New Stepmom With No Children of Her Own
I've been married for about a year and half and my husband has a 7 y/o daughter from a previous relationship (never married). Overall I would say things could be worse, I could be dealing with a jealous ex-wife or be caught up in some huge custody battle but we're not. My husband and the birthmother (bm) in what started out as a relationship that he told her wouldn't last and a pregnancy six-months into things, having a daughter made my husband realize what is most important in life, taught him responsibility, was the best thing to happen to him back then and he also realized that in order to be the best father to his daughter he had to be happy himself and get his life in order. This also meant being honest about things and not "trying to do the right thing" by marrying the bm, and so they broke things off and after they were tortuously together for nearly three years.
He loves his daughter so much and I knew that she would always be first and foremost in his life. Not that he doesn't love me, he's loved me ever since we were teenagers but what I'm trying to say is that I understood that she would have to come first, that is the responsibility you take on as a parent.
Although I have no children of my own, I come from a big family, huge extended family, have always worked with kids, and I just love kids in general. I have been a teacher, facilitator, mentor, advocate for children and teens but never a stepmother! I think I have a pretty good head on my shoulders and feel I can handle things that come my way but none of those feelings prepare you for what really happens.
I love my stepdaughter. She is extremely bright, emotional, sensitive, outgoing, loves to meet and help people. She can also be whiny, cranky, manipulative (as much as 7 y/os can be!) and sometimes she can have a mouth on her! Funny thing is, she and I are A LOT alike, even my husband iterated to me numerous times that she could practically be my child, she just came out of the wrong womb. She sometimes calls me by name, sometimes Mommy, introduces me as her Stepmom. I take this role very seriously, I call her my stepdaughter, tell people about her, and we've had that conversation about "I know I'm not your birthmother but I am your stepmother" and she knows she's not my biological daughter obviously but she'll call herself my daughter/stepdaughter.
When she calls me Mommy without thinking about it, it tickles my heart, and sometimes I don't know what to do with the reality that she isn't my flesh and blood, that I have no legal right to her (neither does my husband for that matter, the bm is the custodial parent), and sometimes I feel I am in this kind of limbo as Stepmom/Daddy's wife/Another Adult Woman in her life.
My husband, for the most part, has been extremely supportive. We are usually on the same page, pretty much agree on how we raise her (we have her every weekend), and tries to be inclusive. We've had arguments because I've reminded him that although he might be her father, that doesn't automatically make him knowledgeable in raising a 7 y/o, that we both should be reading up, sharing stories, helping each other find the answers. Sometimes he scoffs at me, reminding me that she is her flesh and blood. I know it's usually because he doesn't like to be reminded that he doesn't know everything (which of course I am more than happy to do!)
But, in retrospect, he realizes that changes that I've suggested have worked out, such as bedtime. He used to just let her go to sleep whenever and we got into this huge argument because as stubborn as he is, he tried insisting that there was nothing wrong for a 7 y/o to go to sleep around 11pm or later! I mean come on! I had to explain to him that yes, I know I don't have children but I do know child psychology and children feel safe with routines and boundaries. We finally agreed on a bedtime routine and it has worked out amazingly well! Before she would scream, cry, throw tantrums, beg/whine/demand that Daddy sleep in her bed, some of the worst episodes lasted well into midnight, it was truly ridiculous.
Part of it of course was guilt; during the school year he only gets to see her two nights out of the week (which is still alot when I hear about similar family situations) and so he loves being able to read to her and tuck her in bed and talk with her, and one time he tried to imply that I was jealous of her. I told him that I minded what time she went to bed, and that if he wanted to spend two or three hours reading and talking to her, that was fine, then to just start the routine earlier! Anyway, we worked through that and it was pretty much the first big situation we had worked through with her as a family.
The ongoing situation of course is with the bm. This person is passive-aggressive, manipulative, just never fully honest, extremely insecure so much so that she practically begged me to go to her wedding (she just had a baby with her now husband), wants so much to be liked that it's awkward when she's always showering me with compliments, it's just all very sad. I've known about her ever since they had met, I know most everything that transpired between them, know so much more that I care to know, it's annoying. There is no substance to this person, he doesn't trust her and neither does his family, yet everyone feels sorry for her. I'm sorry but I do not. I've worked with enough families who come from so much more disturbed backgrounds, and although I am usually an empathetic type of person, I can't and won't be so in this situation because I want there to be boundaries, which my husband agrees to as well.
I have always been civil to her, thank her when she compliments me, but I do not go completely out of my way for her. We've managed a civil relationship so far, no more, no less, and I hope to keep it that way. I'm just not the type of person to fake things, everything shows on my face anyway, and I can't stand lying, and I respect honesty.
I think things would be different if she were someone I could respect, but I don't. I know things could be worse like I said, she could be one big B, but she's not, so that helps things. What I do know from experience though is to set boundaries with this type of person. I've worked with teenagers who have psycho-social disorders, and I'm not an LCSW or a psychiatrist, but I can tell she is a person who does not understand steps when it comes to relationships, especially if the slightest bit of interest is shown to her. I can't explain how awkward it is when I go to give my stepdaughter a hug and she stands there craving my affection! As my husband says, she is a vacuous person.
So, right now, it's a matter of trying to make sure I'm involved with my stepdaughter's life. My husband is only too happy to pass over the communication reins to me when it comes to dealing with the bm. What I do know is that no matter how annoying the bm is, I will try my best to not say anything negative about her to my stepdaughter.
My stepdaughter has her moods. Sometimes she comes over and she is very loving and affectionate, tells me things, wants us to do things together. Some weekends she'll only want to spend time with Dad and will ask that I go do something else. Daddy reminds her that we're a family and we do things as a family. He and I try to go back and forth and make sure that it's somewhat balanced: the time he spends with her, the time I spend with her and the time all three of us spend together. Overall, I would say things are progressing in a normal manner, and I just try to take things day by day.
I look foward to reading other people's posts and sharing stories, advice and suggestions!