Ups and downs of being a stepparent
By Cheryl Lavin October 13, 2013 8:08PM
Updated: October 16, 2013 3:58PM
Many little girls dream about being a mom one day. Very few of them fantasize about being a stepmom. It can be one of the more rewarding roles a woman can play. Or one of the most thankless.
LUCY: I’m a stepmom to two kids. When I first met them, I basically kind of backed off. My stepdaughter was about 13 and she was all over her dad. My first thought was that there was something wrong with the relationship until I realized that she was showing me that he was her dad.
Since the kids lived with their mother, they weren’t around all the time and I never tried to force myself into their life. When they were around, I kind of stepped back and let them be the main focus for their dad.
It’s now more than 20 years later and those stepkids are 33 and 38, and I have a pretty good relationship with both of them. And this came about even though their mother has spent all those years doing everything she could to make those kids hate me.
I think when you marry someone with kids, you really need to keep in mind that a husband or a wife is replaceable, but a child is forever. Spouses are expendable, kids aren’t.
I wouldn’t want to be married to anyone who would toss their kids over for me.
JILLIAN: I was married to a man who had two children from a previous marriage. When we met his daughter, was 6 and son was 11. I never ever had a problem with his son. On the other hand, his daughter was as evil as they come, even at 6. (I am seriously not exaggerating.) It got worse every year until I finally left him when she was 10.
The main problem? Her mother was a manipulative, self-centered, money-hungry bitch who constantly had something negative to say about me. She made up stories, just on the edge of defamation but not over the line enough to get a lawsuit going.
My husband was a pushover who wanted to be his daughter’s friend rather than her parent. He would reprimand her once in a while, but a few hours later they would be best buddies and a few days after that he’d come home with another new toy or gadget for her. Why should she have changed when there were no repercussions for her behavior?
I honestly believe the only way to have an ultimate bond with your stepchild is to have full respect and civil (if not friendly) communication with all parties involved. Once the child knows his or her mother doesn’t like you, it’s over. Once that child knows he or she can get away with acting out and the father does nothing to prevent it, it’s over.
LIZZIE: Coming into a family wrecked by divorce, I tried to be a best friend to my stepchildren, to allow them to confide in me and lean on me. But it didn’t work. I didn’t feel I had to keep trying because I wasn’t related to them.
It’s best to leave the family, as broken as it is, alone and let them figure it out. There are many blended families that work. Personally, I know way more that don’t.
Are you a stepparent? How’s that working for you? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to email@example.com. And check out my new website askcheryl.net.