on step parenting

wild_thingJune 5, 2009

I was just thinking of what lovehadley had posted in another thread, about the bond that is there between parent and child and how it is not the same with skids.

It seems that as step parents we have that going against us too. Because you have your own bio-children either prior to or during the marriage, that you are looked down on or judged worse because you may have a better bond with your own children. But that is just the way it will be for some unless you raised your skids from babies. IMO. Depending on what factors you have working for or against you.

I mean i have been in my skids lives since they were very young, but i still don't have that "bond" with them that i do with my own children. Several reasons for that, and no it is not lack of trying on my part.

Plus, and this is the one thing that has always got under my skin...when you do something with your own children or for them, then you are put under the microscope by the skids (and/or their mom) for being "unfair" etc or treating them "better" etc. That is the one card that my skids have always tried using. "you treat them better".

I got tired of them trying to make me feel guilty for doing things with/for my own kids. I am allowed to build memories and have experiences with my own children without having to be accused of being "unfair". It isn't like we ever did anything and "excluded" the skids. Nothing like that. In fact we have given them more experiences than their biomom and step dad have. We took them on vacations with us, and we took them camping. They never went on vacation or camping with their mom. EVER.

It is a hard job being a step parent. Being a parent is hard enough these days, so trying to help, or being a partner with someone else raising their children is even more difficult. Blended families are a hard thing.

I always liked the movie Step Mom with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. I thought it was real. You know the scene where the little boy tells his mom...." I won't like her if you don't want me too." Real eye opening moment for the mom. Too bad that some real life mom's don't see that is what they are really putting their children through when they do and say things...even if it isn't right in front of them. Once a parents damages that relationship with their spin and negative energies, it is very difficult to rebuild or even change that child's mind once they have put those negative thoughts in their mind. It colors everything they think about the step parent and everything that step parent does from that point on.

It is like a little seed, planted by the bio mom and it is nurtured, tended, and encouraged as it grows into this lush, full, contempt for the step parent. All courtesy of a mean spirited bio parent who has no thought to how that will hurt the child.

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I hear what you are saying. However, I think there is a difference between having a special "bond" with biological children and treating step kids fairly and equally. That bond arising from giving birth to your own child can really not be duplicated. Just talk to adoptive parents who also have biological children. But it is incumbent on all step-parents to never differentiate between the step-kids and biological children in any noticeable way. It is hard, but its necessary and thats why being a step-parent isnt for everyone. The perception that step-children have of being treated differently or unfairly is most times not imagined. Even when subtle, kids pick up on it.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 5:12PM
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"That bond arising from giving birth to your own child can really not be duplicated. Just talk to adoptive parents who also have biological children"

eeek. I do not think people who have adopted AND bio children love their adopted children ANY less. My aunt and uncle have 4 boys, and adopted their youngest child, a girl, from China 10 years ago. She is AS MUCH their child as their 4 biological boys, there is no difference at all. I can see this plain as day.

I would take great offense to this comment were I an adoptive parent. Adoption simply means the child grew in your heart instead of your womb. (If that sounds cliche, it's b/c I read it on a hallmark card or something! But I think it is a profound statement.)

I would venture to say that the difference between steps and bios is not so much biological, but in that you RAISE your children. Most step-parents do not *raise* their stepchildren. I play a part in raising my SS, but I am not his mother. He has a mother and a father. My role is more as an *assistant* to his father. I do motherly things for my SS, and I take care of him, do his laundry, cook for him, help with homework, all the things that a mom would do---but also the things a nanny, babysitter, aunt, or friend might do in a pinch.

I didn't carry him for 9 months---nor did I adopt him, and wait for months, even years, for that adoptive match. I do not see myself in him. I don't feel myself getting emotional thinking about his wedding day, or when he has kids of his own. I don't feel the same sense of pride or protectiveness that I do for my own child.

I care about him, and I do love him. But I love my DD more. YIKES. There. I said it. I do love her more. There is just no comparison to how I feel about my DD to how I feel about SS.

It's taken me a long time to get to this point where I can say that and not feel *too guilty.* I think that how I feel is natural, and okay. What has really helped me is the fact that my DH has releived me of a lot of that guilt--he has told me over and over that it's okay, that he doesn't expect me to feel the same way, and that he "gets it."

My role at this point is to be fair. I tend to treat him as I do any other child that comes in our home. If DD has a friend over, I am most certainly not giving preferential treatment to DD over the friend. It's the same with SS. When he is with us, everything is equal on the outside. I hope this does not make it sound like I treat SS like a guest---that's not it at all. I am having a hard time explaining.

I don't know. It is a tough and hard situation. I am sure SS perceives that I do not view him as *my child.* I don't know if that bothers him? But--he does not view me as his mother, so I think it is the same sort of thing. Neither of us feel that parental/child bond, and I hope as he gets older, and matures, that the relationship we DO have can continue to develop into whatever it will be.

I do hope that he will always know I care and am here for him and have his best interests at heart. PArt of that means recognizing that I am NOT his mother, and not overstepping my bounds. He doesn't need a mom, he needs me to be the best stepmom I can be.

And I am still trying to figure out exactly what that means--not sure if I EVER will, to be honest.

Step parenting is tough, tough, tough.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 7:14PM
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I have spoken to many adopted parents and I am not saying that they love the adopted child any less, but there is just a certain bond that you feel for the child you have a biological connection to that you just dont for one that you dont, particularly for mothers. The funny thing is you sort of captured that feeling pretty well in the rest of your post. There was no offense meant by my statement at all and I took none by your post (i.e., you love your biological child more than your stepchild). You would have been lying had you said otherwise. Its just human nature.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 9:02PM
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I don't have kids of my own, only two skids, SD11 and SD13.
Their BM bashes me and has been bashing me for the past 4 1/2 years. The skids still like me anyway and we have a good bond.

And we have had a good bond from the day we met. Regardless of BM bashing me they choose to like me. I know I'm very lucky in that respect. BM's bashing has still affected all of us of course, but she hasn't achieved her ultimate goal; to put them up against me.

Now that they are a bit older and that BM has had another baby the dynamics have changed over the past year or so. The skids are now more than ever manipulated in choosing sides and 'looking after' BM. It has been very hard for us to deal with this and as most of you know I've had a hard time with it.

Our bond is good but could have been even better if BM did not make them feel so bad about liking me. The skids are being poisoned and it makes me angry that a parent can do that to her own kids.

At times the skids become reserved when they believe something BM has drilled into them (like last time when I got angry because they believed I don't want FDH to pay BM enough, because I want all the money for myself). BM convinces them, they get upset, SD12 had a go at us, I then feel upset because I think SD12 should know better, and so on..

But as much as BM pulls these tricks and bashes us, in the end our bond is strong enough to survive these attacks, and it also has this time. And we all grow from these experiences if anything, I'm learning to disengage more so things like that don't get to me so much anymore. But disengaging does not mean that our bond is less strong. Which is what I initially thought might happen, however disengaging is not the same as 'not caring'.

It might not be a natural bond, but it's a good bond and I'm going home now to a happy family, what more can I wish for?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 12:15AM
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I know plenty of adoptive parenst who also have biochildren. and NO they do not love them any less bond wiht them any less or feel any different about them. you are so very wrong on this.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 8:44AM
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stepchildren already have both parents, that's why that same bond as wiht your own children is not possible 100%. My DD has a good bond wiht SM but since she already has a close bond wiht her mother (me) who raised her then that same bond just cannot be there. it is a bond just not the same kind. same wiht fathers.

why would you expect to have the same bond with steps as with your own? it is just not realistic. love and fairness is reasonable but exactly same bond is not. If your SKs think you are unfair by prefering your own children...well unless you are seriously unfair then don't worry about it. they have mom and dad. their mom and dad should prefer them over others, you don't have to.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 8:50AM
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Lies, I am glad you have a good relationship.

Fine -- I think there is a major difference between adoption, which is a driven by the parents desire for the child, and a step relationship, which is driven by the parents desire for each other. Not that step cant be a good relationship, but it is different. Most adoptions are not open, and the parents have a clearly defined role.

Hadley, IMHO, there is nothing wrong with loving your child more, it is how you deal with it that is important.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 9:06AM
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" know plenty of adoptive parenst who also have biochildren. and NO they do not love them any less bond wiht them any less or feel any different about them."

I 100% agree, finedreams. Absolutely.

KKNY, I also agree there is a difference between step-parenting and adopting. I do think maybe the only time it might be similar is when there is a non-existant bio-parent, and the step-parent fulfills that role. If you like country music, the song "He Didn't Have to Be" by Brad Paisley sums it up perfectly.

As far as stepparents, and bonds, I really don't feel my DH loves my DD any less than he loves his own son. I am usually hyper sensitive to any perceived injustices (like a BM!) and I honestly do think, as he maintains, that he really loves them equally.

He has been in DD's life since she was not quite 2, but in the last 2-3 years, has really jumped headfirst into the dad role. She calls him dad more often than not now, and as time goes on, I see their bond growing stronger. The difference between them and me and SS? DD does not have a bio-father in her life. DH has been able to step into that role 100%. It certainly didn't happen all at once, but it was a gradual thing that has only grown stronger. He takes the initiatve with her all on his own, and I have noticed in the last year especially, he is extremely protective of her in that daddy/daughter way.

But he and I have expressly talked about how it WOULD be different if her BD were in the picture. It has been super easy for him to become dad to her because there is no one else.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 2:28PM
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why would you expect to have the same bond with steps as with your own? it is just not realistic. love and fairness is reasonable but exactly same bond is not. If your SKs think you are unfair by prefering your own children...well unless you are seriously unfair then don't worry about it. they have mom and dad. their mom and dad should prefer them over others, you don't have to.

I don't expect to have the same bond. I don't. My point was that my skids had always thought I "prefer" my own child/children, and were quick to comment on how "Unfair" they thought that was. The reason they thought this is out of jealousy. Their own biomom is a piss poor excuse for a mother and never did anything for them. I am not "seriously unfair" as you put it, but It is just something that has always bothered me, because they are kids who like to cry wolf and people believe them. Not so much now, especially since the ss is out on his own now, and not so much out of my sd since we got her into counseling, but it happened. Just because you know how things should be, doesn't mean that is how you feel sometimes.
If you are a step parent and you don't have issues, than lucky you. I sure don't know anyone who is that lucky though.

As for the whole adoption thing....IMO, parents who adopt their children ARE the parent regardless of giving birth. They do not have to deal with another parents input regarding that child. It is theirs and up to them to raise them. Way different than being a step parent IMO.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 7:32PM
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The perception that step-children have of being treated differently or unfairly is most times not imagined. Even when subtle, kids pick up on it.

Not buying that statement at all. You say that the bond between bio children and skids is not the same and yet you can make that statement too. Nope. Perception of a child is often skewed and misinterpreted in many situations, not just for skids either. It is the maturity level of being able to understand a situation fully.
Some people just like to believe that step parents do treat their skids unfairly. Perhaps that is because they were treated that way as a step child, who knows, but more often than not it is all misinterpretation on the kids part. IMO.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 7:48PM
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As an adoptive mother, THANK YOU Hadley and Fine for finding offensive statement your adoptive child will never have the bond as birth child..I have on many occasions clearly forgotten that my DS is adopted, as when his Dr asked if we have any family allergies, or health concerns, and I d reply no..My concern would be , had I had a child after I wouldnt love them as much as my first born DS.....

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 2:20PM
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"It is like a little seed, planted by the bio mom and it is nurtured, tended, and encouraged as it grows into this lush, full, contempt for the step parent. All courtesy of a mean spirited bio parent who has no thought to how that will hurt the child"

That perfectly describes how my SS came to me programmed to hate me at age 4. Very sad his BM could not see through her owm pain and rage, could not accept any accountability for the demise of her and my husbands marriage, and very openly and verbally blamed me for everything. This poor kid was so conflicted he couldn't like me if he wanted too. No matter how I tried to win him over, accepting me would always be betraying his mom.

Fast forward 5 years, despite consistant visitation, family vacations, camping, holidays he still won't talk to me. Just yesterday, we're all in the kitchen and he asked his dad "did you tell her what I did?" I encouraged him to tell me himself, he said forget it and walked away. It makes me sad. BM can now see she didn't really benefit him at that time, but just says "well, you've gotta understand" She still feels completely justified.

I really don't expect to ever have a bond with him. I care about him, he's part of my DH and I would do anything to help him in life, but I have no mental image of him ever calling me mom, or us having family photos.

On to fairness.....I struggle with this all the time. Of course I want to be fair, and I want SS to feel included, and thought of. We've never taken a family vacation w/o him, or taken the other kids camping and left him home. If it's something we're doing with kids, he's invited. Where/how do you draw the line determinig that the kids who live here are getting more financially and is it okay?

For example, DS has a birthday at the end of the month he wants to have it at a jumping/inflatable party place. If I say okay and we do it, are we then to match those dollars for SS on his birthday? I kinda think it's his moms job to put that $ out for a party for him, but I know my DH will see it as we spent $100 for this kids Bday, we should spend the same amount for all the kids.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 3:09PM
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i honestly believe every situation is different. Depends on the characters that are at play. I think you can have the same bond as a biochild and adoptive child. Why? because YOU are their parent. No interference. No poison being set in their minds saying that you dont' love them...there in lies the difference With stepkids, they are products of divorce and when the divorce is ugly and the mother or father uses the kids as weapons...you cannot form any bonds that will be close or even be close to them. Thats the issue at hand with step parents. Adoptive parents will have that close bond as you have with biochildren. IMO.
Its only in rare cases where a stepparent will have that bond as he or she has that bond with a biochild. Rare cases....as in having that said stepchild from a baby. Having the stepchild not being poisoned by neither father or mother. Being a COLLECTIVE extended family to all the kids to allow those bonds to form. Without prejudice, jealousy or hate.
yah....that is RARE.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 5:03PM
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I don't think it should cause a problem unless someone is egging them on. If your children live with you and the steps don't, of course you are going to do more with your own. You can't make them wait until it's convenient for the steps also. Yours aren't included when they go out with their Mom.

About bonding, I haven't met a child I couldn't bond with. Just be nice to them and show you care about them. If you are sincere and they are not receptive, they will know when they grow up that you have raised them with love.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 7:37PM
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mariealways, My firstborn is adopted. We brought him home from the hospital when he was 10 days old. Six months after the adoption was finalized, I became pregnant. I was terrified. How could I love another child as much as I loved my firstborn? After son two was born, I came to realize what most parents realize--that every child is special and there is lots of love to go around. I then had two precious babies, 18 months apart. They grew up extremely close. Son two followed behind son one everywhere. He was in school before he started calling his older brother by name. To him, firstborn was always "Brother." I am not more "bonded" to my bio sons than my firstborn. They are all (I now have 4) my sons with all their virtues and blemishes. As it turns out, my firstborn wasn't spared his bio link to mental health issues and after years of struggle, we found out that he suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. He is now nearing 30 and I haven't seen him for over a year. The heartbreak could not be greater for me, for son two, or sons three or four, or his dad if he were our bio child/brother.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 1:40AM
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If you are sincere and they are not receptive, they will know when they grow up that you have raised them with love.

That is the hard part. Trying to be sincere all the time, 24/7. That is probably why a lot of us come here to VENT. It gets tough being so damn sincere to children who are so disrespectful, and we know short of leaving our spouse, there isn't a thing we can really do about it. But just keep pluggin' along and vent our frustrations and anger when we can in a safe place. .....oh wait, this isn't a safe place to do that either lol!!!!
(I am being sarcastic and joking here ftr)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 1:43AM
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The only point I can add is this. Bonding starts in the heart but exits through the mind. If you still express the differnce between your "skids" and your "kids" you have a way to go before your truly bonding. I can only speak for myself, but my kids are my kids. My 1st wife and I opted not to have children of our own but to adopt 2 children. They are MY children. Yes we openly discussed their adoption and even have pictures of Bio-mom/dad. But I always expres that they are "MY" children. After my wife died I remarried and now have 3 additional children by marriage. They are "MY" children. I explained to them why I thought it was important to emb race their bio's while still being a family. It took a couple of years but now they express that they have 2 families. They all call me their parent, however only the 1st two call me dad. But they all love me as Dad. I have learned the role of a step parent is, "TO GIVE FREELY". Give love, time, attention and keep your own heart in check for now. I know for 3 of my kids I will never be "Dad". I will not be the one they give credit to when they score a touchdown. I will not be the one that walks them down the aisle at their wedding. They won't name their first born after me. But without a doubt they will always look back and remember they had a second dad who loved them very much...unselfishly. THAT IS MONEY IN THE BANK.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 8:29AM
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Bonds between parent/step parent and child/step child are personal and no two are alike. It depends on personalities, relationships with the other parents, personality types, etc. etc.

I feel very very VERY close to the girls. I imagine I feel a great deal the same for them as an adoptive parent would feel. I didn't give birth but they are mine. When I say mine I mean it is me they depend on for love, support (both emotionally and financially) and they call me mama. They are my responsibility even though I didn't have them. I no longer even think of it as a responsibility....they are just our kids. You take care of your kids. Period. That's just how it works.

I KNOW they have a BM. I don't disregard that. I still have an extremely maternal instinct towards them because of how much they love, trust and depend on me. The connection is strung because they have not only excepted me but have CLUNG to me. Just like my baby does they cling to me. They need me. They need more than even Layla does becUse they have been hurt and dejected.

I would imagine adoptive parents have those same bonds because those children NEED them. Those children DEPEND on them. Those children LOVE them with all their little hearts. I think when the children obviously LOVE you and are depending on you are a thousand times more likely to have a biological bond with them. Who could not love a child unconditionally when the child loves them so??? I say biological because biology covers more than just the act of birth...instincts go along with it as well. Motherly instincts are not exclusive to birth parents.

The girls look just like their baby sister. They all look like their daddy. They call their baby sister sissy just as they call each other sissy. They call me mama and their father daddy. They do this even more now that we have Layla and their father calls me mama instead of doodle. They draw family pictures of the group of us. We go to church as a family. We have family outings. We all crowd into bed together on the weekends and play with the baby. We all sit down to dinner together as a family. When you do these things all the time you really can grow a maternal bond to children who aren't yours. It is a natural accurance....just as natural as birth IMHO.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:02AM
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Doodle, that is so awesome.
It makes me so happy for you and the twins, because lord knows they need a mother's love in their lives.

It makes me sad for my family, though, because I know I will never have that bond with SS. I don't like to sound negative, but I just know, his loyalty lies with his mother. It's not even a good sense of loyalty, more like a child feels like he has to take care of his alcoholic parent. It's that twisted, defensive loyalty. There is a wall between us because ever since i've been *around* his mom has convinced him that I am the enemy, that his dad loves me and DD more, that we are a *threat* to him.

When really---we were a threat to HER. She projected (and still does) her feelings of insecurity and inadequacy onto her son, and I don't think that "damage" will ever be undone.

You are so, so lucky that your psycho BM is out of the picture (for the most part) and that, God willing, the girls will grow up with love, security and stability all around them.

I can't help but think how different SS's life would be if either a) his BM was emotionally healthy or b) she just weren't around.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 12:50PM
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wow some of this hit the nail on the head

first on the adoptive children. I can see the difference and big difference lies in the fact you are the ONLY MOM. there is not another person raising this child and looking out for their best welfare. There isn't a biomom who is the picture making decisions, planning the child's future. There isn't someone else's feelings or toes that you step on. YOu are it. That to me is just as natural real as your own child. It is someone you care for , look after and that rely ON YOU and only YOU> They have noone else, I can see how that could seem soo natural and feel the same as a bio children except they are adopted. When you go into adopting a child it's because you soo badly desire that child, you look, wait and plan for that child. A Stepchild, lands on your lap at any given time unplanned. Yes you may have known this was the package deal, but you didn't build that person, you werent the sole caregiver for this child, you didn't think of what he was going to look like, what you had planned as a family etc. that to me is a big difference then planning for a child to come into your life. Same w/ a bio child.

I am a mother of a 15 mth old son and SM to two biochildren. It is very difficult for me to have that "same" feeling I have w/ my son. EVen before my son I felt the same way. I do think that my DH is finally coming aruond to see this after having our son together that it IS very different to having your own child. I look forward everyday to seeing my child no matter how cranky he is.. with my Skids, I look forward to seeing them but honestly I look forward to having a break from them? why I can't pin it, maybe it's resentment on the mom's part as she is always blaming my DH for stuff or tells my DH he doesn't treat them fairly, he cares more about "our" family over there. Which is so untrue. MY DH is a great dad even prior to our child. If anything he favors his first born son.. and sometimes I tell him that. But he loves all his children equally it's just they don't live w/ us fulltime so it make it harder.

I also understand the fairness issue. WE get that from her, if you go on vacation you need to take them. Well what if I want to take a vacation w/ my son and DH when the skids are w/ her? Can I not? Do i always have to fill her in on my life/ my choices.. That to me is what is challenging, as I don't naturally think of my skids feelings. I naturally think I want to take a vacation w/my son and my skids, BUT sometimes I think it'd be nice to just be the three of us w/ out them while they are w/ their mom doing fun things.. ? There are times the three of us are invited to parties/bbqs etc and the kids are on their mom's weekend.. how is that fair? how is it fair we go and don't take them but on weekend sthey are w/ their BMOM they get to go to disneyland and my son doesnt?

to me life isn't fair. and that is what you need to teach the kids that are in a blended family. The BM job is to make them understand that this is what happens soemtimes and it's not intentional and that we also have to live our life just as they do. BUt BM stirs up the pot and adds her 2 cents in as she is jealous of our time. even though she is remarried and has her own DH she says this is hurting the kids. To me theo nly thing that hurts the kids is when she uses them as tools to get what SHE wants or tries to put guilt on my DH instead she should be teaching the kids that it's healthy and ok to feel hurt or left out but it's their life and how things are going to be sometimes. Just like my son doesn't get to do it all either will they?

If life fair no and setting them up for disappointment will only help them in the long run instead of spoiling them and telling them that their situation is perfect as it isn't..

Anyways, what i am saying is, it is very difficult to be a stepmom.. Never would I have chosen this path if I hadn't met the man that I love.. It takes a very strong person to handle this and at times i don't always feel that strong NOR want to be.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 7:19PM
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