Disengaging Stepmoms: 5 Signs It’s Time to Step Back

disengaging stepmomsBy Brenda Snyder, LCSW Originally published in the July 2013 issue of StepMom Magazine.

Many stepmothers begin the commitment phase of their relationships with an engagement ring. Women who love men with children hear the statistical improbability of successful remarriage and dismiss it, knowing in their hearts that theirs is the love that will beat the odds. They excitedly embrace their new family and put every effort into making their inner reality match what is actually happening in the home they are joining.

Often, after some amount of time has passed, the disillusioned stepmother finds herself wondering what the heck she was thinking. The magic of the engagement has dissipated and a stepmother finds herself thinking of the exact opposite. If this sounds familiar, it might be time to take a step back.

Here are five signs it might be time to disengage: 

You feel angry and resentful a lot of the time. When your sincerest and most loving intentions are met with an absence of enthusiasm at best, and apathy or scorn at worst, bitterness can seep into all the places where love used to live.

You are more invested in changing your stepchildren’s behavior than their father is. Even if you and your partner agree on most parenting points (and chances are you do not), when you are the parent spending the time and energy required to enforce rules, require hygiene and instill discipline, a dynamic often occurs where your partner abdicates his parenting responsibilities.

You frequently realize that you’re requiring things of yourself that are not appreciated or desired. Stepmothers often run themselves ragged trying to fill what they see as their appropriate role. Unfortunately, the expectation they have of themselves is often very different from what their stepchildren want, and so angry and resentful stepchildren result and already fragile relationships suffer.

You’re spending more energy on being a stepmother than on being a wife. Ultimately, your relationship with your husband is the most important one you have in the stepfamily. It is the one that will be left when the kids are grown and starting their own families, and if your marriage is to survive it’s imperative that you prioritize it appropriately.

Your self-esteem is wrapped up in your relationships with your stepchildren. Overinvestment in your role as a stepmother your stepchildren’s behavior or in how others perceive you in your family role is a sure path to a disintegrating self-image, anxiety or depression—and a broken relationship.

“Disengaging isn’t some nasty, hostile tit-for-tat. It isn’t, “You let your kids treat me badly, eff you, I’m not doing anything for you or your kids anymore.” Disengaging is a thoughtful, planned strategy in which a woman who is partnered with a man with kids hands parenting and caretaking responsibilities back to him in an attempt to improve herself, her partnership and her relationship with his kids.” –Wednesday Martin, PhD

One definition of the word disengage is “to break off action (as with an enemy).” In your darkest moments, your stepchildren probably do feel like the enemy. The good news is that appropriately disengaging can eventually improve these relationships.

First and foremost, disengagement requires you to step away from the responsibility of raising your stepchildren. Many stepmothers believe that they must buy into the impossible dynamic of loving stepchildren exactly as they do or would love their own offspring. This fragile premise, then, should dictate a stepmother’s loving willingness toward all things parenting. Once a stepmother is hooked into this flawed thinking, the perceived or actual tasks and investment inevitably ensue. The problem, obviously, is that the stepchildren don’t have a similar paradigm and do not expect themselves to love or even like their stepmother. The stepmother is stuck with the impossible assignment of attempting to “mother” children who already have a mother.

Stepmother DisengageWomen often want to come back in their next lives as husbands. Holidays happen, schedules are kept, groceries appear in the refrigerator and meals on the table, bills are paid and life just clicks along—with no apparent effort at all from the man of the house. Having usually been married or partnered before, husbands are often used to having their lives handled for them, and it just doesn’t occur to them that the role their former wife had in the household is not also appropriate for their current wife. Our culture has not yet developed a healthy perspective on a stepmother’s role, so the husband’s point of view, combined with the perception that a good stepmother is one who behaves exactly like a mother minus any expectation of reciprocal positive feelings from her stepchildren, results in a stepmother redoubling her efforts at every sign of inevitable failure.

Refusing the responsibility of raising your stepchildren starts with an internal shift. You won’t successfully disengage until you change the way you perceive yourself in your family. When you become able to be invested only in matters that directly involve you, peace of mind follows. You can divest yourself of the concern that your stepchild’s bad behavior or lack of hygiene reflects on you. You can require respect without needing affection. You are able to return your focus to your marriage and other things outside of it—career, friends and hobbies—that defined you before you took on your stepmother job.

Your disengagement will result in your husband picking up the ball. When a stepmother is doing the parenting job, it allows her husband to step back from the responsibility. It might not happen as quickly as you would like, but if you quit doing the job he will eventually pick it back up. He won’t parent they way you would, or even the way you would want him to, but a disengaged stepmother has the ability to tolerate it.

Disengaging means you give yourself the choice to opt out of certain tasks. If you really don’t want to go to your stepchild’s 64th softball game this month, don’t. If you don’t want to spend your entire vacation with your stepchildren, make other plans so your husband and his children have time together. If you hate cooking but have felt obligated to provide the evening meal for the 543rd night in a row, go out to dinner with your girlfriend. They won’t starve. I promise!

⊲ Your stepchildren are not your children. You are not responsible for the kind of people they are or the kind of people they will become.

⊲ It is not your responsibility, nor is it within your ability, to overcome perceived or actual flaws in your stepchildren’s mother’s parenting style.

⊲ Your stepchildren are your husband’s responsibility. Unfortunately, he may not parent them the way you think he should.

Um, yeah, he probably won’t. Why would he? His life goes along really well when you do all the work!

Lovingly explain to your husband why it is necessary for you to step back from your current role in order to strengthen your marriage. Don’t make it about his shortcomings or your stepchildren’s behavior. Talk with him about how your negative feelings are impacting your relationship with him, and that your desire is to carve out a role in the stepfamily in which your marriage can thrive.

Empathize with him about the adjustments that will be required. Be supportive of him as he takes over certain tasks and responsibilities. Be appreciative when he is willing to try out new things in the family.

Keep the lines of communication open. Regularly review how things are going. Make sure you tell him when you start to feel better. When you are able to be more positive about his children, act on those feelings by complimenting them or by praising them to your husband.

Be clear about your need for his support in requiring respectful behavior toward you. You might not be trying to be the kids’ mom any more, but you are worthy of every bit of respect that your husband’s wife should get, and he needs to ensure this happens. Work on gently pointing out times that your stepchildren don’t acknowledge your presence or are blatantly rude, and ask for your husband’s support in putting a stop to it.

Remember that you are still an adult in the household. You and your husband need to agree, behind closed doors, about rules and expectations. You are a 50/50 partner in all facets of your relationship—except parenting his children. Work out ways for you to maintain expectations without engaging in arguments or discipline. Having clear consequences for rule violations is a good way to avoid fights. If your husband won’t enforce the rules, stay out of it to the extent that it doesn’t affect you. For example, if a stepkid forgets a vital homework assignment at your house, it’s up to your husband to either take it to him or let him get a lesser grade; you don’t even need to be involved in the discussion.

Decide with your husband about how much to tell the kids. Depending on their ages, it might be appropriate to let them know that you won’t be doing certain things for them anymore, but that other arrangements are made for them to still get their needs met. Your behavior will reinforce it more than a discussion, though. If they ask you about a ride to or from some event, or wonder where their clean soccer uniform is, simply and politely refer them to their father.

Disengaged stepmothers are ones who take pride in things they can affect and don’t beat themselves up about things they cannot. They find ways to be positive influences on their stepchildren, just by being themselves. They are loving wives who are hugely invested in their marriages and less identified with their stepchildren. Disengaged stepmothers are in a win-win situation because in “caring” less, they feel better about themselves, and, paradoxically, they usually end up in better relationships with their stepchildren.

Disengagement is not an act of desperation, and you don’t have to be on your last nerve to give it a try. Emotionally healthy women who are committed to their partners often eventually realize that disengagement is their best bet for lasting happiness.

Click HERE to learn more about disengaging.










296 thoughts on “Disengaging Stepmoms: 5 Signs It’s Time to Step Back”

  1. How is a stepmother disengage when the father of his kids works the opposite shift than myself. I definitely love this idea, but not sure if it’s right for us because of the opposite work schedule.

    1. Can the mother have them for the time or a close family member? My step daughter isn’t with me after school she is with her mom a few hrs 2 days a week per court order and the other 3 days after school my mom in law keeps her until my fiance gets off of work and picks her up and comes home to me and our 2 children we have together. I love my stepdaughter and she loves me but her mom has taught her to lie and her mom just lies and my job is to protect MY CHILDREN. If her mother seemed more mature and could talk to me like an adult I’d maybe keep her but I don’t have the time.

        1. I feel you lady!! I Google things before bed wondering if I’m an awful human. It’s an impossible place to be as a woman. The expectations on us are unrealistic.

          1. I do the same…I feel like I’m always trying to figure it out. I was so thankful when I found this article. Give me a big sigh of relief

          2. I’m so glad I found this article. For the past month or 2 I’ve been going crazy. After every weekend I have my step kids, I lay in bed with my husband in silence. On the verge of tears. Horrible thoughts about myself running through my head. Not knowing if I should run away from this situation or not. I don’t like the way he raises his 4 year old daughter. He spoils her to the point that she cries about every.thing. She’s always getting jealous and mad when I’m near my husband. And she never listens to me. And then I’m the bad guy for putting her in timeout or taking away her toys. Dad never does it. As a matter of fact it’s the opposite. It’s cuddles and kisses and soothing words for her when she’s acting up. And I don’t approve. But I have no back up in this situation. And if my husband doesn’t back me up then I am wasting my breath. I never really wanted kids of my own and I know it doesn’t come naturally to love someone else’s kids. But the fact that I am starting to dislike a small child makes me feel like a horrible human being. I am trying so very hard to like her. But it’s something that cannot be forced I’ve found. I’m constantly being left to care for a child that doesn’t like me nor listens to me because as long as I’m around. I’m expected to be her mom while she’s here. And I LOVE my husband. He is my soulmate if I was ever to have one. But I just do not feel like myself when his daughter is around. I’m not relaxed. Constantly trying to find things to keep me busy/away from her. I think I’ll try this advice of disengaging. I’m willing to try anything at this point to save my relationship. Being a stepmom is the hardest thing I could have put myself through and it’s a thankless job. I’m so relieved I’m not the only one who feels this way. Love to all my fellow stepmoms out there. Hang in there ladies. I’m with you ❤️

          3. Thank you ladies for giving me some peace of mind that I’m not being a horrible person. I stoped working on my masters degree bc of covid and my husband is starting work soon and he thinks the mom of his kids will also get a job so he asked me if I would watch his three kids full time so the two of them could work and he wouldn’t have to pay day care fees. I said no. That didn’t make him very happy and he started to accuse me of not loving his children which I do and being lazy.

          4. I’d say same as a step father. Especially we have them full time, she is a stay at home mom and doesn’t drive. I’m going insane. Definitely will disengage after my step daughter admitted after 4 years hating me.

          5. Omg yes!! I’m so glad I’m not alone. This information is exactly what my therapist told me to do. It’s still super hard sometimes, but it does help when I actually practice it. If I focus on my kids and my marriage it takes the pressure off of all the expectations he’s had for me and makes him take care of his child without involving me unless needed.

          6. Thank you thank you thank for this comment cause I have been googling the same and sometimes feel crazy for doing so.

          7. They really are – I thought I was bad too. No, I’m not – I just don’t want to be cleaning up other parents’ messes. My stepchildren are entitled and demanding and now they are adults. I’m tired of the disrespect and I’m relieved that I have “permission” now to take a big step back from the mess they all created.

          8. Impossible is the best word to describe it. I’m still working every day after being a stepmom for 3 years to strike a balance. . . Trying to feel comfortable in my own home, while at the same time NOT attempt to control or correct things in the step kids that are out of my control!! I hope some day it gets easier!!

          1. Wow, I’m so glad there are others struggling with this. I never could have imagined how challenging the role of stepmom is. It’s so hard to give so much and get nothing in return. I have actually been attempting to disengage in my own, even before reading this article, but a big challenge is that my husband works nights, so things like dinner and baths have to fall on my shoulders. We also have a 1-year-old son who I adore and want to make a wonderful life for so when I am alone at night with him and my stepson, I try to stay as positive and engaged as possible to make things pleasant. This is hard when my stepson is continuously rude and disrespectful but I don’t know how else to carry on.

          2. Thank goodness I am not the only one going through this! My stepdaughter is a tween so you can imagine what I have to go through, and the fact that she IDOLIZES her mom… We are two different people so I have currently started disengaging and reminding myself, I can’t make everyone happy but only I can make myself happy. This is confirming my feelings that I am not a horrible person.

          3. This is exactly how I feel. I love my husband so much and I love my step daughter. I need to learn how to disengage myself. My step daughter is 13 years old with mental health issues. She also has adhd. My husband and I recently found out that she tells everyone I am the blame for her mental health issues.(My husband told me when we first started dating that his daughter had mental health issues)
            It’s really hurt us. I’m scared about disengaging myself, not only because I love her and part of me has that feeling of like “how could I do that to her?” And that my husband would just take it so offensively. He’s understanding but I also think he’s in shock about his daughter. She has been so cruel and it’s not just to me but her new twin baby siblings. She would throw them up in the air and shake them. We had to make it a rule for her not to touch them. We constantly told her not to do it. She wouldn’t listen and the minute our backs were turned she would grab them and do it. It’s been so stressful!

          4. I have been married to my husband for 5 years now and the whole time has been a ride. I have 2 stepdaughters. The 12 year old is so disrespectful and rude to me constantly and since she has no mother due to issues. I thought it was my job to fill that empty space for her. I now realized it’s not my job to be her mother. It is my job to be my husbands wife. I have been depressed and unhappy due to these issues for a long time now but this is something I hope will help me get back to the happy woman I once was.

          5. Omg this article couldn’t have been found at a better time!! Soon to be bonus mom of a 14t/o daughter. And the closer it gets to our wedding (now less than 2 months away) the worse it’s gotten. She’s not blatantly disrespectful and the little sly things she does happens when her father isn’t around. We get her 2 day a week unless it’s our 5 day layover then she’s with us for 5 days…. She is the neediest 14 y/o I’ve ever met when it comes to him. Both of her parents are in her life and I don’t really understand where I’m supposed to fit in. She used to love hanging out with me but I believe that was when she viewed me as a friend. Now that it’s been established that I’m an adult and not a friend her age and she isn’t equal to me, she views me as a threat. She’s not mean per say but she is a smartass. And she admittedly said she was mean to me… she only cares about her own feelings and doesn’t take into account how her actions and what she says can hurt others. I don’t feel comfortable in my own home when she’s there. I’m always walking on eggshells and it’s to the point that I don’t even want to be home when she’s there. But saying this to her father makes me sound childish. He doesn’t understand where I’m coming from because he doesn’t see any i of the things she does. His parenting is more laid back. As long as she does good in school everything else doesn’t really matter. She has only just started having chores and they aren’t really chores. She’s supposed to pick up after herself, make her own bed, and scoop the litter box that’s in her room. And she gets PAID to do it. Now I understand if she cleans up stuff other than after herself and getting paid for it. But she shouldn’t be learning or getting in the habit that she gets rewarded for doing the basics. I thought in a family you’re supposed to contribute and carry your own weight in the household. You get rewarded for the extra stuff. Not for doing what you’re supposed to do. I love her don’t get me wrong. But I do worry that when he and I have a child of our own that he will have the same parenting style as he does with her… I believe in teaching kids responsibility and accountability. Especially when they’ve gotten older…..

            She still needs him to tuck her in at night. And wants all the cuddles without me on the same couch as them, even when he asks. He thinks it’s sweet. He doesn’t see the manipulations…. She’s being this overly sweet child to him so that he still thinks of her as a little girl. Like a small child. I feel like a terrible person to feel the way I do. I’m just over it. I’ve gone out of my way since day one, buying her things, reminding her dad to do things or buy her the things he said he was going to, and if he doesn’t then I’d do it because I never wanted her feelings to be hurt. But she’s done plenty to hurt mine. The clothes i spent $300+ on she hasn’t worn. They lay folded (Cz I folded them) in her dresser. At first I’d find them thrown on the ground.. the bed I bought for her with the blankets and pillows….. go untaken care of. She doesn’t appreciate the things I do for her. Not truly. If she did she’d take care of them. I’m thinking about taking them and selling them. Of giving the clothes to good will where there are kids who don’t have anything that would appreciate them. I’m not washing her clothes anymore. She is old enough to wash them herself. Again. I love her. But I’m tired of feeling the way I have been. It’s caused issues between her father and I and I hate that.

        2. Oh my goodness I’m not alone in this. My stepdaughter has always been difficult, I used to cry on Saturday nights because I knew I was going to spend the whole Sunday flogging a dead horse. 30 years later and it’s still the same. I don’t chase people who don’t want to know me, but I have with her and last year, she didn’t even care when my stepfather was dying. (She used to tell me that her hands were full with the kids, but she was forever posting on Facebook, they don’t understand that you can see it there, the time to post constantly.) That was when I decided to turn my back, she has children now and I know I’ll never be allowed to have a relationship with them. Your child will always come second to the stepchild because they can take or leave you and their father.
          If I had my time again I would run, absolutely. It was a mistake getting involved with a man who already had a child.
          At her wedding, we weren’t asked to be in one photo and we paid for it!
          She’s just not interested in us at all and now I’m no longer interested in her, I’m relieved.
          It’s damaged my relationship with her father, because I’ve disengaged there too. I hope his next girlfriend is prepared for it. It’s not worth it.

          1. Why do they blame us because their parents split up? His adult sons show me no respect, they tell me I can’t use the guest shower, or park in their spot in the driveway. Dad just lets them talk to me like that. They hate their birth mother to, so how can I demand respect when they don’t show it to either birth parents

          2. I am to the point where I feel as if we are just a wallet. If you don’t do something they want, you don’t see or hear from them. Speaking to my husband falls on death ear at times. He keeps saying they are just teenagers. I really want to leave the whole situation.

          3. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that. You footed the wedding bill and didn’t get asked to be in one pic? Oh hell naw!

          4. We did the same only it was my son , his father paid for nothing . I paid it all with my husband . I was only in one photo, her family and his fathers family were obviously more important I was so hurt

          1. I am in the boat. A support group would be great. I am all alone. My parents are in another state and I don’t really have any girlfriends talk to. My husband brushes me off and if I try to correct or parent his 9yr old son it always ends in a bickering fight and husband tells use to get along… Like we are siblings or something. It’s so degrating and his son sees it and then is more disrespectful to me.

          2. Finding support is one of the smartest (and most helpful) things a stepmom can do. That’s why we offer a private online support group, free to all monthly and annual subscribers. It’s a place where stepmoms from around the world can talk with others who’ve walked in their shoes. You can use coupon code: FirstMonthFree and try us free for 30 days to check it out. We’re here for you if you need us. ❤️

          3. We’ve had full custody of my husband’s son since he was 15…he’s a 19yr old senior in high school now and tells us as often as he can…he’s an adult…he doesn’t need to follow any rules.
            He has made my peaceful home horrible. I’ve basically disengaged but it stresses me out when he’s coming home at 1am on a Tuesday night. There’s no consequences because when we try to enforce anything, he ‘runs away’ and stays at a friend’s for a few nights. We’re just trying to get through until he graduates and then we will ask him to move out.

          4. I agree!!!! They have AA meetings and substance abuse support groups… a bonus moms need one!!

          5. We have a similar situation with his kids, thankfully ours and my one child are all blended and are close. However, it has been a mess the last year because his kids wanted back in but first let us know what a failure we both were. Then it has been entitlement and hand open for money and our visits with them are chaotic. Therese are adult children and now a grandchild who I will never get to know. It has hurt our two kids together, mostly our oldest as there has been rejection by his kids for reasons we still do not understand. It has been incredibly toxic and painful and I have had no choice but to disengage and telling my hubby this was hard. We are both traumatized by the toxicity and have decided we need space from them until we can process and heal. There are no answers. Just pain but a hope that we will heal and be stronger for the kids that want us in their lives.

        3. I need this! Was searching for tips on how to disengage in a kind manner that doesn’t hurt their (husband and kid) feelings. At this stage, I’m basically her mom and she doesn’t want to go back once our visiting hours/days are over😅
          Any tips for this or am I too far in now?

          1. This article is very helpful! Thank you! My fiance has 4 children. His oldest is 21 and his youngest is 12. I think it is incredibly difficult to navigate the tumultuous waters of being a stepmother. He is currently going through the Court channels to modify the previous custody order to obtain more time with his two youngest minor children. I 100% support his efforts. He has also requested that the children come stay for a week with us over their Christmas break from school as we live in another state. The children’s mother said her 15 year old daughter has no desire whatsoever to come visit during their break because I am not nice to her. I felt devastated by this response. I believe I have gone above and beyond for my fiance’s children since before I even met them. I feel very hurt, confused, bitter and resentful towards my fiance and his children. I have had no idea how to handle my feelings about this situation. This article definitely helps put things into perspective.

        4. I have been feeling very crappy lately about this step parent situation. This article is right on about how I feel.

        5. OMG. Me too! It’s like someone took a can opener and peeled back the sacred and twisted seal of unsaid and unexplained qualifications to attain the status of a relevant and valued stepmom. And yet these hidden expectations are the very unattainable fruit that dangle in mockery at the sad and useless attempts of being valued. Is there truly any penance paid (perceived ) that is sufficient for imagined and/or actual wrongs?

        6. Me too my dear.this article is so helpful coz I had already started disengaging myself little did I know its a word that exists.it comes with so much peace

      1. I’m currently in that situation. Your comment is a reassurance I’m making the right decision. Thank you for sharing.

      2. I completely get what you are going through. Im a stepparent of 4 kids for almost 12 years. It never gets easy, and they grow up and still treat you different. This article was pretty awesome, and I probably could of used it years ago to shift my thinking.

        1. I have an adult step child in my home along with my husband and I’d teenage son. The step child causes division in the household. Always goes to his room all day long. Only engages with his father. Makes everyone feel awkward. And doesn’t have a job. But I have to cook for him and be extremely nice. He went to his mother and complained that I was to blame for his shortcomings because I didn’t agree to him having our in-law to himself (I want to use it for my mother because she needs someone to take care of her plus I work so much to pay the bills). I’m so sick of it and ready to just divorce my husband and live my life with my son comfortably and happily.

        2. Right. I’m coming up on 14 years with my step kids. First 7 or 9 years we had visitation and then the last 6 or 7 years we’ve had full custody. It’s only gotten worse. Their mom is very manipulative. Our house is also ran by me. I do everything and yet they still show no appreciation. I’m the bad guy. I wish I would have found this article YEARS ago. Would have saved me alot of tears, sadness, maybe some resentment but at this point…. disengaging sound like it would be best for my mental health. They only communicate when they need something from me….. thats going to stop.

          1. How did you deal? My partner wants to have his two boys to live with us full time. I have four kids from a previous relationship and one child with him. His wife (separated) moved to another province and wants the kids to live with us full time because it would be easier for her. He expects me to be a full time mother to his kids. I don’t want to because that would put too much stress on me, while their mother have the time of her life. When I speak to him about it, he gets mad and says that I don’t like his kids and so forth. Mind you he is living in mMY house. Any advice?

          2. Wow wow wow – this is similar to
            my situation! I would like to ask this group thoughts. I’ve been in a relationship with my husband for 15 years married for 9 years. We have three kids of our own and my SD is 17 – I met him when she was just turning 2.
            I spent a lot of time with my SD as a young child bc her mother never spent weekends with her, including summers never took her on vacations or threw her kid birthday parties, I reflect now on me footing the bill for things like summer camp, clothes. My husband worked weekends so I essentially gave up my weekends with my friends or time by myself to be with her all bc I loved my husband. I put A LOT of my own energy into her bc I loved her and wanted her to be happy. But I always felt she didn’t really love me. Years of side hugs, robotic I love you and miss you – nothing genuine. It was exhausting and as she got older I would dread the weekend or summers that she was over at my house. Fast forward to now – nothings changed even as an adult and having more self awareness – she recently started living with us bc her mother kicked her out she’s been a mess for the past 2 years (summer school 2 years in a row bc she’s failing out of HS, drugs, pills, alcohol, sneaking out and partying with her friends).the decision was for her “safety and well being” she live with us so she can graduate. So now I’m taking on more responsibilities taking her to doc appointments making her lunches for school being attentive of her schoolwork. But I found out that she consistently tells her mother that she hates me, can’t stand me (instances where I can be sitting right next to her), giving her mother play by plays of what happens in our home and that she doesn’t like coming to this house. even making fun of her younger siblings. This was a HUGE shock for me and my husband – I was so heartbroken. I essentially packed up her belongings and said she can go right back to her mothers bc I no longer want to be a part of the monster they created- which as you can imagine did not go well with my husband. She can still visit the same way relatives stop by and I’m not cutting her off from her siblings or her father but I don’t want someone in my home that doesn’t want to be there- a home is not defined by things a home is defined by your heart. Am I in the wrong for what I feel is standing up for myself and my peace?

      3. When dad cannot parent the children should be at home with the other biological parent if this is possible it’s not a step parents problem,

        1. Thanks for saying this. My 18 year old step child with substance abuse issues that I don’t know very well just landed at our front door. When my husband is not here, she will be staying at his mom’s house. She is not my responsibility.

      4. I am in the same boat. My children are all grown, but his are still in elementary school. Their mother has taught them to lie, and tells them over and over again that all we do is growl at them. So they are not aloud to tell us things cause we will growl at them. The kids have told us this many times. I’m at a loss because now I’m to the point I do not feel safe to be alone with them.

      5. I thought I was the only one going through this exact issue. It’s nice to know someone understands this frustration on coparenting with a narcissist.

      6. Thanks for this..really going through the most with my step kids. I just don’t want to be bothered anymore. No structure

    2. Took on the youngest full time at the beginning of this year and realized when he left for a month to be with his mom how much he has consumed my life with his needs, especially emotionally, not to mention the constant attention and loads of laundry per week he requires. With him gone I sleep better, had time for myself, my husband and my daughter. I made the decision to step back and had a conversation with my husband about disengaging. He doesn’t like it and doesn’t understand what I mean. He sees it as me emotionally abandoning his son. I told him it’s his job and the BM job to make sure he emotionally sound, I will be supportive but it’s not my place to make sure they do what they need to do as parents. I’m not the one who destroyed his family or moved away from him like his mother did.

        1. Of course a man says this!! I’m sorry but you are lacking empathy here. This is not a birth mother disengaging from her child…it’s a woman taking on responsibilities bc she loves her husband. I ask you…why is ok that a father passed on his responsibilities to another person?

          1. You hit the nail on the head. If i could go back in time…i would not be married at all. Her mother is a sociopath… abuses all the social programs…is constantly on welfare.. daughter is a pathological liar. After about a day I am grinding my teeth wanting her to leave and never return. Father just indulges and makes excuses. But is abusive and emotionally manipulative. I used to think I was horrible for disliking a kid who literally peed on my stuff and put it back where I would find it, peeling paint off my walls and almost setting the house on fire. But I would never allow my daughter to do that and have the gall to defend such a vile thing. I am done feeling like i am the monster. Once I find my way out…im out

        2. I would understand if I didn’t correct my daughter and she didn’t treat my husband with love, kindness and respect. I raised my daughter right.

        3. If it was for his mental health, and my children were mistreating him, locking him out, lying on him, punching his son who’s only 5 like my 12 yr old stepson, ignoring my kids when his bio family is around, but reaping benefits of my kind family showing him love & gifts and hugs…yeah I’d say babe you go for it! I want you & your bio kids healthy, cause I’d realise he raised his kid right and mine has behavioural issues that are crushing him, and if you love someone you care about that. But I chose to divorce my spouse recently. Because he like you didn’t care about his wife & step children mental anguish from his ill mannered child that’s full of spite. Now my children and I will begin to heal. I hate I ever put myself and little ones in such an environment. Hope I can correct the damage 3 years done, trying parent a child who own father let his crap go!!

          1. Man I can relate, I’ve been in my stepsons life since he was 5 he’s 12 now and we’ve had him full time since the beginning, I blame dad for not trying to give him some kind of relationship with his real mom and I feel for him, but I’m tired of disrespect or just plain old non engagement (staying in his room and only talking to dad) and no matter how hard I try he still rejects me no matter what I do. I know my mother-in-law has a big part in this she always treats my kids differently. its to a point where I don’t want to spend money on him anymore. He even treats his half siblings mean most days they almost expect it and say as much to me and dad, and dad just says that how siblings are. Stepson just says they aren’t really related to him. Smh fed up

        4. Doesn’t sound like he’s in a position where he has to emotionally support her daughter- as she does that, so it wouldn’t be an issue as it no doubt occurs naturally already.

        5. It’s better to disengage than getting another divorce. If I had known how it is like being a stepparent, I wouldn’t matrix him to start. And if I had my own kids, I would not marry another man till my kids becomes an adult.

          1. Completely agree! I would’ve never married my husband had I known I would have to take care of my stepdaughter while my husband works out of town. Her moms new husband molested her and refuses to believe her and now I’m suppose to discipline her, how?!? I’m not a miracle worker. No matter what I do I’m always the bad person.

      1. OMG Xena I’m the full-time stepmom to my boyfriends 12 yr old son. I have been working from home since March 14 2020 because of the xovid stuff and am the one who takes care of him after school and while they were home schooled due to covid I did it all too. I never feel appreciated. I feel like I’m about ready to bust. I don’t know how to explain it to my bf, he makes it seem like I have a problem. My stepson is adhd, he is supposed to be medicated but often forgets and when I remind him the father gets offended. I’m ready to just walk away from it all but if I do I will be called an insensitive b***h for breaking the boy’s heart. I’m so confused. I’m 52 and my own kids are grown and married, I’m not sure I can continue all of this stepmother stuff. I need a serious break from it all!

        1. Omg!! What is wrong with your partner, not to back you on his child’s medication when you’re the one who is home with his child. He would soon be throwing his toys out of the pram if he had to ‘deal’ with the effects of ADHD with no medication, never mind if he was trying to deal with that whilst working from home (which is stressful enough!). You are not insensitive at all you are trying to make a situation work for all your sakes (especially his child). What is wrong with people?!! I would advise: take yourself on a break, you have earned it especially with lockdown; what will be, will be and if no one respects that then that should be the sign to show you of your worth (or lack of it!).

        2. I wouldn’t put up with it. You still have decades of good years ahead of you. Spend it with a more suitable partner. Or- spend it relaxing alone. 😎

      2. How did you deal? My partner wants to have his two boys to live with us full time. I have four kids from a previous relationship and one child with him. His wife (separated) moved to another province and wants the kids to live with us full time because it would be easier for her. He expects me to be a full time mother to his kids. I don’t want to because that would put too much stress on me, while their mother have the time of her life. When I speak to him about it, he gets mad and says that I don’t like his kids and so forth. Mind you he is living in mMY house. Any

        1. Dont do it. You will be running on fumes with no help. I sent my bonus daughter back to her mom. Now i feel as if I have ptsd for living unhappy for soooooo long. Think about your mental health.

        1. I am so glad I found this. I have 3 small kids of my own and I am on edge when my stepdaughter comes home. She is very lazy and doesn’t want to do anything. I don’t want my kids to be like that. I get them involved in everything to keep them busy. I am constantly trying to find things for her to do, too. But you are so right. It is not my responsibility. I can be nice and not make her do what me and my children are doing especially when she would rather be on her phone in her room. Her dad hates confrontation and I am usually the enforcer with chores, phone time, etc. this makes me so relieved that I am not the only one. Maybe I won’t be so tense when she comes home. Thank you so much for this.

          1. No one is special in my house even the youngest have age appropriate task. If expectations aren’t met the have books to read. I refuse to reward bad behavior

        1. Woooowww!! It amazes me how much women bring down other women… look up empathy. And just so you know…it’s not a stepmothers job to take on the biological parent’s job…sorry if that stresses out the fathers that rather not do the work that’s required to be a parent.

          1. It’s complicated because sometimes the stepmom starts the affair with the father while he’s still married, and then turns around and tries to be a “good” stepmom.
            My former friend started an affair with a guy while his wife was pregnant with their second child. He left his wife and married my “friend” when both kids were under 5. My “friend” was always badmouthing the biomom and could never understand why her step kids hated her. Two decades later, my “friend” can’t understand why both step kids got into drugs and one served a 4-year term for manslaughter. Of course, she and biodad blame biomom for the kids’ problems. Life is complicated.

        2. Poor men😒 my heart bleeds. Guessing there’s a man you love that is with a woman you don’t think deserves him? Just a stab in the dark??

    3. This is exactly my position. 6 years in and my step son is 12 years old and lives in our family home full time. I’ve had four words spoken to me in 6 months from him. I want to at least try disengagement but how when I work from home, his dad is at work for 12 hours which means I’m the primary care giver to both my bio son of 13 and step son of 12. I’ve felt suicidal at points as I feel there is no escape from his passive aggressive behaviour and no support from my husband who let’s him run riot whilst I pick up the pieces and maid, carer, cook and cleaners along with everything else. It’s too much for me to mentally handle.

      1. You are in a very difficult spot. Please know that help is available. If you don’t have a therapist or counselor, we offer a list of qualified stepfamily professionals who understand what you’re going through: https://www.stepmommag.com/for-therapists/ Als, The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7 by calling 800-273-8255. Please reach out.

        1. I have been in a relationship with my husband for 10 years. 8 years ago I came back into my husband’s life after 3 years apart because of a bad breakup. When I came back into his life he had a child with the woman that he was in a relationship with. His girlfriend at the time was pregnant with they’re 2nd child. To make a long long story short, the two of them broke up and she dump the kids off on him. I was living alone at the time, I felt bad for him, moved in with him and helped him raise his boys. My husband allowed the bio mom to pop in and out the boys lives, she never provided for them.. she decided to be present in my opinion, just to stir things up. Throughout me and my husband journey, the drama filled kids mom followed us along the way “so to speak”. Now for eight years I’ve helped raise the boys, And by this time my husband and I have two kids of our own together now, a now five year old daughter and a two year old son. I’ve dealt with so much hurt, stemming from my husband allowing the mom to pop in and out the boys lives, the boys growing more attached to her because she lets them do whatever they want when they are with her and basically buying they’re love.. then when they come back to me I’m made out to be the bad stepmom because they live in a home with structure and discipline. They distanced from me more and more.. so I started to resent them, not that it was ok for me to do so, but I just looked at it like, I have my own children now, and they are going to love me equally as much.. and they are mine, no one can take that from me, I’m they’re mommy. I don’t know what to do because for so long I have resented the boys for causing a lot of problems within my marriage to where’s that I don’t know how to allow myself to love them again. And I feel like a piece of crap wife and step mom because they are just kids. Please help me to figure this out because my marriage is in terrible trouble because of the way that I am. There is so much more that has happened that I didn’t mention that’s caused my actions.

          1. I understand how you feel. I have three step kids who don’t listen to me or anything and are disrespectful to everyone including myself and their father. My husband has full custody of them and the bio mom lost her parental rights years ago and cannot have any contact with them. They are so disrespectful, don’t care about others space and feelings. My stepdaughter who is 13 is very manipulative and lies so much that she believes her lies. One of my stepsons has anger issues as well. Dad doesn’t want to deal with anything, leaves me to deal with it all so I feel like a terrible parent. So much has happened over the years that I could write a long book, and I resent his kids so much. One of them has even told my mother when I was sick at the ER one time that he hopes that I die. Sometimes I feel as if my husband feeds into their behavior. My family won’t even watch his kids. We have actually separated before due to the problems and reconciled after some counseling but it’s still work in progress and I just really need to disengage myself but it’s so hard when you try to get your husband to do things for them but say no that I should because he doesn’t want to deal with it. He won’t even take them clothes shopping, I have to.

            I have my own children from my previous marriage and they do not act like them at all. They aren’t perfect but my husband feels I should love his kids as much as I love mine and I just can’t because they are not my biological children. He gets offended when I want to do something with my own children. For example, I’ve been wanting to take some pictures with my two kids because it’s been along time since we have had a professional take some and I haven’t been able to because he gets so upset about it and says it isn’t fair. I want to take my two kids to the beach because they want to do something with just me and my husband says it isn’t fair that me and him need to go somewhere first. It’s really having an effect on my marriage.

          2. It’s so hard for children when a marriage breaksup, they have loyalty issues they love both parents equally no matter of who was too blame for the breakup, if a marriage didn’t work it takes 2 to make it work or break it, children are then left with the after math the bereavement they go through is so painful, you have a parent that you’ve loved and lost but still have to see, a lot of children are stuck in a grief cycle, I speak from experience as a child who went through parents divorce in the 1970s and I’ve gone on to be a step parent so see this from the child parent and step mum point of view. Look at this situation differently these boys are in a state of grief, they’ve lost a parent a safe home and environment and are struggling to adjust, they don’t hate you, they’ve probably not had time to get to know the real you, they need to know the truth of why there parents split up, this helps children to come to terms with situations, they need to know why there parents didn’t get on, that they are not to blame for the divorce, its not there fault… lots of children struggle with self blame and are confused and deeply wounded. Try to talk to them get them to open up to you, help them with there grief. I do not agree with this idea of disengagement, it’s about you and your partner working together for the benefit of the children. Always keep the children in mind not the ex partners agendas, rise above it…..

      2. I had the same from my stepdaughter. She is highly manipulative, lazy, has a complete lack of respect for me and my marriage and believes that because I am not her mom, she does not have to listen. I went through a whole year of being blamed when she would break things, disobey, start fights with my daughter. I had no support until we moved closer to her biological mother. Then the truth come out. I told my husband that I could not be primary caregiver due to no support and lack of respect. When he saw the lengths she would go to to try to drive a wedge, he finally put his foot down. I was ready to leave the marriage because I was almost in the midst of a breakdown. You need to speak up…. Your health matters too.

          1. Did you actually say “the stepmom starts the affair…”?? I suppose you think men are completely blameless for such a thing?? 🙄

        1. True you need to find a way to work together, but you also need to understand what your step child I’d going through.
          There will be a lot of confusion, grief, fear loyalty issues etc, its important to sit and openly talk as a whole family when issues arise….

        2. I have 2 SDs, oldest is 9 and youngest is 5. The youngest considers me her mother and the oldest considers me a witch from her worst nightmares.

          This year I have experienced my 9 year old SD doing all sorts of bad things at school, including stealing. She is manipulative, and lies about everything. When I’m busy cooking or something, she would give her younger sister water with liquid handwash in the bathroom to drink, she tells it’s healthy for her and she gives her things to eat from the dustbin. Younger sister told me everything after months of this happening. When asked, she says she doesn’t know anything until I threatened to send her to the police station because her sister got sick and I wanted to know exactly what she gave her. Her father kept saying she’s telling the truth, then she spilled the T… my husband was shocked but still thought she’s perfect and not naughty… I make her do all these things.

          Most recently, she pooped on herself and her daddy asked her why? She said it’s because she hates me…so once again daddy blamed me for her behaviour. Then she pooped on herself whilst we were eating dinner, and then all her daddy said was, I was the problem, I must clean up and just be a good maid and shouldn’t discipline his kids and I should just make my own and leave his alone… she has finally won… I’m in the process of filing for divorce!

          I don’t think I’d want kids with him after that… I wouldn’t want my kids to have a sister like her. I love the younger 1 because I raised her from about 14months, but I come first!!!

      3. Hand the husband and his child back to his ex that way you get the peace you deserve and you also get the one to one time with your own child. Generally men and step kids cause nowt but heart ache.

    4. It’s simple and to disengage by letting the parent know if they want or need babysitting they need to ask you if you’re available. Basically if the parent is not at the house then the kids don’t need to be there either without getting your consent to babysit. Otherwise they need to make babysitting arrangements as they would if they were a single parent. I had to have that conversation and the parent didn’t take well to it at first. He even tried to make plans then tell me later he would be working while kids were there for his weekend and I had to put my foot down. There was an adjustment period and he didn’t like it but now our marriage is better than it ever was. I’ve been disengaged for close to 4 years and married for 7. Disengaging from the old ideas of how involved I should be has saved my marriage and my happiness. Who says being married to someone with kids means that you have to take on parenting responsibilities? I think that’s an idea only and it doesn’t have to be that way if you don’t want that. Nor does it make you a bad person. You can still be a positive role model without being directly involved in the day to day step kid responsibilities. That’s a decision that everyone should make for themselves. Please note that there is no right or wrong way. What is best is what works for each person and their household.

      1. Well I’m married less than a month and found out from my other half’s ex wife that he has gone behind my back with his ex wife and arranged a 50/50 care plan for his 19yr old daughter with complex needs which involved me obvs involves me and I loose half a year to his childcare plans. I’ve told him no chance it has to be the original plan of nearly 4 years two weekends a month. My son is now 20 and very independent with a job etc so I am free to be me again. I am thinking this is t going to work and it will be the shortest marriage in history.

        Any advice pls

      2. I think that this may work for some people, your right being a step parent does not always mean taking on a full parental role but you do still need to have or build a relationship with the child, I don’t personally like the word disengage as it implies your not engaged with the child emotionally and a divorced child needs all the emotional support they can get….. especially if you don’t want a dysfunctional adult or teenager down the years..
        Children need to talk about there feelings emotions and be able to express there thoughts fears worries and the hurt and pain they feel about thrte parents separation otherwise no one can really move forward happily..

        1. I have been a step mother for 15 years. My step sons have been living with us full time with no financial support from bio Mom for 5 years now. I have had to step up to help financially support our family. Which I don’t mind except for the fact that I don’t feel like what I do is appreciated. They don’t want to spend time with their father and I and complain when they need to help out at home. As soon as they have time off from school they peace out. I understand their teenagers but when they plan to spend Christmas with their bio mother and her family it hurts or friends it hurts. Disengagement isn’t an option. My fear is that once they turn 18 we won’t have much of relationship with them unless of course they need something.

      3. Caddy, thank you for your post. I am feeling way too vulnerable this morning. My husband left for vacation with his friends for 7 days and left his 17 daughter home with me to “watch”. She recently came to live with us (5 months ago) because things were hard at her mom’s house. It has been so difficult and it is tearing apart my marriage. I didn’t sign up for a full-time child/almost adult living with us.

        I feel in reading your post, I felt better about the decision I made. I told my husband last night that he needs to make arrangements for his daughter to either stay with her grandparents or her mom for the rest of the week. Right now, we are in the custody battle with her mom because daughter left her mom’s without permission, packed all her belongings and came to our house. But because of THEIR problems and history, I need to disengage from the drama and that also means having peace in my home with dad is away..

        1. My SD is 18 and came to live with us at 16, due to the unstable parenting of the BM. At first, she would visit her mom every other weekend, but then August of 2021, she stopped going to her mom’s altogether. I totally empathize with you! It was something I really had hoped would not have to happen. It has made intimacy on all levels with my husband a great challenge. She does not commit to what she is told to do. She is distracted on so many levels. She is emotionally immature and needs further counseling, as “mini-wife syndrome” has come to light with her. I finally spoke to my husband about it last week, after I nearly lost it. He had no idea it is what it is until I explained it to him from a psychological stand poin, i.e. constant hanging, hugging, talking with her thumb in her mouth while trying to cuddle with her father, and when he tells her to stop, she manipulates by saying, “You don’t love me anymore.” I’m so grateful to say, he has been addressing her behaviors as they come. She also will frequently text him and call him when she is at work or out and about for menial things; even to complain about her co-workers. She gave him a t-shirt for Christmas that has a picture of her on the front and the year before, a personalized, cartoonish, childlike book entitled, “I’ll Always Be Your Little Girl” that had her as a little girl and not the age she is! She’ll order food for her and him and not ask me or include me, when clearly we are all together in the same house at that time. She would caress his head, and come in like a “super hero” like, “I got you dad, what do you need?” when it was a day that I could not cook, but in a antagonistic way.
          I suggested to help her get into therapy a.s a.p. She even has sat on his lap in public with her arm around him, sat in between us when we are obviously spending time together.
          She is to begin college this fall and needs to make a healthy detachment.
          I pray all goes well with you!

      1. I love this idea. I have been with my partner for 13 years and have raised his two kids(14&15). They have become so difficult as teenagers. Stepson throws furniture around and both kids are neglecting school work and playing online permanently. I tried to get some rules going, but Dad always lets it slide. The kids tell friends that I am horrible and strict because I won’t let them be online 24/7 without any exercise or limits.
        Time for some big changes. I have sacrificed my sanity Enough!!!

    5. I want to know this also. Mine is always gone to work and I’m left to single parent his children. Their mother has no visitation, we have them constantly. They are angry and take it all out on me. I feel like I can’t disengage because I’m the one who is home. I get stuck with being the primary caregiver and I can’t disengage and let them destroy the house and kill each other. I mean seriously, they go to blows every day, get suspended from school for fighting, etc.. How do you disengage from that?

      1. You don’t disengage from them but you do get there father to step up, and both of you need to do family time with these kids and find out what going on with them.

        Likely abandonment issues and sibling rivalry for affection and lots of anger about situations past and present.
        They need to learn to talk about there feelings there pain, the situation from there perspective.
        When kids project this much behaviour issues it’s because they are struggling to regulate there own emotions and there in turmoil.
        Kids project what they feel they are showing you in there behaviour, how they are making you feel is how they are feeling.

    6. Tell him to get daycare. That’s what I had to do to keep my sanity. It’s his child he needs to figure it out.

      1. I think day care can help eliminate the current pressure but it will not help these kids resolve there emotional turmoil and anguish.
        Families need to learn to talk yo each other be honest about how they feel how this situation makes them feel and teach children to then talk about what’s causing them upset and anger, and also how to then handle these emotions appropriately, if we don’t we end up with angry disfunctional adults.

    7. Start by joining a regular group or hobby 2 days weekly when you are “expected” to babysit. He can arrange a regular babysitter. Also, do the chores for you and your children only, but don’t be negative, tell him gently about leaving the folding laundry/drivingth around exc to him or his x. I cook for everyone as long as I’m cooking, but if I’m not I let them know in advance. Perhaps they ( the people who made the kids) Have to reevaluate how it is they’re going to manage raising their children in separate households.. They are not your children although you should treat them kindly it’s just like the neighbor’s kids, you really don’t have to do any of that stuff. There is no reason why being a second wife means you get all of the work and none of the perks.. You can be wonderful and and just responsible for the lives that you have or have not created. You can still be a good wife, but mother of my children is a different agreement, you are not that to his previous children.

    8. I am wondering the same thing! My step sons mother isn’t in our state and we have no one here to take him while my husband is at work which is all the time! I’m miserable stuck at home with a step child who disrespects me constantly. I’m left to parent him by myself pretty much every days all day. Until my husband gets home which is usually only for a cpl hrs before bed. I feel so stuck

  2. I feel like someone finally understands me. Thank you for writing this thoughtful article.

    1. Stepmothers need to realize they are just modern day nanny, maids, chauffeurs for men who can’t take care of their own children.

      You are performing free services under the guise of called “stepmother” when really you are just the “help”. Stepmothers are harming children in the process.

      Stop the free labor!

      1. I found myself getting more and more resentful and frustrated over the course of 7 years. My ss was an adult, I left at his age of 24- nearer to 25. The young man wasn’t on drugs or mouthy, we was just lazy, like his father.
        I believe that my husband had guilty parent issues, and handed him way way too much. When I disengaged, to let the son pick up on some household chores, and adult life skills, the household cleanliness went downhill very fast.
        We ended up with ” little unwanted crawly guests”.
        Husband was a ” techy” also, and usually disengaged in homeowner responsibility.
        I had to walk away from my marriage. There was so much quarreling and eventually, contempt over the grown child’s failure to launch

        1. I’m in a 7 year marriage of continuous rude and disrespectful behavior of 2 stepchildren 15 and 24. The 15 yo recently moved in with us and it’s worse stress now. Husband neglects and disrespects me himself and only excuses his daughters behavior and often blames ME. I’ve bought his 3 girls clothes, birthday and Christmas presents, gotten hair and nails done , taken them to school, events, cooked , cleaned some but he usually cleans for his lazy daughter . Should I just leave ? He continually says he wants us to work and have a good marriage , but he has never put a stop to these behaviors or his own .

          1. Please leave. Life is too short to continuously leave with stress and people who don’t appreciate you. You did your part and is still not respected so why stay? I’m sure you love your husband but this is not worth it. The stepchildren are old enough to know that what they’re doing is wrong but they still continue? It’s not going to stop. Your husband should also know that actions speak louder than words.

          2. I as you have teenage step children twin step daughters who I try to disengage from, they are continually lying, smoking weed,having sex since 12 and I’ve been married for 8 years cooking cleaning protecting, school runs buying presents for Christmas and birthday working hard to help provide for family as well, the problem i have if I disengage from his toxic children I have my own and get accused of favouring them and not being there for his troubled girls who even at one stage accused my son with special needs of acting inappropriate to them even had police involved which was found to be a lie, also my husband continually will allow them get away with their behaviour but will quickly get onto my boys if they don’t do a chore I feel unsupported under valued and angry…husband is blind to everything and does not give boundaries or consequences to serious actions if his daughters or family..

          3. Exactly my situation as well. Sadly, after 19 years of marriage I’m filing for divorce. I want whatever time I have left on this earth to be spent with people who like and respect me, not make me their scapegoat and the butt of their jokes.

      2. I hear what your saying but this is where newly formed couples need to talk through about how they come together as a couple and how they will both parent these children, what’s acceptable and not and involve the children in these discussions. Children get caught up in the different families fudes, different rules in different households feeling confused abandoned that they don’t belong anywhere or fit in either household and unfortunately some woman use there children as weapons to destabilise a second relationship, so that’s why it’s so important to talk to the kids get there perspective on this new life change. AFTER all they did not ask or want any of this.

    2. Thank you!! I have been struggling with this for a few years. I don’t know how to disengage myself cause I have always done it for 8 years. Now his oldest thinks he is calling the shots!! This step mom is not playing the game didn’t with my kids not with his. I guess I have to stop and relax and stop needing anyone’s approval. The problem I have it’s all a game he was with is for 8 months cause he wanted nothing to do with his mom. He decided to go back and now I’m an issue!! I’m done being the punching bag.

      1. Im right there with you. Took the words out of my mouth. Have had my stepdaughters full time for about 9 months and they are doing remote learning and I’ve been the one home with them the most. Im losing my mind and I honestly feel like a punching bag. I feel like I’m dealing with so many bad habits of theirs that I’m not giving as much attention to my children. They don’t understand that they are 13 and 14 so I’m going to be treating them differently then my children that are 8 and 2. Im sick of trying to make everyone happy all the time and losing myself and hurting my marriage in the process.

        1. I’m in the same boat. Home 24/7 with a 14 year old step son remote learning. His dad works and I stay home. Therefore responsibility falls on me. If I say anything though I get the “I’m out busting my butt to bring home a paycheck, and I’m sorry I can’t be here as much to help.” What I hear is “be grateful you get to stay home. Your job is easy. You don’t get to feel overwhelmed.” It’s caused resentment towards the step kid to the point that I’m counting down the years till he moves out.

        2. Marie!
          My step daughters are 13 & 14. I am losing my mind with their attitudes and resistance to my gentle reminders and minimal expectations. For the first time they are refusing to come to our place because of me. I’m struggling. I too feel like I am losing myself and my partner in an attempt to help everyone with everything.

          1. I think the step kids blame the step mum because they need to blame someone other than their own parents as they worry they will feel bad. But the step mum does not matter so she gets the blame. It sucks

          2. I think it’s a blessing if thr step kids refuse to come over! Take that as a win! Why would you want them there? If you’re writing in on this column then its most likely that you’re struggling to be around them. I think it’s hard enough raising bio kids! But God gives us an instinct to love bio kids unconditionally. That most certainly is not the case for Skids! I don’t know why people think the love there will be even remotely comparable. It’s not! But no one wants to admit that. Anyway the biggest mistake I made was marrying someone with kids still in the house. Well one of the biggest mistakes. I’m not going to leave. I plan to bide my time and be disengaged until they leave. I may even get my own apartment to go to for the weekends they visit. But I would never do it over again. I do mot suggest marrying anyone with kids. It’s not natural and the love does not at all come easy.

          3. Rachel, it sounds like there’s something else going on, and they are using you as a scapegoat. If they complain about either bioparent, they’ll look bad, so they’re using you as a scapegoat. Sorry they’re putting you in this position.

        3. That’s exactly how I feel! I have had my stepson at home while, my step son and my son do remote learning. They are both 12 but most of my time an energy goes to my step son, so much that my 4 year old has no time with me. She is always playing by her self or watching tv. Something I never wanted to happened. I never have time to help my son with his school assignments because I’m helping my step son. I have spoke to my husband and his mom about them stepping in to help there son in his education. Instead it caused the mom to decide that she was going to bring her son here full time past 2months on until they go back to school in person. (It used to be every other week, now it’s every week) Should of kept my mouth shut. Now I’m the one who has all the communication with the teachers instead of my husband and his mom. I’m so depressed and overwhelmed that I don’t even want to do house chores anymore(of course I still do them), I just want time for my self and a day alone with my kids. I have to deal daily with my step son’s attitude and it’s so draining. 🙁

  3. This was a great read. I unfortunately just got into a heated argument researching this topic. I told my husband I am going to back away because tge pressure and psycho rollercoaster of his Ex and the terrible thoughts she pours into my 4 and 8 yr. Old stepdaughters heads us just sickening. They are confused. I live then and they live be but of course don’t want to feel their mom isn’t being truthful in heret lies. It has taken a toll on me because I am to be silent while my 8 yr old comes to me and says the nasty lies her mother tells her and my husband treks me It’s NOT my place to discuss the truth with her yet he doent’t because he starts “it doesn’t matter!” Well yes it matters. These girls are his and they don’t have a false perception if him they have a false interception if f me! They ask me questions a lot and it’s die to things their mother has said to them. It’s such a sad situation to be in. Its overwhelming emotionally. I’m just done. My step daughter 8 acts up and there’s no discipline yet the 4yr old act out and there’s discipline (time out) if I tell my husband to follow through with what we have discussed than he gives me a eye to trek me back off. So that’s what I’m doing baking co inherent OFF.

    1. I am a step mom myself… I believe that its your husbands job to give you your place and sit his daughters down and let them know the ground and rules in your home. Yes you are not the mom but in your home You are the one they have to listen to and respect. it sounds like your husband lets things slide to not have to deal with the drama when in reality its better to deal with it and fix it than to keep having it pile up and get worse… I still on a daily basis have to deal with what bio-mom telling my stepdaughter of 10 nasty things about me, I do not let it get to me. I tell my step daughter ” If you see me doing such a thing than believe it. you are the one living under my roof not mom so she has no idea what happens, Just let her say anything about me that she wants, if it bothers you ignore it, as long as you see and feel how you are being treated under our roof is all that matters…” Children will get old enough to know and see the truth of it all… keep being positive and do not beat your self up about something that is not true you are a great person and you are not to blame… Its all in your husbands hands to make a change. That’s what I went though and for us it worked. its a thougt

  4. Any advice how to start the conversation when you are pretty sure your husband will not like this one bit? Or, in that case is it better to start the disengaging and have the conversation once he notices it?

    1. I love this article and truly believe this is the way to do it….after being a step mom for 7 years now, my “buddy” is 14 now and….I’m done! I’m done being blamed for over mothering, under mothering, being too nice, being mean being this, that, and the other. I also believe that the term step mom should be reserved for the ladies with step kids that have no mom. I now believe that if the kids has a mom in their life, however wonderful or horrible she is, that they should depend on them for the necessities and guidance required to make it through life. I want to start a revolution in this….there should be NO USE of the term step mom or step dad ( even if you’re married and have the kids half time or more) you should not have to take on the role of parenting. It only causes confusion, and chaos for all parties involved!! I like using the phrase “not my little monkey, not my circus”, simply because he’s not my monkey, and this is not my circus. That being said the kids do need to respect you as an adult, but otherwise, a “step parent”, is simply an adult co- habitating with the child, and is not responsible for the child’s upbringing, necessities etc. Just have fun with them! You have no obligation to bring them up! You are only responsible for being a good example…and that’s it!! let me tell you….it is liberating, and has removed any power the bio mom and child have over me. I’m no longer running around with my head cut off. He hates me cause I’m trying too hard, he hates me cause I don’t do enough, he doesn’t like my job, my car, my furniture, my hairstyle, my eyelashes….lol not my eyelashes, but you get the point. I’m dropping the mike, I’m walking away, I’m disengaging cause, well, I 100% do not need to be verbally abused any more by him or his mom. I personally did not inform my “buddy” of the change in my role, i just started referring him to his dad, and I have only told my husband that I don’t want to be responsible for this that and the other thing because it’s making my “buddy”hate me. This had gone well as my husband wants us to all be happy. As far as what I do for my buddy….well I cook dinner every night, and if his stuff did make it to the laundry on time, I do it, but he puts it away….and well that’s about as far as I go now….woohoo!!

      1. Hi there! I love your comment and even though I’ve only been in this role a short time I have already come to this conclusion myself. But even though I feel all this and I’m there, I still find it difficult to listen to the guilt trips of you’re not spending enough time with me, etc. it’s a real annoyance. I’m trying to reconcile these emotions or lack thereof. There’s this expectation that you’re supposed to love these kids you barely know and seem annoying most of the time. It’s ridiculous and unnatural.

      2. Wohoo ? Not Da Mama is my super hero! I swooped in to save my 4 yo SD from her drunk neglectful mother. Raised her, mothered her, made sure she was doing well in school etc. (Mom and dad both didn’t give a *#_&) She was 6 and lying about doing homework. 10 hit along with hormones and everything changed. Mom caused so much drama and almost broke our relationship. I’ve tried to walk away multiple times. The only solution is above. I’m not your mama, I’m not your friend. We’re roomates. No more stress eating away at me because you’re failing 7th grade. Or reading a note about tee age bullshit. I’m done. DONEE!!!

      3. I think you hit the nail on the head here it’s not about another parent it’s about building a relationship that’s sustainable and works.
        Being a supportive adult that they can rely on trust and most importantly talk too. Eventually your role as a step parent finds its own way and you stop the second guessing 💯.

  5. You nailed exactly where I am right this second with my soon to be step children. Thank you for the insight and supporting my decision to take a step back!!!

    1. It’s hard, so hard. I have stepped back and feel like I have failed, but I am not me anymore, reading this has helped me.

      1. I always took a step back and looked at everything from the child’s perspective what do they need? want? What is it like for them in this situation? What have they been through? Or still going through, do they blame themselves for there parents marriage failure?

  6. It is so comforting to hear the community here I have been struggling balancing 2 SS that are 7 and 9, very high energy boys, for 2 years while my husband started a business and is either never home or not engaged. Our daughter is almost 1 year and the stress and guilt is so overwhelming of feeling burnt out and needing a break, as he brings the same lack of support to my daughter and I. I have been starting to step back but didnt realize this was a real thing, I honestly thought I was weak and “couldn’t handle it” as my husband says to me. Things have started to change in our household and after reading this it gives me hope for a better future that could be possible with our family, but needs to have some new boundaries. Thank you for writing, is so helpful!!

  7. I needed this. I’m at a point where i don’t know what i’m getting back from my relationship or step-daughters. I give and help out but i feel really unappreciated. Hopefully disengaging a bit helps my depression go away and it can better my relationship.

  8. I Just printed the stepfather version of disengaging to my fiance.
    as my eldest son is so rude and ungrateful to all his efforts to being a god stepdad.
    he wants my son to be the best he can be but all my son does is call him names behind his back saying
    that i am the one supporting them not my fiance, while in truth my fiance gives them what ever they want.
    But as soon as he tries to lay down the rules he is not good enough. I had enough of this abusiveness.
    So i told him to step back.
    If my son, now 14 needs anything, he can ask me. I say no more often that he does.

  9. This helped me a lot. I have honestly fallen into a type of depression over my disintegrating relationship with my step child-10. And have been thinking of leaving the man I love because of my guilt and depression. I feel guilty cause I don’t like his kid and am starting to resent him. I’m mentally exausted.
    My step child has a 50/50 custody split between two parents who are high conflict. The bio mom is a nightmare. False claims of abuse which were unfounded, coaching which a counselor pointed out, lies. My step kid resents everything I do. I do a lot, I am responsible for his mornings before school and evenings until his dad gets home. And I work 40 hpw. Has told me his mom says I’m a horrible person. And has repeated lies about myself on several occasions. I’ve tried since day one to be a family, a mom. And it breaks my heart that I’m never going to be his mom.
    But I’m not, and he resents me for trying, even though his mom is a toxic monster.
    He has sincere emotional issues, has cried in front of his dad saying I’m mean to him and then literally as dad walks away stopped crying and said, let me tell you how it is. Crazy. and he has the most negative outlook of any child I’ve ever seen. My child, nearly an adult, sees it too and pointed out to me that he is actually pretentious. He doesn’t get along with other kids very well and won’t “play” with them when they are doing physically challenging activities like baseball or volley ball ect because he’s got some sort of superiority complex. His mom has convinced him he’s better than everyone else, even though his actual abilities are quite short. So he doesn’t play for fear of being exposed and instead stands on the sideline and banters other kids pointing out their inabilities, essentially bullying. When he fails he blames others. I stopped playing with him 3 years ago at the park because he was running and tripped over his own feet and screamed that I pushed him. I was yards away! He’s stated his teacher is letting the kids who get better scores than him cheat because they are not smarter than him… His mom Told him this! He says everyone at school hates him, he can tell by the looks in their faces what they think of him… ok Norman Bates?
    I’m always trying to enforce positive thinking but I’m met with bitterness.
    I try so hard and am exausted. We just had an outing with other friends and at the end of the day, he had another emotional outburst toward me.
    I had asked him to do a couple things, trivial, like pick up your trash, put your snack back in the back pack, and each time was met with attitude. His father would ask and he’d then do it. I at this point have already stopped trying to be any kind of athority. At the end of the day he blew up crying after I asked him to pick up his jacket and put it in the pack. His response was to pick it up angry, and place it on the open pack and start violently punching it over and over. I was blown away. I said stop doing that and he walked away in rage. His dad called him back and he was in tears crying and said I had been mean to him all day. He was bawling and shouting she’s always mean to me and keeps yelling at me all the time..This was In front of a ton of people. I was so humiliated and embarrassed. I looked like a monster I was devestated.
    I had honestly tried all day to be as nice as I could! I never yelled once, he was dilusional? His outburst was completely unwarranted. I was so defeated at that point.
    Since this I have been extremely disconnected. Because of his moms coaching in counseling that was discovered and brought to his dads attention and his bitterness towards me and mental issues I’m afraid to be around him and I don’t trust him. His mom has turned the dads relationship and my relationship into a battlefield. I’m a mess, I’ve even considered getting meds to help my depression or end this relationship.
    There are still So many things I’ve left out that are causing my strife..
    I will disengage. It’s my last option before I leave.
    I’m heavy hearted every day. I hope this works.

    1. This sounds like a very difficult situation. Please seek the help of a qualified stepfamily counselor. There are several licensed therapists who write for the magazine and offer stepmoms professional counseling via phone/Skype. You’ll find them listed here: https://www.stepmommag.com/our-writers/ (Mary T. Kelly, Brenda Snyder and Christina Roach are all excellent.) There are solutions to everything you describe. Good luck.

    2. I know your pain. Went thru the exact thing for 20 years. Kids are now in their late 20’s and I still feel like an outsider, still depressed and live with a lot of regrets. I love my husband but should have left him years ago. The kids are takers and always will be. Would have been much happier!

      1. This is what I need to do. My husband treats his 8 Yr old daughter like his wife. She is here only every other weekend but he let’s her do exactly what she wants, when she wants. He never follows through with any threats he makes if she doesn’t clean her room up, so she just ignores him and does what she wants. She even gets to plan out the meals for the weekend that I have to make, and it has to be only the meals that she likes and nothing in the way of flavouring can be added to it. They walk along the High Street holding hands and touching each other with me 6 paces behind feeling like Prince Phillip, they even forget I’m there, and this weekend I walked in to find her stroking her fathers legs just stopping at the top where his groin started. She rubs his chest and back, jumps into bed with him as soon as I get out in the morning, and has now decided what type of dog and campervan we are going to have. If I say ANYTHING, I am in the wrong. I have been told I am not allowed to discipline her as only him and her mother can do that ( neither of them discipline her at all). She interrupts conversations, is rude, still wets the bed, cannot use a knife and fork, her food falls out of her mouth when she eats as she wont close her mouth when eating…its a living nightmare.

        1. Wow, that sounds like an odd relationship between your husband and his daughter. Stroking his leg? So inappropriate. Sounds like his daughter rules the roost in your home. If your husband can’t even validate your wants and needs, and opinion, what is your marriage doing for you at all?

        2. This sounds very odd. Touching is add. Wetting the bed can be a sign of sexual abuse. Are you sure something like this isn’t going on? Sounds like maybe she gets all the perks because he wants to keep her happy. I’d definitely look into it.

        3. OMG! U just described my situation, word for word ! I can’t believe how many other families /step parents are going through the same issues as I am ! Thank you for this, I don’t feel alone in this whirlpool called step mothering anymore. Sending u hugs ?

        4. I feel your pain. I have been with my boyfriend for 5 years now. I have been blaming myself for years now. I feel like I jumped in this relationship with both feet running from the first week we got together.
          He has 5 girls. Two are from his first marriage and their mom has MS. The 3 other girls are from his second marriage. That mom is a drug addiction, that truly has taken over her physically and mentally.
          From the beginning my heart want out to all 5 girls. I would take then any chance I would get. Especially the younger 3 girls. Not even two months want by, when his 9 year old from his first marriage ask to move in with me. Of course I said yes and I laid down down rules and what I respected from her. I also wrote them down and had on the fridge with all 3 of our signatures on it. That paper didn’t mean anything after a week. I use to call her his daughter-wife. He would tell her everything about anything. She would know things before I would. He even allowed her to read text from his phone. That where adult conversations. I started to find things missing, it want from snack cakes, to money, to whatever she decided she wanted. Her father always took her side and would tell me I missed placed it or you must of over looked it. After 2 years he finally seen what I was talking about. But, I think that sunked in cause we was finally able to obtain temporary custody of the younger 3 girls. Which has been a process cause they no structure and was allowed to do whatever they wanted. That part was a process. I feel like I have done it all on my own. Plus working over 60 hours a week as a CNA, and coming home and taking care of all of the girls. The only thing I didn’t do was cook cause my boyfriend lives to cook and the kids only would eat what he has prepared.
          I have found I have lost myself, my dignity, I have lost Mary. The biggest thing for me is feeling appreciated, and respected. But, I don’t receive they all except me to do everything and disrespect me to my face. I hope things get better for us all.

    3. I have 3 stepchildren with emotional issues and behavioral issues. If you ask me…at least one has a personality disorder. Their mother and grandmother are very controlling people. These kids have been kept under lock and key and not allowed to be kids. I tried for 3 full years to help them, schedule play dates, teach them how to swim, buy them nice school clothes so they can feel good about themselves. After 3 years, these kids are no better than they were and not acclimated to my home they way I thought they would. My husband and his ex share 50/50 but my husband works a lot and his ex just doesn’t want the kids if it’s not “her day”. She only works part time from home but was a stay at home mom during the marriage. I work 40hpw but in healthcare so I have a day off during the week which I always have them. I’ve been struggling with them so much and crying all the time. I’ve suggested to my husband for months that these kids are better off being cared for by their mom or dad (not me) and he’ll text his ex and ask her to keep the kids til he gets off work and she’d say no and it falls on me again. 8 hours straight of glares, stomping, door slamming, crying… Mind you these kids are 13,11, and 8. But emotionally and socially…about 9, 6 and 4. Nevermind that my own children are being neglected due to the fact that his kids require constant care and supervision. I finally told my husband that he needs to stop giving his ex a choice. She’s their mother and the primary custodian. She can keep them for the day. It’s her responsibility to care for them. Finally, he did call her and she wasn’t happy but agreed that with all the issues the kids are having maybe it is best that mom and dad handle them. The next day (which is usually my day but since I put my foot down), she promptly took the kids to her mom’s house and left them there instead. I was glad to get the day without them but then I was consumed by guilt. I did a lot of soul searching that day and decided that I did the right thing. These kids have a mom, they have a dad, and I need to just back off and let the two of them handle however they need to. It’s really not my business or my problem. I need to just focus on being a great mom to my own 2 children.

    4. Bella, your story really hit me. You should be so proud of yourself. Don’t ever ever let anyone treat you in that way. Disengage and put your mental health first.

    5. If you still have to take him to school. Make his father get up make him breakfast and have his lunch set out. Then get him up and tell him to get ready before he leaves. That way all you are doing is the driving. Me and my boyfriend both have kids and we both do the disengaging with each other’s kids. He does take my daughter to school but I make sure she is 100% ready. Also everything for after school is ready too I make her snacks and give her stuff to do and tell her to do her hw and not bother him until I get home.

    6. This was heartbreaking to read. Partially because it’s my life. But now my 12 year old (whose life I’ve been in since he was 2) is now getting violent and has physically assaulted me in three separate occasions. The most recent was yesterday after he punched a hole in the bathroom door. I’m not sure what to do.

      1. Please seek professional help as soon as possible. This is abuse and it’s unacceptable. Contact your lawyer, a counselor and the authorities if necessary. If your partner isn’t willing or able to make changes to ensure your safety, please remove yourself from the home immediately.

      2. Good lord! Please dont put up with physical abuse! Call the cops on him. He needs to see consequences for what he does

    7. I don’t know if you’re still active on this page, but I am dealing with much of the same. Where are you know with everything? Were you able to disengage without other aspects of your world falling apart? I mean, I feel like that is what’s happening for me and I haven’t even begun trying to disengage. I would very much like to learn what you found to work and what did not. – Anness
      Aislinn26 @hotmail.com

  10. i was just trying to find somethig to read for stepmothers that dealing with disrespectful, hard headed, stubborn stepkids. i have 3 stepkids 1girl and 2 boys, my stepdaugther is opposite of my stepsons behavior. my husband and i married for 2 yrs now, im from Philippines, and in my culture respect is highly given to others to young or old, people you know or to a stranger, local or foriegner, whoever people around Me thats my upbringing and im so proud of my parents and my culture for that, as what my parents told me i will not be in trouble as long as i know how to show respect to others.
    before i came here my stepsons always call me on Skype whenever they are with their father we play and talk for long time and have good start and i fell inlove more and more with them even though i dont met them yet. my eldest stepson was 8 and youngest was 6 now, they are bold and getting bold as they also try to hurt me physically in front of their mother. but sometimes when its just them and i alone in the house they listen, they’re quiet and i jst play with them, make them food and do things with them that i can do, and when my husband left for work when he have overtime at weekdays he didnt wake up the kids and bring to their mother because it was too early for them to wake up so they stay with me. ill make sure they are clean ready for school and have breakfast and have their medicines and ready to go but as soon as their mother showed up they turn into wild trouble maker kids, they yell at me they go back n for into their bedroom and gets things and yelling at me that those things are their mother and they will take it weather i like or not i even try to call my husband all the time they acted like that to stop them, both of them will start telling me how they hate me in front of their mother!!! while trying to stop them on what are they doing, recently i jst didnt have the filter to ask the ex wife i ask her like “where your kids attitude came fro. as sokn as you showed up they start into wild disrespectful kids” she didnt say anything. my husband came home im trying to tell him how hurt i felt with his kids behavior it seems like he doesnt care he told me to stop! i jst end up broken hearted and now i feel like im done and i feel like if he didnt do anything for his kids to straighten them and discipline his kids like i want to get out of this marriage. i dont feel like my husband see my effort for his kids, the love and care ive given to them… it feels like i make a biggest mistake of my life. being stelmother is not an easy task.!

    1. You poor woman. In this case I would say it’s the ex-wife. She doesn’t want her kids to like you, and the kids do not want to show their mother that they like you and care for you.
      If your husband refuses to care about how you feel or is willing to stop the behavior than you need to get out. Run.

      1. Right now I’m in the boat my 14 year old step daughter is very very rude is very lazy I’m to the point I told my husband if nothing I’d done I done I’ve been with her dad for 10 yrs but her mother is also very rude and hateful my step daughter treats my husband like crap and he allows it so I’m like this I told her one day she wanted something I’m not your mom and just walked away am I wrong for feeling this way

  11. This truly has been helpful, I’m at the end of my rope with my step-son. I have 7 biological children and raising them has been so joyful and rewarding. I had been a single mom for years before I met my fiancé. He has one son who was only 8 when we met. I was truly excited to have him in my life. He is now 17 and it has been so miserable. It has been a rollercoaster with him. I came home today of him accusing me of breaking his laptop, He then preceded to cuss me out and degrade me. He called his father and as usual his dad believes his lies. This is only one of many many incidents with him. He is always blaming someone else for everything wrong in his life. I’m just completely over him and my resentment is so great I’m not sure what to do. I’ve never been so angry.

  12. My husband has 2 sons (my step sons-SS). I have 2 children from a precious marriage. None together. My SS mom is mentally unstable, self medicating with drugs and alcohol and no longer has physical or legal custody of the boys as of 1 year ago. She is supposed to see them under supervised visits but hasn’t set that up yet. Every day for the past year it has been argument after argument, yelling, screaming, name calling, constant comparing themselves to my children. My SS are 11 & 10, my bio kids are 6 & 3. Huge age gap. I have tried to be a mom to them cuz they never really had one so I stepped up but this past year has been HELL (excuse the language) I have given up and no longer want to be here but then I feel guilty cuz I feel like I’m leaving them. But at what point do I need to step up for my own children and be the protector that I am to them. I need to protect them from my SS behavior and I hate what that means but I don’t think I have a choice anymore. I need some advice please. HELP ME

    My husband doesn’t do anything to punish them or follow through on anything either so I am essentially the one who does everything including the punishing and the rewarding. I can’t do everything and I’ve told him that and he goes “don’t let it bother you” !!! How can I not when I have 3 children of my own to raise and think about!!??

    1. You’re in a tough spot. You say “I have tried to be a mom to them cuz they never really had one,” but they DO have a mom. She may not be a very good one in your opinion, but she’s still their mom. Often, when stepmoms (out of the best of intentions) try to “step in” and be mom, our stepkids resent it. They might be grieving the fact that their mom isn’t there for them. Your involvement might trigger their anger at her. We recommend you get support for your role as a full-time stepmom: Read books, subscribe to this magazine, join our online support group. Look into counseling with a qualified stepfamily therapist. Learn all you can about stepfamily dynamics. It will help you understand what’s really happening in your home and deal with it in the most productive way possible. Wishing you all the best.

  13. Wow reading some responses I am super grateful for my step kids. Although this article did help me put my own control issues in check. My question is what does a step-mom do when she is the only mom. My step-kid’s mom passed away and I am all the kid has of a mom, but it can be a struggle. We fight, but I think she loves me and I love her….any thoughts

    1. Every situation is different. When kids still have a mom and dad who are active and involved, or when a stepmom is non-custodial (not full-time) disengaging is usually easier to do. But there are levels of disengaging. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Disengaging can be something you do only on the days when you start to feel any of the warning signs listed above. If you’re interested in learning more, you might want to check out “A Stepmom’s Guide to Disengaging” and “A Stepmom’s Guide to Marrying a Widower.” Both are available here: https://www.stepmommag.com/product-category/best-of/ Best of luck to you!

  14. Thank you! This article just confirmed that I am human. As a stepmom, I am currently going through this disengaging phase – after years of trying, I finally am at peace. I know that there will be many more challenges, but by disengaging – no more stress – be proud of who you are and love your husband and own children even more!!

  15. Disengaging seems hard to understand.
    For instance, if your step child and bio child do something wrong, do you only correct your bio child? If you have family rules (like clean up after yourself when you’re done eating) and your bio kids do it but sk’s dont do you say something? I feel like this could easily become so unfair for the bio kids if the bio parent of the sk’s doesn’t step up and say something to the sk’s.

    1. This is my exact problem, as we have 2 children together (9 and 7) and my SD lives with us full-time (rarely seeing or hearing from her bio-mom). I recently started giving our younger ones an allowance, with the hope that my SD would straighten up, but she hasn’t. She lies all the time and tries to play me and dad against each other. SD is 12 btw and we’ve been married over 10 years. When we started dating, back in 2008, I didn’t see an issue because she was barely a year old…we got married a year later and she’s been with us ever since. I’ve had a LOT of problems over the years, but I feel it’s getting worse and she doesn’t even care about being on punishment. Like, I’ll rebel and stay in my room and not allowed to do fun stuff. I’m 9 months pregnant now, and she literally just stands and looks at me if I’m cleaning or having a hard time getting up or pretty much doing anything…whereas, my kids are always looking for me to struggle doing something so they can come to my rescue lol. What breaks my heart is that I’ve “mothered” her longer than I have with my own children and she has no reason to act that way because I’ve always treated her like my own.

  16. Does anyone have any experience with sk’s having “anxiety attacks” I put that in quotes bc it hasn’t been confirmed. And just being a ball of sadness at your house. You notice it is very much triggered by her phone and talking to BM. She’s always on it. What do you do? Your Bio idolizes sk’s and is younger and tends to also take on sk’s sadness. How do you disengage from this?

  17. This article is not helpful to most mature adults. What if we as the SM are a better mother than the BM?! Words right out of DHs mouth?! But yet, actions speak louder than words, right? I didn’t sign up for this role and marriage to disengage. I see SKs, especially if you met them when they were young, as your own children. Why wouldn’t you remain engaged? Why is it any different than an adopted child? The BM in our blended circus now won’t talk with me. DH is not a planner or effective communicator. I can’t support that or encourage it. If it were work, I’d ask to be on a different team. He also doesn’t support standing up to BM due to threats of court. I fear my disengagement is changing the need to even be part of this social support network and cutting bait.

    1. Angela: If you can’t fathom disengaging, then it’s clearly not for you. Disengaging is not right for everyone, however for many stepmoms it is a way to restore balance to a dysfunctional stepfamily situation. Not all stepmoms see their stepchildren as their own, and that’s perfectly OK. In fact, many kids feel uncomfortable when they sense a stepparent is “stepping into” the role of their biological parent. And when mom doesn’t appreciate it, a stepmom’s involvement can create additional problems. That’s not to say that kindness and respect go out the window. We can treat others lovingly without `assuming to be a third parent. The bottom line is that every stepmom has to do what’s best for her and her family. If your stepkids appreciate your involvement and you don’t mind stepping up where Dad isn’t, then good for you!

      1. I completely agree. I had to come to the decision to disengage not only for me and my relationship with my SO. But for the SK’s. I had to be the mature responsible parent in the dynamic between myself and BM. BM wants a power struggle because SK’s have become attached to me. She doesn’t want the responsibility of parenting, but she doesn’t want anyone to take her place as “MOM”. The SK’s who have always wanted nothing more than to be loved by BM are being manipulated for her purposes of creating parental alienation. Out of love for them, I have decided to disengage. To try and fight back would be futile and would only cause harm to them from both sides. Knowing the outcome will cause them emotional harm is a situation I cannot control. I know in the end the result will be the same, BM will bombard them will affection, attention and gifts and then without warning or reason disappear from involvement in thier lives. Any attempts to interfere from me will only cause them to push away from more and since at this time I am the targeted individual because BM says so. The most appropriate and kind thing to do for them and myself is to take myself out of the equation when it comes to anything parental.

  18. Thank you for this article. I am currently in the process of disengaging and it is difficult on me and our relationships. My stepdaughter is 12, I have been in her life since she was 3. My husband and I have three of our own kids now too, and I don’t like my stepdaughters bad influences on them. Both mom and dad dropped the ball on parenting and I was left to do everything and be the bad guy all of the time. My stepdaughter has ADHD, anxiety and mood disorders and I was the only one trying to help with the therapists recommendations and without any help. Dad is afraid of making his daughters mom mad because she likes to fly off the handle- so he would not even ask her to help bring her to her many medical appointments. My stepdaughter and I used to have a decent relationship, but I don’t like the person she is growing into- she is mean to me nearly all of the time without apology, and then expects me to just forget about it when she acts nice- like nothing ever happened. I have been slowly stepping back over the last year, but mom and dad have not been stepping up until dad had to recently step up because I put my foot down that I didn’t want our kids around her violent behavior, and either they step up and she gets help, or she will not be allowed around the other kids. I am hoping my stepdaughter will now get the help she needs to deal with her emotional issues, otherwise I don’t know if my marriage can make it through this. I have had a lot of guilt disengaging because I have always felt a responsibility to try to pick up the pieces and give me stepdaughter a better life, and I worried what would happen if I stopped keeping up on school and medical appointments and discipline- but I think I need to let go of that because a lot of it is out of my control, and I ultimately must protect my own kids.

  19. I am going thru this with 2 adult stepchildren. The youngest came up with The motto ” let’s don’t bring up the past, and just work on the future.” So that’s what I am doing. The past contains a lot of drama on her and her brothers part. So I am bringing up no drama and choosing when I want to be in the company of the drama makers. And refuse to be forced into it.

  20. Sounds like there’s a lot of desperate women out there trying to do their level best. I guess I’m one of them if it lead me here. I feel like a rat trapped in someone else’s cage… My husband is a beautiful man and does his best also. However, it was me who encouraged a paediatric appointment to deal with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant youngest step-daughter. It was me who set up regular child psych appointments and tried to take his advice. The kids (14,12,11) mother dumped them via text over 10 months ago. We’ve been living in survival mode ever since. Unfortunately she’s a chronic hypochondriac (e.g. a period=haemorrhaging, a headache=lead poisoning, lightheaded=‘meningitis like symptoms resulting in temporary brain damage for about 6 months’) She had tried to pass on responsibility for the youngest twice before via text. She’s left them at bus stops refusing to drop them home, ignored their calls for ‘her weekend’ and told the youngest she couldn’t care if she ever saw her again. It breaks my heart but also strengthens my resolve not to lose myself in this. My responsibility is to my mental health, my daughter and my relationship. I will endeavour to disengage from the youngest but am afraid it will reinforce her Attachment Issues as diagnosed by her psych. I’ve come through my own struggles and am clutching at anything that will help me understand how to manage this situation better. I love my husband and our blended family but how much is too much? At what cost? I have the choice. Sad but true.

  21. Thank you for this article. This weekend was the straw that broke the preverbal camels back.
    My husband has his three kids every other weekend, & it’s seemed to be getting better which was great! For two years I was a marching band chaperone with my son, which I loved. Not only was I around amazing band kids & music, but it got me out of the house & away from the “every other weekend” struggle. My son has since graduated, so I’m home a lot more. I’m starting to realize that the reason we got along ok is because my time was limited at home when my step kids were here. This weekend has been a disheartening, glaring reminder. My step daughter looked at me sneering & said “I thought you weren’t here this weekend.” My two stepsons did anything and everything they could to upset me. My husband said nothing. They talk back to me, make snide comments, and are disrespectful but only if it’s out of earshot of my husband. My husband completely changes how he acts towards me and then says it’s my problem bc I seem to be causing issues. I’m vapor and don’t exist EOW. Yet we’re perfectly happy and fine when they’re not here. I’m about at the end of my rope. I’ve done everything i can to be accommodating, helpful and out of the way and I’m still losing. I’ve felt so guilty for not wanting to engage but now I’m ok with my decision. It’s best for my mental health and stress and leaves the ball in my husbands court. THANK YOU!!!

  22. I wish I could disengage, we have stepkids full time. Biomom has nothing to do with them. I’ve became mom. I have a 19 yr old adult baby that has blown up our household to be full of anger, fights, hate, disrespect, and feels he is entitled to everything. Works a fulltime job, yet eats all our food, expects us to buy all his personal items or just takes over ours.
    I refuse to engage and be a part of any of it anymore, but have no choice in anything because husband refuses to kick him out. I still have 3 kids that live at home. I’m to the point I just can’t do it anymore.
    I’m sick of feeling like i have no say so in my own home.

  23. Disengagement works. The stepkids refused to live here because there are rules – like pick up the dishes in your room. They choose to live with BM and they blame me. Yes their father moved into my house and its a very expensive one that I do not want ruined since I go to work for it everyday. I do not attend any function they have – graduations, birthday etc. I am FORCED to have them here for Xmas and Thanksgiving (they are: 19, 17 and 15) and its brutal. They get my husband a gift and nothing for myself or my own son. My son and I have class and always get each of them a nice gift. Yes, they all work and have jobs and can afford to buy us a small token but they don’t. My husband doesn’t seem to care that they treat me like this. My son and I politely have dinner that I pay for and my husband prepares, then my son and I wash the dishes. We then discreetly disappear to our bedrooms and they have their “visit” with their dad. Today was Christmas and it was very painful for me to be treated like this once again. After they left I told my husband that next year my son and I choose to not be disrespected again and we were going away for Xmas next year and he is welcomed to join us. My husband was obviously hurt and apologized that his children treated me like this again. What bothers me the most is that he won’t discuss it with me or with them – its just accepted. Well I don’t accept it and I’m going on vacation next year. Hopefully they won’t ruin my beautiful home and better yet – hopefully my husband agrees to leave with me. I literally can’t stand those kids and their mean heartedness. BTW my husband has been divorced for 13 years when I met him – go figure how I’m to blame?

  24. I’m so grateful for this article.. It’s a confirmation to my decision to fix the issue by stepping back. Every time I speak about this , people try to make me feel like I sign up for this assignment. The SK are 14 and 15. Their mom is deceased. They are mentally 9 and 10; partially because their dad treated them like babies and they expected the same treatment from me. I assist in providing food, clothes, hair done, nice place to live,
    utilities, guidance, and disciplinary regarding school grades and personal lhygiene. I upgraded their living status and I had began to take on full responsibility while my hubby takes it easy. I began to resent them and I began to feel stuck. My Biological teens are independent and earns their own money therefore my husband is not required to do a lot for mines. I know this article is conformation for me to disengaged I was just searching for clarity and I found it.

  25. I am a step mom of two now adults. I disengaged after four years of marriage as a conscious decision long before I ever read a article like this, but out of sheer desperation from the struggles described by readers here. I was plagued by guilt and felt like a failure for years. Was unsupported from the beginning, by my now former spouse and his extended family. I did make mistakes along the way as I’m not perfect, but I did my best with good intentions. I think we need to allow ourselves some forgiveness here as it’s an extremely challenging role, and extended family members and friends and even your spouse have no idea what you’re going through. Until they’ve walked a mile in your shoes, they just don’t and can’t get it. However I think disengaging worked well for out family. I felt my mood get better, and as such, our relationship got better. Plus the step kids were more at ease as their step mom became ‘more chill and cool’ and less grouchy and unapproachable. My step kids today are not close to me as have never been, but we have a mutual respectful relationship and I didn’t lose myself along the way. We hug, exchange the odd text message and I do care about their lives albeit from a distance. I know they care about what happens to me as well. So allow yourselves some forgiveness ladies. You’ve got one of the toughest jobs on the planet. And give the step kids a break when you can too. Regardless of their circumstances, and their behaviours that make your jaws drop, they didn’t ask to be in this either. So disengage! It sure helped me.

  26. I have just ended the relationship with my fiancé over his children. Their BM has roller coaster emotions dependant on her relationship status (it’s like a revolving door). Unfortunately, she then projects her unhappiness onto her two daughters (7 and 10) and tells stories to turn them against me and my children. Whilst it’s hurtful to me, my daughter is grieving the loss of her BFF (7 year old) who unfriended her nastily. My fiancé has stood back during these times and reconciled that he can’t help the situation.
    Ultimately I’m responsible for my children and their well being, so I could see no option other than removing ourselves from the situation.

  27. I need advice on how to disengage when my husband has full custody of his four kids because their mom didn’t want them and she has since passed away. I have already raised my children and wanted to be of help to my husband.

    I have tried to be a partner with my husband, but I always end up being blamed for overreacting or being too harsh or not picking my battles when I try to enforce the rules and consequences we agreed upon. If I leave the room and go to do my own thing when my husband isn’t supporting me in front of his kids or when his kids are breaking the rules without consequence or if they are being disrespectful to me, I am blamed for abandoning his kids and being worse than their mother.

    I am at the point that I don’t feel safe being around his kids in any situation. I feel I need to disengage not only mentally, but physically as well. Is there any way to still have a marriage and disengage in this situation?

  28. This pin points exactly how I feel especially as his ex makes the kids hate me by telling them lies or adult content! My issue is that discipline is set for his two out of three but his oldest just doesn’t have boundaries. Feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. I’ve caught his oldest doing and saying things that I haven’t told his dad as I think he feels I pick on him or whatever. I just feel stuck and this article is on point. Disengagement must be the way.

  29. I live with my fiancé and his daughter, 17 y/o. He has had custody since she was 3y/o. She chooses not to see her mom due to ‘too many rules.’ This is a fact.
    He and I were gone in a trip and the daughter brought a guy hm to stay the night. The dad found out and grounded her for several months- no ph, school activities only and do chores. It has only been 6 wks and the daughter is getting to go out, have her ph and does not do any chores. I’m infuriated bc he isn’t following thru on his word. She talks back to him. It seems as if he is her friend and not her father. He tells me stay out of it bc we are on the verge of breaking up due to my comments and the constant arguing over her. I’m mentally exhausted and depressed over this situation. Any comments or advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance. 🙂

  30. I’m glad I ran across this read. Today was the first time I attempted to “show love” by celebrating my future stepdaughter’s birthday (in a way like I do my own). I felt completely awkward, out of place, and unappreciated. I concluded that I would step back and let them do or not do for their child and only participate when asked and/or needed. This affirms my decision, and I can move forward. Thanks

  31. This is a wonderful release, and what a relief it is. Being a stepmother is the most difficult and unfulfilling thing I’ve ever done, because my husband knew I’d take the helm and make the household run after we added his son to it. What has worked for me is detaching very gradually, but I haven’t talked to my husband. He is a bit of a bully, and has quite a temper. So I have quietly removed myself from his 5-year old son and he has picked up the responsibilities that should have been his all along. He has asked a few questions, and I try to answer honestly, but we haven’t had a lengthy talk and it’s worked. He thinks I just don’t like being around his kid, but that’s not it as much as I was fed up with my husband using me as free labor for his child. My own son requires my time and attention.

  32. So, I just want to share my experience for those who are considering disengaging to add to your thought process. I never had trouble with my tween, and then teen, stepdaughter over the course of seven years until she was 16 years old. In fact, she had been living with us probably 75% of the time by her own choice, and she regularly came to me with requests, chats, and homework help. I had been the only adult to notice when a serious health concern worsened temporarily, and she had even suggested that she would like it if I would chaperone her school trips. Since she was in my house most of the time, I took responsibility for getting her places, keeping her fed, doing her laundry (which I admit she had said she would do herself, but never did, and after it started to stink, I talked to her mom and said I was thinking I’d just do it, which her mom said had been her own experience as well). A couple of times when she needed a check for something at school, I wrote it. I ran things to school when she forgot (frequently). I got a login for her grades because nothing ever made it to her dad at all and he wanted to know.
    But when she was 16, I got pregnant. She turned on me hard. She’d very much enjoyed being an only child at our house and angrily stated that we should’ve consulted her before doing that. It really wasn’t something we’d quite planned, and I’d never wanted children, but we opened ourselves to the possibility because we were already operating as a family unit and thought it might amplify our experience. My husband had often opined that he would like more children once he had a partner to really share the experience. But it happened fast. Her reaction had all the hallmarks of jealousy, but it all came crashing down on me. Suddenly I was enemy number one, and “desperate to be her mom” (see no desire for kids above) “invading her privacy” by doing her laundry and taking photos of her at family and school events, and this one took the cake — “Controlling her dad.” (If you knew me, you’d know that was nonsense.) When the baby was born, she refused to come to the hospital to visit, and spent several months ignoring him and being wantonly nasty to me. So I disengaged. I stopped buying her birthday gifts and cakes, taking care of her nasty smelling clothing, running her forgotten items back and forth, and deleted the school app on my phone. I know all of my neighbors and her friend’s parents probably thought I just got too busy with the baby, but it was a conscious decision. The idea was that my husband would have to step up. He tried, but his communication with her mother is so bad; he doesn’t know about anything that’s going on. And now she no longer comes to our home except to grab things from the storage unit (her filthy room with months worth of dirty laundry all over the floor) and relies on a boyfriend to get her around. Ironically, she seems to like him because he lets her push him around. It’s not better, and it upsets me just as much as it did when she was being nasty to me all the time, because my husband and son are the ones who suffer. I was hoping today to find a path to a happy medium, or maybe just some support in maintaining a disengagement. The truth is I never did as much for her as I would have for my own child, or even for my nieces and nephews. And I was occasionally even ashamed of my quickness to deny her as my own. Now I’m at the point of suggesting no one marry someone with kids, ever, because there will never be a good solution. I hope my pessimism on this will not seep into the other parts of my life.

    1. So sorry for your situation. It sounds like counseling–both for your stepdaughter, and as a family with you and your husband, could help. Disengaging is a strategy that can help alleviate stepmom burnout and resentment. This situation is clearly more about her than you. We highly recommend a therapist who is well-versed in stepfamily dynamics. Here’s some info that might help: https://www.stepmommag.com/2014/03/23/how-to-find-a-good-stepfamily-therapist/#.XqnZhJNKhTY Wishing you all the best.

  33. This article was amazing! Thank you! I have been with my boyfriend for about 3 years and we have lived together for 2. He has three kids and I have none. We talked about having one child together, but he said with his 3, we wouldn’t be able to afford it. His youngest also said he REALLY DOESN’T want us to have kids and wrote us notes about it for weeks after we casually had a conversation with them all about what they would think. This is not a big deal for me (usually?) as I have always wanted to adopt. I KINDA thought this would be similar.. haaa. haaa. My boyfriend has a very high conflict relationship with his ex, which has caused a whole bunch of issues. She has berated me almost every time I have come in contact with her. Always around the kids. Transfers with the kids she has not allowed me to close my car door, athletic events she has called me names, she bumped into my shoulder at the Christmas concert even?, you name it… This is all after I asked her for coffee 2 years ago, when my boyfriend and I first moved in together. I did this out of respect, so she could perhaps let me know if there are things that she wanted me to be mindful of around her kids.. WELLLL, that did not happen.
    The kids and I got along realllllllly great at first. I was not doing caretaking or anything, but we had a tonne of fun. At their Moms, they get gifts and play in their room. Here, we play games with them, go on walks with them, draw, paint, etc… Doing all of these activities was actually super fun for me! Then the lies started… then the wild versions of things to their Mom became ridiculous… ex. My boyfriend and I were having a discussion, not crazy fighting at all (we save the heated stuff for when they are gone!), and we get an email from the kids Mom the next week telling him that “When we FIGHT, to please protect these times from her children as it upsets them and scares them.”… I was LIVID. His girl told her Mom that we had been fighting and she couldn’t sleep because she was scared. I felt angry, betrayed and REEEEEEEALLY struggle with trusting the kids at all with my personal life and information. They ask questions about everything and then report to their Mom. I am very vague now, where as before, I would share appropriate things without thinking too much. Now, I have more of a role of helping out in their lives as their previous childcare while he was at work has changed…. So, I am now more responsible for small people I don’t really trust or like. Sometimes I DOOOO like them, I just have many moments where their behaviors are INSANELY disrespectful to me, their Dad and their Grandmother and others…. I had a rule of no bad talking their Mom (they used to mock her all the time and I said it’s not ok), now I just say nothing, as they do it anyways…. There are days (more than I like to admit) that I seriously CAN NOT STAND THEM. My boyfriend works alot and I am with them a lot more than I care to be. Driving them, feeding them, talking to them about their meltdowns (one has them all the time over nothing)… Disengaging angers my boyfriend as he wants us to be a “family”… How do we create boundaries, without conflict with our partner? This is my issue…

  34. My stepson says no one helps him at home (mother and stepfather) with homework. When he comes here we get the work done and if corrections are needed it’s probably 2 PowerPoint slides from his online homework (covid-19, school closed) but when he’s back home and the assignments are assigned either nothing is done and he’s behind or he has all these corrections. This weekend I got an email from his teacher that he needs to correct over 10 slides. Seems like I’m the one who always puts in the work and yet mom and stepdad don’t pick up the work! What should I do. I always get walked over and tired of feeling like
    “o sherry will fix it” Where should I start? What should I say? There’s so much more to this but that’s for another day. Please help

    1. I’m in a similar situation. I’ve been homeschooling my partners 8 year old during the pandemic. His mum does do the bare minimum of the work with him and all the big bits are left for me. I’m a teacher so i didn’t actually mind this, until she had a go that i was overstepping the line this week because i got him to correct a piece of work he’d completed at hers. Also turns put that he’s been going to her and saying everything i say to him but with an untrue twist to make me look bad. I’ve decided that when he comes over this week I will no longer be helping with his school work and will be taking a step back. This will be hard as i have him for 2 full days on my own each week, but I can’t keep going if it all gets thrown back in my face. This lockdown is hard enough without having to deal with untrue accusations and spending hours each day helping someone else’s child do something his parents should be doing with him. I’m glad I came across this post as it’s made me feel a lot less guilty for disengaging.

  35. I’m at this point in my relationship with my husband and stepson. My husband has physical custody of his son and we have always lived by family so even when my husband was at work if the kid wasn’t in school there was someone else around to help out with him. I took on most of the “mom” responsibility of this kid and now 6 years later I completely wish I did not do this! My husband does not believe that I am “allowed” to step back without getting divorced bc he feels a stepmom is a mom and should love their stepchildren. My stepson is a nightmare to me… he refers to me as she not by my name… hes 11 years old and has temper tantrums still… cries at the drop of the dime and really makes our lives a living hell. I had 2 babies recently one in March 2019 and one March 2020. I am consumed in my children as they are babies and feel I can’t continue to be the responsible one for my stepson. My husband works full time 6 day’s a week and with this pandemic there is no school (homeschooling is happening and I do not have time or energy for it) my husband will not revisit the custody or visitation schedule even with me saying I am at my max and the bio mom saying that he can go back to live there for the time being due to no school and me not being able to contribute to his upbringing any longer. When I tell you he makes my life a living hell I seriously mean it. I’m petrified my 1 year old son is going to have anxiety from watching his older brother scream cry and throw temper tantrums all the time. It literally makes me want to throw up at the thought. My husband will not budge on the visitation schedule and he will not let him go back to his mothers house bc he says his son wants to be here with him, but he’s working!!!! It’s on me! How and what do I do here? I need serious advice especially bc the words divorce seems to keep coming up if I don’t act like his mother and accept that he has a son and if he has to leave me he will bc his son lives with him and that’s it.

  36. Interesting article. My stepkids are older and I have one younger son of my own. Right now because of quarantine my stepdaughter wants a job. I’m a big believer in education first and jobs can wait until you’re out of college or at least high school. But hubby thinks differently. Although we normally leave the major decisions of our children to each other with their respective children, I strongly feel that this decisions affects me and my son… but my hubs doesn’t care for my opinion. He would rather have his daughter work. We can’t come to a solid agreement for many large decisions with our kids which is why we have the agreement we have. Do I just suck it up? I’m very angry.

  37. I am at this point but struggling and would love advice. I have been a stepparent for 6 years and my SS and I have always had a great relationship. He has always said and even told his friends when they ask that I am not his step mom I am his mom. He lives with us one week on one week off. His mother does not parent him and doesn’t even know what’s going on in his life at all so I have always done all the parenting. I broke down recently and said I feel like I’m always the bad guy and he told me I am not the bad guy, I’m doing what his mom and dad should be doing and he knows that I love him and only am trying to help him be the best he can be. My husband helps where he can, but it in general an extremely adhd make and horrible at communicating so he simply doesn’t notice things or remember to check up on things the way I do. Many times this leads me to be the one to remind or enforce rules and consequences. Now that my ss is 14, I feel like this is ruining our relationship as he has hit the teenage attitude and sees the rules as stupid and that I am the only one truly enforcing and expecting anything. Things have begun to blow up and then my husband and I end up fighting. I am Angry resentful and heartbroken often at the role I have to take on and the resentment it’s causing me towards my step son and husband and the way my ss is constantly lying and breaking rules and I’m the only parent parenting and then I end up the bad guy all the way around. Maybe it is time to disengage, but that effects me and my house so how do I do that? If I don’t enforce that he clean his toilet there will be pee on it every week he leaves. If I don’t enforce that he clean up after himself then I will constantly be doing it. My husband is very bad at stepping up in these areas. I am afraid if I disengage, He will still act the same but there will be no consequences so I will end up cleaning up all the messes. I am now pregnant too so I do not want to continue this stress or add more stress but I don’t want to lose my good relationship with my stepson. But if I disengage and he and my husband both just remain the same, then I’ll be forced to clean everything on the backend myself. and the choices he is starting to make scare me that he will end up getting a girl pregnant when he is 16, then I’m left to pay for that child and my own baby too? His choices and Actions impact my life as well and my husband doesn’t handle them (he does try he just isn’t good at it but he is trying to work on it) so how do I disengage without there being further stress down the road for the things I am no longer preventing?

    1. A love letter to all the “step” parents out there,

      What makes anyone think we should love or claim someone else’s child as our own? They are not ours. If you love someone with kids, you probably believe that your love for your spouse is supposed to magically transcend to his/her children. That somehow you will automatically love and adore a child that has no connection to you other than both of you knowing and loving their bio parent. This ridiculous idea sets “step” parents (especially women) up for total failure. A spouse’s expectation that you become a co-parent to a child that is not yours is the very definition of dysfunction. Here is what no one ever tells you:

      The relationship that exists between biological parents and their offspring is just that….biological. So, the strong drive by children to have both their mother and father be together under the same roof, to act in love towards each other, to raise them with that same love and acceptance, discipline and safety is the desire of all children. Divorce/separation destroys the chances of this no matter how amicable. Divorce is terribly hard on children. Even though adults understand the reasons for the divorce, kids don’t. No matter how old they are, they struggle because it’s biologically driven for them. It is complex, it is sad, it is trauma, it is pain.

      Then one or both parents moves on to a new relationship, which is further loss for the child, no matter how wonderful this person is…it cements for the kid(s) that the relationship between the parents is truly lost and their need to have an intact family is gone forever. It is also a rejection, of sorts, for the child. Children would rather have the parents to themselves, even if those parents live apart. Can you blame them? They don’t want to share time or affection with you, no matter how great you are. Then you, the new spouse, becomes a “step” parent…something kids just can’t fully accept or wrap their brains around as they still reel for the loss of their safety in a home with their bio parents. It’s not personal, it’s just the reality. These kids fall all over the spectrum of dysfunction…some adjust well, but many do not. If one or both parents are a mess, then you’ve got even more problems. This dynamic then causes all kinds of problems within the “new” family. Kids didn’t want a “new” family…they still want their “old” – their REAL family. So, they struggle to accept the “step” parent, they rebel against their parents, and they self sabotage. All of this disproportionately falls on the shoulders of the “new” mom. The “step” mom.

      What is a “step” anyway? A step up? A step down? A step aside? Where are all the blogs and articles from grown kids whining about their guilt over not accepting their step parent the same way they love/accepted their dysfunctional mom or dad when they were children? News flash: they don’t exist and never will. So, why are all these people looking for answers to alleviate their guilt and worry when this new family situation is failing? No one else is struggling over this.

      Yes, occasionally, you may hear about or read about a family where they live in total bliss like the Brady Bunch, but I don’t believe it’s true. Yes, for some it works ok, but that is the minority and I believe ALL new families struggle to some degree. Women, especially, fall for the ridiculous criticism and accept as truth that they are somehow failing if they aren’t masters of “step” parenting, if the kids aren’t ridiculously bragging about their happiness with their new and glorious non-biological overseer, and their home is not all rainbows and unicorns. Stop falling for this trap. The kid down the street isn’t your responsibility, either. Are you as wrecked about that? Of course not, because you’re not in love with the kid down the street’s parent, and that kid isn’t living part or full-time in your home.

      Here is the truth: I would give my life for my daughter. I cannot and will not say the same for my husband’s son. That’s not mean of me, it’s just reality. I could never love him as much as my own flesh and blood child. Why are we made to feel horrible about that? I have nephews and I love them. But I cannot and will not ever love them as much as my child, and they are blood related…and no one would ever say I’m horrible for saying that. So why do we (society) give the message to “step” parents that they are somehow mean failures if they admit this? These children are totally unrelated to you. You are an outsider to the original family unit of which they are always going to be a part and you never will. Why would you be a mother or father to this person?

      I could write pages about my husband’s son’s behavior and how it has affected us over the years. I could write pages about my perceptions of my husband’s failures as his father, and about this child’s egg-donor. There’s no point in it. The choices I make, sometimes on a moment to moment basis, are about the best interests of our daughter. My marriage is all but over because of his unwillingness to do the right things about his child, but my daughter doesn’t deserve the heartache divorce brings and my choice, for now, is to stay. I struggle with my animosity towards both my husband and my husband’s child. I, like many others, tried to be a loving pseudo-parent to this kid and it is nothing but heartache for me. I sometimes go onto pages like this and I read some of the comments to women (sometimes men) who are so sad and desperate and I see all these people just tear them to shreds (thankfully I don’t see that here). It’s wrong, unfair and women should really knock that off.

      Yes, be kind to your spouse’s children, just as you would to a house guest or his/her other family members. Kid pee on the toilet seat? Go hand the cleaning wipes to the father and lovingly tell him to clean it up. Yep, he won’t like it, but you’re not the house maid. Spouse not disciplining? Get a hobby…gardening is nice. Or something that gets you out of the house. Get it right in your head that this is NOT your responsibility. And be prepared for your spouse to not like it one bit. Realize that if your spouse is not supporting you fully, you’re in for a long haul. I can’t emphasize enough, GET A HOBBY. Get friends. Get an outlet for your energy. Don’t let this situation be the center of your life. SET BOUNDARIES. Get busy with new things. If you’re off and running for your own kids, your spouse has no choice but to step up and parent his own kids. See what I did there? Step up. That term should belong to the bio parents, not the new spouse. The “step” up needs to come from the people who failed to provide the proper family environment for their child, not some new person on the scene.

      We are all different and many of you see your spouses trying to parent their kid in some ways, but failing in others and you see your spouse as a good person whom you love. That’s great. Try to build on that for your marriage…but do not enable your spouse to abdicate their role as the only biological parent in your household that this child has. You cannot and will not ever fill that role, so ask yourself why are you trying?

      And also ask yourself if this is really about control for you? If there’s pee on the toilet or dirty dishes left on the sink or clothes not being washed (complaints in other posts), why do you care? Yes, it is gross, but if your spouse doesn’t care, why do you? You may realize that the reason you end up with all the house work is because you struggle to leave things dirty (yep, huge struggle for me…but as soon as I started giving it to my husband, he grumbled but started doing more). He does his child’s laundry. He cleans his child’s pee on the toilet seat. He takes care of all schooling, etc. I do all these things for our daughter, and I focus on raising her, and if my husband’s son leaves dishes behind, pees on the seat, leaves laundry on the floor, I just let my husband know, “little Johnny did that, babe.” And now he is the one yelling at the child or having to do the work. Yes, the house is not perfect and sometimes these issues are a major pain in the butt (I once left a mess for three weeks until my husband finally took care of it. It was torture)….so, I go engage in my hobbies, call a friend, do something with my daughter. I try to have fun times with my husband’s son, but when his behaviors are causing me to become angry…that’s my cue to step out. See what I did there? Step out. That’s the only stepping us new spouses should be doing.

    2. I know you post in this moment long time ago I wondered what became of it? I’m sick of being a boss to my step kids trying to keep house clean when they do not do what they’re asked….etc etc. My husband Acts like I’m hassling everyone when I ask him for support to make them do what they’re told. I am worried if I just stop telling them to do what they’re told…. Then I will live in a filthy house and be angry or have to do all the work myself. What did you do about the situation? Thank you

      1. Your husband needs to parent his kids. If he refuses? So be it. Let him deal with the consequences. Kids throw their clothes on the floor in the bathroom? Return the clothes to their rooms. When my stepson refused (as a late teen) to clean the dishes he dirtied? I did not clean them. At one point of desperation I brought his dirty dishes into his room and left them on his bed. When he used 18 (yes EIGHTEEN) Towels (literally every towel in the house) and their Dad didnt have a towel for his shower? I suggested he check in his sons room. Stop cooking and cleaning up. You are his WIFE not a maid. Hold the line. 💌

  38. “The problem, obviously, is that the stepchildren don’t have a similar paradigm and do not expect themselves to love or even like their stepmother.”

    That’s it! We are expected to love them as their mothers, and they feel zero obligation even to be kind to us. No more. 2 years suffering and counting. An almost broken marriage. No more.

  39. When I first met my husband’s kids things were great. The kids were obsessed with me and loved me. Then the mother caught wind of it and created distance. It’s not nice, but I’m ok with that. The problem is the lies she tells the kids about my husband, and I have to watch them cause him a lot of stress. They have been so manipulated they believe he is mean to them when he does SO much for them. He tells me to stand back but it’s so hard to watch them hurt him. I hate them for it and dread every single thing about them. He tells me I need to be the nice one they feel they can talk too. I have a lot of anger towards them and just being near them bothers and irritates me. All they do is complain, consume and demand. How do I deal with that? Should I stand back? They want to be friends with me but I find it hard…they are constantly hurting the man I love…

  40. I’m not married but have been in my boyfriends daughters life since she was 1. She is now 6. He works during the day so I take care of her. When he gets home he sits down and and practically falls asleep or gets on his computer. My stepdaughter (SD) continues to come to me instead of her father when he gets home. Is it wrong for me to tell her to go ask her dad, or why aren’t you asking your dad? And how am I supposed to disengage when I’m with her all day until he gets home? I have to enforce rules, and when she doesn’t listen or talks back to me, I get extremely frustrated and raise my voice more often then I would like to. I feel like SD is always so excited to go home on Fridays to her mom’s because I’m mean and her mom is not. I feel like sometimes she doesn’t want me around either. Help me!

  41. Reading this thread has just reinforced the fact that I don’t feel like I will ever love my partners kids and I am ok with that. Not married but been with the kids dad for almost 3 years and living with them for over 2 years. Kids mother hasn’t seen them or spoken to them in over a year and just randomly appears on the scene when she feels like it to cause anxiety, anger and frustration. Kids are 11 and 7. Both kids are overly emotional, very needy and manipulate their father with crying or telling him I’m mean, a liar or hate them for disciplining them. Especially the 11 yr old and tonight was just another occasion of that happening and now I just don’t want to deal with it anymore.

    Their dad says he doesn’t expect me to love them (although he does) but now the 11 yr old has noticed I treat my niece and nephew differently which lead to him telling his father yet again that I am mean and hate him. Tonight, father even knew 11 yr old was listening to us discussing problems and didn’t do a thing about it which lead the 11 yr old to come and challenge me on things I was saying in what I thought was a private conversation between myself and his father.

    I just feel like I am so done with trying to address bad behaviours in this house and being told I am mean, hateful and have to watch my tone every time I speak to the kids because they might cry and over react. Don’t know where to go from here because I just don’t want this to be the rest of my life. I don’t have any kids of my own (I’m 36) and it is something I do want. He has 3 kids already, married twice and isn’t keen on going there again.

    Perhaps there is only one thing left to do now if I can’t see this situation getting any better.

  42. I love this idea and having been doing this for a while for my own sanity. It works in my situation, and I feel at peace with it. Thank you for sharing and being real. Life isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect, my perfection is in Christ.

  43. My husband has taken from me for 7.6 years
    I do everything in the house and his 14 years old daughter lives with us 1/2 the week was fulltime last year.
    I fi all the
    Cooking laundry shopping bill laying decorating gardening clothes buying diy
    I even brought all SD clothes for 6 years as her parents wouldn’t out of my money and my time
    SD is rude to me tells me infront of her dad she won’t do anything I tell her as dad doesn’t discipline me ! She lied all the time , even last week she lied her mum was ill so she got to stay off school as Covid risk – she annoyed this to her dad and me and he doesn’t punish her.

    So I’ve told him I will not cook for her wash her clothes etc I just did her bedroom up completely decorated it new bedding storage curtains th took me a week all my money and she comes back and trashed it and again he does nothing.
    So for the last 4 weeks I said enough I won’t be cooking for her again he can
    He refuses gets angry with me and makes me feel I have ti as I’m cooking for myself my 20 &15 year old and him.

    I’m now considering divorce but all my moneys wrapped up in a hiuse we are having built together if he goes I can’t afford to live as work isnt to grata as Covid.

  44. Thank you for this article. I hope that many will read it and live healthy lives because of it.

    I have been with my spouse for 21 years, and no, I am not going to tell you 21 years worth of stories, but I will share some insight into the truth of this movement. My spouse’s daughter was 5 when I met him. By the time she turned 12 we both disengaged from her, me fully, but he still kept contact and spent special occasions with her and continued to be her dad. Disengagement was for the better, since the brainwashing and torment from her mother was too much for her and ourselves, not to mention her personality and attitude did not line up with our morals and trying to teach them to her 4 days/month was a losing battle (we got her every other weekend because we lived almost 2 hours from her). Also, in the 7 years that we were engaged with the child, nothing changed and nothing got better. What I can tell you from my experience is that disengagement is sometimes the only way that you can stay sane. Your spouse’s family members and society as a whole may not agree with you, but if they become a problem about it, well, disengage with them too.

    So, now my spouse’s daughter is 26. She just had a baby and so we have been “around” a bit more. Her attitude has not changed. Her personality is the same as her mother raised her to be and the same games she learned as a child are still played. Now she just thinks they can be played with us as “grandparents.” She won’t stop mentioning to her dad her mother’s opinions, reactions and actions on things even though they have been separated for 24 years. She holds and shares a photo album of her parents from even before she was born, and mentions videos of him that her mother’s family took before she was born (they separated when she was 2 and my spouse was trying to leave before that…and the mother got married to another man within that year). Truly, I feel sorry for her and the ideals her mother taught her to believe.

    So, my point of telling you the details is to let you know that it doesn’t get better just because your “step-child” matures. Disengaging is the only way to stay sane in the moment. Leaving your spouse is the only way to end the torment, but he too may wish he could run away, so if you can be there to support him then do that…but do not do it out of guilt.

    As for what I am doing now that there is a grandchild…disengaging of course. I have no (grand) maternal instinct towards the baby, nor should I feel guilty of that. I know it is better not to bring another child into the dysfunction of this step-society.

    My spouse and I have been happy. We raised two lovely children of our own. So I tell you, disengage and hold in there, beautiful women (and men). The choices you make are yours and yours only to hold onto. Stand firm in your belief and kick guilt out of your life.

  45. Like many other stepmothers here I had enough. Same…my 3 adult stepsons are disrespectful, they don’t acknowledge me, one of them wants to keep borrowing my car every time he visits. They get a clean room when they visit and within a week those rooms look like dumps. I cook, clean and used to pick up after themselves but no more! I have talked to my husband so many times I get nauseous and he keeps getting more and more upset every time. He accuses me of not liking his children. I’m his third wife, him and his second divorced due to her “not liking his children”??? Hmm…
    The children ended up leaving their mother due to her doing drugs, drinking her butt off and beating up on them. I came into the marriage with the best intentions but I’m done…my husband just won’t listen and frankly I’ve been thinking about divorce…as much as I love him. His mother babysat the 3 boys and she didn’t teach them anything either. I was raised and tought to be respectful towards others and to pick up after myself. Those boys put their feet on the table, leave trash everywhere, so it on my clean kitchen sink, have yelled at me and insulted me. But I am so relieved I found this article…since I started disengaging, my husband is not liking much but I think he’s starting to get it. I really hope so, I’m starting my own business and are working from home.
    I am his WIFE…NOT the maid!

  46. I am so happy I found this.
    What a life saver. For four years I have been trying to make such a big effort with my step son. I never wanted to take over the role of mother to him but I have definitely tried to help wherever I felt he was falling behind. I’d try to make sure his homework is done, try to discipline him, make sure he got a birthday party, organise play dates, make sure he is enrolled in extra curricular activities, be emotionally supportive. I felt so sorry for him that he doesn’t have any self esteem. But he is mean. Mean to my kids, putting them down constantly, saying awful things about their other parent, rude to me when he feels like it, acts entitled and superior to everyone.
    His father never puts up with it but he is very manipulative and sneaky about how he goes about it and I’ve poured so much energy into trying to help him that it has affected my relationship with my own kids. They feel betrayed by me. He treats them horribly.
    Sometimes we don’t even know what has been going on. It will be a nasty passive aggressive comment here and there that doesn’t sit well and then it escalates. It is so hateful. He is only 8. His mother is an alcoholic.
    My kids are far from perfect, but they have empathy and manners and basic respect for people.
    I worry about his influence around my kids and how he might be damaging to them. To their own self esteem and self worth. They are so frustrated they can’t escape it or sometimes it is hard to even say what the problem is because what is being done is so subtle but constant. It’s hard to pull a child up on their behaviour when it is that way and not right in your face and obvious.
    My partner works internationally for periods of time and then comes home for a period of time. I thought that maybe the child was feeling rejected and finding it hard to adjust all the time to different households and rules, so I took on even more responsibility and the disrespect was disgusting.
    I have told my partner I am disengaging from any parental responsibility and he can leave my parenting, of my kids, to me.
    I feel so sorry for the child but it isn’t my responsibility to guide him through life and teach him what the world is going to expect of him. Not at the expense of my kids and my relationship and I am actually happy to show my kids that when something in life is bringing you down, having boundaries to protect your own happiness is the most important priority.

    I am not rejecting my stepson. I don’t feel bad about it. I will still treat him in a loving way and I wont hold grudges against him, he is a child. I’ll be an adult about the situation, without a doubt. I am just stepping back and contributing in a more appropriate way, that is in my control.

  47. I have told my husband that from today going forward I don’t exist to his child nor does he exists to me.

    I will not wake him in the morning to prepare for school, I will not be making lunch for school, I will not do any of his child’s laundry.

    Heck I will not be driving him to his extra classes on Saturdays anymore.

    I am Done!!!!!

  48. I come back and read this article from time to time. I disengaged after way too long. My eldest stepdaughter had a baby and suddenly her mother was her best friend and was the only person who knew how hard being a mom was. I tried disengaging with my youngest stepdaughters wedding arrangements and received an email with backlash about how I must be upset about something yet she hopes I can help pay and help with the wedding like I did with our eldest’s. I feel as though I have only been a babysitter for the younger years and now that they are on their own, I don’t matter. I reach out with texts and calls once in a while but only hear from them when they need something. I feel like I wasted my time and should’ve been more concerned about my own children rather than treating everyone equally. I know this isn’t how I should feel but I guess I have some resentment now. My husband doesn’t see it because he’s been so hurt in the past, his emotions are always hidden. I get upset with myself for feeling this way. Being a stepmother is so much harder than being a biological mom. No one realizes that until long after you’ve been one. My advice, don’t give your whole heart to your stepchildren, they can stomp on it in the end.

    1. I am going through this. My oldest daughter was 3 when her mom walked out. Her dad left her with her grandmother all the time and she blamed me for taking her daddy. As my stepdaughter got older, she would tell people I was abusive and we had a horrible relationship because of that. I was left to raising her because her dad put work 1st. She lied all of the time. When she got older, she met her mom and didn’t want anything to do with me. She realized how her mom truly was and apologized. Her father and I divorced due to his alcoholism a few years ago. She just had a baby and I threw the baby shower and was so excited to be a YaYa. I gave her advice making sure I told her that she knew her baby better than anyone and she would know what she needed. Now she is back to the my stepmom was a monster and we didn’t have a relationship and she is trying to tell me how to raise my child when she was horrible rant and won’t let me see the baby at all. It has destroyed me and I have no idea what steps to take. Walk away knowing I tried and not let her try to come back, or just be there. I was not abusive. I was 19 and learning how to be a mom to a child who didn’t have a mom and her dad was always asleep or working. I’m just devastated.

  49. I have read all of these replies and I still feel lost and about to give up. My two stepsons 12 and 15 are actually pretty good overall (no drugs, smoking, drinking, girls, whatever). They are just absolutely lazy pigs. The younger one, 12 years old, absolutely refuses to listen to me about cleaning up and chores and runs and calls his grandparents (the father’s parents) to come pick him up when he has responsibilities. The chores are absolutely age appropriate. I get zero backup from the father, my boyfriend. We get the kids 50/50 one week on, one week off. Due to the mother going through a divorce, she has picked up another part time job, so the kids are now over at our house about 75/25. We have lived together for 2 years this week. I am at a loss because my relationship with the father is being broken apart because he will not step in and be an actual dad, he is always the friend. I want the house clean because we live in the country and bugs and critters frequent the house. He also sees no problems with the kids being in our room. I do NOT waiver on this, they are not allowed in there at all. But then today, one of the kids stayed home and told him to go in our bedroom for the dad’s sports cream. I honestly just want to leave sex toys all over the bedroom to keep them out. I am the only female, that is my space. I have boundaries and to be honest, the kids didn’t come out of me.

    I do love the kids, and part of why I fell in love with him was watching him be a father. We talked about having “us” kids, but he just informed me last month that he doesn’t want anymore kids. I blew up and threw my phone across the bedroom and immediately went to bed. Not another word has been said about it.

    I am all for disengaging, but if I do this, I know that I will live in constant filth or constantly aggravating my boyfriend to clean up after his kids. I cannot live that way. My boyfriend means so much to me and I love him to death, but the resentment I feel every day is overwhelming me. I resent the kids for the disrespect, I resent my boyfriend for not disciplining, I resent that he has decided he doesn’t want kids with me. I never let anger show to the kids. When it does overwhelm me, I feign a headache and go to bed. I am a prisoner in my own home. I don’t like going out and doing stuff with people, I enjoy being in a house that I made a home, but now I am an extreme introvert that cannot feel comfortable in her own home or skin.

  50. Found this article early hours of this morning and so much resonated. I am literally in a breaking-point weekend with my partner of 15 years (4 children – my 2 and his eldest 2 all now left home as wonderful young people, fun, conscientious, respectful, successful, kind and caring) but youngest son has me tearing my hair out and his Dad is weak in tackling him and still treats this 21yr old like he’s a little boy and wants to be his mate. Stepsons came to live with us 7 years ago, literally overnight, as teenagers, due to alcoholic Mum and abusive stepfather. Turned my life upside-down for them, willingly. So I’m heartbroken that the relationship my partner and I have – and both acknowledge we want to keep – is so close to ending because of his son or more to the point, partners refusal to parent him. This article has helped me see I care far more about my stepson than he does about me and to let go of the guilt I feel for not liking him like I do my other stepsons (and who love me). It has also helped me to stop engaging in it all and it’s no longer my job to save him, or his Dad. I’m prepared to tell them it’s time for them to walk away – I simply cannot do any more – maybe therein lies the problem, I’ve done too much already.

  51. Wow. The nightmares described here are unbelievable. I know each of us are different and have our own life experiences. I encourage people to keep this in mind as they read through these replies. My SD is now 14, we met when she was 7, after her father and I were engaged. She was born after parents had broken-up and they were never married, so SD never has had this point of reference.

    Somehow BM thought she’d reunite with my husband even after many court battles to try to get him to give up parental rights, limit visitation, and later remarrying and divorcing (married/divorced previous to relationship with my husband) after birth of SD, as she sent a delusional email to my husband after he said he was engaged and would be introducing SD. There have been many attempts for revenge out of her bitterness, which I can understand from not getting what she had made up in her head (he never considered or attempted to reunite) which have seemed to backfire, distancing her own daughter from her. We have SD every other weekend.

    I never wanted kids, and only the uniqueness of this situation got my sign off on marriage. My heart goes out to those of you who are in the thick of trying a blended family with ex-spouses involved. This is my first marriage, later in life than most (academics and career put first) and I promised myself to not date men with previous marriages with kids under the age of 25. I thought it impractical and unfair to attempt other scenarios…and was willing to stay single if this seemed unrealistic. I adhered to this, and made an exception with my husband because his situation was unusual and seemed to have a greater likelihood of success, plus, he’s an outstanding person with a great heart/mind and a good father. He stayed out of the dating scene for many years, with no time between working and raising his daughter. Then we met. I wanted to give context for what I’m about to share.

    From the beginning I’ve never tried to be or acted like SD’s mom. No parties. No presents (except 1 for birthday, 1 for Christmas). No pushover. I lack a maternal instinct and perhaps that has worked in my favor, but I have not fully disengaged either. Instead, I’ve supported SD and my husband where I’m naturally gifted and hardwired (education, structure, sounding board). Husband has always supported my guidance of SD and we’ve consistently modeled and reinforced an environment of respect and stability. That came first, because trust and love then had a foundation to develop. His support and respect has paved the way for much of this to be possible, coupled with other important elements. I’ve always been very clear of my boundaries, and expectations of SD, and have made sure that her environment and guidance are conducive to her succeeding (I.e. quiet environment for study, no TV, iPhone, distractions, etc until chores are done) My husband did SD’s laundry when she was little. He’s always done the cooking and we have a chore calendar that lists everyone’s chores to balance the amount of work each person has. It is an exercise in practicality and fairness that leads to effective and efficient running of a household.

    As SD grew (10-11) I showed SD how to do her own laundry, chores, and a way to clean her room (took pics of her clean room and said “this is what your room will look like when you’ve cleaned it to what is being asked of you”), this all happens on a set routine so I don’t have to open my mouth that often. It has taken time and careful positive reinforcement ( acknowledging and giving praise for a job well done or without having to be asked) to get to where we are. I have resisted stepping into mommy mode because that’s not inherently me nor what I desire. However, I have invested in my SD fiercely in areas that I think will equip her well to grow into a personally accountable, healthy, functioning and independent woman who can critically think for herself. This investment has helped grow mutual respect, understanding, trust and love between us.

    Selfishly also, this partial or rather selective and productive engagement with/investment in my SD increases the probability that she won’t wind up on our doorstep looking for a handout later on in life. I wonder if fully disengaging now only opens SMs up to headaches down the road. Food for thought. Good luck to all of you and I hope when the harms outweigh the benefits, you’ll excuse yourself from the table.

    1. All of these comments and yours truly help so much. Makes me feel like I’m not alone. I’m engaged and will soon become and official SM to an 11 year old girl. I met her when she was 7. We’ve always had a wonderful relationship and she does listen and respects me most of the time. However, I get so overwhelmed sometimes. I know I’m not her mom, nor do I try to be, but I do find myself always trying to be some sort of mother figure. And on my days off of work and she’s with us while my fiancé is working from home, I feel pressure on myself to entertain her or be that mother figure watching over her and I feel like I’m losing myself at times. I mentally feel so exhausted. I feel guilty walking away to do my own thing or watch my own shows or leave the house to run an errand. I do feel guilt if I don’t go to the soccer games etc. My brain feels so fried.

  52. I have felt so overwhelmed lately, I am currently 4 months pregnant, bio mom to a 6 and 4 year old, and step-mom/mom(bio mom passed away before his 3rd birthday) to an 11 year old boy. To say it has been difficult is an understatement. My stepson and I used to be buddies and do everything together when he was younger before his brother and sister arrived. His bio moms mother raised him for the first 4 years of his life as my husband had recently discovered his sobriety and was getting back on his feet. I came into the picture after he had turned 4. I’ve tried to mother him the best way I knew how, setting boundaries, rules, expectations, consequences and still trying to maintain his friendship until he started living with us full time(no longer with his grandmother) and as there years have gone on it has only gotten worse. I have major resentment towards my step son, his bio moms family and my husband. I am expected to mother and love him like I do his siblings and I try to but it’s not the same. I am met with animosity, stubbornness, vileness, hate and discord; at some points I think my stepson does things on purpose just so he can prove to everyone I am in fact the wicked step mother. I of course have to bow down because I am frequently reminded I am not his real mom but yet I’m expected to be at his every beck and call. He forgets something I have to take it to him or go and find it(his dad works 14 hour shifts) he breaks his chrome book I have to find the money to replace it, loses his phone or his glasses I have to replace them or go searching for them and hunt them down. I AM TIRED. I AM EXHAUSTED. At times I cannot allow myself to love him, let alone like him. I never thought that this would be this HARD every single day. I’m tired of crying, I’m tired of doing everything for this child and I am treated awful. I want to throw my hands in the air and say “you win!” and raise his siblings and let his grandmother and father raise him.

  53. I found this site searching for answers because Im embarrassed to talk to anyone about this. So, I’ve been in a relationship 5yrs with a man I absolutely love. He absolutely loves me and it has been amazing. 6 months ago he bought a house and we are now living together and…. this is the first time of 5yrs we are living together… He is 20yrs older than me and has 3 adult children and 3 underaged children. I have none. He has full custody, recently of a 15yrs old… I’m 32 btw. So… I am feeling lost. Our relationship has been amazing, however up until moving in with him, I have not really been around his children. I’m feeling snowballed, overwhelmed and like WTF. I’m trying not to let the kids affect how I feel about our amazing relationship, but it’s extremely hard. I get upset because he’s sooo lax with them and they completely play him like a fucking violin.. It makes me upset. I read the article two months ago and started disengaging with the younger ones immediately. I decided to post because once I started getting back to “me” and this relationship. It was a complete 180. The kids are “trying” to do the right thing and are actually nicer. My guy started “seeing” what was going on and nipped their BS in the butt. So just wanted to reply, this small article literally saved me from walking away from someone amazing. Im even finding things I adore and love about his children. Anyway… Thanks♥️

  54. I absolutely agree with this…when thete is ANY sort of dysfunctional behaviour or relationships already established BEFORE the Step-parent comes along.

    The trouble is the Step-parent isn’t AWARE of it before he/ she gets involved.

    I think the best way forward is for any POTENTIAL Step-parents to OBSERVE the situation and relationships BEFORE getting heavily invested or taking on a Parenting Role.

    I’ve realised this as a Trained Mental Health Professional, but I had the “idea” of a “happy blended family” when I met my now husband 3 years ago. It was MY EXPECTATIONS that created problems for myself.

    Both my husband, his ex and his kids have basically told me to “stay out of it”.

    His ex wife is a bully, with a Personality Disorder and is emotionally abusive. 2 of the 5 kids copy her. My husband has Learning Difficulties, Inattentive ADHD and let’s his ex wife and children walk all over him. The other 3 kids, copy him. Some of the kids have her MH traits and some have his Learning Difficulty traits. Only 1 of the kids has been formally diagnosed (neither the adults or the rest of the kids have went to see about their problems & in fact not even SELF AWARE enough to realise that they DO have problems.)

    So please be AWARE there may well be ISSUES for the FAMILY splitting up that you don’t know about, and are often to do with Parenting, not just the husband/ wife relationship, when there are kids involved.

    The ONLY way to have a relationship with the man you love, is to LET GO of the IDEA of being a STEP MUM. Same is true for potential STEP DADS. Just focus on being a good wife/ husband and your OWN Wellbeing and your own hobbies/ friends/ family/ work/ interests.

    Hope this helps someone today. Much love to all ❤?

    1. Thank you for this post and sharing your story – it resonates with me and I am going to disengage from only one of my stepdaughters who has problematic behavior. I wonder how that will go but I cannot leave the man I love over her or she will have succeeded in really ruining my life.

  55. I was very happy to run into this article. My husband has two daughters by two different mothers. I never put myself in the role of a step mom simply because each girl had her own mother and regardless whether I approved of her mothering methods or not, I never looked at either one of them as my responsibility. The oldest is an adult now and she was and is a wonderful person. It never bothered me that she lived with us her last two years of high school. She is such a decent human being that it was so easy to like her. She is in college and is doing well for herself. I tell her father he should be very proud of her. Meanwhile her younger half sister is the poster child of lazy. She has no work ethic. Don’t get me wrong she can make straight A’s but that’s the extent of her skill set. My daughter and my husband’s eldest daughter got straight A’s too but he never threw a parade for either of them. So the youngest is 17 going on 8. When she comes here I have nothing to do with her. She doesn’t talk and she sits for hours on the couch with her phone up her nose. Ever since I have known her she never participated in anything, just her butt planted on the sofa. But as soon as her father would come home she’d run up to him and inform him of all the things she did. My daughter called her out and informed him she didn’t do anything and his oldest just seem to accept there was a untold acceptation it was ok for her to lie and be allowed to continue the behavior. As a result my husband didn’t like my daughter because she was blunt with him about his youngest lying. I don’t like liars, at any age. It’s unacceptable. So I backed off, and after my daughter left for college I felt amazingly free since there were no permanent children in the house. The youngest was always an every other weekend house guest.
    After the older girls left for adulthood my husband became more ‘insistent’ that I become part of his youngest daughter’s life. I’m not in to hanging out with a lazy liar that doesn’t even put any effort into her lying any more. I suspect she is selling drugs as she has come into a lot of money recently from her part time job as a hostess. I mean seriously how many hostesses make 3K in two months working 4 hours at a breakfast place on a Saturday afternoon?? It is really ruining our marriage. So basically disengaging doesn’t necessarily mean a happy marriage or that the child’s father will step up. But what it does do is allow me my life back without compromising my principles. I enjoy my daughter who’s in college and I enjoy when his older daughter comes for a visit. His youngest will be 18 in 5 very short months. I suspect she’ll have nothing to do with him after that since she won’t be forced her by court order and they have such a lousy relationship. Given the stress and guilt trips my husband is laying on me I am hoping that time will be on my side for this. But if she ends up moving in as an adult, I will be leaving.

  56. The same thing happened to me as well, except the BM would want me to do everything and tell me im not the children’s parent. My husband had little backbone when it came to confrontations with his BM, and i didnt get the support I needed. When I decided to disengage, I did not do it gradually. i told him i would not be playing an active parenting role for his children any longer as they have parents. i was not his and his BM’s personal babysitter or Nanny. I had children of my own, as well as one with him that deserved an active mother. I was no longer going to take the bullying and expectations of how i should handle his kids. for now on it was his job to take care of them, or their mothers. Let me say, it is one thing to tell your husband this and another to see it in action. it caused a lot of arguments and fights. It took him a while to learn I was not abandoning them, I was still there to support him just not do it for him. He began consulting me on things like how to do laundry, cooking etc. He watches the things i do with our son and it helps him understand the importance of it. For example, I would put our son to bed and have “Mom time” for a few hours before bed. On the other side of the house his children were destroying the house, leaving messes etc. One day he asked me how I do it. I explained the importance of a bedtime is not just for the children. I gave him pointers etc. He tries them out and sees what works for him. Moral of the story, we are a very happy couple and have a great relationship. We have actually learned a lot from this avenue. We now love to cook together, and enjoy telling each other jokes while doing laundry. His children still have issues, but I focus my energy on my children and supporting him while he raises his children. The advise I will give is, do not back down. do what you can to help your husband/significant other understand what support means, the rest is up to them. They will continue to do what you allow, and get angry when the status quo is changed and not in their favor. Still hold your ground. Eventually, it will get better or your relationship will be over. You have to be ok with both sides of that spectrum. You deserve to be happy and healthy, as well as respected.

  57. After reading this article and all the wonderful and honest comments, I am taking huge solace in the fact I am not alone. I have “helped” to raise three children (all male) with their biodad. I have no kids of my own. The first two had a deadbeat mother who were ages 4 and 7 when I came into their lives. Their egg donor moved out of state, refused to contact them, and willfully refused to work or pay support until pushed by courts to do so after almost 8 years of arrearages piling up. The third came to us at age 11 when he and his half-siblings were removed from their home due to physical abuse, neglect, and extensive drug use by their biomom and stepdad.

    The first two are now adults and living on their own (at last) but the third is now 16, and his behavior is getting more concerning. At first, he was throwing unicorns and rainbows about his “perfect mother” and how she never did anything wrong to him, but now he claims he is empty inside and never feels he can do anything right. He maintains it has nothing to do with his mom or his time in her household. He has been online during face-to-face school, and instead of completing assignments, looked up videos on youtube and played video games, which for some reason he can download to his school laptop. We just had a conference with his school, but he’s back to his old routine, and with COVID circumstances, I really can’t fault teachers for not finding a way to keep him on task. When we brought up his missing assignments and set ground rules and consequences, he burst into a crying rage about how we make him feel worse about himself. Same thing when he ignored household responsibilities and goes out to play with friends (dad is home during the day but I work full time). Then, his dad and I fight about all of it because I’m always mean. Mind you, both his dad and his mom are bipolar and so of course his well-being is at stake to protect his mental health. But it’s overwhelming to have already done the stepmom work for 2 kids, who had ADHD, learning disabilities, and other challenges, not to mention their dad, who is managing his bipolar with medication but still struggles, and then have this third child with so many challenges and more concerns that my dream of just being myself in this household has disappeared.

    The item about NOT trying to make up for what stepkids did not get from their bio parents has really hit home for me. I realized that I thought, since I grew up with competent parents, intellect, and the ability to maintain a stable lifestyle, that I could “fix” these kids and give them more than those who had raised them so far. Even funnier, I actually thought they’d appreciate what I did for them, since it was far beyond what they experienced with their former families/biomoms. Or even with their dad, who loves them unconditionally, but for some reason decides “we” have to do certain things for them again and again without complaint, and who has a much more lax attitude about schedules and household maintenance than I do.

    I was absolutely wrong. And that’s okay. Why should I have to put in more effort, energy, and concern than their own biological parents? If their parents struggled as children and as adults, and pass those poor choices and lack of expectations onto their kids, why is that my job to change? Why should I think the kids are magically going to realize my responsible, stable way of life is best for them and embrace my methods?

    So, I will disengage and find more energy for myself. The household will not collapse if I don’t rush home after my own full day at work to check on schoolwork, chores, or dinner. I don’t have to be home if the older kids visit, or if they reach out for help that their dad is just dying to give. I can reclaim my own life and not feel guilty that I’m not making it “better” for kids who have no interest in considering there could be a different way to do things. I just made a hair appointment for myself for the first time in months, and I fully intend to keep it.

  58. After nearly 30 years of being a step mum to my son who has ADHD, I still get criticism for not being good enough, child abandonment and my own two children that followed have been born of course with silver spoons in their mouths! I used to buy their clothes in charity shops and had loads of free fun whereas my stepson always wanted branded clothing and had loads of one to one fun! He is 33 now and still punishing me, he said he will get in touch with birth mother so good luck to them both, truly hope they go and find each other! I did my best and tried teaching the three of the children all about the world around them and being good people, he never could listen due to his problems,so I have finally given up 33 years later and had to walk away but still feel judged, I am to blame for his anger! It’s a no joy situation so for me, step parenting has been nothing but traumatic and stressful. Think twice before entering into any step situation! I need to totally disengage now to preserve the little confidence I have left and try and find some peace, enjoy seeing positive things coming from my own two children as opposed to having to deal with my stepson’s constant negativity and wrath.

    1. I feeling your pain. If I would have know what I was getting myself into when I was 18 years old. I could have save myself so so many tears and heart ache.
      Nobody can say I didn’t show up and gave it my very best!! I have made many mistakes along the way with good intentions but not taken that way. So frigging sad another failed relationship not just on my part. I have been trying for 33yrs now. 😥

  59. I’ve raised my stepson since he was 5/6. His mom was in and out of his life due to drugs. The end of his junior year she got clean and they have formed a relationship. I always thought he’d remember and appreciate me always being a constant in his life and treating him as my own. While I believe he loves me, I know now I’ll never be as important to him as I thought. Now I’m navigating how to disengage after all these years. It makes me resent my husband for being put in the “mother” role in the first place. How do I stop caring after all these years? I worry that when he has children that I won’t be allowed to have a relationship with them. I can’t continue to have my heart broken by him. I would tell anyone looking to marry a man with a child to think twice and go into it protecting your heart. It will be an emotionally tough journey.

  60. I have been trying this for almost a year now with my stepchildren. After almost 10 years of feeling like I am constantly the bad guy. Between the 2 of us we have 7 children (5 his and 2 mine) and 3 of his live with us full time. All boys 17, 16, and 13. I have always tried to be a good step parent to them and never wanted to replace their BM, however much i think she’s a horrible role model for them. My husband is too busy I feel, trying to be their buddy and not a dad. The amount of disrespect I get from things like language, poor grades, laziness and no enforced curfew with no correction from their father EVER makes me crazy! I have been in their lives and gone to every sport, school, extracurricular activity theyve been in and been their biggest cheerleader when their own mother doesn’t. All I am is a cook, maid, taxi and ATM to them. My bio kids have never treated my husband that way and I would never allow it. He allows it from his kids towards me and buries his head in the sand even if it happens right in front of him. I’m at my wits end with all of it and I am so glad I came across this article and now i know i am not the only one struggling with this. I have been back n forth about deciding whether to walk away or not. I always thought it may be easier as the kids got older but it is not. Our parenting styles are much different and i dont want to have any part of how they end up as adults. When i try to disengage i get a guilt trip from everyone. I am not sure what else to do at this point.

  61. Whew! This article hits the nail on the head for me. I’ve been in their lives for the last 6.5 years, my stepdaughter was 10. My now husband is a cowardly man, and her mother is a narcissist with an addiction problem. My husband did not parent his children from his first wife (nor did she) and those kids are all a hot mess. From his second baby mama, his daughter is basically my responsibility. He just let everything shift to me when we started dating. She called me mom once when we were only dating for one month, which I explained was inappropriate and she had a mother. She should call me by my first name or we could come up with a nickname that we both like. She was fine with this and I explained it so she could understand at age 10.

    Her mother isn’t in her life and that’s a very big messy story that is love to get off my chest, but it’s so intricate I’d need to write a novel to get it all out. She is quite a mean girl, she “acts” how she thinks she should when we are present, but she’s been in trouble before with what’s she’s texted someone or written about them on paper and she can be quite fucking evil. I’m not perfect and I try to be understanding but firm with rules for which she will completely disregard. She takes things that don’t belong to her and kind of claims them as her own. It’s stupid because it’s usually little things, but I feel so disrespected and I’m afraid to fly off the handle so sometimes I just say nothing. I have spoken to her father and he NEVER says anything to her, states he doesn’t know what to say.

    After needing this, I think though her care has been left to me for everything, I have to create some separation because I’m starting to hate my husband and dare I say it, her. My husband doesn’t mean to be a bad partner, I know he wants my happiness, he’s just so afraid of confrontation (and everything else tbh) he chooses to do and say nothing. I have to figure how to let him figure it out, without being completely disgusted with him in the meantime.

  62. Sooo many of us are in the same boat. Stepmom to three. One is estranged. Two others, sd12 and ss14 live with us basically full time because they claimed abuse by their stepdad but I’m not so sure on that now. They’re both manipulative. Ss14 now doesn’t want to be around me alone after I called him out on so much stuff when he had a tantrum. I told dh that I’m done doing all the parenting. It’s time to go back to shared time and they both can figure out school drop off and pick up. He said that sd12 is fine at their moms but doesn’t want to go to school from there because she doesn’t like the clothes her moms gets her. Bullcrap….she just went shopping with her mom and got stuff she wanted. If she doesn’t like it that’s her own fault. My only child just graduated high school, drives and has a job. I’m done. The stepkids are extremely awkward. They don’t speak. They’re nasty. Sd12 has a cup of milk with cereal in it in her room from a week ago. Dh used to flip out if my son took a baggie of cheez-it’s to his room. Now he won’t say anything to them because they might not want to live with us like sd18 did. Not my problem anymore. He lets their mom and them decide when they want to see their mom. Sometimes they go for a day. Sometimes two weeks and then our plans with and without them are shot. So I’m done. I told him I love him but him and their mom need to learn to communicate and figure out how to parent them because they don’t want me to parent and I’m not doing it anymore. Of course he won’t communicate or talk all of this out and is putting it all on his dad to get them to and from school. Also not my fault. And ss14 is no longer allowed to be home alone with me. Who knows what lies he would tell.

  63. I have been married 5 years and I have been in the kid’s life since they were 3 and 4. There are so many ways I disengaged before reading this article but I keep trying and am disappointed each time. I told my husband and he seems upset every time I feel this way. I decided to read the article to him so he would understand. After reading it, he finally said I love you and I understand. Sometimes their understanding is all we need. It is a way of showing their love.

    Right now, I am frustrated because I just bought some clothes for my ten year old step daughter and she keeps wearing the same jeans over and over each time we go somewhere nice. I’m about to take the clothes while she is out the house and return them all. I’m tired of spending hard earned money for items to be wasted. At one point, we were sending big ticket items during birthdays and Christmas and the mom sold them on FaceBook. Yes, I found the post. If I disengaged long ago, they wouldn’t even see a gift from us. But if you see your mom sell items someone else worked hard for, why would that teach you? I’m over it!!

  64. I have a very kind husband who always cares about me and my needs, however, her daughter is such a disrespectful girl that always hurts me. We decided to immigrate from our home country to come to a new country to start over, however, there is no improvement at all. She has become 19 and when I ask her to move out and find a place for her, she refuses and tells me you should pay for me till I become 22. I cannot stand her and her dramas anymore. Her mother does not show any support and has not paid a penny for her in these years.
    I am already 34, with no child (because I had not time to be a mother! I always had to work and then study for immigration and now that I invested all my youth years, I am not happy with this life I have).
    I feel very sorry for all these women out there that started home and family with hope but always entitled as an enemy!

  65. Absolutely, I feel the same. My husband and his ex-wife have 50/50 (one week on and one week off). I have an 80/20 split with my ex-husband. During the summer I do not have to go to work. My husband (who really is incredible) just expected me to take full responsibility for raising his two young children. I have been doing this for 4 years in a row and just emotionally can’t do it anymore. I got 80/20; because I knew I could do that with or without help from anyone and if I were to remarry I would still be able to care for them fully and not lean on a future spouse. The bio mom is non-existent during her weeks off with the boys. I feel that if he can not watch them in the summer they need to be with her she is the bio. She works part-time for her family and is able to make her own schedule. My husband really is not a fan of her and her lack of affection and socialization she has, but I feel since she is the bio she should have this time. I am raising mine with little to no help and do not ask for it because they are my responsibility. I do not want to be a martyr anymore. I told him this is the last summer I am doing this. He is finally understanding. I have told him this for the past 4 summers, but after many talks, he is finally understanding. Stay strong step parents.

  66. I needed this website right now. I have been with my husband since I was 18 years old. He was 28 years old. Since 1988. He has one daughter my stepdaughter, but I have always felt and referred to her as my daughter since she was 3 years old. She asked me what do a call you? I replied you can call me any thing. You can call me Sheri you can call me mom. It your choice. We drive and picked her every weekend and and had play dates when we did have her. Her bio mom neglected her and her sister. Stepdaughter always came to us with dirty moldy laundry, always sick, and I don’t know how many lice treatments we had to do… Things seem to be going somewhat ok until me and my husband got married and stepdaughter moved into our home. Rules schedules got set. Which stepdaughter mom’s house did not gave that. No stability and so much more..I became very protective of my stepdaughter and her well being and how she was being cared for and her upbringing that I took on my stepmom role maybe a little to seriously. While she was still calling me mom which she chose when she was young. Stepdaughter moved into our home, our rules That I was the primary caregiver and everything else in between. Things stated to go south quickly. Daughter said I don’t want to call you mom anymore and I don’t want to have these feelings towards you as well. She has been calling mom since she was 3 years old until she was 14 years old. Broke my heart, more then i can say. Stepdaughter. My daughter in my eyes says don’t take it personally!! With all the conflict me and my husband separate for a while, and almost got a divorce over me over stepping the boundaries that never got established in the first place. He was just listening to his daughter complaining. After her complaining he said to me that I just need to say out of the desion making. The whole house went to shit. Stepdaughter moved out to her disfunction mom’s house. Stepdaughter daughter is going to be 36 years old in a few weeks and this is how she still speaks to me..Also… I know this may be hard for you to understand… because ever since I was a little girl, it’s always been about you!! Ya know, your feelings would get hurt if I wanted to spend time with dad without you… dad and I always had to be considerate of that… because…. well, if your feelings got hurt, then the rest of the night suck. I love her like she is my own. I have done everything that a bio mom would do and be. I am so tired of the hurt feelings. This is going to have to be a no win situation. I have tried almost eveything except DISANGAGE.

  67. How do you disengage a stepchild when your husband works nights and sleeps all day so you HAVE to do everything for them? Even if he isn’t sleeping, he’s locked away in the bedroom playing video games. My husband has a 10 year old daughter from previous relationship and I have a 7 year old daughter from a previous relationship and together we have a set of twins and a five year old daughter. We started dating in 2015 when my daughter was 18 months and his daughter was 5. Everything was fine until after moving in with them I noticed that his daughter was a bully to mine. We also had a roommate who was pregnant. She came to me about seeing his daughter kick mine and push her around. So I went to him about it and he told me to stop talking shit about her and that I was jealous. We broke a million times because of it. Anytime I saw what she did, she would run to her daddy and he would of course baby her. At her 7th birthday, she and her cousin teamed up on my daughter who was 3 at the time and bullied her making her cry. I was right there to hear everything and when I told him he pulled her into the hallway and got onto her but that was it. I wanted to tell his cousin that their daughter was part of it but he told me not to because he didn’t want conflict. She also has horrible habits and horrible hygiene. When I first moved in her room was disgusting. Trash, toys and clothes everywhere. He let her shove everything under the bed and in the closet. He was still wiping her butt and stopped when she was 6 or 7. Her mom is just as bad. When she goes there she’s the fun parent, doesn’t teach her anything of value. I’ve tried teaching her things girls should know, how to be clean hygiene wise and at the house. How to be responsible, and own it when you mess up but everything I do is “mean”. My husband tells me that everything that happened when she was smaller doesn’t matter anymore and I need to be the adult about it. And everything she does wrong or forgets, he makes excuses and doesn’t make her take any responsibility at all. She cries ALL the time about the smallest things and then he yells at me for it. Many times I’ve tried talking to her trying to understand and when I tell him, he literally told me that I have no reason to do that and to leave her alone but he expects me to treat her like my other kids. How can I do that when I simply talk to her and he jumps me for it? I’ve been thinking about leaving for a long time but I don’t because I’m in the middle of a custody case with my daughters dad right now and my husband is the one who works. Everything is in his name, I have no car or any money. I’m stuck

  68. How could this work for me… I have a 2 yo, 4 yo, and an 8yo. My stepdaughter is 8… I love her but she constantly hurts me. Unfortunately, my husband is gone, and I am the house wife due to daycare expenses being so high… her mother literally gets her maybe once every two months…my children and I are struggling in our relationship too because I can literally not give them any affection without step daughter getting jealous and trying to take over or if unsuccessful hurts my children (punching, kicking, biting, etc.)… she tries to play mom she tries to tell me what to do and then when I put my foot down and tell her no that is not how we will act in this house, she plays victim and says I abuse her (I literally don’t touch her to the point I am even afraid to hug her, because she will yell help even if she is the one that hugged me…). Her mom put a lot of bad thoughts in her head about me and then disappears for months and I am left to deal with it while my husband is at work. I’m also currently a part time student so I try fitting in study breaks while letting the older two play their games and the Littles take a nap so they never come out but she turns around and says I don’t take care of them because I study all the time. Even going out to have fun together as a family she will have some meltdown or randomly stop in front of people and for no reason start crying saying I am being mean to her… my husband had been blind to it but now sees it himself and is at his wit end… I don’t know what to do… I love him but she is literally drowning me in a sea of depression…

    1. I’m so sorry about your situation.

      I too am in a somewhat similar situation. I have been married for 6 years and have a 5 yr old and a 3 year old. My husband has a son who is 11 that I’ve known since the age of 3. His mother wasn’t in the picture but has recently returned. I’m dealing with constant arguments and him being disrespectful. Everyone says he is just a kid. But he is a child that cause the environment to be negative which impacts my children and myself. His dad makes it seem like he can do no wrong. While in reality he is very jealous, rude, manipulative and when he doesn’t get his way or like what you have to say he interacts with my children more aggressively (fighting, kicking, biting, etc.). I raise him no different and treat him no different yet I’m the one being punished. I don’t know what to do. At times I feel it’s best to not be in my marriage as it removes me from the environment. My husband keep saying it’s a package deal regardless of the child behavior. He works a lot and so do I yet I do most of the parenting which makes it hard. I want him to take over parenting my step son.

  69. I am so glad to have found this post. I have been with my boyfriend for 7 years, we have 5 y old twins and a 2 year old. He expects me to take care of his 9 y old daughter who doesn’t like me. With school starting, he and her birth mom have decided to opt into virtual learning, he goes to work all day, her mom can work from home but they want to make me be responsible for her education. When I tell my boyfriend it stresses me out because she doesn’t listen to me, he tells me that I am a person who should have never had children. My kids are always getting in trouble when she is here because I’m too afraid to ask her why she is telling them to stop or not to do something. I don’t know what to do anymore, I don’t want to be the one who watches his child and is solely responsible for her education while he is at work and her mother is at home taking naps. He said if I keep pushing his kids away he will treat our kids badly….. I’m so terribly sad about the whole situation I’ve been out in.

  70. So my step daughter mother gave up and started a new family , she is no longer involved. I have been raising her since she was 1 she is now 11 . Her bio mom gave up yrs ago so how would that work , I am so tired of the disrespect it’s like she takes out her hurt of bio mom giving up on her on me . I’ve pretty much been her primary care

  71. At least I am not the only one. My stepkids live out of state and this summer my husband brought them for 2 months while he worked, so I was at home full time with them while working from home, I have a son of my own, so all of a sudden I was taking care and feeding 3 pre teens, I was going mad, I started disliking them so much that disengaging came naturally for my own mental health. We had plans for vacation in november for the 5 of us and I told my husband NO WAY, so, he doesn’t want to go without his kids, I told him we’ll each do one on one with our own separately. He wasn’t happy nor he understands. I even don’t care, I’m at that point, I still have PTSD from this summer, his kids do not have good manners, they eat with their hands, not using cutlery, they talk back when my husband called them out, and this is on a daily basis, I started to notice I was missing things like makeup, personal hygiene stuff, it was the girl, lying to my face, so ungrateful , called her mom to complain about us, oh my God, it was a disaster. They are strangers to me and I feel very uncomfortable when they are around, thank God they live far away. I just don’t want them home, maybe I need space and nect summer plan for only 2 weeks and for my husband to take vacations, any other way I won’t accept it.

  72. I could’ve written some of these comments myself. My husband and his daughter’s mom has had a VERY bad coparent relationship since 2013 (that’s when we got married and all I can attest to). The daughter’s mom has HATED me from the beginning. Prior to me she had fought/attacked, spitted on, or simply bullied every girl he had dated while in High School. And no, I had no idea the daughter’s mom was this crazy…we aren’t from the same city…let alone the same state).
    In 2013, she made him decide between me and his daughter (I had never met her nor had I done ANYTHING to provoke her). It’s been HELL since then.
    In the beginning my step daughter was SWEET and she picked up on how crazy her mom was. But as she got older she started “playing sides”, something her mom tells her/makes her feel as though she MUST do. Her mom has made her believe that she can’t love BOTH mommy and daddy because “mommy doesn’t like daddy”. My husband has tried to explain to her it’s ok to love both mommy and daddy. They have been to court for the past 7 years but the judge admitted to my husband that he is “all for mothers”. So the best he would do is find her in contempt of withholding the child but he wouldn’t allow my husband to get majority custody because “my husband can continue being the mature one” and “mom needs a chance to grow up” or “daughters need their mom” regardless of how toxic they are.
    The daughter’s mom has even called child services on us and had my kids interviewed because my step daughter fell while playing and got a scratch. That was the LAST STRAW for me, I stepped completely back from stepdaughter. This is a messed up thing to do.
    I’ve watched my step daughter go from this sweet little 4 year old to this lying, confused, and hurting 10 year old. I am heart broken behind it. No kid deserves this.
    It took awhile for me to disengage because I love children. I love to make fun memories with my babies (I had a lot of children with my husband).
    But I’m happy I was able to disengage and continue loving my husband but not get involved with that toxic relationship.

  73. I have been married for 40 years to my second husband I have 1 daughter from my first marriage and my husband as a son and daughter from his first marriage, we lived in the same town as his children for 25 years and in the beginning his daughter came to see us but gradually see started to manipulate her father and wanted to see him on his own which I was glad of in some ways because I could see things were changing she she didn’t like my daughter that much and made it known .there was 4 years different between them ,she being the older of the two, she was about 14 when her father and I met. I did get a letter sent to me from her bio mother in the early days saying that I was not her mother and I was not to do anything special for her, so I stepped back and told my husband that’s what I would be doing .in the end she stopped coming to the house and it was quite calm, my husband was a mechanic and as she got old he brought a small car nothing expensive he did it up and I was quite happy about it then she started bring it to him for every little fault on it And expecting it to be repaired for free,then he decided enough was enough and told her so,which she didn’t like,then she stopped seeing him after that,.cut a long story short after 25 years living in the same area and same house my own daughter asked us to move near to her and her family as we were getting old 63,and 72 and we have been here ten years now and my husband has not been well for the past four years he had heart failure and COPD and my daughter is a trained nurse. So has helped me a lot lately, still no contact from any of his family, then suddenly this week my husband had a letter from his daughter saying that she would like to pick up contact again after thirty five years, I just don’t know what to do it was addresses to her father not to us as a couple so it’s brought back a lot of emotional feelings which I could do with out this moment of , his son who was a lot old when when we married was in the merchant navy, so we very rarely saw him but none had any contact with us at all, I just don’t know what to do, I
    I am getting emotionally distress about .

  74. WoW! So many of these comments are so the life I am living right now with my husband and his son (my SS). My husband has shared parenting with week on/off. We have been married for over 4 years and the SS is now 14. For 2 years I have been saying the exact same thing to my husband about his sons behavior. His son is being purposely manipulative in our marriage in an attempt to cause our divorce. He even admitted to his counselor. Yet my husband continues to defend and make excuses for anything and everything his son does or doesn’t do. To the point that my husband has blamed me for malicious stuff his son does. A few weeks ago while my husband was at work the internet was out so SS decided to rewire the internet cable into the back of the BluRay player in an attempt to “fix it”. I was not home during this time. Keep in mind he (SS) is not supposed to touch the internet wires/cables because he has messed it up before. My husband was texting me that he can’t get ahold of his son so I must have done something to the internet. So when I got home I checked the internet and wires to see what was wrong. After discovering the issue, I asked SS how the internet cable got plugged into the BluRay player of course he didn’t know and he lied to me when I asked him if he touched it. So I say to him, “someone broke into our home to rewire the internet yet didn’t take anything!! Again, SS says he didn’t touch it. Of course, the SS lying and manipulation is especially worse when his dad at work when I left to watch him!! My husband blamed me for doing something to the internet because the SS didn’t have internet but SS was the one who rewired it! Of course being the master manipulator that he is he knew it was cause an argument us. My husband does not support me and he emphatically defends anything/everything his son does! The kid does not listen to me, respect me and has openly admitted he doesn’t like me yet I am left to watch him when my husband is at work (24 hr shift). My husband does nothing to address or correct his sons bad manipulative behavior. Thus allowing and reinforcing it to continue. I have asked that SS go stay with his BM when my husband works. From the time I met my husband I noticed there was something off & odd about his son. Others have also noticed & commented. From the time my husband and his ex divorced his son has been pulling his own hair out. Timeline is 9 years now! SS had major bald spots all over his head. Neither of parents seemed to care to notice or do anything to address it. SS is very odd, very little social skills, communication skills, he stares at people, poor hygiene (like at 14 he cannot or will not brush his teeth, has had the same bottle of body wash for 2 years, refuses to wear deodorant), he didn’t know how to use a utensils when I met him (he as allowed to eat pancakes & waffles with his fingers). I had to ask that he uses utensils at the table. I highly encouraged my husband to get his son help. Now in counseling that I am excluded from during a session with my husband, SS & BM – I was the topic of conversation and I am now the reason for all of SS issues!!! Umm excuse me? Both my husband and his ex treat their now 14 1/2 year old son like a baby. He has zero accountability or responsibility. BM calls his “baby”! He is allowed to lie to me and disrespect me. I know that SS knows exactly what he is doing his dad/my husband refuses to see it. Not sure how when it has been a repeated topic. SS is causing major issues in our marriage and my husband does nothing to parent/manage his son. My youngest daughter is one year older and a grade higher than my SS. They are treated night & day different by my husband. My daughter like me has become resentful. I am raising my daughter to be responsible, accountable, independent and capable of making good choices. My SS cannot & will not do anything with constant & continuous direction from his dad. During the weeks my SS is with us my husband (when not working) gets up with him every morning for school to make sure that he has his breakfast, his backpack & lunch and is out the door on time for the bus!!! The boy is a freshman in HS! I am to the point that I dread & hate the weeks SS is at our home. SS has a habit of “forgetting” to get up for school on mornings my husband is still at work. This happened today, so I wake him up for school. SD forgets to take his medication before school. I try again to have a conversation with my husband that his son does this under my watch not getting up for school. Knowing that my husband texted him last night to remind him to set his alarm! He is 14!! Why does he have zero accountability & responsibility?? Husband says to me “he doesn’t do it on purpose”. Well yes he does because to date he has done it every week he with us when you are work! So I ask what he plans to do to address this issue and he says nothing he is a typical normal teenager to which I say nope there is nothing normal or typical about what is going on here. So by disengaging I will no longer wake up SS for school and his dad can deal with it. I will no longer go to dinner with my husband if SS goes. I am at a complete & total loss. This is no way to have a good strong marriage. I do love my husband. But, his lack of support and ability to see what his son does in an effort to ruin our marriage has me seriously contemplating divorce.

  75. I started this process about a year ago, not knowing that it had a definition. I’m very grateful to have found this info and discovering that others that can relate. I know that what I’m about to ask will sound preposterous to some and downright immature to others. I know this is not much backstory. Teen SD, no bio kids, I’ve been around since she was very small, mom is around. I love my husband dearly.

    Does anyone have advice for the resentful feelings that still occur after disengaging? The disrespect of your spouse, home and resources? I felt peace for a while, but as the behaviour gets worse, the angrier I feel sometimes.

  76. My problem is a grown-up SD. She yells and screams at me like no one in my entire life has screamed at me. My husband will not show her that he is displeased with her behavior. They were best friends in his previous relationship and she constantly feels like she is being slighted, shunned or ignored.
    We have tried to set up rules that at a minimum she needs to be civil and polite. And that helps to at least stop the arguments from escalating. But the fact that my husband does not really admonish her is making me turn cold against him. And I’m a nervous wreck before she comes to visit and walk on eggshells the entire time. I feel like it is domestic abuse and she is the abuser.

  77. Gosh I’m glad I found this. I am struggling. I was okay and happy when my husband and I had custody of his adopted son every weekend. Then his ex-wife passed away and my life was totally flipped upside down (luckily our son was too small to remember). To keep it short, I’m at the point where I’m not liking my stepson. He is disrespectful, has no self-control but refuses to be corrected either. He doesn’t own up to any mistakes and blames others for everything. We have tried every parenting approach with him and he doesn’t respond to anything. He gets extremely jealous if I even sit next to his dad and when my husband steps in and corrects him, he will through a tantrum until he gets his way. I have gotten so tired of it, that I hide in my room so I don’t have to deal with him and then my husband comes in asking for help because our son is talking back or not listening. But I am stuck because there is no other mom figure in his life.

  78. This article is really well written and reassuring. Thank you, I thought I was the only one but there are so man others out there (it seems) like me!

  79. Hi my husband is a truck driver and he got 2 kids 8 and 10 from previous marriage and we have a 4 month old of our own. Usually we have the step kids every other weekend when his off from work but now his doing longer trips for more money so il get to see him maybe 1 day in 2 weeks. So he just asked me to pick he step kids up this weekend and I know his not going to be here. I don’t understand why I have to pick them up when their FATHER is not here and give myself more work while I have my own, my sleeping schedule is all messed up and he knows this. So he wants his ex wife to have a weekend off while I struggle with 3 kids by myself??? I know he is going to say he is probably not going to be home like before so I still have to pick the kids up and I don’t see the point! Let them stay with their MOTHER! I am I wrong to feel like this?? Oh and he is concerned that his ex wife is an alcoholic and he doesn’t want the kids around that but you knew that when you knocked her up the first and second time! Why she should I my life harder to make his ex easier???

    1. He doesn’t want to pay more child support. If he sees his kids less, he’ll need to pay more. It’s the money honey 🤨

  80. Men simply don’t make a home like women do; that’s why they let stepmother’s step into the parent roll. In the biological marriage, the mother also took on the role of the parent.
    Never do for someone what they can and should do for themselves. What makes me feel bad is:
    No rules, no boundaries, tv and phone screens any and all hours of the day and night, constant food rewards, constant shopping – children raised by fathers these days get unending rewards for “bad” behavior. They also have dirty bed sheets, dirty homes, little healthy food cooked for them……..
    Sorry to sound sexist, but women just do “mothering” better than fathers.

  81. It’s crazy, this article can also represent a males POV as well. Most of this information checks the boxes of concern I have. I’d like to just say that men also have these issues and unique set of them that women don’t experience and women to men as well.

  82. Hi, I’ve been living with my 2 stepchildren for 10 years and my BF is not a man that has the ability to discipline, he supported me but was the good cop so he is great and I am the evil SM. I so regret that I did not Disengaging before now, that I waited until I was drained. My BF was a single father they burnt him out and I came at a good time in his life but not for me. After many years I realized these children especially the SD will never be appreciative, she is now an adults and never sees all the good thing I done just emphasizes on the time I had to be firm. I never slap them or put them down. Just stood my ground but maybe by raising my voice some times I shot myself in the foot. I regret taking the this role and giving everything I got . No one is perfect only robots are. They have become hard working and plaisent people to others by the way my SD talks, it has nothing to do with me. I am just the nasty witch with to many opinions. What does not help is she spend time with a manipulative by 30 year old step Sister that enables her behaviour instead of helping her and now me in my 50’s feeling exhausted and neglected , I really need to think of myself and my life with my BF because they are going to be gone in a few years . I hope that we can reconnect and be lovers again. I hope its not too late for us. Lets see….first Disengaging.

  83. Tonight I had a heart to heart but it felt more like a reality check. My step daughter is 18.5 and she lives part time with us- my husband and I and part time with her mom and her fiance and everyone gets along great. I do feel stressed about their raising her and yea she’s a sweet girl who I love …she doesnt really have any of her own friends…the friends she invites to her Bday are my husband or my friends. She doesnt have a job or motivation for school. I basically told her she needs to have it in the back of her mind that at 19 we have expectations but I hate that I’m saying this and not my husband. He was with us and agreed but it be great if he formulated the words and rules. I’ll work on taking a step back … it is difficult when we are working on expanding our family and she is an official adult with not much motivation and lots of anxiety.
    Does anyone have some advice or been in a similar situation with kids being adults already?? Does the disengagement work?

    1. Hi Sarah:
      I had a stepson who sat and did nothing – not schoolor work – for approximately 4 years after high school. Would not even pitch in to help around the house. Told my husband how that was a nigh mare and he finally got a job and moved out. So we sat down with our 3 other minor kids and told them that once they graduated from HS they needed to either 1) be in college or 2) get a job. Both those options required them to abide by our house rules and help around the house.
      My other step child just turned 18 and graduated high school – she is scared to go to college or to work – my husband feels sorry for her and i think this is gonna be a repeat. We set the same standards for my biological kids and i have stuck to my work to push them to do something and they have. However, when it comes to his, he folds.
      Our two youngest will be 18 in 2 years and I fear that he will continue to bend at their every cry and we will have 30 something year olds at home doing nothing and expecting everything. If my last step child turns 18 and is to terrified to do anything – it will be my time to bow out of the relationship. He is a wonderful man otherwise but his kids just do whatever they want. In theory he agrees with me and says he stands by our decision – in practice it never happens.

    2. Have you considered family counseling? A good counselor could pinpoint her fears and help this transition go smoothly.

  84. I cannot believe I found this site. I have been a stepmother for over 25 years. Six years ago my oldest. Step daughter got married and decided not to invite my two children. I was hurt and crushed my her decision and never said anything about it until recently. I started to disengage from her after her wedding. I do not feel close to her but I feel close to her sister who did invite my children to her wedding. My husband is mad at me now threatening divorce because of my feelings of disengagement. I am in my early 70’s and tired of this nonsense. I just feel these are the ramifications of making a selfish decision and knowingly hurting me. My son was also hurt and said his invite must have gotten lost in the mail. WTH
    Now there is a huge rift in the family for expressing my true feelings after all this time. My husband has never put me first despite all I try to do. I am very sad and afraid for my future, but will continue to disengage.

  85. My husband and I have been married 2.5 years. His two adult daughters were ripping me apart and attempting to convince my hubby to break up with me before they even met me. It’s escalated over the past two years to a point that they’ve called me every nasty name in the book, shredded his character in separate letters (that sounded like they had cheated from each other’s test papers), and ceased speaking to him for an entire year, because of their hatred of me. My husband is my soul mate. I would never want to do anything to hurt him. That said, I’ve done research on this dynamic and have come to the realization that these young woman would have done this exact thing to any Conservative, Christian woman (or perhaps any woman) who came into his life. My husband so wants his daughter’s and me to be friends…it ain’t gonna happen. They won’t stop their assaults until they get me out of the picture for good. I decided to disengage completely just a few days ago. I will treat them with the respect I would treat any other person when I see them. We all have that relative that we can’t stand but make polite conversation with on holidays. I’ve told my husband that our two sets of kids (mine/his) don’t need to make one big happy family. My adult kids love my husband, and his son is friends with both my kids, so he’s always included in our family gatherings. Reading this article confirms that this is the best course of action for our marriage. THANK YOU!!! Hoping for the best outcomes for all of us. Hugs to all of you!

  86. Well. I hate to admit but I fell into the described “tot for tat” instead of the “thoughtful planning” today.

    I sat here and googled “what to do when step kids give you dirty looks and ignore your existence”

    Two clicks and I found this website.

    I have 3 grown children. 30, 28, 26
    All successful and independent and god bless, doing well. I’m even a grandma to an 11 year old 🙂

    Long story short – spent 30 years of my life in marriage.

    Divorced and NEVER thought I’d meet a man like my man:) He’s the best thing since sliced bread and every other cliche out there!

    He came with two kiddos who were 6 and 9 when we met. We were married last December and they are now 9 and 12.

    The first time I recall them sitting me down to “talk” to me was about 6 months into us living together. They said “we just don’t like you”
    which my now husband and I knew KNEW was coming from their mother.
    Who – by the way- was totally fine with the existence of me – until she met me face to face:/ she says to me with a head bib and throaty attitude “whelll…. I see why he likes you”😳

    So fast forward it’s been 2+ years of her coaching them and feeding them hostility toward me, our parenting, etc.
    To the point that now – I get severe anxiety when it’s their time to come here because my husband and I usually end up fighting about their disrespect.
    They are young! Preteen! Still moldable and influenced by everything and I express how important it is to me to be respected.
    They walk in and ignore me. Don’t answer me when I speak.
    Mumble if they do and if I ask for clarification or “please speak up and look at me when you’re speaking to me” I get ATTITUDE from all 3 of them! My husband says “they’re just kids” “it’s fine” “they didn’t do what you said they’re doing” etc etc.
    It’s a gaslighting shape shifting crazy place I’m in and I feel hopeless:(

    I love LOVE my man and I love LOVE these kids! I have never ever ever in my life had a kid tell me they “didn’t like me” or ever treat me the way these two kids do.

    I want to scream most days they are here:(
    And often find myself fighting with my beautiful man over them.

    It sucks.

    I told him today “if you three want to continue to use me to care for this home and cook and clean and teach you shit etc and do nothing but offer rudeness and disrespect back…. You can all 3 kids my ass! Raise them yourself!” And I left to go see family and friends who love me. I needed to know I hadn’t completely lost my ever lovin mind and become so “unlovable” that even kids “didn’t like me”

    Thankfully I was greeted by running children to me and friends who were happy to be in my presence.

    I drove away after the visit – parked – googled- and ended up here – typing to all of you.

    To say this-
    We aren’t alone!
    We aren’t crazy!
    We aren’t unloved or unlovable
    And what we bring to the table as moms (I hate the word step-mom
    I devote as a Mom. Nothing less) is valuable.

    I’m not sure what’s next or where to go from here but the idea of heading back home to discuss with my husband his taking the reigns going forward is epic to me.

    I have lost myself, my hobbies, my friends, everything devoting my last 3 years to raising these ungrateful rude children.

    I look forward to getting back to me.

  87. Honestly, having to come along this article is allowing me to enjoy putting my 1 year old to bed. I have a stepdaughter who is 7 years old, she’s a really smart and really well behaved girl. We’ve been in each other’s lives since she was 2 going on 3 years old. We used to have the sweetest most beautiful bond. But things started to change. She wouldn’t allow me to brush her hair because her mom told her that I couldn’t brush her hair. She only wanted her dad to touch her, pick her up, hold her… etc. I would really get hurt of the situation and many times said to myself what am I doing in this relationship ? This is too much for me. I ended up just accepting that she was a little girl who wanted her mom and dad to be together but reality was far from that. Time passed and she slowly but surely started to act normal towards me, we would do everything together (this is before I had my
    Own child) and she loved spending time with me and running errands with me, etc. Time passed by and everything was well. Then COVID came around, her mother didn’t allow her to come to our house for months her excuse was COVID. She had my partner going every week to her house and spending time with her but she wasn’t allowed to come over to our house. Eventually COVID got a bit more relaxed, when she started coming back around she was very distant. Things such as my mommy told me this and my mommy told me that. I have to listen to my parents and your not my parents. Etc.. this went out for months until she herself got out of that state of mind. Time passed I had my daughter and my partners daughter never wanted to leave our house she was so in love with her baby sister and always wanted to be around. This went on for a good 7 months. Then boom drastic change again, her mom didn’t want her to come around me because she said I was abusing her daughter ? I just questioned How could that be so? Why would she then want to always be at our house spending time with us if that was the case ? I feel it’s her mom that just doesn’t like me. Doesn’t like that her ex husband started a new life with a new person and just can’t get over it. She has told him multiple times to come back to her and she has flirted with him more times than I can count on my hand, and I have always held my ground and just didn’t even let it get to me. Now my daughter is 1 and big sister is 7 going on 8, she recently has been shutting the door on my 1 year old. Tells me that she doesn’t want her to mess up her room that’s in my house that I put together for her (I gave her a bigger room than my own daughter) clean up after her… everything. So it really threw me off, I don’t ever say anything I literally just distance myself. My partner has said to me that I don’t like his daughter and etc, but I don’t see where he wants me to be the same person I used to be when I am always being thrown off the back burner. Tonight, she told me that I’m the person who has been putting her phone on silent. (I never touch her phone, simply because I don’t feel comfortable doing so), her phone was missing for monthssssss! This was during the time the mother wouldn’t allow my partner to see his daughter because she didn’t want her around me. This week she finally found her phone in her mothers house, hiding in between her toys! Weird ? Very weird. Big sister then proceeded to get very sarcastic at 7 years old! Saying well baby sister couldn’t have done it, nor could my dog light. I replied no of course not she’s too small to even know what to do and dogs don’t know what to do. She became very weird when I directly told her in sweet and respectful way that I don’t ever touch her phone because I have my own phone and I respect her things. I don’t get where she comes up with these ideas? Well no I’m lying, I know why she thinks these things, and for the sake of being mature, respectful, and drama free I just brush it off. I have become a certain way when she’s here for the weekend every other week. Where I watch what I say and what I do and etc. I try to keep myself and as occupied with my 1 year old as I could. I can’t say anything without it being twisted by her mother in some weird way. I feel attacked, her mother is obsessed with me. She looks me up in goggle when she’s going through her breakdowns and try’s to cause problems in my relationship where even my partner has questioned me on things that are simply not true and I have proofed with actual lawyer paperwork. It’s crazy, I just don’t know what to say of how to say it without it being taken out of context. I’m currently pregnant with my second child and for a while I’ve had to have it a secret for the sake of my spouses ex wife, so she doesn’t go ballistic, and him getting himself ready to tell his ex wife and his daughter. It’s very exhausting, this was the same thing with my 1st pregnancy, I had to hide a beautiful moment to myself for the sake of someone else’s sanity. And somehow someway I’m always the bad person, the person who is mean, who doesn’t like his daughter even though our whole relationship I’ve been the one who takes care of his daughter when she’s with us and cooks for her and does her room, buys her clothes, buys her toys, plays with her, takes her on walks, takes her to the park the amusement park, the zoo, aquarium … etc. It’s just emotionally draining. I just don’t understand how can someone have so much jealousy for someone else that they create all of this.

  88. I have been feeling the same way, I’m so happy I found this website me as a step mother have been challenging, my husband and I been married for 4years and he haves one son by his ex wife, I have spend lots of money on his birthday party’s, gifts, etc I not once been acknowledged by the mother nor the son, step son comes over for the weekend never speaks, we go to games, still no acknowledgement, I brings it up to my husband but nothing have changed but and disagreement he is a child…stated my husband should I just back up and let my husband handle everything with his son and just think about my kids only I need help… advice pls

    1. You dont need anything from the mum because shes probably just bitter and its nothing personal to you. Your stepson is who you would want to have a good relationship with especially as you have been so involved. What does your husband think about it? Communication is key, I hope you have/ can get to a good place with your stepson, maybe you should sit down and talk to him with your husband so you can understand how he feels. Then you can decide whether you should disengage or not.

  89. I actually tried “disengaging” myself before reading this article. My husband did not understand nor like that I was taking a step back. Clearly after reading this article it was expected he wouldn’t. The hardest part is I am a step parent of 3. No children of my own. Being told “it’s not your place” when you feed them, shelter them, give them everything they want (within reason) and are told it is not your place is so incredibly hurtful. Regardless I have decided that I will set boundaries for myself, for my mental health. If things fall apart because I now have expectations that should be met, that is okay. I will at the least have my sanity back.

  90. This article resonates deeply as do the many comments and responses. I’ve been married for over 20 years to a man with 4 children. He has (like so many other husbands) been famously avoidant in regards to addressing step-family issues.

    And so I tried to do the heavy lifting. During our life together I’ve practiced every manner of outreach I know how. I chalked up bad behavior and nasty treatment of my own 2 children to his kids navigating divorce and grief. By nasty behavior I mean my sons being told they could go eat out by the trash. I’m referring to my kids being told they were too stupid too dumb too ugly to be part of their family. My oldest son was bullied right out of my home and went to live with his alcoholic father. This was done by teens who were certainly old enough to know better. My kids were hurting too but they never lashed out similarly. And had they done so? There woukd have been accountability and consequences (#parenting) I thought all of that was to be temporary. Growing pains. It wasn’t.

    The dysfunction resulted in me leaving my husband. Twice. We reconciled. I thought that if only I kept to the light everything would change eventually. I thought that love could heal all. I kept my heart and my home open. I was determined to do my part to bring healing to all of the pain and division. I made sure I stepped back and gave my husband alone time with his children. A lot of it. I hoped in doing that I might be seen not as a threat to their relationship with their Dad but someone willing to support it. Like so many of you I tried to balance stepping back and creating space for 1 on 1 time with their Dad with embracing each of his children- celebrating their milestones, nurturing them to the extent they would allow. Striking that balance often felt like dancing on the head of a pin. But I kept on dancing. I can not count how many family dinners I hosted. How many holiday gatherings, wedding showers, birthday parties, homecomings, baptisms, pool parties, bonfires I hosted. I did it with love in my heart. And Im glad I chose love.

    But now? 20 years in and I am exhausted. I am exhausted and am finally facing some very difficult realities. After 20 years of practicing every manner of outreach I know how? I am still very much an outsider. For 20 years I have endured being an object of contempt and resentment. No one can survive that fire. No one. Not for 20 years. The past few years I’ve really stepped back. Now that we’re getting older theres all sorts of chit chat regarding the property we own, feeling entitled to assets we own jointly. Ive even been questioned regarding life insurance. Now- I could understand that if I was some barfly his father dragged out of a watering hole 5 minutes ago. But I am not a mail order bride who just showed up married to Dad last week. I am not (at the risk of being vulgar) some bit of rando-strange their Dad hooks up with every 5th Thursday. I am his WIFE. 20 years his wife. I made half of the downpayment on our home, used the only savings I had to renovate it and then took out a cash out refinance to purchase an investment property only for their father to get a private text “just checking” that I was really supposed to be on the deed. We are not wealthy. My husband has zero savings. The property we own is what we will need to survive. Its how I will care for a husband 14 years older than I. I dont get this from either of my kids. Add that to the grandchildren I fell in love telling me their parents hate me? Well, suffice it to say that I have reeled my heart in to a place more aligned with some difficult realities. I simply came to a place of acceptance.

    Nowadays I resolve to meet what’s been laid at my feet with as much dignity and grace as I can muster. I support my husband in his relationships with his adult children. My relationships with most of his kids do not extend beyond being kind and cordial. I accommodate him vacationing alone with his kids and spending holidays with them on his own as well. But I no longer insert myself where I am not wanted. And at this point I am not keen to engage. In a few cases the trust has simply been shattered.

    These days I find myself looking back, reflecting, and also looking forward. In 20 years I will be 76. If statistics mean anything- it may well be my last 20 years on this earth. I refuse to spend it like the last 2 decades. I simply can not do another 20 years of being immersed in contempt, derision and resentment. And what’s left of my marriage wont withstand it either.

    And so- to those of you considering embarking on this journey? Consider it carefully. There is a reason that nealy 75% of 2nd marriages with children end in divorce. I wish you luck.

  91. Thank you for this article. I look forward to reading through more of the comments.
    I am re-struggling with this concept. In 2020, I came to a breaking point with my situation as a stepmother. I consulted a psychologist who suggested disengaging. I felt so vile and righteous at that time. I felt then (and feel now again) that I give all my time, money, and energy to my husband’s children. Before, it was about having their respect, but mostly their obedience (yikes, I know). I had to disengage and review my expectations so I could regain the energy to be a positive part of the household. We split supper responsibilities (he cooked the week his children were home and I cooked when it was just the two of us) and I removed myself from difficult discipline moments and discussions. This worked well. Since June 2022, I offered to take on full-time supper responsibilities to give my husband time over the summer to do renovations, house and yard work. At this time, we unexpectedly got the kids full-time. Over the summer and until now, I have made suppers, but I am realizing that I have also started leaning back into the parenting role. Not that stepparenting isn’t a form of parenting, but I mean the responsibilities of their mother and father. I became very involved in what the children were experiencing and learning over the summer, and they seemed to value that. It felt so nice that they turned to me with questions, and they would ask me to help them with many things (do a lot with/for them).
    It feels like this all just came crashing down. I asked the children to travel out of town for Thanksgiving with my family (they are old enough to stay home on their own). Thanksgiving is not celebrated in my husband’s family, and we have gone to my family in the past years (barring COVID). They didn’t want to come, and I was hurt. In the meantime, my grandmother (my own stepmother’s mother) passed away and the funeral was set in my hometown the week after Thanksgiving. We had a very painful conversation where the children did not want to go to the funeral. My stepson agreed to come only if he did not have to attend Thanksgiving in my hometown the weekend prior. My stepdaughter vehemently challenged the necessity of attending the funeral of someone who wasn’t even family to her. This broke my heart. They repeated the sentiment a few times at that discussion and thereafter. Despite the crushing comments, my husband handled the conversation so well, so calmly and defended my value and needs as a member of the family. Nonetheless, I felt in that moment that these children who I called and treated as my family did not feel attached to the rest of my family. I feel used, as if my value was boiled down in that moment to what I do for the children, to our life in our home, but nothing beyond – not to what I need/want or to my family. That is where I am now. It suddenly makes no sense to me to invest in these children who won’t care for me or my family the way I care for my family that 100 % includes my own stepmother and her family for whom I was asking them to support in this time of grief. I felt so lost and alone at the funeral yesterday with my husband and stepchildren. I felt so much in that moment that I don’t belong to or with my stepchildren and I don’t think they care. They are respectful and appreciative of everything I *do*, but they expressed such disinterest for my family. It is jarring.
    We drove home last night and I wanted nothing to do with them. I wish they would leave me alone and stay away. I don’t want to make suppers, do groceries, listen to their long-winded accounts of their days, games, outings, etc. I don’t want to celebrate Halloween together. I don’t want to prepare Christmas stockings for them (a tradition that comes from my mother). I want to run away from them.
    I do more than enough for my husband directly to make his life easier (our laundry, groceries, etc.). I share the financial stress of providing for two children — suddenly full-time with no financial support from their mother. I felt so ready this morning to dump grocery shopping, supper responsibility, etc., etc. on my husband. I didn’t make the children their lunches this morning (again, they are old enough to make their own lunches). The thing is, I don’t want to penalize my husband that way. I hate making supper and preparing lunches (always, whether I am cooking for the children or not). The thing is, I am good at making supper *quickly*. It allows us to sit down for dinner as a ‘’family’’ (which is good for my husband) at a reasonable hour so my husband and I are then free to kick back for a movie and go to bed at a reasonable time. I don’t know how to disengage in a meaningful way if I keep up doing a lot of these useful things. I want to make a point without changing our routine. I still don’t know if I can treat these children like family if they don’t feel the same way about me and mine. As I write this, I am sure that there are tactful and meaningful ways for me to disengage that won’t upend my relationship with my husband or divide him between his children and his wife, but I am not over the pain and I don’t know how to restore myself to the family as the happy person I am while drawing my limits. I feel lost and heartbroken.

  92. I am so thankful I came across this article. At this point idk what I’m going to do. I’m mad at my husband because he has allowed his daughter to disrespect me for the last four years that she’s lived with us. I finally blew up yesterday. And now I don’t even wanna be at my own home because my stepdaughter is going to be there. I am supposed to drive her to school in the morning, but I don’t even want to do that. I don’t want to be around her at all! I don’t know how I am supposed to effectively take care of my three biological children while not living at home. I don’t want to be there if my stepdaughter is going to be there. I love my husband but I resent him for not sticking up for me. I don’t want our marriage to be over because I don’t like his daughter but I don’t know what else there is to do. Both my stepdaughter and my biological daughter go to the same high school. So how can I justify taking only my daughter to high school and not taking the step kid? I truly do not want to be around her at all. I have begged, asked, cried, and demanded respect from her, but I have not been able to achieve it. And he has not forced her to respect me.
    So after four years we are here now…..and I don’t know what to do

    1. If you arent getting respect in your own home from a child then they need to be disciplined or their father can deal with her and take her to school himself. If this doesnt work for him, it will soon need to work for him to teach her about respect once and for all.

  93. OHHHHH MY LORD! I didn’t realize how badly I needed to be validated until I read this and ALL the freaking comments! I might start a support group because Y’ALL! This is SO hard sometimes! I literally almost moved me and my daughter out last week because I had put so much expectation on my self and my relationship with my daughter. I kind of came to disengaging on my own because I know that my level of burn out induced rage was not healthy for her or me or my daughter or my marriage. But, man, it feels good to see I’m not alone.

  94. It’s a relief to read this article and all the hundreds of comments!
    7 years ago, I moved country with my own son to be with my now-husband. He has twins from his previous marriage who live with is half the time.
    It sounds ridiculous, but I hadn’t given being a step-mum a second thought before moving and committing to this relationship and family and it’s mostly been horrific.
    I have fallen into every one of the ‘traps’ in this article and have beaten myself up so often for ‘failing’. I honestly believed I should be loving these kids as much as I do my own son. And it’s been impossible. I’ve also had to deal with the fact that their mother is a narcissistic who’s refused to speak to me for the entire 7 years. I don’t have family or a close network of friends nearby so the whole experience has been incredibly lonely. The children have always been respectful but entirely disinterested in having a relationship with me and I’ve felt so bad that I “hadn’t done enough” for them to love me!! Duh.
    Now, my marriage is on the rocks and my 15 year old stepdaughter is the perfect ‘girlfriend’ to my husband – they hang out in her room in the evenings and play music together, she loves his (sorry, terrible) songs and they stop talking when I come into the room.
    I don’t think there’s anything malicious in her behaviour, but she is clearly happy to have all her dad’s attention.
    My stepson’s a sweetheart but all he’s interested in is keeping his head down and going to the gym after school!
    Meanwhile, my husband is now my son’s adoptive father and is constantly criticising him and the whole situation feels such a mess.
    I’m menopausal and working to build my own business and community and not overdo things. Honestly, I feel the best thing for is all would be to call it a day but financially, we’re way too dependent on our combined income and it’d mean me having to move country again and take our son with me. A rock and a hard place.

  95. Hello! Seeking advice!
    Stepmom to two teenagers/young adults. Necessarily came into disengaging when I started to fall apart. I am at a point where I need to not be involved in all the things they want and need. I have done so much and I made the mistake of thinking I had to be that perfect bonus parent and give them all the time, energy and money I had because ‘that’s what kids deserve’. Long story short, incidents, hurtful words, etc. It’s time to step away and recognize that they have mom and dad to care for them. I know this is the right thing for me and for my relationship with my husband.
    Nonetheless, I have 6 years under my belt of struggling with this role and feeling like a rotten stepmother because even if I did all the things, I couldn’t garner the strength and resilience to endure the hurtful words without wanting to run for the hills. I still cannot shake the feeling that I failed at stepmothering, even if I can confirm the value of disengaging. As a ‘parent’, this stepmother journey has caused me so much doubt.
    Now, I am pregnant with my first with my husband. I am racked with insecurity. I am so concerned that I don’t have it in me to be a good mother. At one point I did, but I feel so tired and worn out, so much of my natural reserve of smiles and joy has been drained. It doesn’t come as naturally to me anymore. I feel numb. I feel like the diet version of me. I worry I won’t be available to our child. I also have these scenarios going in my head that even if I do turn out to be a good mother that my stepkids will be mean and critical that I wasn’t good enough to them. There is no scenario in my mind where it is a good and happy home where I can love and raise this new child freely. It’s like a problem in a problem. I have felt so rotten as a ‘parent’ for 6 years, I cannot fathom a reality where I will be a good parent and no matter what, this is all going to happen in a home with kids I feel rotten around, disengaged or not.
    Can anyone relate?

    1. Disengaging as a stepmum will hopefully give you back the part of you that has made you feel like the diet version of you. It’s not what you do that matters the most, it’s the intention behind what you do that determines your life. Put yourself and your husband first all the kids (even your own) come after, although still at a high regard as they are dependants. Putting yourself first will ensure you can be the best person for everyone else and having a happy and strong connection to your husband will make everything so much easier. As for having your own child (I havent been bless with this yet but soon hopefully!) I think you will feel totally different once you meet your new little bundle of joy, it will be so beautiful and nothing can take away from that. Who knows, you may see things in a compeltely new light. Sending you love, you will be fine! One thing thats easier said than done but 100% helps is to stop focussing on the negative and try to swap those feelings for getting prepared and planning for your babys future.

    2. I know this reply to your situation is quite late in coming and things have probably progressed and changed (hopefully for the better) but I thought I would say some words anyway.
      I have been a step parent for 13. It has never been easy and I think the process is rife with a lot of negatives that can give a person low self-esteem. Honestly I have never felt like a could live up to expectations and the worst part of being a step-parent in my experience was for sure during the time they transitioned to being a teenager. My step daughter for instance didn’t talk to me for 7 years. That slowly changed but the pain that came from her behaviour I still have yet to get over. She is now in university and I’m very relieved I do not get to see her regularly.
      I don’t believe that step parenting reflects upon how good a parent a person is or can be. I think it reflects a lot issues that emerge from divorce that have nothing to do with you. It’s easy for step kids (especially when the are teens) to take out all their feelings out on a step parent. When the kids turned into teens I disengaged almost entirely for a while. It’s a hard thing to do but having a really active role when the kids are teens is really difficult for a step parent. It’s hard for a mom or a dad at the best of times to tell their teen what to do but it is far, far easier for them than it is for any step parent. It’s ok to step back and focus on you and that wonderful child of your own (that must be born already).
      It’s ok I am sure it will be super easy to have a child of your own since it will come with that unconditional love that step parents don’t really get from step kids or at least not nearly as much anyway.

      wishing you well,


  96. I feel like disengaging might be just what I need. My stepdaughter is 6 and we love each other very much. She has never been an issue, other than her constant need for her father to tell her he loves her more than he loves me. The problem is my husband. He expects me to be her mother and do everything for her. And I do. Yet he doesn’t seem to notice how much I do for both of them. And when I try to explain to him the she is his child, not mine, he jumps straight to “well if you don’t want to raise my child with me then you can go.” It makes me feel like I must be a piece of crap. It’s all or nothing with him. Either I’m her mother or nothing. This article has helped me see that I’m not a horrible person for thinking there is something in between mother and nothing. Thank you.

  97. Oh I feel all of your pain! I thought I was being smart when I meet my current husband. I didn’t want to fall into the step parent trap as I saw how difficult it was for my sister.

    I was divorced with two children 9 and 11, I shared fifty fifty custody with my ex. My now husband had three older kids which he had full custody of, since his ex was a drug addict and very abusive to the kids.

    As we got more serious, we dated a year before my kids even met him. I decided I would not join our families until his children were out of the house or at least away at college. He wanted us to move all the kids in together, now I look back and thank my old self for sticking to my guns on that point and saying no, I did not want my kids to have to live in a house with older kids, especially their house (because his kids were settled into a high school and his house was larger than mine) where we would be the outsiders coming into their space, I suspected it would be terrible and boy was I right!

    BUT being a step, even when they are adults is no picnic either. He had one in college in another state who said she was not going to move back to our state because the rest of his family and their grandmother lived by her school she would end up living there after college. He also had two in high school one who was also going to go to the same college as her older brother and one that was undecided.

    They had a nanny and a house keeper yet the house was always a disaster because they did nothing. He let the nanny go as soon as the timer two were old enough to get themselves around i.e. high school age.

    When my children were with their father I would hangout at the house with my now husband. I couldn’t help myself I would clean his house because it bothered me it was so gross, with piles of dishes and laundry (which was their chore, not the housekeepers who only came every two weeks, so they would leave it piled up until she returned and their dad would come home late from work too tired to deal with it), so I would spend hours between cleaning off the kitchen table of all of the things they dumped there, food shopping, doing all the dishes and then cooking a nice meal for them all. Totally my choice as their father would be totally fine just ordering out food for everyone because he had a long commute and workday.

    My now husband would never asked me to do these things, actually he would end up yelling at the kids for ‘allowing’ me to do their chores, I told him not to yell at them, it was my choice to do all this for them, I truly didn’t mind. If his son or daughter got up late for school and missed their bus, he would tell them they would have to walk the mile to school to teach them responsibility but if I was there they had someone to drive them. until they were old enough to get cars and I thought they appreciated my efforts then I realized to then I was just another nanny or maid.

    I admit this was partially for me as I was used to caring for my children full-time and now I found myself a 50% parent so I thought we could fill in that void we each had. His kids seemed grateful, they would be excited that they were going to have a meal, they would invite their friends to eat with us because it was really the first time they had a normal family setting and a cleaned off table to eat a home cooked meal at.

    Then I noticed things like one of the kids talking to their mother on the phone, who was no longer using drugs, and telling her that I was taking over their house, or one of them saying to me I really want that pasta dish you make so I said oh I’ll teach you how to make it and she said why would I want to learn how to make it when I can manipulate you into making it for me! I’ll tell you she has never partaken in that pasta dish again to this day!! I’ll be damed if I doing nice things for you and you’re blatantly telling me you are taking advantage of me! It was kind of a smack in the face and it made me realize I needed to stick to my original plan and back off until they were out of the home and their Dad and I could live together.

    They didn’t like when I backed off they would text me, are you coming over or are you making dinner and I would say oh no have plans see you soon, kisses. 😂 I just stopped.

    When one of his kids was filling out college applications I offered help he said, I am an adult I don’t need another parent (he was 17), ok no problem I won’t offer again. Well five years later when my eldest was applying for college and received Hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships because I helped him fill everything out. My step son made an offhand comment oh well it would’ve been nice to have a mother to help me get those types of scholarships. I reminded him that I did offer to help and he turned me down. He actually said maybe he was stoned because he didn’t remember ever saying that! He probably was.

    I stayed home with my kids during my parenting time and my now husband and I just dated when I didn’t have my kids with me. No more playing house at his home. It kept my sanity and I thought would make everything easier.

    A few times we tried to do things all together but my kids being much younger were made fun of or they would say things to their dad right in front of my kids like ‘we are your kids not them’. They would be out with friends then tell their Dad they were annoyed he was spending time with my kids or they would say how they were jealous that my kids had a Mom that did everything for them and they didn’t have this with their own Mom. So they resented my kids from day one. They would compare what they were doing or had to what my kids were doing or had. I would have to regularly remind them it’s no competition you are adults, they are children. My children were raised by two parents who do things decently then your parents did. Just like your friends parents do things differently with their kids.

    Two of his kids were off to college a 20 hour drive away, they both were claiming they didn’t want to come back to live in our state and the youngest was a Senior in high school. He was reforming a relationship with his Mother and spending some nights at her home. She was off drugs but still a very selfish person not working collecting alimony not helping to support the kids not even for cell phones so she could keep in contact with them. She made her son do all the driving back and fourth to her house because she didn’t want to get up in the morning to drive him to school. Basically just a selfish, immature and emotionally abusive mother (she was physically abusive when they were younger which is why she lost custody).

    My husband could not understand why his son wanted anything to do with his mother, the other kids are civil with her but don’t go out of their way for her, she now tries to buy them things and talks bad about me (she never met me) though her kids asked her to she said no and no I’m not some much younger woman that took her husband, I’m only two years tinder than her and they were divorced years before we met so there should have been no bad blood. Mynew Honda and I do many things with my Ex for the sake of the kids, we have even ask gone out to eat together and the men shared job parities as they are in the same field. In other words, we are adults and can out the kids first.

    She actually took my husband and ME to court asking for more alimony as soon as we got engaged, we weren’t even married yet! She told the court now that he was with me l, he had more money. She even looked me up online and listed to the judge all the degrees I had starting I must make a pretty penny so we should have to give her more money. Her ploy backfired in court when we explain to the judge how although she gets $50,000 a year in alimony, she chooses not to work and she has not pay a single thing for any of her three children in fine years. We in turn asked for child support and college contribution and her efforts awarded her a lower alimony award because part of it would now go towards supporting her children. Karma. Lets just say she hates us because we won. We never told the kids this, though sometimes I really want to.

    At this point my husband and I are considering what we will do once his youngest goes off to college we wanted to have a large enough place for all the kids to come home to if they wanted but I didn’t not want to move because my kids were settled in their elementary school. We decided we would live in my house which had enough bedrooms for us, my two, and his Senior (we still were not sure where he would go to school at this point because he refused to fill out applications for school or write the required essays). His Mother, who did not go to college was telling him that it was fine not to go to school that he could live with her. Their Dad and I went to college we wanted the kids to be educated so they could get good jobs and support themselves.

    Well Mom won out and youngest graduated high school and decided he was going to live with mom because she promised him a new car, his own apartment within her house and other things. We practically begged him to live with us instead because Dad thought the Mom was a bad influence, she would tell their son he is not ‘smart enough’ to get a job or go to college which is crazy because he got really good grades and was very smart she just wanted one of the kids to be with her and depend on her and keeping him down made her feel better. He has Asperger’s so she wanted him to collect Social Security. Her whole family was in the system her whole line so that’s what she knew. What’s the best way to control someone? Keep them uneducated and keep telling them they can’t do things. My Diana’s was devastated that his son would live with that negativity again but with promises or grandeur from his mother, he lived in with her.

    He told us that my four bedroom home was too small and he didn’t want to have to share space with my kids. So he moved in with mom, we got engaged, Dad moved in with me and my kids.

    The eldest was cordial to me and my kids, not warm by any means and she manipulates and guilts her father into giving her money though she is an attorney and he paid for all of her education, brand new very expensive car and living expenses while she was in school. She always seems to be short for her expenses but has money for vacations, upscale clothes, pets or anything else she wants. She will put on a baby voice and say ‘Daddy I really need this’ he will acquiesce and buy it for her. All three, I have no come to realize just have to mention the fact that they are ‘sad’ or ‘emotional’ because of their past with their mother or because he lives with my children and not them and it guilts him into buying whatever they wish. They actually have discussions about it like the younger one will say that the older ones told her that Dad is wrong if he doesn’t give money for something because he pays for half of my kids house. It’s insane and it really makes him feel guilty.

    They feel they can tell him how to spend his own money when they are all adults! One day he finally had enough and said none of you will ever tell me how to spend my money again. It stopped for a while but is happening again with his Daughter now planing a wedding and expecting us to foot the bill, she actually said to her Dad if you don’t pay for the wedding then you can’t invite any of your friends WTH?! He said OK, that’s fine my friends don’t need to come to your wedding you can pay for it yourself!! I was SO proud of him. Over the last year she has been attempting to back petal on her statement saying he can ‘invite his rich friends still, because they will give a big gift’ of course this was a ‘joke’. When she thought her father was paying for the wedding she had asked my daughter to be in the wedding party. But as soon as he sad fine we won’t pay she’s been dress shopping with the rest of the wedding party and not including my daughter in anything, so it appears she’s no longer in the wedding but you know who she is now talking to and getting money from, you guessed it, the Mom she didn’t speak to for years. She tried to play get parents off each other telling my husband don’t you think you should contribute to my wedding since Mom is. He replied well actually I am contributing, because I pay that money to your Mom lol. she hasn’t said anything to my daughter so we’re just left wondering if she is still in the wedding. I don’t want to hurt my daughters feelings and tell her I don’t think you’re included any longer we are just waiting to see what happens. I don’t really want my daughter in it now because I feel like they will be mean to her and leave her out of things when it’s just the wedding party and we aren’t there. They do that on family vacations etc.

    Speaking of family vacations we just took them all on a two-week vacation cost us approximately $30,000. We got three rooms at a very expensive resort (one for us, one for the three girls, and one for the two boys). Well the two girls decided that the room wasn’t big enough so they called their mother and got their mother to book them another room leaving my daughter, who is underage, in a room by herself. They complained about every activity we spent so much money doing tours and horseback riding and snorkeling and all things that we thought that they would love and there was an issue with everything nothing was good enough it was actually my husband who decided he’s never taking them on vacation again. I’m so glad he sees what it’s like and believe me my children are no angels they will complain to me about things but they are very thankful and grateful when they receive things and he sees the difference between his children on mine.

    My husband and his daughter love tennis and are used to play together. my daughter is also a tennis player. His daughter, a grown adult living states away, told her father that if she finds out that he is playing tennis with my daughter, she’s going to be very mad because he was always working so much when she was younger that he didn’t have as much time to play with her so she didn’t think it would be fair if he played with my daughter. Some of the things they say just amaze me she has a whole other life in a whole other state, a business and a soon to be husband and she’s worried that her father might be playing tennis with his stepdaughter.

    After being together for four years and my kids going into high school my husband and I decided to move. We found a beautiful home with our combined assets which was nicer than the homes we each had separately but with only four bedrooms because none of his kids wanted to live with us we figured one extra bedroom for when they come visit. We were very clear that when my kids were off to college their rooms would be open for visits with his kids if the wanted to stay over. Our new house is in a beautiful town, it has a nice built in pool, woods and a lake. We also jointly purchased a small beachfront condo (only two bedrooms) figuring kids would rotate visiting and we could enjoy beach time, a place to shower off and crash nothing fancy but beachfront with a little pool. Neither of us could afford these places on our own but combined we could and we wanted to enjoy time together with our kids now that we were in a happy marriage.

    Well did his kids come out of the woodwork! They told their Dad they thought he shouldn’t have bought these nice houses, it wasn’t fair to them?!?! Huh? He shouldn’t spend his money for a house for me and my kids (forgetting that we both bought the house together).

    Now all of a sudden the youngest wants to leave his Mother and come live with us all of a sudden living with Mom is a problem, they are fighting, or she is crazy or how dare she now ask me to give her $100 a month when she promised I could live rent free. He was playing on my Exes fear that the Mom would be a bad influence on him (this is why my Ex begged him not to live there in the first place) but we heard nothing negative until we bought the new houses. He wants us to let him live in the beachfront condo rent free, and the second child all of a sudden wants to come home for summers and live with us, not stay with family in another state as she keep telling us, for years I’m not coming back home I’m an adult now I want to live (on our dime) in the state I go to school in. All of a sudden now our home is nice enough for them. They are 19 and 20 at this point and the eldest is 24. My Husband was shocked he said you told us you didn’t wanna live with us so we didn’t buy a five bedroom home (we had been looking at larger homes but after practically begging them to live with us and then saying no over and over we realized it made no sense), now you want live with us? Their answer ‘well we didn’t want to live with you in the smaller home but this one is so nice’ so now we do! My husband thankfully stuck to his gums, hetold then they made their decision if they were too good to live in the shaker house then they weren’t going to move in now, he told them the door is always open if you have an emergency but you all have very nice places to live, you can’t just decide when you have a fight with your mother that it warrants you moving and if so you can get toe own apartment you have a full time job. They would try to guilt him so much he would cry to me at times wondering if he is doing the right thing. BTW he still pays for all three and is giving $15k to the one child who is getting married and buying a house. I have never experienced anything like this they are so entitled and feel like they can tell us how to spend our money. They ask us how much things cost when they see we’ve done repairs on the house how much did you spend on updating the bathroom, how much did you spend on the new fence don’t you think you shouldn’t be spending that much money or worse his daughters fiancé asked how we afford such nice cars?!?! I am very clear, we WORK hard! I tell them my finances are no one’s business unless they plan on paying my bills for me.

    Their Dad bought them all cars in high school, I made my children work towards their first cars. his kids didn’t know this and just assumed we bought my kids cars and caused a huge issue amongst themselves that finally came to a head and they blew up at my husband saying he shouldn’t have bought my kids cars and were shocked when they learned the kids bought them with their own money and I only kicked in a bit. They will text my kids and ask to ‘share location’ with them in their phones my kids were thinking they were being nice but they would then call us and say ‘where are you guys’ to catch us out eating out or at someplace they prescribed as ‘fun’ or ‘expensive’ as if we should not have any life when they aren’t here with us. They would say are you eating out at a restaurant ? As of trying to’ catch us’ spending our own money so they could then say oh you have money to eat out but you won’t give me money for XYZ. Once we realized they were tracking us through my kids phones we told my kids to remove their access. We seriously don’t get it when we were both in our 20s and we weren’t asking our parents for anything we were struggling in tiny apartments and working two jobs to make ends meet. They do not believe they should have to work for anything.

    The second said to us once that we should be living in poverty if we have to in order to help them live better lives. So in other words we should keep working and busting our butts instead of retiring, while they just take. Its mind Blowing!

    So flash forward, the eldest weddingg is soon, my daughter never heard another thing about it so clearly not in it. She is a lawyer as is her husband to be they decided to get ‘nicer place’ on the beach with spare bedroom but his daughter still calls for money or calls for things she wants like just this week it was a new Bicycle since hers was stolen. Hubs got it for her for xmas.

    Second child graduated college and decided to travel instead of going to work so still calls to ask for money like $1900 to pay for a credit card bill because she just had to buy all new furniture for the apartment we paid for before just months before she decided to leave to travel. A ridiculous waste of money and she has been living on credit cards, not working just enjoying herself, then wants us to pay the credit cards. Not happening!! She is in so much debt I have no doubt she will be needing to move in with us to pay them off and I dread that moment. She had zero concern over wasting the money to buy furniture she only used for a few months. We suggested thats she sell the only few months old furniture to make some money to pay the credit card off, but she said that was too much work so she just left it in the apartment when she moved out to travel, who cares, because dad will pay the bill. She likes to text and call us separately to try to get money out of us, thankfully our communication is strong so it doesn’t work.

    The youngest is still with Mom, we paid for first year of community college and he quit two weeks in without telling us we didn’t find out until the end of the school year he was lying and saying school was great all year so we couldn’t get a refund for tuition or books although we could have had he bother to let us know that he quit so that was about $7000 down the drain. But he doesn’t care he comes to our home weekly and tells us how wrong he thinks we are that we ‘gave money’ to all the other kids for college but won’t give him money for him to travel!! What?! Aside from losing the money when he quit college we have offered to back him on any business he might like to do, we want him to be able to support himself we have made so many suggestions and every reply is that it’s too much work for him and he doesn’t want to do that he really just wants to travel and enjoy his life but apparently he thinks it should be on our dime. Most recently he said OK I’m going to take you up on your offer to go to a tradeschool but I’m not sure I really want to do it because it’s a whole six months and that’s a long time and he knows himself, he will get bored. We said great, when you graduate give us the bill and we will pay for it. He was insulted he thought we should put the money out for him as we did for the other kids college. We reminded him how we put the money out for college and he quit and how we put the money out for him to take a construction course and he quit so we wouldn’t be putting the money out but we would reimburse him. He then decided to lie and claim but I don’t have any money. He forgot we were on his bank account that’s how we used to send him money so we know that he had $30,000 in savings so he could put the money out and we would reimburse him on graduation day. Ohhh noooo, he wants to save that money for travel. We told him he could take a student loan and once he graduated we would pay it off. He said no he doesn’t wanna do that because then if he never finishes he would have to be responsible for the loan. Right, which is exactly why we aren’t going to put the money out for you because you will probably quit! He removed us from his bank account after that because he didn’t want us to know how much money he has so when he cries poverty we won’t be able to prove him wrong lol. We were OK with that because it also means we can’t deposit money for him whenever he needs it.

    My two kids are in college. They live at school and come home during breaks. They don’t really like spending time with their step siblings because whenever we are all together all they do is complain about what their father doesn’t do for them or talk about their abusive past with their mother. Literally it’s the same stories over and over again every single time we are together my youngest actually said at one point why don’t we make new memories instead of thinking about what happened in our past my children two came from a messy divorce but they don’t dwell on it every single time they’re together. my kids frankly see how ridiculous it is and think they are so spoiled.

    My husband‘s youngest child recently told my children while we were on our very expensive vacation That when he first met me he was mad that his dad was dating someone (though his mom had been gone for years and chose to give up rights to them) and he thought I was a ‘fucking asshole’ coming into their home cooking and cleaning in their house. Very nice to tell my children this. All I was doing was trying to give them a home-cooked meal. It makes me realize that nothing I do is ever going to be good enough they come in our home and treat it like a flophouse. They invite friends to come visit them because they are in town, expect us to feed everyone the fine kids and their friends, put them up for the night, give them breakfast etc. Hos eldest one time was like ummm where’s dinner I’m starving because I no longer do out of my way for them. I don’t suck the house with ask the things they love to eat, I don’t cook meals I sit and relax when I have had enough of the complainant I take a walk or go to my room and read a book. Let’s be real they aren’t there to visit me, they are there to visit their Dad. I let him handle everything now. He orders out food for all of them, he buys them their holiday gifts, I may offer to wrap them for him but honestly I just don’t go all out the way I used to because it’s so unappreciated. One year I did a crazy Christmas shopping trip got them all wonderful presents wrapped them all in their own wrapping paper with their names printed on them. And they didn’t appreciate anything they never help, Leaving a mess in their wake from clothes on the floor pulling hair out of their hairbrush and dropping it on the floor dropping wet towels wherever they go, plopping on our new furniture like they are kids, not lifting a finger to help, offering to make a dish for the holidays, stripping the beds before they leave not helping at all in the kitchen I would cook these big family meals and they would get up from the table leave their plates and walk away while my daughter and I cleaned up we would have to tell them every single time to help and their answer was we’re just guests here though we would say time and time again no this is your house also. NO more!! Everything was a complaint so why would I continue now I don’t cook for them and they complain that I don’t cook for them. His middle child just over the holidays said oh I really want that one dish you make, I said oh I would really like to see you make it I can’t wait to taste it lol. I will cook for my family and friends that appreciate it. My husband and I joke that we cannot wait until they have their own homes because we’re going to come over and not lift a finger lol.

    We recently sat down all of the children and told them that we put our wills together, we told them that we wanted to let them know how everything was divided so that there was never any issue once we are gone. We told them that whatever my husband came into the marriage with was theirs and whatever I came into the marriage with was my children’s. Anything we had accumulated together would be divided equally amongst the five of them (i.e our houses). His youngest automatically speaks up and says I don’t want to split anything I just want what I’m supposed to get from my dad. I laughed and said OK because your dad still supports your mom, he basically came into this marriage with only that house that he sold so if you want nothing then we will just take you out of the will all together. Then he backpedaled and said oh I was just kidding I just don’t think we should take money from you. Yeah who do you think has been supporting you along with your dad all these years. Grrr

    I made it clear that my children would be getting my jewelry to do with as they please as i has many pieces i Inherited from family. They immediately had an issue with us and said that well any jewelry that their dad bought me, i.e. my engagement ring should be theirs. I’ve never experienced anyone like this in my life never mind three people they honestly think that they are entitled to these things and we have no idea how to change that entitlement because their mother keeps drilling it in their head that they should get everything they want meanwhile she never supported them and still is not because we are still paying her alimony while she didn’t contribute to their education, cars, phones, nothing! They are also still on our medical insurance because they don’t want to pay for their through work (the eldest came off when she got married but she didn’t want to and complains about the law that required it), they are also still on our cell phone plan and complain endlessly that we refuse to pay for upgraded phones which we don’t even have. All three upgraded their phones, they had the money to do so.

    Now before anyone asks, yes, all of our children did several years of therapy after the divorces. I guess when it comes to steps, no matter how hard you try to make it nice, no matter how much with you put in, it’s never going to be what you envision. The best you can do is make sure that you and your spouse are happy and on the same page. I’m blessed with a wonderful man that sees the difficulties, though he enjoys a wonderful, loving relationship with my kids which I’m a Little jealous of at times I must admit because I really thought I would have the same with his kids. I realize my trying so hard made it harder she didn’t try it all it just happened naturally and my kids have to live with him his kids never even lived with me so they got to spend more time with him and get to know each other. You really do have to make yourself happy and everything else will fall into place. Just like they say on the airplane, put your mask on first, before helping others.

    I will say as I did this talk to text little ‘book’ I wrote to you all here lol I received three texts two from my husband‘s kids and one from one of mine. So when they say disengage, it does actually work and I believe it helps build your relationship with the steps. Let their parents parent them, be around to enjoy the fun times, if asked for advice give it but don’t expect them to take it, if they do take it don’t expect to get any credit for it, don’t do too much for them because you’ll end up feeling resentful Instead do what you feel like or enjoy doing abs let their parents do the rest. It has helped me so much to just back off and let them come to me. I was reared recently when my husbands eldest said I think you are going to be the favorite grandmother in our family I think ask the kids will flock to you because you really make kids feel important. I almost fell over I thought I was the asshole lol. Kick back and relax and only worry about parenting your own kids the steps have parents and you will be much happier when you aren’t disciplining and arguing. Find your joy!

  98. One for you Step Moms to try and you can be creative to utilize for kids of all ages.
    I learned the best way to handle kids who are rude, snippy, or disrespectful to you (insert kid eye roll here). My step Daughter, who came to live with us for the summer, was snippy with me one day because I said hey your bathroom garage is overflowing can you empty it please, it smells. It was HER own garbage in her own bathroom, which she put food garage in and it was her one chore that week.
    I said NOTHING to her, as she ranted how the other kids don’t do chores blah, blah. I’ll get to it, on and on, slamming her bedroom door. I did not engage, she knew what she was supposed to do, there was nothing to argue about. Do it or there are consequences when you don’t. Just like if you don’t go to work, you don’t get paid, may as well learn early.
    A few hours later (right after she FINALLY, begrudgingly took out her garbage), she asked me for a ride to her friends because her car was in the shop.
    I very calmly said I am so sorry, I can’t help you. She was shocked, I don’t usually say no. She asked why. I told her that I am working on MYSELF (I didn’t make it about her). I said one of my new sticking points is that I can no longer do things for people who speak to me nasty or disrespect me, it was a new me! I am SO sorry, as much as I would LOVE to drive you, I can’t disrespect myself in that way any longer. I can only do things for people who respect me.
    She tried for thirty minutes to say she was ‘just saying’ other kids don’t do their chores, please give her a ride, on and on. I just stayed calm and said no thank you, maybe I will be able to help you next time, but we will have to see how you are treating me and we can reevaluate then.
    It was hard not to give in but what a lesson for her. She had to pay for an Uber, I’m sure she thought I was a bitch but it works! They will think twice how they treat you.
    This might also work for some of these Dad’s I’m ready about, who let their kids walk all over their new wives. You could say sweet as pie (wearing sexy lingerie at the same time can only help wink). I’m SO sorry honey, I can’t have sex with you tonight I’m so sad but I just can’t possibly have sex with someone who lets their kids disrespect me. (Sad face) it’s such a shame to because I’m so horny tonight and wanted to do such dirty things to you, it would have been mind blowing great sex but I have to respect myself and pass since no one else seems to be respecting me. I just can’t wait until you and your kids respect me, so we can have all the amazing sex again! Lol

  99. I have literally been dreading when my stepkids come over or are even mentioned it got so bad I would conveniently make plans everytime they were due over. I could feel the negative energy coming over to ours from their mothers house and it darkened my home whenever they were there.

    Stepdaughter is the cutest and I have a great relationship with her but stepson is rude and sly and he would come into my house and not even say hello this would happen all the time. I would tell my fiance about it but also didnt want to be nagging all the time. This was for about 2 years until he told my fiance (recently) that his mum told him when he was only 8 years old that his father had an affair with me and he abandoned them to come and live with me. Baring in mind affair and abandoned are words he used. What kind of mother would tell their child that its emotional abuse as far as im concerned, even if it was the truth (which it most definitely is not!) are we not supposed to protect our children? I was so shocked but I felt such a relief because at least I now know the reasoning behind his moods and in hindsight hes actually a very good child to of not been any worse to me to be honest!

    The mother has done things like told her daughter to delete pictures of me off her ipad (again if it upsets you so much just delete them yourself why make it a big deal?) The mother has another child now but still seems to have an issue and a weird energy towards us and I cant put my finger on it I dont know if its just bitterness or jealousy… she has also been rude under someone photo on instagram that I was in which was so childish and pathetic and then lied and said it wasnt about me. Many things like this has happened.

    She has left her children at home on their own on a number of ocassions we only know about the times when one of the kids would facetime us so who knows how many times thats happened -when there would be absolutely no reason for that to have to happen.

    Anyways, going through all this whilst trying to have a baby of our own has been so stressfull I even started thinking maybe its not meant to be because with all the checks everything is fine so I just dont know. Were engaged but not married yet do I run now or learn and grow through it because he is my absolute soul mate!

  100. I needed this today. I’m at my breaking point. I literally told my husband, I don’t want to parent my stepson with him anymore. It’s breaking our marriage. I’m mentally and emotionally exhausted.

  101. This article really helped me at the perfect time. My husband has 3 girls (14, 13 and 8 years old). Before we got married there were no issues however ever since we got married and started living together, it feels like everytime they are here it’s like the definition of insanity. The ONLY chores they mainly have is to do dishes and make their beds yet they CONSTANTLY need to be asked/told to do it. They are not hygienic and lack basic common sense.
    eg: their wet towel laying on the floor, they won’t think to hang it up.
    They use up the toilet roll and put new one on but they don’t pick up the empty roll they just finished off the floor.
    They make a sandwich on the kitchen counter directly instead of using a plate and once done don’t wipe the counter afterwards.

    These are just a few examples, as you can imagine they are girls so the older two also lack personal hygiene when it comes to their menstrual cycle.

    I ensure my actions can lead by example, but they don’t take note. I wake up to a dirty kitchen every morning because my husband doesn’t enforce a bedtime for them when they are here so they go sleep between midnight and 4am. I have a 3 month old baby and I’ve stated to them that the kitchen needs to be cleaned especially since I sterilized baby things every morning and cannot do that in a dirty kitchen with dishes piled up. I don’t allow screen time for my baby as she is too young, my step kids don’t always obey this rule. And due to their bad hygiene I’ve started avoiding letting them hold their baby sister or trusting them to watch the baby if I need to do something. I lay in bed most nights when they are here in tears while my husband tries to reassure me he will fix things and then two minutes later asks me if I’m in the mood to be intimate with him! WTF! I don’t think his present parent and it’s been two days and his yet to address these issues with his step kids.

  102. I’ve been a step parent for 5 years now and I’ve learned to set boundaries for myself. I’m lucky to have a husband who is understanding and listens when feelings are hurt. I didn’t understand why everything was blamed on me with my step children, even when I wasn’t involved or had anything to do with what happened. My husband gets mean texts from his ex all the time, insulting both my husband and myself. I always feel like I spoil my step children, take care of them while they are sick, and I’m there whenever they need me. I never speak poorly of their mom to them. When I found out about the horrible texts, that are uncalled for and just plain mean, my heart would always break. At first I thought, I must be a bad step mom, and how sad I made them feel like that. My husband doesn’t reply to cruel texts, but I know they hurt him. I always felt like we can never do enough when it comes to the step kids. The resentment they have towards me, the eye rolls, being treated as if I’m the intruder who messed up everyone’s world.
    I said to my husband, I’m no longer going to put myself out there just to get bullied by your ex and ignored by your children. He feels I should keep doing what I’m doing, and they will see my kindness once they are on their own. In response, I told him, I’ll always be kind, respectful, and loving toward his kids. I’m not putting myself out there to get hurt anymore. I understand, I came into his family and things changed. Rules changed, money changed, and he was never suppose to fall in love with me, even though he was free to date after the divorce. His ex always thought he would always go back to her. He said the relationship became toxic and with the help of a therapist, he was able to leave. This was hard on his ex wife and their children because he was never suppose to leave the marriage.
    We suspect that his children were/are venting their frustrations to their mom, which is why we get the nasty texts.
    The thing is, since I have detached, now he gets texts on how he is more focused on me and my kids and his children are now hurt because they feel ignored and see that he favors my kids over his. That text from his ex made cry because I would never want anyone to feel they are no longer wanted simply because I disengaged. My husband and I went out of our way this weekend for my daughter and step daughter, giving them both the best weekend. My husband and I did it because we wanted to, not because it is expected. When my step daughter asked me for school supplies and school clothes, I said I will have her Dad zelle over money to her mom, so her mom can take her. My step daughter wanted me to take her because she can buy more expensive things with me, not because she actually wanted me there and that isnt my place or job. Her mom always hates what is bought anyways, now her mom can have control over that. I see now that, my step children will never fully accept me because they see it as betraying their mom and her hatred towards me. I’m ok with it. I had to tell my husband that he will probably have to go to events, holidays, ect without me because I don’t want drama with his ex. I will always try my best to host a holiday party at our house, inviting his children, or visiting his children outside the event, separate from the drama.
    My husband’s ex wife literally tried to co-parent their adult 22 year old son. When she didn’t get what she wanted, all he received was a bunch of texts calling him a shit father, your children are going to hate you and your wife. My step children are caught in the middle and that’s what is heart breaking.

  103. I have only been with my boyfriend for a year, and have been playing the role of stepmom almost from the start. even though I grasp the concept that they have a mom and a dad, and that’s not me… I still feel so much resentment from time to time. I care way too damn much. They are 5yo and 2yo. I am so encouraging about loving their mom and loving everyone, not having to pick favorites, and them knowing how much they are loved by everyone. But when it comes to behavioral issues, it sucks that I feel like I know what I’m doing the most. I have helped shape the entire way my partner parents his kids. but it’s me putting in the work; I do the research, I make the behavior sticker charts to encourage fewer fits, I look into blended family dynamics, I come up with the boundaries, the discipline, the reward systems, I wake up first when I hear them cry and wake him up to go help them…and although I’m voicing this to my partner and let him do most of the authoritative things, I feel resentment because I’m bending over backward for kids that aren’t even mine. who unintentionally, yet harshly remind me of my role daily (when we have them). the 5yo is also light on the spectrum of autism and I take credit for the progress in his behavior. teaching him proper coping mechanisms and whatnot…why? because I do the research. I put in the work. The reason I’m here on this article is because this kid wakes up crying in the night a minimum of 3 times, usually for water…which already bothers me because he’s 5…and the 2 yo doesn’t even do that. but when my partner leaves me alone in bed at 2 am to go sleep with his kid instead because the kid is insisting on it and crying, after I let the kid crawl into bed with us, gave him cuddles, and said he could sleep with us, but that dad isn’t going to go in there, then he started crying and what did his dad do? go in there and now is asleep all peacefully. which makes me livid because it’s so unfair that I’m awake and upset, tossing and turning and feeling like my insides are on fire. I feel like a terrible person for having almost no sympathy and instead resentment towards the child and my partner.

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