to deal with her. And we’ve never had to say a negative word against the woman, she just continues to dig her own hole. Trust me, the kids always see in the end. If the social media posts they make offend you, and they haven’t had the good sense to block you on social media, then perhaps you should just block them so you don’t have to see into their life together and be offended. And honestly, make your life at your house about your kids and stop worrying what their father and step-mother is doing or saying or who is taking your daughter shopping. Let your children create their own relationship with the other house without your attempt at involvement, even under the guise of “being supportive and promoting a healthy friendship”. Be happy that the step mother takes an interest in your children and loves them instead of being so possessive you have to declare how you never signed up for any of this and you’re jealous. No one ever signs up for this, not even us evil little step moms. It’s life. Try not to damage your children in your dealings with your life.

      • Thanks for your reply and well done for summing up my relationship with my children, my ex and my ex’s new partner by reading my relatively short post, you are so wise and non judgemental. How is the view from up there on your high horse? my comments were aimed directly at the comments made on this site and were in no way personal as were yours and I will not lower myself to such levels as you have, however I must redress a number of points you have made. For a start most of the other posts by the step mums compare themselves to the bio mum, one even questioning the parenting of the bio mum which I disagree with and you said yourself, why should the bio mum worry about what is going on at the step mums house, well that works both ways. Your advice on the social media issue is very insightful but I do have my daughter in common with them on these sites and so I refuse to block her and so see comments frequently, please bear in mind that I would block their newsfeed if I posted everything I did with my girls, as a show of respect for my ex and how difficult he may find this, I refrain. I clearly stated in my post that I totally understand how difficult it can be for step parents and also state my on going support etc for the kids relationship with their step mum which you call a ‘guise’. You are ignoring whatever doesn’t fit in with your narrow minded little opinion of me and my relationships which I find very sad. I really do not have to explain myself, especially to the likes of you but here goes again and maybe you will try to be a little more objective and a lot less judgemental. this page is not just about the fathers although some very valid points were made about them supporting the step mums. Did you happen to read some of the posts left by others? As for your relationship with the bio mum in your situation, clearly by what you have said it isn’t going very well and maybe your ‘implementation of strict boundaries early on’ has had a negative effect on the bio mum causing her to feel pushed out. How can you seriously place such emphasis on the step mums role and at the same time fail to take into account any input from the bio mum. The place of the step mum in my opinion is to be a friend and when I myself inevitably become a step mother I will make sure I tell the children that I in no way intend to be another mother or a replacement mother to them but would love to be friends. This is not what I heard from other posts on here, it was comparing parenting and deciding by most of the step mums here that the bio mum fell short which I believe is a very unhealthy and damaging attitude. You state that most bio mums you know try to force this issue so I gather your opinion, as limited as it is, is incredibly negatively biased. You also chose to ignore what I said about being a single parent, having an autistic child and practically having raised them alone, by myself without help, which does have an impact in a situation like this as I am really not used to anyone else having a say or helping me with my children, but thank you for your empathy. You have no way of knowing my situation and I’m pretty sure you will dismiss my claims but I reiterate, I have NEVER said a bad word to my ex, my kids or anyone else for that matter about their step mum. I left my ex and so no jealousy there and wished him all the best with her but he made things incredibly difficult in the beginning and I have seen my children come back from his house in tears. Nothing to do with the step mum and everything to do with his serious lack of judgement and parenting skills. So that’s been tough but actually I have tried to do the best for everyone exactly because that impacts the kids, I have smiled and chatted with them about the step mum (Charlie) and have always said (not to kids), that any bad feeling I may have is absolutely nothing to do with (charlie, mustn’t use *her*), it is to do with me and I take full responsibility of those feelings. I don’t like them myself but if it’s ok with you and everyone else can I please just have a short period to adjust? I stay completely out of events at their house as I know if my kids want me they’ll contact me and as a matter of fact Charlie is a fabulous step mum. I was very upset when I wrote that post, I don’t deny it as I don’t deny having these unwanted feelings. In future you need to stick to the facts instead of making assumptions about a situation you know nothing about. Believe it or not I have a gloriously loving, open and truthful relationship with my girls. I am not perfect and I have struggled with sharing them, I don’t mind admitting it at all because if I didn’t feel a loss and little pang of jealousy that someone else was enjoying time that would otherwise be mine then maybe that itself would be a better indication of a lack of love. My kids know none of this, yes you were wrong again there too, another fact I’m sure you will ignore. Finally I just want to add that myself and Charlie have reached out to each other with compassion, friendship and common understanding,(her kids go to their dads and she says she still finds it hard!). Herein lies the true reflection of me, Charlie and our family, can you say the same for yours?

        • Nikki,

          I think it’s hard on both ends. On both ends you have people who love the kid which is the reason it can hurt on both sides.

          Some of the things you said do touch a nerve for step parents who love their step kids as their own even though they did not birth them. I don’t know if I would want someone being a step parent to my child if they did not treat them in this way as their own because generally that means they won’t have your child’s best interests at heart in what they do. You mentioned that they spend every other weekend together for the most part, so doing those things to maximize that time as a happy time is what it sounds like is happening with the step mom in your situation.
          These situations are never easy for anyone, but all anyone can do is try to understand the other people involved at the end of the day the kids are going to feel how they are going to feel about their entire family biological or married in and sometimes it is best for both sides to let go of the things they can’t control and realize if their anger or attitude is beneficial for their kids or if they need to evaluate it. It sounds like you try really hard to be accepting and portray that to your kids, and that is great because it won’t leave them feeling that they have to choose. However there is a compassionate aspect that tends to not come out heavy from your post and that is that the situation is hard for everyone, and sometimes the best thing to do is to stop being concerned with what everyone else is doing with the kids and being glad the kid is having fun and getting to do things with their entire blended family. I hope it gets easier for you and maybe there can be better communication down the road. 🙂

  35. Me and my boyfriend have been together for a year and two months. He has a 5 year old daughter who I love so much. Me and my boyfriend have talked about the future a lot. Thinking about being is stepmom worries me a little because I heard it can be hard. Should I worry about it? Or is it still to early to even stress about it?

  36. You’ve basically put my everyday struggle into words…especially point 2, 6 and 7. These past two years have been absolute hell on earth – and trying to get my husband to understand that his kids might not have accepted me has been such a mission – now I finally have something I can show him that explains that its not just me that has a lot to work on…

    • I totally agree with everything in this article. This has been a tough weekend. I want to be a great step mom but I’m not allowed to make rules and just feel like I don’t fit in. I’m praying this will change with time…

  37. These really helped me. I have been with my husband for over 15 years. He has 2 daughters. I really love them a lot but now that they are grown I can see that I am basically in the way. One has a child and sometimes she wont let me hold her but someone else comes along and she hands her right off. It really hurts. I was not able to have my own children so it tends to make me a little more emotional than others. They have never called me Mom and I know they have a real Mom. But I sure thought they loved me to. Now I am not so sure.

  38. I have an 8 year step daughter and her mother doesn’t raise at all. Basically she just has her for the child support check. I try my best to be a good example of what a young lady is supposed to be but my stepdaughter acts very disrespectful when I try to discipline her and tell her what’s right. My husband is so passive and let’s too much slide with her. All of my family and a portion of his family sees my stepdaughter”s behavior a problem and my husband seems like he can’t do anything because she needs someone to love her since her mother doesnt. Kids need love but they need disciplining and good parenting as well. We are expecting our first child together in February and I know he is going to see a big difference in how our son comes up in life versus he’s daughter. I’m so ready for my son’s arrival. Does anyone else deal with just not wanting to be bothered with their stepchild or is it just me?

  39. You are certainly not alone!! I feel the same way but just can’t win. I’m the evil step mom because I try to discipline his daughter but I’m only trying to make her a better person. At least we are not alone!

  40. Thank you for such an insightful article. I’m sitting here very depressed the day before thanksgiving thinking about all the years I’ve spent trying to help my stepchildren only to be continuously rejected. Tomorrow they will celebrate with friends families because I’m not family. I’m someone to be tolerated. They resent that I breathe the same air as them. They think I broke up their family even though my husband was a widower. They don’t consider our marriage real. They try to make my husband choose between them and me. I have no authority or warmth in my home. I’m a stranger in my home. I’ve been told I’m no higher than a servant and on and on. My husband and I sacrificed to no end. Does if ever end? Was I naive that I could win these kids over? I come from a blended family. Why did mine work? So many questions. So few answers. Thank you for listening.

  41. You didn’t discuss the boundaries step mons have to learn. I dont have other children and have been in my syep sons life since age 7months. Naturally, being here for so long and during brain creation where he was/is still learning who ‘mom’ is, i feel ive given all the same as BM. My opinions, teachings, guidance should all be as important, as we have both been here from the beginning (almost). But im NOT mom, so I find it hard to help him learn, guide him in the right directions. I feel i fail him. I know it is the RIGHT thing to do, (help him, teach him,etc), but i find it frustrating because i feel I’m the only one trying.. i push for things to be done for him, because i feel, im the one who sees it, or notices it. But then, i feel ive overstepped a boundary, because im not his BM. What are the boundaries.. how do i stop feeling so frustrated.

  42. So glad I came across this web site, it has answered some of my worries about my abilities as a step parent and given me some much needed reassurance , Thank you

  43. I would add another point….step parenting is hard because the biological parent doesn’t look at us as legitimate parents and when that happens all respect from the kids goes out the window. If I suggest something it usually is shot down. If I were a “real” parent I could say something to the Kids and it wouldn’t be questioned, by them or my spouse, but because I’m not real every move is questioned.

  44. Thank you world. For almost 3 years now I have been doing my head in on how to deal with a step child that has no respect not just for me but her own biological parents and family. It was nice to know that I am not the only person having someone else’s child do my head in… My 9 year old step daughter has never had any discipline what so ever and out of the 4 adults in her life I am the only one that wants to make her a likeable child. 4 out of 5 of my friends just simply ask me what the hell is wrong with this child. My answer is always no respect and no discipline. What makes it even harder is that my parenting ways with my own children was always very tight. They have always been welcomed back from the moment they were active as a child. They are now both adults and have turned out to be great respectful people. Something I am very proud of. After reading comments above, I feel some what human again. I always knew it wasn’t me but this childs issues are now taking affect on the relationship I have with her father. I really want to sit down with the child and her father and lay the boundaries down. I want her to respect me, not to lie to me, not to manipulate me to get what she wants and in general not whinge she is always bored… So thank you everyone for your little in sights as a step parent. Much appreciated. Jodi – Australia

  45. It’s all about the husband, that’s the key, the secret, the answer and the solution. I don’t much like my 14 year old stepson but our situation is mutually respectful because of my wonderful husband. My stepson tried the rude behavior during the first year we began living together and having weekend visitation. We had him almost every weekend and for weeks at holidays, summer etc. I honestly and calmly discussed his behavior with my husband, who calmly discussed it (privately) with his son. That was smart because it was one on one and he didn’t have to face me seeing him be (gently but firmly) reprimanded. My husband told him he didn’t have to love me but he had to respect me as an adult, like any teacher or adult family friend. He told him it was my house (at the time it was my house we lived in) and I had kindly given him my guest room as his own room and cooked him all the foods he liked and cleaned up after him and he should at least appreciate that and be polite. It worked, his behavior improved vastly. He faltered a few times (kids will test boundaries) but my husband addressed it immediately. We still don’t love each other but we are respectful, fair, courteous and even kind to each other. Good enough for me. He is nice to our baby (his half soster) too. Zero drama from his mom. My husband and his ex are courteous. Not at all friends, but always respectful to each other.
    If my husband wasn’t a perfect gentleman – to me, to his ex, and toward his son, our marriage couldn’t have survived. Because he handled himself in relation to us all with the grace befitting a true man, our marriage thrives and out home is peaceful.

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