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Old 11-26-2010, 11:52 AM   #1
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Default StepMonsters and other scary second parenting issues

I'm starting this for those of us who have or will step into the role of "the next parental unit". It's not easy. It can feel like you are stepping into a live mine field full of "so and so didn't do that" and "you're not my mom/dad" and "those are my kids!".

How do you navigate that? What are the rules/tips/tricks you've found for being a good stepparent?

Let's talk about the wins and the losses. I've had both.

One of my wins is my beloved son, KC. He's not mine by birth, but he's mine by love. He's 21 now and we are very close.

One of my losses is his eldest sister, Dv. We talk a bit but the relationship will never be more than that of casual acquaintances. KC is our link to one another.

Their mom and I do not speak except about the kids. We do not have a friendship at all due to choices we both made and behaviours we both exhibited. I regret that on many levels.

So, how about you? Who's a stepmonster out there?

*KC introduces me as his stepmonster. I love it.
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Old 11-26-2010, 03:14 PM   #2
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I am not a stepmonster, but I have one. I've had several step "dads" too. In general, the guys failed miserabley, one way or another and my one stepmom has been pretty decent.

Some of the things she did/does that doesn't irk and/or alienate me and makes her quite tolerable:

She tries, but not too hard.
She never tried to 'replace' my mom.
She's always been very thoughtful towards me (cards, gifts, writing letters).
She's always had open arms for me when I wanted to talk but never tried to push or pull me towards her.
She has always treated me like another person, not talking down to me or treating me like an object to be lobbed back and forth during custody issues.
She makes suck ass, hard as a rock and heavy as a stone biscuits but her bacon is usually right on and her gravy doesn't have lumps.
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Old 11-26-2010, 03:20 PM   #3
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I'm cross-posting what I just posted on Junie's thread. I never had anyone to talk to about this stuff and suddenly there are two threads for me to post on. I'm sure not complaining

I've often felt alone with this issue so it's great to have this thread and see I'm not.

When I came into the relationship with my husbutch, hy had two sons, one 12 and the other 17. Hys ex-wife of 18 years, M, is the biological mother of both children. M and BB are great parents in their own ways (as much as it kills me to say this about M due to my jealousy), so the co-parenting relationship is tight and very present. This is tough for me, as I often felt like a "ghost," an invisible member of the family. I wasn't exactly a real parent, and I wasn't a kid. I was the one who whispered my ideas to BB but didn't make the decisions. It's a really unusual role, with some benefits as well as frustrating aspects.

Now the boys are 18 and 23, so the intensity of step-parenting is lessened. The younger one, Jacob (lots of "Jacobs" on this thread!), reminds me of me. He is artsty, very emotional, strong willed, and a non-conformist. He has four women (i.e. two couples) with whom he splits his time when not at art school. He calls us "the mother network" and is open with his friends about us.

This is such an expansive and important topic so I'm not sure what else to say because there is just so much to say!

Here are a few of the harder parts of step-parenting that I've encountered:

1) BB will be on the phone with M (Jacob's other mother), and she will be difficult, and BB will put up with it, but then get off the phone, implode, and have the expectation of getting support from me. I will in turn get resentful of being put in this role, become tearful, and thus neither of us receives the support we are craving.

2) BB will ask me to discipline, and while occasionally I fill this role, I almost always say no. I strongly feel that when coming into the life of a child who is 13 or older, it's not good for the step-parent/ step-child relationship for the step-parent to be a disciplinarian. I think this is especially true when the child only resides with the step-parent part-time. My stance on this (not really all that relevant anymore now that Jacob is 18) was a frustration to BB, who felt exhausted by the need to always be the one who disciplined.

3) I always struggled with how affectionate to be. Jacob and BB are super physical, cuddly, back rub types, so in a sense it seems it would be easy to just jump in there with them. However, I felt that it was a bond they shared that I didn't want to interrupt. Also, since I was taking much more of a friend role with Jacob, I think I felt it seemed cooler not to go all huggy on him. In retrospect I don't know if it was the right way to go. Maybe it felt like a rejection, and we still aren't too physically affectionate. It's so hard to balance giving him space while showing how much I care.

Here are a few of the wonderful aspects of step-parenting that I've experienced:

1) Jacob's other 3 moms have raised the boys since they were young children and are also nearly 20 years older than me. They are used to disciplining and worrying and planning, etc. I, on the other hand, am closer in age to Jacob and don't have the more stressful parts of parenting within my role. Thus Jacob and I get to have a lot of fun together, and BB has said that at times he opens up to me in a way that he does not with his other mothers. This sure feels good to hear.

2) It's a fun family dynamic how Jacob and I have so much in common that BB and Jacob do not. Jacob and I are much more artsy, wild, and eccentric than BB, so there's a lot of playful teasing amongst us with Jacob and I unified in our commonalities. It's hard to explain but I love feeling that we have shared interests and ways of being, even though I did not raise him from birth. It's lucky, I guess.

3) Moments like this: One year Jacob gave me a very cute, touching birthday card. On the outside it said "Ever notice how in every family there's usually one person who's shockingly normal?" and then inside the card it said, "We should get ourselves one of those. Happy birthday!" Jacob wrote, "This is EXACTLY what our family is like!! But it is those quirks that I Iove most about you! You are a fun, funny, obsessive, artistic, queer femme social worker and that makes for some amazing cards in the mail and some 'on the spot' questions."
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Old 11-26-2010, 03:49 PM   #4
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I have five stepmothers. Only one of them am I still close to. She was 27 when we met, I was 15. She used to get me high and taught me about decorating. We had more of a peer relationship because of our ages. She also taught me how to drive by giving me the keys to her 1975 Pinto and telling me to have at it (She was in the car, and we were not high).

I have one stepfather, he and my mom got married when I was about 6 years old. He was only 22 at the time, and not prepared in any way to be a parent. He spanked me for wetting the bed, creating a fear of coming home from school. He walked around in his tighty whities, which made me uncomfortable and he was never affectionate, always a disciplinarian to the point of physical abuse. I loathe him, and haven't seen him for many, many years.

My mother knew he was unfair to me, but chose to stay in the relationship anyway, which she admitted later. I had a really hard time getting over that, my grandparents on both sides knew and they supported and loved me as much as they could, but they could only do so much.

People should be parents first, perhaps my own experiences are what make me appear a little (or a lot) judgmental about this.
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Old 01-17-2011, 07:23 AM   #5
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Arrow I'm a step mom

I've been a step mom for 12 years now and let me tell you, I have learned a lot!

I learned:
1. I found that as the step parent, I was more strict on my step child than I was my biological son and the bad thing was, they both noticed it. Not cool.

2. You can't change your territorial child's behavior, they're only doing what comes natural to them...loving their parent whom you are now involved with.

3. Patience truly is a virtue and is a great step toward winning their heart to you.

4. Praise your step child for EVERY positive thing you notice or good thing they tell you that they did in school, even for the little things. This will boost their self esteem and their opinion of you You will find this WILL bring you closer.

5. Outlandish grounding for more than a day or two (depending on the age - time out may be more beneficial) is worthless because they forget what they've been grounded for! Seriously! Now if they are teens, taking away a cell phone for just a day sends them into orbit and gets your point across nicely.

6. You have to be willing to say you are sorry when you wrong them. It makes you look more human in their eyes and it teaches them to apologize when they have wronged someone as well.
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Old 01-17-2011, 07:54 AM   #6
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i am not, nor have i been a step-parent..
i have , however, had step-parents, AND have been in relationships where they've been a step-parent to my 2 children.. so i can relate with a lot in this thread..

i truly didn't understand how difficult it was for someone to enter a relationship with someone who already has children. it's taken some eye opening experiences to really get the giste.. i have never been a great disciplinarian, and now that my children are teenagers, it shows .. it's something i've been working on, as i'm too soft and have spent years of letting things go.. but, things have been much better this new year, it's been small steps with my children and tons of love to get things back to normal with some respect & lotsa love and just a better situation overall.. so once i am ready to get back into a relationship (which will be awhile yet) - things will be on a much healthier note..i can totally understand the pressures & stresses of being a stepparent - and will always be more mindful of it..

my parents separated when i was 8 years old.. i lived with my mother and seems i was always with a babysitter, day & night.. when she met my step a-hole (we don't get along) he moved right in.. she immediately took his side no matter how mean he was to me.. i was scared to even talk to him because of his outbursts, usually.. he woke up grumpy and was a bear right to the moment he went to sleep at night.. the emotional scars far surpass any physical scars he gave me.. eventually, my mother alienated me, i went to my father's when i was the age of 12.. my mother & i have never been close - and she has become so much like him, it's scary & quite sad, even.

i do have a stepmother , however that is very much like a mother to me, moreso than my own.. i've always known i wasnt 'as' important as her own two children, and i tend to not get included when they do their things, still.. but it's okay, now because i have a better understanding what its like taking on someone else's child.. and the love she does show me, is something i'm so appreciative of to this day.. i could always depend on her, i know this...
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Old 07-11-2011, 10:32 PM   #7
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In a little less than a year, I will be entering the role as a stepmother, of sorts, I think

As it is now, I leave any disciplining to my partner. I don't feel it is my place at ALL, to discipline or even have a firm word. I am more of a de-stresser.. when things are tense, the kiddo is full of energy, and my partner is tired and just wants some breathing time, I take over. I find something that will turn Abby's attention to me, whether it be Sims or watching National Geographic or showing her how to make roses out of play-dough.

I grew up with both of my biological parents, so I don't have any experience with being a step- anything. I admit, this worries me. I don't know how to be a parent, especially when we only have her daughter twice a month for only a weekend.. We tend to let the little things slide, because we want our weekend together to be a good time.

So, I don't know I'll keep reading though - thank you for this thread!
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Old 07-11-2011, 11:07 PM   #8
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I can post in this thread now -- after a few years of pain, things have come full, happy circle!
I raised my daughter from 4 years old on. Legally adopted her when she was 8. Her mother and I were in a long, sad co-dependent relationship for 14 years. I was stuck in the caretaker role, always working for the "if only she knew how much I loved her...."

My ex was repeating the cycle of her mother and generations before her (where children take care of their addict mothers and live for them). but had to work MUCH harder at destroying things since I was in her life and kept staying.

I was always blocked from true parenting with the "you aren't her mother, you don't understand her" gig. But, I maintained the "sane, no-strings, consistent rules, love without condition and always be the one who believes in the child" stance my parents taught me. They gave love unconditionally and never made me feel I owed or had to take care of them; they were also great role models as foster parents for the most unlovable, difficult and unwanted children in the state system, and staunchly kept the "they have to have someone who will brag on them and love them for who they are" rule.

When my ex finally committed egregious enough offenses to force me to break the co-dependent relationship (actually a gift to me in retrospect), my daughter at 18 kicked me out of her life, saying "you aren't really my mom." I understood then that she HAD to take care of her mother, I was the bad guy for refusing to continue. I always hoped she'd come back, and always left the door open but did not push it or expect to see her again. It was a very painful, but secret loss.

Joy of joys -- she contacted me a few weeks ago. Asked if we could have a relationship again. She missed having a stable parent. So, my past presence made enough difference in her life that she could break the cycle finally and say "this isn't the way it should be."

From our first get-together a couple weeks ago, I started by saying "I completely understand, you don't need to explain anything. Let's pick up from here and celebrate." She did tell me how angry she was at me a few years ago because I wasn't stopping her mother from destroying her life -- for once, I wasn't stepping in and making everything right. She felt I destroyed her world -- she had to take care of her mother because I wouldn't. Luckily, she also knew from my years of influence that it wasn't right; after a couple years she broke free, moved into her own place, started therapy and then reached out to me.

Now, we can focus purely on enjoying our relationship. I'm still her mother. But, she is not a child or dependent, I am not responsible for her. And she's not responsible for me (what freedom for her!). It is wonderful to have an adult child who still wants advice but is responsible for herself. We don't need to feed each other. We can appreciate and love each other.

For years, I was the evil parent because I didn't play the guilt and co-dependent game with her, no matter how unhealthy I allowed my relationship with her mother to be. And, now I am rewarded.

Happy day! To me, I'm not a Stepmonster, I'm a lucky parent who gets to enjoy a person I had a role in shaping, who I can feel proud of, after all the rocks and woes and struggles with walking into a non-bio parent role. Hearing "you aren't her mother, you don't really know her" hurts. It hurts more to hear it from the child. But, in the long run, stable, unconditional love proves that "real" doesn't have to mean "biological."
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Old 07-12-2011, 06:34 AM   #9
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I don't know how to be a parent, especially when we only have her daughter twice a month for only a weekend.. We tend to let the little things slide, because we want our weekend together to be a good time.
It is definitely a game of choose your battle. A lot of things T & I find ourselves asking "in the grand scheme of things how important is this current situation?". We look at what is going on, how serious is it, who is being affected, what we can learn from this, or perhaps if it is just better to leave it alone. With the facts that we know to be true at the time(and yes there will be tons of times you may not have all or even half the facts you need) we make the best decisions possible.

A motto that I have come to stand by: "Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right." It's so important for everyone to see where they have been ineffective and/or wrong, take responsibility for that, and if need be make amends. Sometimes we learn from the kids too.

Some "wknd" parents will want their time together to be so much fun and will go above and beyond. It's important to find that balance. Don't strive to be the "good or fun" parent. Be the best possible parent you can be while raising a younger person to be the best person they can be.

Parenting really is the only job I know that gives you as much pleasure as it can heartache. I wish you tons of luck!!!!
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Old 09-30-2013, 10:05 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Arwen View Post
I'm starting this for those of us who have or will step into the role of "the next parental unit". It's not easy. It can feel like you are stepping into a live mine field full of "so and so didn't do that" and "you're not my mom/dad" and "those are my kids!".

How do you navigate that? What are the rules/tips/tricks you've found for being a good stepparent?

Let's talk about the wins and the losses. I've had both.

One of my wins is my beloved son, KC. He's not mine by birth, but he's mine by love. He's 21 now and we are very close.

One of my losses is his eldest sister, Dv. We talk a bit but the relationship will never be more than that of casual acquaintances. KC is our link to one another.

Their mom and I do not speak except about the kids. We do not have a friendship at all due to choices we both made and behaviours we both exhibited. I regret that on many levels.

So, how about you? Who's a step-monster out there?

*KC introduces me as his step-monster. I love it.
The whole idea of being in a relationship with someone who had kids in the home always used to be a huge, "NO!" to me, and yet, something in me shifted shortly before I had my hysterectomy. Not sure what that was, but it did and here I am happily partnered with a woman who has a 11 (will be 12 in the next few months) year old. I was so afraid of being the "step monster" because we have all seen and heard the horror stories. And really, when I sat down with my partner and talked about my fears, and how I felt, we worked through much of the anxiety and reticence about it all and worked out a game plan.

What has been crucial in making a healthy and strong bond with my step-daughter has been the following tips, tricks and ground rules:

1. Assure her that I am not here to replace ANYONE in her life. Let her know that I am merely another addition to the family, like an extra parent, or a new uncle. And that with that I will never ask to be called Dad, Papa, or anything like that.

2. Even if I don't agree with kiddo's mom (or dad) on their parenting style, or discipline techniques; as long as they are not abusive, I must stand as a united front with them. Any disagreements about parenting style/discipline techniques can be discussed behind closed doors where the kiddo can't hear them, because believe-you-me, kiddo will exploit that divide like nobody's business.

3. Never, and I repeat NEVER badmouth her father (or mother) in front of her. This also extends to dad's (or mom's) partner/spouse.

4. If in doubt on how to proceed when kiddo acts out, make a note of it (if mom or dad isn't around) by calling their attention to the fact that it wasn't appropriate, and inform them that a conversation will happen when their mom (or dad) gets home where you ALL will sit down and discuss what was done and how to resolve it.

5. ALWAYS make the punishment fit the deed. You should be firm, fair, and consistent...but never be excessive in your punishment.




These have been what works for me and my partner as well as kiddo's dad and his new wife.

Hope they may be of help to any of you.
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