Stepchildren add stress to childless marriages

In last Friday’s post, I asked whether having stepchildren made you a mother. For me, it’s part yes, part no. Fred’s kids have been in my life for almost 30 years, but their biological mother is the one they think of as Mom. And that makes sense. If my father remarried, his new wife might be the most wonderful woman in the world, and we might love her very much, but she could never take the place of our real mother. That’s just biology, plus family history.

If your partner has children from a previous marriage, he will always have a connection to them that you can never have. They are his kids, not yours. When a conflict arises between you and the kids, who is he going to side with? The new wife may find herself competing for her husband’s time and attention, as well as his money. This can put a real damper on a marriage.

When he (or she) has kids and you don’t, that can add to the stress. As several readers have commented here, it gets even worse when his children grow up and have babies of their own. Now he gets to be a grandparent and you don’t.

Now some couples have no problem with any of this. They and the kids become one happy family, and they don’t even think the word “step.” They’re all “our kids.” They are blessed. I hear from plenty of people for whom having stepchildren makes a painful situation even more difficult.

How is it for you? Does your partner have kids from a previous marriage? Do they live with you or with their other parents? Do you get along? Does having them make your childlessness more difficult? Let’s talk about it.

98 thoughts on “Stepchildren add stress to childless marriages

  1. Thank you for posting this! I am a 35-year-old soon to be first-time mom, and my stepmother does not have children of her own. I know she is really excited to be a “grandma,” but it brings up a lot of confusing feelings for me, especially since my mother died 13 years ago. My stepmom means well, but I guess I just feel like I constantly have to set boundaries with her because I know she envisions some kind of “mother-daughter” relationship (she's been with my dad since I was 9) that I do not want. I have finally accepted that she is here and in my life, and all that I can do is continue to be kind but also keep setting boundaries. It is working, but I guess what I really wish is for her to just go away. But that's not going to happen, and she makes my dad happy, and I know that all she wants is to be loved and included. Her deep desire to express her love (she used to send me lots of “I love you” text messages but has stopped since I stopped replying to them) comes off as not genuine and I often think she only wants to be so close to me so that she can talk to all her friends about “being a mom” and “mom stuff.” To put it simply, she annoys me, and I know that I judge her because she has no idea what it means to be a parent.


    • Wow Anonymous May 28, that is heartbreaking, and downright cruel.

      The reason I am responding is because I am currently in the position your stepmother was. I am about to get engaged to a man who has a 9 year old daughter and I do not have any children.

      I spend hours studying my butt off trying to do the right thing: understand my role, show the right support and the right respect. I am also trying to understand the viewpoint of someone who has a stepparent. I talk to as many people in similar situations as I can because I can’t think of anything more AWFUL than a post like this.

      The line I take issue with is that you judge her so harshly for trying to be a good parent to you. It sounds like her heart was in the right place and did the best she could–what she was EXPECTED to do. But I have the feeling if she was detached instead you would complain about that too because you are taking out frustrations you have in life on someone who doesn’t deserve it.

      She may have no idea what it means to be a parent (she does–you selfishly withhold giving her credit), but YOU have no idea what it means to be a stepmother.

      Whatever trauma you are dealing with is not HER fault. Do you honestly think she wanted to come in and ruin your life and take over as a mom? You yourself said she just wants to be liked and included, yet you kick dirt in her face. Why doesn’t she deserve your respect? Why doesn’t your FATHER? Can you imagine how heartbroken the man would be to hear you say such mean and nasty things?

      A person who accepts the role of step motherhood is a SAINT. She is a person who knows she will be expected to love the children as her own, to care for them as a mother would, and for her finances to be affected by people she has no obligation to, to feel marginalized and excluded and accused of doing things she hasn’t. After a lifetime of sacrifice, THIS is the thanks they get. What the hell is wrong with you?

      After reading comments like this, I am seriously doubting that marrying a man with a young daughter is a good idea. I can only hope you learn some things about life you have missed before you pass on this pattern of hatred to your future child.


      • Wow, a little harsh, Ms. Jones. Every situation is different. But you’re right about how hard it can be to be a stepparent. The kids rarely understand that, as you said, usually the woman (or the man) just wants to be liked and included. They want to be part of the family. I wouldn’t give up on your potential marriage yet.


    • I guess this is the truth. But even my feelings are hurt for the woman who help raise you. There is probably some deep seated reasons why you feel this and the comment section is no the best place to detail them.


    • Hi Anonymous,
      I just want to speak from the side your stepmom is on. I am 36 myself and will never be able to have my own children. I have dreamt of having children of my own for as long as I can remember. It hurts so deep that the pain of that never truly goes away. I am a childless stepmom myself, and it is very hard. She may really love you as much as she says, which is the very best that she knows how. I know I love my stepchildren unconditionally, and would die for them. They have their mom, and I respect that, and don’t ever try to take her place. I have reiterated that to them time and time again. I just want you to try to understand how hard this is for her, and maybe try to give her a chance to love you how much she would like to love you. I doubt that she wants to take your mothers place. I think she just wants you to see that she will always be there for you no matter what, through thick and thin. She loves you. Could you try to give her a chance to be the best stepmom and step grandma to you and your child? That’s probably one of her deepest desires. Especially since she will never have an opportunity to know or feel what the love is like as a biological mother or grandmother.


    • You sound very hurtful. Why can,t you be kind? You also sound very smug. I am not sure who I feel the most sorry for. You or your step mum.


    • Wow Anonymous, I agree with Ms. Jones. Your stepmother has been a huge part of your life since you were 9 years old. That is commitment right there. She is not trying to take the place of your biological mother or compete with her. Your comment, “To put it simply, she annoys me and I know that I judge her because she has no idea what it means to be a parent,” is completely wrong. You don’t have to have biological children to be a real parent. If I was your stepmother, I would have stopped talking to you a long time ago. Be grateful you have a stepparent who loves you.


  2. Wow, Anonymous May 28, my own stepdaughter could have written this. Thank you for sharing this point of view. I can't help identifying with your stepmother, and I can see how she wants to claim all the goodies that come with being a mother. If she met you when you were nine, she probably feels she earned them. But I see your side too. She is not your mother and never will be. It's hard on both sides. I wish you all the best with your baby.


  3. Hi. I have to agree with a lot of you. I read the blog post and all the corresponding comments, and you are all mentioning some very true feelings that most of us stepparents feel from time to time (or a lot more than that!). I can also identify with these feelings in regards to my own relationship. In contrast to most of you, I am a man, and my wife has a 13-year-old son from a previous marriage. I’m 24, and my wife is 33 years of age.She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she had her baby, and had to have her thyroid removed after her child was born. We have been trying to get pregnant for the last two years. She had a miscarriage about a year ago. We have been recovering emotionally ever since. The funny thing is that I grew up in almost the exact same situation as I am in now. My mother married my younger stepdad and they had two kids of their own. He was an emotionally abusive stepdad, so I never really felt the same connection with him as I did with my real dad, so I totally understand where my stepson is coming from. I rejected and hated my stepdad as a kid, and I honestly believe that nothing he did would have made the relationship anywhere near as special or connected as my relationship with my real dad. Still, I find it very hard to deal with the thought of perhaps never having children of my own. When we have an argument or a fight, and I get to hear things like “You’re not my real dad,” or “When me and MY DAD did this or that,” or It’s OK, Mom, don`t get upset, he is just my stepdad,” it hurts, and cuts really deep. I just hold it in, because I am tired of my wife not understanding, getting upset and telling me that I should be less selfish, not receiving much understanding or sympathy from my wife, as she can never truly understand exactly how I feel or how much it hurts. She already has a very close relationship with her real biological son. I get angry, frustrated and find myself drowning in silent despair whenever the thought enters my mind. After countless arguments with my wife about it, I stopped bringing it up. I just end up holding it in while trying to deal with it myself. Most of the time it ends up with me being seriously depressed for three to four days, then slowly getting over it, until the next time it happens. I don`t know if I can handle not having children of my own, as I can`t stand the thought of my stepson having children and me not being able to. I don`t know how to deal with this in my life. I have very conflicting feelings about it and the time passing by, month by month, does not make anything better. Any feedback is appreciated.


  4. Mr. Anonymous June 4, thanks for sharing this. It helps to hear from people in different situations. I sympathize. Stepchildren aren't easy, and when you don't have your own kids, they're twice as hard. You are only 24, so I wouldn't give up on anything yet. By the time you're the age your wife is now, your stepson will be an adult, and who knows, you may have your own kids. I hope so. But right now, don't bottle up your feelings. It's not healthy. Talk to someone. If you can't talk about it with your wife, find a friend, a family member or counselor with whom you can let it all out. I hope it all works out for you.


  5. Hi, I was wondering if there was anyone I could talk to who has remained childless but has a stepchild and what was your experience?

    I have an absolutely wonderful relationship with my stepdaughter, and she feels like I am more of a mother to her than her biological mum (she loves how she can). I had always wanted children, but now am having serious doubts about having more.

    I would love to talk to someone who has been in a similar situation to offer some advice. I am surrounded by friends and family with children and I think if I hear “it’s different with your own,” I might scream!


  6. I’m in a conundrum right now. Before we got married, my husband told me he had a kid from a previous relationship, but had never met the child. Wasn’t sure if it was a boy or a girl. Ex-girlfriend didn’t want him to see the baby because he asked her about getting an abortion when she got pregnant. So he told me before marriage that he had no interest in ever having kids or even meeting that one. I also at the time (I was 20) didn’t want kids either. So we agreed no kids. Here we are 14 years later, hubby decided to get a vasectomy. I was a little hesitant because even though I’m pretty sure I don’t want kids, it felt like I was being cut off from the option. He went ahead with it. Pretty much just told me the date & that I had to drive the car. Well, as luck would have it, eight months later, his child from the other relationship sent him a letter. Saying he didn’t blame him for having never met him and he wanted to get to know his father. I kept quiet and pretty much let my hubby dig his own grave while he was gushing over the letter. He was overly excited which seemed weird to me based on our previous conversations.
    He even started making plans about buying tickets to do this and that (Keep in mind when I wanted to go to one of those things, we couldn’t afford it). We had plans for traveling up to my brother’s wedding (which is in same state as the child) which was going to be stressful enough bringing three large dogs on a six-hour trip, plus the next day another two hours to the venue, two hours back and then drive home the next day. He wanted to see the kid then–when, I have no clue due to the overloaded schedule as it was. The whole time he was talking, I just kept quiet. After an hour, he finally asked me if something was wrong.
    I told him I was confused, as he told me before we were married that he wanted no kids, had no interest in that one, and even went so far as to get a vasectomy so I wouldn’t get pregnant. Now I’m definitely sure I don’t want to be a stepparent. I lived through that mess growing up with my own mom and dad and stepmom. It was an utter disaster and nothing but stress. He never had to deal with custody battles and arguments over child support–which I lived though as both of my parents didn’t hesitate to tell me about everything and their hate of each other and what the other did wrong. So having been a part of that my entire youth, I just can’t do it again.
    Plus, as selfish as it sounds, I really don’t want to split time with him. From the start of our relationship, it’s been the two of us, talking about how it’ll just be the two of us when we’re old and grey. That’s not what I see anymore.
    So I told him, just to be straight up and honest, that I can’t be a part of any of that. And that while we’re still young-ish, maybe we should get a divorce now and save the trouble later. We can end on good terms now, vs when he actually has a relationship with his kid and I start to get resentful. Because I will, I know me.
    He started by saying he doesn’t have to respond to the kid now; it’s been this long it can wait a little longer. I said I can’t even do this in the future. He then said that he doesn’t want to lose me and that he won’t contact the kid at all. End of story.
    Here’s the problem. A couple of weeks later, I had to put something in our safe. Which is in the closet. As I was doing so, he got overly interested, almost suspiciously, asking what I was doing and watched me. This is odd. He’s never done that before. So when he went out on a couple of errands a day or two later, I went into the safe and went through it. There it was: the letter from the kid.
    What do I do? I feel like he thinks I’m going to change my mind in the future, so he’s holding on to the letter which has all the contact info and the kid’s whole name. I haven’t told him I found it. And he still acts suspicious when I go into the safe.


    • Dear Need Help, you may not like my comment, but here goes. People have a right to change their minds. If you love your husband, you will support his efforts to get to know his son instead of being a bitch about it. Try it. Maybe you’ll like the kid.


      • I think his lying is the real issue here and not my feelings on the matter. Glad you could see that. I’ve changed my mind on things before, but it was never in less than two minutes and never on something so important. Which tells me he was probably lying when we met. I’m sorry that I was straight up truthful from the get-go and have known who I am from a young age. I’m not a kid person, nor will I ever be. I’ve stated that many, many times. My family knows that, his family knows that, friends know that. It has never been a secret. Some people just aren’t kid people and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s why they get in relationships/marry people of like minds. That’s what I thought I did.


      • NeedHelp, you’re right. Lying is the issue. If you were always clear about not wanting kids, that’s totally unlikely to change, but some of us keep living in fairy tales. Thanks for sharing this.


  7. I am feeling the absolute weight, stress, sadness, devastation of my situation today, and having a difficult time coping. Thankful to have found this blog, it is helpful to have a place where our feelings are validated, but also brings attention to the brutal reality of being a childless stepparent.

    Today is my boyfriend of over three years’ youngest son’s 10th birthday. He has three total, 10, 12, 13. Same story as so many, we have a 13-year age difference, him 45, me 32. He doesn’t want more kids. I have realized over the past 2 years that I very much want to be a mother.

    This is THE man for me, and the much used ‘to stay or to go’ is ever-present in my thoughts. I know I cannot live with the regret, so I have come to terms with leaving if the answer is a no. But waiting for him to determine whether no is his final answer has been difficult to say the least.

    I’ve found even more pain in feeling like I’m trying to talk him into something he doesn’t want. It feels so unnatural and it ends up picking at my self-esteem.

    We are in counseling, working on sorting this out, but today I am just riddled with so much heartache.

    Both sets of grandparents, his entire family, including Mom herself for a short while, will be at our house for the birthday dinner and celebrations in four hours. I have fought the urge to sob since the alarm went off this morning. And I know its not a good day to burden him with my feelings, because he deserves to enjoy his son’s birthday.

    I feel like my thoughts aren’t my own. I imagine the reminiscing he is doing of the day his youngest entered the world, the cute moment shared among the biological parents of this child as they chatted on the phone this morning, and how his entire family knows I want a child and that he doesn’t, but I’m supposed to put on my happy face and love playing hostess tonight, while everyone avoids the elephant in the room.

    I know my boyfriend can tell I’m sad today, but he is playing ostrich with the head-in-the-sand approach, which isn’t helping. A tiny bit of acknowledgement could likely go a long way.

    Some days are great, but today feels like a knife being twisted in my heart. Encouragement desperately needed, people.


    • Drue, so many of us know how you feel. It’s so hard when he has kids and you don’t. I hope it’s not as bad as you expected and you can find at least one person who gets it. Remember, it’s not the kids’ fault.


  8. I found this post while looking for information on what to do when a stepchild is competing with you for attention from his father. Anytime my husband will give me any sort of attention – talking to me, showing me a affection – one of his sons has to be right there cutting in between us. I understand that having dad to himself and then having me come along must be difficult for a child, but I’ve now been around for almost as long as he had dad to himself and this whole thing is starting to become almost comical (my husband even jokingly comments on it every time my stepson tries to push in between us). A few weeks ago, we were all watching a movie. My husband joined us after the movie had started and decided to sit next to me. All of a sudden, his 10 year old son, who was happy and content sitting where he was, came up and sat on my husband’s lap (which I’ve never seen him do). I didn’t say anything about it, but I think it sums up the stepmother’s existence because would a child always be trying to squeeze in the middle of a hug between his parents or compete with his mom for attention from his dad? It is an awkward relationship, for sure. I’m expected to give up my time, my money, and my privacy in my relationship with my husband. I’m also expected to show my devotion to two children who, while they are polite to me, do not see me as a parent and don’t show me any affection or appreciation. We recently went out with my husband’s family for my birthday and his two children ignored me. I don’t fault them for feeling that way. They didn’t choose to have me in their lives, but I also didn’t envision having a marriage where I would have two children who are essentially like houseguests to me (I prepare their food, make sure their clothes are clean, plan activities for them, pick up after them, all with maybe some passing conversation), two children who often come before me, who often treat me as an interloper in their lives, and who really just want to spend time with Dad (again, I don’t blame them for that, but Dad expects me to want to spend time with them and gets mad at me if I make other plans to give them alone time, accusing me of not wanting to spend time with his children). These are two children whom my husband loves dearly, so I have to be sure I’m being motherly toward them and sacrificing for them, because I’ve committed to partnering with him and that’s what he wants; two children who bring their high-conflict mother into my life, who again, I have to bear with grace and dignity, because she’s the mother of the two children who live in my house and society loves to sympathize with a divorced mother who is after all only stirring up trouble to “protect her children.” When I read the first comment about the stepdaughter who tolerates her stepmother but ultimately could do without her, I think that will be my situation in a few years. My stepsons might invite me around because that’s what their dad wants (although not if their mom pitches a fit and she very well might), but won’t genuinely want me around, just like she doesn’t genuinely want her stepmother around. Society (other than fellow stepmothers) will sympathize with them for feeling this way, but would also vilify the stepmother as “cold” if she wasn’t trying to build a mother-daughter relationship or eagerly awaiting the arrival of her step-grandchild. It’s difficult to feel like I should invest in anything more than being polite and marginally helpful to my stepchildren, because I know what I’ll get in return. Yet, society would vilify me if I ever said any of this out loud. I think this is the very reason that being a stepmother is so difficult. Society expects, almost demands, that you will be a mother to your stepchildren and treat them as your own, even though it’s very rare that your stepchild will ever view you as a parent and even if everyone (especially their mother and often the stepchild) feels that you’re overstepping if you do in fact, try to act like a mother. It’s disheartening to sacrifice repeatedly for a child, only to have them at best offer a perfunctory thank you and at worst, bring undue drama into your life. As anyone who is married to a divorced parent knows, your stepchild will often try to exert their own power in your relationship with your spouse, and relatives of the stepchildren (including their father sometimes) will often assume your intentions are not as pure or as loving as they would like them to be and judge you for that (even without any evidence to back up their claims like the stepdaughter who posted above, who thinks her stepmother is only acting interested so she can talk about “mom” things with her mother friends). I know that my mother-in-law has already spoken to my husband about ensuring that his children are protected in his will and how he should make someone other than me his executor to make sure the kids get “what is rightfully theirs” (even though my husband literally has nothing to leave in his nonexistent will, at this point and even though, God willing, managing his will, will not be anything we have to manage for 40-50 years). Knowing what I know now, I don’t think I would have married someone with children if given a second chance to decide. I love my husband dearly, but being a stepmother may be the most thankless job there is and facing a lifetime of this, it’s difficult to know how gracious I can be, before I crack. It’s hard to fight the urge to totally disengage, but I feel like disengaging gets you into the situation where everyone says you deserve to be treated like a non-entity, because you disengaged, even though you actually disengaged because you were being treated like a non-entity. It feels like a Catch-22 if there ever was one.


    • Struggling, so much of what you say mirrors my experience with stepchildren. Now that their father is gone, they act as if I never existed. It’s a thankless job that occasionally turns out well but not often. Thanks for sharing this.


    • Nice post! Wow, kids are so selfish sometimes! This kind of reminds me of something that I went through as a child. You said, “I’m expected to give up my time, my money, and my privacy in my relationship with my husband. I’m also expected to show my devotion to two children who while they are polite to me, do not see me as a parent and don’t show me any affection or appreciation.”

      When I was about 8-10 years old, I had two working parents and my sister and I went to gymnastics classes after school. I had another classmate who went to the same gymnastics class as me so my mother arranged for me and my sister to ride with my classmate as her mom was a teacher at our school and could easily lend us a ride to the gym. I also believe this teacher/mom was actually my younger sister’s teacher at the time too. Anyways, once or twice one of us forgot our leotards and she had to actually drive a whole two miles out of the way so we could go to our house and grab the leotard. Then one day out of the blue before we got out of the car, she looks at us and says, I’m not going to be driving you to gymnastics anymore because you have never once said “Thank you.” We were both shocked. First of all, I had assumed my mother had probably said thank you to her, I didn’t think we were that much of an inconvenience to her, and most of all, it had never even occurred to me to say thank you to her for the ride. That was a true life lesson to me. After that, we were basically on our own to get rides to gymnastics. My mother worked about 27 miles away from the town we went to school in and we had to wait for her to drive back to our town to get a ride from our mom, which was an enormous inconvenience to everyone. We never really understood why either. I mean I remember being alone after school waiting for a half hour by ourselves.

      So, my point is, maybe these kids are being selfish and not respecting their stepparent because it doesn’t really occur to them what is the nature of the relationship. Of course, the dad should make this clear, that you also love them and care for them and also do a lot of work in taking care of them, which they should appreciate more. But maybe you should just sit them down and look them in the eye and give them a stern talking to, like this teacher of mine did. It really did make an impact on me!


    • StrugglingStepmom,

      This response may only come in 4 years too late and so I don’t know what situation you are in now, but I am in your situation right now (more or less)… and it is pretty painful.

      To sum up, I have been in a 7-year relationship with my partner and he has 2 daughters from his previous marriage. The children live with their mother but come to ours every second weekend and during school holidays. His ex has always disliked me from the start and had always call me names, which I thought would fade overtime, but hasn’t. I was never sure why she hated me because I met my partner about a year after they broke up. Her hatred towards me continues 7 years later and she has always tried to influence the kids by saying things like, ‘your father prefers his girlfriend over you’ and so on. Mind you, the ex was always the one who wouldn’t let us take the children overseas, etc. for fear that we won’t look after them properly (completely unjustified).

      Anyway, lately the youngest daughter (teenage years) is going through a rebellious phase and she would act rudely towards her father and also me. I once disciplined her and it did not go down well (I never laid hands on her, I just lost my patience and started raising my voice and putting her stuff that were thrown all around the floor into the bin as she wouldn’t clean up her room). In hindsight, I probably should have left this task to my partner, as she is not my child. But my partner is so relaxed and he would always take the backseat in this whole parenting game. He is also not great at communicating (like most men probably are) and he always just ends up telling her off and yelling at her instead of trying to explain things to her in a mild mannerism, if that makes sense. Its like he almost doesn’t know when to explain and talk to the child calmly and when to get angry and set the boundaries. This really frustrates me at times.

      I have set some house rules for when they are here, but they never like these and they continually try to test our boundaries and break these rules. Because the whole disciplining thing did not go down well that other time, I have since tried to get my partner to be more proactive at disciplining them. The kids of course still don’t like it and they test their father all the time. I think they feel that I am the force behind all these, and that they feel that their father would just be more chilled and relaxed if I wasn’t in the picture, and perhaps this is why they have recently rebelled a lot; the younger one more so than the older one.

      Their father is also really busy at work, and given COVID, I have since started working from home and he still works as usual as he is an essential worker. He is more than happy to leave the children under my care when he is at work, and I feel that if I was in charge of them, then perhaps I would also be entitled to disciplining them to a degree? After all, if they were to act rude or say rude things to me, and all I can do is shut my mouth and wait until my partner comes home, then they would have even less respect for me as they can see that I can’t even fight my own battle. That is the logic that I thought of, anyway.

      Now, because of what happened (me disciplining the child), she hates me and she would try to ignore me when she’s here. She’d only talk to me when she wants something. She’s not interested in having conversations or chitchats and she seems to always be in a bad mood (maybe she’s going through puberty as well? Not sure). She also doesn’t talk to her dad as much and resists hugs and kisses from him.

      The most recent thing that has happened is that she doesn’t want me to attend her event, but she has invited her dad to come. She lied to her dad saying that I cannot come because of the restrictions, but it is not true as her dad called the school and found out for himself. Her dad doesn’t want to go alone, and is very upset because she’s lying so he said he just wouldn’t come altogether. I feel horrible; not only that I don’t want to come in between him and his kids, but also horrible because I am not wanted there and that she hates me. I feel that I have not so much been in the wrong, as I have never overstepped the boundaries or treated her in a rude and selfish manner. I have never tried to exclude them from any events. I would organise everything from Father’s Day, to the children’s birthdays and to Christmas. But like a lot of people here have said, they just don’t appreciate it and they don’t see you as someone that they want in their lives. A lot of things go by without thank you’s and I certainly would never get a thank you card nor a happy Mother’s Day card.

      My partner and I are now engaged and we are planning our wedding, however, deep in my heart I have doubts about the future. I feel that his daughters are forever trying to tear us apart, and that all they ever want is to have their father all to themselves and for me to be out of the picture. And all these are of course supported by their mother who hates me beyond anything and therefore encourages them to behave even worse. I feel really disheartened and afraid of what’s next. I also worry on whether or not I should marry a man when his children do not like me? I feel incomplete and I feel like I should only marry him if his children and I get along beautifully, but that is probably never ever going to happen. I love my partner to bits and I don’t want a dysfunctional family where everyone pretends everything is great on the surface but hates each other deep down. And I feel like since planning the wedding, these questions and concerns are becoming more concrete in my head. It is really funny as I have never thought of these before in the 7 years that we’ve been together, even though I always thought I’d stay with him in the long haul, with or without the marriage. But now it is becoming a real concern,… Maybe I am just channeling my bridezilla? I don’t really know anymore. What do I do? Any thoughts would be appreciated… Thanks.


      • Dear Struggle is Real, yikes. I’m sorry it’s so difficult right now. They will grow up and be out of the house, and that will help. Would you mind if I feature your comment in an upcoming post so you can get some up-to-date feedback?


  9. I am not legally married yet for financial and other reasons, but have been living as husband and wife for the past two years (call each other as such, etc.,). Anyhow, we have his three children 24/7. They are 9, 5, 4. I am not childless, but my child is a young adult and is engaged herself and pregnant. I am 10 years older than my husband. The children’s mother is a drug addict and is incarcerated and then will be deported in less than a year from now.
    My husband works pretty late most nights (home in time from 7:45 p.m.- 9 p.m.) and only has Sunday and one other day off during the week. I work from home a full-time demanding job during regular hours. The children are VERY messy, and except for the older one, they have no manners. I am constantly working them with simple things that they should have learned, but before I came along there was only a nanny who just did the minimum and nothing else. Nanny had to go early on because I could not stand her laziness and hearing the children whining and fighting non-stop while I was working.
    I am now the mean evil stepmother because I have to discipline them or nothing happens. My husband gave me permission long ago to spank them and the younger two do get somewhat frequent spankings. Mainly for destroying the house (breaking furniture, peeling off wallpaper, etc) and fighting. I also have to do their laundry and basically everything. I am trying to teach them, but still after two years, it is work everyday. Sometimes it’s just easier to do it myself.
    I hate to admit this, but the boy is difficult for me to have positive feelings towards. He lies about everything and is simply not that smart at all, but is not special needs, just not very bright. Cannot follow even very simple instructions and then cries about it. I feel so guilty for all of this, and lately I have been feeling so depressed and really rethinking if this is the path I want to take in life. Is it even fair to these kids? I am angry so much of the time and yell so often and hardly recognize myself in the mirror. I just so much older, and I have gained weight from the stress.
    My husband is very sweet and I love him, but he does drink a little too much once he finally gets home from work, and then it is competition for his attention because of the children. We never have any time to ourselves except for when the children are sent outside to play or are in bed, which makes for an exhaustive next day. Saturdays and evenings are also hard sometimes when it’s just me and the kids. Sometimes I take them places and have fun, I guess, but mostly I feel like a babysitter with no time to myself except for when I make them play outside while I hide on my computer or try to read a book. I feel so guilty for being sad about all of this and know that they have no other mother. Nothing seems enjoyable in life anymore. I can’t even get motivated this week to clean the house, which is a huge huge mess. I just look at it all and cry lol. I keep having thoughts of just packing up and moving away with my pets. I make more money than he does, but it’s a struggle to live alone. I always wanted the nice house and nice family and nice happy life. I still try to have visions/hope where the kids are all behaving, my husband changes his work schedule a bit (been begging him to switch careers), and I have a clean organized house with well-behaved kids. They don’t have to love me. In fact, I feel awkward when my husband tells them to give me hugs and kisses at night time, too. I was a single mom the whole time my child was young. Now I am an outsider taking care of someone else’s children and feel very lonely and sad.


    • Rethinking, this is just my opinion, but I think you need to get out of there. At least take a couple weeks to yourself to figure out whether you want to do this long-term. Are you just the babysitter? Is there a real relationship worth all this misery? I hope you can find peace.


  10. Please do not send email to confirm comment posted. My husband gets notifications of my new emails on his phone. Also, please forgive the typos/errors. I was just venting and typing and didn’t proofread. It felt good to vent a little. I would never dare to admit these things otherwise. I feel like a terrible person


  11. I met my husband when I was 17 and he had a 4-month-old son (he was never married or dated his mother). I formed a connection with my stepson from that very young age and we share split custody 50/50 with his mother.
    We raised our son as if we are all equal parents, although I find myself actually doing more then the biological parents. I do parent-teacher conferences, make treats for the school parties, plan the friend birthday parties, tuck him in each night, make doctor appointments and take him to appointments (although this is because my job allows me to take time off that my husband can’t. I run a home daycare, so we didn’t have to have our son be bounced to another place). He is now 6, and he has no memory of me not being in his life. We have a great connection as if he were my own.
    My marriage has been rough for the last two to three years, and we have considered divorce. However, I cannot leave the marriage because I would be leaving my stepson. Since I do most of the day-to-day parenting–and he has had so many changes throughout his life (boyfriends in and out with Mom and changing homes) this would break him. He also has special needs which Truthfully I think are because of inconsistency in his life. When my husband and I were married, I promised my stepson I was never going to leave him (as one of his mom’s boyfriends recently did and it took almost two years for him to get over that change.)
    I feel stuck in this situation since legally I have no rights. Most would say a bad marriage is worse for the kids, but that’s with biological parents where they would just go back and fourth between two homes. I have been trying to make it work, as just as any parent, you would do anything for your child. I just have others telling me to put myself first.
    Sorry this goes away from the topic, as most of you do not have that connection, but as stepparents I wondered if anyone has been in a similar situation before.


  12. I am very grateful to come across this blog.
    I have been married for one year to my wonderful husband. He has a 9-year-old son from his previous marriage. The arrangement has always been that we get him on the weekends (Friday to Sunday).
    That was an adjustment for me, but I accepted it since I love my husband and I knew he was a “package deal.
    My husband works 12-14 hours a day and I work from home, 10 hours a day, so we both work a lot and have been saving for the new home we just bought and also saving to pay off debts. So right now it feels like our marriage is strained because we don’t get a lot of time together during the weekdays and then we get his son on Friday to Sunday… so the weekends are reserved for the son at our place.
    I had no idea how challenging it would be to be a stepmother. As many people have commented, you feel like you have to walk on eggshells because you can’t fully discipline them or make decisions since the ex-wife is still in the picture since his son is there during the weekdays.
    His son has ADHD and some learning disabilities, so he’s a bit more to manage as he often has lots of meltdowns. He and I have been developing a great bond together, but I also feel like I have taken a step back and am trying not to parent as much because I feel like often I am this outsider and someone who cooks the meals, shops and is a babysitter.
    I know my husband has the best intentions, but it’s been hard, as his ex-wife is very controlling and I’m not used to always having the ex.
    We just found out his ex-wife and her partner decided they are moving this summer to another city (eight hours away) we know legally she cannot move him. It has been quite a shock to us and our first reaction was she can’t just take him; we want to have him.
    Reality has started really kicking in for me and I’m very stressed and overwhelmed. I am realizing if we take him on, most of the responsibility will fall on me because my husband works so much. His family seems to think even though I work from home it’s no big deal, I can still do the morning routines, get him to school and then do the after-school routines.
    Even though I work from home, my job is very demanding. I have deadlines and I need to focus.
    I feel if we take on his son full-time, then I will really start to resent my husband. Right now it is challenging enough since my husband works so much, so I am already doing all the household things (cooking, cleaning, shopping etc.)
    I just feel in my heart I cannot take his son on full-time, and I fear that his family will be mad at me and judge me. I just don’t feel ready and I know that I went into this marriage knowing he had a son, but I didn’t plan to take full responsibility.
    I love my job and my life, and I just can’t slow down on that right now with the added pressure of raising a child that has some learning disability. He needs lots of attention, and I fear it will also affect our marriage having this happen.
    I have talked to my husband and he has showed understanding, but he thinks it won’t be so bad since he’s used to having him on the weekends… but why can’t anyone understand that it’s going to be me dealing with the son during the weekdays? why doesn’t anyone see that it is a big deal to me, it is a complete life change?
    Tonight we have a meeting with the ex-wife, so I really hope we will be in agreement it’s best the son goes with her and then I know it will be hard not to have him on the weekends, but we can still arrange visits.


    • Anonymous, it’s so hard, isn’t it? I had a similar situation. My stepson moved in with us when he was 12. I was working at home. But it wasn’t so bad. I worked while he was at school and he was pretty self-sufficient. I couldn’t deny his dad the chance to have his son around. I hope you can work it out.


      • Thanks Sue!
        That’s where I find it extremely challenging for it to be thought as “I would deny his dad”.
        My husband literally works 6 a.m.-8 p.m. most nights.
        So that will leave me with doing the majority of the parenting on top of the housework, cooking, shopping plus I work 10 hours a day. So I would be doing that so my husband can see his son on the weekends and maybe for an hour in the evenings since his son goes to bed around 8 p.m. right now on weeknights.
        I just don’t feel both of us are ready to facilitate him full time and I feel our marriage will be doomed because I will feel like a single parent and he can be party dad on the weekends.


      • I feel your pain. I find it so frustrating to be a stepmom because although I’m constantly reminded by everyone (including my mother-in-law, who pointed out when my husband wished me a happy Mother’s Day, that I was not his mother and not the mother to his children), I’m expected to act like a mom by managing schedules, doing laundry, maintaining order, making sure people are fed, making sure homework is done, etc. My husband would also like to have his children more of the time, but he’s definitely a fun-time dad who likes to relax and have quiet time when he gets home, leaving me to deal with the “I’m bored” and “there’s nothing to do” and “there’s nothing I want to eat” from his kids. He was busy with a chore this weekend and told his child that he would have to wait for him to play video games, only to later come to me and say he felt bad because he thought he hurt the child’s feelings when he told him he would have to wait. Um, the child is 11, it’s parenting to tell the child that you are busy doing adult chores and they need to entertain themselves for a while. When the children need something, they come to me for assistance, but they don’t reciprocate when I ask them to do things (my two requests when they are here is that their laundry goes in the laundry basket and any dishes or trash they have go in the sink / trash bin, yet, I’m constantly picking up dishes and clothes). Both children are 11, so well old enough to manage those two things, but my husband never backs me up. When I reminded one child this weekend that I asked him to bring his plate down on his way downstairs and asked him to go upstairs to retrieve it, my husband starting walking up the stairs to get it. Again, it’s parenting to acknowledge that your children are capable of managing minimal chores. I feel like I am running a hotel when they are visiting. I know our marriage couldn’t handle more parenting time, because I am the parent and my husband is there to have fun with his children. All this and I get barely a thank you or even a good-bye when the children leave our home, so I know all of my “parenting” will not result in love and appreciation when the children are older. As much as I would like my husband to spend more time with his children because I know it would make him happy, I’m not selfless enough to believe that doing so would do anything other than lead to resentment between us.


      • For the first few years of our marriage, my stepson lived with his mom in Texas. He flew out for holidays and summer vacation. It was hard, but we could focus on him when he was with us. That’s an option for you, too.


  13. There’s a typo in my last comment, I left out the part that everyone reminds me that I’m not a mom, but then expects me to be a mom despite that.


      • Sue – yes that’s what we are thinking of as well. If we moved with them (which is still an option) then we would get him for holidays or arrange long weekends once in awhile. It will be very hard for my husband to not see him regularly, but in the long run it seems like the best option right now given our schedules. We also cannot afford for me to work less as we really need the two steady incomes right now.

        Unfortunately the meeting that was supposed to happen tonight, the ex wife cancelled so we will have to reschedule. I am disappointed, as I was hoping we could really deal with it tonight as there’s just been too much stress and anxiety this week.

        StrugglingSM – Oh my goodness, I can identify so much with what you said. My mother-in-law was just here visiting from out of town and I was reminded of that a few times. I mentioned I dropped off my stepson’s prescription at the pharmacy. and she said, “You can’t do that; you’re not his mother!” I was very stunned because we are married and we all have the same last name and we are on my husband’s medical plan.

        The birthday parties are another challenging situation, as they have been “joint” family parties for him. I just find it a very awkward situation as we are civil towards each other but to have to sit there and do small talk while we don’t enjoy it and I am sure my stepson doesn’t really enjoy all of us there. The mother-in-law sent him a card and said, “I hope you enjoy the birthday party that your mom and dad thoughtfully planned for you” I just couldn’t help but walk away crying because I made all the cupcakes and I also helped planned the party and contribute financially to it. It just makes me feel like a complete outsider.

        I can relate to the chores. I feel like my husband is afraid that if he is stern with his son about doing chores that he will feel like his son doesn’t want to be at our house. So then he is used to getting his own way. Same with the video game time. It is really a problem in our house because we try to regulate it as much as possible but my husband is too much of a softy and then I look like the bad person saying I think he has had enough screen time for the day.

        My sister got mad at me yesterday because I told her I was overwhelmed about this idea to suddenly become a full time mom, and she told me if I love my husband then I should just accept him and deal with it. I was stunned, I felt like I was this horrible person for even feeling overwhelmed. I am grateful I had a good call with my aunt and uncle who told me that my husband doesn’t have the right to inflict all these problems with his son on me. Because originally I wasn’t even included to attend the meeting tonight and my aunt was appalled because it’s basically two people talking about how I (the outsider) is going to take this on, without me even being at the meeting. So I never thought of it that way and told my husband I need to be included.

        I had a complete breakdown last night because I just don’t feel this is the right thing to do and take this on right now.


  14. I am so glad to find this blog, and hello to childless stepmoms. I am 35 and married, with a stepson aged 7. My husband and I have been together for four years now and before we started dating seriously we talked about having one child of our own. Fast forward two years. One week after marriage, he apologized and told me he didn’t want our baby anymore. Then the next day he said maybe yes. About one year later, he expressed “No baby” but at the same time it’s not fair to me. Long story short, he has been indecisive about having our baby.
    Meanwhile, I never changed my mind about having my own child, and that hope kept me going through this tough journey as a childless stepmom so far. A lot of people asked us if we were having our baby, including friends, my mom and his mom… he can’t seem to answer or avoids the question.
    Lately it seems like he almost thinks I am OK with not having our baby either (for example, he jokingly says to our newlywed friends saying “whens the baby coming? hahaha” and looks at me laughing as if I am enjoying joking them to hurry up with the baby)
    I am very afraid to bring up the topic because if he says NO this time, it will be a real no and I may have to think about re-evaluating my life’s decisions. He does not understand what he is asking me to give up by not having my own baby – I am giving up my chance of becoming a mother, grandmother, growing my own family, my future. After I got married, I thought our baby and his/her growth were the next exciting chapter of my life.
    I am expected to spoil his son, love him, shower him with gifts, participate in his life (when I am told its ok to do so), don’t complain. I do EVERYTHING I can to help him raise his son, and even keep his relationship good with his ex. Needless to say it’s insanely difficult, but I do it every day because I love my husband. Because this is what I have to deal with if I wanted to be married to him. but when having my own baby option goes away, what would happen then?
    Is there anyone who is a childless stepmom who went through this 10-20 years ago? How do you feel about not having your baby? Did you dedicate your life to your stepchild until he/she went to college? How did you deal with it for so long? I am still in childbearing age and would like to know if this childless stepmom trauma will ease as time goes by.


    • I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this, anon34. My experience is similar to yours in that my husband made it clear only after we were married that he doesn’t want any more children. Although his children are grown up and we hear from them only occasionally, I find the whole situation extremely difficult. I wish I had had the courage to leave him, to be honest. I realise I have denied my own dreams by staying with him and, like you say, I will now never be a mother or a grandmother. It’s crazy (in my opinion) to give up your own dreams for someone else. And having to deal with the children they already have just adds insult to injury. It’s such a difficult situation but I hope you find the path that works for you. All the best.


  15. It’s encouraging to read these posts and know that I am not alone. I was 39 when I met my husband and it wasn’t the first marriage for either of us. He is six years older than me and already had three kids and a vasectomy before we met. I am still physically able to have kids. I had two in my first marriage, but our marriage together is childless. It upsets me that he took away our ability to have kids before we ever met, even though I understand his reasons why (his age, etc). It still hurts me that we will never have a child together and two other women will always have that bond with him. He calls me the love of his life and I know that I am, but I SO WISH that he and I had a child of our own. That’s a special lifetime bond between two people that I wish he and I shared. I love him with all my heart, but it’s hard not to sometimes feel a little bit less-than, especially when the ex has so much say-so in our lives. His youngest child is only 7, so this will continue to be an issue for quite some time. Again, I know that he loves me and that I am his soul mate. He tells me that all the time, but then there’s this other woman who is always there texting/calling, etc. In my head, I know it’s necessary for the child, but I still struggle not only with this extra woman in his life, but I’m also jealous that I don’t have that connection with him. I do my absolute best not to let those feelings impact how I interact with his child, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to sometimes feeling resentful. I pray daily for patience and peace, but some days are much tougher than others. It’s a constant struggle. Thanks for listening. ❤


  16. Hi Everyone,

    Here’s an update from my post on June 21st, where we were deciding if we take him full-time or if he goes with his mother on the move (eight hours away).

    Had a really good heart-to-heart with my husband, and he also realized to take his son on full-time right now would be a lot to take on. Not that his son isn’t worth it, but with my husband working as many hours as he does each day, it would lean on me all during the week, when I still work 10 hours a day as well.

    We had a really good meeting with his ex-wife to go over what the options were. She explained when they move, she would be a stay-at-home mom so my stepson would get the proper attention and care. She said they will be moving to a larger home on a big property more in the countryside close to a really good school.

    Through that conversation, we knew right now it would be best for him to go with her in August. We decided he will try out the first year with her and revisit things (we’ll get it in writing). That doesn’t necessarily mean that he will have to move back, but we’re leaving it open in case circumstances change, etc., and if he is doing well up there, then obviously we want what is best for him.

    We had really good conversations with him about it and he also knows right now it’s best he goes with his mom. It is sad for us all but we really want what is best for him.

    What has really put me over the edge is my father-in-law. When he found out about our decision, he came over and blew up at me in our driveway in front of my stepson and my husband. I was absolutely stunned. He told me I am selfish and this is all my fault he is moving away. I had to run into the house crying because I was so shocked he would yell and insult me like that in front of my stepson and my husband. My husband told him what he is saying isn’t true, it was a group decision and that he can’t talk to me that way and he will have to leave. Then he sped off.

    It was completely traumatizing. Normally I get along quite well with my father-in-law, but he has the tendency to have anger problems and blow up. It is just shocking.

    I have been so upset and it feels it just adds this extra stress on top of the situation we are dealing with. We were starting to come to peace with the decision, then the father-in-law goes crazy and insults me.

    We haven’t talked to him since, so now I don’t know what we are going to do. My husband is so ashamed and embarrassed of his dad for doing that.

    This has been the most stressful week and now I just don’t want anything to do with my father-in-law. I cannot believe he did that in front of our stepson; he was just so shocked. But he does have the maturity to know it wasn’t my fault. He told me if there’s anyone he should be mad at is, it’s his mom or dad and not me.

    What do you think of my father-in-law’s behavior?


    • Anonymous, I think you and your husband have made the right decision. Of course your father-in-law shouldn’t have acted that way in front of his grandson, but he is probably upset that the boy is moving away and he had no say in the decision. This is where divorce really stinks. Stick to your decision. Give your father-in-law time to cool down. I hope he understands someday soon.


      • Thanks Sue, it was really nice to read your message. It has felt like our world has been upside down ever since we got word of them moving.

        However, it gives us comfort knowing our stepson feels comfortable about the move and it really just feels that it will be best for him right now. Plus he is with his mom now five days a week, He has a 3 year old baby brother (half brother), so for him to be gone away from that and then suddenly fulltime at our place would be quite an adjustment for all of us.

        What really has bothered us about the father-in-law, is that he barely spends time with his nephew. He is busy in his own world, so since I have been with my husband for the past two years, there’s been maybe two or three instances where my father-in-law would actually take my stepson out to do something together and he only lives 20 minutes away from us. So they don’t have a close relationship, and perhaps maybe that’s why he’s so angry because he maybe realizes he has missed out so much of his life.

        It has put me on edge as I’m afraid my father-in-law will just show up here any day now and more drama will happen. He tried calling my husband and then texted him and his text didn’t acknowledge he did anything wrong. Instead he gives his opinion. It feels like he has put a wedge in my family and when the whole thing happened, I confided in my family, so now they are upset at him, not that I was wanting that to happen, but I am extremely close with my parents (they don’t live in the same town), but they were never that fond of him, my family did everything for our wedding with help (including my husband’s mom, she was a great help) but the father-in-law didn’t help out and then he complained how none of my family was really talking to him. That wasn’t intentional, they were just so busy setting up the food, the tables, the bar, doing clean up etc. So it feels like no matter what people do, my father-in-law has something negative to say about people.


  17. Wow! Both comments hurt my heart. Yet, I felt the rawness of both. I feel overwhelmed. I have a stepmother and I respect and care for her very much. Sometimes we may not get along. But she is highly valued and respected for who she is and what she does as a woman. I’m also thinking about my partner who has kids.

    I wish you would really consider the values you will pass on to your own child with harboring such strong and painful emotions. I encourage you to get to the root of them. You have all right to choose what you desire, but when you choose to make your pain your weapon or barrier, you only end up hurting yourself.


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