Blended Families & Step-parenting

Parent Q&A

  • I don't feel safe having my husband's 6yo son around

    (6 replies)

    Hi All,

    Gonna try to make this short.  My husband and I have an 18 month old daughter.  He has a 6 year old son from a previous marriage who lives on the East Coast.  His ex wife has an exhausting number of issues (her home is being foreclosed upon but she refuses to leave, she's an animal hoarder breeding puppies as well as having chickens cats and other dogs in the mess of a home, has a drinking/substance abuse problem, I could go on and on).  His son, understandably, has severe behavioral issues - no doubt due to the lack of stability and attention he receives from his mom (she has strangers living there to help her pay bills, allows his son to watch the iPad all day on the weekends/no playdates, spends all of her energy on the animals, I could go on).  He's constantly in trouble for acting out at school, has abused the animals and recently pulled scissors on his mom threatening to hurt her.  He is supposed to spend a month with us in the Summer and I have major concerns about him being around our daughter, whom he's already expressed jealousy and resentment towards.  I've brought it up to my husband who says he acts differently around him since there is discipline and his behavior won't be an issue.  Any advice from anyone in a similar situation or recommendations as to how to bring this up more forcefully without making my husband defensive?

    Reading through the responses so far, I disagree with the either-or framing where the choice is between being compassionate towards your stepson and protecting your baby. First of all, animal abuse is a clear warning sign that neither you nor your husband should ignore, and it sounds like your husband (probably out of a sense of guilty) is minimizing the situation.  And there's no way to supervise children 24/7 because adults need to sleep too. At the same time, your husband has a responsibility towards both of his children, and presenting things to him in a way that makes him feel like he's being forced to prioritize one over the other will just make him deaf to your concerns. 

    Is there a way to address this holistically --- to talk about how to welcome your stepson and ease his transition into the household, and to say that you hope what your husband says about the child's behavior is true?  Ask yourself, if this boy was your son too, how would you handle the situation? I imagine you'd want to get him help, and also actively manage the risk of him harming his sister. Empathize with your husband's feelings and your son's, but also assert both your responsibility to keep your daughter is safe, in light of his behavior towards animals and his mom.

    Finally, if I was in a situation where my child was facing a significant likelihood of injury and my partner was digging in and not being responsive to my concerns, I would find a way to remove myself and my daughter from the situation. That would be a last resort, and not an ultimatum you want to start with. But it's important to get clear with oneself about something like this.  I'm sorry you're going through this. Blended families are hard.

    My heart breaks for this child reading this.  Instead of thinking about "how to bring it up more forcefully" what about how to help this poor child and make him feel welcome and loved and wanted?  The last thing this poor kid needs is to be rejected from his father's home.  I know you don't understand as your child is younger, but 6 is still an incredibly young and fragile age.  My 6 year old acts out and misbehaves at school (and home), she sometimes hurts her younger sister (even though she adores her), and many other things 6 year olds do, especially when they're feeling sad or hurt or angry or frustrated or bored or tired or hungry...  Since I know her and love her and know her intentions are good even when her behavior isn't, I still love her and try to help her and coach her through this, because most of these behaviors represent desperate need for love and confirmation.  I know it's harder to see that when it's not your kid, but trust me, this child is still an innocent child who desperately needs love and connection.  Please welcome him and try to love him and see the good in him.  There is nothing to fear. He's 6.  He will never be alone with your child (because 6 year olds cannot be left alone and toddlers cannot be left alone) so they will always be safe and supervised.  Imagine if something happened to you, and your husband eventually remarried.  How would you want this new woman to treat your child?  I know being a step-parent can be hard but it sounds ike you've already decided this child is a problem and don't want him around, which is heart-breaking for this poor child (and his father who will now be caught between the natural desire and obligation to love and care for his child and the wishes of his wife to forego that obligation).  Also remember this is your daughter's only sibling, and siblings are a gift.  I would try to have them together as much as possible while they are growing up, for as adults they will be each other's family.

    Try to open your heart to your husband's child. He needs his father and other caring adults in his life. In terms of practical matters, why don't you enroll him in a camp where he will have plenty of opportunity to play outdoors during the day, and then you will only have to do care taking with both children in the evenings.

    Is there any discussion around removing the boy from his mother’s influence altogether?

    Is this not a priority to his father?

    He is young and and his behaviors and character have not been determined.  He needs a lot of support, and compassion. And probably professional help. And you could benefit from that too, in order to learn how to help him.

    Its sounds like you are his best option for a mother figure.  A tremendous responsibility, and not something you signed on for. 

    Your concerns of safety are important, it is difficult to tell how those issues may present. Maybe they won’t. 

    An escape plan sounds good. A place to go if you feel threatened.

    i do think professional advice is a good idea.  I would especially wish to avoid traumatizing this kid so that he feels locked into labeled negative behavior, and negative relationships with the healthiest adults in his world.

    I hear you. When my stepkids were smaller, I would not allow the older kid (he was 11 when we got married) to be alone with me because of an incident where his brother scratched him and he told his father I had done it. No point getting mad at the kid - he was just acting out his mom's resentment of me - but there was no way I was going to put my own safety at risk again. 

    That being said, this kid is 6. He is never going to be alone with the baby, because she's too little to be left alone with him. You will be there at all times. Maybe you can get some kind of family counseling that doesn't feel like counseling - like a coaching session - to ease the big kid into this situation. My prediction is that after a few days of adjustment he will be grateful for a structured and kind and calm family environment and will respond well. Give him lots of space to be alone with his dad, which is what he's afraid of losing. And above all, remember that he is just such a tiny little guy. I know he seems huge compared to your toddler but he is still tiny and deserves to be given a chance. Forget about the mom and focus your empathy on this lost kid who needs love. You don't have to fix him, you don't have to bring the hammer down, you don't have to do anything but show kindness and love while praising every little kind thing he does for his sister. 

    Yes, his sister. This is his sister. He's her brother. So look for the parts of your husband you can find in him and love him like you rescued him. You can do it. He deserves to be with his dad, he deserves a shot at a normal life, and a sister could be very, very healing for him. 

    Sounds like a tough situation. Why not tell your husband your concerns in a calm way, and agree on a game plan - such as the two children aren't left alone together, the son goes to day camp during his stay, and you have the option of taking the baby to a hotel or out of town if you feel like there's a threat?

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  • Envious stepdaughter

    (14 replies)

    I’m finding myself dreading seeing my younger stepdaughter over the holidays because of a particular interaction we have. She is sweet, but somewhat immature, and I think, a bit entitled and self-centered.  Background: She is in her early 30s, has had her job for about a year (she got out of grad school 2 years ago, spent a year hunting for a job while she lived at home supported by us and her mom). Her dad and I paid all of her college expenses and have paid off most of her grad school debt (around $60K).  We bought her a car after college, and paid for her moving expenses. We pay her cell phone bill, have paid her car insurance and some maintenance costs, including some large repair bills. We give her large cash gifts at Christmas and for her birthday. We pay for her flight tickets home for holidays and family events (she lives out of state). Her mom gives her some money each month as she cannot cover all of her other bills and rent on her own (we do not give her an "allowance" like this).  She lives by herself as she does not want a roommate.  Her job is definitely low-paying; it’s in a field where the average salary after years of experience is in the low $40K range, but it is her “dream” job. The problem: every time I see her, she comments on something I’m wearing, and says she “wishes she could afford” whatever it is. Typical interaction - Her: “Oooooh, I love your shoes! They are so cute!” Me: “Thanks.” Her: “Where did you get them?” Me: “Umm, Banana Republic” Her: “Ooooh, I wish I could afford to shop at Banana Republic!” Or JCrew, or Nordstrom, or wherever.  I’m in my mid-50s, have worked full time and supported myself since I was 21 (including taking non-dream jobs), paid for my own grad school education, and yes, now I can afford to shop at JCrew! I don’t resent any of the support we’ve given her, or the choices she’s made -- truly!! but I really do resent the implication that it’s not fair that I can buy new clothes and she can’t, or that we aren’t supporting a lavish enough lifestyle for her.  I want to ask her if she does this to other people, or just me, and if it’s just me, why.  I also want to tell her it’s just plain rude.  I am also worried about her financial circumstances: she doesn’t seem interested in taking any steps to become truly independent, much less save for retirement.  Oh, P.S., I’ve been married to her dad for > 20 years. He thinks I should just ignore this and not let it bother me.  But it does!! 

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    She may act entitled, but trust me, she's aware that you're supporting her extensively. She probably feels super awkward about this and is not sure what kinds of strings are attached to this arrangement. It's made double-hard by the fact that there is no end in sight, i.e. she'll never break 40k, so unless she finds someone else to subsidize her or gives up the job, this is it. For the rest of her life. 

    Ugh. What a terrible bind for someone who was probably (based on generation) indoctrinated hard in the "follow your dreams/do what you love" bullshit as a child. Sounds like continued financial support never allowed her to get disabused of this notion, or find a way to compromise with the financial realities of the world. But the truth is this may reflect her parent's values, and sound like they are continuing to transmit this to her via cash. 

    And so, I wonder if you and her dad are on the same page about what kind of support is appropriate? And relatedly, what you think is the appropriate way for you to relate to her? Sounds like you have a lot of frustration with her lifestyle, and she is probably picking up on that even if you try to hide it, or picking up on any dissonance between you and her dad. I think she's trying to gain sympathy from you / signal that she still does "need" your support, and so maintain the current arrangement.

    So my advice is basically, to put the poor girl out of her misery. Decide whether or not you are okay with this financial arrangement or not, including all the emotional baggage that either option implies. Get on the same page as her dad about what you will and will not do, going forward. And then be straight with her. Tell her where you stand, where she stands with you. Let her know that you love her (if you do), that you want her to be happy (if you do), that you're proud of her (if you are), and that the support either will or will not continue, regardless of whatever hints she drops. Tell her what strings are attached (there are always strings). You can tell her straight it makes you feel awkward when she comments on your amount of money, and that you should leave talks about your financial arrangement there. 

    And then let it go. Act about it the way you want her to act. 

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    Hi there,

    So sorry your step daughter is not pleased with her life but from where I stand she is the one with so much more. Her comments are rude and disrespectful.  You've given her a lot and shouldn't be subjected to her comments.  It sounds like she is suffering from "entitlementism" or back in the day it was called being a spoiled princess. She lives a dream world while working her dream job. Maybe it's time all the parents get together and say " daughter we'd love you but we need to taper off our financial support." Maybe get her a career coach, and budgeting skills courses. You said you're 50's worried about her having savings. If you keep supporting her you and your husband might not have a retirement fund one day. And finally the next time she makes her"I wish I could do "x" or have "y" kindly tell her to work harder, save, and she too can shop in J.Crew one day when she earns the money.

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    As I daresay other BPN readers won't be able to resist pointing out, your stepdaughter may be sweet, but she is a spoiled brat. This sort of repeated remark is so adolescent and manipulative. (Does she try it on others?) If you don't mind getting confrontational--I hate it, but sometimes force myself--look this precious girl right in the eye and tell her, politely but firmly, to stop. "I wish you could, too, darling. Now please don't pay me this sort of compliment again. You made certain decisions about your career, and things like shoes from Nordstrom are the price you pay for those choices." If she tries it again, remind her that you already had this conversation. (And she should certainly find a roommate and pay for her own damn cell phone, car insurance, and travel expenses.) As a stepmother myself, I know that the parents have more say-so, but they have not been helpful to their daughter. Technically speaking, she's an adult and should be acting like one.

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    How about a very cheery, "You could totally afford this! All you need is a job that supports that lifestyle."

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    If it really bothers you, you can tell her that it does and ask her to refrain. But it seems like the resentment is about something much bigger than her comments--your resentments about her financial life and your role in it--and I suspect such a conversation could easily escalate into that terrain. So I'd ask myself, what is the conversation I really want to have, and don't want to have, with this person that I have to be in relationship with? 

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    As someone who works in a dream job that pays very little, I cannot shop anywhere I want.  But I also know that I get a lot of satisfaction and joy from my job and that many many people aren't lucky enough to be able to say that.  Some people truly hate their work but do it because they have no other options. I truly think it is a privilege to have a job that I find so fulfilling and anytime I lament my salary I remind myself of how lucky I am.  Perhaps you can come up with a response that reminds her that she is in a similar situation, something like: 'yes, its tough that your job is so low paying, but I really admire that you have made the choice you have made to go with a job that gives you so so much satisfaction and fulfillment. I can see the joy you get in your job and very few people I know have that same joy."  The other thing I will say - You say that she is immature and a bit self-centered.  Perhaps she really doesn't mean, and doesn't realize, that these comments could be interpreted as an implicit commentary on your or your spouse's generosity (or whatever else) and she is truly ONLY saying that she likes your shoes and wishes she could purchase them.   Maybe start with that assumption and stick with it until you have concrete evidence otherwise.  Otherwise you will continue to be bothered.  Best of luck.

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    That is super annoying and I understand why it bothers you especially given how generous you and your husband and her mother have been.If you say something it will surely cause more trouble than it is worth and it sounds like you don't see her very often anyway. This isn't about you, she is not questioning your right to have nice things. This is about her own insecurities. I suspect that she does not feel that great about herself that she is in her 30's and is still so financially dependent on her parents. Her financial dependence is what I would be really bothered about. You say it doesn't bother you but I'm not so sure. You have to think about your own retirement and such and let her start to figure out how to support herself.

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    What about saying something like "Oh, I remember those days of not being able to buy anything new and panicking every time my car needed to be serviced. But once you get your career established you'll have more disposable income and your financial situation will get easier." I'd ignore the fact that she'll never be able to support herself in her chosen profession, let her figure that one out. You can always help her redirect herself once she's ready to start acting like an adult and making some money. 

    In my opinion, you and your husband and her mother pay for far too much. Why would she get a decent paying job if she knows that her parents will always pick up the slack? It's time to kick her out of the nest and force her to face reality unless you're planning on supporting her forever.

    My other piece of advice would be to stop interpreting what she's saying as anything other than what she's saying. The subtext may still be there but you don't need to acknowledge it. There's really nothing wrong with someone who's broke saying that they wish that they could shop where you do. You don't need to overanalyze it and read any kind of statement into it that she's being treated unfairly. If that's how she really feels, she can say that and you all can have a discussion about expectations and the importance of being an independent adult. My dad used to tell us that we weren't going to inherit anything from him because he was going to spend it all in his retirement so we better plan for our own. 

    The fact that she's choosing to live alone also contributes to her not being able to shop. That's not your problem. What is your problem is that her bio parents feel the need to pay her expenses so that she can live alone. In my opinion that's ridiculous and I'm pretty shocked that they're spoiling her so badly. At what point do they expect her to be able to support herself? Never? What is going to happen when some jobless guy moves in with her and gets her pregnant? Are her parents planning on supporting an entire family for the rest of their lives? People whose parents pay for them often don't consider how expensive it is to raise a child and get pregnant anyway. What then?

    Try your best not to get so irritated. She's made bad choices and she needs to live with them. Stand your ground. And of course your husband doesn't think that this should bother you, he's responsible for spoiling her so badly that she acts like this!

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    I see parallels with co-workers/friends-- I've worked at non-profits, and have seen folks with equal student debt and salaries save or struggle, depending on how they live /spend. As a child of immigrants, I had no problem with multiple roommates post-grad school, a Craigslist mattress, driving a 15-year-old car, etc. But I've had co-workers and and a close friend who just couldn't do it (in their words), and were willing to live paycheck-to-paycheck, go into credit card debt, or take financing from parents, to maintain their lifestyle.   
    What I noticed was that all of these co-workers/friends were white and from upper-middle-class families. I think it was hard for them to grapple living with significantly less than what they'd been raised with. I'd also guess conversations about money and saving happened less often than how I was raised. (I married a white guy whose father was a doctor, and he is mortified whenever my parents automatically ask "How much did you pay?" whenever we purchase something. To me, this is completely normal.) 

    I know many Americans find it rude to talk about money, but it's a big part of life. If your step-daughter finds it appropriate to comment on how you spend your money, it's an opportunity to talk about money. Talk about how much you paid for something vs. what you  paid for similar items when you were a recent graduate, % of your salary you're saving, when you started saving for retirement. Talk about the upside/trade-offs of taking the non-dream job. Point out that if a major expense is housing, having 1-2 roommates could cut that expense significantly. If you're worried about her financial circumstances, tell her-- and emphasize that you're saying it because you care about her.

    BTW, two co-workers/friends that I'm thinking of moved beyond their 2-year-post-grad school situation by either getting married or moving into the private sector. Keep in mind that your stepdaughter's current financial position will most likely change as she gets older. However, it's always a good idea to live within your means, and getting an "allowance" certainly doesn't speed up the process.

    Also BTW, has a lot of J. Crew and Banana Republic clothing! That's where I get my fix for consignment "nice" clothing :). Good luck! 

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    There are lots of ways of dressing nicely if you like to bargain hunt, or find slightly used items -- ebay, the realreal, Nordstrom's Rack, outlet stores.  And, JCrew has amazing sales.  I did that for many years before arriving at a more secure financial place, and I still love to find a bargain.  What if you said something like "I've heard you can find treasures at [name of discount store/ebay]!  Or suggest following jcrew on line until they have the next big sale?  Bigger picture, I'd say let it go. She sounds immature and a bit entitled and there's probably not much you can say that would change things.  

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    I'm wondering if she isn't envious of you, but just envious in general. It's fairly common for young people to say things like that; my 31 year old quite successful son does that too at times. Part of it is a mild expectation that the parent will maybe treat her to a little something like shopping at J.Crew, and a part of it is just that living without extra money to splurge on is difficult and because you're a parent, it's comfortable for her to lament to you. You segue into being worried about her financial circumstances, and frankly, it's her turn to make ends meet as best she can. My son has times of financial crisis, and I'm always willing to help out as I can, because for me, it's "what I do". Some parents aren't like that. Tell you the truth, I do buy my son extravagant gifts he can't afford sometimes. He really appreciates it and when I can afford it, it's a nice thing to do. Again, that's just me. In the end, I'd say in response, "Yeah, that's too bad, but I'm sure if you sought out a higher paying job (or whatever it is that is causing her financial tension) you could". Seriously, I would. 

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    Well, you are definitely painting a picture of her as entitled and rude.  I personally would not have a sit-down conversation about it - it might stop her from making the comments but someone with these qualities will likely get upset with you and cause drama that will be more annoying than her original behavior.  I would simply stop answering her questions about where you bought your shoes, etc.  Just start being very vague, "Oh these... hmm I can't quite remember" and then change the subject.  If you just don't engage then the line of questioning will eventually stop.  Good luck!

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    Yep, I'd find this uncomfortable too. It does sound like part of the problem is that you're not on board with the ongoing financing arrangements (it would probably bother me), and part of it is that she's being a bit passive aggressive, and maybe ungrateful. Let's assume all this is true. I agree that not letting it bother you is the goal but sometimes getting there requires that you express yourself about what's bothering you. My two cents is, say something kindly and without a big guilt trip. After all, the gifts given to her are not her "fault," AND, the end result you want is harmony and peace in the family.  You could say something like this, very gently and warmly, sometime when others aren't in earshot: "Sally, something's been on my mind and I wondered if I could share this with you. I really value my relationship with you, and (extra gently now) something's been happening in our interaction that's felt kind of weird to me, and rather than just pretend it's not there, I thought asking you about it was the best way to keep our relationship strong. It's happened more than once that you've admired something I'm wearing -- which is kind and makes me feel good! But then sometimes you've said this thing -- 'I wish I could afford' that.' It's just an innocent thing, I know. But when you say that, I feel a little jab in my heart -- like maybe you feel shortchanged by your dad and me. And that's tough because we've shared a lot of love and support, and I guess I'd like to know that this is felt by you, and appreciated." When you've said your piece, she may minimize your perception and deny she meant anything negative. I suggest you let her have this "out" and tell her warmly that you are just glad to know that. At least you've expressed yourself, and at least she's had a chance to hear that her words hurt you. For the record though, receiving ongoing support as she has does not always bring out the best in people. 

    RE: Envious stepdaughter ()

    Ugh, this sort of seemingly innocuous but actually quite aggressive interaction drives me nuts!  I unfortunately saw it in my own family in the interaction between my half-siblings and my mom (though sometimes they were less subtle, alas).  One strategy that might work (though honestly she sounds pretty entitled) is to recall a specific time in your own life in which you definitely could not afford nice shoes and whatever deferred gratification strategy you employed - setting money aside for clothes, forgoing another luxury - to eventually get them.  I remember my dad mentioning that he couldn't afford a warm coat in college and how he used to get so cold walking up the hill to class -- that always stuck with me.  That sort of behavior could be a huge model for her, if she chooses to heed it.

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Helping 5-year-old deal with his dad's new wife and baby

Oct 2006

Would love some advice about dealing with divorce issues and introducing 5yo son to his dad's new wife & infant step- sister. Any resources & experience appreciated! D

There are great books about this topic. The one that I like is '' Helpinmg your Kids with Divorce the Sandcastles way'' by Gary Newman. As a divorce mediator and psychologist I have a number of these types of books and other resources if interested. Dr. H.
Hi, I have recently gone through a similar experience with my 4 year old and I've tried to explain to my son that his dad and I were once married (his dad left when he was a baby so I don't think he really understands that though) and he is now married to someone else and has another child. But that he still loves him just as much and other children doesn't take away from that. I'm not sure my son totally understands, but so far, he seems ok with it and hasn't shown signs of anger or being too affected by it.

You didn't ask for it so perhaps it's not an issue for you, but for you, I hope this isn't a difficult time as you're experiencing your own emotions of this. Hang in there! Wish I knew the answer

Firstly, if the sister is the dad's child, she is his HALF-sister, not step-sister. Half-siblings are just as good as full siblings in my book. My sisters have a different father than me, and I've always considered them my sisters.

And at age 5, I would simply be excited and let the little guy know he has a brand-new baby sister now. If he asks questions, neutral facts work. Daddy married a nice lady and they had a baby, and how lucky you are - you have a baby sister now! When she gets bigger, you two can play together! etc A Positive Outlook

My husband's 5-year-old is neglected my her mother

August 2005

This is rather long- I need to vent, and get my story out, and due to the emotional sensitivity of it, I haven't been talking about it much. Thanks for reading...

My partner has a five year old from a previous relationship, I'll call her 'Sarah'. She stays at our house every other weekend, and loves it; so much, in fact, that she is usually upset off and on the whole day she is scheduled to go home. In the last few months, when her mother comes to get her, she screams and cries and grabs onto her dad or me. It is hard for me to think of a better way to deal with this, because I understand her not wanting to go home. She used to live a ten minute drive away, and we would often see her for the evening. Now, because they moved, they live an hour away so we can't stop by for the evening anymore (work/driving time). She used to have her own room, but now she shares a room with her mother's mother and sleeps on a cot-type bed in the closet area. She has moved three times in the last year.

There are so many issues we have with how 'Sarah' is being raised... She is a very verbal, well spoken child, and it doesnt seem like abuse is the issue. We found, interviewed, and enrolled her in a good school near her house because her mom had not shown any interest or initiative. At home, she watched tv, or played with Barbies in her room- There wasnt much variation in activities, she had no friends or peers, are rarely went to the park or outside. My partners parents currently pick her up and spend the evening with her several times a week, and take her to their house or to a park. We had hoped that perhaps if she had more outlets for her energy and creativeness (instead of spending all day inside where she has no room to play and a mother who won't let her have markers on her own) would help her overall, and while it has made a big change, she is still sad at home. She often tells us she her mom is crabby when she gets home from our house, and she doesnt like to hear about what we do with her, or where we take her. 'Sarah' misses her room and her toys- it is all in storage. Her mother is newly remarried, but neither of them have worked in a year, so it doesnt look like they will be moving on their own soon. My partner pays child support, as well as the wholw tuition (because otherwise she would have been pulled out of the school she just started and put in public school in a rather ghetto district). Even so, they insist they have no money, although 'Sarah's mom, in the heat of an arguement, let slip that she has a sizeable saving account from living rent free and saving the child support. Rather than use that to go to school to get a marketable skill, or even to get a place to live, she went to Disneyland for a week.

I guess I am mainly looking for advice on how to help this little girl. I am so often filled with hate at her mom, I just don't understand why she is letting her daughter's life be like this. She told her own child that we don't love her and one day we just wont be coming to get her! She has recently told us she cant drive one way twice a month, so now my partner is giving gas money as well. Not only advice for her, but for me. I am so angry at this woman that it shocks me. 'Sarah' of course loves her mom, and her mom loves her. And to be clear, it isn't like 'Sarah' has no toys-- she does have almost every Disney princess thing ever, courtesy of her mom (through the child suppoer funds) but her mother, to me, is seemingly doing little to improve 'Sarahs' life... It is hard to know what to do. Ideally, I would rather her mom get a job and take some community college classes, and use some of her secret money to get a place, maybe even near us. This doesnt seem like it will happen at all. Ahh! This is so frustrating. She is coming this weekend, and I love love love seeing her, but knowing how Sunday will be is making me sad already.

Help! Any advice appreciated... anon please...

This sounds like a difficult situation. You should try a stepfamily group for starters: check Anthony Carpintieri, who used to run a stepfamily group out of Bananas. One of the most crucial lessons to learn is that all kids identify with and love their parents, even the deadbeat ones. The best thing you can do for her is to love her, support her, give her a stable environment, let her talk to you, tell her that her mom is doing the best she can. I used to be involved with a man who had a daughter with a mom who used to be similarly irresponsible, although not nearly as bad, and I detested the girl's mom, partly because she was so mean to me. But reading up made me realize that it was important for me to help the child to love her other parent as well, and never, ever say bad or hateful things about her. ''sarah's'' mother is probably insecure, irresponsible, jealous, unsteady, unfocused as a parent, narcissistic, etc., but she may very well be doing the best she can. You c! an't do anything about what she do You can't do anything about the fact that she can't or won't get a job. It's possible that going to Disneyland was the best thing she could do for her daughter! The other thing is that I think it's really really threatening to a woman to see her child happy and comfortable with another woman who is potentially a better mother figure, and sometimes this comes from insecurity and/or self-centeredness as well, resulting in some awful things. Just be steady in who you are, be generous in your time and energy with the child, be compassionate about the mother, and give yourself a pat on the back every time you do the right thing. Try, try, try not to let that negative stuff develop any further even though it's really frustrating (that's what the stepfamily group is good for!!) Maybe you should work on getting her to express herself more and to channel her Sunday sadness into something personally productive. Or ask her what would help her to enjoy her days more or dread the upcom! ing days less. That said, you and
Having worked in family law I saw many instances of the situation you describe. If you really want to do something, go back to court and modify the custody arrangement to 50/50 so that she lives half the time with you. (And drive her to school - even if an hour away) You cannot do anything to force the mom to be different. (Although I have seen cases where the judge ordered the parent to provide proper sleeping arrangements for the child). Just try and get as much time as you can with the girl so that you can be a positive influence in her life. When she is older she can perhaps move to living with you full-time (with her mother's agreement of course.) anon
The situation you discribe is not uncommon. Clearly there are high emotion levels and tension in the situation and the fact that the physical distance has increased on exacerbates things for the young one.

Being a male whom experienced a similar situation: pursue a back to work/Seek work order for the mother (hopefully she has an education and some work history/skills, get Income and Expense declarations on file and have a mediated Custody Review. If more time share is what you want, this would be my advise.

Get the girl into a neutral 3rd party (A therapist) so she has an unbiased environment to voice her feelings without feeling guilty and restore her self esteem. Your challenges here appear to be control issues from both sides, the natural mother will attempt to make it difficult for you both and you and your partner have expectations for her (expectations are only ever your own). The Mother sounds as if she is engaging in some alienation tactics, which are a big no no in family court. These issues don't go away easily. If the adage ''it takes two to tango'' was ever true it couldn't be more appropo than when it comes to making two households work for a child. Good Luck D J

I feel for all of you. It's very frustrating when things at the ''other'' household are not going well. I went through this with my daughter when she was at her father's house. When you can't get through to the other person all you can really do is ''be there'' for the child. Make her life at your house really good, and if you can allow her to talk about whatever she wants without judgement about her mother, that would be good. Then your step-daughter will feel safe and comforted. As hard as it is, it's really important to NOT criticize her mother. You don't want the girl to feel like she needs to defend her, that will separate you. That the mother doesn't have a job, not motivated to improve her lifestyle, and she sounds pretty selfish and snappy, without knowing her and not being a psychiatrist, this sounds like depression, clinical depression. If your daughter is picking up on this energy in her mother's house, it's probably REALLY hard to take. Also, you don't want the girl to think that ANY of this is hard. - mom of daughter with 2 houses

Marrying a man with two kids from two different moms

May 2003

My best friend has recently moved in with her boyfriend, a very nice man as far as i can tell (met him once). she is really happy with him and is willing to be involved in a more serious way, if not for one issue: he has two boys, 12 and 2, from two different women. I talk to her on the phone weekly and she seems more and more concerned about how to deal with the whole situation. she has gotten to know pretty well the 2 year old boy and she loves him, as much as she tries to get along with the pre-teen one, (that's a harder one). the two mothers do not seem to want to have any involvement with her, and she understands that. in the middle is her boyfriend, who manages to see both kids (separately, the older one does not even want to think of the other one as a brother) pays support money for them and of course tries to reassure my friend that they can have a future together (kids of their own included). she has recently asked me to find her some books on stepfamilies. Her boyfriend has recently gone see a therapist and she is contemplating that too, since she feels that it is becoming more and more of a problem for her, and she would not want the kids' issue to spoil the whole relationship. so i'd like to ask advice for her on the two sides: can anyone suggest any good book relating to stepfamilies (she reads english of course)? and secondly, i'll welcome all sort of theoretical and practical suggestions on how she should handle it. one not minor issue being that she's in her thirties and she'd really like to have kids 'of her own' soon and without feeling guilty about 'complicating' the situation even more. I'll send all of your suggestions over to her, so that she can have more opinions than just mine, and see that there are other people in situations similar to hers!! thank you.

If your friend marries this boyfriend, she will be marrying all five of them, kids and former girlfriends/spouses. They will be in her life on a regular basis, unless he opts to just dump them all, and then what kind of person would he be? In my opinion, it would be wrong to move the father away from the kids, so she will also be stuck living there until they are grown too. I'd suggest trying to find a better situation. It doesn't sound like this liason would benefit her, the existing kids, or the future kids in the long run. Her own kids would be born into all this mess. It doesn't sound like the father has much of a track record either. Surely she can do better. anonymous
I sympathize deeply with your friend's anguish over how to have a relationship with a man who has two kids with two different women, and who is trying to get along with everyone. I don't have books to recommend, but I do have advice, which I hope will be helpful.

I am the mother of a 4 year old girl--her dad and I were together only 9 months before I became pregnant, and for only four months after she was born (a total of almost two years). My daughter's dad was seeing another woman for about eight months who is now pregnant, and is due any day now. I have had a committed romantic partner for more than a year and a half (no kids on the way, thankfully).

I went through a lot of feelings about my daughter's dad's new baby, and decided that the only path was through direct communication and compassion. Regardless of my feelings about the two of them (and their lack of responsibility, concern for my daughter, etc.), my daughter is to have a new sister, and I have to accept and deal with that. The only way for me to ensure that my child is protected and taken care of in this new ''environment'' is to ensure that regardless of what happens to the dad-girlfriend relationship, my daughter will have a relationship with the new baby and the girlfriend, and will suffer if I do not ensure that they can maintain it.

What concerns me about your post is that your friend is involved with a man who has previous children from women who are not open to communicating with his current partner, and thus who have no relationship with a woman who is spending time with their children. This is very difficult for the ''new'' woman, who could be villified or debased by things the other women might be telling their kids--and it will be well out of her control. Also, the man your friend is with seems a bit reckless of his fathering of children with multiple women-- and one of the kids is only two years old. Without the support of the other mothers, or the favor of the kids, it feels to me as though your friend is setting herself up for a rocky road--one in which she might not be comfortable in for a long lifetime. And, if one considers one potentially negative outcome (as I have, in my situation), she could find herself the third woman to have children with this man, and the third woman whose children compete for his financial support and his attention & time. That is what has been most difficult for me to accept--that my daughter is going to have to share her father with another woman's child, and that means more financial and social burdens for him. It is no easy matter to coordinate childcare for one child, let alone two, three, or four. Your friend might want to reconsider having children with a man who is already overextended in that fashion.

I feel for your friend, and urge her to do the therapy. Also, I would encourage her to try to have as much friendly contact with the boys' mothers as possible, to help them feel comfortable with her, and to increase the communication and positive feelings between them. If they continue to refuse, I think she should reconsider the relationship, especially if it is really important for her to have children of her own. I think that it is only through compassion, and considering what is best for the children involved, that parents and partners make the best decisions for the family. elisabeth

hi, i have experience in similar relationships and i think that the baggage your friends boyfriend is carrying around is something she should seriously consider. i know when you are in love with someone these things are all considerations that you feel you can ''handle'' but after the glow wears off she might find herself in a situation that isn't what she thought it would be like. it sounds promising that he is in therapy but i would doubt it if her boyfriend has really given her the ''full'' story about why he had kids with two women and she probably REALLY doesn't want to hear their side of the story!

i am in a good relationship and my partner has a great son, but sometimes, even with the positives i wonder if i should have made different choices. the intensity of being a mom to an older kid of different mommies is very daunting and not something i really could comprehend when we were in our ''honeymoon'' stage of the relationship.

i know of lots of daddies with babies from several mommies and they are often very attractive and personable men. but have some problem down the line either committing to or maintaining their relationships. sorry to put all these types in a box, but the box has fit most every time!

i'd advise her - if she really wants to pursue this relationship - to find her own support network of friends and things to do (since he is from there i'm sure his is already there) and make sure he continues the counseling for at least 6 months to a year before she considers anything more serious (like marriage). the relationship with his youngest can also be a very compelling lure into a relationship but she should try to remain somewhat objective about that situation until she can really be secure he has resolved some issues.

perhaps because your friend is feeling the ''clock'' ticking she is more earnest to get this relationship to work. but she has to also consider that when she has kids of her own, she might feel the other kids or their mothers and his needs to spend time with them taking away from her kids, her time with him, etc. hindsight is always 20/20

Your friend must come to terms with the fact that these two girls are her boyfriend's children, and he morally has an obligation to support them, both financially and emotionally. Did she really say that she doesn't want the children to ruin her relationship with this man? Because if so, then she needs to come to terms with the fact that they are his children, and his responsibility. A relationship with him is a relationship with the children, regardless of how their mothers feel or act.

I suspect that the mothers of the children are not friendly to her because they may see too much of themselves in her and in the relationship she is developing with this man. I had a similar relationship, which is now over, and see a million similarities between the first wife and myself. I could see myself being stand-offish to the next woman to come along in his life, not from mean-ness or dislike of whomever she may be, but just because I suspect this man will never change, and I will feel sorry for whoever comes next and, like me, thinks ''I'm different, this time is different, this is really really true love''. But no matter all the good advice your friend receives, she will need to make her own choices and her own mistakes. The saying ''love is blind'' is oh-so-true! 20-20 hindsight!

My 7-year-old tells him you're not my dad!

My partner and I have been together for 3 years, and living together for the past 2 years. I have a 7 year old son from a previous relationship, and just recently had another child from this relationship.

My partner and I plan to get married in the near future, and he is very close to my son. My problem is that on occassion something flares in my son and he fires back the accusation (or actually, the fact) that my partner is not his dad. This creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone. I feel caught in the middle, my partner feels hurt, and I believe that my son feels hurt, and regret over saying it. Unfortunately I know that I often react in an unproductive manner by getting angry, yet end up later explaining how it does hurt my partner, and how loved he is, etc. I just am unsure on how to try to make this not happen, or really try to get my son to realize how hurtful those words are.

My son does see his dad frequently, but not consistently. As I explained to my partner, ironically I believe that he is getting the brunt of my son's emotions because my son feels so close to him and is probably confused my his feelings for my partner over his own dad.

Does anyone know of some affective ways of dealing with this, or any books that can contribute to a solution in handling it. Thanks much.

I am in a similar position. One reason I married my second husband is because he is such a good role model for my kids compared to their own dad. My kids love their dad, and they are very loyal to him, as they should be. But they also benefit so much from being around their step-dad. I have learned over the years that there are things I can do to let them stay close to their dad, but still develop a good relationahip with their step dad.

One thing you can do is never ever say anything about your child's dad that isn't completely positive. It isn't enough to just not say bad things about him. You have to regularly refer to his daddy in everyday conversation so that your son doesn't feel you disapprove of his dad or that you are trying to separate him from his dad. Say you're having a conversation with your son about a TV show, think about a way to bring his dad into it - Is this still your dad's favorite show? Make it a point to ask about his dad a lot. - Did you and daddy have fun this weekend? What did you do? Don't worry too much about your current partner feeling left out if you talk about your son'd dad sometimes - these are just occasional references and they are important for your son. Your partner already knows you'd rather be with him. Your goal is to make your son feel secure. You don't want him to feel that he has to have a secret life with dad. He needs to have both of you acknowledging the other so that his world will be coherent.

Another thing to do is make sure your son understands that you and his dad are still his parents and are making decisions about him together. If he gets into trouble at school for instance, you should let him know you and his dad have talked together about it and decided together on what to do. Even if his dad takes no interest, at least you can let the dad know about the problem, and then tell your son that you talked it over with his dad. I think if you can present a picture of a unified parental partnership of mom and dad, your son will feel more secure and be more open to a strong relationship with your partner. It sounds like your partner is going to be a beneficial influence, and that your son likes him, so the problem really is just making sure your son doesn't feel he has to abandon his dad in order to get close to your partner. Good luck!

I don't really have a solution, but we've been in a similar place. I know that blending or combining a family can be difficult. I've been at both ends, both child and parent.

I found the following (as a parent): I can't always be in the middle. They need to learn to work some of these things out between themselves. It is part of the development of their relationship. I am in the middle. I am the common denomenator. I am my husbands confidant and my daughters advocate.

It is good to know that their realtionship is strong enough that the child believes it will withstand this kind of attack. A test of sorts, but one I belive my daughter hoped we would pass. The hardest thing I had to learn was how to stay calm, not get my back up. I believe that, in large part, she was simply pushing my buttons. And very effectively I might add. It was important to let her know that I understood and respected her feelings, and that they were not going to change the situation. The most important thing I did was to tell her over and over again that I love her and that although my division of time would be different, she would not lose any of my love and support.

She clearly thought that her world was going to fall apart the day we wed. In the photos she looks as though she's marching to a hanging. She soon realized that life was okay with my husband around and they have become much closer. She also realized that there was enough love and space in all of our lives for her new baby sister.

I believe that the child needs to know and be reminded frequently that we are still their mothers, that this will never change.. that we love them deeply and this will never change... and that we deserve to have solid, healthy, loving parters... that what we have with each of them is special and unique.

I did not find any reading that was particularly helpful for us. Therapy was. Best of Luck!!

One way to look at this situation is that indeed, exactly as you said, your son is feeling closer to your partner, and is very confused about his own feelings about his biological father. These statements may be a kind of test your son is using to find out how committed your partner is to accepting him even though he is not his biological son. Knowing that may help deal your partner deal with the strong feelings his statement makes - and allow your partner to take a deep breath and reply calmly, you're right, I'm not your father. Containing his own feelings of hurt will help him stay engaged with your son in that moment and demonstrate to him that your partner can deal with the relationship in all of it's complexity (rather than a sanitized version in which there is no tension or competition between the two father figures).

After the incident there may be a time to discuss the impact of your son's statement on you and your partner - but from your description, your son is not a mean spirited person who needs to have limits set on hurtful statements he makes. I would argue that if these are isolated barbs, that they should be tolerated and taken as a sign that your son is struggling with his feelings in this situation (and, ironically, that his relationship with your partner is good enough that he feels safe enough to say such a thing). Good luck.

Newlywed resents husband's 6-year-old

May 2000

My husband has a normal 6 year old son that we have every weekend. We live East Bay and the son lives Peninsula, so my husband seeing his son mid week is very difficult. I am having an increasingly hard time with the every weekend thing and feel growing resentment to the lack of alone time that my husband and I have. I have no children yet, although we are trying, as yet, unsuccessfully, another frustration of mine! Are there any step parents out there who have similar feelings who can offer any words of advice, any support groups? My husband and I have gone to some counseling and are trying to communicate better, but I see no end to it. I do like his son, he's a good kid, but without the biological attachment I do not feel the need to have him around all the time. Thanks for any words of wisdom.

I don't want to bash the person who was brave enough to be honest about her feelings about her stepson. However, I'd like to gently suggest that she reflect on the use of a phrase such as the biological attachment. I am an adoptive parent, and I have no doubt that the love I feel for my daughter is as deep as that which any biological parent might feel. I think perhaps in blended families, second marriages, there may be a constellation of factors which affect feelings towards step children (and step children towards step parents). Biology surely has little to do with it. Lorraine
I would like to respond to the woman about step-parenting. I usually do not respond to issues that make me very upset, because it does not serve anyone very well. However, in this case I really would like to put in my two cents. I am at the other end of the step parent. My son spends every-other-weekend with his father who just moved to Redding to live with his girlfriend. My biggest fear and anxiety is about this woman not liking my son. I cannot expect someone with no biological attachment to love my son as much as I love him, but I sure hope she tries. Please, please try to understand that a father's bond with his son is something essential for the well-being of this child. So many fathers are not around to see their sons grow up. It seems that your husband is very willing to be a part of his son's life, which I applaud him for. I am really not trying to judge you, just try to look at it from the other side. This child needs to feel very welcome in the house of his father or there might be a time that he won't want to come at all. I wish you luck. Jannette
My two-cents' worth... First, it's my opinion that this is your problem, and yours alone. The bottom line is, you are JEALOUS of the time your husband spends with his 6-year-old son. You are alone with your husband 5 days out of 7; don't make the other two miserable for all of you. And, be aware that, if you try to force your husband to choose between you and his son, you will lose. He sounds like a very loving father; you should appreciate that, since you are trying to have children of your own. (May I add that I found it interesting that you said *I* have no children yet....? Not we....)

You also claim to like the boy, but without the biological attachment I do not feel the need to have him around all the time. Hello? He is not around all the time -- he is only able to be there on the *weekends*. In a child's life, it can be an eternity between Sunday nite and Saturday morning.

You ask for advice, for support groups, etc. My first suggestion is, get thee to a good bookstore -- there are plenty of resources on step-parenting and coping with your feelings of jealousy, exclusion, etc. But, most of all, you need to look at yourself, and INTO yourself, because if you do not make the effort to become part of his life, you will most likely be shown the door. Good luck; I think you need it.

Wait 10 years or so, until the boy is 16. Then he'll not be visiting every weekend... At least you don't have him every day during the week! What you already have is more alone time than I've had in 27 years. (I have one child by a first marriage, and two by a second marriage.) All right, all right, perhaps EVERY weekend is a bit much. Maybe the boy could make more extended stays with you and his dad during vacations or the summertime, and not visit so often during the year. Even so, isn't it wonderful that the dad wants so much to be part of his son's life? And even biological parents grow into relationship with their own children, with effort, with time...
The bond between parent and child is very strong. I think not respecting how important his son is to him seriously endangers your relationship with your husband. He should not have to choose between his son and you and frankly, if he does, I think the child should come first. That's what being a parent is all about: Putting someone else ahead of yourself.

If you are trying to have a child with this person, be glad he feels this obliglation so strongly. What kind of a father will he make to your child if he won't even give his 6-year-old two days a week?

On this issue, I think you need to consider how ready you are to put a child's needs ahead of your own before you have a baby. I don't buy the biological bond issue you raise as being a valid reason to resent having one child -- especially one you acknowledge is a good kid -- for two days a week, but wanting to give birth to another that you'll have all the time.

I'm sorry to be harsh about this, but I think it's in the best interest of you , your husband, and especially the 6-year-old and potentional second child to address these issues honestly, before you have another child and before your resentment harms the 6-year-old.

Your email definitely struck a chord with me. I dated and then married a man with three children from a previous marriage - when I first met him they were 8, 10 and 12; now they are 15, 17 and 19. I too struggled with both macro and micro issues of the situation, which all boiled down to the fact that they were great kids, but not my family! We did counseling, and it helped: I'd encourage you to continue. What was hardest for me was my spouse being constantly disappointed that I didn't love his children in exactly the same way he does. That and the fact that with school activities, lessons, appointments, sicknesses etc. our lives seemed to revolve only around their lives! Although I will never feel the same way their dad does about them, I have bonded with them now in a way that is working pretty well for all of us, and accept the fact that yes, our lives ARE about them, and it could be a whole lot worse! I don't see them as outsiders anymore, that's for sure, and tend to want to maximize rather than (as I formerly did) minimize our time together. So what helped? Counseling, yes. Also just time! Take advantage of some fun things you can only do with a 6 year old - there are some great kid movies out there, for example, that you can't see by yourself! I'd also suggest spending some time with the boy without your husband, too, so you can develop an independent relationship with him. And do some activities with other people that help you develop an us mentality instead of a me v. him mindset (e.g. invite one of his friends and the friends' mom for an outing with you). Another thing that helped me was a good friend who married a man with children, but his kids live across the country from him. I realized I wasn't jealous of her; in fact, I would be worried about marrying someone who didn't need to see his kids three times a week! Lastly, and I don't know whether you'll be glad to hear this or not, what helped the most, I think, is having a baby of my own. Witnessing my child's interest in his brother and sisters and their interaction has made me value them in an entirely new light. This was something I didn't expect; in fact one of my worries during pregnancy was that the new baby would set our progress back, and create more conflict between my husband and me. The opposite was true, however. While you are trying, remind yourself how wonderful it will be for your baby to have a big brother; it's an invaluable, lifelong gift you'll be giving him. Hope this helps. To my way of thinking: if you're able to do counseling, if the kid is nice, and his mother's not a psycho, you're 90% of the way there. Hang in. Fran
I just have to reply regarding the step-parenting concerns. My stepsons were 4, 6 and 8 when I got together with my ex. While we lived in California they spent the summers with us and when we moved to Minneapolis they spent weekends with us and we went to various games and activities during the week and on weekends. It's been about 5 years since our divorce and I continue to stay in close touch with my stepsons. The youngest, now 18, has visited each of the last two summers first with a friend and then with his girlfriend. Ben, the middle son, will be coming to live with me this summer to experience California after 20+ years in Minnesota. The oldest is tragically not alive anymore. Both Ben and Aaron are committed to staying in my life and love my son who is 14 1/2 months.

Trying to compress my feelings for so many years into a couple sentences is hard of course. I would never say it was easy and I didn't go looking for a husband with 3 kids. The man I fell in love with happened to have 3 kids. I embraced the whole package and I would do it again. Not only did I get the extreme joy of step-parenting 3 gorgeous, loud, raw, messy, sensitive, loving boys through their childhood and teenage years, I have an extended family to offer my son. As a single mom this is important to me. Step-parenting has such a bad rap but it can be fabulous. I focused on the boys and not on their parent's relationship. We never ever ever badmouthed their mom. I had a party line that they knew was just that but they also got comfort that I wouldn't cross the line. I always said to them I don't know your mom very well but she must be doing something right cause you guys are so awesome. I cherish my stepsons. Just another experience.... Jenny

Step-parenting and blended families are complicated. The feelings I experienced as a stepmom to a 5 year old and 15 year old from two separate marriages were very complicated when we first married six years ago. There is no way to anticipate how you will feel. I didn't hear that you felt any negativity toward your stepson but that you only wished to have some more free-time with your new husband. My husband and I had this same discussion when his son was around 7 or 8 and my reason was the same as yours. His mom actually was glad to have a weekend with her son also once he was in school. Go easy on yourself (i disagree with all the flack you received from earlier responses). What helped me was to read and remember that it takes about 5 years for everyone to adjust to the new dynamics and relationships within the family. We will celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary and his son is now 12 and daughter 23 and our son is 2 1/2. It is much easier now but I still struggle with how involved I will get with his children and the emotional stretch for me comes with opening and closing my heart space with the transitions. In the beginning I was often heartbroken when his son left and missed him alot - we would end up arguing because of the unconscious feelings it stirred. These transitions are the toughest even today even though much easier. Today, we talk alittle more easily about it all, but it's still not totally worked out. My husband's own guilt feelings come up every time we discuss his kids which makes it automatically a sensitive topic (he's been very present and steady for both of them, just not the custodial parent).

There is a support group in the East Bay run by a counselor named Anthony Carpentieri and it's affiliated with the Stepfamily Association. Check with Bananas for details. It's only once a month and it's free I think. Before baby we went and met some other couples there. But I struggled in the beginning with the tough raw feelings of not having a honeymoon period with my husband. Now our childbearing years are behind us and I look forward to our adventures when we retire. In the meantime, we share alot - even the ups and downs eventually bond us. We made it this far and I pray we continue to make it. I pray that you will also find the compassion and support for your marriage so that you too can say, we made it!

I am quite surprised at the harshness of many of the responses to this person's post, and even surprised they made it into the post, I found they were downright insulting to the person who asked the question. Mother's of newborns have posted about feeling of resentment and lack of bonding of their babies and they get sympathy and good advice. Why does this woman deserve any less?

Having been a step-parent, step-daughter, and now both my children are the step-children of my spouse, I must say that step parenting situations are never so simple or straight forward. Let's try to be a little sensitive and not so judgemental. To begin with, when you have your own children you grow into and develop the bonds - call them biological or what you will. As a step-parent you are suddenly expected to feel what a parent feels for a child when you are not their parent. Bonds do develop, but not if you load people down with guilt and expectations that are unreasonable.

What I hear is that this nice boy is over every weekend. If this person's life is anything like mine, then the weekend is all the life I have that is not work, cleaning and paying bills! Weekends are the only time I might go to a movie or out to dinner. When my son is with his dad we do this alone, when my son is with us, we do it with him. When my son's father went away for a year, we had my son every single weekend (and all week) and had no time alone. Having had time alone during the week would have made no difference! I don't mind very much since this is my son, but my partner minds more. He also feels hurt when he feels left out or excluded from our close relationship. And we tended to do this whithout even noticing. We've had to work at letting him in and remembering to include him sometimes in activities that happen spontaeneously between my son and I.

My husband needs time without my son that I don't need (or at least I thought I didn't). This does not make him a bad or selfish person. It is sad for me, that he will never love my son as much as I, but I came into this relationship knowing he had no children and that my son was not his child as well as he came into the relationship knowing I had two children and that they were my priority. Over time he and my son have developed their own special loving relationship that adds quality to both their lives.

I don't think the posters would have judged so harshly had it been a mom wishing for some time alone with her husband. Maybe they would have recommended getting an occasional babysitter for an evening out - which is what I recommend to the poster now. Yes, children are a priority. Yes you must support this father's involvement in his son's life. Yes, try to develop your own relationship with this boy perhaps doing something with him that his father is not particularly interested in. Yes, encourage your husband to spend some time alone with his son. And yes, hire a sitter occasionally for that relaxed evening out with your husband, now and after when you have a child.

By the way, when I had a second child who was the little brother of my step-daughter my relationship with her changed for the better. Partly because I realized I was linked to her forever (biologically) and partly because her bond to my son became a bond between us.

To the poster I would like to say good luck and hang in there. Step-parents get all kinds of bad raps and lack of appreciation. As a step-parent you will have all kinds of feeling which can make you feel bad about yourself. Don't. Work with them and figure out where they are comming from and don't expect yourself to feel the same way about your husband's child as he does or you will all be dissapointed. Develop your own love for him. Six is a good age to establish a lasting and wonderful relationship.

Your feelings of resentment are completely understandable. Arrange alternating weekends to have his son come stay with you so that you and your hubby have alternating weekends together without his son. You would not be asking too much! It may be difficult for your husband to meet with his son during mid-week, but he is his son and he should be willing to sacrifice a little for your's and his relationship. It is extremely important for husband and wife to have recreational time without children around, especially when they are trying to conceive a child together! Can he possibly do some flex time at work one day mid-week so he can leave early, drive down to the peninusla, pick up his son for a father-son dinner, bring him back home, drive back to his/your east-bay home. It would be nice for them to have some solo time together as father and son, too! You should not have to be the one to sacrifice all your weekend time alone with your husband in order for your husband to visit with his son. Women tend put themselves in positions where they are doing most of the sacrificing, it seems. Be strong and good luck!
I want to respond to this concern as a mother and as some one who grew up as a child in a blended family. Firstly, I can understand that it can be hard to give up your private time with your husband. But if/when you have a child, you can expect to give that up plus a whole lot of time to yourself. To put it in a positive light, you might want to think of the visit from your stepson as a try-out for what parenting would be like. At least, as you say, he's nice child (and your'e not having to get up to feed and change him every two hours!)

But secondly, I want to add this perspective. I have an older half brother and sister, though I have never thought of them as half. They lived with us almost the entire time I was growing up and I remain close with them and their families. I am deeply grateful that my dad always treated them like his own, though it can't always have been easy. It was a gift to my mother, and a gift to me and my younger siblings. I really felt we were a whole family and I have many great and tender memories of my older siblings caring for me and teaching me things. Their father lived far away and did not welcome them because his wife really didn't want them around. As a consequence, my brother is estranged from his dad, and my sister had to negotiate some very rough territory. The most distressing moments of my early childhood were when my mother and sister would argue/discuss this matter when my sister begged to spend time with her father. This, really the whole aftermath of the divorce, did cause ongoing pain. I know that you are not in an easy position, but that child is in a less easy one with little power.

I hope that you will keep talking with your husband and find your way into a warm relationship his child.

advice from a step parent, and a step child, one who's been on both sides of the fence:

You've gotten some great feedback already, and I won't echo it. I would like to add another caveat: please work hard to value your stepson, and his feelings, and honor his relationship with his father. Everyone has to be encouraged to have their own feelings (validated) within any family situation, but it may be especially critical in the blended family, I feel. Your feelings are getting air time, because you are putting them out there, and that is good. It is essential that your stepson and his dad have their feelings acknowledged and validated, too.

My experience: In an effort to control how his family treated his new wife, my father, when he remarried after my mother died, did not allow my brother and me to communicate our feelings to him, and certainly not to our stepmother. We were told how to feel, how to convey it, what to give her, and to always give her more. She has three sons as well, so lack of (her own biological) children was never an issue. She did not, however, have a daughter, and I know she pined for me to treat her as a mother. However, her behavior to me was not maternal in any way. It only centered around her needs.

The result of these years of manipulation is that twenty years later, I finally stepped down from the role of the good (step) daughter and conveyed, for the first time, how the whole episode had made me feel. There had been some betrayal of my mother's will and estate, and I expressed my great disappointment to my father and step mother. I had just read The Dance of Anger. I recall that it was a good motivator. Believe me, it would have been much less stressful for everyone if we had been acknowledged as important members of the family with feelings to share, all along. My father and his wife are still working through the aftermath of those decades of deceipt. Everyone has learned that it is no good to try to protect someone who perceives themself as emotionally the needy one (my step mother, in this case).

The good news is that I now have far, far fewer migraines, and my father and stepmother are now in counseling. The bad news is that they may never develop a healthy relationship, because of those many years of artifice. I realize that your case is different from mine, but I would heartily encourage you to work hard to value each member of your family, including your stepson, and to not try to come between him and his father, because I *promise* you, it will come to no good.

I have told the young men who will soon be, technically, my stepsons, that I hope they will see me over the years as a loving adult in their lives. To ask or impose more would be, I feel, the worst kind of cruelty. Good luck to you; I hope you have a marvelous counselor with whom you can work over the years if need be, and I hope that you can come to treasure the relationship your husband has with his first child.

Follow-up response from original poster

Last week I asked for advice, thankyou Fran, for sharing your experiences, your wonderful and encouraging advice. It was good to hear from someone who had actually experienced this situation and had a successful outcome. We were told to keep our stories shorter, but anyway. When I met my husband one of the reasons I fell in love with him was because he is such a wonderful father, and he has a great heathly 6 year old son, and I have deep respect for their relationship. They are both fine, the problem is not theirs, I realize that, it is mine, that is why I am writing to the advice line in the first place.

Rather than let resentments build up, sweep them under the carpet, only to explode at much later date, maybe ending in marriage break up (not a great situation for a child) I want to explore and learn to cope better, gain better understanding of the dynamics of how I am feeling. We have my stepson every weekend, his Mom has him 5 days, true, but he is in daycare/school from 8am until 6pm, something I do not want for OUR child. His Mom is a good Mom, and going it alone was her idea long before I ever showed up. She has to work, and I think it leaves her very little energy to play with her son. Sometimes when she goes to pick him up he clings to me and says he doesn't want to go with her. I don't like it when he does that because, if the roles were reversed, that would break my heart. So I try to discourage him, without making a big deal about it. The reason, I believe is because I play with him.

Although I am aware of building resentments, I never allow my stepson to be aware of this, he is a child! We still have fun and play as we always did. My husband and I work long hours all week, our alone time is limited to non existent. I am sure natural parents relate to the lack of alone time, however, I am NOT his natural parent, so it's not so easy for me to accept. I am looking for advice from other step parents, who have walked the path, and have positive words of encouragement and kindness, and hope. I want to be a good step Mom, and am so far, just want to stay that way. By the way, has anybody ever looked for a book on step parenting? The isles are full of real parenting, I eventually found a book while traveling to the East coast.

Thanks everyone for wonderful advice. I think the most helpful is that which says give the relationship time. I am a newly wed, 8 months. Actually, my stepson and I have a very loving and fun relationship already, he took to me very early on. I know he is the priority, and as women, we do put our own needs last. I think my needs to be close to my husband were not being met, and I could sense my resentment starting, and know enough to realize that is not healthy, and I needed to deal with it, before it built up. I, too, was very shocked, hurt, and felt very misunderstood but the original reply postings, as I totally respect my husbands and his son's relationship. I just need more time to develop his son's and mine, almost to where I feel a part of the family. I know if I cannot have kids, I could easily adopt a child, and love them as my own. There's something about the child needing you, and crying for you when they hurt, etc., which draws you closer to a child. That is almost the difference between yours and someone's else's child. Of course, not everything, please don't misunderstand. I have to write tentatively now, in fear of judgments, unfortunately. How do I get hold of Bananas, for the East Bay support group?

NOTE: Bananas is located on Claremont Ave. They are listed in the telephone book.