I need help!!! I came into my stepson’s life when he was 2. I was his teacher at daycare. When his father and I started dating in 2013 his mother was completely out of his life. She had weekly visits and stopped coming to see him. I am the only mother figure he has. He doesn’t remember his real mother and never speaks of her.
My stepson doesn’t listen to me. He constantly throws fits in which his dad gives into because he “feels sorry for him”. When is this going to stop? I can’t take the constant feeling of being an invisible parent. Please give me some help. Thank you, V.
Hi V, It makes complete sense that you don’t like feeling invisible. It is going to trigger all kinds of present and past upsetting feelings. I really see this as a 2-part challenge. New ways to work with your stepson directly and new ways to work with your Partner.
There are some good child-raising books out there (“1,2,3,Magic” By Thomas Thelan worked well for us and others for finding non-yelling ways to respond to behavior issues). If you decide to join the forums, there are lots of Stepmoms (many who are also bio-moms) who will be a great source of specific ideas & lots of other resources for working with your young stepson in new ways.
Getting your partner to help you in new ways can be a bit more challenging. Giving into their children, not following through with consequences and over-looking their kids bad manners are all very “charged topics” for most of us Stepmoms on a mission. We want to be backed up by our partner & have our feelings, words and decisions respected. None of us like being dubbed or judged harshly as the “House police” by our stepkids or our partners.
In many ways we already feel like outsiders, coming into these new family units and often work very hard to find our happy, healthy role as a way to become included. This all makes sense.
What to do?
If you can make a list of all the behaviors that you and your partner seem to want to handle differently, it’s a good place to start. Ask your partner to make his list too. Sit down with your partner and look at the list. Can you find common ground? Can you share with each other which things are most important and share “Why”? Can you agree to find new ways to handle areas where you have disagreed in the past? (Meaning not yours and not his but a joint new approach.)
Most of us learn, when we do this, that our number one goal is to raise the stepkids to be responsible, polite, well-rounded kids and this can mean that sometimes our stepkids aren’t very happy with our choices.
Many divorced fathers, often feeling guilty, worried or emotionally exhausted by the end of their earlier relationship, just want to avoid any kind of conflict with their kids. The value and details of manners, responsibilities, lessons learned, etc. pale in comparison to the stress they can feel in the moment their child is angry at him.
Sadly, but since the beginning of time, children have a way of figuring out who the “easy” parent is and they play them to their advantage. You’ll see that this is as old a practice as parenting. Yes, even 4 years olds. I bet you could tell us some “good” stories.
See if you can find a new way to work with your partner to achieve your newly expressed goal. TO feel like a parenting team. to be included, seen and appreciated for the way you contribute to your stepson’s life. Use direct words and specific examples so the vision you have of what’s possible is clear. I’m going to phrase some conversation starters in my words based on what little you said so please revise them to fit your personal feelings.
Maybe you say something like this to your partner:
“Honey, I would like to find a way to feel more like a teammate of yours when it comes to disciplining your son. Right now I feel _______when you override what I tell me.”
“I’m feeling like the maid and nanny sometimes when you ignore what I’ve just told your son. It makes me feel powerless, invisible and it hurts my feelings. I know we have different styles AND I know we both want the best for your son. Will you please work with me to figure out how we can be on the same side on more issue so I can feel better. I have some ideas to share.?”
“Dear, when you give in to your son after I’ve already told him “No” it feels very disrespectful to me AND I know you aren’t trying to do that. Can we please talk about new ways you and I can be a parenting team so I feel included in this little family of ours?”
Sometimes we think our partners know exactly what we’re feeling and what we need from them. Sometimes…not so much and it can be very helpful to specifically ask him to help YOU feel better.
You can also look for ways that you can turn over certain parenting responsibilities to him. This can be another way for you to feel better about yourself and more available to be seen my your partner in non-parenting ways.
Wishing you all kinds of new discoveries that make you feel better and better. Your stepson and partner are so lucky to have you in their lives.
Please take care, Cathryn
More Resources: If you want to register as a Guest Member of the site (Free for 30-days) there are 3 articles that come to my mind about how to help you and your partner talk about this in a new way.
“The Nobody’s right/Nobody’s wrong approach to relationships”
“Understanding Defensiveness in Stepmom/partner Relationships” This is 2-parts and both are available for downloading or streaming as podcasts.