When bio mom is barely involved

Joanna - posted on 01/04/2016 ( 3 moms have responded )

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I'm just wondering how many step moms are parenting for an absent mother. I've been parenting my step sons for 3 years. The youngest has hardly had a relationship with his bio mom. She is an alcoholic & was passed out for most of his life after he turned 1. I struggle with the fact that I love these boys & do all the dirty work, including homework & discipline, but I'm still never more than a glorified nanny. They love me & it's a good relationship. It's just hard not to be hurt at times. I taught my step son to ride a bike & tie his shoes. His mother has shown up a handful of times, though she is always very sweet with her words & probably doing her best considering how bad her addiction is. I realize it's normal for the boys to feel like they do, it's just painful at times. The youngest said something to me, innocently, about me not being his real family. It stung...a lot. Anyone else dealing with this? Any advice?

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Raye - posted on 01/06/2016

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I do get where you're coming from, and I don't think the feelings are "irrational". You do so much for others, and it's hard when you don't feel recognized. It's not like you're asking for some big reward for being a good person, but someone just seeing how much you do and acknowledging your own struggles and effort. I get it. And it's okay to feel that way. Just don't expect some standing ovation from the family, because that rarely happens.

Cut yourself some slack, and also know that it's usually not intentional when the hubs or kids are ungrateful. These kids are caught in the middle of a situation they really don't understand and are torn in their emotions and loyalties. Seeing their struggle hurts me more, because that's what leads them to say those things that sting (whether intentionally or not). They don't have the emotional maturity to hold back before they speak and they just let fly whatever half formed thought is on the tip of their tongue. It's usually not personal, even when they do intentionally try to hurt you (I'm just waiting for the "you're not my mom!" argument). Usually, that means you're doing something right. It may not be what they want, but they can't see the bigger picture, so they need you to do what's right... not what's easy.

I try to focus on the positive things, and let them know that I love them as much as I can. I think that's good advice for any parent, not just steps. The kids eventually should be able to see who has really been there for them, and know that you cared enough to make the hard choices.

And my husband is also a "fixer". Sometimes if I'm just talking out loud to get something straight in my own head, he will hear and think he has to swoop in and fix it. And that's usually the last thing I want. lol

Joanna - posted on 01/05/2016

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Thanks for your reply. It helps to not feel alone or like I'm the only one having these kinds of feelings, which I know are irrational. I have 4 kids of my own & their dad abandoned them. The oldest one tolerates her dad, the middle two want nothing to do with him & my youngest son thinks his dad is a superhero even though he hasn't seen him more than a couple times in two years. And while they all like their step-dad, they don't see him as their dad. Thanks for sharing your own experience. I never thought I'd be a step parent & sometimes I'm surprised at my shallow feelings. I could talk to my husband, but he'd just try to fix it & I'm really not needing a solution, just someone that gets where I'm coming from! :)

Raye - posted on 01/05/2016

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There is always a special bond with the bio-parent, no matter how broken the relationship. My dad is an asshole, was manipulative to all of us when he was around, but mostly didn't want to have anything to do with me. I still love him because he's my father, but I learned he's a jerk. We're "friends" on Facebook, but I have long since stopped hoping for his approval or any kind of real relationship with him. And your SK will probably come to that point with their mom, sooner or later.

I am a step-mom of two, so I understand your frustration and baby-mama-drama. My step-kids' mom is more in the picture, but she's clinically bi-polar, is self-centered, and ignores them most of the time they are with her. I have been more of a "real" mom to them in the manner of caring and being attentive to their needs. My SS even told me he sometimes feels I am like his real mom. But one time we were out to dinner, and the waitress asked the kids to ask "mom and dad" about dessert, and my SS said out loud "she's not our real mom"... and that was awkward. He wasn't saying it to be mean, he was telling the truth, but knowing that didn't remove the sting.

What I say to my SK is that, while they didn't grow in my belly, they grew in my heart. They are my family. Family is not always who you're related to by blood, but who sticks with you during the good times and the bad. These may be "cliché", but no less true. I will never have any kids of my own, and I have told my SK that they are the only kids I will ever have, and I chose to be their step-mom because I love their father and I love them. I can't control what their mom does or make her a better mother/person. And yes, I sometimes have to deal with the kids' feelings about their mom (both positive and negative) and get some flak when they act out because she's less than she should be. But we step-moms who care make a difference in those kids' lives, and help them grow to be better people than they would be without us. We have to take solace in that and find strength to keep going not only because they need it, but because to do less would be to go against our very nature to be the loving people we are. Disney got it wrong... step-mother's aren't usually wicked. They can be tireless, selfless, underappreciated people that give their all to someone else's kids when they could have chosen otherwise.

I get what you're saying about feeling like a glorified nanny, as I often still feel like an "outsider". But you can't take it personally. "Mom" is in the title of "step-mom", and you are the mother figure in your house. They may not realize how special you are or how much you do, but sometime when they're older they probably will and will gain a new appreciation for you. Until then (and even if they don't realize it), you can only just do your best. And your best IS good enough.

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