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January 30, 2005

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WoodcuttersWife

For the past seven years I have been a stepmother to a boy with an absent drug addicted mother and we have faced considerable hurdles over the years as a result of the neglect he suffered in those first few years of his life. As a full time stepparent I have no legal rights in relation to this child and over the years this has caused difficulties particularly when trying to safeguard his interests. My story is not unique.

We are not the wicked stepmother's of myth but everyday people struggling with the complexities of blended and step-family life. Some of us are full time stepparents to children whose mother's or father's have abandoned them, sometimes the children are traumatised and we are left to pick up the pieces to try and rebuild a life for the child. This issue needs attention and recognition for the extraordinary job many stepparents do and to argue and lobby for increased support.

Since writing my book The Woodcutter's Wife: A Stepmother's Tale I have been completely overwhelmed and humbled by the feedback I’ve received, and amazed there are so many people out there who share my story. With the number of stepfamilies and blended families on the increase worldwide I believe it is incredibly important to provide stepparents with reassurance that mutual affection and respect can and do develop over time.

tess obrien

Do any of you have any book recommendations that could help me with my relationshipwith my 21 year old step daughter? To this day, all I've tried to do is love her and all she seems to do is hate me. I'm about ready to quit...it's very painful for the adults who try so hard too.

lucia

yup. step parenting is not for wimps. At 20 my mom died suddenly and I went through 10 years of various women in my dad's life treating me from ok to bad to horrible. I vowed I would never inflict that kind of pain. at age 43 I became a mother--by surprise--with the man of my dreams. really. only problem was a big one--an xwife with a host of medical social/psychiatric issues--and an angry 18 year old red head girl. Both have big spending problems [a biggie for the divorce] with obscene amounts of top of the line clothes/shoes/makeup/handbagyou name it.

9 months after our daughter was born and unspeakable threats from them--we anounced our engagement...one week later the x tried to kill herself and the daughter ended up with us because she brought home a boyfriend that she met in the psychiatric ward. It's been three years now--she has been the center of our lives--the daughter--with a continual 24/7 crisis of all proportions--no boundaries, NO manners or social skills. Anything to keep her at the center of attention. All the oxygen in our lives is sucked in by her and her mother's dramas. We can't afford to buy anything nice for ourselves but the x and his daughter are on a constant shopping spree. I've had it -- her father can not put any limits boundaries and treats her like a girlfriend. Its crazy. I'm over the edge and 3 years after our engagement can't bring myself to plan a wedding. Did I mention we have a beautiful little girl...our little miracle--and with a host of health problems that my attentions and energies are better spent on..

any advice out there?

misty

arent all stepmothers evil? J/k I am a stepdaughter.When they are young of course you are the bad guy.From experience now you are the bad guy ,but give it time when the kids grow up you will be the one they call.

Maddy

I have the other side. I was a single mum. My 'boyfriend' and my daughter were best buddies, until he and I started dating. ten years later we married. My daughter was not happy even though he'd always been there. When more children arrived, she nearly split a gasket. Now she's an adult they are as close as can be. I can only suggest that 'time' is the answer.
best wishes

Teresa Jack

I wonder if I am a wicked stepmother - I have a stepson of seven who tests me to the limit. His father has let him away with almost everything for ages and I have tried everything but have often recently finished up spanking him over my knee on his bare bottom but at the moment it seems to be the only thing that works. Help! Am i evil?

miekeh

Hi, my stepdaughter Merry drives me crazy. She is 9 years old and has lived with me an her dad for 2 years. Before that she lived with her dad and grandparents for a while after a split-up with her mom who is a alcoholic. Don´t misunderstand me, Merry is a sweet, beautyful little girl and I love her. She is fun to be around and she is such a lovable darling. But she stalks me around the house, she clinges to me and throws a fit if she does not get all the attention. She requires help when she is getting dressed, or gets a bath, when she eats and more. She is a strong and heavy girl and she uses that while she literally tramples all over us. I have turned into a monster after having her and that really disturbs me. I have to admit that I have had such bad thought about her and that it makes me feel guilty. It is not so much use talking to her dad as he lets her roam and blames it on her mom and even thinks that I should take her as she is.

tj

i'am a stepdaughter and i know that its hard to be a step parent but let her be let her come to you in her own time dont push her you'll just push her more away from you.

supermom

People used to call my family the Brady Bunch, but as of March 2005, we are now Seventh Heaven. This was the month that my new 16 yr old son came to live with us. He was living several states away with his paternal grandmother. He had no discipline, no structure and absolutely no boundaries. He hadn't been in his mother's life since the age of 7. She walked away. I knew it wasn't going to be easy , but boy I had no idea. I feel like I just had another baby. He can't care for himself at all and he's about 6 ft tall. It has been a really bumpy road for all of us, but we keep trying. We have to have weekly family meetings to air out all the differences and if one week is skipped because of time constraints, it shows and the family suffers for it. I already had my hands full with my own six. The oldest is my niece, who has always lived with me and the other five are my biological children. My 3 1/2 yr old is his half brother, who happens to have PDD-NOS. All I can say is that there are some good days and some bad. I try to hold it together because I have seen progress in him. He failed his firt 2 quarters of chem in the other state with 50's, here he got two 80's and managed to pass the class and ace the regents. He may not understand the sacrifices I and the family are making, but I know God knows my heart. We all get frustrated but in the end, all I want for him is to grow up into a responsible and loving adult. Being the wicked witch of the West is necessary now but someday he might look and see I have been Glenda the good witch all along...

veronica orgueira

I need some advice. I have a 14-year-old daughter who pretends to like me when her father is around. I find notes with bad language on them about me in her room. Although her father keeps telling me, I need to take responsibility for my daughters feeling. I mother these children as if they were my own. In all of my life time I do not know how take responsibility for some else’s feelings. I work with abused and battered children and know first hand what screaming, hitting and abusive language could do for a child. This does not happen to her at all. Like all teenagers they do not like when a parent ask so many questions (I do that all the time).

Her real mom died when she was 11 months old and she began living with my son and me 9 years ago. I have tried counseling with my husband and our entire family. However, it does not seem to work. My husband and I have major different parenting beliefs. I am a Christian woman and fight with him constantly how to raise these children. It very difficult at times especially when you come from to very different backgrounds I am American and he is Spanish from Cuba. Does any one have any ideas?

Tiered and frustrated.

Sarah

Ohhhh sister, been there, done that. My [step] daughter came from a chaotic environment (suicidal mother, domestic violence between her mom and step-dad..mom diagnosed as bipolar, etc.) My daughter (and I call her daughter because I don't like the space that "step" puts between us) was also diagnosed as bipolar, adhd, and was put on 3 different medications because her mother couldn't deal with her SPECTACULAR (and boy were they SPECTACULAR!!!) temper tantrums. Turns out she was just a brat! She was having temper tantrums because she learned how to get what she needed by behaving badly just like she learned from her mom (everyone felt sorry for her because she was "bipolar"). It was a defense mechanism. We have her in therapy by the way...I am a big believer in that. Anyway, we did not know about her mothers suicide attempts (she and her husband lied and made my daughter lie to hide it.) But my daughter (lets call her Mary) Mary's therapist called us one night and told us her mother was in the hospital AGAIN and to "do what you need to do". Long story short, we filed for emergency custody, and now are fighting for permanent custody. But MY GOD... what I ride. And mind you, my husband and I just got married 4 months earlier, and he had a vasectomy because we decided to have a leisurely life of travel (HA!! The best laid plans...)

Anyway, once she got here, I use to wait for the screaming to start the minute she woke up. Crying..whining...generally pissed off (she was 8 years old at the time.) She could not read (she was 8 years old!!), was in special ed because she (quoting her previous psychiatrist, "couldn't handle large amounts of work in one sitting" (= she didn't want to do it), she couldn't bathe herself, dress herself, wipe herself, feed herself, nothing, and she was VERY hostile to us if we tried to assist. She was completely dependent, and none to happy about it. She treated her dad like crap. And me? I have NEVER been so verbally abused by another human being. Seriously. So, knowing this was not bipolar disorder, I started "parenting" her. i.e. I didn't put up with any of that crap. I showed my husband (a saint of a man) that he was giving her positive reinforcement (holding her, talking softly to her) for bad behavior (temper tantrums), which only pissed her off more and elevated her tantrums. I said he should do that when she was behaving well, not bad. We tried everything that is politically correct; time out; taking something she wants away; restriction of priveledges, 1-2-3, etc. Nothing worked. That kid ran over us. Finally, we implemented spanking (3 times...but we made it sting) and WHAT A DIFFERENCE. We kept the same boundaries, i.e. if you sass back or have a temper tantrum you WILL get spanked. Pretty soon she stopped trying to cross that boundary. Backing that up with lots of love and positive reinforcement for good work/behavior shifted her on her path to ultimate happiness.

Fast forward a year and a half later...she is reading at a 3rd grade level, tested at a superior level in math, and well within normal levels in everything else, and she is a happy, well-adjusted, little girl, who says please and thank you and makes people laugh with her great sense of humor. Her newer Special Ed teachers are saying "why is this kid in here???" (she is dyslexic)

The thing that sucks though, is that she wants her birth mom SOOOO BADLY (which I totally understand..being raised by my dad myself), but she bad mouths me to her mom and says that I say bad things about her mom (which I would NEVER, EVER DO). Her therapist (who I love) said that step-parents have the worst job. We have to do all the parenting and get none of the light side of the child, at least, not until they're are older.

With all I have been through with this kid (and I TOTALLY understand the sentiments shown here...because it is hard to bond with someone who hates you), I feel she is 100% mine, because she has put me through the ropes. I truly feel that I have been a huge positive in her life, and that she would've been pregnant and/or on drugs by the time her mom threw her out at 14. Truly.

She was BEGGING for someone to care about her. Sometimes its the keeping the boundaries that is that proof. Showing them that they WILL respect you and your husband and showing them that same respect helps them in their relationships later in life. Keep your chins up, and know that you have sisters out here that feel the same way!!

amanda

I think I am evil, too. It is refreshing (?) to know that there are others out there who feel the same as I, I was beginning to think I was alone and something was wrong with me. My stepdaughter is 6, almost 7. Her mother is nowhere to be seen, her father and I have complete custody. We are newlyweds. I have 2 bio children that live with us as well, so we define the term "blended family"!
My husband works swing shifts. The days he works, stepdaughter spent the night (prior to our marriage) with his parents, her grandparents. They cared for her and took her to school. However, they never learned to separate when to be a grandparent and when to be a parent. They were constant grandparents. In a nutshell, she is spoiled rotten, talks to adults with such disrespect, and has the manners of a barn animal. With my constant direction, she has come a long way. However, if either of my children were to ever speak to an adult in the way that she does, punishment would be immediate! Not her. She gets a gentle talking to by her dad. She makes herself vomit at the dinner table to get out of eating, meal times are absolutely painful. She chews with her mouth wide open and grosses me out so badly. No one, including me, can talk to, touch, show affection, be alone with, or do anything with her dad that does not revolve around her or she will butt in between, cling to him, etc. Oh, and she wants nothing to do with him when no one else is around. When it's the two of them, she's no where near him. She simply does not want anyone else to be near him.
Each time I say anything, discipline her (verbally only), correct her, etc., I get a 'computerized response' of either, "Yes, ma'am" in a monotone, or a glare. Tonight while play sparring with her daddy, she jumped in and slapped me in the face. Jealous rage, I suppose. I almost lost my temper then, and told her if she ever hit me or another member of this family in the face or anywhere unwarranted on their bodies that would be it.
Her school work is poor. She is barely passing. My son, who is in K-4, has more knowledge than her, and his reading ability far exceeds hers, she is in first grade. She will not try, she is careless, and says she hates school. I wonder if she's depressed. Is that possible for a 6 year old?
I have learned to sit at the table with my head down, tuned out, not listening to her lips smacking and seeing her food fall out of her mouth and hear her games. I used to love to sit at the table with my family. Now I hate it. I am at a loss, I don't know how to tell her to back off ocassionally, give us some time, we give the children so much time and affection, the two other children seem perfectly understanding when I say, "Give us 5 minutes grown up time, then we'll be with you." Except her. Everyone says she has these "extenuating circumstances". So did my children. They witnessed the breakup of their (seemingly) perfect homelife and the "loss" of their daddy (loss=seeing him every other weekend). Is their heartache any less than hers? I think not, to a child, there are no degrees in heart break. I refused to allow my children to use that as an excuse to be less than their best. I think that is the difference. I pushed them when they probably didn't feel like being pushed. We did it together. They are well-adjusted, fun, of above-average intelligence, and well rounded children. I think stepdaughter has repeatedly been allowed sympathy when she should have been loved enough to be told to move forward and be her best.
I know I've rambled, but I have talked to my husband until I'm blue in the face. Any advice?

Joan

Ellen:

I am Kristen's stepmother and I would call myself the "Wicked StepMother" because I sure felt like it at times. We had our trials. The point that I always tried to remember was that it was as hard for her as it was for me (if not harder). I was the "new" woman in her Dad's life. It was a very hard time. I used to go and spend time on our boat to get away. I would question myself about whether I even had a right to in-still my values that at times were very different from the ones she was already given.
The advice I would give you, is to always be fair and to come from a place of love. I was lucky my stepdaughter was difficult but she was also very loving and I knew she needed me even when she didn't know it!
Do your best that's all you can do.

Elizabeth S.

I am a stepdaughter to a wonderful woman. She's funny, bright, chatty and likeable. But when I was 16, all that just didn't matter because any alliance I formed with her seemed to me a betrayal of my mom. I'm 33 now and I really enjoy my stepmom's company. I'm close with my mom, but it's nice to have another older woman in my life. I don't feel guilty about it anymore and I am not made to feel guilty about it. Your stepdaughter will come around... just stay the course. Perhaps if you think of her as a niece or family friend, it will take the emotion out of it for you. Just don't tell her you're doing that!

Kristen

I was that girl. Exactly that girl. I was 9 years old when my parents divorced, I was the youngest of three kids and I was the only one that lived with my dad as apposed to my older brother and sister that lived with my mom. My step mom came into my life when I was 12 and she married my dad when I was 13. It was a long journey. I wanted so badly for my mom to want me in her life and want to have a relationship with me, but she chose her partner over me and I decided that I should live with my dad. My step mom had a HUGE job ahead of her to cope with me. I wanted all of my dad's attention and it was really hard to deal with the fact that I had to share it. We had some really awesome times, and we had some very bad times. It was really hard for my step mom as she didn't know where her boundries ended as I wasn't "her child". I think that after a year or so, she decided that she was the one that was providing me with everything, including love so it WAS her place to tell me what to do. I thank her for that to this day. At 13 years old as much as you don't want to admit you are still a child, you are. You need direction and you need to be told when you are out of line and what is acceptbale. I am 21 years old and my step mom is my mom, and she calles me her daughter. She is the woman that raised me and instilled values in me. I love her as if she was the woman that gave birth to me. I am now able to have an adult relationship with my birth mother but my step mom is the one who I go to whenever I need mothering. Anyhow, hang in there. It is not going to be easy. Love is a powerful thing though, and that is one thing that my step mom was always good with. She always told me how much she loved me and no matter how mean or nasty I was to her, she always let me know that she loved me and that would never change.

evil stepmom too?

i'm the stepmother of a 6 year old girl. i've been with her father for 4 years, but we were only married 5 months ago, she was the flower girl. we live in florida, she lives in ohio. we see her 4 times a year for 10-16 days at a time, depending on the time of year. she's smart, good natured and fortunate enough to not remember her parents seperation. i am, unfortunately, not that lucky.

i began dating my husband 2 months after their seperation and had to witness one of the most angry and jaded divorces i've ever heard of. while my husband (then boyfriend) fought for custody of their only daughter i watched her mother try to use her as a tool to make him pay, literally and figuratively. details aren't necessary but it was ugly. three years later, their divorce was finalized and visitation was set in stone, so to speak.

in the course of that 3 years, we saw my husband's daughter a couple times of year. that is a huge span for a child who was madly in love with her daddy. we also began to notice that her development was lacking. she has a good mom, and neither of us would speak poorly of her in front of his daughter, but there were some definite hurdles we knew she would have to overcome. hurdles that her mother did not have time to address as she was fighting her own depression and dealing with being a singler mother, a job i no doubt think may be the most difficult.

i find it hard when my step-daughter comes to visit to not be overly critical. it's hard to think back and know that at 4 years old i could read, but she couldn't. there were many other developmental issues we notices, but her language skills were our top concern. my husband and i have far too many conversations about how we will raise our children differently than she was raised. i don't think we should be using her as a measuring device, but it is frustrating and near impossible not to do.

she is bright and she is eager to learn, but because she is not very stimulated at home, she has a short attention span. she often asks "since no one bothers her at home to learn, why is everyone bothering me now when i'm on vacation?".

my husband and i try hard, and of course, he has more patience. i think mostly because he is the dad and gets to play the games and be goofy and i take the role of the mom; the disciplinarian and the one always saying "no". i know my step-daughter loves me. i know this because she tells me, i know this because she cries every time she has to go home and i know this because she has the biggest heart there ever was.

i also know that i must frustrate the living hell out of her sometimes in my quest to "fix" patterns of behavior that i don't want my own children to have. it's a never ending cycle that i will soon have to move on from if i ever stand a chance of her tolerating me past 8 years old.

sorry for the rant - i can just sympathize and understand.

p.s. once we got engaged we sat her down and a had conversation about family and what all our new roles would be. we explained the "step" situation to which she pointedly said "so, you'll be the evil stepmother then and lock me in a tower?" assuming she was kidding i said "of course" and let out a wicked laugh. it took us 1 hour of apologizing and explaining to get her to stop crying and come out of her room.

she now calls me "step-mom" instead of by my name and likes to yell it when we are in public to get my attention. is there such a thing as a wicked step-daughter?

Mama Sarah

I am neither a stepmother nor a stepdaughter. I am the matriarch of a "blended" (that's violently chopped and mixed beyond recognition, right?) family, although I have two boys under the age of 6. But, your stepdaughter sounds like me when I was her age, even though I came from an intact home. So, for what it's worth, your relationship sounds "normal", even for "normal" families.

As Muse already pointed out, being a 13 year old girl is difficult. I'm not sure there is enough money in the world to make me go back and do that age over again. How about you? So take courage, you are fighting the good fight, even in the face of complete lack of respect and appreciation. I'm realizing that is motherhood. Lord, help us.

muse

I didn't have the step business, but I am the mother of five, all post-teens, and 13 is a very rough age. Don't demand perfection. Be thankful for the good moments and hours together, positive reinforcement. Good luck.

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