Help Me Be Less Resentful (and a better stepmom)

Discussion in 'Teacher Time Out' started by TiffanyL, Jan 23, 2011.

  1. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL Cohort

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Ugggghhhhhh......being a step mom is so hard!!!

    My husband's 16 year old spends every other weekend with us. He is not a behavior problem but is a typical teen who sometimes doesn't think about others.

    On Christmas Day, he threw a tantrum because he thought we would surely get him a car for Xmas. He was disappointed that we did not and told dh he thought he didn't want to come back anymore.

    The rest of the kids sat out in the living room alone while we spent HOURS talking to him about life, rules, etc. He said he had only continued to come because he thought he was getting a vehicle from us. He also admitted to ridiculing gifts that I get him and bad-mouthing me every drive home with his mom when he leaves on the weekends.

    His mom is an alcoholic who allows him to come and go as he pleases (no rules, curfews). She has always felt threatened by our family values and so she has spent the years convincing him that we don't do enough for him, that we are rich and could get him whatever he wants (I WISH), that we are dumb, too strict, etc.

    The weekends he is here (this is one currently), I lose my entire home. He stretches out in my husband's recliner and watches MTV or football the entire weekend. If my husband comes into the room, my husband sits in a little uncomfortable chair in the corner because heaven forbid we ask him to move or change the channel.

    The other kids have been raised on respect. If the other kids and I are cleaning....nope, not him. Last weekend, he watched through the window as my husband and son cleaned up the entire backyard. He's untouchable though, and he knows it. The rules don't apply to him because my husband is so preoccupied with him WANTING to come.

    It came to a head this morning. DH and I had a big talk about balance and what we are teaching him when we allow him to dominate the house. DH is unwilling to change. He does not want to discipline him because he feels like he already wants to stop coming. He wants his weekend to be "comfortable and welcoming".

    So, instead, I watch my husband crack silly jokes hoping to make him laugh. I watch dh work hard at a relationship while this kiddo thinks, "Wow. This guy is a joke. I've got him in the palm of my hands."

    It is sooooo silly and so unlike my husband's typical way of parenting. But, heaven forbid, I say anything. I'm banging my head against the wall, guys, and getting more resentful by the minute.

    Give me some advice, I know I could do things better from my end but I think I'm losing perspective on the matter.
     
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  3. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Jan 23, 2011

    I can't offer any advice, but huge :hugs:. I can't imagine.
     
  4. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Sadly, since your DH doesn't want to change things, nothing much is likely to happen. Unfortunately, all he's teaching the boy is how to manipulate him. Make sure your own kids aren't influenced by him, even if it means spending a lot of time out of the house when your stepson is there.

    Have you ever watched "World's Strictest Parents" on CMT? Maybe your DH would get something out of it. (And I can't believe the kids threw a tantrum because you didn't buy him a car!)
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Unfortunately, your husband needs to handle the situation with his son. I don't think that it's your place to step into that relationship, and from the tone of your post I think you agree.

    Perhaps you and your husband need to enter some sort of marriage counseling? I'm not suggesting that the two of you have problems or anything, but maybe it would help the two of you communicate about his son and help him understand how important it is to set boundaries.
     
  6. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Jan 23, 2011

    TiffanyL, my heart goes out to you. Being a step-mom is one of the jobs I would not wish on anyone. I know there are great examples of wonderful relationships out there, but the deck is certainly stacked against you. I'd try to look at is as part of the overall package - you get a great husband who spends alternate weekends as a scared and bewildered father.

    You have already said you can't say anything about what's going on. That's unfortunately probably true. If you somehow did cause a change in the situation, you'd be blamed for whatever happens. That leaves you in a position of watching the train wreck in slow motion. Your husband is making big mistakes parenting his son. It is having collateral impact on your other children because they see what's going on and are learning from it. Resentment is surely building.

    The one ray of hope: counseling. Family Counseling - because it is not your Step son's problem alone, nor your husbands. All family problems involve all the people in the family. Is there any possible way you could get your group (your children, you, husband, and step son) into a therapy session? Perhaps a therapist could let your husband know the mistakes he's making and show him better ways while helping him deal with the fact that a 16 year old boy cannot rule the family on a bi-weekly weekend basis. The boy will do what he does - he may stop coming - but the road is long and the relationship through their lives will depend on what Dad does now.

    Like I said, step mother is on my list of dirty jobs. Focus on the bright sides and try to insert a non-invested third party (therapist) into the situation if possible.
     
  7. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL Cohort

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    Jan 23, 2011

    That may be a great idea! And, yes, he threw quite the tantrum. I guess I should be happy that DH and I agree on the significant things....such as the car issue.

    I just know that we would do so much better by PARENTING him rather than just smiling our way through the weekend.
     
  8. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL Cohort

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    Jan 23, 2011

    And, see, I guess in some regard I feel the exact opposite. I've been this child's stepmother since he was 4 1/2 years old. Its not like my husband and I married recently.

    Some of my resentment stems, selfishly, from feeling like...Hey, he needs to realize that his dad and I are a TEAM. This has gone on long enough. He needs to be a part of this family and if we need to say "boo" to him, then we say "boo".

    We are not unreasonable parents, we are fair and supportive parents. Why does it have to be different with just this ONE kid? Not speaking directly to you, Caesar, just speaking out loud here.
     
  9. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    Jan 23, 2011

    I think ground rules need to be set. I understand your husband, but your children are being hurt. They will become resentful. Trust me, I know. I had a foster brother that my parents took in when we were in 8th grade. At first he was allowed to do anything because his mother was sick and "he didn't know how to live with rules." Then when his mother died and my parents got guardianship, it was because "Poor Khris, his mother died." He was mean to me and my mother. My father would try to discipline him, but my mother would defend him. It all came to a head his 11th grade year. Two weeks before his 18th birthday, he missed curfew. My father grounded him. He got mad at my dad and decided to move out. He hit me and threatened to kill me when he called my parents some bad names and I stood up to him. I never told my parents, but my dad was principal and there were plenty of others that did. My mother cried because she felt she failed him and his mother daily. Two months later, he came home and asked to return. My parents had a 8 hour meeting with him and he was allowed to return with major rule change. The first being that he was moved into a small room that they built in the garage. My sister (12 years younger than me) and I had shared a room until he moved out and my parents refused to make us have to share again. I won't lie, we still had rough times, but he learned that the rules were there for everyone. I had a better year because I didn't have to worry that I was going to be the target of his just because I was the "good child". We aren't close now, but that is his choice.
     
  10. Ms. I

    Ms. I Maven

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    Jan 23, 2011

    My, my, my. First of all, I commend you on marrying a man who already had a kid (or kids). I wouldn't want to date, much less marry anyone who already has kids because I know I'll never be first & then the real mom's ALWAYS in the picture. I'd rather be alone. And I know the homelife tends to be like this when kids get to be pre-teens/teenage.

    Plus, if that's not bad enough, you may have married this man, but unfortunately have no say since you're not the real mother. It's up to your husband to make some BIG changes & put his foot down. He should drop a bomb on his son & say that he can't come over anymore until he shows you & the whole family much more respect & changes his attitude. But your husband's afraid to do this in fear of losing his son & his son going out there & getting into trouble, getting someone pregnant, or God knows what else. That's why your dad should have been & stayed firm from the very, very beginning when his son first started coming over, then the son would have known that he better stay good or else. It's a shame his real mom isn't a good mother. Family counselling involving your husband, his son, you, & even the real mom would help, but I doubt the mom & son would ever do it.

    I have no experience w/ this & don't want to. Life is already hard enough, but I wish you the best of luck w/ it all.
     
  11. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL Cohort

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Thanks Shelly. I don't know....maybe family counseling could help. As you guys help me reflect, I think its escalating right now because DH is doing all he can to change his son's mind about not wanting to visit any longer. I think that has really amped up the "catering" vibe going on. Its always been that way but definitely more manageable and not quite as extreme as lately.
     
  12. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jan 23, 2011

    You and your husband are a team, but you and your husband didn't make this kid together. I just don't feel like it is the step-parent's place to parent. It's your job to support what your husband does with regard to his son. Given that your husband seems to be making some bad decisions in that area, I think that your only option is to suggest some counseling.

    If you decide to step in and try to parent this kid by giving him rules and responsibilities, punishing him when he acts out, etc., you're going to find yourself standing between him and your husband. You and your husband will no longer be a team; instead you will be the third-party who tried to come between a dad and his kid. Don't think for one minute that this kid will suddenly turn his attitude around and start liking you and stop badmouthing you to his mother. It'll probably get worse, actually, and then you'll lose whatever footing you had with him in the first place. He'll become even more obstinate, and your husband will try even harder to repair what he will perceive as an attack on his child, catering to him even more.
     
  13. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Jan 23, 2011

    I agree with mrachelle. You and your husband need to set ground rules that need to be followed while in your home. It will be tough at first - he may rebel and maybe he won't want to come for a while. But, you cannot allow one child to rule the entire home.

    My parents divorced when I was young and my father remarried. I did not like my stepmother at all (however, she was, and continues to be, a giant b****). However, my sister and I knew that the rules in their home were the rules in their home. There was no waffling.

    For this to work, however, you husband needs to be 100% on board. Until that happens, I don't think there's much you can do.
     
  14. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Jan 23, 2011

    My mother was more of a mother to my half sisters than their mother will ever be. She set the rules, she doles out the discipline. She stayed up nights waiting for them to get home, she slept at the foot of the stairs during my sister's rebellious years, she worked three jobs so that they could go to the camps they wanted to. They hated her when they first came to live with us because they had never had rules before. But, eventually, they came to see all that they had now that they didn't have at home. She stayed up late the night before science fair projects were due. She drove them to auditions and interviews for college. Even after she and my father divorced, she still helped them with everything they needed, even though they were grown.

    Now, she was the one there when their kids were born. She was the one in the room with them at their weddings. She is the one they call first when they need advice, or just to visit and catch up.

    I definitely think that a stepmother has every right to parent a child! That would be like saying, "Oh, well you didn't give birth to this child you adopted, so now you can't parent it." To me, biology has nothing to do with family. Family is about love and responsibility, not who gave birth to whom.
     
  15. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jan 23, 2011

    It's not about biology in that since she didn't give birth to this kid, she shouldn't parent him. It's that this kid already HAS two parents who already parent him.

    She's free to try to parent him, but I think it will be a terrible idea--not because of biology, but because she wants to parent the kid differently than the kid's dad. She'll be fueling an already volatile situation, this time risking her relationship with her husband. She and her husband can't possibly be a "team" if they are playing for different sides.

    Edit:
    This article from PBS Parents might be useful. http://www.pbs.org/parents/experts/

    One thing it says is:
    Myth #3: "We're just like a regular biological family."
    Reality: Not really. Your new extended family and the linking of stepfamily co-parenting homes add up to loads of relatives with many major losses to mourn, and many conflicting values and customs to resolve. You are, however, normal--a normal multi-home stepfamily.


    Stepfamilies have unique circumstances that aren't present in biological families or families where the child is adopted. It's just how it is.
     
  16. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Being a step mom is incredibly difficult. I can't give you advice beyond a lot of what's been stated, but I concur that it really needs to be your husband's place to set rules and guidelines for him. If he does something that interfers with or hurts your children, then of course you should step in, but other than that, I wouldn't.

    As for the things like him watching whatever he wants on the family tv, I think it's within your bounds to shut that down. I would address him like you would a student. Don't give him an option, just say, "Hey, stepson, at 2:00pm, we're going to watch program X" or whatever. It just is what it is. If he melts down, let your husband handle it, but you maintain control of your house (just like you would your classroom).
     
  17. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Here are some of my thoughts...I'm too lazy to put them into a cohesive essay. :)

    1. I'm sorry you're dealing with this; I'm sorry your husband is handling the situation in this manner.

    2. I'm sorry your husband feels as though he needs to handle his son just so or else he'll stop visiting. This is not terribly uncommon. It's a sad fact of many divorces...and fathers are more often than not the ones in this situation. Often the father will in fact shower the kid with gifts or try to make every weekend magical to compensate for the unbalanced time between homes. Your husband is showering his son with...well, "tolerance". It's not effective, not good...but it comes from a good place within your husband's heart.

    3. Children who visit one parent on the weekends often see that home as their "vacation home"...

    4. You are not his babysitter, maid, or chef. You are his stepmother. Your husband chose to marry you in part because he had faith in your ability to help raise a son. While I do believe your husband should be the primary "disciplinarian", I don't believe step-parents are without a voice.

    5. While I believe the above statement, your stepson probably doesn't. So handle with care.

    6. Being a step-parent is hard. But from experience, so is being a stepchild. I've had two step-mothers. The stepmother I have now has been my stepmother since I was eleven. My stepfather has been my stepfather since I was six. And even though I know my parents' marriage was a disaster, even though I remember the fighting and remember being relegated to the barn during some fights, and even though I know had they not remarried I wouldn't have a few of my fabulous siblings, I still wish they could have been together.

    As a stepchild, I sometimes felt as though I didn't fully belong at either home. When I was with Dad, I wondered what was happening at Mom's and when I was with Mom I wondered what was happening at Dad's. I was jealous of my siblings at Dad's...I felt they were taking over my life. I remember once in high school I got off the bus and walked into an empty house. Mind you, we didn't have money so our families rarely did much of anything exciting...not even going out to eat and movies. So I was shocked and hurt to find a note saying my parents and stepsister had gone out of state to Holiday World, an amusement park. I wasn't even asked. I doubt you two are making such silly decisions, but even little things can be hurtful to children...and even tough, grouchy teenagers.

    7. With his mother being an alcoholic, I am sure she is fueling this fire with your stepson. So at least consider that. My parents didn't score high in the "support each other department even though we're divorced" category, and with her disease/disorder I would imagine she doesn't strive to paint a sunny picture and you and your husband.
     
  18. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jan 23, 2011

    One of my friends has two step children. At the time the stepchildren were 17 & 18. Friend's children were 8 & 12. The step-children had never been raised with their father, so they were teenagers before they ever visited him, although he paid child support.

    When he welcomed them into their house (against the wishes of the mothers--two separate moms) there were issues much like you mentioned. Both children were much different than the two younger children. Friend and her husband laid down the house rules for the older children, and they both balked. The son was given one of their old cars on the stipulation that he would go back to school and keep his grades up. He signed up, but didn't go. They went and got the car from him. The daughter wanted to come and go as she pleased and threatened to never come back if they continued with the rules. The told her that was fine, and she left.

    Now that the children are older--early 20's--they do have a relationship with their father, stepmother, and half-siblings.

    The biggest plus is that the stepmom got support from her husband, so they presented a united front to the kids . . . all of the kids.

    Good luck!
     
  19. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Tiffany...I'm sending you :hugs:.
    Unfortunately, I think some of the laziness you are seeing in your stepson is part of teenage boys...my sons (born and bred) have the messiest rooms and would claim the recliner if we had one! The disrespectful talk, though, is out of bounds. Could be he is testing you but it's good you don't give in.
    I think the suggestions about family counseling are good ones...right now you are going thru a difficult time with this kiddo, but in the long run he will come to realize that you and your husband really were the ones who were 'there' for him.
    :love:
     
  20. Dynamite Boys

    Dynamite Boys Companion

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    Jan 23, 2011

    I, too, am a stepmother. I have a 16 year old stepson, a 13 year old stepdaughter. My husband and I have 2 boys - 7 & 6. I have been a stepmother since the kids were 5 and 3, so I'm not new to this either.

    Much of your story, I could have written myself. However, I will admit, that my hubby's ex has gotten past the bad mouthing us part. Not that there aren't "moments" where we have differing opinions, but for the most part there is respect between the two families. In fact, I sat with the kids mom at a basketball game yesterday; she attended my 6 year old's birthday party for a few minutes dropping the older two off and brought a gift. So, I do feel blessed that we have gotten past the bad mouthing.

    Back to your post. My 16 year old and your are incredibly similar. (However, mine already has a car . . . that he feels he can drive anywhere, at any point in time and since his mom bought him for him, it doesn't matter what we think.) He is very lazy and takes over the house when he's here. The remote, the couch, the bathroom, ugh. My stepdaughter holes herself up in her bedroom and hibernates. We see her for meals. It had gotten so bad that our situation came to a head a few weeks ago. I told my husband that I was done being treated so disrespectfully. He had a choice - to sit down with the kids and talk to them or I would get a hotel room every week (yep - they're at our house every other week not just every other weekend) for the boys and I. He was afraid they would both want to go full time back to their mom's house after the talk, but so far neither of them has mentioned it. We've only had one week that they've been at our house since "the talk", but we had a much better week. They were polite and respectful. I don't know how long it will last or if it even will. However, my husband has had to swallow his pride and accept that if they want to move to their mom's house full time they can.

    We provide the structure, the discipline and the alcohol free environment. Both kids have commented on that numerous times. We hope if they choose to move out - at some point they will miss the structure we provided.

    A few things . . . as a stepparent - you are allowed to "parent" and discipline and should be treated with respect. I've often said, you shouldn't love me as you do your mom, but you should respect me as you would an Aunt. My money contributes to their "fun" fund, "college" fund, "gas" fund, etc and if they can't be respectful, they don't get money from us.

    I think as stepmothers we have one of the hardest roles there is. We love our stepchildren and want the best for them, but don't truly get the appreciation we deserve. Patience and kindness are truly the key to surviving these teenage years! You have my thoughts . . . as I truly know where you are coming from!
     
  21. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL Cohort

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Thanks Czacza. You are probably right as DH also has a 20 year old son who I'm much closer to now that he is older. I believe that is because he is more mature and also because his mother is no longer influencing him as much. He's able to make his own decisions and realize we are actually pretty nice people.

    When it comes to him, DH and I seem to make the decisions together and are more in sync. But, again, he is older and more independent.
     
  22. TiffanyL

    TiffanyL Cohort

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Wow!! You are LIVING my life....LOL! So comforting to know, however, that I'm not being irrational...it is difficult. What's hard for me is that I also have a 16 year old son but, at least with him, I insist on teaching him how to be considerate. Doesn't mean I'm always successful...but darn it....I keep working at it.

    With me stepson, we aren't even trying!!! I'm bound and determined however to help my hubby realize that he needs a dad, not a friend.
     
  23. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Jan 23, 2011

    Tiffany, I have no experience here. I'm not a step kid, I have no step parents or step siblings, I have no step kids.

    So all I can offer is my heartfelt wishes that you find your way through this.
     
  24. Kindergarten31

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    Jan 24, 2011

    When I married my husband, he had 3 children in their teens, but twin 17 year olds and an 18 year old. I didn't have to do too much, since they were all pretty good kids. I might be the only one who feels this way, but I say take a break from the boy for a month or so. Let him stay with Mom and maybe he will realize how easy he has it when he comes to visit and you might have a bargaining chip. He will be an adult (ha) in two years. It's hard.
     
  25. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Jan 24, 2011

    I am not in this position, so I can't offer any real advice. I did have a co-worker once who had the very same issue with her step-son. Perhaps your DH feels guilty because he is not with him all the time and that is why he treats his son differently? This could be. Maybe you can approach a conversation with DH and ask him how he feels about his son being treated different than the other kids, and ask if he thinks this might end up hurting his son in the long-end. In any case, communication is going to be the best way through this. Good luck!
     

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