26 Year Old Stepmom, 14 Year Old Boy

When my husband and I started dating "Sam" was a cute and friendly 10 year old.  Sam lives with us full time and there is no conflict with his mother.  We melded easily into a sort of normal family.  We have now been married 2 1/2 years and I feel like things have been deteriorating ever since.

I feel an immense amount of guilt because I take no joy or personal satisfaction in being a stepmom, even when things are smooth.  I like Sam, if I had my choice of a dozen 14 year old boys I might even pick him.  I feel guilt because I used to think I loved him and had aspirations to be an involved, committed nurturing mother figure. 

Being a good stepmom requires so much effort and returns no rewards.  I don't know if I have the strength to do it for another 4 years.  I have discovered serious differences in parenting opinions between my husband and myself.  I used to think I wanted to adopt and foster children, but I've really soured on the idea of raising any more children with my husband because of our differences.  Maybe I've also discovered that I just don't have the patience or selflessness that parenting requires.

Tonights scenario was as follows:  My husband is out of town (probably 3 nights per month).  10pm comes and I ask Sam to go to bed.  Discover that his iPhone is not in our charging station (He is not allowed to bring it to bed because he stays up watching YouTube until 2am).  Since this is the second time in two weeks that he's taken it to bed, I tell him he can have it back in a day.  He argues with me, I act condescending and insensitive toward him.  He storms off to bed and I dissolve in tears. 

There are so many things about a teenage boy that I do not understand, and so many habits and behaviors that I believe should be corrected.  I've nearly given up on weighing in and get angry with my husband when he asks for advice (because he never takes it, right?) and angry when he doesn't ask for my advice.  I'm afraid this is going to damage our marriage so much in the next 4 years that we won't recover. 

It is hard to live with a teenager when you don't have unconditional love for him.  I can't look back on when he was a cute little toddler and smile.  He has never needed me or even acted like he wanted me.  He is not an affectionate boy (raised by his father since 2 years old, to be expected), he doesn't like to talk to us or hang out with us anymore.  He basically justs expects all of his desires to be granted and to be left alone to game and talk to friends.  I'm sure this is normal, but I don't know if I can take it for 4 more years.  I resent being taken for granted.  Sometimes I resent every minute I spend cleaning up after him or cooking for him or driving him around.  I'm sure that it is expressed somehow in my interaction with him.  I feel like I am not a positive influence or even neutral, I might have a negative impact on his development.  I feel like an incompetent stepmom, my opinions aren't validated by my husband and I'm distancing myself more and more each day.  It hurts and it's scary and I would appreciate any feedback.

sostressed sostressed
2 Responses Feb 9, 2009

Thank you, Astro, for your words of support. I have a life full of love, with a wonderful husband, parents nearby and the opportunity to help raise a boy who has loads of potential. Things always seem more dire at 11pm when you are all alone and sad. I do struggle though and know I would benefit from an anonymous online support network. I checked out the site you recommended and a couple others. Strange, I never thought about looking for such a specialized forum, though I'm online lots for networking with family and friends. Thanks again, you've helped more than you realize. You planted the support group seed and I feel that by joining one I may be able to find the strength I need to be a good stepmom and wife.

Oh, sostressed, what a difficult situation you're in. I can relate to your predicament and your feelings in many ways. Although I don't have a lot of advice-- I struggle with the same things myself-- I can offer you reassurance and support. I can also recommend to you a fantastic website I found last year called childlessstepmums.co.uk. It has a lot of forums and arenas for practical advice, emotional support, and all kinds of other things (including venting!) There are a lot of really wise, really warm people there.<br />
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Like you, I struggle a lot with the guilt I feel about the fact that although I love my partner's children and cultivate good relationships with them, I don't love them unconditionally, as a parent does (or should). And because my partner (to whom I am engaged) has custody of them, and we live together, the situation demands a great deal of sacrifice from me too (energy, money, time, etc.) I often find myself feeling resentful and like you, I worry a great deal about the strain on my relationship with their father. I know it will only get worse as they get older (they are 8 and 10 now).<br />
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It's horrible to be taken for granted, and it is particularly difficult when one doesn't feel like one's opinions or beliefs about parenting are taken seriously. You obviously take the role seriously-- in spite of any resentment-- and want to be a good stepmum (it's such an amorphous and thankless role!). That says a great deal of good about you, and I bet that you are having a more positive impact than you realize. Are you able to communicate openly with your husband? It seems crucial that you let him know how his behavior (i.e. taking you for granted and not respecting your opinions on parenting) is affecting you: as you say, this could jeopardize your marriage. There's a lot he can't control-- like his son, esp. as he gets older-- but he *can* control how he behaves towards you. I know a lot of people are opposed to therapy, but it sounds like having a counselor or some kind of mediator would be helpful for the two of you.<br />
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By the way, is Sam's mum in the picture at all? What about your husband's family? I know that having a good relationship with my partner's mother has been helpful for us. (Unlike anyone else I can think of, I adore my mother-in-law to-be. She's my hero! Weird, eh!)<br />
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Take heart, sostressed. There is help out there. Please don't give up yet.