Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Must childless stepmothers and their stepchildren hate each other?



 Is it impossible for stepparents and stepchildren to get along? Reading the postings in Facebook’s Childless Stepmothers group, one would think so. I rarely read all the new posts because they contain so much anger I start to feel sick. They don’t use names; they use abbreviations. The husband is DH, the stepkids are SS and SD and the biological mothers are BMs (make of that what you will). They’re all talking bad about each other, lying to each other, and refusing to spend time with each other. They’re tangled up in disputes over money and custody. Holidays really bring out the teeth and claws. She gets the kids. They didn't send me a card. The kid stole my money. It’s ugly.

The fact that these stepmothers don’t have their own children seems to make it worse. In many cases, including mine and quite a few of yours, the husband uses the existing kids from the previous marriage(s) as the reason he doesn’t want to have any more children. He cites money, age, and fears about everybody getting along, and says he’s finished that phase of his life. So when the childless stepmother sees him spending time with his kids, and when they go through the milestones of life—graduations, weddings, babies—she feels the hurt, and she’s angry that she doesn’t get to have any of that with her own biological children.

Does it have to be a constant war? I do know cases where everybody gets along, where genuine love exists between the stepkids and the stepparents, where the “step” disappears. Surely it’s possible.

I don’t want to say too much about my own situation because my Childless by Marriage book caused more than enough trouble between me and Fred’s kids. But I will say that it was never the constant catfight I read about other families having. We all did our best to get along. Almost 30 years after we met, it’s not the warm and fuzzy situation we might like to have, but we don’t hate each other. We even kind of like each other. Plus, I consider my husband’s ex-wife a friend. We shared a church pew at his funeral. Weird? Maybe, but I was glad she was there with the kids.

Being a childless stepmother is a tough role. You get the responsibilities of caring for someone else’s kids, but you don’t get a chance to have your own. In addition, you get all the garbage that comes with every stepparenting situation—the shuttling between parents, the child support payments, the arguments over discipline, and the resentful child shouting, “You’re not my mom!” It’s not easy for anybody. But does it have to be a disaster?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your experiences with stepchildren.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't particular consider a childless stepmother to be truly childless. She is a stepmother. She gets to mother, even if the kids have a "real" mother. She is also acceptable to society, whereas truly childless (or childfree) women really are not. Just my opinion.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Good points, Anonymous. It's not the same, but stepmothering is certainly a form of parenting that can bridge the gap between being childless and being a mother.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that it is necessarily similar to motherhood - its a beast of its own. Yes, as a stepmother I deal with the shuttling of kids, the responsibilities of custody and emotional availability, but I don't get the warm kisses because I did something nice for them, I barely get a thank you. I buy birthday gifts and they thank their father. So while I chose my situation, I would not related a step mother to a mother. I think as a step mother, you will only be just that.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Boy, did you nail it, Anonymous Sept. 4. That's exactly what stepparenting is like. And yes, the father gets thanked for the gifts the stepmother buys. Every freaking time. It is so not the same as having your own kids. Thank you for this comment.

Anonymous said...

Having stepkids does not make you childless by any definition.

All it means is doing all of the crap of parenting without ANY of the good stuff. It is the most unrewarding thing imaginable. Unlike having your own child which is overwhelmingly joyous and rewarding.

Sue Fagalde Lick said...

Anonymous,
That's pretty harsh. There's a lot of truth to it. Stepparenting is hard and sometimes completely unrewarding. But not all the time. I think every family situation is different, and I know that having your own child is not always joyous and rewarding either.

Anonymous said...

I was fine with my stepmom until my dad won a custody battle for my sister and I in a kangaroo court, got married a week before sending the police to chase us down so he could throw us in the car and move us a state away. It might be because she started beating on a daily basis once we got there... I mean that would cause some ill feelings between parties, one would think. Of course I don't feel so special now, since she adopted a few more kids to beat and torture when we hit 18. Of course my dad's a big league attorney now, so CPS is in their back pocket and they won't do anything about it. She's just a nut in general, I guess. My husband even hates going with me to visit my father because he can't stand the way those kids are treated while we're there.