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  1. Ann

    hi all,

    So I have been a step mom for 8 years. my stepkids are now adults 22 and 20. We have always had a good relationship. Their mother left and only saw them when my husband forced her to at first. Then there was about 3 or 4 years with no contact at her choice. I know I’m very lucky. My kids have always responded well to me. In fact, I’m the disciplinarian in our house. They have never pushed back or been mean to me as their step mom. We have had issued just because they were teenagers and we were parents, but overall i have been lucky.

    They have told me before that I am like a real mom and their mom is just a friend, just fun. So they come to me with important stuff, questions and problems. All i see is they come to me for money.

    The issue I am struggling with right now is that with their mom back in their life (initiated by the kids not her. if it were up to her it would be too much work and she wouldn’t bother) I am feeling very hurt. They make time to go have dinner and my 22 year old step daughter will often spend the night with her. But they cannot manage to find time to come spend time with me and my husband. My daughter keeps an old family picture of my husband and his ex and the kids out in the open. I did ask her at one point to put it in her bedroom instead of her living room. She has lots of other pictures of herself with her mom and her toddler sister all over her home. There are a couple of my husband and none of me. Their social media has pictures of them with their mom. Again a couple with my husband and none with me. Their phone backgrounds are of them with their mom. I recently saw my daughters office and on her desk are pictures of her and her siblings and their mom. None of my husband, none of me with them.

    I know its not an issue of them not wanting their mom to see me in their photos. Those types of issues are long gone. I dont know if its an issue of just not caring about my feelings or being so self absorbed they dont realize.

    I am so sad about it and im sad for my husband. This woman abandoned them. A mediator, when she wasn’t paying her child support, once made a comment it was like she and her family divorced this kids rather than my husband. She has said terrible things to them and was never there for them (nor was her whole family). That she somehow is more important than either of us.

    I dont want to be petty. And if they want a relationship with her I can handle that. But it is so so hurtful that she is prioritized over us and that she is glorified in such a way.

    I want to then just say then dont ask me for financial help, but i struggle with that because I have always seen them as my kids and i dont want them to be stranded with no gas or not have lunch. I know they are adults, they are still only 20 not 35.

    Ive told them it hurts my feelings before and they just dont get it. They either are better for a short time or make it seem like we are petty and whiney. I just dont know what to do.

  2. Paige

    My boyfriend and I have been together for over a year and I have a great relationship with his two daughters (each from a different mother). The mother of the second one is constantly trying to control him though. When we see her for birthdays and holidays and such, she bosses him around. When she needs something from him, she tries to control him. And she’s constantly guilting him for missing soccer games and such. Making crazy accusations that whatever he’s doing is “more important than his daughter.” Which is not the case. But life happens and he can’t always make it to certain things. She will call him and text him at any time of night and day and most conversations end with him being frustrated and her pretty much yelling at him and making completely unfair accusations. Any advice for how to set boundaries and what to say to him and guidance on what he can say to her?
    I’m new to the whole long term relationship and being (kind of a stepmom) and is it fair of me to not be comfortable with having to hangout with the step mom on holidays and outings and such? I want to be with the girls, but having to spend time with this woman and seeing her trying to control him is just not easy. But I don’t want him to have to choose between me and his girls. I think I just need help setting boundaries. The mother of his other daughter seems to have boundaries and this isn’t an issue with her.
    Any advice will be so appreciated.

  3. Jessica

    I was wondering if anyone had some reading suggestions regarding “supporting your wife in the stepmother role”. I have been married for a little over a year and have 3 stepchildren ages 15/19/21. The youngest live with us full time and the other two have been in and out. Their mother has not been in the picture since the divorce 8/9years ago. My husband just doesn’t understand why it has been so difficult for me to find my place in the group. He wants me to take on the “mom” role and wants me to be active in disciplining. I feel extremely uncomfortable doing this because 2 are essential grown children.

    We can have the exact same feelings about an issue but if I decide to speak up first he gets defensive like I’m picking on “his” kids. He wants me to be involved on some things…but not on others. Then he will get frustrated if I’m asking him to talk to one of the kids about an issue. He thinks I should be the one to speak to them. It’s so irritating because he is so back and forth.

    Honestly I don’t feel as if I should be super involved with the older kids. And the youngest hasn’t really been open to building any relationship with me.

    I have tried to explain my feelings to my husband but he just doesn’t get it. I was hoping there may be some good books out there that do a better job. I’ve done some research but most of the books I’ve found are for the stepmom to read.

    Any suggestions would be so greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. carol

      I totally “get” it. I’ve been married 14 years and I’m still struggling my my husband getting defensive about my step kids(and they are now all grown and mostly on their own….they were 5, 7 and 8 when we got married). I’ve leaned I can’t say anything. When we were first married I welcomed the “mom” role. I sunk myself into it only to realize years later there is huge rejection from stepkids. They don’t want a substitute “mom”. I suggest just trying to be their friend when possible. Stay clear otherwise…don’t give advice to your husband or step kids unless they ask you for advice. I’m still struggling with trying to “fit in” and I’ve realized it is what it is. I need to embrace those moments when I’m accepted and

  4. Nichole

    If never done something like this before but I don’t know what else to do, I need serious advice. I have been married to my husband for 16 yes & he has 2 adult children, daughter 24 & son 22, neither of them like me. My stepdaughter has 2 kids of her own that she doesn’t have custody of. She has been staying with us, again, since everyone she has been staying with kicks her out. I, myself, have kicked her out several times in the past few years. She is very lazy & does not clean up after herself. She does not work & sleeps til noon then goes out to find frI ends that will spend money on her. Every time she screws up & we ask her to leave, she goes for a few months then calls my husband & asks to come back. She tells him that she has nowhere else to go. My husband will mention it to me & I will say no, I we can’t keep doing this because I’m the one she disrespects. Every time she comes back, we lay down rules that she has to follow & when she doesnt, my husband won’t say anything to her so I’m the bad guy for saying it. Then it turns into a big screaming match & he will not say anything. If he does she accuses him of taking my side. We got into it the other day because she doesn’t pull her weight around the house & I end up cleaning up after her. My husband & I have 2 boys of our own,ages 12 & 14. Now, today I found out she has been taking advantage of my 14 yr old. He babysitter his cousin after school & she has been borrowing money from him since she moved back in. She now owes him $75. To a 14 yr old boy, that is alot. I brought it to my husbands attention & told him that she has to move out. When I confronted her about it she tells me my son is lieing. After she screamed & told my husband that he will not see his grandkids anymore, she left & called my son & told him that it is his fault that she got kicked out. Now he is upset. I have been having anxiety attacks for weeks now & my husband is not speaking to me. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. My husband say “fine, we will just put her out in the street with nowhere to go” I am thinking about using income tax money to get a apartment for me & my boys because this has been a continuous cycle for years & will probably never change. I can’t take the stress anymore. Please, any advice is appreciated.

    1. carol

      I thought I had it rough….my step family experience is nothing like that, but I do understand. If we (step mom’s ) say anything the biodad takes their kids side and defends them. I face that all of the time over chores as well. How about hiring a maid and sending the bill to DH? One thing I’ve found that helps is to journal my thoughts, and to get out of the house and do things I enjoy. It’s tough because you also have 2 biological kids with him. I’ve read that 70% of second marriages don’t make it where there are kids involved.
      If we say anything then we look like the “bad” guy. I guess I’d suggest before allowing this adult to move in with you is for you and your husband to establish house rules together for her and then for you both to follow through with it.
      I might also suggest for you to have a third party (a counselor) who can look at things objectively and look at both sides to establish some boundaries.
      Praying for you.

  5. carol

    I do have a question for you…in regards to step parenting/marriage. We have been allowing my step daughter to use our spare car. It’s an older model car (a 1999) but very low in miles and it runs really well. When we purchased it (from my friend) we were planning on letting the kids use it as needed. My DH and I had talked about selling it to SD, but I don’t’ care to do that for several reasons. For one, it’s easier for me to drive than my car (it’s a stick shift) or our van. It has lower miles than our van, and she doesn’t take care of it…she doesn’t vacuum it, wash it or contribute to oil changes etc. I’d like to get rid of our van and keep the car, but I’m afraid that DH will still want to sell it to SD. I’m worried it’s going to create a blow out of sorts with him and SD against me. I also think that if she did what most young adults do (myself included) is to take out a small loan, make car payments, you are more careful with your car and take better care of it, because it’s a large investment. My other concern is DH will say…lets just let her keep using it and she doesn’t have to make any contributions towards it. Again something I”m not in favor of.

    Another thing too that I’ve talked to the counselor about is this…her graduation party. I told the counselor that I don’t’ care to do that this time. I decided I’m not going to bring it up unless they do. He didn’t even order graduation announcements. I asked him why he didn’t have her order them and his response was…”I thought we could make them” ….we who? He means me! The reason I don’t care to do her graduation party is because last time I got stuck with 90% of the work…I had very little help and I don’t care to be stuck doing that especially since the kids don’t refer to me as mom or have that respect anyway. When she was inducted into the National Honor Society they introduced her as the daughter of T ____ and M _____…there was no mention of her step dad or me, so I figured since she doesn’t consider me to be her “parent” why would I do a graduation party? I simply don’t care to do it. I’d be willing to offer some help but I don’t care to be completely responsible for everything like I did last time for my step son.

  6. Lucy

    Hello Brenda,

    First of all, I want to thank you for creating this blog. I woke up this morning with a sense of relief that my stepchildren would not be around today and instantly felt guilty for thinking these thoughts. I keep thinking….how did I become such an awful person? I decided to complete a google search to see if anyone else struggles with the stepmother role and so I found your site. As I browse through all of the stories I am relieved to see that I am not alone. Here is a summary of my story:

    I have the most wonderful husband who I am very much in love with. We married a few months ago after 4 years of dating, and joined our lives together blending two families into one. He has 3 children, 1 grown and 2 in the home (12yo girl and 17yo boy). I have 2 children (9yo girl and 12yo boy). When my husband and I met we did not introduce our children to each other for almost a year because we wanted to make sure that we had a solid foundation and future before exposing children of divorce to our relationship. After finally meeting we both worked on establishing good relationships with the children. We spent a lot of time together over the earlier years having group dinners, bowling/golf activities, camping, warm weather vacations. I opened my home to the young daughter and invited her to have frequent girl outings and sleepovers with my daughter. We have had some good times with his daughter, however, I could always tell that there was something missing. Even from a young age, the girl rarely smiles and displays more of a “mean girl attitude” if that makes any sense at all. Then there is the teenage son who I have struggled to communicate with since the beginning. He will not initiate conversation with me and even when I try he just gives me quick responses and closes the communication down before it can even really begin. When I simply say hello he will reciprocate the response, however, the tone he uses with me sounds like he is annoyed that he had to waste a few words on me. Sometimes I feel like I’m a green alien, yet I must not realize it. I am actually a very friendly approachable person. I have always been known for my laid back open nature. So the fact that I can’t connect with this teenager is baffling to me.

    Since we have all moved in together it has been a bit difficult. The daughter plays well with my kids half of the time, then the other half she bullies or excludes them. Frequently she comes home proud of the fact that she got in trouble talking back to her teachers at school. She tries to promote this type of behavior around my kids. Luckily for me, my kids have not been influenced. They are great students who are friendly and well behaved. My husband’s son co abides with me in a very awkward manner. When his dad is at work and I am home we tiptoe around each other with very little word exchanges. I am always relieved when my husband gets home because the home becomes more comfortable when he is present.

    My husband is a very go lucky happy person who has a great personality. I love being around him because of his youthful energy. His children are nothing like him, although I am frequently trying my best to find similarities to help me relate to them. He has addressed his daughters behavioral issues to a small degree but is very unaware of his son’s behavior towards me. I know that there is a large part of him that doesn’t want to see these issues because he is afraid that if he is too hard on his kids they will not want to live with him half of the time. He largely identifies with his father role and it would crush him to lose his relationship with his children. I have no intention of taking it away from him so I just try my best to accept the situation for what it is and I keep reminding myself that “this too shall pass”. His son is a senior in high school and is going off to the military after graduation. Although the daughter is also difficult to deal with, she is only with us half of the time. I have a better tolerance for her due to establishing a relationship with her at a younger age.

    So that’s my rambling story of what my life is like as a stepmom. I always imagined that I would be the best step parent with great relationships with the kids. I never had any intention of replacing their mother but I wanted to have an impact on them in some positive way. I saw myself laughing with them about their school days, hearing about their life events, and ultimately enjoying their company. Instead of find myself interacting with antisocial children that can’t make any emotional room for me. I truly understand that it is hard for kids to recover from divorce. Having a good relationship with me may seem like a betrayal to their mother. However, their mother is remarried and they love their stepdad. So many pieces of the puzzle may never make complete sense to me. I love my husband and I am willing to make this work so that I can have a life with him. My kids are crazy about him and he is good to them which is a blessing. It makes everything more tolerable at least knowing that half of the blended group is doing well.

    To bring this full circle, I woke up this morning feeling relieved that his kids are gone for several days. I have a couple of days off work and I am going to have a peaceful home. This makes me happy yet I am also feeling very guilty. I don’t want to be a step monster, I would be so hurt if my husband felt this way about my children. I’m to the point where I am at peace with it even though it is not the coexistence I had planned. Really I just needed to vent and get these feelings out so that I can begin working through them. Thank you again for creating this blog. I am excited to read more of the other step moms’ stories and gain insight from your own personal experiences.



  7. Rebecca

    I live with my fiance and he has 6 yr old and 12 year girls. I get along great with them. Their mom and dad have been divorced for 3 years. The oldest has her own cell phone that her mother got for her and is able to track where she is with it and can view her text msgs. My fiancé and I moved in together a few months ago and everything has been great with the kids. We have been getting along when they come over every other weekend. However, when I text the 12 year old to let her know I miss her or to just say hello, she very rarely responds. When I didn’t live with their dad the 12 yr old would text me all the time while she was with her dad. The kids mom and my fiance do not get along although he has really tried. She is still so bitter. I’m trying to understand all this and the 12 yr old talks to me about things and we get along. I just don’t understand why she ignores me when she’s not with us. It hurts my feelings but I have not let it show to her or said anything. I just let it go and continue to text at times when I want to share something with her. I am very careful to limit my texting her because I do not want to push her away. Can someone give some insight on this? I do not have children of my own and we do not plan to have any of our own. So this is all new to me.

  8. Renee

    Hello ladies,
    My fiancé and I are dealing with a bio-mom who is completely narcissistic!! She fails to realize it’s about the kids…. Not her!! We recently had a mediation where my fiancé recieved joint custody(in writing, signed by a judge) with terms they are both to follow!! Unfortunately bio-mom has already (after 3 hours out of court) broken some of the terms. (Belittling father in front of children,not communicating,and more) she has made it a point to keep the children from us and if we did have them it was “her terms”. Even with the court orders she still thinks it’s her terms we are to follow!! They will be attending co- parenting classes( together which I’m not too excited about, but maybe it will benefit the situation them going together) unfortunately bio-mom’s mental health is completely unstable. She sees and hears things “her way”, which is completely warped. Another issue I’m having is when we do have the boys, they are disrespectful (mostly the older one) and flat out say (maybe in other words sometimes) that mommy told them they don’t have to listen to us(especially me). She also drills them when they return to her. I’ve explained to her that she is the mother and I’m NEVER going to or try to take her place. I just feel she should be greatful they have a step-mom who cares and loves them as her own (but she doesn’t). I always make it a point to include her in any crafts I do with them(like making mommy a present or picture) but it’s nothing but ungreatfulness!! So any advice from “step-mommies” out there will be greatly appreciated!! It’s nice to be able to vent cause I can’t always vent to dad cause I look like the bad guy!! Thanks ladies!!

    1. Danielle

      I too have to deal with a bio-mom that is narcissistic. She does everything she can to try and turn my fiancés son against us. We have recently started to work with a lawyer to try and get a better custody agreement. The advise the lawyer has given us is to document EVERYTHING! if she speaks to us in a threatening way document it. If she rushes the child off the phone or takes the phone from him while we are speaking document it. It is not easy trust me I have had many a nights crying to my friends about the torment this women is putting us through. We jut have to always be the ones to take the high road. Which sucks! We keep our communications as pleasant as possible and to the point, we don’t name call and we don’t discuss issues we have with bio-mom in front of the child. The best advice I can give you is just worry about the kids and keep putting them first. Eventually they will see that you are not the enemy and hopefully she will too. But if she doesn’t that is no sweat off your back the only concern you should have is the children and if you and your fiancé keep that in mind it will work in your favor. And use the court system! They are not your enemy if you have proof of everything she has done to violate the agreement they can not ignore it.

      Hope it gets better for you soon!

      1. Erin

        To Danielle and Renee: I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about. My husband’s ex… I call her “Lucifer”, has done all of the above plus more.
        We have been to in and out of courtrooms since 2007. Our court orders have been revised numerous times. She would deny us visitations, she would lie to the kids about us, she’d tell them that WE’RE liars, she would tell them ALL about the court dates we had (of course with the Lucifer twists to the stories) she wouldn’t let us talk to the girls (now 13 and 15), she didn’t take them to the doctors for anything, they would drink and smoke in front of the kids, told them to disobey us, told them to fail school so we’ll return them to her, didn’t take them to the dentist, she would bad-mouth us to the girls, her 2nd husband was a druggie and alcoholic, her current husband is a child molester, child support never went to the kids, she never took them for immunizations….etc… All of which are contempt charges!

        We got tired of being stomped on and the kids being drug through the mud…

        SO! (This is where you take notes) in this day and age, evidence is EASY. Both my husband and I installed recording apps on our cell phones. It records every conversation (in and out-going). If they speak to her, it’s only on our phones. The kids have social media, but we put boundaries on them and we monitor EVERY conversation. They’re not allowed to delete anything and I have to have their passwords and usernames at all times. If inappropriate things are being said to them, we take pictures and immediately send it to our attorney.
        We also installed recording apps… if the kids are telling another horror story about their mother, we immediately start recording.
        Also, always have your visitation’s details VERY SPECIFIC. Name every single day that the visitation occurs…. the day, time, year, place, time of pick up and time and place of drop off in your paperwork. If your ex is late, call the police so it’s documented. Have EVERY SINGLE visitation addressed in your paperwork… for example: “mother will pick up kids on 18th of Dec 2016 at Joe’s Gas Station in (city, state) at 12 noon with kids ready and well provided for the duration of visitation and will drop children off on 26th of December at the same place and time as pick up. Kids will have all their belongings they arrived with plus anything they attained during the visitation” Have in the paperwork the conditions of the visitation: “Kids will have reasonable and amount of clothing and suitable clothing for the visitation as well as toys of their choosing, toiletries they will need…etc…”
        I suggest this because my husband’s ex wouldn’t pack my step-daughters for their visitations, so we always ended up having to buy them clothes. This was obviously done on purpose. She would also try to change the dates and times of our visitations.
        Keep a diary of every negative encounter with the other parent. Bring phone records to court if you’re being denied phone calls.
        If any of the kids are displaying negative behaviors that are stemming from the other parent, document it!

        If you know they have financial issues, have your atty check their electric and water bill histories. Lucifer’s electric was turned off 7 times in 7 months.

        If you know there are legal issues with the other parent or their significant other, have your atty get their criminal rap sheets.

        After all of her BS for 8 years, we learned the hard way how to make justice prevail. We attained custody of my stepdaughters last March. With all the evidence we collected for 8 years, we finally got them.
        On the flip side, we have to make sure WE abide by all the conditions in the paperwork. She talks to them on the phone, we don’t bad mouth her, we make sure all medical needs are being met, we abide by all the literature!

        Don’t get me wrong. I may sound sound pretty harsh, but that’s how I protect my stepdaughters. All the conditions in the paperwork are there for THEM. Not for us. They are our priority.
        It’s funny because my friends come to me for help about custody stuff sometimes. We played by the judicial system’s book and the kids won. They’re in a safer environment without the negativity.

        Just some info… I hope this helps!!


        Stepmother from Virginia

  9. Maria

    Hello Brenda,

    I have been with my fiance for a little over a year and he has a 6-year-old son from a previous relationship. I know my fiance loves me but lately I’ve been feeling a little neglected. My fiance doesn’t like to show much affection around his son because he thinks his son gets jealous but on the weekends when he’s at his mother’s house my fiance is distant and sad because he misses his son. I appreciate that he cares about his son so much but I feel like I am missing the attention and affection I need from our relationship. It’s a difficult conversation to have with my fiance because he often says to me that I don’t have a child so I don’t understand and that his son is the most important thing to him. It is also frustrating for me when he is constantly bending over backwards to meet the needs of his step son’s mother. Fortunately I have a good relationship with his son so that is not an issue. I just don’t know how to explain to him I need more attention and affection without him thinking I am being selfish.

    I was also wondering how involved I should be in a step-child’s life. My fiance doesn’t usually involve me in his son’s business, like school for example, but he expects me to do more. I have confronted him and asked him what exactly he expects from me but he hasn’t given me a straight answer. I’ve never been good with kids so “motherly instincts” don’t exactly kick in for me.

    I hope I’ve conveyed my concerns clearly and appreciate any advice I can get.


  10. J

    I was married last January and my husband has a 7 year old son. He’s a great kid and everything has been fine until a couple of months ago when we started trying to have a baby of our own. I don’t want to hear stories of how his son was born. I have overwhelming feelings. I’ve told my husband and he said he understood. Am I wrong for feeling this way?

  11. Catelyn

    I met my now fiancé two and a half years ago. Two and a half years ago his little girl was 6months old. I was 17, he was 22. I liked him and he liked me. I found out about the mother of his child as well as his child soon after and I wanted no part of it until he persuaded me otherwise and even then I didn’t like it. It went downhill from there with lies, miscommunication, secrets, hurt feelings, sneaking around it got bad. Until last December. Everything seemed to start falling into place. During these two and a half years I have fallen in love with our sweet 3year old girl and I know somewhere in her heart I am something close to family to her. I know it. I pick her up, drop her off, feed her, entertain her, I enhance her creativity, bathe her, buy her clothing, provide food, I love this child so much that I feel guilty because somehow I am being disloyal to my unborn children but I don’t care because when I have her I know she needs me so I am there for her. But I can’t say the wrong things because I might cross my boundary and I know my motherly instincts aren’t enough for her because she can’t wait to see mommy and I will never be her first choice like she is mine and I can’t be there too see her improvements at school conferences and she’ll always correct me when I accidentally refer to her father and I as “mommy and daddy” telling me I am wrong and everything hurts so much. None of my friends understand because they have kids of their own and my sister believes I deserve all of this because I chose to fall in love with the man and my mother wishes it wasn’t too late that I may find a knight in shining armor and my fiancé thinks I can do this all on my own but I can’t. I know I am young and I know I chose this but as a woman who has battled depression for five years I know my situation can stir that pot once again and I am scared. I wanted kids you know. I wanted to be a mother so bad, but now there is so much fear in it. How my fiancé will treat them, how his daughter will treat them, what they might hear and if his daughter never calls me mom, will my own children follow their big sister because thats what kids do and call me Catelyn? I’m just so scared. And I am so hurt. I really just want someone to understand this isn’t easy. This is the hardest role I have ever had to play.

  12. Angela

    Hi my name is Angela and I have been married for 1 year and 8 months. I have two kids of my own and my husband has three, together we have five. We have all five of them Monday, Tuesday, and every other weekend. My husband and I have this on going fight about how he feels like I do not treat his kids like I treat my own. At times I defiantly see where he is coming from and other times he is way off base. Just last evening he told me he has seen no improvement at all. He wants me to keep my mouth shut to overlook the little things that his kids do and if I can’t do that then we need to look at separating time when we have the kids. He takes his three and I take my two. He also wants me to treat everyone equal in the home. I do struggle with this one. I do not even know that I am treating my two children different than his. I am in need of advice ASAP please!!!!

  13. Diane

    How do you let go of a step child after divorce?

  14. Dawn

    My husband and I got married this past June and have been together for 2 1/2 years. I have an 11 yr old son and an 8 yr old from previous marriages. My husband has a 21 yr old daughter, twin 16 yr old boys, and a 14 yr old daughter from his previous marriage. Yes, we are the modern day Brady Bunch lol. For about the 1st year, he and his wife had 50/50 custody, and I also share custody where my bio kids are concerned. However, around May 2014, it started going downhill. His wife lost her house, numerous jobs, and his kids started staying with us more and more. As a divorced mom myself, I know things can get rough, so I thought nothing of his kids staying with us more and more. I figured it would be temporary and I went into our relationship knowing he was a “package deal”. And I love his kids dearly. However….as time went by, the kids became a permanent fixture at our house. I even stopped working to be a stay at home mom because between school, sports, keeping up with the house, etc., having a job and managing a home with 6 kids became too much. (My husband works 40-70 hrs a week) The kids’ mom eventually just stopped seeing them altogether, hasn’t done anything to help us in over a year, and most recently guilted us into taking her dog as well! I’m just at my wit’s end with it all. The financial stress, raising 3 teenagers that aren’t “mine”, and what worries me the most is the toll it takes on my own kids. I feel like I’m neglecting them because of all the attention I have to give my stepkids due to the fact their mom has abandoned them. My husband and I have a wonderful relationship and I’m also scared to death that my stress is going to ruin that. I spend a lot of time these days just crying because I’m so overwhelmed. My 14 yr old stepdaughter recently started going to therapy for her depression and anxiety issues. I’m trying my best but I just don’t know what to do.

  15. Sara

    My husband and I have been married for 5 years I have five children with my ex husband and my husband has two children with his ex wife. When my husband and I were first married everything was amazing. Our kids got along and I was able to get along with my husband’s children. I always told the step kids that they didn’t have to call me mom if they didn’t want to because number 1 I’m not and number 2 they already have a mom.

    My husband’s ex wife was very abusive to him mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, my ex husband was also very abusive to me and my children, we have not heard from him in about 4 years, which is a good thing for my children and myself. He’s not a good person. That gives a little back story about my family.

    About the last year my relationship with my step daughters has become very rocky, we’ve had our ups and down over the last two years or so, but it’s been worse the last year. They are girls and they are getting older (12 and 10).

    I have researched how to be a good step parent, but even though I support my step daughters physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually but it always comes back to bite me. They are always willing to throw me under the bus to protect themselves and my husband (their bio dad) when their bio mom gets angry with something.

    The oldest step daughter recently got a cell phone (which their bio mom said she would never get for them) and she banned me and my 5 bio children from text her. That really hurt, especially because I have tried so hard. Not for their mom because she won’t be happy no matter what, but because I was trying to do the right thing.

    Now I just want to know how to go back and do things so differently. I want them to call me by my first name and I want to keep them at arms length. I know…people who read my post will be calling me all sorts of names because somehow this is all my fault, but the older step daughter cried one night and told me that it’s not fair that I’m not all in, I told her it’s impossible for me to be all in because of their mom. I can’t even look at my husband’s children right now, I just want them to leave me alone.

    I think my step daughters come to spend time with my husband and my kids. I also think that they could care less if I’m here, my personal opinion is that they enjoy it better than if I’m here. I feel like the have taken over my house (my husband moved into my house after we got married) and now it doesn’t feel like it even belongs to me or my children anymore.

    I need some serious direction. I’m not giving up my marriage, and I’m not going to make my husband choose between him and his children, but I need to figure out a way to coexist in my own house and to continue to be happy with my husband.


  16. Erin

    Hello all,
    *sigh*. As I (and my mother) are in the final stages of planning my and my fiance’s wedding, he comes to me once again with another bomb. What is a bomb? A bomb is when my stepchildren’s mother calls their father last minute and tells him she has a change of some sort in her schedule and asks him if he can keep his kids on a weekend when they are supposed to be with her. It happens often – these unplanned bombs – and he comes to me and asks me if he should keep the kids. If I say no (because I plan ahead, I don’t deal well with last minute changes, and on principle it is just unfair), then I am the evil queen. If I say yes, then I feel compromised and that I am teaching “the other mother” that is acceptable for her to keep changing plans.
    The alternative to the kids staying with us on an unplanned weekend is them going to their maternal grandparent’s home, a less than desirable situation. Bottom line, if it were my biological kid or kids, I would have my child or children with me. So..I am not so much looking for solutions, rather just commiserating with other stepmoms who have to deal with this.
    The closer we get to the wedding, the worse this woman gets, I swear. It’s like watching a toddler throw a fit when they are tired.
    Oh, and the bakery that agreed months ago to create the wedding cake and groom’s cake has fallen through 6 weeks before the wedding because apparently the keystone cops are running the place. The woman we met with has left, and no one can find our notes. Nice. Thankfully I found a much better (and much pricier) bakery, but a bride-to-be doesn’t need this kind of aggravation!
    Today’s message brought to you by “meh” and “grrr”.

  17. Linda

    Hello Brenda,
    I have been married to my husband for two years and I love him very much but I am feeling overwhelmed by caring for his two twin boys.Together we have five children. I have one adult son and he has two older sons that are grown and living on their own. The twins are seven years old and I do love them dearly. The problem is ever since we got married I have been caring for the twins more than their mother. They have joint custody but the first year of our marriage the twins were with us 5 days a week and their mother would have them on the weekends but almost always sent them to her parents house. Her 2 older children (that are not by my husband) told us that she goes out just about every night and leaves them at home alone. My husband was working second shift most of the time so when the boys were at our house I was the only one there caring for them. I own my own business and at that time I was also at the end of my degree program so I had to demand some of my own time back so that I could dedicate it to my studies. My husband told their mother that they had to be with her more until he could change his work schedule. So we switched the schedule to her having them five days and us two. After two weeks into the changed schedule she started telling my husband he was a deadbeat and that she was doing everything by herself. It really got under my skin especially since we had had them most of the first year of our marriage. My husband buys all of their clothing and pays for their after school care and has them on his medical insurance. There was no child support ordered since they agreed on joint custody. So when the schedule change happened she started threatening to take him to court for child support. I told him to just to ignore fighting with her and because he know how she can be he has kept records of the days the boys were with us and kept receipts of everything he spent on them (which is a shame he has to do). After I finished my degree we started having the boys home with us Sunday through Wednesday which left her with three 2 of which he still sent them to her parents house. Well now to my current situation. One of the boys has figured out that when he is at his moms house he can do what ever he wants versus our home where we have rules so he has awful tantrums every night saying he wants to go to his mothers. Sometimes its so bad that we call her, and to no surprise, she isn’t home and tells him he cant come to her house. Also my husbands company is restructuring and they have been flip flopping his schedule between days and nights so most of the times its just me here with the boys alone. Unfortunately he cant really do anything about it right now. I have also been trying to look for a job that I have my degree in and my business isn’t doing so well so I have been contemplating taking an additional job until I do. To add to the stress I

    1. Brenda

      Oops, looks like you “sent” before your finished?

  18. Carol

    I need advice. My step daughter has an eating disorder and this has been going on for a year. She was hospitalized last winter for 5 weeks. Anyway my problem is ths….she begs for money from my husband so she can get groceries. I told him last December not to cater to this, but it continues. My niece suggested that we give her $15 a week toward groceries but anything beyond that she needs to cover. Tonight my husband gets home and she’s stressed because she needs money for new pants for a new job she starts on Monday, and she needs “food” . We had a freezer full of food, a pantry with home canned foods, etc and she won’t eat what we have in our house. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of my husband handing money over to her to by groceries. She 18, and will be a senior in the fall. Any suggestions?

  19. Ashley

    Hello – I have been a step mom going on 3 years now. My step son is 16 years old and lives with us full time. I found him sneaking into my room twice this weekend and then today I found two pairs of my panties underneath his mattress. I don’t know what to do. My husband will think this is funny but I find this an intrusion of my privacy and disgusting since I am the mother figure in the house. Has anyone else experienced this? I don’t know what I should do.

    1. Brenda

      Hi Ashley,
      Thanks for your post.

      You are right to be concerned about this behavior, and your husband certainly needs to deal with it more seriously. At the very least, your stepson should be confronted about this, and answers to certain questions might reveal if this occurred out of some kind of curiosity, or because of a more pathological reason. Depending on how you and your husband assess the situation, your stepson might need counseling to address some inappropriate sexual behaviors.

      How long have you been your stepson’s stepmother? What is the age difference between you and your stepson?



      1. Ashley

        We are 16 years apart and I have been in his life for over 3 years now. I have definitely taken on the mother role – not the friend role so this just seems strange to me. He never acts flirty or interested in me in anyway – this is totally secretive behavior.

    2. Carol

      First I would put a lock on your bedroom door. I also believe your husband needs to talk to this teenaged son about his interest in your panties. I think part of it us a natural curiosity. My step son did the same thing, but only once. My husband talk to him. I wasn’t sure if it was his way of wanting yo connect emotionally. Maybe he felt a loss of his mom therefore he was finding a way yo connect. I wasn’t sure but like you I found it disgusting not funny.

  20. breanna

    ive been with my fiance for seven years now and we are about to be married in september of this year but ive been having doubts about weather or not i should, dont get me wrong i love him to death and want to spend the rest of my life with him its just im to the point i dont know how to deal with his two daughters from two previous marriages. he has an 18 year old and a 13 year old and we also have a 6 year old girl together. and the 18 year old has lived with us since she was 11, my problem is i cant get the two older girls to listen or respect me at all!!! and if i dare bring up the fact that i feel disrespected or mad because they haven’t done the chores they were supposed to do ( which its only one chore a piece) or because they mouthed off to me then its my fault because im being mean to the 13 year old and im just jealous of the 18 year old ( which im totally not i have no reason to be jealous of a child) i feel like these girls are pinning us against each other and its working ive been doing my best to avoid any conflict by doing everything myself( dishes, laundry, trash, cleaning and lunch and dinner) plus working 11 hour days at my job but i’m becoming more and more depressed about it because even though the fighting has stopped nothing else has for example the oldest asked weeks ago if she could get a kitten and i let my feelings be known that i was not ok with this because we already have a cat, dog, turtle and fish and didn’t want another pet to take care of because im the only one that ever cleans up after these animals but once again i was ignored and when i came home from work, here was i kitten…..ugh and if i dare show that im mad about it ( which im ferious about it!!!) im the one being a b**** ive tried having talks with my fiance about why i feel the way i do and its always im being mean and i should just stop and its my fault they don’t listen to me because i don’t act like a mom to them ( which im only 11 years older than the oldest) but when i try to be a “mom” to them i get yelled at because im being mean and they don’t have to listen to me because im not their mom the worst part yet is my 6 year old is starting to believe she can talk back and disrespect me like the other two and i can’t really yell at her because how would it be fair to punish her for something her sisters get away with? idk what to do im lost its pretty much a damned if i do and damned if i don’t and if i continue to let this happen the only ones that will be affected by this is our daughter because she’s missing out on having a fun happy mom because im depressed all the time because i don’t know how to fix the problem and have pretty much given up, so what im asking is how do i fix this before i lose my family? :(

    1. Sarah

      Your soon to be husband is not acting like the leader and I would avoid a marriage. You seem to view this as a problem with the children but ultimately, this is an issue with him and your relationship. He does not respect you or place you in the level esteem he should be. This situation will not get better once you are married.

  21. Jen

    Hi ladies, This is just what I’ve been looking for – thank you!!! I think I’m going absolutely crazy!!! I’ve ‘inherited’ 3 teenage stepdaughters, and with it, several problems as a repercussion from their mother, and guilt from their father. They are INCREDIBLY spoilt beyond belief, but the eldest in particular.
    I have so many issues, none of which I can discuss with their father, as it results in such huge, almost relationship terminating arguments, so just have the occasional moan to friends.
    The latest bugbear, which may seem minor, is that my partner’s 18 year old daughter still insists on sleeping in our bed with him whenever I am away. Aside from the fact that she stains my pillow with her make-up, leaves crumbs in the bed, noses through my drawers and cupboards and leaves her stuff in my bathroom, I essentially feel this is wrong. Totally wrong! But the father won’t hear anything of it, and still sees her as his little girl. She is far from this, and not a virgin – a fact he won’t accept. It is just wrong, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this, but I really don’t know what to do about it. I have a borderline civil relationship with the mother, and am tempted to ask for her thoughts. But at whits end, as it makes me feel sick thinking about it, and thinking that I can’t even discuss it with my partner. If it was the other way around, and I had an 18 year old son sleeping in his side of the bed… well, it just wouldn’t happen…

    1. Dana

      Oh, Jen, what a ridiculously unhealthy situation for you to be in. It makes ME sick just thinking about it. Clearly, your SO is incapable of setting boundaries with his daughter. You may just have to be the only responsible adult in the house, considering that neither of them seem to want to be, and nip this in the bud yourself. Her ability to manipulate her dad, is one that you need to put a stop to sooner than later, because before you know it, she’ll be 26 years old pulling the same kind of crap (even though she doesn’t live with you) and it’ll all be because appropriate and responsible parenting was never introduced to this girl.
      Can you tell that I can only relate all to well to your situation ??
      Resentment for her will surely grow, honey, and it’s a horrible and disheartening way to live when the love of your life, doesn’t validate your feelings. It isn’t for him to UNDERSTAND why you feel the way you do, however, it is for him to put a STOP to the behavior that makes you feel this way.

  22. anon

    Does anyone else besides me have issues with the BM sending inappropriate gifts for dads on birthdays, Christmas, Fathers Day? We are married and I feel it is my job to buy those things for him. The child is 10 and I feel that things coming from BM direction should be limited to things the child has made or a card, etc, but from the child…..not cologne he used to wear years ago….not expensive clothing….not large amt gift certificates, etc. I feel its not here place, but mine. And she knows that I take care of this at our house and take the child shopping for gifts the child presents to him, etc.
    He has told her years ago to stop sending inappropriate things but it hasn’t stopped her and it ruined his Fathers Day when the child was dropped back off to us with gifts she knew would cause an issue.

    1. Ky

      Honestly she does it for attention. She’s unhappy so she buys your husband gifts to start a problem.

      My advice is: start to accept that she’s giving him inappropriate gifts. Take it from her and say thank you he will love this. It will catch her off guard that you don’t react to her gift giving anymore. Even though you want to knock her out, try that passive approach.

      It no longer gives her attention and use that energy in loving one another. He’s irritated just as much as you are but they’re separated for a reason. Don’t waste your time talking to him about it because he doesn’t want to hear about her just as much as you don’t want to talk about her. Her own relevancy is towards their child. Other than that she’s meaningless. She only means something when you allow it.

      Head up. Remember you aren’t alone in this. It’s all easier said than done but take your time and distress about it. You don’t need the bm to matter. She doesn’t.

      Only you and your family does. Remember that.

  23. carol

    I don’t know where to begin. I know most step moms are such giving, loving and compassionate people so when we vent we feel like whiners and selfish even though that isn’t the case. What I’m dealing with is this. My step daughter has anorexia, and it’s driving both my husband and I nuts, but especially me as I have to deal with it more during the day than he does as he’s working. She spent 5 weeks in a hospital for treatment and has on going counseling, but it is out of hand. She measures everything and is OCD about when to eat.We took a trip and stopped to eat…she refused to eat because it wasn’t “time” yet for her. I raise a large garden and last summer she was taking vegetables out of it. Like I said I don’t want to sound selfish, but who plants the garden? Who waters it and weeds it? I do yet she helps herself to whatever she wants. I even suggested this past spring that she could plant part of the garden for her own vegetables. Of course she didn’t plant anything, why would she if she can eat whatever she wants without doing any of the work? If I say anything to my husband he gets defensive…I thought it was a “community” garden! She’s a good girl, sh’es not defiant etc etc…he goes on, instead of trying to understand where I’m coming from. I’m about ready to say…you two move out and after she graduates then my DH and I can work on our marriage again. What also frustrates me is this all began about a year ago when my stepdaughter started these weird eating habits and my husband catered to her. He takes her on a weekly basis grocery shopping and he spends $70 or more a week on “organic” stuff for her to eat. I’ve had it. I told him last fall lif she wants to eat “special'” foods then she should spend her own money. Any suggestions?

  24. Danielle

    Hi I am not a stepmom yet but I am engaged to a man with a 7 year old son. We only get his son over the summer the rest of the time he spends in Florida with his mother. Bio mom and dad do not get along. I don’t much care for the ex either since she has accused me and my family of being molesters and child abusers and then demands to meet me and doesn’t understand why I have no interest in meeting her. I am exhausted every day when I get home from my 10 hour day of work. And then I have a 7 year old at my house who wants to lie and miss behave and my fiancé does not seem to want to do anything about it. I am lost I don’t know if I can handle this for the rest of my life. I keep trying to talk to my fiancé about this but he simply says he can’t do anything about it. Can anyone help me here? If I have to listen to the ex scold him and I one more time like we are idiots I think I may end up in the loony bin.

    1. Kari

      Danielle, I was in similar shoes four years ago, also engaged to a man with a seven year old son whose mom, well, don’t get me started… Coincidentally, I’m having a lousy stepmom day, today, which is why I ended up on this website.

      Nearly four years into this marriage, now, I can say that things have mellowed out quite a lot. Bio mom no longer thinks I’m entirely a stuck-up bitch, although neither of us will ever be friends, and the super brat I married along with his father, is now an eleven year old who is starting to appear to be a human. Just in time for middle school.

      This man you’ve chosen is going to need to hear the things you are thinking, and since it sounds like you’ve already tried that, you might need a more formal forum for saying what you need to say. Ed and I skipped the premarital counseling step, something which I regret. It meant that I had to lay out my parental list of terms without a mediator. And to say that I struggle to be diplomatic at times would be an understatement. It sucked (and by “it,” I mean the conversation that began with hours and days of tears, anger, and misunderstanding) and I doubt will ever truly be over, although before we married we had ended up with more or less a list of expectations for my parenting role. Lots of things have come up since then that were unaccounted for in the initial accord (like whether or not I should explain sex to the kiddo when he asked), and I’ve been fortunate to have a husband who honors my decision making in the face of surprises.

      It seems to me that your fiance needs to be open to attempting to work with his son, now, because if he’s not now, there’s no reason to expect that he’ll change his approach after you’re married. A good marriage/family counselor should be able to help you both explore that. Before you’re married.

      My heart is with you. This sucks. The idea is that it will be worth it in the long run. I hope that it will be for you.

      P.s., Be sure to seek out other step parents for friends. Non-step friends will try to understand, but they’re not able to.

  25. Lindsay

    I am a 29 year old female who recently married a 39 year old active duty Air Force member with 3 children ages 19(female), 10(male), and 6(female). We have been married for roughly 7 months, and dated for 2 years before that. We have custody of the children, and their relationship with their biological mother is sporadic and unreliable. We recently moved to the Netherlands on orders with the two youngest children, while the oldest stayed in the States to finish school.
    I am having a hard time finding happiness. Mostly because this life is not at all what I thought it would be. When I envisioned myself as a mother, I had always hoped that I would be as loving, caring, and nurturing as my own mother, grandmother, and as of recently, my sister. But my role as a step-parent seems to be far from that.
    First I think I should share some extenuating circumstances that are probably contributing to my unhappiness, outside of my blended family situation. With this move, I have yet to start working. I left a promising position for one filled with uncertainty that I am still waiting to start (it has been two months; employment with the military is tricky.) Because of my employment issues, the dynamics of our finances have changed. I am also not happy with myself physically. Since our wedding, I have gained a considerable amount of weight, and just generally feel out of shape. I have also had some past issues with depression.
    Regardless of all of that, I feel that my relationship with my step-children and husband are the biggest source of my unhappiness. I find myself angry all the time. I feel like I have been cheated out of a normal life; one where I get to spend one on one time with my husband as newlyweds and go on unique adventures with just the two of us, one where the experience of a first child is filled with excitement over baby kicks and sonograms, one where we get settled and decide to make a family of our own when we are ready and the time is right. These feelings have left me distraught with guilt, because as I am so constantly reminded by my husband, I chose this life, knowing I would be giving up those things.
    I also find myself snapping at the kids all the time. It is a constant battle of wills between us all. There are always toys scattered all over the house, the youngest is always bouncing off of the walls and asking a million questions, and the 10 year old boy is always having meltdowns, whining, and hanging all over is dad. When I try to correct their behavior, as hard as I may try for it not to, it comes out in anger. I feel frustrated and annoyed almost every second of the day, which brings on more feelings of guilt and shame. They are kids, who have experienced great loss. Why am I not more compassionate and loving? I feel like I am literally an “evil step-mother”.
    I have read so many blogs and articles that give advice on step-parenting: the biological parent should be in charge of punishment, relationships with step-children take time, establish house hold rules, get support from your husband. I have tried to take heed to this advice, but it doesn’t seem to help. We have established a “family contract” of rules for everyone to follow, but no one abides; it was more like a cool idea and not something we actually implemented. I try to leave the discipline up to my husband, but he is just so relaxed about everything that I almost always end up being the one who sends the kids to their room for throwing rocks, or rolling their eyes, or whining. His response…”they are just kids.” All I can think of is, “I didn’t act like that as a kid.” Then there is the topic of support from your husband; he feels like he is supportive, I feel like he is not. He doesn’t counter-act me when I tell the kids to do something, but I don’t consider that backing me up. He also has absolutely no idea how to sympathize for the position I am in. In short, he just doesn’t get it. When I try to explain how hard it all is for me, I can tell he is just dying to shout-out, “it’s not like you DO anything,” referring to all the nitty gritty bits of taking care of kids. He takes them to school, gives them baths, puts them to bed. He literally thinks my only contribution is making dinner, which isn’t true. Not only do I help with baths and picking the kids up when he needs me to, I also listen to endless questions, make dinner so there are no complaints from the one kid who hates mushrooms and the other who hates whatever she hates today, and deal with the non-stop in and out and running and jumping and “Can I have a snack?” questions…and here comes the guilt for even feeling this way.
    The thought that spins on repeat in my head is, “Did I make a mistake, should we get a divorce?” I don’t know what to do. I truly LOVE my husband. I think he is the greatest man. And as bothered as I am by them, I do love his kids. I love his son’s sweet and sensitive nature, and I love the youngest’s spit-fire spirit. It’s funny how the things I love most about them often irritate me the most. I have read that when I am about to go to anger I should move toward compassion and think about how hard it must be for them too. I try, I am just rarely successful. I want to be in a happy, loving marriage, I want to be a brilliant and patient step-mother, and above all, I DON’T want to cause more damage to these kids by being unloving or too harsh. HOW DO I BECOME MORE PATIENT? HOW DO I BECOME THE MOTHER MY MOM AND GRANDMOTHER RAISED ME TO BE????

    1. LaWanda Torres

      you need Jesus first..and Zoloft..not being worked for me.

    2. LT

      I can empathize with everything you’ve said, and it is SOO frustrating trying as hard as you are, feeling like you get very little (if any) support from your hubby. Don’t even get me started on ex-wife issues. It’s not fair. I know I’m a good-hearted person, but I also get so angry at his kids sometimes, especially when I have to watch them by my self and they act up. If he’s here, they are so much more respectful. It’s one thing for the kids to not see all the effort you’re putting forth, but when hubby doesn’t see it either, it is hard not to wonder why you are even bothering. I don’t have any advise, just wanted to say thanks for posting because it’s nice to hear I’m not the only one feeling the way I do.

    3. D

      Hey Lindsay,
      Hang in there. You are not alone. I found this book to add a little humor to the choas. I also try to do things that are “just for me” when I need to zone out and take a break.

      The Single Girl’s Guide to Marrying a Man, His Kids, and His Ex-Wife: Becoming A Stepmother With Humor And Grace Paperback – April 5, 2005 by Sally Bjornsen

      Hope it helps.

  26. Mandy

    Hi all,
    I am stuggling right now and just need some advice from people who have been where I am. My husband has 2 daughters that live out of state, ages 11 and 8, from a previous marriage that ended 7 years ago. We have been together for 5 years, married for 2, at this point. My number one concern has always been for the well being of the girls and I try to make that apparent to everyone involved.
    Our current dilema is that my husband’s Ex is not being compliant with the divorce decree that states my husband is to get the girls each summer. He has been very accomodating and is allowing his Ex to take the girls on a cruise the last week of June, even though it is during his time. Even though he is being accomodating in this way he has had nothing but problems getting his Ex to allow his daughters to come stay with us prior to the planned trip. After speaking with his Ex weeks in advance about the plan for him to get his daughters for the summer on 5/29, which was to accomdate a dentist appointment that she scheduled during his time, we had to drive out of state to her apartment, which is 4 hours away, at which time she has left her residence with the girls and would now tell us where she was. Through a series of events we found out her whereabouts, but were told she did not want us to pick the girls up until the following morning. At that point we stayed the night there and returned the following morning to pick the girls up, and yet again she had left home with them and refused to tell us where they were. We were hoping to resolve our problems without resorting to getting the authorities involved, because that has never been necessary in the past, but she proved that she was not going to be cooperative with us so we called the county police and had an officer contact her. After having been contacted by the authorities she brought the kids back to her apartment complex where we were waiting and dropped the girls off. She did not give us clothes, medications, or toiletries of any kind for the girls, but we did not complain. We took the girls drove the 4 hours back home.
    Now that they are with us she continues to try and make up excuses for us to bring the girls back early. She has stated that one of her daughters is suppose to go to summer school, which we found out was unture. She made an appointment with a psychologist for his 8 year old daughter and has never even informed my husband that his daughter was seeing a psychologist. She refuses to tell his why his daughter is seeing a psychologist. She rescheduled the dentist appointment that we were told was the week prior to us picking the girls up to the week after we picked them up. It just seems like she is trying anything and everything to make this process as difficult as possible.
    What can we do to help keep this from having a negative effect on the girls?

  27. Christy

    I married an amazing man who is a wonderful dad and husband. Not only does he take good care of his kids, but he also takes excellent care of mine and our families have blended perfectly. We’ve been together for two years now. Our only problem is his ex-wife. She is spiteful and insidious and constantly uses her kids to hurt not just me and my husband, but she even targets my children. Once, she posted terrible stuff about my 9 year old on her Facebook page, she had my children taken off the bus they were riding and put on another bus to their grandparents where no one was home (she told the school that no one was at home when we were), and she shows up at my daughter’s softball games with her kids wearing jerseys of the opposing team and sits on the opposing teams side. My husband won’t say anything for only one reason. There is an ongoing court battle over custody that she initiated. Our attorney has told him not to respond to her actions but simply to document everything she has done. But at what point do I step up and stop the nonsense to protect my kids and dare I say, his too? I hate what she does to them. How can an ex yield so much power over my own kid’s feelings?

    1. Erin

      My intuition tells me that the best thing you can do to protect your children and step-children is to be the picture of integrity, respect and strength by saying NOTHING. Like it or not, that woman is your step-children’s mother, and you have got to respect that, even in the face of bitter insults. If you insult her, you insult them by extension.
      People who use children to manipulate others are, inside, suffering greatly. This is not about you or your kids or your husband, it is about her severe insecurity and fear.
      Leave the blame where it lies: with HER. The moment you open your mouth and tell her (or worse) her children what you think of her – even if your motivation is protection, is the moment when you will lose their respect and your integrity and appear to be just like her. You will have played right into her hands and then all of the sudden the issue will be you and her not getting along, rather than her exhibiting her insecurities and fear.
      Instead, be a silent tower of strength that will demonstrate to all of your children that you have their back, that you can be counted on, and that they can trust in you. They don’t need another adult getting angry, sounds like their mom is more than enough.

  28. Jane

    My husband and I have been best friends for 8 years, long before his daughter was born. He and my SD lived with the BM for the first 3 yrs of SD’s life until the situation became unsafe due to the BM’s mental health issues. I was out of touch with him during this time out of respect for the BM asking me to even though he and I had only ever been friends. After they broke it off and they got joint custody, he and I started dating and we married a few months ago. Right after the wedding, BM made false allegations to CPS, got my SD placed in foster care for 3 months, and now my husband has temporary custody while awaiting our final court date a few months from now. SD lives with us and originally had 4 hrs unsupervised visitation with BM. Court ordered BM to do a psych eval, which she has refused to do. CPS promised that wouldn’t change visitation without the psych eval, but they’ve gone back on their word and given BM more visitation. We asked specifically to have Saturday mornings with SD as we go to church and that is an important social and emotional outlet for her. We asked for this even while she was in foster care, and we have continually been denied. Those 3 hours are now the only 3 hours the BM gets on the weekends, and it just makes no sense. When asked for her reasoning, BM says it’s only fair to split Sats as we have her all other times, and when we specify those are the only hours we can take her to church, BM says there are other ways to worship besides going to church and that’s what she wants to teach her daughter. Last week, they went to BMs house and played Barbies. What part of that can’t be done on anything besides the only 3 hours we can take her to church? We asked the cps worker this, and she threatened to put SD back into foster care and put my husband on supervised visitation until the next court date. I don’t think it is legal for her to do, but we are terrified of them at this point. BM constantly either skips visitation, shows up late, or takes SD for errands. (One week it was “we went to the mall so Mommy could get her eyebrows done.” Like seriously, you only have 4 hours a week with your kid, and you do THAT?) SD is 5. She clings to her dad at dropoffs and has terrible nightmares about bad people taking her away in the middle of the night. CPS took her from her mother’s house. I am at a loss. She is not safe with her mother. The child psychologist says so, the previous psych eval (that cps pays no attention to) says so, the history of this whole case says so (BM denied SD antibiotics for a UTI for 5 days, resulting in a 106 fever and an ER visit, she tried to hit my husband and I with her car at a dropoff and we saw SD fling out of her carseat, plus she keyed WHORE into my trunk), but they’re threatening US with putting her back in foster care? I’m so angry and I don’t know what to do. The people that are supposed to protect my SD are only proceeding to let her BM hurt her. I don’t know any other SMs and feel so alone in all of this.

    1. Sarah


      I don’t know how things have progressed since, April, but I am keeping you and your family in my prayers. Continue to be the good people you and your husband are and pray continuously that in the end, all will follow God’s plans for the best.

      Another stepmom who is in a rough situation is thinking about you and praying for you.

      1. Jane

        Thank you Sarah.

        Things have gotten a little bit better. BM keyed my husband’s car at the police station dropoff location in front of my SD, and has been on supervised visitation ever since. She finally took the required psych eval (and failed it beautifully…something like 5 disorders). She still gets 4 hrs a week (which I believe is ridiculous with that much mental illness) but at least SD is relatively safe during those visits thanks to the supervising and they are during weekday hours.

        We fostered some kittens over the summer to help her process foster care and it worked better than I could have expected. SD really attached to one of the kittens – whom we are keeping now – and the nightmares have all but stopped. We’re still dealing with CPS stupidity and drama from the BM, but it is a lot more toned down. The main issue is my SD having trouble processing what’s going on with her mother. Mental illness is hard enough for adults to understand. It is extremely hard to explain to a 5 year old without scaring her or providing her with negative perceptions about her mother (which we of course have tons of). And she always comes to me with these questions, never her father. It’s always, “Why does mommy hate you and Daddy? Why did mommy hit daddy’s car? Why can I live with mommy? Will I ever live with mommy again? Why is mommy mean to us? Can I catch mommy’s sickness like ringworm?” I just try to explain to her that mommy is sick and it’s a sickness in her thoughts that makes it hard for her to make good choices instead of bad ones and makes her hurt people even when she loves them and that our thoughts don’t touch other people’s thoughts so we can’t catch it, but it also means that doctors don’t have a medicine to help it and only mommy can make herself better and it may take a long time because it’s hard work and until she’s better it’s not safe to live with her. But I don’t feel like that’s simple enough for her, or that it answers all of her questions.

        When we’re out and about, people always ask if I’m her mommy, and she gives me this pleading look. I can’t tell if she’s terrified that I’ll be upset if she doesn’t answer correctly or terrified that her BM will find out she wants to call me mommy or if she just plain doesn’t know how to answer because she’s 5. I always just touch her back and answer that she’s my wonderful stepdaughter and then she and I talk about it later in private about how as long as we love each other, it doesn’t matter what we call each other or what other people call us. (She has always called me by my first name) But again, I feel totally inadequate about all of this.

        Plus, my husbands family keeps pulling the “You are not a mom” card over the stupidest stuff (she regressed in her bedwetting due to foster care so we’re back to diapers full-time, at the behest of her child psychologist, and his cousin told me I was holding her back). And his mom has said repeatedly that I will never have authority of the child and always counteracts whatever I say to SD even if it’s something simple like “Would you like some juice?” My husband backs me up but it got so bad we barely see his mom anymore and I feel like I’ve done something wrong even though I know all I’ve done is love my husband and his precious little girl. I just feel so lost. Anytime I try to talk to one of my friends about it, they tell me I’m not her mom and that keeping her from her mom is punishment, but they don’t seem to understand the vast extent of psychological and physical trauma BM causes SD and that at least one of her disorders is transferred by environment and the more exposure my SD has to it the more likely she is to suffer from it too. We’re not trying to punish her, we’re trying to keep her safe, and everyone that actually knows her BM have said repeatedly how she merely birthed her and then abused her and I’m the one actually loving her and raising her. But it’s hard to explain that to people who don’t know her without sounding vindictive.

  29. Denise

    I am a recent stepmother. For about 2 years now. My husband has a 3 year old about to be 4 and we have our own daughter together that is 13months. So BM is requesting more money and saying my husband does not do anything to care for his son. Yes my husband is military and we live in Texas while his son lives in California. The BM has. Or job and lives at home with her parents. But she says my husband doesn’t do anything. It’s stressfull NC we do alot. We send him clothes toys shoes and more. We ask to have him for the summer and she says he is not ready because He is still nursing at night and doesn’t know his dad. Every year we have to visit California bc he can’t come to Texas. I’m at a point where I’m beginning to get depressed. My husband is forcing me to get a job so we can have more income. I’m a stay at home mom and student. I babysit other kids to get more money. But the BM is at home also student. Doesn’t work and has absolutely no bills bc she lives with her parents. And we know for a fact she doesn’t pay bills there. My husband and I fight all the time about her. To a point where I want to leave him but I love him so much and it hurts me that I even think about that. He is a great father. Does work alot. I just don’t know what to do. And the BM is horrible. She talks to him in the worst way. Says he doesn’t care about his son b. She doesn’t skype everyday. It’s hard when a 3 year can’t sit still to skype and whwn .y husband works 12 to 18 hours and day. We try to explain and BM just doesn’t care. She threatens us and says she will get money whether we want to give her more or not. That my husband won’t see his son. We don’t have money to hire a lawyer or go to court. I just don’t know what to do!

  30. Nicole

    My stepson’s parents split when they were 3. When that happened his mom barely got him until he was 4 and she stopped getting him altogether. When he was 6 she came back and it’s been a nightmare ever since. She came back expecting that he would go live with her and my husband was to pay child support. My husband was not going to send him to her house to visit because of how long it was since she’s seen him. So he wanted to get a custody order to be sure she couldn’t just take off with him. She showed up at his school during his lunches. He would come home crying because of bad things she would say about his dad, but she had two more kids during the time she was gone and said how his siblings want to meet him and are sad because they haven’t. Babies obviously can’t talk so that was just her talking but all his mind could think of was his baby siblings were sad. Well, his parents were in and out of court until he was 7. She got visitation and she continued talking bad. Apparently it’s our fault that my stepson didn’t see his mom. She’s put all the blame on us. Lies to him about us. And in the year that he’s been going back and fourth he has changed completely. He went from the boy that was such a sweetheart to the boy that is rude and disrespectful. If she says something about anything he thinks she correct. If we say something different we are wrong and doesn’t believe it. If he doesn’t get his way about something he does a manipulation thing and says we just don’t trust him or just dont care and then when he goes to his moms he will “tattle” on us and she calls me or my husband acting like we’re wrong and we just tell her that “he knows the rules and he does not run our home so of course if he’s being disrespectful he will get grounded” but it happens every time. He treats us like his mom treats us. Acts like he doesn’t want to live here. Even during spring break when he was there 10 days, he won’t call us at all and when we call him he barely is on 2 minutes without going well I’ll let you go. But he’ll come back here and not even a few hours will go by before he gets upset saying he misses her and wants to call her and go there. Me and my husband aren’t understanding this. Why is this happening. Why does he act like this towards us. It’s like, we always have to deal with her drama and then you got my stepson working against us or something. I love him to death and I just don’t know how to understand anymore. I don’t know if its because hes scared to lose her again so he just goes along with her. I don’t know if its because of the manipulation his mom has done. But we have ALWAYS been there for him, protected him, LOVE him, play with him, teach him. Even when she would say bad stuff to him, we never belittled her to him. We feel like failures for doing all the right things.
    He’s 8 and has been in counselling (We’re scared that because of all this that a judge would take him away because of the way he acts here versus at her house) but it seems like he doesn’t want to live here, which his mom is trying so bad to get him to live with her and hubby just pay child support. But me and my husband will not abandon him like she did. I just don’t know what to do anymore. PLEASE HELP.
    P.S. THIS is what happens when a judge doesn’t truly care about a child’s best interest. He just sends the kid there two days later.

    Chat Conversation End

  31. carol

    dear lost mama
    many of these situations are so similar. After we married my skids bio mom disappeared. We didn’t hear from her for about 18 months. Kids still think we kept them from her which wasn’t the case at all. I desired to be the kids “mom”. As time went on bio-mom came back into the picture. Unfortunately as a step mom we have no rights or say in the matter even though we wish we did. There is such a lack of control with being a step mom. One has to learn to deal with situations with grace. which is easier said than done. You feel she should “earn” her rights back, unfortunately the courts wouldn’t say that. My stepkids bio mom abandon them when they were young (youngest was 6 months old). Skids still call her mom and me by my first name even though I helped my husband raise them, who was there when they were sick? Needed to go to the Doctor? Dentist? Etc. . It’s a tough role and situation to be in. I can empathize with what your going through, unfortunately your hands are tied. As much as you’d like for her to earn the right, just because she’s the bio parent gives her this right, whether she was neglectful or not. Wish the law and courts were different and there were more laws against dead beat parents. Your step child will figure it out once he’s older, much older and an adult. For now all you can do is support him, love him, be there for him. We are truly walking as Jesus walked.

    1. C

      Re: Lost mama

      The courts is not involved. ANd I know I have little say in anything regarding the whole situation. If I can get my tiny say in anywhere, I will do just that. I’m not trying to sound rude or selfish or whatever. I do feel she needs to earn her part in his life, it’s not just my opinion it’s also my SS’s father’s words. It’s not fair to my SS that she has a reputation of coming and going out of his life for the past 3 years. And leaving him with all of this trouble aftermath for the child over and over and over. And suddenly when things aren’t working out with her and her 2nd baby daddy, she wants to move back and be involved again Now. I feel sorry for my SS because she puts herself and other men before him. And it’s not fair, he doesn’t deserve being put second. No child should be put first when it’s convenient for the parent(s).

  32. Niqui

    Dear Brenda,

    I have been with my partner for two years. When he told me he had a now 13yr old son who will be part of our lives when we enter our relationship, I thought and said that I would grow to love him. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for. I am really battling to even just tolerate him. We have him every other weekend. His bio-mom does not work and we pay full monthly support for both mother and child. My partner were also VERY generous in giving her financial and property assets when they split up (they had a common-law marriage) His bio-mom is making everything about her e.g. I went with my partner a couple of times to drop A off after his weekend with us and she phoned my partner and told him that he is not allowed to “bring that B^_#c” to HER house – when we were merely dropping A off at HIS house. She never came out to meet A when we dropped him off anyway. We are now not allowed to go into the estate and must meet her at the gate to drop A off. We have no relationship with her other than her phoning to complain about financial issues or when she wants to swop a weekend – (always have something to say when we want to swop a weekend). A also does not have the freedom to talk about me or admit that he had fun during his wkend with us, because it gets shot down by his mom. He also walks away when she phones him when he is with us so we can’t hear the conversation. Those are just a few issues we face with the ex.

    I find it very hard to separate A from his bio-mom and almost resent him for existing. The way he has been raised also does not help the situation. He is bubbled, a couch potato, an only child and it is obvious that he spends too much time in the company of his mom and her housewife friends. My partner used to travel a lot for work. It is also obvious that everything gets done for him – we have, at our house for e.g. involved him in making food with us (he could not make a sandwich for himself), and have to drill into him to clean up after himself. He cannot go to bed by himself and is always looking in our eyes for entertainment when he is here. He also has no motivation and has quit pretty much everything he has started(s). He is overweight and his father lets him eat as much and whatever he asks for. In the beginning I let his father and him spend time together as I thought both of them need it and I kept my distance. A was always in competition with me for affection with his father – and would put his hand and caress his dad’s leg when I did it, when my partner asked for a back scratch, he would also try and get in there..he also keeps saying “I love you” – sometimes interrupt a conversation between me and his father to do so – I understand that he is looking for re-assurance and I had a talk to him saying that i am not here to take his father away from him – and that the love they share are a special and different love to what his dad and I share – the competition for affection has worn off a bit – it also has to be said that he didn’t really see physical affection between his father and mother so it obviously made the matter worse. He also has a big misconception about his physical abilities and knowledge. We have tried to get him to make friends with kids in our estate but some have responded with “he is a loser” and that “they don’t like him” and he always try to be something that he is not – for e.g lie about things he has done (to fit in).

    I don’t look forward to our weekends with him and I find ways of not having to be here when A is here and I know it hurts my partner – I don’t feel comfortable in our own home and you can almost chew the tension in the house. I also find it very hard to talk to A and my “conversations” with him are mostly disciplinary. Everything about him irritates me and I need advice on how to tolerate him. I don’t like him, never mind love, and the only thing and time my partner fight about, is his child. My partner does not pressure me to love him, but is asking for respect and tolerance, which I find very hard to give – please help!!

    1. CeeCee

      I feel like I could have written this with a few exceptions (Bio Mom passed away, and SS is very active).
      My SS can’t play on his own, always looks to his dad to play (he will come in and ask every 5 minutes for his dad to play hockey), and he has a lot of trouble making and keeping friends (for the same reasons you mentioned above). Whenever we would have my inlaws over and it was time for them to go, SS would stand at the door yelling “Bye, I love you, Bye bye bye bye bye!” Until he couldn’t see the car anymore. He still does this sometimes with his dad when his dad goes to work, or leaves the house. Sometimes even when his dad goes to the bathroom, he will follow him there.
      My husband also asks for respect and tolerance, and I also find it hard to give because I don’t feel he is respecting me and the rules of my home. It seems like there are two sets of rules. The stepson rules, and our Biological kids rules. It drives me nuts. I wanted to get my son a fish tank for his room because he has taken an interest in fish, my husband was dead against it until I mentioned that maybe we could get it as a joint gift for both kids for Easter. Then all of a sudden he was on board. Interesting how he changed his mind once SS was brought up.
      I wish I had advice, or anything but I don’t, however you are not alone!

      1. Nix

        Thank you CeeCee.. Good to know I am not alone.. My best friend who has a toddler of two judged me terribly and our friendship has ended because of this..said she cant expect me to act like a parent if I am not one and that she cannot accept the way I treat SS.. It didn’t matter how much I tried to explain how difficult the situation is, she just took the side of the child..He is coming this weekend and I have sweaty hands and am all anxious.. I hate feeling like this but I am not looking forward to seeing him..

      2. Nix

        We also had him for two weeks over the school holidays and the conversation of my partner and I having a baby came up..I asked SS how he would feel about having a brother or sister and SS said, quite aggressively, that he’s I happy being an only child. He then picked up that his reaction hurt me..later I left the table and when I got back he was in tears..saying to his dad that he thought that he would always be his only.. And we had the whole ‘his dad’s love will never change” conversation with him.. He is used to being the centre of attention and what his dad and his ex’s life revolved that he isn’t anymore he is trying all sorts of emotional manipulative things to make his dad feel more guilty which makes him overcompensate even more when he is here on weekends.. He is going to high school next year and his dad ‘babies’ him..which is only making things worse.. I understand where the SS is coming from but I am really frustrated…

  33. Cindy

    Anonymous please.

    I’ve been with my bf for almost two years now. BM was already out of the picture, in another state. His son, then 3 years old, is now 5. So..She had came back a month before my SS’s 4th birthday. My bf and I were together for about 4 months then. She stayed a few of weeks while being able to see her son. But then went completely AWOL days before his 4th birthday. He hasn’t seen her for about over a year and half now. He doesn’t know who she is. He knows of her but no clue how she fits in the puzzle. She couldn’t keep a job long enough to pay CS so that was pointless. To this day she still can’t manage to keep any job long enough. A year ago he’d be able to tell me things about her, what they use to do, etc. Now? He doesn’t have a thing to say. When she had left suddenly, he was having a very difficult timing transitioning from it all (being that he’s only a toddler and knowing not why she’s always disappearing for long periods of time and coming back and leaving when he was 2 years old). He had troubles at school, with authority figures, being violent when mad, rude to strangers (doctors, nurses), etc. Everything improved when we stopped bringing up anything that had to do with her. Several months ago, I had brought her up a few times and he started having some detachment issues for a short period of time after. We haven’t brought her up since to avoid any other complications for him. And he’s been doing so well, a Complete different child from when I first met him. But he’s more defiant and hard harded. We’ve been advised to get him into counseling while he’s young to get help with those problems and with everything else.

    Where I’m getting at is, we’be been informed that she is returning soon (in less than 2 weeks).. & Very pregnant, which SS doesn’t know about. I’m deeply worried about how her coming back will affect my SS because of some of the issues I noted earlier. I know I don’t have much say about her seeing her son. But I don’t think its something to be rushed for his best interest, my SS’s sake. I feel like she needs to earn everything, including to see him and most definitely to earn her “title” back. I’m worried my SS will have a difficult time with it all because it’ll be just a repeat of her being here and then one day she’ll just *poof* is gone, like always. Its all he knows, you know?
    I want to also note that he does refer to me as his Mom at school and day care and just recently he has called me “Mom” a few times now. Just the other day my SS and I chatted about me not being his actual Mom but I’m like a Mom to him. He was disappointed and said “But I want you to be myy mom” several times within 5 min. I was left in awed. I earned that, don’t you think?
    Am I wrong to think that she has to earn her place? Do I get to be worried of how her relationship with my SS would affect him? Do I even have a little say since “[I] don’t have a child of my own so [I] won’t understand what it feels like to be a Mom”?

    -Lost Momma

  34. CeeCee

    I don’t even know where to start, but I feel like I am at the end of my rope. I read through some of the comments and identified with one of the other posts. I know that things could be so much worse but sometimes it would be easier if that were the case. My husband and I have been together for six years, and married for four and half. His wife passed away right around when we met. It was a complicated situation, they were married still but separated and he stayed with her because of his son. His son was almost 6 (he is now almost 12) when his mom passed away. This has left him with deep emotional trauma. We have seeked counseling for him many many times only to be told he’s just a normal boy. He was diagnosed with ADHD and is on medication now for that, but it really doesn’t help that much.
    Things never used to be so bad or I just could put up with it, I’m really not sure. He is very manipulative to his family remembers and I’m the only one who can see it (my mom and sister also agree but because they don’t live with him, they don’t even realize how bad). A recent example is that today when he woke up he told me he fell right asleep and slept until 8am. Later his maternal grandparents called and he told them how he was up through the night I can only assume to get sympathy. My husbands parents and his maternal grandparents and one of his moms sisters (who acts like she is his replacement mom) give in to whatever he wants and more. He can do no wrong in their eyes. I have witness him purposely try to harm our animals and my son (who is my husbands son), and my husband just brushes it off like it’s nothing. A few weeks ago he gave my son (two and a half) a screw driver that I had up high on a shelf because he thought it would be funny to see him run around with a screw driver. He insisted that he didn’t give it to him, honestly it was the only possible way he got it. My husband of course took my stepsons side.
    I always feel like I am the one left out, and my step son will find ways to point out how I am the odd one out. I always tell my husband that the important relationship is mine and his. Ours is the relationship that continues after our kids are grown up. He doesn’t seem to understand that, and continually puts his relationship with his son above ours. Our stepson is pretty much the only thing we argue about. We are in a very tight financial spot at the moment after we both lost our jobs (downsizing) and are in the midst of business start ups, but we don’t ever fight about it. We moved from a big beautiful century home to a bungalow less than half the size, and haven’t fought about it once, but we fight almost daily about my stepson.
    I feel like there is just this cloud that is hanging over me whenever he is around (which is a lot because he is with us full time). I just can’t get out of the funk. I feel like it affects how I parent my own child as well. I’m so frustrated at dealing with stepson that it often leaves me frustrated my own.
    I could go on, but like I had said I know it could be worse, there is no one big thing, but lots of little things. It feels like stepping on a Lego every five minutes. How long could you really put up with that?

    1. carol

      Welcome to my world…it’s the world of being a step mom. I often feel the same way, and have thought about separation. My husband sides with Skids, corrects me, I am the odd one out, uninformed of stepkids activities. My step son also has ADHD. I recognized it early on in our marriage. I was after DH to get him tested. The school tested him and found out he was ADHD as well as ODD (oppositional Defiant Disorder – which commonly runs with ADHD). It can take up to 5-6 months to find the right medication that works for the kid. I wish I could be more encouraging. Now that SS is almost a teenager things wont improve. I hate to tell you that. My SS was 8 when we married and is now 19 and out of our house. We dealt with stealing from our bank account, drunk driving, him losing his license his Senior year…lieing about things, not telling us where he was or showing respect. Once I was so upset…he was very rude and I had enough. I pinned his shoulders against the door and said in a calm but firm manner…maybe your dad won’t defend me, but I will defend myself,…don’t you ever speak to me that way again. I suggest counseling. Find a good counselor who deals with step family issues. Try to distance yourself from him (that’s what I ended up doing to keep my emotional sanity).
      Best to you. I’ll pray for your situation.

  35. Laundri

    I have been with my fiancé for almost 2 years. Her has 3 daughters 11,10, and 5. We were establishing a relationship until his ex poisoned them against me. Told them they didn’t have to talk to or listen to anything I had to say. The 5 yr wanted to still play with me and talk to me but her older sister would report back to Mom and if she was nice to me, she’d get in trouble. The 11 yr old would get rewarded for bad behavior at Dad’s and essentially bullied her sisters while they stayed here. The ex had also spent a good chunk of time divorce poisoning the kids against their Dad too but that’s all changed. The ex-wife decided that she needed a fresh start in Texas without the kids. The kids relationship with their father has changed but with me not really. I can get them to listen to me kind of but the 11yr old ignores me when I’m talking to her and doesn’t feel like she has to do anything I say. The 10yr old doesn’t speak to me but will listen to what I say. The 5 yr is finding her voice and slowly starting to talk more to me and yesterday we even did something together. I just don’t know how not to turn into my evil twin when the 11yr blatently disregards what I tell her to do. Ignored in my own house! The 11yr knows there is no more going to Moms house, it’s just Dads and Londra’s house. It’s beyond frustrating. Can anyone relate? Or give me some advice on how to cope with this.

    1. Carol

      Sorry Laundri to hear of your troubles. Unfortunately one can’t undo the past. I’ve been a smom for 11 years. I’m no expert by any means, but from what I’ve read a step moms hands are tied unless the bio dad unties them. In other word your success is dependent upon the bio parents acceptance of you, if your fiancée/ husband backs you up and supports you the kids will follow. If he doesn’t then your stuck in a bad situation. The bio mom too has a great deal of influence. My suggestion is for now to back way off. Find other interests, take care of yourself. If the kids are rude, but then want a ride to a friends house, kindly reply. I’d love to take you, unfortunately my emotional tank us empty from your disrespect, and wAlk away. You can keep,trying to reach out to the kids, but my guess is that they’ll continue to be loyal,to bio mom.

      1. Laundri

        Thank you for your words. I’m really blessed that my Fiancé has and continuously has my back. My 11 yr SD really thinks that she can exist in this house and only listen and obey her father. It’s really frustrating for me and him and I can hope time makes it better. Right now I can’t repeat the Serenity prayer enough but I love the quote about the emotional tank. Im definitely using that one.

  36. unknown

    I have been married for going on 8 years. I have raised my husbands children as if they were my own. I potty trained them, bottle broke them, saw them to the first day of kindergarten. These are MY children, but yet they are not. They can never be my children no matter how much i care for them or treat them as if they were. My husband can’t have any more children so i will never have children of my own. My hearts breaks everyday to see these kids and love them as i do but to know that they are not mine and never will be. How do you cope with that. Being Mom but never REALLY being mom. They call me mom and treat me like mom.. for now at least. They are beginning to refer to me as their step mom as they get older. One day they will probably even stop calling me mom. One day i will lose them. I will lose my children. How does anyone cope with that.

    1. carol

      Honestly I don’t know. I’ve been a step mom for almost 11 years now. When we were first married they called me mama. I loved it and like you I devoted my time and efforts to caring for them. I wanted so much (and still do) desire to be their “mom” but I’ve realized that I am not. I’ve come to terms with the fact that they aren’t mine even though I wish things were different. Problem is their bio-mom came back into the picture about 4 years ago. My step son (then 16) moved in with her and 10 months later he moved back crying. When he graduated from HS I introduced myself to some of his friends at the graduation party (which I put on and did almost all of the work) as his stepmom. He turned to them and said flatly, Yeah…This is my dads wife. I was so crushed. I cried, slept on the couch. I was dejected and bruised emotionally. Even a counselor said how disrespectful that was. I have terrible resentment (mainly toward my husband for not supporting me more). I like you don’t have any biological kids. Most days I’d like to end our marriage because of all the hurt I’ve had to endure. There aren’t any easy answers. From what I’ve heard it’s easier if you have your “own” kids. I had a miscarriage and couldn’t have other kids. I do know of some step mom’s who continue to be close to their stepkids. I don’t know how they are so blessed, but from what I’ve read as stepmom’s we have an uphill battle, mainly due to bio mom and her condemnation towards us. The kids will be loyal to biological parents no matter how they treat them. We are dispensable. Maybe, like me, we need to devote time to helping other kids? Become a foster parent? Big sister? Do you have nieces and nephews you can devote your time to?? Some other thoughts. I’ve given up on my stepkids.

  37. mags

    I have been coping with things allot better since finding your blog, but I find myself struggling. We typically have my steps every other weekend. Lately it’s been every weekend, well for almost three months now. I’ve found out the ex is basically forcing at least one kid at a time to come over here. Her daughter didn’t even want to be here and was told we wanted her. We didn’t. I love his kids but it puts strain on our relationship when it’s a every weekend deal because the ex has date night with her husband every Saturday night (my hubbys only night off.) I feel horrible for feeling the resentment I’m feeling. Our last date night was over a year ago. I almost feel like she’s doing this on purpose, then I feel guilty for feeling those feelings. Its also putting strain on my relationships with his kids and my own kids. i feel stressed out and angry and I don’t want to feel like that but because my hubby works so much I’m the one dealing with all the kids every weekend. I needed to vent a little, and any advice would be awesome. My bff says we should request a weekend off but that usually leads to him and her fighting and threats being made.

    1. Brenda

      I am so glad that you are finding support here! Stepmoms need to be proud….Raise Your Hand! We alone truly understand the emotions and unique challenges we face.

      Don’t forget that I am available for 1:1 support and advice by emailing Many of my stepmom clients come away with a new outlook, a new game plan or a new understanding of their situation.


    2. Amanda

      It’s is especially hard to feel taken advantage off. I feel for you. You don’t want it to be, but it is an intrusion into your life. I think parenting arrangements need to be made so everyone feels it is fair and you need to speak up. Parenting becomes a business after divorce and you as stepmom shouldn’t feel like you are being treated unfairly. Get an agreement and stick to it!

  38. Shelley

    Hello. I am glad I found a place where I can hopeflly get some insight. I’ve been struggling for 2 years trying to connect with my step-son. When we got together, I never could’ve guessed how hard it would be to be in this role. I connect fine with the younger son, who is 8, but the older one is just a kid that I don’t mesh with. It is causing strife when they are here, I am not doing a good job at keeping my feelings to myself like I had been. Our personalities are so different, but I have to figure something out. Not to mention that my own son is mean to him, so he feels alienated when he comes to be with his dad…not the environment I wanted to create. I want to find a way to be more “adult” and just engage and overlook the things that bother me, but I’m struggling…any words of advice?

    1. Brenda

      Welcome, Shelley!

      I hope you get some good feedback, and you might get some tips from various of the posts on the blog.

      For 1:1 coaching, email me at

      Some stepmoms experience 180-degree turnaround in their experience of stepfamily life after just a couple of sessions!


  39. Richelle

    Oh my goodness I’m so thankful I found this site! I’m currently engaged to a man who has a 4 year old. I love his kid like he was my own. I have no children of my own, however. The mother is still in the picture and has the kid through the week. My fiancé only has her on the weekends. The ex was the one to leave however as soon as she found out he was with someone else she tried getting back with him and won’t stop messaging him and all that good stuff. She also stalks me and my family. My fiancé and I had to delete our facebooks because she would let leave us alone. I have never talked down about her in front of the kid. But the kid told me that her mommy called me a SOB. I have tried so hard to be nice and keep my mouth shut. It just seems to get worse. What should I do?!

    1. Carol

      Welcome to the world of step mothering. Most women take on the role as a new mom, loving the step kid, loving your mate, only to get shafted. Lower your expectations. Don’t get involved in the ex and their rhetoric. Keep your emotional distance from her. I’ve never said anything bad of Biomom either, but she blames me for her kids problems. All I can do is be myself, support my step kids as I see fit. Keep an emotional distance. Problem with step kids too is they have loyalty to bio parents, therefore anything she says about you they believe and get brainwashed. Believe in yourself. Treat everyone as kindly as you can. Heap coals of kindness. It will pay off in the end. I’ve read we shouldn’t take things personally. It’s hard not yo when your in the fire. I read that bring a step parent is setting your hair on fire and trying yo put it out with a hammer. In other words, it’s not fun.

      1. Richelle

        Thank you for the advice. The mom also blames me for her and the dad not being together like I split them up or something. However they were separated for over a year before I even met him. I guess I will have to keep my distance and watch what I say. Thank you Carol.

  40. Jen

    I’m trying so hard to hold things together lately. I’m typically outgoing and fun, now everything someone says I take offense and shut down. A little background, I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about a year and a half now. He moved in with me. I’m 28 and he’s 46. An age gap, I know, but its not an insecurity. I make more money than him (not that it matters) just wanted to clarify. He has two kids, I have none. His oldest is 18 yrs old, still in high school and doesn’t come over much, so not a real issue. However, he also has an 11 year old daughter. She thinks she needs to be the center of everything and anything. She wears my makeup, takes my clothes, goes into my drawers and takes wears my underwear. I personally think this is absolutely disgusting. I’ve told her and her father time and time again that it’s my house and these are my personal items. There’s certain lines that do not need to be crossed. Am I being petty? I told my boyfriend about it and he says well, she comes from a house that shares everything… I guess this has stemmed from her staying with us for the past week while her mother has been away. She has ADD and is on a lot of medicine and I think my boyfriend caters to her too much. She will be sitting in the living room and tells her dad he is thirsty and he jumps up to get her something. I believe at a mature 11, she should be doing things on her own. Am I in the wrong? Any suggestions, help, words of wisdom, ideas? I’ll take anything at this point.

    1. carol

      Purchase a doorknob that has a lock on it and lock up your bedroom. That would be the best solution. Keep the key hidden so the 11 year old can’t get into your bedroom. Just to let you know….I know she’s not quite a teenager, BUT…statistically if you marry a man with a teen aged daughter…the divorce rate is 99%. It’s very stressful dealing with teen-aged girls…especially if they aren’t yours. Good luck.

      1. Brenda

        Carol, I haven’t read statistics that are quite that dismal. Would you mind citing your source? I would love to take a look at it.



        1. Carol

          I,can’t recall where I read it. It was on a step parenting site.

    2. Brenda

      You definitely have a challenge on your hands, (not ONLY based on the age of your stepdaughter), but there are certainly things you can do to improve your odds! Good communication, appropriate expectations, and focusing on your relationship are all key in the partnerships we stepmoms enter. Try reading the posts entitle “Surviving your Step-teen” and “It’s All About the Marriage: Things Smart Stepmoms Know” for hints.

      I have helped lots of women in your situation in my office and from the privacy of your own home via the internet. Check out the “Talk to Brenda” tab or email me at for more information on private coaching sessions.

      Keep your head up! This can work!


    3. Monique

      Hi Jen,
      Carol had a great idea. I have been a stepmom for almost 2 years and we realized within the first month of my moving in that we needed a lock on our door. Sometimes I feel bad locking it when I’m leaving the house but I would feel even worse wondering what my husbands teenagers (16 SD, 19 SS, 21 SS, the 16 and 21 yr old still live at home) could be doing in our room when we are not home. He and I both have a key that we keep on us at all times. That statistic does sound dismal but I get it. He will always take her side.

    4. Joanne

      You have a long challenge ahead of you…My husband babies his 16 year old this same way. She sits like a queen while he waits on her hand and foot. She basically snaps her fingers for something to eat or drink and he gets it. I am not even allowed to ask her to pick up after herself. He gets mad at me if I ask her to do anything. She is supposed to come to our home and basically do anything that she pleases. I am not allowed to impose any rules even though it is my house that I purchased prior to our marriage. It is really putting a strain on me. Now he is begging her to move in with us because he can’t stand to be apart from her. I don’t know how I will take this if it happens. I am basically invisible when she’s around as he dotes constantly on her. We are not allowed to do anything as a couple when she is there not matter what may arise. If it’s the weekend she is there we have to turn down any invitations of anything outside of her visit. I had no idea that being a step mom would basically mean keep your mouth shut and let the kids do whatever they want. My husband also is very pushy because I’m not always doting all over her like him and her mother does. It’s just a lot harder than I had ever expected.

  41. Nathalie

    So a perfect situation arose this morning that underscores the issues me and my boyfriend have. He has a four year old, and we have a 7 month old together. This morning, the 4 year old was playing on the bed next to the baby, with dad. Four year old hit the baby during his play, his dad said he could tell it was on purpose. I said he had to leave the room. He refused. Dad playfully tries to pick him up, he kicks and flails. I continue asking, please leave, baby is now nursing and trying to sleep, as he has been for the past half hour to no avail because four year old continues coming into the room. He finally after crying is nursing again and I think he might actually go to sleep. So I continue asking, please can you leave the room, saying it every which way. Dad is saying, it’s time to go, gently, and four year old is refusing. I start counting to three, nothing, baby wakes back up fully… and by the time four year old leaves, baby is awake again, starting an hour long process of putting him to sleep which could have been avoided if my requests had been honored at the beginning when I first went upstairs saying I was putting the baby to sleep. I have asked many times that bf keep four year old downstairs when I am putting baby to sleep. He says he “tries”. To me you either do or you don’t, the adult is in charge period. That’s not the way bf thinks though, he thinks sometimes adults are wrong and its important to listen to the child. As I nurse baby and get more exasperated I keep hearing bf telling four year old to get ready for soccer, four year old argues with EVERYTHING its like he’s a teenager and bf gives in and waits a few more minutes before gently asking again. If it was up to me, computer would be off, there’s no argument its time for soccer, put your shoes on. How am I supposed to raise my son differently in this type of environment? Is it possible? I don’t want to raise a kid who thinks he can argue with everything adults tell him. And my fear is if he sees his brother doing that he will do it too. My concern is that their lack of responsiveness to me and my requests is affecting both baby and I’s well-being because I am also exhausted and need baby to nap for not only his good but mine as well. I’m trying to separate myself but I seem to get sucked in so easily! How much can I separate from and how much should I just not tolerate? It’s so confusing!

    1. Carol

      I would tell the 4 year old every time he argues… I love you too much to argue. He’ll soon stop the pattern. It takes two people to argue, and if you, the adult, argues back no one wins. I would also suggest that when things are going smoothly, that you sit down with him, with his dad, and set boundaries. He’s not allowed in your bedroom. Make it clear and set a pre determined consequence for his misbehavior, if he violates this trust or request . You might tell him…if he enters your room he has to sit in his room for a designated time, or he has to go to bed 10 minutes earlier. Stick to your guns. Kids are tricky little buzzards, who push the limits. Once they know they can’t win they’ll be more compliant.

      1. Nathalie

        Carol, thank you for your input. bf isn’t into doing things like that. And I do not have the energy or authority. Given that, I’m trying to figure out what I can control so that I can stay sane.

        1. Carol

          I know many step moms think they don’t have the authority. It’s your home and bf home, therefore together you need to establish ” house” rules as to how things will be handled. If you and bf can’t agree or it’s creating stress then maybe you need to move on with your life without bf. I totally understand that you don’t have the energy, if your nursing, taking care of a 7 month old, dealing with stress that you can’t ( or think you can’t) control. My step son would often argue with me. I would say I love you too much to argue, and he’d always stop in his tracks. I hope you can find the peace your looking for. I just read this past week, that step parents think when they marry, that they’ll have instant love, instead we get instant kids, and instant problems. Good luck to you.

          1. Nathalie

            bf is father of my son, I don’t want to just leave him. I like your idea of what to say with an argument, however, I can’t control how my bf responds to his arguments. I know this about kids and limits and try to explain it to bf all the time, he has divorce guilt I think, and just doesn’t seem to really get it. The problems that I see don’t occur as problems to him, they just occur as challenges that are normal and understandable given the situation. SS doesn’t even have a very set bedtime so he wouldn’t know the difference if it was 10 minutes earlier! I’ve been trying to get him to have a set bedtime for over 2 years now. I was putting him to bed for some time, but then I just get even more exhausted having to deal with baby and him and resentful because of exhaustion, so I stopped. It’s definitely challenging!

          2. Nathalie

            Also I just want to say that bf has a lot of awesome qualities and he is doing the best he can and trying really hard. People just can’t be someone they’re not.

        2. kathleen

          I can totally relate Nat. My bf has awesome qualities too and I know he’s trying hard. He too, had/has divorce guilt. It wasn’t until his son’s child psychologist told him the same things that I had been telling him about setting rules (such as bedtime), setting boundaries, having consequences, etc. However, he had to make the changes at his pace, in his way, (really slow baby steps)….it was too slow and too little for me. So, we argue a lot. I felt that he has to realize how his parenting style is challenging to live with (not just for me, but for everyone). I showed him a chart….here is what it says in regular text:

          Authoritarian Parenting Beliefs and Values: Patriarchal, Victorian, behaviorist, insensitivity and intolerance, hierarchy, authority, submissiveness, harshness, predictability, conservatism, no parent child discussions, black and white world view, rigidity, aggressiveness, inhibiting psychological control, suppression of emotions, threats.

          Shared Authoritarian and Authoritative Values: High behavior control, disciplined conformity, demands and chores, rules and order, obedience, punishments.

          Authoritative Parenting Beliefs and Values: Socially responsible, shaping and reinforcement, coorporative, rational control, relative freedom of choice.

          Shared Authoritative and Permissive Beliefs and Values: High responsiveness, give and take discussions, self-assertiveness, warmth, independent thinking, meeting needs, encouragement.

          Permissive Parenting Beliefs and Values: Freudianism, manipulative control, bribes, individual autonomy and personal freedom, high creativity, non-restrictiveness, role equality, non-punitive, harmony orientated, free development, flat hierarchy, self-regulation.

          My bf saw for himself that he was at the bottom of the chart (Permissive) and that I was Authoritative (and not Authoritarian as he had been accusing me of). He realized that I was where a parent wants to be, that I had balance. He realized that a compromise meant that he had to come off the floor. Sometimes people just need to see it for themselves. If you go on google and search parenting styles, you will see. I truly believe it’s all about awareness, breaking the cycle (raising your children the way you were raised), and paying attention in the moment and being the parent you want to be.

          I too, am trying to make a complicated, blended family work. It’s hard. I hope that I’ve been helpful to you by sharing my experiences. I always tell my bf that as long as he continues to make an effort to move forward, I will try too. My ex-husband “heard” me, never made the effort, so after 17 years, I left him. Life is too short to be in a relationship where you have no voice.

          Good luck.

          1. kathleen

            correction ^
            My ex-husband NEVER “heard” me.

          2. Nathalie

            Thanks Kathleen! I have seen those parenting styles before. I emailed him the article where I saw them, not sure if he looked at it or not, but maybe I oughta bring it up again and show him myself or bring it to counseling or something. We do go to counseling once a month which is helpful. I hope it doesn’t get to the point where he has to hear it from a psychologist! I am actually a therapist… I can tell from watching him that divorce and parenting in itself it is challenging to see yourself and how you are being unless you have done a lot of work on yourself. Thanks for giving me some hope and helping me know I’m not alone! Good luck with your situation, too!

  42. Julie

    I am glad I found this site. I have been living with my boyfriend for over a year now, but have known each other for eight years. He has two children, ages 3 & 4 from a previous relationship. We have been getting the children roughly every second weekend (currently going through court custody).

    At first everything seemed to go fine. This summer we had the children for three weeks and they adjusted very quickly to our house rules and had a great time. The past couple of times we have had them, I have found the four year old, acting out. No matter what we do, (ie; going to a playground, going to friend’s houses for playdates) she melts down and wants to go home. My boyfriend usually caves in. She socially is behind, in my opinion and has a potentially unhealthy attachment to her mother. She cries for hours before bedtime for mommy. His three year old boy is much more laid back and easy going.

    This past weekend, I became upset after I planned a family morning movie at the local theatres for families. The four year old melted down and we left. I was upset and my boyfriend told me I was acting like a child. Maybe I was, but I am getting so resentful and frustrated. It feels like I am expected to be fully engaged, with a constant smile on my face, and never get annoyed or upset. Yet if the biological parents have a bad day, it is fine.

    I am currently, also the only breadwinner in the house, so anything we do, is out of my pocket on an already tight budget.

    I have asked my boyfriend that we go to counselling. I deeply love him and he is wonderful in so many ways. It’s impossible for him to understand that I don’t love his children unconditionally. I hope that develops and grows, but it isn’t immediate. Does anyone have any advice or any luck with counselling? I want to be with him forever, but I am at my wits end and feeling like I may have bit off more than I can chew.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. carol

      I can TOTALLY relate. I agree, counseling would be a great benefit to learn how to communicate feelings, show respect and to understand one another better. My husband does the same thing. I can express myself or be upset and he takes it as I’m childish. My advice is this…you have a right to be upset, but express yourself respectfully. Maybe go do something else for a while to collect your thoughts before you vent your frustrations. That might help.You have the right to be heard and listened to. One thing I learned though counseling is this, men like strong women, who stand up for themselves. If he’s saying you’re acting like a child he’s making a “judgement” of you and I would tell him that. If you’re upset and he says, “you’re acting childish or like a child”. How about responding with, I don’t like to be judged like that. Use assertive communication. If he doesn’t apologize then move out and move on before you commit your lives.There have been times when I was upset and my husband got angry and I stand in front of him and I say STOP and I hold my hand out or up…it helps as he knows I wont’ put up with such behavior.

      I know you’re trying to connect, through family time and movies, but the more you plan the more resentful you’ll become. I’ve planned things too and Skids would fight it. There’s a “loyalty” issue going on and you can’t change that no matter what. I might suggest that when the kids are over have your significant other plan the outing, It would also be good to Prepare the kids before the outing. This is what we are doing. This is how you should behave etc. When we were first married my youngest s-daughter was 5 and other kids were 7 and 8. I invited company and my skids were like wild animals. We were both very embarrassed and I asked my husband if he ever had company over. He said no. so the next time we coached them on how to behave and things went much better. Even my niece, after a year, commented on how different and more well behaved the kids were, but we coached them, instructed them. I might suggest too that if they need your attention or your husbands attention, that you show them that they should come, stand by your side, put their hand on your arm to get your attention, and wait until you can talk. They need to be taught what is proper behavior or they’ll continue to have meltdowns.
      Good luck to you.

  43. Heather

    Hi Brenda,

    I’m both glad to have found your website and sad to read all the material on it…it’s obviously a huge help and relief for us stepmoms to have safe places like this to seek support and advice. But it’s sad that so many of us are struggling so hard for so long… Or maybe I’m just projecting my feelings!

    I feel more depressed, discouraged, and hopeless than I’ve ever been. On the surface it doesn’t make any sense. I’ve been married 7 years to a wonderful partner, his teenage daughter whom I’ve known since she was 8 is not a difficult kid and is polite (if not very warm or close) with me, BM is not crazy, and we have a lovely little kid of our own. DH is an amazing dad who does everything for SD – all the parenting duties, chauffeuring to music classes and games, homework. He never asked me to be surrogate mom. I thought we would be fine.

    In some ways we are – no outright fights or aggression. But I’m consumed by this sad feeling that I just don’t belong here. Despite years of trying to do what all the experts say – not trying to be mom, leave the discipline to bio parents, detach when necessary – my relationship with SD is a source of tension. DH knows that I’ve had to detach over the years so as not to get hurt by the constant rejection (like I said, no outright aggression, but just consistent exclusion and ignoring – all my efforts at engaging, offering to do things together, presents, being available etc seemed to make no difference and if anything she’s just grown more remote the harder I tried; I think loyalty conflict is part of it, and also she’s very much a daddy’s girl and isn’t much interested in me). But because he’s so devoted to her and feels so guilty about the divorce, this makes him sad and it affects our relationship. He knows I can’t force myself to love her, but he’s so disappointed. And I’m frustrated that this disappointment weighs down our marriage, when I’ve worked hard over the years and given up all kinds of things I wanted (jobs, living closer to my family and friends) so he could be close to her. And because they’re so close, I often feel excluded and unnecessary in my own home. Everything has been set up to make SD feel as stable as possible, which is great for helping her grow up to be as secure and successful as she is. But the things I value in terms of parenting – my values, such as respect for elders or thanking people for gifts, are pushed away when I suggest them. DH doesn’t disagree, he’s even asked me to “help him raise her” in the past, but he just gets defensive and doesn’t do anything that would make her feel unhappy. There are no blow-ups, but the constant, low-level sense that I’m on the outside looking in has eroded my sense of self over the years. It feels like it’s someone else’s world and I’m just living in it.

    After our LO came along, I thought I would feel happier. But I don’t. The past few years have pushed me into a state of depression, and it’s killing me because I don’t want it to affect my child (let alone my marriage). My LO is innocent and deserves so much better, but I feel so tired all the time. Again, I know our situation is really not that bad and I have so much to be thankful for. Yet I feel empty and uncomfortable in my own skin. Counseling, individual and family, have helped a bit but haven’t really changed anything. In the end I just feel like I’m not needed or central in my family, and that if I went away it wouldn’t make much difference.

    I don’t know what else to do. I’m sorry for sounding so ungrateful when so many other stepmoms on this site have such greater challenges than I do – it’s embarrassing that I can’t cope! But for some reason I feel like I’m at the end of my rope and I can’t continue like this. Why am I feeling so awful when things aren’t the worst they could be? Is there something to the small but constant loss of control that makes stepmoms feel bad? How do I get back to feeling the joy and confidence I once had, before I entered this situation?


    1. Kate

      Dear Heather,

      I’m not Brenda, but I really wanted to say something. I reckon the first thing that would help is for you to give your feelings credit ;) You have every right to feel excluded and depressed and those feelings are as valid as anyone else’s. There’s no need to compare your challenges with another person’s, you’re hurting and that’s good enough for your hurt to be recognised and for you to ask for and be offered, support and help.

      Sending you massive hugs, you’ve gone through so much already, you’ll get through this :)

    2. carol

      Dear Heather,
      What you are dealing with is common to step mom’s. I”ve been a step mom now for 10 years and my step kids are mostly out of the house. There were 8, 7 and 5 when we married and are now 19, 17 and 16, but I feel like you do, set apart, not part of the family, and rejected. When I would suggest an activity my step kids would often say no, but if bio-mom would suggest something they are on the bandwagon. You are right, it does have a lot to do with loyalty. I believe most kids don’t realize that you can love more than one person. I think as women, we desire to have relationships and to be accepted by the people we love and live with. Unfortunately the love returned isn’t equal to the love given, but I guess when it comes to love, we should just give and not expect a return. Someone told me that the return comes much later, when the kids are in their 20’s or 30’s. I”m not sure if that’s true. I, unlike, you wanted to be the “replacement” mom and I went out of my way to show support. Now I want to withdraw from so much involvement and when I do my husband gets resentful and angry, and he feels unsupported. The number of times I wanted to throw in the towel and give up I can’t even count. I don’t want to paint a bleak picture, but it’s the nature of step mothering. Have you sought counseling? I’ve gone to several counselors and it does help. At least a person can talk out their frustrations. If I can offer any help let me know. Step moms need to stick together!

    3. Heather

      Thank you Kate and Carol! It helps a ton just to hear some voices of support and to feel less alone. I don’t think any of us could have known how hard this would be. Every kind word of sympathy really does help, so thank you Kate for the nice message. And Carol, I totally hear you. I don’t want to wait till the 20s or 30s for some kind of reward that may not even appear. We want and hope to be happy now. You are right to detach and protect your own feelings/sanity, and your husband needs to realize that this is the consequence of divorce and step-families, not a failing on your part. I’ve stopped extending myself in this way, which doesn’t feel great because I’d like to have good relationships in my home too. But why keep driving into a brick wall over and over again? Maybe ask your husband what he, in all honesty, would do in your situation. I’m sure you’ve already thought of this…but if he could just see for a moment what it feels like to be you, maybe he’d stop being so resentful. It’s generous of you to love and not expect love in return. Maybe I’m selfish, but I don’t know that I have what it takes to be such a giving stepmom. I just want to be me and to have that be enough. :/

      1. Kate

        Hey Heather,

        Do you really need to be a ‘giving stepmother’? Brenda says somewhere about taking on more of a role of camp counsellor than loving, giving stepmother. I took that to be that you’re cool and maybe a little aloof. You have your own life and while you’re ready with good advice, you’re not on hand for the step *or* your husband for that matter. His pretty pony is his responsibility, not yours. Sure you can do stuff for step, but only if you’re available. Don’t change your life around to accommodate her.

        I’m not sure you need to feel bad for wanting *you* to be enough. But I think you have to actually *be* you before you can expect anyone to accept that that’s enough.

        And part of that is insisting, in a nice way of course, that you are treated with respect, if nothing else.

        Keep us posted!

        1. carol

          Hey Kate
          Being a step mom is the hardest role ever. If I could do things differently I would (as would most step-moms) I spoke to one recently who’s been a step-mom for 25+ years. She said her step son wanted to call her mom and she wanted to be called by her first name. He still holds this against her. No matter what we do it’s not right. My advice is to take care of yourself. I don’t regret going out of my way for my step-kids, but the rejection in return is difficult to handle.If I had to do things over, I’d defer more to bio-dad. Years ago my step-kids needed physicals for school sports. He couldn’t do it. I didn’t care to do it so I suggested “mom” to do it, which was met with chorused negativity…she doesn’t have any money! (which isn’t true as she has 2 dogs, 5 cats, but she can’t afford to take “her” kids to the doctor? Anyway I ended up doing it. I often wish I would have said “no” more often, but then if we do we’re looked down upon. There aren’t any easy answers, which is why step mothering is so difficult. No matter what it isn’t right. I guess use your instincts, and take care of yourself, your emotions first. That isn’t being selfish, because if we aren’t “healthy” how can we extend ourselves to others?

          I’ve been the one to purchase birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, throw birthday parties. My step son graduated and I threw a grad. party for him. I knew I would get the brunt of the work. I didn’t mind and did it out of love, only to have him introduce me to his “friends” as this is my dad’s wife….I was very hurt. I thought, is that all I am to you?….so for me I wish I would have kept to a “babysitter” role or an “aunt” role. Instead of a “mom” role.

          1. Kate


            Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either you put up with being rejected or you stop giving so much. Note, I said ‘so much’. You can still give, but only at times when you know you can bear the brunt of being not thanked and taken for granted. But I think you need to be consistent.

            I’ve done this. I used to give, give, give and get angry and upset when I was ignored, taken for granted and rejected. Now I give when *I* want to give and as a result I never feel angry towards my skids. Yes, I would like to be able to give more to them, but I know my need to give is partly about being recognised by them, so its not purely altruistic all of the time.

            I think you need to decide exactly what it is that you want.

    4. Brenda

      Heather, (And Kate and Carol),

      I love the give-and-take that you ladies are posting on what seems to be an almost universal stepmother problem….. How much do we give, and what do have the right to expect in return?

      I think you all are onto the “right” answer….not that there is just one!

      We have to find the right balance for ourselves. It is difficult to find the point where we give without resenting, but I think when we do find it, we are in harmony with ourselves…..both our giving natures and our human-ness. It may feel right for some stepmoms to detach fairly completely. Others of us might find that disengaging from certain activities provides enough space to maintain our own emotional health, and that detaching more than that is too foreign to the way we interact with people.

      When our primary relationships are going well, the fathers of our stepchildren can help fill in the gaps by appreciating what we do. Ostensibly favors for the kid, a lot of what we do is really for him, and the more he realizes that, the more appreciated we can feel.

      In your particular case, Heather, you might try rechannelling your emotional energy into more reciprocal relationships. That way, you set yourself up for a win-win. If your relationship with your stepdaughter improves, great. If not, you won’t feel the loss as keenly because you haven’t put as much of yourself into it.

      Keep up the great dialogue, ladies! And don’t forget, I’m available by webcam for coaching sessions if you think a little 1:1 time will help!


      1. Heather

        Hi Brenda,

        Thank you for the wise words and encouragement! As you said, I will keep striving to find balance and harmony. Thanks also for hosting this website. We stepmoms need all the good community we can get!


  44. Nicole

    Hello Brenda,

    I am so glad to have found this site. I am a 25 yr old full time step mom to two boys ages 8 and 5. I became full time a year ago. Their mother left them with their father 3 years ago but she was responcable for pickups and drop offs when their father had to be at work. Most times she would bring one to school and the other to a grandmorthers house then check out for the rest of the day. She was not reachable on the weekends. Since moving in I had taken over the mother role. The kids had no structure or rules and could not do anything for themselves. The now 8 yr old; then 7 couldnt even wipe his own bum. Both kids had attitude problems as well. Now that I have built structure in their lifes and shown them how to take care of themselves their mother wants to see them and take them on weekends. I supplied her with all the nessasary items the kids would need to sleep over; toiletries, clothes. Their behavior had changed for the better in the last year but we have been noticing that after coming back home the first day or two they are not the same. They have forgotten our routine and their teachers noticed a change in behavior on monday and tuesday vs the end of the week. Their teacher said it as if they are not mentally there and often day dreaming. The kids told us that thier mother and her boyfriend fight because of them the whole weekend.

    What do we do about this? We spoke with their mother and she agreed that this isnt what children should be witnessing. She said she was going to work on thing with her boyfriend. When she has taken the kids and they havnt seen her boyfriend they still come back with behaviors. How can we prevent this?

    1. Brenda

      Hi Nicole,
      Welcome to the site!

      Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about what goes on in your stepchildren’s mother’s home. Over time, your children will get better at making the transition between households, but it is really their task to do. You and their father can only provide a consistent, reliable home life for them and hope for the best. Your stepchildren will be best off if they can come to their own conclusions about each household, and they should be given the freedom to do this. Be careful to respect boundaries around their experience at their mom’s by not pumping them for information.

      You can certainly address their behavior at home and at school if it doesn’t mean standards. Perhaps acknowledging to them that you know it must be difficult to go back and forth would help. Maybe you could work as a family to find ways that will make the transition easier for them. When my stepkids spent Wednesday evenings with their mom, we eventually realized that they preferred to be left alone for a while when they got home. We spoke this observation out loud, and once the kids realized they could “re-enter” our family at their own pace, things went a lot better.

      One note of caution, Nicole. You say you have “taken over the mother role”. It behooves all stepmothers to remember that we can be GREAT stepmoms— but that we are not mothers. We do the job, but it will never be the same. I can’t tell you how many heartbroken women I have talked to who poured their mind, body and souls into their stepchildren only to be devastated in some way when the kids “chose” Mom or rejected them in some other way.

      Come on Ladies, any other thoughts for Nicole?

      Thanks again for your question,

  45. anonymous

    Hey Brenda,

    I am more asking for advice and if you have seen this situation before.
    So my partner and I decided to have a baby and we got pregnant and then we decided not to tell his 4 year old child until 12 weeks Incase something happened as well as we decided not to announce it until then.
    Well last week I seen on social media that his ex is pregnant and only 5 weeks and she had told their child too!

    It really upset me because we hadn’t told the child yet or anyone else and we are further a long I know it might sound selfish but to me it feels like she has taken the limelight off me now and now when we do announce it next week everyone that knows all of us and the situation to me I feel that they will think it’s funny that we are both pregnant at the same time and that upsets me because this is my first child and I never wanted to feel like this and that its going to make people laugh and I guess even us both being pregnant upsets me cause it’s going to confuse their child so much, I just don’t want to feel this way and I want to enjoy my pregnancy.

    Can you please shine some light and tell me if I’m making sense or if I’m being stupid.

    Thank you.

    1. Brenda

      I am so sorry that your experience of your pregnancy announcement and your pregnancy itself aren’t living up to your dreams! You’re not “stupid”; you’re disappointed.

      Such is the way of stepmothers. When we fall in love with men who have a first family, we essentially give up the fairy tale. And we hope it’s worth it.

      Check out my post from November on things that stepmothers must grieve.


  46. Skye

    Hello Brenda,

    Thank you so much for starting this Q and A. It is so helpful and cathartic to read through other people’s experiences. I find so many situations close to my own. I am married to a wonderful man. I have three daughters: SD16, SD12, and BD2. The kids are great. I have a pretty good relationship with my step daughters when I just let go and have fun and stop worrying if they like me, or i am doing or saying the right thing. The conflicts that we have as a blended family stem more from BM. She lives with her parents (and always has except when she was married to BD). She has sporadic and infrequent employment and barely contributes financially to SDs well being. My husband does not complain or mind picking up the slack financially, but it definitely bothers me. My question to you is based on my latest experiences with BM. When we have been at events for the girls and BM is there she is almost always wearing clothes or shoes that I have purchased for my SDs. I can’t tell you how infuriating it is to see a 35 year old woman wearing clothes that I picked out and purchased for our 12 year old. I work hard to provide for my kids. I haven’t said anything to her because BD hates to rock the boat, and the less interaction we have with BM the better, but recently SD12 told me (unsolicited) that BM borrows her clothes even when she tells her not to. Do I confront BM? Do I stop buying clothes? Having them leave their clothes at our house is not an option…. They would have nothing to wear and I want them to be comfortable and not have to worry about things like that. Please help!!! Thank you.

  47. kathleen

    Hi Brenda,

    I love your site and find it extremely helpful! Wish I would have found it sooner!

    For almost 3 years, I’ve been living with my boyfriend, his mother, his two kids (11 yo daughter, 9 yo son) with my two daughters (19 and 14). We have many problems within our blended family. However, our biggest issue at the moment is how our parenting styles differ and the impact it has on our relationship. After reading your posts, I realize that I have made the first major mistake by taking over the “mom” role in the house. I was raised in a home where respect was everything and my parents were strict. I am raising my children with the same core values but with my own twist. I have incorporated open lines of communication and a proactive approach on things. My boyfriend has complimented my efforts and has commented that he hopes his kids are even half as well behaved as mine. He had been raising his children the way he was raised….always trying to please the child (never setting any rules in place, never telling the child “No”, no consequences for bad behavior, etc). With his mother living in the home too, it’s even more challenging. Unfortunately, his ex-wife and her mom have the same parenting style. His son has a host of mental/behavioral issues including anxiety, ADHD and ODD. I was not aware of these issues coming into this relationship. I saw the bad behavior, but I just assumed it was because of the “lack of parenting” going on. So, I was trying to change things for the better and “coach” my boyfriend and his ex-wife along the way, etc. I quickly realized that this child had bigger issues than just being spoiled and never being told “no”. My boyfriend has come a long way from where he was 3 years ago, however, I’m not sure he will ever get to the point where I need him to be. His child was resenting me because I took over and made all of the changes. My boyfriend realized that he needed to step up to the plate and own his role, allowing me to withdraw some. I realized that I needed to back off because no matter how hard I fight, I was fighting battles that no one else was fighting and this wasn’t even my child. I was stressing myself out so much that it was becoming very unhealthy for me and our relationship. After reading your posts, I realize that I should have never taken on that role. However, I came into this relationship with the assumption that I was supposed to do that. I was supposed to love and treat his children as if they were my own. I couldn’t imagine doing less. Especially having my own two daughters and wanting him to do the same in return. Now I realize how naive that was of me and that I need some major reprogramming of my “fairytale believing” brain. I’m trying to convince myself that it’s not selfish in anyway to pull back from co-parenting with my boyfriend and his ex-wife. My struggles are that I can’t seem to find the balance between being vocal about how his parenting choices or lack of attention/effort in areas of his parenting directly affect everyone in the home and our relationship AND falling back into the “controlling/think I know what’s best” mindset. I question our future together because I don’t want to live with a child that has mental/behavioral issues that are not under control at age 9 when things are simple, for fear of what the much older/stronger/more aggressive/more defiant teenager with mental/behavioral issues may do and how his eager to please/passive aggressive/not wanting to be the iron fist parents may still be in denial about their parental responsibilities. My boyfriend is trying….he is trying to find his way, his footing. I’m just not sure if it’s good enough? I can’t even see straight anymore because I’m so resentful and frustrated. If I had the money to pay you for coaching/advice, I would in a heart beat. But, I’m hoping that you can just give me some words of wisdom. Before I make any major decisions, I just like to know that I’ve gone over everything with a fine tooth comb and I’ve given the relationship a fair shot, exhausting all of my options.

    Thank you in advance for your time :)

    1. Nathalie

      Hi Kathleen,
      I just read your comment and I have the same exact issue with my boyfriend and his almost-5 yr. old son. I have also tried to take control, and go through the same struggles as you, and he’s only 5! So I have the same impending doom feeling about the future. I likewise get super stressed out being the only one in the situation who is fighting for the kid to have boundaries, consequences, etc. This is the first post I’ve read on here so I’m anxious to see what I can learn. My boyfriend and I also (surprise!) had a baby together who is 6 months, so leaving him is not something I want to do. I was actually broken up with him when I found out I was pregnant, for the parenting issues that drove me crazy partly and made me not want to be around him and his son. So I’m also doing everything I can to make it work despite the insane-making behavior, also want to exhaust all my options. Anyways, just wanted to let you know I can relate, and at least you don’t have kids with him! I am not sure how I’m going to raise my son the way I want to with him and his son’s influence in the mix. Take care, good luck!

      1. Kathleen

        Thank you for reaching out Nathalie. I wish things were easier.
        I hope things get better for you. I also responded to the other comment below. There might be something in there that may be helpful to you. Or at least relate-able :)
        Take care & good luck to you as well!

    2. desperatelyalone

      Hi Kathleen,
      I’m so sorry you are going through this! I have a similar situation. I have a 12yo son and my husband has a 12yo daughter. I was the same as you in terms of being strict with my child and expecting that I was supposed to treat his child as such. I have allowed my husband the authority with my son and after 6 years together, my husband and my son have a great relationship. I however was not granted the same with his daughter. She eats like a 3 year old–all sweets and NO veggies. Also she chews with her mouth open. Now at first, I became the wicked stepmom and was trying to get her to eat. I really don’t care what she eats, but feel it is just about good table manners. She and my husband will go back and forth at the table and it ruins the whole meal. We were even at a food court in Disney and of 5 restaurants, she couldn’t find a thing to eat. He was very upset but it doesn’t make him change the way he deals with it. Over the last year I have learned to detach from her, but now here lies the real problem. My son, who sees all of this, resents his stepsister because she is able to get away with anything. He is getting to be very angry and bitter. No one disciplines her–her mom is her BFF and doesn’t hold any authority over her. I won’t even get into those issues. When I ask my husband why things my stepdaughter does is ok he just keeps saying “I just don’t think about it.” I think he is just afraid she won’t want to come over to our house or something.

      I am looking into family therapy and possibly individual for my son. I don’t want him to think he is sick, but I want to help him deal with his anger. Sometimes I feel like we should leave, but I want the marriage to work. Good luck to you!

      1. Kathleen

        YOU ARE NOT desperatelyalone, I promise you.
        I totally recommend family and individual therapy. In my home, my oldest daughter and his son are both in individual therapy and my bf & I are in couples therapy. We have brought all four children into therapy with his son at times to discuss how his behavior affects everyone. It’s tough. I am with you on that!!!
        I had to go out of town for 3 days and as I was walking out of the door, his son was telling me that he hopes he never sees me again. When I returned, he walked in the door, saw me and said, “Oh great.” It’s hard enough to be surrounded by such negativity….but what I was mad about the most was the fact that my bf was sitting right beside me and SAID NOTHING. The biggest problem in my life is not his son, but my bf.
        I can 100% relate to everything you are going through….it’s so tough.
        What I try to do is to change my focus. I can’t control my bf and I can’t control how he raises his children. I can focus on how I raise my children and how I live my life. It’s tough because this divorced/blended family stuff is foreign to me. It’s even tougher because the effects of his parenting style affect all of us even when we try to separate ourselves from it. And, when I try to separate myself, there is that division line of me & my kids and him and his kids (which I have tried desperately to remove). It feels like a no win situation.
        This whole situation is exhausting. Fighting all the time, trying not to take it all personally, trying to find balance, trying to resolve issues.
        So, I’m going to attempt another foreign territory. I am going to start making choices that make me happy and not worry about what will happen if I don’t supervise my bf’s parenting skills.
        I take one day at a time. I still question if I am in a sinking ship everyday, but I’m the kind of person who exhausts all of her efforts before she jumps ship.
        Good luck to all of us and these sucky situations we find ourselves in. (((HUGS))

        1. Brenda

          I’m glad you brought up the idea of counseling. I think that these types of forums are great for allowing us to feel that we’re all in this together, but it is often in private sessions that true problem-solving and better communication can happen. It is really important for stepfamilies to make sure that they’re working with therapists who understand our unique family dynamics, and that is why I offer coaching on the web anywhere in the WORLD. (Time zones get interesting sometimes!) Email me at for more information.


  48. Rose

    I’m 26 year old stepmother of his 4 year old son. We have been together for 1 and a half year and lived together for 1 year. I love his son and my whole family does. The child is with us every other weekend from Thursday to Monday and gets all the love it needs and more. The thing that bothers me is that the child’s bio mother wants to control everything we do with him. She doesn’t want us go driving to the country side with him because it could be uncomfortable for him or we could get into an accident. Clearly she doesn’t trust us. She calls all the time to check up on him and even comes to pick him up and spends a day with him at a birthday party. Almost every daddy weekend she has plans something for them to do like; birthdays, playdates, meeting family members, theater and so on.
    My boyfriend tries to keep peace and I am so proud of him, because I know he is hurt and very pissed off. He says that if she just gets want she wants, there will be less problem for him to meet his son.
    Last weekend was her weekend with their son and we asked her many days before if he could go bowling with us and my family, it’s an annual event that my grandmother created to go bowling together before christmas, it’s our christmas present from her. That was no problem and the kid was so excited to go with us. But on the day of bowling she would not let him go with us because it was her weekend with him and she had made other plans with him, after a long talk with her my stepson could go with us but could not stay for long, so this bowling event was just a big stress for us and we could not enjoy it at all!
    Another thing, he will be with us at Christmas, we plan on driving (4 hour drive) to my boyfriends family to spend Christmas with them. But the bio mom won’t accept us driving with her son, so she suggested that him and my boyfriend would take the flight and me and our dog would drive. We could just jump on a plane, that would be easiest but our dog can’t handle it, he freaked out last time we did it and we don’t want to do it again.

    I love being a stepmother, but I hate that some woman I barely know is trying to control my life, our life. Is there something I can do? Is it okay for me to talk to her or is it my boyfriends duty? We have had many long talks about these things, but I feel like I want to make some things clear with her, not to fight, I just want peace and we want to be able to control what we do with the kid.
    I’m sorry for my English I’m from Europe. :)
    Thank you Brenda

    1. carol

      Dear Rose
      I hate to burst your bubble, but as a step mom you have no control. It is very hard as step-moms because we desire to have a relationship with our step-kids, we desire to spend time with them, we desire to have a voice, but we don’t. I’ve been a step-mom going on 11 years and it’s a learning process. We need to learn to let go. As much as your family tradition is important to you you’ll have to create new ones with your step kids and it would be better to lower your expectations. The bio-mom has the right to control her child, you do not. it’s a tough pill to swallow. Sorry for my colloquialisms.
      You do need to set some boundaries though with bio-mom. She shouldn’t be calling your place or checking on her son when he’s in your care. Somehow she needs to understand that your time with him is your time. Its hard.
      Good luck

    2. Anonymous

      In my opinion and in actual reality she can not control what happens at your house or on the child’s visitation time no more than you can control what happens on hers. Unless there is some kind of court order or there isn’t one at all and she has custody. I don’t remember reading one way or another. I would discuss this with your boyfriend. There definitely has been no boundaries if she is not allowing you to drive with your boyfriends child. She needs to learn to let go of the control in your home and your boyfriend needs to set boundaries of what is best for his current family. Make the four hour drive and bond as a family. Kids won’t melt in a car!

  49. G

    How do you deal with the ex being apart of your life forever?
    I am civil to my partners ex but seeing her makes me sick to my stomach wether it be in person or a photo, I feel constantly judged, sometimes when I kiss my partner I see her face.
    It’s really hard I’ve never had to deal with an ex being around. I know he would never want her again and she has a partner herself.
    I just wanna get over this and be able to be happy.

    1. carol

      Aw…I can totally understand. I think that’s just part of being a step mom. We are hard on ourselves and we constantly feel judged and blamed. I feel that all the time. I feel judged by my step kids, my husband and the ex. We are constantly compared to bio – mom as well. My suggestion, express how you feel to your husband, try to get support from other step mom’s.Do things for you and do things that help make you feel like a success. Take classes, get out of the house, learn a new craft….don’t dwell on her. I would also suggest to distance yourself from her. I have no contact with kids bio mom… It’s a lonely world out there, but there is hope….keep the faith.

    2. Erin

      I have the opposite feelings, really…I tend to take a superior posture, which is equally unhealthy. However, I have found that acceptance – radical acceptance – is the only way to process those things that we have found unacceptable. I am sure that is as clear as mud! Another way to put it: it is what it is.

  50. Cassie

    Hi Brenda! I love your site and love reading everything. You give so much insight! I’ve got another dilemma to ask about. I’m having a hard time getting my step-daughter (age 7) to follow the simple house rules. We have been married a year and a half and lived together 3 yrs so that is plenty of time to figure things out. The things we ask the kids to do are pretty simple….pick your things up, put dirty clothes in hamper, turn lights off when you leave a room. Stuff like that. My 5 yr old son has been doing these things diligently without asking since he was very small. She still refuses to take me seriously. I literally ask her to shut her bedroom light off about 15 times a day. Every single time she showers I have to tell her to clean up her mess in the bathroom and put her clothes away. I constantly have to tell her to clean up after herself and it’s getting really old. She is the most messy kid ever and just leaves a trail of destruction wherever she goes. It’s lots of little things that just floor me as far as how little respect she has for things because everything just gets messed up! I work full time and dont get much help with the chores at home so I’m just exhausted and tired of constantly cleaning up after a child that is plenty old enough to do it herself. Her room is destroyed all the time and she’s only here one night a week and every other weekend!! My son who is 2 yrs younger is by far more responsible and handles these tasks without asking. I’ve talked to her dad (husband) many times about the lights and other things and he just won’t put his foot down and expect her to do what I ask, which leaves me to be the bad guy. It may seem trivial that I’m upset over messes and lights left on…but it’s the principle of it that if this is what I expect, then it should be for everyone and she can’t be exempt because she doesn’t want to listen. It’s also about teaching the kids to be responsible and take care of their things. I expect the same things from her as I do my own son, and if it were him that was not listening, he would have been in trouble a long time ago over it. I’ve taken her light bulb out of her ceiling fan for leaving the lights on (this was after the 10th time that day of having to tell her to shut it off), but then my hubby just went and put it back in. So what am I supposed to do?! I don’t think it’s fair that she doesn’t get the same treatment as my son and just gets to do whatever she wants while my son follows the rules. How can I approach this and get results?? My husband is just no help at all. We’ve had several conversations about it and I’ve asked him to step up and he doesn’t. What do I do? Thanks!

  51. Erin

    I posted a message last week regarding my experience with my step-daughter and how her father and I did not appear to be in agreement regarding the importance of teaching her how to practice good hygiene, particularly as she will be a teenager soon, and being unkempt and slovenly can make a kid a real target in junior high and high school. I am pleased (and quite humbled) to report that my partner, after my having a heartfelt (read: respectful and calm) discussion with him, began to immediately take steps to work with his daughter to help her learn better grooming habits. The week ended with my partner letting her and I go shopping together to purchase her fall/winter wardrobe. I think the reason why things ended differently this time (as opposed to hurt feelings and defensive postures that have been the result in the past) is because I stopped making this about me and instead made it about “us”, including the welfare of my step-daughter. I feel closer to him and closer to my step-daughter, and we had a wonderful time shopping together! #happy step-mom

    1. Brenda

      Thanks so much for posting your “success”! Isn’t it great how we get different results by making subtle changes in how we approach or think about things? So happy for you!


  52. Danielle


    Because in my state (NJ) they do not calculate out child support and wont count my stepchildren (2 of them) as part of our expense because we do not have them full time, my family (husband, myself, and our 2 sons together, as well as my 2 stepsons) cannot recieve financial aid because they say we make too much money. But with all the expenses that my husband has from child support and medical bills for my stepsons, we cannot afford housing, so we live with my parents. They also told us legally we need to have a three bedroom appartment if we want to continue our overnights, because of the children’s ages. Our 2 sons are a newborn, and 2 yr old, stepsons are 7 and 10. Problem is we just cannot afford it right now. Overnight are not only important to our family unit mentally, they also make my husban’s payments lower and livable. Before having children or being married, I always donated money to organizations to help the needy, and now I need help, and feel I can’t get a dime to help me out of this situation. I wish I didn’t even need the help! Our living situation is horrible, my mother is old and doesn’t have patience of children playing, being loud in her eyes, or having toys she feels make a mess. Its impossible! And alls she does is put us down! I need housing assistance, and childcare assistance, but don’t know what I can do to get any relief. I cry all the time, because the state and organizations that are suppose to help just say that we just make it over the amount to receive aid, but if all his expenses were calculated out or the children were calculated in we would be well under. Everytime we feel like we are gaining ground financially the children’s mother has a new bill for my husband to pay, and he only gets 10 days to pay her. She never asks or tells us ahead of time that we would be getting hit with these bills, just “blam” now we have a bill! We went to an advisor from the state and the types of bills we have are things that even claiming bankruptsy wouldn’t solve, because they are legal mainly, and she told us you don’t really do anything to spend money foolishly so there is no cutting anything out. My husband already works two jobs, and I am trying to get a better one! With out housing and childcare I couldn’t even get a second job. My dad watches my children during the day, but can’t at night, and my mother would never allow us to have a babysitter (which I couldn’t afford anyway) at her house, so I could go to a second job. I am at a loss!!! Is there any hope for someone like us??? I feel defeated!!!!! Please help!!!!

  53. Erin

    I found this site while doing a search this evening for “step-mom support”. It looks wonderful, and I am eager to catch up on past and current posts! I have been with my partner for almost 8 years. We will be getting married in a year and I will be co-habitating with him and his children next Spring. He has three children: a son who is 18, a son who is 16 and a daughter who is 12. His two boys have a rare auto-immune disease that compromises their immune systems; if they contract any kind of bacterial infection or virus, even sinus infection, and fever begins to rise, they are rushed to the hospital immediately to be under the watchful eye of their physician and given rounds of anti-biotics and other medications. Ironically, I have felt that this part of my partner’s life has been the easiest for me to adjust to – the boys are wonderful and I feel like I am able to find ways to be supportive of them and my partner during good times and not-so-good-hospital stay times. So what is the issue? His daughter. She has a heart of gold, is full of empathy and kindness and gentleness. But…neither her father nor her mother have taught her anything about personal hygiene or grooming habits. She is often unkempt, her hair tangled (it is very long) and dirty/unwashed- her dental hygiene is very poor and she has no sense of personal style or pride in her appearance. Her clothes are mismatched and often too small and dirty. I have gone rounds with my partner over this and to no avail….as much as it bothers me, I have no control, and he has made it clear it is not my place. There are two deep truths to this: a) my own insecurity- when we are in public and people see my step-daughter with me, they may assume I am her mother and may wonder why I have not taken care of my child, and 2) in my heart, I wanted a princess that I could go shopping with – teach her to braid her hair and paint her nails…and I have gotten the exact opposite. Intellectually I know that she needs me to love her unconditionally and be, as my therapist stated, in the role of “camp counselor” rather than “mother”. However, emotionally, this is a mountain in my path that I just cannot seem to get around.

    1. Brenda

      Hi Erin,
      Welcome to the site!

      It is really difficult to come to terms with the ways in which your reality does not match your expectations/hopes/fantasies about being a stepmother. You certainly didn’t get a princess! But to be fair, your own biological daughter could turn out to be a tomboy. Unfortunately, we don’t get to place our orders when we have kids. :)

      I don’t know that I agree with you “intellectually” when you say you know you need to love her unconditionally. You are putting an unrealistic expectation on yourself, a trap that many, many stepmothers fall into. “Camp Counselors” DON’T love their charges unconditionally; they are mentors, positive role models and friendly presences in the lives of camp kids. MOTHERS love unconditionally. There is a difference.

      With regard to being concerned that her hygiene reflects poorly on you……I don’t disagree with you there. But guess what? If you’re taking her out in public, you can mandate that she brush her hair and put on clean clothes. Or don’t go. That is an appropriate boundary because it is ok to govern your OWN behavior (going or not going) in any way you see fit. The down side is that there might be an event you WANT to go to, and if you’re being consistent, you would have to refuse to go, or make her stay home, if she doesn’t comply. If her father isn’t on board, you might be the one staying home. Choose your boundary thoughtfully, then stick to it.

      Let us know what you decide!


      1. Erin

        Thank you, Brenda! This is very helpful – particularly the insight into ‘camp counselor’ vs. ‘mom’ and loving unconditionally. Much to meditate on and consider!

  54. Lauren

    That is what I have been thinking may need to happen and hoping wouldn’t. I am not sure how to go about it. Would you suggest I stay elsewhere since we do live together? Also, how do I approach my boyfriend with this. I have mentioned it before and he believes if I leave every other week while he has his son, then maybe I shouldn’t be in the relationship. With that being said, maybe a different approach could help him have a better understanding that I am only trying to salvage the relationship, not harm it.

  55. Cindy

    I’m not exactly a SM but I call myself one. I have been with my BF for five years now, since his two children were 4 and 6. They are with us every weekend, holiday (except Christmas morning) and anytime I get a day off work. Their mother has them during the week but works nights at bar and doesn’t do much mothering.

    Because of this, I have taken on the mother role (I don’t have children of my own and after this experience don’t ever plan to). I do all the Dr’s appointments, school functions and use my vacation time to keep them during winter, spring and as much as I can during the summer break. Of course, must of our arguments are over the children and their mother not being a mother.

    He pays a 1/3 of his paycheck in child support, we buy all their clothes, school supplies and anything else they need. I have even sent tooth brushes and tooth paste to her house. Recently, he started sending food because they were saying she wasn’t shopping and they are too young to cook anything.

    My resentment at this point is sky high. I realize that we are not married, but we have built a life together. How much of our household resources/future resources should I have to give to her home. My BF makes me feel guilty when I bring it up saying it’s not for her it’s for the kids. She is already getting a huge chuck of his paycheck, food stamps (or whatever it’s called now) and has a full time job making tips she doesn’t claim. It’s not like she’s destitute. Do I let the kids suffer because she is unwilling to take care of their needs or just suck it up. I’ve told him over and over to take her back to court but he refuses saying it’s his word against hers and he’ll just look like a fool.

    My other question deals with being called their mom. Since I take them to all their appointments, shopping and deal with the school, everyone thinks I’m their mom. In fact, one of the teachers saw their mother with them over the summer and asked me if she was their aunt. I had problems signing them out of school last week for a dentist appointment and the principal came out and said “She can have them, she’s their mother.” Being called their mom doesn’t bother me. What makes me sad is the oldest. She’s 11 now and when someone innocently calls me her mom, she gets upset. I tried to explain to her that it’s just what people assume when they see an adult woman taking to children to a Dr. appointment or something similar. I’ve even told her she can tell who ever called me her mom that I’m not her mom. She hasn’t done it yet be continues to get upset about it when it happens. What should I do. I know part of her being upset has to do with wishing her mom was the one taking care of her like I do. What should I tell people when they call me their mom. I hate to say “I’m not their mother”. I makes me seem like I don’t love them and it’s sure to embarrass the other person.

    Lastly, I want to thank you for the website and advice. No one tells you that being a SM is so hard and people who have not experienced it look down on you because you’re not the “real” mom.

    1. Brenda

      I’m sorry you’ve decided not to have children of your own based on your experience as a stepmother. I can absolutely guarantee that being a mother and being a stepmother are very different roles. Each can be rewarding, but only when they are kept separate. Your frustration in your stepmother role has much to do with the fact that you are behaving as the mother. This rarely works, as you’re finding out. It’s important to maintain boundaries to protect your emotional health and work towards having a succesful STEPfamily…..which is different that a traditional family.

      Ways to do this and skills required to tweak this process are really too numerous to mention in a reply here. There are other resources available, and I offer webcam coaching sessions that some stepmothers find very helpful, as I can offer direct personalized advice.

      Meanwhile, any other stepmoms have comments/advice for Cindy?



    2. Kate

      Hi Cindy. Just browsing fb pages on stepmoms. I saw your post and it really hit me hard. I’m dealing with a lot of similar situations. I am not on fb. On my moms. Lol. Yes I am 38 and no fb. But I would love to chat through email.

    3. Chelle


      I just want to validate your feelings of frustration over devoting so much of your family’s resources and time to your stepchildren. You have obviously given so much of your personal resources and seem enormously gracious about doing so but just want to find some boundaries. It is perfectly reasonable for you to encourage your husband to revisit the financial terms. In my state, we have access to free family law support who can give off the record look at what would be deemed “fair”, so you have some idea whether it would be worth pursuing in court before you decide to do so. You might have something like that there. I want to compliment you on how much you’ve given for your stepchildren. I wish I could do likewise, but I find myself very protective over how much I’m willing to contribute.

    4. Ruth

      I am in a similar boat, no plans for children of my own either. 12 yr old step daughter, with jealous mother who doesn’t do things for her daughter but cant stand the fact that her daughter and I have a wonderful relationship because for 6 yrs I have been picking up her slack. Dentist visits, Dr visits, talks about body hair and puberty, makeup lessons, shopping, learning how to become a woman with some sense of independence and self worth… I could go on but I wont.
      My only advice is if it makes your SD upset, then correct people and tell them that you are her step mother. Society accepts this and your step daughter wont get so upset. I used to be called Mommy and the BM was Mama in the beginning (SD’s choice). Now thanks to a court order I am Emma (Extra Mama). There are lots of nicknames out there for step moms, narrow it down to a few you like and let the girls decide.
      Being a step mom is better than being a bio mom, no morning sickness, no stretchmarks or c-section scars, a few weekends and holidays off during the school year, you cant be blamed for “the way they turn out” its not your genetics, plus you can know that a child who clearly needs you has a stable female role model.

  56. carol

    Thanks for the advice and I love this site. I actually feel I have some support in my life where as I don’t have that. I really don’t know of any step moms in my area and I would like to start a support group. Not sure how to go about doing that and who would even show up! I do have another question. My husband and I have gone around and around on this topic as well. My husband is self employed and I have a professional position. I make a decent living, but I’ll never get rich of of it as I am in the service profession. Anyway I do have benefits and my husband doesn’t have any since he’s self employed. My step kids and my husband have been on my insurance since we got married. I’d like for him to take it over by either getting private insurance or finding a job with benefits. I feel HE should be providing for his kids and not me.I don’t know if there are other step-moms in my situation and if they are ok with providing. He has called me selfish, but I feel used, rather than valued. Any advice? thanks

    1. Cindy


      Maybe you could subtract the amount you would pay as a single member with insurance from the amount you are paying for the family plan. Your husband can then “repay” you that amount by paying extra on your mortgage/rent or paying an extra bill(s). Something that would alleviate you from the extra expense. Even if they children were your bio kids, you shouldn’t shoulder the entire expensive alone. If he isn’t making enough money from his business to do that, maybe he should look into getting a second job or talk to the kids mother about chipping in for the cost. The children’s parents needs to provide for the children they created.

      1. carol

        It really isn’t about the money. It’s more about my husband supporting me emotionally. It’s more about him understanding that I have no parental rights yet I am responsible for their welfare. It’s more about the fact that I am nothing to them, yet I have to meet this need. I would feel differently if they were my kids or if they called me mom, but they don’t .

      2. carol

        Thanks….yes I do agree…they should provide for the children they created. When I bring up the subject, my husband gets defensive and says… I thought it was “our” money. I thought we were one. Even according to the divorce agreement it states that my husband and his ex are to shoulder medical bills equally. Problem is bio-mom is a waitress, has 2 dogs, 5 cats in the house. Even my mother-in-law said once…she left the kids and took the canary. Her pets (in the past) have been more important – or at least that’s the impression she has left. Even 3 years ago, Skids needed physicals for sports. I suggested bio-mom take them as my husband was complaining he couldn’t take time off from work. Girls responded with “mom doesn’t have any money”. So…OK guess who ends up taking them. If I don’t then I’m looked at as wicked or selfish. I wonder who the selfish ones really are.

    2. Chelle

      It sounds like the issues are much more than just about the medical benefits, and I totally get that. Stepfamilies are SO complicated that it’s hard to see any issue in isolation without relating it to a myriad of other issues in the family. I’ve been with my finance for many years and we each brought children from previous marriages into the relationship. We are engaged and share many finances, and he has long wanted us to look at our financial resources as “ours”. I don’t see this in any way as an effort to “get” at my finances but I truly believe he would prefer unified finances to help with his image of us as a united family. I respect that, but I have held a hard line for most separation of finances. We have three accounts: his/mine/ours, and it makes me happy to know we equally contribute to our shared costs (house, utilities, etc.), but I have control over my expenses (and what I spend on my kids), and I don’t have to know/care/fret over what he does with his own money to support his own kids. It makes finances one thing we don’t argue over. Everyone contributes and no one feels taken advantage of. With health care, I would draw a similar line. My work provides benefits/his doesn’t. When I was able to add him and his kids to my plan with no extra cost, I was happy to do that. And he paid actual out of pocket costs for services for his kids. Even though his ex is supposed to pay half, she often doesn’t, but again since he makes that decision and handles that out of his own account, I don’t fret over it. When I moved to a plan that meant an extra cost to have them included, he paid the difference, so they could be added. We both found that fair.

      I think financial separation is a healthy thing. While my finance really wishes everything should be equal and we should act as one family, the reality is that we are not. His kids are his kids, and mine are mine. I’m glad that he loves and cares for mine, but I would never expect him to feel like he has to go above and beyond to provide for them. And I would never want to be forced to feel that way about his. My hope is that when the kids are all grown, we can then unify finances more, but for now, it would make a world of problems for us if we we did.

      So, I support your feelings that he should help with the cost. As Cindy suggested, rather than encourage them to get off your plan, I would ask that he absorb the extra costs for his children or expect his ex to contribute something to the cost. That is entirely fair and reasonable. It is unreasonable to think that you would absorb any additional cost just because you are part of the family now. Good luck!

  57. Mel

    Hello Brenda,

    It was nice to stumble upon your site. We have been married for almost 10 years, he has 3 children prior to us having children together. We then decided together to take the oldest child (no objection from his ex, lives in another country) because the environment she lived in was not conducive of fostering healthy, stable children muchless adults. She was in our wedding, she was never shy to call me and ask me personally for anything. She never acted in anyway rude or disrespectful prior. Fast forward she is now 14 and moved to a new country. She did not do well in school and not just in a new environment kind of way. She clearly had an disability, the school did not pick it up, my husband refused to believe she did. But, I have bright girls and I know this was not normal, I demanded the school to test her and of course the results were conclusive of her having a Learning Disability. She is now getting the resources at school, thank God for a great school district. But, home she cannot follow simple routine or instructions or she may just refuse to becasue I am involved in her doing it. I had to constantly tell her you cannot use the glove you used to clean the bathroom to pickup something in the kitchen. Her mother does not call does not write. My stepdaughter does not ask to call her mother does not write does not talk about her or her other sister still living with her mother.

    Her mother at this age has taught her nothing, she had no idea how to keep her own hygiene. I was shocked that I now have to bear the burden of basically starting to reteach things she should have been taught 7 years ago. So, here I have my children that are 7 and 9 years younger than she is. Ever since her arrival she secluded herself. My husband and I kept asking over and over are you alright, what is the problem, would you prefer to go back to your country with your mother, she always replies no! Her actions always say the opposite. Then one day she told us that her mom told her that she should listen to what I say. (this is not a new marriage or a new relationship, the ex even calls me to beg for money or things). I am a mom 1st before anything and I cannot imagine allowing her to do things I would never allow my own children to do. My husband is very laid back and nonchalant about things with her, but my older daughter his biological child he is much harder on. I on the other hand deal with things as they happen and then move on.

    I now am the wicked stepmomother for making sure she washes her hair ( she wouldn’t for 2months sometimes) change her sheets, do laundry, wash dishes without leaving food on them, ask for things she needs ( I do not read minds and I do not participate in manipulation games). The first time we had an issue was when she decided instead of telling us she needed razors she would steal mine and lie about stealing them. I would ask did you see my pack of razors, she replies NO. Maybe I’m wrong but I hate a liar and a thief, I would then find my razors in her stuff and even then she wants to lie. She gets caught in lies over and over and over. Her father has yet to set boudaries it’s almost as if he is covering up for her, protecting her from me. He and I started arguing for no reason and be mad at each other for days. She tries to avoid being with the rest of the family by staying in the room (all the children share a room at the time).

    Our school district issues Ipads to students, she brought hers home, I knew nothing about it, her dad signed the permission slip he tells me nothing, he makes decisions regarding her and tells me after the fact. I said to him there is a password lock on the device, you should be monitoring her use. He brushes it off and pretends it’s not a problem. I now feel he talks to her behind my back about issues, in order to make her feel more comfortable I feel this gives the idea that we are not united and it’s only what he says goes.

    After I decided to monitor her school device I stumble upon a Facebook page she created 1 year ago without the consent from any of us. I thought my gosh she did this for one year what else is there? She opened the facebook messages we found out she had a friend of mine son (came to visit for 3 weeks) sleep in the bed with her at my aunt’s house in my cousin’s room doing things that should be nowhere near her brain (as unrealistic as that sounds). My cousin’s room is the hangout room. She was to sleep downstairs at my aunt but she manipulates situations and sleep upstairs. I was told by my family that she did not sleep downstairs when this friend was there. I then told him she is not sleeping downstairs he told her STOP or she cannot stay there anymore for church. Well that was a little too late, I just had a feeling that things were just not as they appeared to be. She tells him that she doesn’t like when I check her stuff, excuse me? I will check anything I want when I have things missing and I KNOW I am not losing my marbles.
    Again he hardly punished her, he said she could keep the facebook, sorry I deactivated it for one reason, and that was because she did not get permission. Her account was filled with inappropriate pictures and posts. He did not even change the privacy, her age which stated she was 17, nothing

    She started going to his mother, who I have not talked to in about 5 years, because she wants to behave like a child and not an adult with an adult son. I know my stepdaughter is feeding his mother information and frankly I do not care anymore. Now his mother wants her to come over every weekend and I am sooooo happy, my girls,her own sisters feel so free when she is not there and all things are normal. The only issue with her going every weekend is this requires a two way toll and about an hour travel each way. His mother does not offer my children to do anything (thats ok because I will not allow them to sleepover). But her message is very clear, his mother is now manipulating the child offering to take her shopping doing her hair and all for information. Where she was missing for the last 2 years.

    On my stepdaughters birthday she decided she wanted to go to his mother for the weekend so that turned into him saying we can celebrate the following week. I’m sorry WHY do I now need to spend time with her when she decided not to spend time on her birthday with her father and sisters?

    I guess after this looonggg post (LOL) I have decided that I will no longer deal with issues, I no longer want the school to call me, I no longer buy her clothes, I no longer care if she stays in solitude while in this house but outside a whole different person. I explained to my husband I am no longer doing any of this for HER. I explained to him things I do going forward is for HIM, for our marriage!

    I was so proud of myself with this last incidence, she is sort of bullying my girlfriends daughter and embarrassing her at school. My girlfriend called me that her daughter was so annoyed and asked if her mom can call me to speak with my stepdaughter. She called my friend’s daughter the B word and hand her in a headlock in the hallway (who does that?). I came home relayed the message to my husband and he did nothing, he talked to her like a 5 year old while I watch her lie and manipulate. I said to him I am proud of myself, I said nothing and allowed you to handle it. He said he has to find a type of punishment..before he finished I said punishment has to be known upfront. You cannot wait for 2 weeks to go by without dealing with situations you know she is manipulating.

    I just want to know I have done the right thing and back off, refocus on my children and my marriage. That you for allowing me to vent here. I have found some great info hear and see that I am not alone.


    1. Chelle

      Hi Mel,

      I’d love to hear Brenda’s thoughts on this. There is SO much in your description with your stepdaughter that I have battled with in mine. Yours sounds more serious, but I have faced many of the same issues: complete lack of responsibility, untruthfulness, manipulation, too-early/unsupervised access to social media and inappropriate postings (that I discover but their own parents won’t monitor or deal with), hygiene problems, etc. We dated for two years before moving in together, but once we lived together, within a month, I saw she had serious educational problems both parents were oblivious to (even though her mother was a credentialed teacher and worked in the afterschool program handling her daughter’s homework group), and I suggested he have her tested. Mom didn’t want to, but he insisted, and low and behold, the tests confirmed a serious learning disability. For the first year we lived together, I tried to help with the various issues and nurture a relationship with the daughter (She and I had a great relationship before we lived together. I saw a lot of red flags, but I thought we (I) could navigate them.) After a year or so of living together and realizing what a mess she was and how nothing I did helped, I just gave up. Not because of the problems themselves but because they were met with so many lies by her and avoidance and denial by both her parents. I realized I couldn’t fix any of it by myself, and frustrated, just entirely withdrew from any relationship with her. I’ve seen therapists and have worked with my boyfriend on this hoping to change my attitude. He’s come a long ways with trying to work with his daughter, mostly because as she’s gotten older because her educational issues couldn’t be ignored any longer, but I see him frustrated spinning circles over this with no change in her or her attitude. And he still doesn’t see a lot of her bigger emotional and behavioral problems. My biggest problem is my whole withdrawal thing and how much I wish it didn’t happen or that I can find the desire to resolve it. But it’s been a few years now, and I don’t even want to try.

      I sense so much of this that is out of your control as it is with me. I encourage you to look at family therapy with your husband. It did help my boyfriend realize a lot about his daughter that helped him take on a stronger role for her. Having another adult draw his attention to some of the issues was huge, and it helped me be honest with him about what had happened to my relationship with his daughter. Sadly, it didn’t help me fix my relationship with her; so above all, I encourage you to work hard to maintain any sense of bond you have with her through this. Set what boundaries you need to survive but try to maintain some bond. There is nothing worse than living in a home with someone you’ve given up on, and I hope you can find some thing in her or with her that you can continue to appreciate and nurture.

  58. Kat

    It was so nice to see your website and an opportunity to ask advice. I am getting married to an amazing man in less than a month and he has two kids. I have known him for over 15 years and was actually close friends with his ex. Even to a point I use to provide child care to his oldest when they were married.
    Now that they are divorced and we are together, I am sure you can imagine how things are going. At first she commented that she was happy he was with someone she trusted, but soon developed into saying negative things to the kids about me. We have been really good about not giving into the energy she pours out and with the 100 irrelevant text messages daily we typically ignore them.
    Our biggest obstacle right now is the oldest. He has been diagnosed with environmental allergies years ago and also a dog/cat allergy. We started seeing each other before the divorce was final, and she knew that I have 2 small dogs. HIs son has been at my house dozens of times to spend the night and stay and has never had issues with the dogs. I have a son with the same allergies, we just treat it daily and he is fine. We kept a close eye on him to be sure he didn’t have a reaction and was doing well. We take precautions like HEPA filters and keeping the dogs off furniture and out of the bedrooms.
    When the decree was filed, she had the judge put on the decree no inside animals. She even admited that her reasoning was keep me from moving in.
    We took him back to the doctor had him retested, and he did test positive but not as bad as the last time. The dr recommended no indoor pets, but felt if it outweighed the companionship, to take precautions, continue with meds and suggested allergy shots.
    That is exactly what we did. We got the dr to document his suggestions just in case it was brought up.
    Since I have moved in, she has filed multiple contempts on him one being the dogs and others saying it isn’t a healthy environment because of my two kids.
    I have been a single mom for 9 years, and have raised my kids on my own. They are straight A students, community leaders and all four get along really well. With the exception on occastion of the fight over an xbox. :-) We run a structured, organized household and make it very clear we are the parents and that rules do excist.
    She continue to push us very hard with anything she can. It is exhausting for both us however we are doing really well. We have set our boundaries with her and not let her affect our relationship or our home life.

    Sorry so long, so much to cover and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks so much!

  59. Sam Reid

    I’m kind of stuck. I have been getting quite abusive messages from my step-daughter’s mother but I don’t necessarily want to get a restraining order or order of protection against her because my step-daughter has been through three order of protections placed on her dad by her mom (illegally and installed with no proof of abuse or anything from my husband).
    She has been threatening another order of protection and telling me I need to stop pretending to be my step-daughter’s mom and to get in my place when I have done nothing but love the child. Some of the other abuse towards me has been calling me a child due to me being 20 years younger than my husband, telling me I have no idea what it’s like to be a parent (which I don’t because I cannot have kids and i find it extremely hurtful and just plain mean to be told that), and that I need to stop lying when I am speaking truth. She stalks down my business Facebook all the time and post up rude and hateful comments (even on my wedding photos) but I do believe she does need to know who her daughter is around. I had even sent her a message on Facebook saying that if she wants to know anything about me that I’m an open book.
    Last winter my step-daughter didn’t even have a winter coat that fit this year she’s already coming to me asking for winter boots. Her mom has full custody and her siblings have all lost their kids for neglect and unsafe living conditions. I don’t want to be that woman that goes and files for anything to take the child away from her mother but I still worry about my step-daughter’s safety and I don’t want to see that girl cry again.
    When I first met my step-daughter it was at a school function since she’s so close to my age I was still in high school when I first met her. Her mom had just installed an order of protection and I was talking to her about the function we were at since I was one of the tour guides for it. She was telling me, a complete stranger I might add, that she missed her dad. Her mother still doesn’t get that we were in public schools together and have known each other for longer than I’ve known her dad and has told me and I quote “I haven’t known her daughter that long and I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
    I just don’t know where to turn for help and tips. Please give me some insight. I’m stuck and lost with it all. I feel like it’s my fault most the time even though I know it’s not. I’m beginning to feel hopeless. I have sent requests to be part of step-mom groups on Facebook and I haven’t been added in. I just don’t know how much longer I can deal with it.

    1. Brenda

      Hi Sam,
      You are in a difficult situation, and unfortunately you need to start taking steps to protect yourself emotionally. You are only in a position to be a friendly support to your stepdaughter; it is really up to her father to make decisions about his daughter’s interaction with her mother and whether or not any legal action should be taken. You should really block your stepdaughter’s mother on Facebook—that way you wouldn’t have to see her posts and she wouldn’t see yours. You can take steps to remove the bio mother’s ability to reach you with hateful messages without going to the extreme of obtaining an order of protection. You sound quite a bit more involved with the bio mother than you need to be; start setting appropriate boundaries and let your husband deal with her. If he won’t, it’s really not your problem! “Disengage” is the word of the day.


  60. Carol

    How can I get my husband to understand how hurtful it is when he defends his kids instead of me. Even this summer, he got mad because I made some backpacks for my friends kids and I didn’t make any for his three grandchildren. My husband has no relationship with these three girls. We see his grandchildren, maybe two times a year. His grandson at his birthday party even asked, who’s that? My husband was hurt, but he makes no effort to connect. When we got married he even said that he thought he could get to his oldest 3 girls though me. They were teens when we got married. They’ve never set foot in our house even though they’ve been invited. My husband also has 3 younger children from a second marriage, who lived with us 98% of the time the oldest graduated and I put on a party for him and we invited the older 3 girls. We never heard from them. No graduation card or acknowledgement what so ever to their half brother. It’s a very stressful situation. I’m trying to disengage as much as possible. My husband feels I need to be involved in his kids lives. He gets defensive and supports them, not me.

    1. Brenda

      Why in the world would your husband expect you to be more involved with his children and grandchildren than he is? You need to set appropriate limits about what you’re willing to do. If your husband wants his grandchildren to have backpacks, he can make them.


  61. Rachel

    Hey Brenda,

    I’ve been dating this guy for 10 months, he has two girls with different mothers. His 12 year old just moved in full time a couple of months ago. She was acting out when she was living with her mother, cutting, lying, stealing, suicide attempts, the works. I played a big role in the communication department getting her to move in. When she first moved in the bad behavior stopped and she became a completely different kid, doing dishes, cleaning, listening, she seemed happy. I was spending a lot of time at the house with them but my boyfriend decided he need a little more space so I’ve only been going over a couple times a week (as opposed to the everyday like I was before). Now she has resorted back to the bad behavior, she’s got attitude again, cutting again, lying and generally not respecting me. I don’t know what to do anymore. I like her and think she is a good kid but I’m so stressed out, I don’t know how to handle her. She’s also only half my age so I feel like she finds it easier to talk to me about the random things in her life, yet I cant get her to open up about the bigger problems. I really need some advise on what to do!

    1. Brenda

      Hi Rachel,
      Unfortunately, her bad behavior isn’t your problem. She probably can open up to you because you are not a parent and because you are closer to her age, but those things also make her not your responsibility. If your boyfriend wants to spend more one-on-one time with her, that’s a good thing. It’s really not your job to get her to “open up” about the bigger problems, and the sooner you wrap your brain around that, the less stressed you’ll be!

      Best, Brenda

  62. Patricia

    Hello Brenda,

    I want to begin by saying thank you as finding your website has helped lift a part of this weight from my shoulders. I have thought long and hard about how to pose this question to you as I feel I could sit here and give details to our experiences for hours. In the smallest nutshell I can manage here it goes.

    I have been with my fiancé for a little over five years now and we just recently got engaged. His daughter was 11 when we first met. As SD lived five hours away we only got her two to three times a year. I met his daughter early on in our relationship and her and I hit it off instantly. As he was never married to BM and she had moved on from him before SD was born we never had any issues there. Let me clarify that for one moment, she never had any issues with me. I can’t stand her but for the sake of my fiancé and my own mental sanity I was always overly polite and friendly. This unfortunately led her to believe I was her BFF. It actually helped in a lot of ways because BM would call me to make plans for SD coming to visit us and also allowed us to get even more time with SD as I could go pick her up or drop her off around our schedule.

    I honestly loved SD from day one. SD and I were always in contact through text messages and phone calls. She would call me for advice, send me pictures of her and her friends, and even just text me good morning or how was your day. She got a little older and would regularly come to me with issues she had with her mother. And there were a lot. At the time BM was an alcoholic who was very absent from her children’s lives. They lived in a half condemned trailer with no heat or air conditioning while BM would drag men in and out constantly. I found out they had been taken away from BM by CPS when they were very young and BM had run in’s with CPS since after that time. (I continue to say they as SD has an older and younger sister all by different fathers.) SD had been sent to our house several times with a headful of lice and BM would send Flea and Tick shampoo, for dogs and cats, to treat it. I swear this is not an over exaggeration! BM would tell us to just wash her hair with the dog shampoo and she would be fine. I could go on and on to all of the horrible/crazy things her mother did but heck can’t we all?

    Her experiences with her mother reminded me so much of myself and what I had been through with mine. I saw a lot of myself in her. She had this inner turmoil within herself when it came to her home life and of course, as I know now from reading everything on your website, I wanted to thrust myself into the savior role. I wanted to be the “good mom”. This was hard in and of itself. I had to watch her continue to go through difficult situations but always telling her that her mother loved her and it would be better one day.

    I’m skipping ahead in the interest of saving time but of course there are a lot of details in between that time and this one. Last year around this time excrement hit the fan. SD and BM were knock down drag out fighting and SD had entered into a deep depression. SD was confiding in her school counselor of all the problems at home and the school called CPS. I found this out because BM couldn’t get a hold of my fiancé, we were both at work and he doesn’t have access to his phone, and she called me to cry on my shoulder. Christmas went by and the tension got worse in her household. BM blamed SD for CPS coming into the home and took it as a personal attack on her.

    SD then expressed interest in wanting to come and live with my fiancé, our now two year old, and I. We said yes right away as we were both desperate to get her out of her mother’s house. BM told her no. SD attempted suicide. We received a call late on a Friday night, one day after my fiancé spoke to her mother about coming to live with us, and SD was in the hospital. We packed up our sleeping toddler and drove the now 6 hours as fast as we could. We spent the next week with her in her hospital room while BM would come for two hours a day and not even go back to see her. While she was in the hospital we found out that SD had no medical insurance and BM, believing if she let SD go home with us she would be off the hook for the doctor bills, agreed to give her up. As my fiancé and BM were never married they never went to court for custody. There is no custody; BM was just the custodial parent.

    This whole thing killed me on the inside. Now as a mother I couldn’t even fathom how you could treat your child like this. SD came home with us and we lived four people in a one bedroom apartment. But it was our little family. At this point BM has withdrawn from SD’s life except through sneaky text messages sent from her younger sister’s phone. Things were perfect. I had a teenage girl to go shopping with, someone to gossip with, and I absolutely spoiled her. I felt like she deserved it after what she had been through. I proudly went with her father to every marching band performance, helped her get ready for junior prom, and thrust myself into school activities and field trips. She loved it, I loved it but now that I look back on it I realize this hurt was growing inside me because no matter what I was not her mother and I would never be given the credit for such things.

    I am seeing now that I am jealous of the relationship her father and herself are building as well because I feel like I’m on the outside. I feel like he caters to her wants and she has him wrapped around her finger. Our relationship (mine and SD and mine and Fiance’s) is not what it once was and I am now resentful but she now expects me to play mom. She got upset that I didn’t stand at a band performance when they asked the parents to stand for recognition. She came to me when she recently started cutting and puring. How do I just turn off my want to be there for her as a mom figure? Do I explain to her that I can no longer do the “mom” things for her? I don’t want to cause her any more hurt but I feel suffocated in my own home by the thought of not being enough, not doing enough. Am I just supposed to continue doing what I’m currently doing because it makes everyone else comfortable and happy with no acknowledgment of how hard I am working?

    After finding your website I have given a lot of this information to my fiancé and he is open to it all. He understands and is empathetic to my situation but we don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

    **SD has just started counseling for the suicide, cutting, eating disorter, and issues with BM.

    1. Brenda

      You have very eloquently described the dilemma of almost every stepmother I have ever worked with….the expectation that we behave and love like a mother, but with no expectation of the position, privilege, or credit that normally comes with the job.

      You are in a particularly difficult situation as your stepdaughter is clearly so love-starved and has reached out to you to–at least temporarily–take the place of her absent mother. Experience and research shows us that should her mother ever re-appear, your stepdaughter will not be able to resist the pull, no matter how great her relationship is with you.

      So you are particularly challenged….to love, and guard your heart, all at the same time. It is possible, in conjunction with her father, to meet her needs without exposing yourself to the certain hurt of trying to take on the coveted “mother” title. Try to find ways to be direct about this. You might be able to have conversations with your stepdaughter that sound something like this:

      “I’m so glad we’re in each other’s lives and I love seeing you excel in band and other things. It’s hard for me when they ask parents to stand because you and I both know you already have a mother, and I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. I love you and our special relationship, and I wish it wasn’t so complicated. Let’s decide together how we want me to handle it when a request for ‘parents’ comes up.”

      I think it’s important to acknowledge to your stepdaughter and her father that your relationship, while special, is unique and not just a stand-in for the one she’s missing with her biological mother.

      Good luck.

      Best, Brenda

      1. carol

        This happened to me in a sort of way as well. My step kids mom rarely saw the kids for years…for 1 1/2 years she vanished….no phone number or address, we even contacted her parents and they had no idea where she was. We received an email from her x saying she was on the run, keep the kids away from her and contact Social Services if she tried to contact the kids. She re-appeared with a vengeance. Remarried and then wanted to be the “good” mom and see the kids every other weekend even though she lived 3 hours away. Then out of the blue she moves 12 miles from us! That changed everything. The kids no longer wanted to have anything to do with me. I was very, very hurt. My advice is be a friend with Step-kids, but keep your distance. Like Brenda said, guard your heart. You’ll be devastated and hurt. I read other step mom books and one said even if you are the custodial parents partner and do more than bio- mom ever does….when the kids are grown and marry they’ll want mom’s support and not yours. Its a sad thing for step-moms to deal with but it’s reality.

        1. Brenda

          Well said, Carol.

      2. Patricia

        Good Morning Brenda,

        I want to start off by saying that I appreciate your advise immensely. After receiving your response to my original post I began stepping away in small increments but still doing some of the things I enjoyed doing for her. I followed the montra “Not my monkeys. Not my circus.” This helped in a lot of ways because her father began to see all of the little things I did and he did not notice.

        His relationship with SD began to get closer and closer and I was happy for this. SD and I haven’t really had a lot of one on one talks after she got in trouble and was grounded for the first time back in October. I ended up being the enforcer of the punishment and of course she gravitated to Dad after that. I get the feeling she realizes it’s harder to fool me then fool her Dad.

        Fast forward to this past Thanksgiving weekend. There was nothing left of the turkey and the Christmas shopping was all done. We began working on putting up our tree and we were simply enjoying the holidays being in full swing. HA that’s what I thought.

        Saturday SD asked DH if she could go to a football game with a girlfriend. DH said yes and he would drop her off and pick her up. Our son and I were staying home to wait for him so we could go pick up more stuff for the tree. As SD and DH left I went in SD’s room to be sure the kitty litter box was empty. (One of her only chores is to keep this one cat box clean). I’m not above snooping but that was not my entended goal during this trip to her room. As I went to step out of her room I noticed something hanging out of her jewelry box. Upon opening the box I noticed two prescription pills. She had two 300MG Seroquel. Of course I called DH and told him to bring her home right away. I began going through her room and found several razers, Halloween cookies, two rotten apples, as well as about 30 bags of prepackaged chips I usually put in her lunch.

        She tried to tell her dad she couldn’t believe she was getting in trouble because she wanted to sleep. She told him the only reason she had them was because she was having trouble sleeping. She even flat out told her dad no when he asked who gave them to her. I on the other hand she didn’t pull that BS on. She told me who gave them to her after my asking twice and never said anything about taking them for sleep. (Even though I fully understand that I also fall under her unbrella of manipulation) Of couse in the heat of the moment we lectured her for about an hour with no response what so ever.

        We tried to rationally speak with her as to why she wasn’t sharing these issues with her therapist (she has been in weekly therapy since my last post). She said she tells her therapist what she wants to hear so that she doesn’t have to do anything else. She also stated that her head is constantly racing and her dad tried to tell her that she has to face those issues head on to get them out. She just said she can’t do that.

        Brenda I am at a loss. Please help! We have no idea what to do. DH took her phone and purse on Saturday but he still couldn’t come up with any kind of punishment that would work. He is going to go speak with her therapist before her next appointment to let her know all of this but what do we do in the meantime. Sunday she spent all day in her room. Did not come out to eat and did not speak to anyone. Heck we didn’t even see her and honestly I didn’t really care.

        Little punishments are not working and what are we supposed to do? Take away everything she has? Everyone I know is screaming “Take the door off the hinges” and ” No Christmas for her”. This is exactly what happened while she was with her mom this time last year. And by God I hate to say it but her mother was right about her, she manipulates every situation she is in.

        She is now putting herself as well as her 3yo brother at risk. What if he had found those pills? And now we can’t trust anything she says or does. But of course we are the bad guys because “We just don’t understand”. How can we make a teenager do the work it takes to be mentally stable if they do not want to? You can’t make someone want something they dont.

        I’m at a loss. I’m drained. And I have no idea what to do. I understand that there is nothing I can do and that her dad has to deal with this but it is our house and we try to handle things as a unit. I just don’t know how anymore. :(

  63. desperately alone

    Hi. how do you handle different parenting styles where each parent has one child from a previous marriage and the kids are the same age? i’m strict and my husband is not. i can detach from my stepchild but MY child sees the differents and resents his stepsibling. sorry for being vague i’d like to be anonymous.
    thank you

    1. Brenda

      Sorry! Your question slipped through some how.

      This is a really common problem….and I’d like to throw it out to our readership.

      Ideas on how to handle this?!?

      1. carol

        You and your husband need to sit down and establish “house” rules. This way everyone is on the same page. For example…if his child has a cell phone and your’s doesn’t, I’d suggest that when his child is home there is a “house” rule that the phone is put in a basket and they aren’t allowed to use it – only for school purposes.
        Or if he allows more computer time and you are more strict and don’t want the kids to use the computer, establish a “house” rule. You can use the computer after your homework is finished….or you have to earn computer/ TV privileges. If his child is allowed to stay up later and you put yours to bed earlier, that won’t work…establish a “house rule” that this is the bedtime during the week and on weekends this is your bedtime. Of course there are always exceptions and a person has to be flexible from time to time. You both need to be on the same page or this isn’t going to work. His kid will resent you, and your kid will resent him and his child (because he/she has too much freedom). If you establish “house rules” and consequences and both your husband and you agree that this will work, then you both need to stick to it. Kudo’s to you for detaching from your step child! Most women can’t do that….

    2. Chelle

      Oh, this is a biggie in our house too. We’ve been together for nearly six years and living together for four. My fiance and I have a boy & girl each. They are all close in age. My kids live with us full time, and his kids are here half time. I am much more strict. My kids come home with clear rules: no tv until they finish homework, practice music, and complete a chore of the day. I monitor and provide restrictions on what my kids read, listen to, and have access to electronically. My kids’ ipods have the browser blocked, and I make them turn them off devices at reasonable times to read at night. My fiance’s kids have little in the way of expectations, restrictions, etc. (This morning I was checking my social media and saw his 12 year old daughter was posting borderline inappropriate stuff on Instagram at 3:30 am this morning, for example. That’s pretty norm.) Very luckily, while my kids are keenly aware of the different rules and expectations, they have never made an issue of them. I’ve talked about this extensively with them over the years, and they realize the benefits they get from some responsibility, and they respect (and even self-enforce) most limits on what they are allowed to see, read, etc. The kids are all great friends. I am very grateful that that my kids have been good about the different expectations. I have the bigger problem with this. This year was the first year my boyfriend’s kids came home right after school on the days they are with us, and they are now here during my kids’ homework/music/chore time on those days. His kids come in, turn on the tv and curl up with Facebook and games which became a distraction for my kids who had tasks they needed to complete. I’ve worked with my boyfriend on this, but the problem is he lacks consistency, and when he tries to enforce, it is regularly met by his teenage son’s temper tantrums (“Oh my god, why do I have to do a chore?!!!”) and his pre-teen’s lies (“I did my homework!” – uh, NOT!)

      So, we still struggle. And it is a huge problem with my sanity. Even before his kids came home right after school on the days they are with us, I had my plan on the board for my kids with the rules/expectations (since there is no parent home when they arrive) about no tv, finish homework, 30 minutes of music practice, etc. So I have that to point to. And my boyfriend’s agreement to support that. The issue is maintaining consistency. And controlling what you can. I continue to be consistent but now work harder with my kids on helping them understand and navigate the new after school distractions on certain days and why it’s important that they still get done what they need to. I’ve had to learn to let things slide more on those days with my kids. It’s impossible that they will stay focused with tvs and music and other kids playing around them when they have things to do. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this. Especially since my fiance’s daughter now wants to attend the same jr high as my daughter which would mean she would come to our home after school EVERY DAY, even on the days she will go to her mom’s. She is ENORMOUSLY distracting and completely unable to self-regulate any aspect of her life. I’m not sure I (or my kids) can survive this!

  64. carol

    Do you do phone coaching? I was just wondering. I need someone to help my husband and I and to get him to understand the emotional stress it is to be a step mom. There is a double standard. On the one hand he “expects” me to support his kids by providing insurance, attending events, when they were young I purchased all of their clothes (now they’re in HS so I have different taste and they buy their own). I would sew clothes for the girls, prepare almost all of the meals, take care of them during the summer, etc, but I have none of the “rewards” of a bio-parent. They don’t call me mom, my husband doesn’t include me in decisions. My step daughter got her license last April. I told my husband I didn’t want her taking the car to school (for multiple reasons- one she’s accident prone, 2 – she’s inexperienced as a young driver 3- she can ride the bus etc etc.) He threw a fit! I DECIDED that she can drive the car to school when she has to work or has something going on like Jazz band. So OK, I suggested then that she pay for part of the insurance or oil changes for the car. NOPE another lead balloon. I DON”T want to BURDEN her! he explodes. I can’t suggest anything. I’m fed up. He is so protective and doesn’t even care to give me the time of day.

    1. Brenda

      Hi Carol,
      I absolutely do phone and webcam coaching and counseling. For more information, call my office at 309-693-2749!


  65. GG

    Hi Brenda,
    I need advice badly, i have been with my partner for nearly a year now and he has a 3 and a half year old both him and the mother are young they are 21, i love his child so much as i know she loves me her dad and her mum. The problem is, from the beginning when i met my partner his child had head lice, it has nearly been a year now and we have been doing her hair every weekend and then every week she comes back riddled, I don’t know how many times now we have said something to his ex but she says that she is doing it but there is no way after my partner and I doing it for hours on the weekend that she is doing it through the week because she wouldn’t come back so bad on the weekend, she also keeps getting scabies too and has had them now for 3-4 months. I know its nothing major but i am exhausted and I feel like there is nothing my partner and I can do, i find it unfair that this child is suffering from either a constant itchy head or itchy body and i do not understand why her pre-school allows her to be going still twice a week also.

    help because i am so over having to do this every week. I am at the point that it is making me cry when i start doing her hair as i just hope that she wont have them as bad but it never ends that way.


    1. Brenda

      HI GG,
      I feel sorry for your partner’s daughter!
      Your partner should definitely contact the preschool and see if they have a problem there; perhaps the entire class is infested.
      You’ll note that I said your partner should do this. Why are you doing her hair every weekend? Her father needs to step in and take care of this problem; she is his daughter and you are enabling his hands-off parenting. If HE was putting in all these hours, my guess is he would be more inclined to address the problem more directly with his ex, the school, etc. Regardless of his schedule, inclination, ability, whatever….you are not the child’s mother and it is not your responsibility to take care of this. If you weren’t in the picture, who would it fall to? Your partner and his ex are young, but they are this child’s parents, and it is up to them to figure out how to meet her needs. Doing so is going to get more difficult as she gets older, not less, and your partner needs to figure out how to be a dad.


  66. Lorien

    Hi Brenda!
    I have been a stepmom to a little girl just about 4 years now, since she was 1 1/2 years old (5 now). Her dad has full custody with BM getting summers and major holidays every other year I love her to death. Her mom…not so much. It has been a roller coaster ride lately and sometimes I just don’t know how to deal with the anger and hatred from BM. We recently went to court because she was in contempt for literally 5 different things on the court order and the judge just ignored them all and lifted some of the guidelines we had set and I feel like it is hopeless sometimes.

    BM does not follow the court order and gets away with it, she constantly tells her daughter during her visitation that her dad, her brother and sister and I don’t love her and forces her to call her SF dad and his daughter comes back and says really hurtful things to me and it is SO hard to not take things personally or take the high road with BM with her constantly infecting our life and negatively affecting my relationship with his daughter.

    She was not involved until his daughter was 3 but now feels entitled to anything and everything because she “gave birth to that child” and “it is her right”. I am tired of feeling angry and defensive all the time even toward this child who I love and am closely involved with. And now she is getting away with not telling us where she lives, where she works and does not have to show accountability and is about to get his daughter for summer and I am FRUSTRATED. Am I just too involved or how can I deal with this?

    1. Brenda

      I wish your situation wasn’t as common as it is. Unfortunately, stepmoms everywhere seem to deal with bio-moms who make us feel “angry and defensive”, and those feelings often bleed into our relationships with the stepchildren we love.

      Your visitation arrangements are unusual in that SD is with Mom all summer but not weekends during the year. Perhaps there is some geographical distance involved? At any rate, set your sights on getting through the summer. Hopefully, your husband has a mechanism for maintaining contact with his daughter, and if it is possible and/or appropriate, you can both use that communication to underscore how much you love and miss SD. If you don’t talk directly with her, ask your husband to mention you in his conversations with her…”Lorien misses you so much”….to reinforce that you are all looking forward to her return.SD will probably have a tough transition when she comes home, but especially if you support her relationship with her mom (“Gosh, I bet you’re going to miss her”) she .will come back into your fold eventually

      With regard to your own feelings, maybe re-thinking your boundaries would help. The relationship with BM is a headache for your husband to deal with; you are encouraged and well within your rights to keep you distance from any interaction with her. You obviously love SD and should continue to be a GREAT stepmom, but BM is always going to feel “entitled” to certain things because of her position in her daughter’s life. It’s not fair, but finding a way to re-define “stepmom” is a step in the right direction. Think about coaches, aunts, mentors, grown-up sisters….all can play a tremendously powerful feminine influence in a girl’s life….you don’t have to have the title “Mom” to be a great presence in SD’s life.

      With regard to the court violations and BM not being accountable….I’m not a lawyer and don’t have legal advice. It doesn’t sound fair to me either, but again, re-think your role and let your husband deal with it. You can support him, but you don’t have to embroil yourself in the legal stuff.

      Feeling “FRUSTRATED” comes from having thwarted efforts. Think about where you’re directing your energy and make more realistic goals for yourself. It might give your husband more to do, which you can lovingly explain to him, but it will save your sanity.

      I hope things improve! Here’s looking to Fall….


  67. Cath

    I married my husband 7 years ago. He had a 3 year old daughter, she is now 10. I love her as if she was my own. There is no contact at all with her biological mother. I remember saying before we married that if I started feeling like his childminder and housekeeper that our marriage would deteriorate. Over the years I have taken on more and more responsibility for his daughter. He had a much better job than me, so I gave up work to be a full-time mother so that he could concentrate on his career. I started part-time self-employment but I am often forced to let clients down due to childcare demands. He works long hours and often wants to play golf at the weekend. He wants to travel to conferences with his job which involves being away for up to a week. He says his career will suffer if he doesn’t go. He seems to have completely forgotten that I am not his daughter’s mother. He acts as if it’s just my role to look after her. I am depressed. I am bored and resentful and don’t know what to do. Lots of elements of our marriage are good. I love him. I think sometimes that I should just leave, but I have lost my own career and our finances have become completely dependent on his salary. i love him and I love my step-daughter and I just go around in circles. I sometimes feel suicidal at the thought of another divorce.

    1. Brenda

      Hi Cath,
      It sounds like things are getting pretty bad for you, and they’re not going to get better unless you instigate some change in your family structure.

      Stepmothers are often under pressure to “love her as if she was my own”. I have no doubt that you absolutely love your stepdaughter, but even in situations where the biological mother is not currently in the picture, stepmothers run great risk when they adopt a substitute mother role, instead of a stepmother role. Through circumstance, choice and your husband’s convenience, this is what’s happened to you.

      If he has “forgotten” that you are not his daughter’s mother, that might be at least in part, due to the fact that you have quit making the distinction. Not that you should constantly remind your stepdaughter that you’re not her “real” mother….but you and your husband need to have a frank discussion about how your life is going. If you are out of balance because of full-time parenting duties, work with your husband to find ways for your stepdaughter’s needs to be met and for you to resume your career, if that’s what you want to do.

      Many, many times in my role as a stepfamily therapist/coach, I have worked with families where a non-existent biological mom showed up and the stepmom was essentially devastated by the ensuing choices by her stepchildren. I’m not saying that this would happen in your situation, but it is even more important for stepmothers to maintain balance than it is for biological mothers to do so, and the potential for the a disintegrating bond is just one of the reasons.

      I hope you don’t give up on your marriage, but instead, summon up your courage and work on changing it. Maybe you could start by showing your husband your question as a starting point for a discussion.

      Best of luck to you.

  68. Bella

    Hi Brenda,

    I’ve recently married. My husband used to share joint custody with his ex-wife for both of the children. His ex-wife were treated for depression and BiPolar. She have major problems with her own family and have constantly harassed me for the fear of losing her 2 kids (age 15 and 18) and she is being replaced. I have tried my best to assure her to no avail (even bought her Mother’s day card and have the 2 kids decorated it for her). The 2 kids have constant quarrel with her and SS then move out to live with us.

    We had to lodge police report to stop the harassment. It stopped, but I have all along suspected that she is still not able to get over the divorce. I’ve always have a delicate relationship with my SD as compared to older SS. I have put in additional work to support my husband to work out her negativity. Her character have caused her to be rejected socially. Things were going fine and we planned for wedding after discussion with step children. We did planning for 8 months and 2 weeks prior to our wedding, his ex-wife committed suicide. The 2 step children now lives with us, full time. I’m now automatically a stepmother.

    Personally I’m fighting with infertility issue. It’s very draining emotionally and my husband have been really supportive. But the SD have turned her grieving into full-blown resentment for me, SS is less childish. My daily life now are being verbally insulted by SD. My husband sometime understands, sometimes he’s too tired and i get brushed away.

    Last 2 days, SD launched emotional roller coaster within the family. She’s turned to be rude, self pity, selfish, demanding for fullest attention from everyone and most of all, demanded my husband to be answerable for the divorce and she blamed us for having a wedding 2 weeks after her BM funeral (we did not expect her BM to pass away and wedding are planned 8 months ahead). She screamed and yell in my mom-in-law (her grandma) house and even back to our home. She claimed that she have anxiety problems. I couldn’t eat or sleep for past 2-3 days. My husband now realize SD is full problems and understand my situation. He is looking to resolve this. We have an on-going fertility treatment, I couldn’t take in anymore stress.

    One of the suggestion is to send her to live with my mom-in-law (her grandma) who lives 10-15 mins away from us. My husband suggest to look for psychiatrist for her. At one hand, I do pity SD and wished there are better ways to resolve this than sending her away. On the other hand, I know I couldn’t cope with the stress and it will affect family planning.

    I’m very tired of giving in, being insulted and for even trying. After trying for 2 years, it got really painful.

    1. Brenda

      Gosh, I am so sorry for all you are going through! Even one of your stressors would be difficult to handle, let alone how they have multiplied.

      I know you are asking for help for yourself, but in your story, my heart really goes out to your stepchildren. It is difficult to deal with a new stepmother in any circumstance; two weeks after your mom commits suicide must be almost unbearable for them. I hope the children have counseling available to them, even if your husband deems psychiatric care unnecessary. I urge you in the strongest terms possible to resist sending her to her grandmother’s to live….or at least to carefully consider how another rejection would impact her for the rest of her life. Suicide is ultimate rejection of a child from the parent (that is how kids see it)–having Dad send her away might exponentially exacerbate her abandonment issues.

      Believe me when I tell you that I understand that you’re tired of giving in and putting your needs last, but I also wonder if you would consider putting off your fertility attempts. Bringing a baby into a stepfamily always requires accommodation of everyone’s feelings and quite a lot of finesse; given the precariousness of your stepchildren’s emotional health, I wonder if the stress on your family and on your marriage would be survivable at this point.

      I have a feeling my thoughts are not what you were looking to hear. Stepmom life is not easy in the best of circumstances, and yours are among the most difficult I’ve heard. I fear for the children.


      1. SimplyUniqueTN

        Sweet sweet friend I want you to know you are worthy of your feelings! I married my Simpson’s father when he was 9 and just a year after his mom passed away from cancer. My husband had seen her sick for 1.5 years and grieved more than his son who stuffed all of it. AS was actually excited about wedding until the reality of day to day life sunk in. Within .months he was acting out verbally and physically towards me. I got every name under the sun and had furniture thrown at me. This would happen when his father wasn’t present and unfortunately it became a he said she said debate for Judge Dad to rule over. Typically I got “what did you do to provoke this”. My husband was so protective of making sure his son did not hurt further after losing his mom that my AS ran the house. We found a local therapist that specialized in grief and trauma and SS was in therapy for about a year total. I also went to therapy on my own as during all this I had a miscarriage, they we did therapy as a couple.
        You have to seek out your own outlets to vent or be heard because although the stepchild is going through a HUGE grieving process you have a right to your feelings and not be a doormat. This takes some work as I have made many mistakes in sharing any negative feeling b/c it’s natural for others to side with the innocent grieving child and tell you to just suck it up! And let me tell you that doesn’t work!!
        For us I do more behind the scenes…..research therapists that take our insurance, grief camps, grief equine therapy, grief groups, etc and then my husband decides and makes appts for SS
        There is hope!!! Your AD is dumping all her grief (via anger in an unhealthy way) on you as a scapegoat. She fears losing her father too so she won’t express any anger or fear towards him. Also you are a physical reminder of what she has lost, every time she has to confront that it forces her to face her grief (which can be healthy once she learns tools to process her grief).
        We are two years in and this is just what I have learned during my experiences. I hope one day there are more resources for stepparents dealing with stepchildren who have lost a bio parent in death. Its so rarely discussed. Although the circumstances are much different than dealing with exes it’s still very difficult.

        1. Bella


          You don’t know how much your letter meant to me ! You are absolutely right. I felt like a doormat. I feel you – so much that you have stomach ! Sometimes it just made us wonder – what have we done to our lives? Shouldn’t we chose a simpler equation in a marriage rather than a 1+1 = 4 in my case.

          Ever since my first note, my husband and I had massive fight. I’m driven to move out and I was back to my mother’s house for 2 weeks. I have then sought out therapist and counsellor. It helps and emotionally, I am much more stable. My husband and I attended the counselling session – we both learnt to deal with our emotions, anger and frustration much better. I have moved back with my husband. We are working it out fine and things really improved between us.

          In the early stage, SD move to my mom in law’s house. She finds having her other cousins gives her the emotional support and provide her attention and companionship. She seems to be happy there and doesn’t wish to return. She even asked my mom in law to allow her continue to live there. Seeing her being happy there, my husband felt sore, wonder if she will ever come back.

          2 months down the road and everyone in my mom in law’s house wish her out. The honeymoon is over and the teens cousins couldn’t take her demands. I heard there are constant fights. Teens cousins looking for ways to escape. I’m also hearing that they are on the verge to move out to other places. My husband suggests to have SD back to our house during weekends – to give the cousins a break. SD will continue to live there during schooling weekdays.

          We tried for 1 weekend. I’m trying to give in to her, be patient and be kind to her. I realize that I do not hate her, nor do I love her. As monstrous as I sound, I really don’t think I ever will. Given the broken relationship and her on going attitude, behaviour problems it’s an extreme stress for me. My husband recognise and appreciate that, suggests that I spend my own weekend in future. It hurts, although i understand his kind intentions. My health is deteriorating due to the amount of stress. I’m just wondering when it will all end..or if I should stay in this marriage

          1. SimplyUniqueTN

            So glad Bella! If any of my message was confusing the incorrect on here is converting my abbreviations to assumed words. See incorrect instead of auto correct.
            I will be praying for you and your family. It’s a long road to healing for SD that needs grief/trauma counseling as well as boundaries set by her father. It sounds like she went to grandmother’s house and rules the roost. She is using her anger and sadness for power. My SS did that as well intensely in our home for six months and now we still have to be careful as to how easily it can turn.
            God can do anything if we trust in Him! Self-care is not selfish. We can’t give of ourselves when we are empty. And we can’t control anyone but ourselves. Responding g emotionally to kid’s behavior give them power over you. I am saying these things to you as much as I am myself.

        2. Bella

          To my dearest simplyuniquetn friend,

          How true are your words and I know only a stepmom will ever understand the pain and struggles of another stepmom.I can only say thank you here.

          It sounded that your theraphy works and I have did the same over my end..Those sessions helps. It does clear the air and put things is some perspective. In between there are also a handful of major hiccups which my husband finally see my point – the problematic SD. I have took your advice, to avoid responding emotionally to kid’s behavior. By doing that, I have gained some respect from my MIL and other family members – they have stood up for me in the last uproar she caused.

          Our situation is probably similar. Just as how careful you are with your SS, I’m also careful in dealing with situations especially my emotion. I’ve no longer felt depressed , but rather felt more in control. Surprisingly, through all these my husband has grown to be more attentive to my emotional needs and no longer flares as before.

          God is great, He is a good God. All of us are learning to live with each other as family. No amount of cleverness or intelligence helps really. No formula in my opinion- it just takes lots of love and patience. I’m saying this to you as well back to myself.

      2. Bella

        Hi Brenda,

        3 years in and I’ve managed to conceive (via IVF) and I have a lovely baby son. He has turned my life around, I have found strength in him as I know I must be strong for him. He is the center of my world and every day he just brought so much joy to my life. I found myself and I thank God for giving me a chance to experience this. He is now 1 and I’m already so excited for the future…!

        Back to the stepchildren. They both are now studying abroad. The older SS has made it clear that I will remain like a sister to him. By the strange turn of events the SD is now drawn closer to me because I was supporting her emotional through those grieving period. She will refer me as her mom with new friends/public. My husband will now openly declared that he and I have 3 children.

        The problem is, I don’t feel the same way. Just as the SS, I see them as separate entity. I don’t feel the need for ‘family outings or trips’. I agreed with SS, we can even just remained as friends – I don’t mind. I hardly speak to them while they are away, unless prompted by my husband or by themselves.

        I understand this could be an all well’s end well story – but at this moment I’m considering to relocate to another country, get transferred to another position and live in another country with my son. I know it’s best that my son stay close to his dad and my husband is welcomed to be with us. But if necessary I’m prepared to do the upbringing by myself. I feel really foreign/alien in this setting especially my son has now arrived. I have discussed this with my husband and he didn’t strongly object to it but said will plan along with me and make such change happen slowly.

        You might judge me, but after going through it all – the last few years has been the most miserable time of my life until my son came to me and I don’t want to live in this setting anymore….


  69. Elise

    Hi Brenda,
    I have a question, my stepson’s bio-mother is Bipolar and has classic Borderline Personality traits. Every single trait listed she possess. I can see why my husband left, She is reckless, has no insight and is so selfish. Everything is about how it made her feel, not how it effected her own son. She gets jealous that I am good to her son and is constantly complaining to everyone in my husband’s family that I am trying to be his mom. All the while every week she had him (when they had 50/50 custody) she would dump him at her mom’s or ask us (and even ask me personally because my husband works nights) to keep him so she could “sleep” (aka drink and pop Rx pills). Well now we have 100% custody (and she has been charged with Child Endangerment and is not allowed to visit without a monitor) due to her getting a DUI with my step-son in the car. We found out a month prior she was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and suicidal ideation. She never takes responsibility for her actions and still feels I owe her some kind of apology for making her feel like she is not his mother because I have supported my step-son through his traumatic separation. My husband says it best “she ruins anything and any relationship she is involved in” and it’s true, she is destructive. It’s like she has a reset button. She will curse my husband out and then try to be chummy and bring up old memories the next day. He will ignore her irrelevant texts and only reply to texts concerning their son. Right now she is trying to re-gain full custody. She has court ordered therapy and the social worker suggested family therapy for her and my stepson. She has been asking my husband to go with her for “family” therapy because she says all of her issues in therapy have to deal with her not ever getting over him (mind you SHE cheated on him and told him she wanted the divorce only to want him once he moved on to me). Although I know she is not in touch with reality, it’s so infuriating and puts me in a negative space that she would even ask. She has now shame. My husband told her to work on herself in therapy.

    My question is, am I being selfish in not seeing how MY HUSBAND going to FAMILY therapy with HER (she lives with her fiancé) is relevant? Should I encourage my husband to go to tell her his side? I feel like it’s just another way of pushing our boundaries and weaseling her way into our relationship AGAIN! How many times does he have to tell her it’s over? It’s been 5 years!! I want to do whatever is best for my step-son and hope her and him can get therapy together, but does my husband still need to be involved in her healing?


    1. Brenda

      Hi Elise,
      Thanks for your question. Dealing with someone who has borderline personality disorder is awesomely difficult in the best of circumstances; it must be unimaginable when it’s a stepmother dealing with a bio-mom. For your own edification and peace of mind, might I suggest the book Walking on Eggshells by Mason and Kreger? You won’t find everything helpful, because it presupposes the person with BPD is someone you care about, but I think it could help you understand her disorder better. It will also help you support your stepson and your husband in their attempts to deal with her.

      With regard to your husband participating in family therapy, I think it depends on the treatment goals of therapy. If the goal is to co-parent more effectively and/or to support your stepson in a healthier relationship with his mother, then I think your husband should participate. If the goal is for his ex-wife to “get over” him, then I think it is inappropriate for her son OR her ex-husband to be involved. In general, I think it would be wise for your husband to at least meet with the therapist in order to make sure he or she has an accurate picture of the issues at hand. His continued participation, I think, would depend on what the therapist is trying to help the family accomplish.

      You don’t address whether or not you should participate, but I’ll give my opinion anyway, that it is appropriate for you to NOT be involved. I’m sure it will be really hard to be on the sidelines of this one, but if the clinical goals are appropriately set, your stepson will benefit most from seeing his biological parents learn to set boundaries and deal with each other effectively. There might be a time when you would be invited to a session, and you can use your discretion about agreeing to it, but I applaud your willingness to let your husband do what he thinks best for his son.

      Again, I cannot express enough the empathy I have for you in this situation. BPD is hideous, and exponentially complicates the relationship between your households. (On the up side, you probably have the makings for a great novel!)


  70. Kat


    I’m in a very difficult situation. My husband and his ex broke up when my stepdaughter, let call her F, was only 1. I came in the picture 2 years later. We got married and I was ready to deal with it all.

    My Mother in Law, lets call her T, has always had a kind of unhealthy relationship with F. F would spend days on end there and T suffered a misscariage during that time. She has been taking over Mommy Role since.

    There has been many arguments between her and I, because she will kill to get to see F whenever she feels like it. My husband doesn’t have F nearly as much. Even tho, he wants to.

    But the actual problem. : F is lying about me to her mom and to T. She tells them life here is hell that I hate her and beat her, call her names and what not. Not a weekend goes by without that kind of stuff.

    I told my husband several times that he either needs to adjust his visitantion, so I dont need to be alone with F. Therefore, accusations can’t be made. He would be here and could see whats going on.

    He disagrees. T on the other hand , hates the fact that I always been trying to step it up and be there for F. She hates me for it. She loves the lies F tells her. So does F’s mother.

    I’m about to run out and divorce my husband. He seems to not care at all. If I tell him, I don’t want to be alone with F, he leaves her anyways. He just doesn’t care.

    This stuff has been going on for at least 5 years. F is 12 now and knows very well what she is doing. All the blame is always on me. My husband and I have 2 children together. They are way under F for everything.

    I actually heard F tell my daughter, 8, : Its so cool that my parents are divorced. I get everything.

    I can’t do this anymore. I would think, therapy would maybe be a way, but I’m 3 against 1. I have no say.

    My husband blames me. He says I need to shut my mouth and just keep doing what I’m doing. We have huge fights about it.

    Please give me something to grab on to. I’m desperate. Thank you

    1. Brenda

      I am truly sorry for your situation. It is not easy when you don’t feel like you have any allies, especially with the bio-mom has rallied the troops against you.

      I think you are on the right track when you talk about therapy. Going by yourself will still give you another perspective on ways you might reach your husband, what you can do to change your situation, or failing that, adapt to it. Be sure the therapist you find has experience dealing with STEPfamilies; traditional family therapy models can do more harm than good (and if the therapist you talk to doesn’t know what that means or what you’re talking about, find someone else). If there are no local options, webcam provides a good alternative with qualified professionals. (I have coached out-of-state clients from my office, in their homes!)

      You’re also on the right track with not wanting to be alone with F. She is 12; that is usually considered old enough to be left alone. If your husband is not available and he doesn’t want F left alone, he can always call T. You need to stick to your guns on this one. He can’t MAKE you be alone with her if you refuse. Come up with a one-sentence explanation for F, T, and anyone else who is interested. “There seems to be a difference in perception about what happens when F and I are alone, so I think it would be better to avoid that situation.” or something like that.

      I hope you can get some help soon!


  71. carol

    Hello Brenda
    I was wondering, your article states about setting boundaries, butmy husband and I have had my stepkids living with us for 10 years. Their biomom has been in and out of their lives (mostly out) anyway, my oldest SS is graduating. We are planning a graduation party for him, but I’m already afraid that I’ll get stuck with the work, preparing the food, cleaning the house and taking care of the yard (we have a large yard as we live in the country and it takes a half day to mow). Anyway, how can I get across to my huband that I’ll help but I don’t care to be the main person doing all of the work?

    1. Brenda

      Hi Carol,
      Sounds like you need to make sure you and your husband are communicating well. I assume you have been involved in the planning for your stepson’s party? If you and your husband are hosting it together, you need to divide up the work appropriately. This might mean relinquishing some of the control, which can be difficult. For example, if you don’t want to cook all the food, your husband might suggest getting fried chicken from the deli, which might not be what you would prefer to serve. See what I mean? If you decide you’re not going to do something, then you don’t get to dictate how he takes care of it.

      It is your right to be uninvolved in the work of the party, but I’m not sure that would be the right decision for your family. I was also a custodial stepmom, and a lot of the graduation party work fell to me. But it was my party too! My extended family was always included, and I was the one who was friends’ with my stepkids’ friends’ parents, not their bio-mom, who wasn’t nearly as involved in school functions as I was.

      You need to make a decision that makes sense to you, and then talk with your husband about it. Even if you were throwing a party for your mutual child, it wouldn’t be right for you to do all the work. Speak up, girl!


  72. Feelinghelpless

    Thank you so much for your response. I will do my best to step away. My only issue is that his need to please his ex regularly affects me and my son. I dont feel that we should have to suffer for his lack of being able to handle her or stick up for himself and our family. I will try my best to back off (i tend to be a take charge type) and try to not comment. I may be calling you after vacation to set up a time to chat!! Thanks!!

  73. feelinghelpless

    Hi Brenda!
    I am absolutely at my wits end and so completely stressed out I’m feeling it physically. I have been married to my husband for almost a year exactly (anniversary is next week). He has a daughter (6) with a previous marriage, and I have a son (4) with my previous marriage. His ex is less than easy to get along with. We are getting ready to take our kids on a big vacation and it turned into so much drama with his ex that I really don’t even want to go now. We are going to Florida and she told us we weren’t ALLOWED to take the kids to Disney World because she wants to take their daughter first!! I wasn’t aware that my son’s life would have to revolve around his ex. Everything around our house caters to his ex. It’s whatever she wants. If she wants their daughter home early, she goes. If she wants her to stay here one night because she has plans, then she stays. Whatever my plans might be don’t seem to matter. It’s always whatever “Jane” wants. I buy his daughter clothes, shoes, toys, and things always go to Jane’s house and never comes back. Instead of fighting with Jane to get things back, my husband “Jack” will just want me to go buy new things. We are not hurting for money, but don’t need to just be throwing money around to buy the same things over and over again because he doesn’t want to confront Jane to get our things back we bought for our household. He also gives Jane a hefty amount in child support monthly. There seems to be no end to the drama with Jane. In a recent situation…to make a long story short….we needed an answer quickly from his daughters school that pertained to us staying a little longer on our vacation. Instead of my husband just calling the school and handling it himself, he had his ex do it. (mind you, she is not thrilled with our vacation anyway). We asked her for the answer from the school and she never responded. We were running out of time to make a decision so I called the school myself to ask. This caused a TON of issues. His ex began texting me terrible things. My husband’s reaction hurt me worse than anything. HE also got mad at me for it. He sat right next to me when I made the call, yet he started a big fight with me over it once his ex called and yelled at him for me getting involved. If she wouldn’t have gotten mad, then he wouldn’t have lashed out at me either. I constantly feel like he takes her side or worries more about her feelings than my own. I feel like I can’t run my own household because there is this other women that is being allowed to make all the decisions around here. It’s not fair and hard to deal with. I’ve suggested he take her back to court to get more rights so he’s not always having to “ask her permission” for everything, but he never does. I’m tired of my life revolving around my husband’s ex-wife. He doesn’t stick up for me at all. On top of it all, another fight we had was because my husband felt like I wasn’t involved enough with his daughter and wanted me to do more. So, when I do more, I also get thrown back from that. I’m so stuck in the middle I don’t know what to do. I’m a very attentive and loving mother and I’m used to taking care of every aspect of my household, but when it comes to her I get so confused on what I’m supposed to do. My husband is the typical man and doesn’t handle anything on his own, so if I left it all up to him nothing would ever get done and it’d be more chaotic than it is now. I’ve decided to back off and do nothing that involves his daughter for a while and see what that does, but I’m afraid nothing will help. My husband is refusing counseling. Any suggestions for me? I’m so stuck between wanting to be a good wife and mother and keeping his ex from ripping our family apart!!

    1. Brenda

      You are not in an easy position. At the risk of giving unpopular advice, the only way you’re going to get out of that position is to take yourself out. You might refer to the article I posted today, which will get you started thinking about claiming your, and only your, role. If your husband chooses to remain passive when dealing with his ex, let him deal with the consequences. “Sorry, babe, we didn’t have an answer so I shortened the vacation.” “Nope, she doesn’t have the shoes we bought last week. Should we meet you after you take her to buy new ones?” Quit covering for him! Don’t treat his child unkindly, but make it clear that she is his responsibility.

      If he won’t go to counseling, you might still benefit from going yourself. Make sure you find a therapist experienced in dealing with stepfamilies. Many therapists make the mistake of trying to force you into a traditional family model, and that creates more problems than it solves. If you can’t find one, I am available by webcam for coaching sessions.

      Good luck!

  74. carol

    I have a question. What do you suggest I do in this situation? My husband is self employed and has no benefits. I have a decent job with benefits. I have been carrying my 3 stepkids as well as my husband on my insurance. When I bring this up to him that I don’t want to provide this for our household, he immediately goes into a defensive mode and says… what’s mine is yours and whats yours is mine, I thought we were one. I thought it was OUR money! I thought it was OUR insurance, well he’s not the one providing it, and I think he thinks just becasue we are married we are equal in responsiblity, yet he’s not carrying the weight. There’s a double standard. He doesn’t understand at all how I feel. I believe it’s HIS responsiblity to provide for HIS kids. Am I wrong in my thinking? How can I get it across to him that I simply don’t want this responsibility and I would like for him to take it over? He makes a decent living being self employed, but he doesn’t have any benefits, no retirement (unless he puts money aside), and no insurance of anykind. I even switched my retirement benefit to go to my 2 brothers instead of to my husband (when I die) as I have resentment and would like for him to stepup.

  75. carol

    I was wondering…how do stepmoms handle defensive husbands? If I make a comment at all about my stepkids he right away goes into a protective mode and defends them. It doesn’t matter what I say or how I say it. I’m tired of it. thanks

    1. Brenda

      This is a tough one. For a variety of reasons, some parents just don’t see their children objectively. Guilt can play a role in allowing children to behave badly as they don’t want to spend limited time disciplining their kids. It might also speak to your relationship either with your husband or with his kids. If he sees you (justly or unjustly) as being mostly negative about your stepkids, he might launch into defense mode before you even finish speaking.

      Your best bet is to refrain from commenting on his children’s behavior unless it is absolutely necessary, and then doing so with a specific goal in mind. For example, if you need little Susie to quit going through your closet when she is in your home, you might say something like,
      “Hon, I know the kids have always had free reign of all the rooms in the house, but I have more of a need for privacy. What could you live with in terms of a rule we could enforce about keeping the kids out of our room or other areas of the house?”

      Good communication comes down to acknowledging your husband’s concerns, stating your own, and looking for a solution that meets your and his needs.

      You can also be thinking about the basics of what you would require in your home with regard to how the kids behave. They might keep being brats, but they need to respect you, and your husband needs to require that because of your status as his wife. You may not be able to impose the structure or manners you would prefer, so focusing on basic requirements might help you bite your tongue a bit.

      Sometimes these types of issues benefit from a few meetings with a qualified therapist or stepfamily coach. (Not all therapists understand the nuances of working with stepfamilies, so choose wisely!) I offer sessions by webcam, if there is no one available in your area.

      Remember, you don’t always have to talk to your husband about his kids. You can also vent to a girlfriend over coffee.

      Or margaritas.

      Best, Brenda

      1. Lauren

        I read through several of the comments people posted and found your response to this one best fits my struggles and frustrations. My boyfriend and I have lived together for about a year now and have been together a year and a half. He has 50/50 custody of his 3 year old son ( who just turned 2 when we got together) in the beginning, his son was completely out of control. They had constant yelling fights, and his son was and is still extremely disrespectful to him. He would go to bed screaming, crying, and yelling and wake up screaming, crying, and yelling. I love my boyfriend and that is why I am in this predicament. Over the past year I have had plenty of one on one time to discipline him and given him consequences set in stone to where he now (only when it is the son and I) gives me complete respect when his father is not present. If i ask him to do something he does it and if he acts up, he gets disciplined. he knows what the consequences are for his behavior when it comes to me because I don’t let him get away with things. ( i worked extremely hard at this because he had virtually zero structure) Sending him to timeout at the beginning was hell, sitting him back in his corner a minimum of 20 times until he stayed put, but after being persistent, it is much easier. I feel that He has taught me that he needs ‘tough love’ in order to be a happy, respectful little guy. His father does not agree and when its all 3 of us, my hard work has flown out the window because his dad says I am ‘too mean’, I did his easier/nicer approach in the beginning and it did not work near like what my ‘tough love’ approach has. His boy and i can go to the store, eat dinner etc… all without complication. But, when his dad is around, he is throwing tantrums, hitting walls, hitting me, talking back to me like ive never experienced a 3 year old to do, and nobody in this house is happy. It’s like the house from hell and I dont know what to do because what i’ve found to work so fantastically, his dad seems to rather have consecutive nights from hell over being persistent, not following through with his threats because he thinks giving his son what he wants rather then following through when he has said no, will make him happy. Him and I have different parenting styles and that makes it very hard to be stuck in the passenger’s seat. Not to mention, when my boyfriend not present his child says I love you out of no where and gives me hugs and kisses. When he is around, his child treats me horribly. Ive never experienced a child treat me the way his son treats me. Pretty much, its like his son hates me when hes around and loves me when its just us. My boyfriend can be the one getting his son in trouble and I walk through the room and his son hits me or runs to his dad while giving me the most evil look a 3 year old is capable of. I am so lost? He tells his son thats not nice but obviously its not getting through to him because him allowing his son to “bully” me and his son’s constant “bratty” behavior is breaking us apart. I can not take the mistreatment much longer, Ive already lost it and dont know how much longer i can handle every other week with with his out of control child. Please help! We were talking marriage but with his son putting a huge stressor between us, I only see divorce if things do not change. Thank you!!!

        1. Brenda

          HI Lauren,
          It sounds like you’re clear about the red flags that are erupting all over this relationship. If you’ve read much about stepfamilies, you’ve undoubtedly learned that one of the hardest things stepmothers deal with is the fact that they are not a parent. If your partner won’t get his son’s behavior under control, there not only isn’t a whole lot you can do about it, there really isn’t a whole lot you SHOULD do about it. Except this….you can’t allow yourself to be treated disrespectfully or “bullied” by this child. That might mean refusing to be around him unless his father gets his behavior under control.
          Unless something drastic changes in this dynamic, a permanent liaison between you and your boyfriend sounds pretty risky.


    2. feelinghelpless

      Hi. I am a stepmom also and had the same problem with my husband. His daughter is now 6 and my son is 4. His daughter has older cousins that she’s learned things from like how to do something wrong and blame the younger kid that doesn’t know any better, or how to whisper to get away with things or how to “be sneaky”. She would constantly be doing things wrong and blaming my son. My son is by no means perfect, but to date I’ve never caught him in a lie. He tells me everything even when he’s messed up and done something wrong. We’ve caught his daughter in many many lies. He would always be very defensive of his daughter and punish my son. His daughter would pick on my son so much that eventually he would lash out and hit her. (we have stopped the hitting, but do ya blame him?) My husband would get SUPER mad at my son for hitting, but would never do anything to correct his daughter about the constant teasing and picking on him. My son NEVER hit for no reason. It almost wrecked us. Finally I sat down and wrote him a long letter (since he doesn’t talk well, just gets mad and doesn’t want to listen) explaining in detail various situations and my feelings that he is being unfair. I explained that we love our kids and don’t want to believe they do wrong. I also pointed out several situations in which my son had done wrong to show him that I’m able to admit when my child is wrong. We sat down later and talked about fair punishments and ways to combat the problems. Maybe if you expressed your feelings on paper when you are calm and can note all the things you want to say, that would be a good starting point to discussing the issues. Also include some suggestions on how you’d like to handle things. It really helped me to get everything off my chest too! Good luck!! =)

      1. Brenda

        Thanks for a great suggestion!

  76. Kim

    I happened upon your website while searching desperately for a fun and educational book to purchase for my grand bambinos: 7-year old Cade and 5-year old Keeley – who are expecting their first half sibling in December, compliments of their daddy and step mama. Can you recommend any good books? Thanks so much!

    1. Brenda

      You know, none come to mind. Research shows that while children rarely regard a stepparent as a “parent”, they usually see half-siblings as “sisters” or “brothers”. I would suggest looking in the “I’m a big brother” section of the kids’ book section and not make a big issue out of the step-relationships involved.

      Having said that, I’m not well-versed in children’s literature these days. Readers? Any suggestions for Kim?

  77. Genesis

    Hi Brenda,

    My fiance and I are kind of one foot in & one foot out of this relationship and possibly going to call of the wedding because of this.

    My fiance and I have a daughter ‘Ariella’ who’s 6
    He has two children from his previous relationship a girl 7, and a boy 4

    My daughter and his daughter don’t get along at all. My daughter has expressed the reasons why she doesn’t like spending time with his children when they come over each weekend so to get my daughter out of the house, I take her on the weekends to get her nails done or to go shopping, just anything really, and then we come back home. When we’re home it’s like we’re not really part of the family so my daughter and I stay in the bedroom either watching movies or playing games with each other.

    A few weeks ago after my fiance took his kids back home to their mother’s for the week he came back and said that during their car ride his daughter asked him why she can’t go with Ariella and I when we go do fun things. He didn’t know how to respond to her when she asked so he told her he’d make sure she goes the next time.

    There is a reason why I don’t take his children with me when my daughter and I go off and do things on the weekend, and it’s because his children says that their mother told them to call my daughter and I the ‘n’ word and my fiance addressed it a few times but I know for a fact they still call my daughter that word and I don’t want her to be uncomfortable. So when she tells me that she doesn’t want to play with them, I don’t make her.

    Basically it’s come down to this.
    My fiance thinks I don’t like his children and that’s not the case, I just don’t like the way they treat my daughter and instead of him addressing the issue head on (his ex) he chooses to come to me and make it like it’s my problem. At this point I don’t think my daughter and I should stick around any longer.

    If it makes any sense…

    I could definitely use some advice

    1. Brenda

      You are certainly in a tough situation!

      My initial thought is one that probably isn’t terribly popular—-Your first responsibility is to your daughter, and if you’re with a man whose responsibilities make it impossible for you to raise her in a protected and loving environment, you need to move on. But since he is her dad too, that probably won’t solve the problem of how she gets along with her half-siblings.

      That being said, I think it’s important to make sure you’ve handled the situation as directly and as fairly as you can. You say that your stepchildren’s mother has advised them to behave improperly to you and your child. Their father really ought to have enough authority to enforce appropriate expectations of their behavior in his home. No child should be allowed to use the language you indicated, regardless of the person they’re addressing. But you can’t blame the kids for their mother if their behavior is appropriate.

      You might consider having a very direct discussion with your fiance about the necessity of clear boundaries about behavior in the household. Once the ground rules are set, it’s important to start behaving like a stepfamily unit, if in fact that’s what you want to be. That doesn’t mean you become the instant mother, but it does mean that you quit hiding out for the entire time his kids are visiting. Your child is only 6; she doesn’t really need to be with the other kids without your supervision, so there shouldn’t be any opportunity for any name-calling.

      Unless I’ve misread your information, these 3 kids all have the same father. That puts a slightly different spin on the usual step-sibling group. They need to figure out how to get along because even if you choose not to be with your fiance, he is still Dad to all these kids. Try to plan family activities for all 3 kids when they are together so that you can supervise appropriate interaction. As they build positive memories with each other, it will be easier for them to abide by the rules you and your fiance set.

      Your fiance is not going to be able to change his ex, which is what it sounds like you think would be a “head-on” way of dealing with the situation. Rather, he needs to dictate and enforce the rules of how his children treat each other. Neither of you can control what happens in the other household, and the less you worry or think about what goes on over there, the more peaceful you will feel.


  78. Cindy

    Hi Brenda,

    I have been living with my boyfriend and his 2 girls for the past year and a half. I have a pretty good relationship with his 15 year old, but not much success with his 12 year old. I have no biological children of my own, so this arrangement is completely new to me. And it’s been much harder than I thought it would be.

    I am sure there are several factors why the youngest cannot show any respect towards me. However, the constant beratement and condescending attitude has brought me to frustration, anger and tears on many occasions. I am certain my boyfriend is tired of hearing me complain about it, and frankly, I am exhausted myself.

    She hides behind her bedroom door and would rather talk bad about me to her friends instead of telling me what it is about me that she dislikes. I am the main provider in our household (their father is a hard worker, but is self-employed and income varies significantly each week). Not meaning to toot my own horn, but I have given them much more than they could ever have had before they came to live with me. Somehow, I think my generosity has created selfish monsters out of both, but particularly the youngest. Now, I feel like I am losing control in my own home. I have no desire to go straight home from work most days because I don’t want to confront her. Just thinking about it makes me depressed.

    I feel underappreciated, which is probably common among all step-mothers. Sometimes I have my boyfriend’s support, but I don’t always agree with his parenting methods. I tend to be a little stricter and less understanding about why pre-teens act the way they do. In the 13 year old’s case, I am sure it stems from the fact that her relationship with her biological mother is futile and resents me for replacing her in a way. The mother, by the way, does not contribute to their emotional or financial well being. I am not sure why a mother would feel the need to desert her children, but I have never met the woman. I do not know what her side of the story is.

    I have made a decision to “cut her off” from all things material. Until she can show an ounce of gratitude and work on her attitude towards me, I don’t feel that I should have to buy her things. I am not including things of necessity, of course; just clothing, music, ice cream, and the sort. Until further notice, she will have to approach her father for those kinds of things (I had already stopped paying her allowance a few months ago and left that repsonsibility up to her dad).

    I have been given advice from other moms who say that maybe I should ignore her and just walk away when she acts out or does something hurtful. I do have a tendency to lash out when I get angry, which probably doesn’t help the situation any. I do need to work at not yelling so much.

    What is your opinion on these issues? Should I act like a landlord rather than a parent figure? Should I leave all the discipline up to the father? Should I relieve myself from responsibility for a while?

    Thank you for your time. I hope to hear back from you soon.


    1. Brenda

      Hi Cindy,

      Well, you are certainly hitting on some of the main challenges of stepmotherhood: resentment, underappreciative teens and frustration with their fathers. There are certainly no magical solutions.

      Generally speaking, backing off from the amount of investment–emotional, financial and physical–that we are putting into our stepchildren benefits our relationships with them. The goal is to do so while coming from a place other than anger or resentment. This can be tricky, especially if the amount of sacrifice you have been putting in is disproportionate to the amount of satisfaction you are getting from your role in the family.

      Your instincts are correct; your boyfriend should be taking primary responsibility for his children…this includes discipline, meeting their financial needs and caring for them emotionally. He is their parent, and the more you back off, the more he will take back his role. This will be a relief to you and to the kids. (He might not like it so much, but good communication plays a key role here—it’s unlikely that anyone in this family group wants or needs you to act like a mom, except for him. And he only wants it because he doesn’t know what other role you could have.)

      Even as you back off from a parenting role in the family, you and your boyfriend must continue to mandate certain standards of behavior, including showing you the respect that you as an adult in the household deserves.

      I hope this helps. There are some specific tips on my post “Surviving your Stepteen”. Sometimes a competent therapist (please find one who is experienced in working with stepfamilies and won’t just try to smush you into the traditional family model!) can help. I also offer coaching and counseling by webcam; information is available elsewhere on this site.


      1. Cindy


        Thank you so much for your response! I will definately look into the webcam counseling you provide!

        Thanks again!


      2. Cindy

        Hi Brenda,

        I’ve come back to give you an update and ask for another piece of advice.

        First of all, things are still pretty unsteady in our home with the youngest (we’ll call her Sam), and has become more so now that the girls’ birthmother (BM) has moved back into town. Sam is currently visiting BM this week, which incidentally is her first visit in 4 years. Just prior to the visit, Sam was referring to BM by her first name and insisting that she DIDN’T want to talk or visit with her. Something obviously had changed since then because Sam now wants to move in with BM.

        I understand Sam is desperate to have a real relationship with her mother, but both her father and I do not feel that it is an option for her to live there. There are many reasons why the father has custody,. The fact that BM has not made effort to see her children or fulfill her obligation to support them either financially or emotionally does not help her case.

        Before her father initiated this week’s visit, Sam had mentioned her wishes to move in with BM. Apparently, BM wrote her a letter giving her the idea that at age 14, she could choose which parent she wanted to live with. Sam’s father gave her a definative ‘no” to her request, which made her quite angry. She went to her room and wrote a letter to BM and proceeded to place it in the mailbox.

        This must have made her father think things over, because shortly after he suggested arranging the visit. The letter remained in the mailbox.

        Sam has had many issues her entire life and has even experimented with cutting herself. Of course this behavior makes me more curious and more cautious of whet she does in the privacy of her own bedroom. Because of this, i was impulsed to go and retrieve the letter and read it’s contents. I am fully aware that my actions were unforgivable and technically illegal, but when a child has so much anger and resentment built up I find it more important to overlook the negative consequences to find out if she has any intentions of harming herself.

        The letter was obviously written while Sam was under a huge amount of stress. Throughout, she reveals her extreme hatred for me and tells BM that she can no longer live with me. Of course, I took it all very personally. I told Sam’s father what I had done and asked him to read it for himself. He was horrified that I opened her mail. I tried to convince him i was justfiied, but I was also feeling regretful for doing so.

        I confessed to Sam what I had done. I told her I was wrong, I was apologetic and told her I wished she would have told me how she really felt about me no matter how sad it would have made me feel. I told her I just wanted her to be happy. Needless to say, she was extremely angy with me telling me that she will no longer trust or respect me. I probably…no, I definately made things worse between her and I. She said being away from me made her happy.

        Sam is expected to return home this weekend, and I am sure things will be awkward when she does. It will take Same a very long time to forgive me for reading that letter, if at all. I guess my question is what should I expect? How should I handle things when Sam comes home?

        Thank you.

        1. Brenda

          Hi Cindy,

          Welcome back!

          You really have two issues going on here: the fact that you violated Sam’s privacy by reading the letter, and the content of the letter.

          You are doing the right thing in taking responsibility for the decision to read the letter and validating how violated your stepdaughter feels about that. Her indignation will likely be fueled by her biological mother.

          The fact is, however, that you can’t unread what you saw. Conversations with your husband need to occur where you both set aside opinions or judgments about what you did so that you can address the letter’s content. If you haven’t already, you might also address your stepdaughter with something like “I understand how angry you are that I read the letter, and I won’t make excuses for my decision to do it. But having read it, I’d really like to talk with you about the feelings you expressed when you feel ready to do so.”

          Your husband can be more direct about the need to discuss her feelings, and he might try to talk with her when you’re not around.

          It’s not going to be pleasant when she gets back this weekend.

          I hope her parents don’t cave just because of her bad behavior and sullenness. If it’s not a good idea for her to live with her mother—and 4 years of little contact would play into that opinion—I hope your husband holds his ground.

          At any rate, plan some “me” time for the weekend and try not to take things too personally. I know it’s easier said than done!


  79. Maggie

    Hi Brenda,

    I just stumbled upon your website and will spend some time going through all your words of wisdom.

    I’ve been suffering from depression for the past seven months or so, and have been trying to sort out whether my feelings towards my stepson is a source or a result of the depression.

    I have been married since January, but we dated for almost seven years before that. My stepson is now 9 years old and I have been part of his life since he was 3. He has lived with us full-time for the past 3+ years and loves me. He’s mainly a very sweet, affectionate child, although most recently, he’s entered a difficult, obnoxious, frustrating phase (that I hear is still pretty typical for boys his age).

    While my husband and I have discussed having our own child, I’ve questioned whether I should. I don’t love my stepson, and cannot believe that after 6 years, I still don’t love him. It is making me doubt my love for my husband – because if I loved him enough, surely I’d have started loving his son by now right?? I love my friends, my brother, more than I love this child. It’s unreal and stupefies me. I care for him, support him, would probably jump in front of a truck for him etc etc…but I don’t love him. I know this because I don’t yearn for him or miss him when he’s not around. I don’t enjoy his company. I don’t wish to spend more time with him, no matter what I’ve tried (connecting over common interests/passions like animals etc.).

    I’ve read a post you wrote that unconditional love is not easy to come by, which is comforting in that I feel less monster-like. But I still don’t understand why I don’t love him by now, as I feel like I would love anyone I’ve lived in such close proximity with for the past 3+ years, who loves and needs me as much as he does. I’d also previously thought I could adopt a child, with the assumption that I’d love my adopted child!

    I’m not sure what my question is, because I’m grown enough to realize you can’t force love. But this is very hard, living this life through responsibility and obligation rather than love and desire. I am sad.

    1. Brenda

      Hi Maggie,
      As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I will focus on our similarities (being stepmothers) and not our differences (I saw the “i love the yankees” moniker!) Now that we’ve cleared that up….

      I’m really proud of you for recognizing that you don’t unconditionally love your stepson. It’s hard for stepmothers to admit, because society requires us to act “just like a mom”, and expect nothing in return. Our stepchildren don’t love us the same way they love their moms; it’s crazy to assume we are any different!

      That said, unless you have some other evidence that you’re incapable of loving your own child, I doubt you’d have anything to worry about. I, frankly, didn’t realize what unconditional love was all about until I gave birth, and I think a lot of moms would say the same thing. I don’t know if you and your husband should have a baby together or not, but I urge you not to make the fact you don’t feel like a mom would feel towards your stepson the deciding factor.

      I posted a while back on the subject of having a mutual child; you can check it out at



      1. Maggie

        Oh wow thanks for such a speedy response Brenda.
        And for your generosity in overlooking our differences! :)

        When I click on the link you share, I get an ‘Error 404 – page not found’ message.

        I am only now learning about the general wisdom about ‘owning’ my role/status as stepmom and not insisting on being called or treated as bio-mom…although to be fair, I was doing so more for my stepson than myself, as I thought I could try to fill the void his mom’s abandonment has left. When strangers assume he is my son, am should i correct them? (“Your son is so sweet.” “He’s not my son, he’s my stepson.”) It seems so harsh, like I’m disowning him. And so very unfair that he doesn’t get to be raised with a mother’s love. I feel obligated to try to do my best to mitigate some of the inevitable psychological damage this will cause (and also feel enormous guilt at the damage that my failure to love and depression must also cause).

        Am I not thinking about all this in the right way?

        1. Brenda

          I think you should be able to get the link now. Techno stuff is not my strong suit.

          I don’t think I’ve ever met a stepmom who didn’t feel compelled to fill the void a mom left, if that is the situation. We are good, compassionate people! The problem is that no matter how hard we try, we are NOT going to fill that void with the exact missing piece. We can be a GREAT influence…think about teachers, coaches, scout leaders, aunts….many are a wonderful presence in a child’s life, but none tries to be a MOM!

          Correcting people who assume your stepson is yours biologically really depends on the situation. Have you ever talked to your stepson about it? He, even at 9, probably has an opinion. Does he make sure to call you “stepmom” when he introduces you? Keep it casual….”Geez, she thought I was your mom! What’s that like for you? I never know what to say!” could lead to a good discussion.

          Note that your feeling that you’re “disowning” him is a product of this horrible culture that requires us to be EMBARRASSED that we are “only” stepmoms! Stepmom by stepmom, we need to CHANGE the perception that our presence in our stepchildren’s lives is necessarily secondary to their mothers, and therefore only worthy of denigration.

          Done with my soapbox. And signing off for the weekend, but will be back Monday to converse more if you’d like.


          1. Maggie

            Thanks Brenda, I really appreciate this dialogue.

            My stepson calls me “mom” himself, and seems very comfortable with it. When we first got married, he said (with pride and happiness) “wow, now I’ve got two moms!” (which of course also has very different/unique connotations so that was amusing.) I assume in that situation, you wouldn’t suggest correcting him? How do your steps address you? That’s the other tricky part – being addressed by my first name is kind of distasteful to me, as it lacks the intimacy/warmth of being in the same family. Even aunts/uncles get a title/familiar form of address, it seems so cold to me that stepmoms don’t. (I suppose being called “step” could be one, although I am a long way away from hearing warmth in that.)

            It sounds like in general, you don’t think biological bonds can be replicated. Does this extend to adoption? Are adoptive mothers never ‘moms’ either?

          2. Brenda

            Hi Maggie,
            If your stepson is calling you “Mom” by his choice and there doesn’t seem to be any problem with it, I don’t see any reason to change it. My stepchildren’s mother has always been a presence in their lives, albeit a remote one at times, and so they have always called me by my first name. My youngest stepdaughter introduced me as her mom once when we first got married…I talked to her about it and discouraged it then simply because I knew how much it would hurt her mom’s feelings if it continued. I also thought it had something to do with her confusion about what role I would play in her life, and I knew I didn’t want to replace her mom, so we talked about how we could figure out my role as we went along. We’d already had a 2-year relationship at that time, and so she just kept calling me Brenda, as she always had. I agree with you about the lack of intimacy/warmth, but there aren’t a lot of great options!

            I have not done extensive research about the relationship between parents and their adopted children, but my sense is that it is not the same as with stepparents. Especially if a parent adopts her child in infancy, I believe that the bond is replicated in many cases. Other factors that influence this differently is the absence of a “real” mom, so there is not an ever-present loyalty conflict. Adopted children sometimes feel the need to find their biological parents, but I don’t think this has to do with the “bond” they have with their real (adoptive) parents.

  80. Tayler

    My partner has a young child, cheated on me for six months with the mother, as well as someone else from work. We have been together over 2 years and I find myself incredibly angry lately even though things are “over” and we have tried to move on and rebuild trust. In fact our relationship has been pretty good but I just can’t or don’t want to let go of my resentment. I hate that his ex still does things that I feel are inappropriate (asking him to dinner, flirting with him in front of me, etc.). He claims he “tells her to stop” but 1. I don’t know that and 2. she keeps doing it. He always tells me that it’s on me to not let her affect our relationship, which I find is a lot of pressure and unfair responsibility. HE cheated WITH her but now I just have to let it all go? So we can have a “healthy” relationship? I’m trying to analyze if I am being so stubborn about letting it go bc I really don’t want this relationship even though I love him. My question is, am I being self-destructive by refusing to let things roll off my back? Or am I right in protecting myself even though it leads to constant arguments? I don’t know what to do or if I can/should handle another women up in my life for the rest of time. Thank you.

    1. Brenda

      Hi Taylor,
      So you have had this partner for two years and he has cheated twice, once for over six months? No, this isn’t your problem to “let go”. You might choose to ALLOW him to build trust back up, but it is his responsibility to be accountable, tolerant of your concerns, and patient with you difficulty in trusting him. He messed up, not you. If he can’t do the work, then no, you can’t have a healthy relationship.


  81. marina

    i been married 2 years..i have adorable 8 yrs old son wich his bio father never took care about my husband and my son love each other so much. But…but he have 2 kids 19 soon tobe 20 ysr old daughter and 16 yrs old son ..they got use to share custody the kids live with him 2 weeks per month and 2 weeks with the mother..well when my hubby and i got married by civil and church..the girl decide to move and leave with her mother..she always gave me hard time..i been trying EVERYY THING i been detail..afectioned, patience..friend ( never replace her mom) and been there trying and trying and she disrespect me many times hurting me..even one day she scream at me and i never scream at her..well she move she ovbiously cant stand up me..and now some times her father go alone for lunch with her aometimes she come for dinner to our house..she stilll having keys and i really would like that if she need come by my house to pick up few stuff books etc she left in her room she let me or let us know before or nock the door and dont appear to my house without that ok if i request that?
    i didnt mentioned the boy is full anger , resents blame me for his sister move out..sometimes respect me sometimes poor husband feel guilty..kind of weack sometimes we argue and had problems for the kids ( we longer so good) but always his kids make us fight or argue..and we stop with that..but we still dsnt know what to do..i ask him be more firm by my side as his wife as the bible say put your husband and wife first and tell to his son respect my wife..o will be consecuences..
    AM HURT VERYY DISSAPOINTED AND HURT I DNT WANT DEAL ANYMORE..AM TIRED ..I PUT ALL MY EFFORT..BUT always the mother who hate my husband ( she cheat on him) she is sick metal person bitching after 4 yrs divorce of him to her kids ( crazyy) but will be always the negative terrible influence and i guess there not hopes. i guess his son as soon he be 18 he will go with his mom also..very sad!! selfish and desvastate.
    i need few words from you
    thank you god bless you!!!

    1. Brenda

      I’m so sorry for your situation! I can tell you sometimes feel like you’re at the end of your rope. I hope you have a support system…girlfriends, pastor, family members…who are supportive and able to just listen to you vent.

      It seems like you have a couple questions for me: 1. Is it ok to request that your stepdaughter give notice before she stops by the house? and 2. What to do about your stepson’s disrespect?

      First, if your stepdaughter has completely changed her residence to her mother’s home, there is no reason for her to have keys to your house. It is common courtesy to alert someone that you will be visiting or would like to retrieve personal items, so I can understand why you would like that to happen. It’s important to be careful, however. It is common for adult children to feel very familiar and “at home” when visiting the house where they grew up. If you have no reason to suspect that your stepdaughter is doing anything inappropriate in your house, it might be worthwhile to bite your tongue and allow her to continue this familiarity with an eye to improving the relationships down the road. Either way, your husband would need to be on board and might have opinions about expectations that his daughter act like “a guest” in his home. Be certain that your desire for stronger boundaries (getting the keys back and wanting her to call before coming over) isn’t out of hurt and disappointment instead of a real need to be protective of your privacy.

      On the second question, your stepson needs to respect you in your home, and your husband needs to set and enforce this expectation in your household. The expectations need to be very specific and enforceable. For example, your husband can mandate that his son acknowledges your presence when you walk into a room, but you can’t expect that to morph into a pleasant conversation or an affectionate greeting. Tone of voice and word choice can be mandated, but feelings behind respect cannot.

      I hope your situation improves soon! Hang in there….


      1. marina

        thank you soo much for you are absolutly right..( but regard to the daughter keys house) this is not the house where they grow up..this a new house for me and my husband since 2 yrs ago. and i know he is super weack cause he is afraid to loose his kids affections..and other stuff..and for him is normal she keep the key witch am fine with that..i just would like to tell her please dont come without notice..text me or text your father before show because nothing just i want she realize there bounderies in my house and also good manners and education..and i would like tell her without she feel offended..cause she iturns everything wrong way!!!!

        thank you alot!!!

  82. Stephanie

    Your advice and perspective is such a blessing. Thank you for sharing. I loved what you said about not leaving things left unsaid. I was able to share this with my husband and he is planning to talk to the girls this weekend. Your words gave us a great place to start our conversation and those themes will guide him when he talks to the girls. I can’t say thank you enough. Sometimes I feel helpless and voiceless. Today I feel hopeful and heard. thank you for that!

    1. Brenda


      Best wishes for great courage this weekend! I will be thinking of you and would love to hear how it goes.


  83. Stephanie

    I’m struggling with a situation that, as a stepmom, mom and wife has me reeling.
    A little background and context: My husband and I have been married for two years. He has two daughters ages 13 and 10. Their mom, let’s call her Stacy, and I have never spoken. We have absolutely zero interaction. In fact, I’m convinced that she functions is a world where I don’t exist. Our journey to this point began a long time ago in college. My husband and I dated briefly, albeit intensely for about nine months. When it ended we both went our separate ways and it stayed that way. We didn’t have cell phones or Facebook, we lived in different cities, when people left, many times they were just gone.

    Fast-forward nearly 20 years later. I had recently separated from my husband. He was going on year number three of counseling and had just moved out as well. We reconnected and began exchanging emails. Notes of encouragement. A lunch here and there. And ultimately a few months later a legitimate date. It was like no time had passed. Unfortunately when Stacy understood that I was the new person in his life, she flipped. Apparently, there had been no mistake during their marriage that I was sort of the one that got away. It had originally been Stacy’s idea to separate after they moved from marriage to divorce counseling. Anyway, I believe she felt that a separation would highlight how many pieces of marriage and home-life my now-husband would miss. When I came on scene, there was a lot of hurt and anger. It became a very real likelihood for her that he wouldn’t be moving back home.

    Their divorce was the ugliest I’ve seen or heard of that didn’t involve celebrities. She refused mediation. They had a full-blown trial. She wanted the house, the kids, the money, the stuff accumulated over 10 years of marriage. And she darn near got it all. We are lucky that we get the girls two days a week. We pay her more each month than I bring home from my fulltime job in child support, alimony and care costs. My husband has a senior level position in a Fortune 500 Company. We have the money to provide support and gladly do so. But to maintain his position, he travels up to three weeks a month. Switching custody days, planning for vacations or anything outside the set parenting plan in almost a non-starter.

    My husband is much better at taking the high road. He was raised in a very confrontational, abusive household. He avoids conflicts and emotions that will be potentially upsetting. I don’t blame him. I’m just not as good at it. I can drag a grudge around like nobody’s business. There have been many times when I get upset about situations and my husband simply doesn’t. He says that he doesn’t care about her anymore and that he isn’t willing to waste the energy or time to be mad.

    But then Christmas happened. The girls mentioned that they were going to be part of their church’s Christmas program. This is a large production for thousands of people in a public arena. Stacy is very active in church as are the girls. When married, they were all active; individually and as a family.Their divorce was pretty widely known and my husband has not been back to that church, since. The girls were vague about their role in the service. We don’t have them on Christmas Eve. We get them Christmas Day each year. I suggested that we attend the service to see the girls. We did not end up going, but we asked the girls how it went and they were evasive, at best. It was weird, but we let it go. Weeks later, during conversation, my husbands’ oldest shared a bit more about it. In her description she said that people came on stage with signs that stated issues that they had overcome. She said the she and her sister had a sign about going through a divorce.

    When my husband told me, I was shocked. And in a rare moment, he was angry. We talked it over and felt that there wasn’t much we could do other than love the girls and move on. We can’t go back and change it. While my husband and Stacy had been in marriage counseling, so had the girls. The girls also continued to see a counselor for nearly a year after the divorce. Both girls are A students, active in soccer, band and church. Divorce sucks and it’s HARD for kids. The upside is that these girls don’t want for anything, They have more people in their life that love them than most and they have a dad who works his tail off, makes time for the soccer games and band concerts and parent teacher conferences and actually spends more quality time with them than he probably would have if he was still married to their mom.

    About a week ago I learned more from a friend who had been at the Christmas program that she thought the girls were put in an awkward situation and that, in her words “it was bad”. The sign that they held up was apparently not as innocuous as we were led to believe. I shared this information with my husband and again, we landed on “we can’t change it”. But, remember I’m grudge holder. I went online and found the video from the Christmas service and watched it. And now I sit here sad, confused, unsure, angry and at a loss for what to do with it all. At the end of the service, people start coming out on stage with signs that all reflect struggles, On the other side of the sign was a statement how God had helped them. At 55 minutes in . . . my husband’s former family steps on stage:
    Stacy holds a sign that says: Divorce broke my heart and my family. On the other side, it says Wide Awake! Healed, Forgiveness, JOY. My husband’s oldest daughter holds a sign that says: Anger, Resentment towards our DAD for leaving us. On the other side it says Jesus helped us let go and love again.

    Words and emotions I can’t un-see or un-feel. My heart is broken and I have no idea what to do. Do I share this with him? Could this really be how the girls feel? What role, influence did their mom play in all this? I still can’t go back and change anything. Do I have a good cry and try to let it go? Thanks for listening and any words of advice.

    1. Brenda

      I am so sorry for your situation. You’re absolutely right that nothing can undo the shock or hurt you experienced seeing that video.

      I absolutely think you should share the video with your husband. Maybe tell him about it first, then if he wants to watch it, he can. (If he doesn’t want to, you don’t have to push it.) How can you possibly carry the burden of what you saw by yourself?

      Understanding that it is very common for children to take the part of the custodial parent, I believe that your husband should address their part in the Church performance. Not to make them feel bad for doing it, but to be empathic about the pain they have experienced. Divorce is REALLY hard on kids—and remember, they saw their mother’s pain and heard some unknown amount of her point of view, so of course they would blame their dad for what the family went through.

      While I don’t believe that kids need to be privvy to much when it comes to reasons, etc. for divorce, in this case, I believe it would be appropriate for your husband to first acknowledge their pain, then offer very general things–“Leaving you guys was the hardest thing I ever did, but neither your mom nor I was happy and I didn’t know how to change that..” or even things more specific things…”Your mom and I couldn’t agree on what we wanted to be important in our lives, except we both knew that you guys were the most important…”

      I think the main message of “I’m Dad, I’m sorry for your pain, and I’m here to talk and help you through it if you let me…” is the thrust. Even applauding their “courage” in sharing at the Christmas program might be appropriate. Remember, their pain is REAL even if their understanding of its causes is not.

      Remember to take this as one person’s advice. I tend to err on the side of direct, open communication and my kids can attest to the fact that we had more conversations than they probably wanted to because I don’t like things left unsaid. But you guys have to live with the decisions you make about how to handle this, so do what YOU think is best.

      Best wishes,


  84. Mariana

    Thank you Brenda, although I would never in a million years blame the children, because it is not their fault, it is just sad to see how someone is trying to break the relationship with their father. I will however continue to do as you say, love them encourage them and not stoop to her level.

    Thanks a mil and Happy Holidays!

  85. Bethany

    Hi Brenda,

    My husband and I have been married for about a year and a half. He has a seven year old son from his previous marriage who he shares custody of with his ex-wife. He and I have a 6 month old baby together. (We are planning to have one more child together, but not quite yet.)

    My husband and I are going to meet with an attorney soon to set up a trust. I know that the attorney will be able to advise us on the legal and financial aspects, so that’s not what I’m asking you about. What I am wondering is if you have any advice for me on how to approach discussions with my husband about how we will divide up our assets among the children after we are gone, without appearing like the evil stepmom? Or feeling like an evil stepmom?

    I know my husband would like to divide everything evenly among his children. But since one of his children is not my biological child, I have reservations about dividing our assets that way. I don’t want my own biological child/children to get less of what I have contributed to the overall asset package, especially since my stepson will most likely also inherit assets from his biological mom (though not guaranteed because she is notoriously bad with managing money.) By no means am I out to swindle my stepson out of his fair share of inheritance. But I also want what’s fair for my own biological child/children.

    Thank you for any insights you may be able to provide on discussing these matters with my husband.


    1. Brenda


      This is a really tough situation, with more than one solution. Open, honest communication is the only way to go. Your husband is completely justified in wanting his assets split equally among all his children, so refusing to allow that might cause resentment or guilt on his part. If you’re planning to raise the children as a family, it might seem reasonable to THEM that all the assets are divided evenly, and then the only one with the issue is you. If you don’t think they will see themselves as a sibling group, then they might have different opinions.

      Perhaps you can work something out where all your husband’s and your joint assets are divided evenly, but your biological children receive assets that were yours before the marriage? Or some amount that comes from your income alone?

      Some estate planners have expertise in step- and non-traditional families; maybe the appropriate person will have an answer that fits for your situation.

      Try to keep in mind that the important stuff happens while you’re alive, and this issue is an opportunity for you and your husband to use or increase skills to communicate about the thornier issues that stepfamilies face. If you can sort out your emotions, you will be more likely to make reasonable decisions. (For example, withholding your assets from your stepchild because of some issue with his mother is emotional, not reasonable—not that you’re doing that, but it can happen!)

      Good luck!


      1. Bethany

        Thank you very much, Brenda! I hadn’t considered some of these aspects. This is very helpful!


  86. I'm Lost

    While I wish I feel like I could safely post here, I feel I would need to divulge too much information publicly to make my entire story clear. I live in the area but do not think I could afford the counseling services. But I need help. I feel I have assumed the role of evil stepmother even though I love my step kids. It breaks my heart every time they say “I want my mommy” (especially when they are mad at me or their dad) because I know I’ll never be able to fully satisfy that role for them. She is only a slight part of their lives and this hurts them. What can I do?

    1. Brenda

      I certainly understand your need for discretion, and the financial difficulties involved in getting professional help. I strongly recommend you subscribe to , if you don’t already. It is a very inexpensive way to feel supported, get access to private forums and gain TONS of information just for stepmoms. (Disclaimer: I recommend it without any financial gain….I just love reading and writing for the magazine!)

      You really need to work towards it NOT breaking your heart when your stepchildren want their mom. You’re right—you can’t satisfy that role for them, and you should stop trying! Try instead to be a loving adult in their lives. You can have a tremendous positive influence on their lives, even though you can’t completely mitigate the pain they feel from their mother’s lack of involvement.

      Best wishes,

  87. Marinaa Reed

    How do you handle a biological mother who is bent on putting the children against their biological father and yourself? I am dealing with a situation with a biological mother who has diagnosed mental and behavioral issues and is on a relentless campaign to damage the children’s relationship with everyone.


    1. Brenda


      There is no easy answer to this all-too-common dilemma. The only thing you can do is take the high road at all times, and be confident in the way you deal with the children and with your husband. If you are ashamed of anything you are doing, then it is harder to hold your head up. Try to keep communication open with the kids. If they tell you something that their mom says about you, ask them what they think. Remember that their loyalty conflict is real, and they are likely believing that they must malign you and your husband in order to gain their mother’s approval. This is something NO child should have to face, but so many do. Be sure you don’t engage in the same thing. Your husband should offer them his unconditional love. Your role is do what you know is right, and seek emotional support from girlfriends, family and/or a professional therapist. It is NOT fair, but you can’t blame the kids, no matter how angry you are or how tempting it is.

      I’m sorry for your situation and wish you the best.


  88. Selena

    Hi Brenda,
    I am a stepmother and have been for 3 years now.
    My stepdaughter is about to be 6 and she has lived
    With me and her father part time since she was 3 years old.
    Her biological mother is a very…high conflict person…
    When she first learned that her ex and I were moving
    In together she hid his daughter from her and wouldn’t allow
    Him phone calls and communication for a month (this was taken to court
    And eventually stopped).

    However the ridiculousness continued…if my stepdaughter
    Asked to say hello to me while she was on the phone
    With her father her mother would scold her and actually hang up
    The phone and end the conversation between father and child.
    She has physically threatened me and most recently made
    Up a story about me forcing her daughter to call me “mommy”
    Which is not true at all and the child calls me by my first name
    And has never called me mommy nor have a asked her to.

    She even makes the child feel uncomfortable to acknowledge me
    In her presence (when my husband and I go to pick his daughter up
    For his time) then as soon as we drive away she is all sweet and loving
    To me. She also tells the child things like that I am ugly, or compares
    Me to her in front of the child (my stepdaughter will say things like
    My mommy says that you are not beautiful and that you are ugly)
    I know it’s all so petty and childish but it’s been going on for 3 years!

    She also constantly tries to drive a wedge between my husband and his
    Daughter and tries to use me as the reason.
    Example: hang up phone when she asks about me,
    Show up to school on days that she knows I will
    Be taking the child to school and stare me down, or even
    Make snide comments.

    I want to add in that for the first 2 and a half years I jumped thru
    Hoops to try and make mom feel comfortable!
    I told her I had no intention of replacing her and
    I can promise her I will always treat hers and my husbands
    Daughter with the utmost love, respect and care!
    I would comply with all of her silly rules (don’t use
    This product in her hair, use this, don’t style it this way,
    Etc, etc) but the orders became taller and taller
    And in the end I was still being talked about negatively
    To my stepdaughter and being used as a scapegoat!
    She even tells the child that I am not to be referred as
    A stepmom and that I am not a parent at all!

    I seriously have anxiety every time she texts my
    Husband w some sort of complaint about me!
    He has mediation scheduled next week as she
    Has violated the parenting plan on multiple occasions.
    Anyway…any advice?

    1. Brenda

      Hi Selena,

      Well, this is one of those situations that just isn’t fair. It will help if you accept that you won’t be able to change the ex’s perception of you, no matter what you do. Her dislike of you and her need to negatively affect the relationship between you and your stepdaughter are more about her insecurities than they are about you. While difficult, remembering that will help.

      Practically, the high road is awfully lonely, but it’s where you live with yourself most easily. Try to avoid going with your husband when he picks up his daughter. The transition time between parents is stressful for a child, and she will more easily go between households if she is not witness to her mother’s reaction to you every time she gets ready to be in your presence. You won’t be able to impact what your stepdaughter’s mother says to her outside your presence, but be very careful not to do the same and malign her mother to her. If you can implicitly and explicitly give your stepdaughter “permission” to not acknowledge you or be affectionate to you when her mother is around, that will also help ease her loyalty conflict and it might calm her mother to not be forced to witness your stepdaughter’s feelings towards you.

      Finally, try to stay out of the communication between your husband and his ex. If he doesn’t give weight to the complaints she has about you, they cease to matter as much. Maybe he doesn’t even have to tell you about them and you can deflate the power they have. The parenting agreement is between the two parents….your husband and his ex….try to let them handle it.

      Having said all that, let me repeat….IT’ NOT FAIR.

      But it will be easier for you if you keep your focus on your marriage and on the positive relationship you have with your stepdaughter.



  89. Anonymous

    I am a step-mother but my story is a little unusual. I have a son from a previous marriage and my husband has a daughter from his previous marriage but has custody because the mom is not fit to be a mother. When we met, our kids were 2 years old (they are 6 months apart). His daughter was a very difficult child but just like you mentioned on one of your articles, I thought with love she could change. My husband’s ex who was not in the picture, end up coming back as soon as she heard of me and made our lives miserable and started putting thing on the child’s head. It was an incredible stressful situation. We took her to counseling, etc. The mom end up going to jail and we continued to work with the child. Now the child is about to be 10 and I am at a point where while she has gotten much better and has a great heart, still makes a lot more mistakes (or maybe I feel that way after all these years), I just feel resentful, overwhelmed and just have so many feelings inside of not feeling as though I am the right step-mom for her. I really feel that she would be better off without me and my son and I would too. My son and her are very close and I truly love my husband but I just don’t know what to do to make the relationship work. I hate how I feel. I find myself not liking her and not having the patience I need to have. I feel like my husband and I made a huge mistake because we met when they were so young, they started calling us mom and dad and we allowed it and for all these years I have been feeling like I needed to be her mom but never being able to fulfill that obligation and then feeling horrible about myself. I don’t know what to do.

    1. Brenda

      Please make no mistake about the fact that having you as a stable, loving influence in your stepchild’s life has made a positive difference for her. And your departure from her life would likely be devastating.

      That said, you do seem very conflicted about your role in her life. At one point, you say you don’t think you’re the right “stepmom” for her; at another point, you say that you have felt like you’ve never been able to fulfill the role of “mom”. One thing is clear, and you sum it up by saying “I hate how I feel”.

      I wonder if you know that some of what you’re saying, you might be saying even if you were the child’s biological mother. I have worked with countless parents over the years who struggle mightily with the fact that their child’s behavior is actually engendering DISlike. Parents are human; we can be great ones without always liking our kids! The challenge for them, and for you, I think, is hanging in there with our kids until they turn back into the likeable beings that we know are in there somewhere, or they are old enough that their behavior results in consequences that put them out of our lives.

      While your “title” might complicate things, your situation, at its roots, is familiar. Your relationship with your husband is primary. Your love for your son and for your step-daughter is and feels different. Your job is to do what is “right”–whatever the situation. Behaving lovingly means setting and sticking to boundaries, creating parameters for respect and healthy relationships among each member of the household, and taking care of yourself!

      I realize that this advice is not very specific as you didn’t describe your stepdaughter’s precise behavior, but I hope it helps to realize that it can feel like your efforts are for naught when you’re in it, but it is sometimes one loving person or even one loving comment that a troubled kid points to as something that made the difference. Of course, this admission doesn’t happen until they’re adults! So find a way to keep the faith.

      Best, Brenda

  90. anonymous

    Thank you so much. I will continue to read your site as the StepMom movement needs alot of support from each other:)

    1. Anonymous

      Hello, I wanted you to know that I have taken your advice to heart and was put in a position to think on a situation for 24 hours and I decided on the “high road” and wow, that is empowering. Thanks.

      1. Brenda

        Good for you! I am so happy to hear this. We stepmothers rarely get outcomes we want, but if we behave in ways that we believe in and are proud of, then we can feel good about ourselves regardless of the behavior of others. Keep it up!


  91. anonymous

    Thank you so much for the reply. Your points are great and I thank you. Clarification: when bio-mom goes out of town when she is supposed to be with her son and he gets upset with her she tells my husband she cannot be a mother to her son because I am trying to take her place. One of her intentions is to make the son believe that I am in the way of their relationship so she has excuses not to show up to games and practices that she has promised to be at and the list of excuses is long and I am #1 on the list. It is lame in my opinion. “Chummy” I think is probably making it a little too friendly, we are not there, but I have found things that I can talk with her about like cats, tarheel basketball and red velvet cake just to make things not quite so uncomfortable as she also has an ongoing thing for my husband, so it is weird. I want harmony, not weird and I try way too hard. I agree about the fact that I give her way too much energy. I am constantly reminded of what my mother-in-law told me 8 years ago, “be careful trying to get to close to her, she will hurt you, always!” This dialog is helping me so much. I have been a social worker for 25 years and yes, I want to fix it… my nature:) Please tell me all of the hard facts, I need them.

    1. Brenda

      It sounds like you are open to the “hard facts”, which helps a lot! Continuing to monitor your expended energy and maintaining appropriate boundaries will really help. Keep up the good work.


  92. Anonymous

    I am on a roller coaster with my son’s bio-mom. She gets really chummy and close for a while and we communicate constantly, even friendly and caring and then WHAM, she mistreats my step-son by disappointing him or not spending time with him and I am her official whipping post. In the mean time, I have changed nothing. So, this happens about 3 or 4 times a year and I always mend the fence, that I did not break. I am not going to do it this time, but honestly, it eats at me. I am trying to “let her go” and realize that she is just using me when she is nice to me because it comes around this way everytime. My husband has primary custody of their son and he lives with us, so, yes, I do all the work and 99% of my time is spent doing the motherly duties and 99% of her time is spent being entitiled to MOM attention from the child. I am becoming very weary of this all and my poor husband must hear her complaints about me and frankly he finally just told her to take it up with me…… me, she has never in 8 years, maybe this will be a first. Sincerely, Frustrated in N.C.

    1. Brenda

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m a little confused, though. Your stepson’s bio-mom mistreats him and then blames you for it? Also, you say she never takes complaints up with you, but there are times when you communicate well? With just a little information, I can only give general advice, but I think it’s important for you to carefully evaluate the benefits of having a “chummy” relationship with your husband’s ex-wife. It is important to be civil, maybe even friendly, but you might feel better with stronger boundaries around what you are and are not willing to share with her, and leaving most of the conversations up to your husband. With regard to being the “whipping post”, if this is not happening directly, it is truly one of those things that you can only work to rise above. If it happens directly, set the record straight and move on. Trust me on this: ex-wives usually are not worth your emotional energy.

      If you want to give me a little more detail, I can try to be more specific in my response!



  93. Lisa

    Hello Brenda,
    I’ve been married for 6 years and a stepmom to his 2 kids. We had our own son 3 years ago. My husband constantly berates me because he feels I don’t love his children as much as I love our son. He accuses me of being cold to them and tells me I will be the cause of sibling resentment between the kids. How can I make him understand the difference in the love I feel. I do love and care for my step kids but the love I feel for my son is so different! I’m so over being told I’m a horrible person!

    1. Brenda

      Hi Lisa,
      This is a tough one. Your husband has fathered three children, and knows that his love multiplied as he added to his family. He is not understanding that the love for one’s biological children is different from the love for other children that are in our lives. He also might have some guilt about not seeing his older children as much as his youngest, or about not giving them the stability of a two biological parent home like his youngest has.

      There are a few things you can do to try to lessen the conflict between you and your husband. Be sure to go out of your way to avoid even the appearance of treating the children differently when it comes to expectations regarding chores, giving gifts, celebrations, etc. Realize that your stepchildren get things from their mom that you will give to your children, and point this out to your husband. For example, if your stepchildren live with their mother, she is probably the one that takes them shopping for back-to-school clothes, underwear and other necessities. You will likely be the one to do that for your son. Doing those types of things does not mean you’re favoring your son!

      Do you know what your husband means by you being “cold” to your stepchildren? If there are specific things you can change, do so! But help your husband understand that stepchildren need to take the lead in showing affection and being close to their stepparent, and your relationship will ultimately be better if you go at their pace.

      Try to lovingly help your husband understand that you are enamored with your son as your first born, just as he and his ex were when they had theirs. You understand that your husband’s love is equally distributed among the three, but that simply isn’t true for you. This doesn’t harm your stepchildren; they need to look to their mother for a mother’s love. You are an addition in their life, like an aunt or a coach or a teacher…not like Mom #2!

      If you don’t have a subscription already, is a great resource and often provides the opportunity to present an article or two to your husband to read so he can better understand the dynamics that go on in your stepfamily. I wrote an article on the experience of bringing a mutual child into the stepfamily in the April 2013 edition, and you can buy that month only, if you prefer. Stepfamily therapy and coaching is also available in some areas and on the web, if there is no one available locally.

      Feel free to follow up with another question, and I’d love to see what some of other readers would have for comments!


  94. Aimee Gonzalez

    Hi Brenda!
    Did you ever feel ignored or unappreciated by your counterpart? I have emailed, I have texted, I have called and left voicemails without ever getting a response. She once said in therapy with my husband that I am just his wife and nothing to the boys. How do I get passed this? How do I not have this affect my perception of her? It is getting harder and harder everyday to pretend in front of my stepsons that I am okay with not getting along with their mother. My husband doesn’t even understand why I let it bother me but it does, it just does.

    1. Brenda

      What a great question…on a topic that is truly one of the most difficult areas of stepmotherhood…..our stepchildren’s mother.

      If there is one area where we as stepmothers can benefit from lowering our expectations, it is with regard to our relationship with our stepkids’ mom. It makes absolutely NO SENSE for her to choose not to treat us as another caregiver and therefore a significant person in their child’s life, but this is the very course that many biological moms take. You would probably benefit from accepting that you will have little power to change your relationship with her. It is not likely that she will appreciate your efforts. If you can change your definition of “getting along”, it will be easier to be civil, and supportive of her relationship with your stepsons. She might not reciprocate that support, but being a stepmother is actually a call to sainthood! And we feel best about ourselves when we take the high road.

      You might also consider leaving the responsibility of communicating with your stepchildren’s mother to their father. This is difficult, because we detail-oriented women tend to set our family calendars, etc., but I have worked with COUNTLESS women who are breathing easier by simply stepping out of that role.

      Finally, you can try to see the situation from her point of view. This can be frustrating if she won’t TELL you anything about her point of view, but you can still TRY. She didn’t choose you, and your presence in her children’s life is a concrete reminder that the plan she had to raise her children with their father failed. She also is being asked to accept her ex-husband’s opinion of you—that you are a safe, caring influence on her children–when she might not like to accept ANYTHING from him.

      There is a supportive community out there. My home page lists a few links that I find helpful, and there is an increasing number of qualified stepfamily coaches (including me!) who offer assistance in person and over the web.

      I hope you find this helpful. Feel free to follow up with another question, and I’d love to hear how any of you other ladies out there deal with this challenge.


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