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Where is the line between advocating for my own happiness and being a selfish bitch?

SMto3kids's picture

I am having a hard time navigating the line between advocating for my own happiness, life and family and being a selfish bitch. How do I know if my feelings and admitted resentment in having SD13 and SS12 around more often is a direct threat on my own happiness and self respect (SD blatantly ignores my existence, turns on the waterworks to manipulate DH and goes out of her way to show me I am not her family) or if its just me being a selfish bitch for not wanting them around to spend more time with us. I am feeling super guilty about my loving feelings or lack thereof towards the kids, particularly SD. And also resent BM for trying to palm kids off because she has 5 to deal with even though we can't afford them anymore as she gets a substantial cs and moved 2 hours a way meaning a weekends travel to get them here costs the same as a weeks rent. I guess what I'm saying here is how do I know if my feelings are valid or if I am just being the evil bitch step mother trying to avoid her sks? 

futurobrillante99's picture

Your feelings are valid.

It's NORMAL to not want to spend time with people who treat you poorly - even if they are your own blood relatives.

It's NORMAL to feel anxiety when you have little control over big parts of your life and your financial security.

It's NORMAL to feel resentment towards your spouse for procreating with a useless, manipulative female.

Don't let anyone make you feel guilty for not loving rude children who did not come from your body.

It is possible to find happiness and peace in a crap situation when you identify what your responsibilities are and what is the responsibility of others.

Your spouse is fully responsible for the care and financial support of children he made with the crazy BM. You do not have to do a single thing for any of them apart from ensuring the safety of minors under your roof. You don't have to feed them, clothe them, entertain them, provide for them, babysit them, or drive them anywhere.

Your feelings are valid.

ESMOD's picture

First of all, do not struggle with the "I can't/don't love them" part of the puzzle.  That is nowhere near a requirement in stepland.  It's not entirely natural to live with children that aren't yours.. from your partner's former relationship.  

Also.. keep in mind.. that you feelings of irritation, frustration and lack of warmth are likely a two way street.  If you are able to see it from the kid's POV.. it can't be any  much easier for them to shuttle back and forth between homes.. to be saddled with new authority figures.. to have to share their parents with new partners etc..  I am not saying that they get a complete pass for bad behavior due to being children of divorce...but it isn't easy from their side of the fenc either.  Plus, they can have the other parent's egging on dislike for you.. resentment and the result can be the kind of "less than welcoming/pleasant" demeanor you see in the two kids).

But, you are all "IN" this situation.. so how best to deal with it?  The bottom line is that we need to understand what we can and cannot control.  We have to learn to pick battles and figure out ways to preserve our own peace.  With kids this age, they don't need to be "babysat".. so much so generally it is fine for you to disengage from their care.  If you want to go do things with friends while they are there. .do it.  They are there to visit their father, not you.. you are not obligated to spend all your time with people you don't care for.

Also, you can try to not focus so much on the negative of it all.  You said that they moved 2 hours away and that means it costs as much as 1 weeks rent????  Ok.. that has to be a magnification of either the cost of driving 2 hours (even the 8 hours driving does not generally rise to a week's rent.. anywhere).. or you have the lowest rent in the world.  I guess I'm used to more driving.. we lived anywhere from 2 to 3+ hours from my Skids when they were kids... so we did a lot of driving.. it was a bit frustrating to spend so much time on the road.. but it was what it was.. only half the time was with the kids.. so my DH and I had road trip time with just the two of us too.  Even now, we live in a fairly rural place.. the largest city is 2 hrs away.. so we drive it semi regularly.. it might cost us 20 bucks or so a trip.. so for you.. I can't see it costing more than 50ish for the two round trips.. that isn't "no money".. but it isn't anywhere near a week's rent for most people.

I guess my point with that is that you may have problems.. surly teen/pre-teens with poor attitudes (many kids are that age.. even bios).  It's frustrating to pay out all that CS from your family budget.. but that is not really the kid's fault right?  I mean, the bottom line is your DH created children with someone else.. he is obligated to care for his kids.. whether it be in his home.. or by helping cover costs in another home.  Now, if he isn't able to set boundaries with their mother for visitation when he has been saddled with a HIGH CS.. again that is a problem you have with HIM.. it isn't the kid's fault.  The majority of your frustrations with these kids are more in line with being upset at the lack of control you have over his EX..a nd his response to his EX.  Trying to not magnify and project the problems onto the kids might help.  Disengaging a bit from them also.. I was certainly more disengaged from my DH's older child.. we were not "kindred spirits"... I did get along with the younger girl better.  Have the relationship that you want with them.. even if that is a very superficial and coexisting in the home without a lot of interraction.  You are not obligated to entertain them.. have heartfelt discussions with them.. buy them clothes.. none of that.  You should be able to be civil to them.. and allow them to have their visits with their father without discouraging that relationship.  Your DH should be mindful of everyone's feelings in the home.. and needs.. including yours.  But, ultimately, you are the owner of your own decision to be happy or frustrated.. and you can choose to do things with your time that don't involve the kids if that is what you need to do to get through those visitations... with sanity.

2Tired4Drama's picture

I would only add that you should learn about disengagement as it is what saved me in the long run.  While it is not a perfect solution I think it makes a significant difference. Go to the section here to read up on it. 

My only advice is DO NOT announce that you are disengaging. Simply start finding other things to do when skids are visiting or tell your DH that you can't make the drive to get them ...find any reason you can. And secondly, do make sure that you and DH agree on some separate financial arrangment as you don't want to be spending your money on car fuel, activities, gifts, meals out, etc. for kids that you have no relationship with.

The only thing required of you is that you remain civil when and if you interact with the kids, and they should do the same for you.

FWIW this kind of situation rarely changes. My SD is now in her 30s and she still acts the same. 


ESMOD's picture

Yes.. exactly.. do NOT do the "grand flounce" and announce you will no longer have anything to do with his feral offspring.  That conversation won't ever have a stepparent coming out in any kind of positive light.. it becomes "you hate my kids.. and i take that as you hating part of me".

Become queen of the "I don't know.. ask your dad".. "ooooh would love to ride to pick them up.. but have been swamped with work and will use that time to get caught up".. "No.. no.. you all go on to the mall without me... I am supposed to go meet my friend at the winery she's going through some stuff.. I need to support her".. "yikes! her softball game is THIS weekend?  Yeah.. I cannot make it.. mom needed my help Saturday.. I already promised her".  "Great news!  I joined a gym.. signed up for a cooking class.. and since the classes are during your visitation.. that will give you LOTS of time to spend with your kids!" .

And then try to also make the most of your "non-kid time".. plan weekend day trips for the two of you.. plan projects for you to do together.. I know it's frustrating having to feel like you are taking a back seat to the kids.. but if they are not there all the time.. we really do have time to be with our spouses one on one too.. and we need to value THAT time.. and make the most of it... but we also have to accept to an extent that the kids need their parent as well.. and that there will be times that the kids will have needs that our spouses will want to meet.  

SMto3kids's picture

Thank you so much for your reply and there is definitely food for thought there, I definitely have to take control of my own happiness it is just navigating how to do that when situations change at another person's whim. And while I do feel it is out of my control my hubby does take my feelings into consideration I just get scared I try to protect my own happiness at the risk of harming his. If that makes any kind of sense. Also just to clarify the additional visit costs I mentioned take into account my husband's lost work hours on the Friday and the Sunday to do the driving and the cost of fuel, he is also a big fan of ensuring the kids do a lot of fun activities which generally equates to quite a hefty weekend bill but I try not begrudge that as I understand the wanting to make their weekends here fun and memorable. But from a shared financial situation it does get a bit annoying especially on their rudest weekends. Smile And I'm not a monster, I always try to be nice to the kids, they always have their favorite spoils and I will always engage if I'm spoken to even if its about the latest Pokémon battle that I know nothing about lol. Its just more my own internal struggles with feeling annoyed and frustrated with being treated with total disregard. This step parenting gig is a minefield for sure.:-) looks like subtly disengaging is going to be my best bet. 

CLove's picture

Sounds like he is a Disney Dad, always trying to fill the weekends with fun stuff. You will need to not share finances...if you are working and contributing, you do not need to fund the "fun" for little skids that cannot treat you with respect.

"SD blatantly ignores my existence, turns on the waterworks to manipulate DH and goes out of her way to show me I am not her family"

Where is Disney Dad when they are rude to you? Being treated with total disregard should not be happening at all. Period. No discussion. You are Dads partner and are to be treated with respect in your home and otherwise. Watch out, because this is typical mini-wife behavior. if hes allowing himself to be manipulated, then he will continue to allow it. Shes 13, and able to understand what she is doing and that it is bad behavior. 

Read up on mini-wife syndrome. Do searches here on this board. Educate yourself on this to see if this is something you can work with your partner on, to stop it. I know he is probably afraid of "losing them" if he disciplines bad behavior, but seriosly, he is failing as a parent by NOT stopping it.

Time to remove yourself from being available during their times with you. Dont be a doormat and "try to be nice".  You be you.

SMto3kids's picture

He has tried to be less of a Disney Dad simply to the fact that the kids are tired when they come to us and generally want to chill. In relation to SD treating me badly this is another piece of the manipulation puzzle...when dad is around she won't talk to me unless I talk to her but she will reply in that case, as soon as dh is out of sight I will be ignored, spoken back to or go against whatever I am saying.  At first I would ignore it as to not report it to dh where he will stand up for me because I didn't want to be the reason he tells his kids off as I thought it would further damage any chance of us (kids and i) having a good relationship.  It is only now I report it back to him if I need that back up but again that makes me feel like I'm putting him in an awkward spot. But that is also one of the  main causes of my anxiety in the prospect of having them around more. But I am 100 percent on board with making myself less available. I am basically the help when they are here and until that changes I will be doing very very little and leave it all up to dh. Which he won't mind doing the work and all of that cos he is super appreciative but I think he will struggle with me not putting in the effort to have family quality time as that has always been important to him.

ESMOD's picture

It's good that he has dialed back the DD act.  I mean, he can't buy their love and affection and to keep doing that trains them to treat him like a walking ATM.  He should absolutely not put your household into a position where you are having to subsidize the cost of his kids.

But.. yeah.. they are his kids..and I would stop short of telling him he can't take visitation in the home unless there was a lot more bad going on than a mouthy 13  I am assuming he spends his own money on their visits.. and him spending that money isn't causing you to have to pick up more expense.  If he isn't pulling weight on your household expenses because he overspends on "extras" for the kids.. that is definitely something you should be able to address because we should all stick to our budgets!

Disengaging sounds like a good option.. be less available.. stop trying to make inroads with kids that don't really have much interest.  I would be polite as you are now.. generally civil.. greet them when they arrive.. but not worry about making much small talk throughout the weekend.  I am an advocate of letting kids have the relationship they want with a SP.. if that is "no relationship".. that is fine as long as the participants act in a fairly civil manner in the home.  Now, that doesn't mean you don't get a say in how they behave to the extent that it impacts YOUR ability to enjoy your home.. and have your posessions left in tact.  You can insist your DH have boundaries on behavior.. but HE is the one giving those out..and he is the one enforcing.  

Again.. you don't "do" much for people that aren't able to muster much appreciation right?  No volunteering to take them for fun trips.. dad can manage that.  I'm not saying you never would help your DH do some kind of driving for the kids.. but it's a favor to HIM .. not them.  They get fed the same meal the rest of the household gets.. if they don't like it.. the PBand J supplies are in the third cabinet to the left.

crystaloo's picture

You are not selfish nor a [email protected]. There's a reason why step family situations rarely work out. There's a natural and normal conflict of interest between the kids and their step parents. Those kids simply are not your kids and by you being there you are taking attention and interests away that the kids are used to getting from their bio parent alone, basically they were used to having their bio parent all to themselves and getting their way until you came along. On top of that you are not their parent so you have no rights or say so when it comes to them no matter how your partner wants to pretend to spin it. That is why these situations fail massively.  When the time comes for the kid to turn on you, and it will if it hasn't already, what are you going to do when your partner chooses their kid over you? Get used to it. Become a forever doormat or move on with your life. I also might add most of the time children from divorced households are worse behaved than those who come from intact marriages/homes. Why? Because they are used to getting away with poor behavior.

Rags's picture

If you are enforcing clear standards of behavior and performance for kids in your home/family, you are NOT being a bitch.

Instead of chasing the random and fleeting state of happiness, live your life well and enforce the rules.  If kids violate them, they are making a choice to live the consequences.  Applying those consequences has nothing to do with being a bitch or an asshole.

Living well is the best revenge.  Enjoy your revenge.


Wicked stepmo.'s picture

There is nothing wrong with putting your happiness first. You are not responsible for someone else's kids. When OSD is around I am not. I do things by myself or with friends.

I will not be treated with disrespect and since she is not my child and I have no control over the person she is or becomes. I choose to treat her the same way I would anyone I find unpleasant. I ignore her and keep huge boundaries.

She can be as unpleasant as she wants I don't have to deal with it