Stepparenting when the parental message is “I don’t care about my kids, but you should”

Well, it is has been quite the roller coaster ride of fun (and terror) in “Married with Someone Else’s Children” land.  Let’s see, it has been sadly (and shockingly) less than 48 hours since his highly functioning children (note sarcasm) arrived at our home.  The fact I escaped to Starbucks by 8 am on a Sunday should give a clear picture of how well it is going.

Are any of you like me- approaching the time of the stepchildren’s arrival with a mixture of hope, fear, concern, desire, trepidation, and love?  Quite an emotional brew….. I would like to believe that hope and love underlie it all, but sometimes I truly do not know.

These past hours have once again presented me with what I consider to be my greatest challenge as a stepparent- how much should I parent these children when their own parents do not want to?  I feel sad even writing such a thing, and I would be so open to any suggestions/insights in to how to handle this better.

Here is a quick re-cap of the weekend- the written record, if you will…

Kids arrive and request “family discussion” time. Great, Super Stepmom  (me) thinks. I am happy to participate in this.  We are all sitting, having a nice conversation.  My husband stands up and begins to open the box of a new watch he bought. I ask him, “What are you doing?”  His response, “This is just going on and on.”  Oh, I am so sorry, honey.  Your children have not seen you in 2 weeks, and want your attention for what- 20 minutes?? But you are right, it’s just “going on and on” and really, you should focus on your watch, because Super Stepmom is there – ready and willing to listen to children that are not even her’s.

We then discuss the fact that the children are to be helped daily with tutoring, as both children are below grade level.  Who really seems invested in this, though? Why! Me and the Children!  Yes, that is right.  Mommy has told the 6th grader that she needs to do her work all on her own.  As for the 2nd grader (again, so poorly performing in school, it has been a complete nightmare), Mommy is “too busy”to help him, because she is making dinners that require 2-3 hours of preparation. What is Mommy doing- killing and defeathering a chicken to roast?  I mean, c’mon!  Your children are supposed to come first.

Want to know who the children run up to with the tutoring books, EXPECTING to be helped -EVERY DAy- that’s right- they run to Super Stepmom.  You have to hand it to kids, they will find help where they can.

So, after that fun discussion, we continue the evening.  Everyone is hungry and the kids decide on Taco Bell- a great place for the vegetarian Super Stepmom.  We are ready- yet, where is Dad?? Oh, fiddling with his new watch- the watch he really wants to wear tonight and obviously the watch that holds more attention for him than his hungry children.

We get in the car. The kids are fighting and breaking down.  Husband turns to them and says ( I kid you not!!!), ” I don’t even know why I tell Kim (Super Stepmom) to give you a chance.  You don’t deserve it. I don’t like being with you.”  Beautiful…. honey.  Way to throw me and your kids under the bus.

Can anyone see why any hope and desire I had felt to see these kids has in the course of 1.5 hours all but evaporated??  (But, let’s not forget, as a stepparent, I am supposed to love these children as my own. And gee whiz, why wouldn’t I, when I have one shining parental example after another in front of me.)

Off to Taco Bell then Target, at which point, Super Stepmom helps the stepdaughter shop for over an hour for new school clothes.  Go Stepmom!

Saturday a.m.- Super Stepmom gets up and takes out the dog – the dog everyone in the family (except Stepmom) so desperately wanted.

Stepmom works out.  Stepmom does tutoring with Stepson.  Stepmom  does tutoring with Stepdaughter. Stepmom finally gets showered and changed and takes Stepson out for a fun morning together (car show and shopping) so Dad can go to the gym and workout.

Stepmom comes home and tries to do some work while children and Dad are to be cleaning rooms.  Stepmom decides to check on them.  She certainly didn’t need to go far, because, gosh, oh, there they are sitting in front of the Wii. Why?  Does it even matter at this point?  They look to Stepmom and can’t understand why she looks like she wants to rip the 48 inch TV off its stand and throw it out the window.  Too bad, they think, Super Stepmom can’t control her anger.

Super Stepmom because she is naive, driven, and desperate, then corrals the troops to please go upstairs and clean their rooms.

I will spare the details of the remainder of the weekend. Let’s just say, if the local Starbuck’s carried alcohol, I would have been there on Sunday before 8

At the end of the day, I truly do not know what to do.  Do I turn down the kids’ requests for help because I am angry that neither parent will do it? Do I just check out? Talk to everyone- AGAIN?  If I don’t help the kids because their parents won’t, am I setting myself up to be in a situation even more dysfunctional than it is now?

On a positive note, only 12 more days with his children at our home… yes, I am counting down the days (and hours…), as I live the stepparenting message of, “Really, you should so love, understand, and want to do things for these children, even though, I as the parent am unwilling to do it.”

Any suggestions out there????  Or is everyone in a situation in which the parents are actually engaged and hey, PARENT, the children??


11 thoughts on “Stepparenting when the parental message is “I don’t care about my kids, but you should”

  1. Your step children are so very lucky to have you in their lives. You provide love, stability, and consistency that all kids crave and need. They know they can count on you even when they are fighting you. Years from now they will look back and know how much you loved them and cared for them. They will know this. Unfortunately it will take time.

    My sister-in-law is divorced and remarried. Her youngest never really lived with his dad since dad left when he was 6 months old. My nephew (13 now) doesn’t have much of a relationship with his dad now, but has a very good relationship with his step-mom (who is now also divorced from the father).

    I wish you peace.

  2. I use to spend the weekends my husbands kids visited hiding at any store open. Since the kids no longer see us – my expenses have dropped significantly. I think the TJMaxx by us had to close due to lack of sales after I quit hiding there : )

    You are doing a great job and should not feel bad if you need to hang out at Starbucks to make it through the weekend. I have my own son now and sometime wich I could go hide at TJMaxx for a few hours!

  3. Oh, dear! I don’t even know where to begin. Your steps are so lucky and truly blessed to have you. It is such a sad situation when the parents aren’t looking out for their own children’s best interest. As a Mother, I simply can’t relate at all. It goes against everything I believe.

    If it makes you feel any better, I took a second job to get away. I figured it was an acceptable excuse. “I have to work” and I’d leave. Not only did it give me an excuse to not be around, but I make a little extra money as well. Win/Win except for the occassional bout of resentment as to why I have to leave my house to get some peace?! Oh well…

    • HI Talia,
      You are really nice. This is the one area of stepparenting that has been the most difficult for me- primaly b/c the lack of parental guidance certainly manifests in the kids’ behaviors. Sometimes I am struck by all that we do- you got a second job, I teach all summer, so I appear “busy”.- We are an amazing group!

  4. Yes! Yes! Yes! I have completely different “parenting styles” from the parents. Their’s is “if I ignore this issue, it will go away…” Mine is let’s deal with the problem head-on…let’s find out what the root is…communicate, communicate, communicate. I’ve actually seen my 12-year old stepdaughter start telling me and her dad a story about something in her day and dad can focus for about 15 seconds…he’ll literally pick up his cell phone to make a call while she’s still talking. When they visit with us…it’s a weekend fest of the kids sitting in front of the TV like zombies while dad works on his computer. It bugs the mess out of me…let’s be together..not just together in the same house…but actually interact with each other. But, if I try to make suggestions or help out, then I get the evil-eye from my husband. I am the one who helps with homework, listens to problems, assists with clothes shopping, teaching the 17-year old to drive…I don’t resent this…I love helping them. I just think that dad is missing out on their precious childhoods and he will regret it one day. Me? I’m counting down the years and days until they are full grown and on their own.

    • Oh my gosh!! Do you live in my house?? My husband and his ex- parent the same way. Everything is always “FINE” according to them. I find their denial to be actually frigthening! Your stepkids are SOOOOO lucky to have you!!! I don’t know how you do it.

  5. Ha! I thought the same thing as I read some of your posts! At least now I know that there are “others” out there. I am NOT crazy! I was beginning to think I was. I mean how can I keep doing my very best and continue to seemingly be doing the wrong thing? Why is there not a support group for us?!?!? I’ve actually seen a therapist off an on (especially since the man-child moved in) the past couple of years. I find myself saying to my husband (on more than one occasion), “why is it that I am the one who needs to change but no one else? Shouldn’t we all be working together at accomplishing change and peace in our home?” Nope…apparently just me. My family tells me too how lucky the kids are to have me. I cling to the hope that when they become adults with their own families that they will have the hindsight to realize how much of a positive influence I was for them…and furthermore, how much they were love be me…by choice!

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