At 26 and childless I moved in with my partner and became stepmum to his 3 kids alternate weekends, then aged 4/5, 8 and 10. I really tried to love them like my own and treat them accordingly but it was never good enough. They were spoiled, moody and sulky. Their dad had split from the mother 3 years previously so there was no overlap or anything like that. My husband didn’t enforce much in the way of routine either. Their mother treated me like I was a bit of skirt or fluff and was bossy to me, or superior in her manner but polite generally. Over the years, we’ve got married, had our own son together (now aged 14), had the youngest move in with us from age 13 to going off to uni and had the two oldest get married in the last six months. I’ve often provided money, treats such as weekends and nights away, dinners and trips out as a family and worked hard to make sure that our blended family gets on with their mother, grandmother etc. by sending cards for birthdays and inviting them to significant meals like Easter Sunday.
so. I’ve had them in my life for 20 years.
The ages are now almost 30, 28 and 24.
I’m done now. For 20 years, I’ve been treated like I don’t matter by them. They’ve ignored my requests to be informed of attendance at family meals leaving me with headaches and stress regarding how much shopping to get, spare rooms to get ready, food to prepare etc. If I send a gift as I did frequently during lockdown then my husband is profusely thanked and not me, even though it’s apparent he hasn’t had any involvement.
I feel taken advantage of. I feel disrespected. I feel it’s time for me to detach . I need to concentrate on my own family and put some distance between me and these adults. I’m finding it really hard. I know that if I stop the cards, the thoughtful gifts, the arranging of meals and trips, my husband won’t pick up what I’ve stopped and I will get the blame for what they will choose to see as his detachment. Truth is, its been me who has made all the effort all these years. He’s just sat back and let me.
it’s feels like I’ve only just acknowledged this highly dysfunctional and toxic relationship needs to be cut back. It feels like I’ve spent 20 years trying to get them to like me, to do the “right” thing that society and extended families demand of me as a stepmum. I genuinely feel like a victim of mental abuse.
Wow my heart goes out to you. What a selfless person you have been. You must love your husband an awful lot. I feel that my situation gives me mental abuse too. Always trying to do the right thing. I wish you the best of luck in starting to focus on you. Because you don't get the recognition you deserve from your step children it's vital your husband acknowledges your efforts. Again and again as you need to build up that self esteem. Pat on the back from me xxx
@Enough Oh my, I can totally see why you feel how you do. As women we so often pick up the slack for all the things which help build relationships with families and in a step situation we hardly ever get the acknowledgement. Just this morning I have got all the birthday cards out for my husband and kids to sign for my stepdaughter as she'll be with her Mum on her birthday and I want her to at least have a card from us on the day (we do presents when she is with us).
I think @Swordfish offers great advice below. It is definitely time to detach and focus on yourself and your family. My advice would be to chat to your husband about it and let him know you are going to step back. Then it's on him to decide if he is going to step up.
I know how painful this is though. How have things been for you over the last few months? x
Ah thank you. I didn’t realise how much I needed my effort acknowledged by ANYONE until I saw your reply. I will keep going with the detaching. I appreciate you taking the time to reassure me I’m doing the right thing.
I think you are doing absolutely the right thing. They don't appreciate you or your kindness.
In a perfect world perhaps they will begin to see how much you have done for them, but I don't think that's likely. Deep down they will know that it's been you all of these years doing these thoughtful things and so when they stop they will likely feel slighted but frankly I don't think that's your problem. You have done what you could and it hasn't worked out, you can't work yourself to the bone trying to build something that isn't coming. I will say that my unfair resentment of my stepmother didn't fully change until I was in my mid 20s and when it did, it had less to do with her actions and more to do with my maturity, so perhaps it may change with time.
You've given enough of yourself to help raise them. It's time to focus on yourself and your family.