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Am I a bad stepmom?

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  • Am I a bad stepmom?

    my new husband has 3 children--1 biological son who is almost 18 and living on his own..from his first wife--1 non biological daughter who he refers to as his daughter and she calls him dad who is almost 20, and 1 biological son who is almost 12--both from his second wife..we really have nothing to do with the 18 year old unless it is cash he is after and we only hear from the daughter once at xmas and most likely for her birthday money in phone calls unless it benefits them (no calls to wish dad a happy birthday from either last week)...we get the 12 year old 1 day a week and on the most part he is the most wonderful sweet boy..he never gives us a bit of trouble and obeys our rules to a "t"..he never calls his dad or vise versa during the week but really looks forward to our time together..the time spent at our house is between the t.v and the computer..he never has any homework although his report cards indicate he could use the extra help..he really knows how to play his mom, one little whine about not feeling well and he is allowed to stay home from school--(last year he missed 28 days)ANYWAYS back to my question..I seem to get really really stressed when my step son comes for his visits and it always starts a fight between my husband and me..he thinks that I am way to hard on his son and I pick on him for any little thing...this is what I see when I look at him...I see a kid who looks very unclean-his clothes are always the same ones-hand me down sweaters from his sister, dirty clothes, unkempt and dirty hair and teeth that haven't been brushed in days ..when I get home from work he is in the computer room playing his games and comes out only when supper is on the table..when asked about what he did all day he gives me a 1 word reply of "nothing" or "ok" ..he seems to have an issue over what ever is cooked for him, eats with his mouth open and never thanks me for anything without prompting...what really bothers me is when he takes perfectly good food and wastes it--he has done this several times lately and his dad just kind of snickers and doesn't want a big deal made of it...I feel that if he is allowed to spit back his chewed up food and leave it in a pile on his plate without reason or hide it in a napkin only to be thrown out in the garbage is just a plain waste of husband says he has shown in the past to have troubles with "textures" I don't buy this at his home they live like absolute pigs, dog hair all over dust and just plain mess everywhere, here at our home I like it clean and orderly so I guess when he comes over I feel kind of like the "pigpen" scenerio and it just weirds me out..I don't want my stepson not to want to come over here but I just wish I could get over these bad feelings of uncleanliness I feel...I think jelousy plays a big part in this as well because he is not "our" child..he shows his dad such love sticks to him like velcro on the couch and calls him "daddy' in this baby on one we get along fine however I have caught him in lies more than once and I don't like that...enough ramblings what can I do to make the time spent here less tension filled? any suggestions?

  • #2


    So sorry to hear your story. However this is very common. I too have a blended family...5 kids between us, 2 live with us, 1 on his own at college, 1 with her mother and 1 on his own working. It is tough sometimes to understand why children do the things they do. I used to get very upset when my partners kids did not behave the way my kids did. I finally just stopped looking at the small stuff and did my best to provide a safe, happy, clean and understanding home for all the kids. My partners older kids, age 18 & 20 only call when they need cash or a car for the weekend. I do not get in the way of anything their father gives them. I keep his relationship with his kids separate from my love for my partner. I am not saying it will be easy but the kids all grow up and they will remember how they felt at home and at your home.

    You could try having separate clothes for him at your home. You could also sit with him and work out a menu that he will eat. I have one boy who will eat nothing but peanut butter and jam. I just go with it as long as he is happy and healthy.

    I wish you the best of luck...this will not be easy...remember it is only one day per week. You could be the person he remembers as a positive role model in his life.


    • #3
      Mikesgal...I am also in a very similar situation. And needless to say being a step parent is not an easy thing to do at. I don't think you are a bad step mom at all. But I think you might feel better if you picked certain battles and ignored ones you can't have an impact on.

      For example, there is nothing wrong with you telling him not to spit food out on his plate...thats just plain disgusting and rude. I'm sure he wouldn't do this in a resturant so he probably knows what manners are, he just has to practice them. As for the teeth...the only solution I can see is keep a toothbrush there for him and he can brush his teeth there after dinner. As with the clothes, well you might get a bit of a stink from the other side, but keep a couple of outfits at your place and have him wear those when he's at your place, and cycle them with his regular clothes at his own house that way he always has a couple of clean outfits when he's with you guys. And make sure you compliment him at how handsome and nice he looks. Perhaps he just needs a boost in confidence.

      And I know what you mean about the fights you and your husband have had, I remember my CL husband used to fight about the same kind of things. He didn't want to push issues as he had only a limited time with the his son and didn't want that time to be negative. Which is a valid point, but on the flip side kids are kids, and they need guidance from the adults in their lives, and its not always fun no..but it is necessary. Perhaps you two can agree on some of the issues you have and make a pact to be supportive of each other enforcing those paticular issues.

      As for what goes on 'over there', well sad as it is you can't really do anything unless you are willing to call CAS and report her which is something you might to consider given what you've said about the state of the home and his missing so much school.

      Above all, always try to coming from a loving and supportive place with the child, that is one thing you just can't give kids enough of.
      Good luck, hang in there and stay strong!


      • #4
        Put on his shoes

        Hi Mikesgal,

        Reading your post, I'm hearing alot about you, you, you. My first thought is that you really need to stop and think about things from your stepson's position. He is only there one day a week - how much can you actually expect him to change for you? Internally he probably has to go through a transition period after arriving, then just when he's used to being at your place, he goes back to his other home.

        A lot of the things you mention are superficial. He may be dirty and unkept looking, but most importantly - is he happy? The best way you can initiate change is by you and your husband being good role models. It's not fair to pick on those things when he is a product of the other household, and probably has little control over the way things are done in that house.

        It also sounds like he needs to be engaged in more conversation or activities. Is there anything you can do as a family? Since you only have him one night, I hardly think it's a good idea to try and do homework with him. That's his only night to spend time with your family - you should let him have fun.

        I agree with DeniseM about the food problem. Try to get him to give you (or his Dad) some ideas about what he would like to eat. If he has some sort of issue about food - go with it. Don't try to fight it.

        Bottom line - it's "his" night that night, and his special day to spend time with his family. Don't ruin it. Don't pick on him. You can't affect change like that when you only see him one day a week. You've just got to let go. And really, it should be your husband addressing any issues, not you.


        • #5
          Bailey bug first off this is not about me me me...having my step son over 1 night a week is not all about "having fun" as you put it, and furthermore he is extremely happy when he is with us, how do I know this? he tells me this all the time..having him over and letting him do his thing is fine in some respects however tolerating bad behaviour is not allowed no matter if he spends 1 night or 7 with us..we only get him 1 night because of the control issues forced on us by the mother..when we suggest that he come out and join us he says he would rather spend the time on the pc, we do however play games and watch movies together as a family..and as for the little control he has in his home...well he chooses to live like a slob just as much as the rest of we say pigs make pigs, here however he knows the rules and follows them without any troubles at all..homework however is not even done at his own home so that theory goes right out the window as well, how can you get him to do any when he never has any?? as far as dinners are concerned we involve him in what we are having and I make sure that what we have is what he likes... lastly my husband and I work as a team and we feel we can both address these parenting situations together like any real family does...but hey thanks for your input just the same


          • #6

            You owe no one an explanation. Being a step parent is not an easy task. I say go with your gut instinct. Every child requires love and discipline. There is nothing wrong with teaching a child good manners and good hygiene habits.

            I recently attended a 10 session parenting course called "Parenting Your Teen" I highly recommend this type of parenting course as it may give you and your husband a perspective of what is going on and offer techniques to solve some parenting problems.



            • #7
              Not meant to offend


              I'm sorry you took offensive to my post. I was just offering my two cents. I, myself am a stepmom and know how difficult a situation is it to be in.

              You provided all kinds of additional information, that you did not provide in your first posting.

              I absolutely understand the feeling of frustration. You're right - It is always good to strive to teach them manners and hygiene. I just feel sorry for the child that he doesn't get more time with your family, which obviously seems like a much healthier home.

              My children are younger, so I'm definitely not an expert on teens. But I do find myself sometimes getting so stressed over all the things I can't change, and realize - I just have to let go of the little things. Otherwise you will drive yourself crazy. Just be the best parent you can be, and that's all you can do.


              • #8
                Maybe ask your stepson for some ideas on what to have for meals on the days/nights he's in your care. I wouldn't make a big battle out of the food issue, but I wouldn't want to become a short order cook either.

                It won't be long and your stepson will have more of an interest in keeping better care of his physical appearance, when he starts to take an interest in girls!

                Good Luck


                • #9
                  well I did take some offense to your post, but now I realize that you were only giving me your ideas..I think my biggest thing here is that my stepson is just that, a stepson and not "our child", the mother has always been very controlling of our time with him narrowing it down from 2 days to 1 day, I think she feels that the more time he spends with us the more he will want to spend more of his time with us--then the child support will stop on her behalf...I know he gives her a very rough time yelling at her and making her life miserable alot of the time...but hey once again when you can live in utter disarray and not made to clean up after yourself opposed to making your bed and rinsing out your dishes then I guess I would pick the # 1 choice myself..what I find sad is that when he yells at his mom she starts talking counselling for the poor little fellow...she also wants to get him braces which he very much needs however with all the cutbacks at work and no overtime financially it seems to be near impossible for us...but in the eyes of the courts they don't seem to care..I am afraid since his oral hygiene is so terrible that the braces will be so neglected and his teeth will rot...the meals should not be such a hard thing since I know what he likes and he does help me prepare meals most times I can pry him from the pc...I did tell my husband that this isn't a restaurant and making several different meals is out of the question


                  • #10
                    Defining Your Job

                    Quotes from the recent "Parenting Your Teen" course I attended:

                    Normal Teenage Behaviour
                    • Putting off chores,
                    • Doing chores good enough to just get by,
                    • Not wanting to do assignments for the family,
                    • Enjoying doing the same chores for other families,
                    • Maintaining an unkept room,
                    • Putting off homework,
                    • Making an occasional bad grade,
                    • Having infrequent trouble with one of his/her teachers,
                    • Hating things she/he loved yesterday,
                    • Not having a career selected,
                    • Changing his/her mind often about whether to go to college or not,
                    • Spending much of his/her money carelessly,
                    • Not being satisfied with what parents are providing,
                    • Going through a stage of being ashamed of parents,
                    • Teasing brothers and sisters to death,
                    • Demanding more Independence by telling how good other kids have it,
                    • Not wanting to go to church,
                    • Not remembering to thank people who give them gifts.


                    "How Serious Is It?"

                    MBA's - Minor But Aggravating. It's important to keep in mind that Parent's level of aggravation about a problem is not always a measure of the seriousness of that problem. Ask yourself the question "Who is it going to Harm?"

                    Examples of things considered MBA's:

                    Phone - long, pointless, and apparently stupid conversations between teens over the phone are normal.

                    Clothes and appearance - Dr. Phelan solution is to "let them wear anything that the school will let them in the door with (Phelan)

                    Messy room - An appropriate solution would be to close their door, or just don't look.


                    When something about your teen is bothering you, it's a good idea to stop and think before doing anything. You should ask yourself two questions:

                    a)Does this problem need my attention?
                    b)If so, how involved should I get?

                    Phelan [1.] outlines four basic roles a parent can consider when responding to or evaluating an adolescent's problem. They are:

                    a) Observer
                    b) Advisor
                    c) Negotiator
                    d) Director

                    When deciding which role is appropriate, ask yourself the following questions:

                    a) How is your child in general?
                    b) How good is your relationship?
                    c) Your state of mind?
                    d) How serious is the problem?

                    Stay out of their problem unless it's absolutely necessary that you get involved. You'll just cause conflict. Part of the problem will be the difference of opinion as to what role you should take. Deciding what role is appropriate while being aware of which role your teen wants you to take.

                    Try to decide which role is the right one for you and stick with it. Remember, you are the boss.

                    Observer - Do nothing. Observe how they handle the problem and do some sympathetic listening. Let the teen handle it. Don't give unwanted advice - it's irritating. "Grin and Bear it."

                    Advisor - You are still only a consultant to the child, which means you are not using power and the adolescent has the right to reject your advice. Remember - you probably weren't hired for the job. When unasked for wisdom comes out of the blue, things are double rough. The response is very likely to be irritation and absolutely non receptiveness to whatever you are trying to say. The teen may become standoffish.

                    solution: do something weird! Go out somewhere with teen to talk things over. It's fun, and the teen knows your serious. Write out your thoughts - no "tone of voice" included.

                    **Remember - "Advice is cheap and rarely followed."

                    Negotiator - Negotiating is also a statement that you feel it is important that you be involved, because you think the problem is serious, or perhaps because it affects other family members. But negotiating is saying that you are willing to bargain.

                    a) Agree to negotiate.
                    b) Pick a good place and time to talk.
                    c) Define the problem
                    d) Let's bargain.

                    Director - In the role as director, it is your responsibility to take charge when the problem is serious enough (like drugs) or interferes directly with your life (Loud music)

                    FOUR CARDINAL SINS

                    1) Spontaneous Problem Discussions - The odds that the adolescent is motivated to discuss this unpleasant subject at that very moment are about zero. SPD almost increases irritability and decreases cooperation. Solution: make an appointment with your adolescent to discuss a problem. "I'm concerned about your marks in science. When is a good time for us to sit and talk about this?

                    2) Nagging - "a set of repetitive, often hostile, verbal reminders about something that one person wants to see accomplished. It is usually directed at a second person who does not share the first person's enthusiasm for the project." (Phelan 1993). Nagging just produces friction. Solution: make an appointment.

                    3) Insight Transplants - "The Parental Lecture." What the parent is really thinking - or hoping - goes something like this: "I will take this wonderful insight I have learned about life, put it into two words, and send it through the airwaves. It will enter my child's ears and proceed to his brain where it will take root, flower, and subsequently generate new and more productive behaviour." (Phelan 1993).

                    4) Arguing - Arguing usually results in battle. Solution: Don't start a conversation that is bound to go nowhere. Make an appointment. Don't insist on having the last word. If you do need to say something, simply say it directly and succinctly, and then shut up or leave, don't stick around to counter ridiculous arguments from your teen.

                    [1.] Thomas W. Phelan Phd.

                    Last edited by logicalvelocity; 02-09-2007, 07:34 PM.


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