“My Husband and His Child Take Me For Granted”

I have been married for four years. My husband has a 13-year-old son who lives with us. My husband and I get along for the most part, but the recurring argument we have is that I do not feel he is pulling his weight in this marriage.

When we got married, we both left our jobs and moved to a new town to have a fresh start. I was unemployed for five months and concentrated on the child, the house, and our admin. After two years, my husband got a job offer in another town. To support him, I left my job. I have been jobless for more than a year now as there are no employment opportunities for me here. I do not mind, but I feel that both my husband and my stepson are taking my efforts for granted.

The child, who gets a lot of attention from me, does not do as I say. I find myself constantly having to nag, and my husband just sits there and makes me feel bad because he believes that I should leave the child to his own devices. With my input the child has dramatically improved his grades. I’m basically doing everything that I would have done had he been my own child. On top of that, my husband and the child’s mother had a very strained relationship. I inserted myself and things got better.

My husband feels I’m too neat and nag them too much. Wendy, I’m not. I just want a clean home and want him to keep things tidy the way he found them. When we argue, he makes me feel petty, like I’m trying to end our marriage because he did not rinse his coffee cup.

The cycle with both father and son is the same. I ask nicely, I remind, I explain, I ask again, I ask again, I ask again and nothing! Then I explode, because there is just so much a woman can take. They never do what they say they are going to do. It pisses me off. So here I’m sitting raising a child who’s not mine, without a job and still struggling to have my own child (unexplained infertility with two unsuccessful IVFs). I feel so helpless. I think I had a nervous breakdown two days ago, and my husband’s response was I’m doing this to myself and he will take me to my family so I can relax. I think he wants me to go because he is tired of my nagging. Also, every time we fight he uses the opportunity to go do things he likes leaving me at home with his child. I think it is very unfair.

In their defense, I am a very organized person and love things to be structured. When they benefit from this, it’s not a problem. However, when I ask them to do things that inconvenience them, then I’m too fussy. — Not a Nag

Oy, so much to unpack from your letter. First, what’s up with “the child this” and “the child that.” The way you describe him is with such a cool detachment, like he’s such a burden to you. You can’t even call him “my stepson”; he’s simply “the child” you’re raising who isn’t even yours. I mean, that’s what happens when you marry a single parent (especially one with sole or primary or shared custody of his or her child): you become a parent-figure in the kid’s life and take an active role in raising him or her. And, yeah, that means if your spouse wants to go out and do something on his own, you are left alone with “his child.” If that wasn’t something you were OK with, you should not have married a single father.

It sounds like you’re getting angry and feeling resentful at your stepson for… acting like a normal 13-year-old boy? He makes some messes? Doesn’t always tidy up after himself? Yeah… that’s what kids do! You do realize, don’t you, that even if you have your “own” child, that child will also makes messes that you’ll have to clean up, right? That child will also take you for granted. All children behave this way. Welcome to parenting. Buy a bunch of baskets and storage bins and make sure everyone knows where shit goes and at the end of each day, set the timer for ten minutes and have everyone put stuff in the baskets and bins. It works for my family when we remember to do it and I have a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old. If we can get the mess cleaned up every day in ten minutes, you three can, too.

The truth is though, you do sound like a nag. I say that as a borderline nag myself. I am hyper organized, I am tidy almost to a fault, I love order and structure, and I HATE messes. (“Can you STOP with the Dustbuster, Mom?!” my 6-year-old son said to me the other day as I was cleaning the crumbs around him, literally as he was still eating. “No, she cannot,” answered my husband. “Don’t you know that about her yet?”) Being a wife and mother has challenges, and at the top of the list for me is dealing with the mess. But… it’s part of the package. You can’t live with other people, especially children, and expect there never, ever to be anything out of place or never to be a mess left longer than you’d like (which for me is never since I would love for there to never, ever be a mess!). Dealing with other people’s stuff and messes is the sacrifice we tidy freaks make in exchange for sharing our homes and hearts with our loved ones. It’s the payment we make to stave off loneliness.

Maybe you feel you’re getting a raw end of the deal. Maybe you feel your loneliness is not staved off. Maybe you’re sad and depressed and feeling like you are getting no return on your investment, or at least not enough return for the value of your investment. If that’s the case, you need to talk with your husband about what you need and how he can help meet your needs. In a reasonable way! You can’t say that your need is for everything to be perfect all the time; it doesn’t work that way. You also have to think about how you can meet your own needs. If you’re lonely and bored and depressed and you’re relying solely on you husband and 13-year-old stepson to rescue you from these feelings, you’re going to be let down. You have to be proactive in saving yourself, too.

Where and how else can you find companionship and fulfillment other than at home? You say there are no employment opportunities where you live and that you “don’t mind,” but I think you do mind. You WANT to feel appreciated and like the work you do to has meaning, but when the only work you are doing is at home and you need for your husband and 13-year-old stepson to provide consistent acknowledgment and appreciation for that work (including work that they don’t care about as much as you, like keeping things tidy), you’re going to feel let down. It’s simply human nature even for adults to not notice the work that goes into running a household. If you get a couple “thank you’s” a week, you’re doing pretty well. Most women who raise families get some flowers and maybe breakfast on Mother’s Day, and that’s about it as far as big acknowledgment goes for the work they do.

You need to find some meaning elsewhere. Volunteer in your community, volunteer at your stepson’s school. You have all day free while he’s in school — have you considered babysitting 1-2 mornings a week for a mother of a baby who could use a break? I suggest this because I wonder if that time with a baby might change your mind about wanting one of your own. They make a lot of mess, they’re super demanding, and they never say thank you. Maybe you think you would’t mind that as much if the child were actually “yours,” to which I say that’s really fucking shitty. “That child” you’re helping to raise is your stepson, and if you weren’t prepared to LOVE him like your own, as well as raise him like your own, you shouldn’t have married his dad.

Take your husband’s offer to go stay with your family for a bit. I think some rest and some distance from your husband and stepson could do you good. Maybe spending a few days in someone else’s home (and mess) will give you the perspective you need to better appreciate your own. Maybe being without you for a few days will give your husband and stepson the perspective they need to better appreciate all your work and effort.

But work and effort are only part of the equation to running a happy home, and they aren’t even the most important. The most important is something I don’t see a lot of indication of in your letter. The most important quality in running a happy home is LOVE. I speak from experience that if you can offer tons of love to go along with your nagging, EVERYONE (including you!) is happier for it, and your needs will be better met.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. Northern Star says:

    You ARE a nag.

    The list of 13-year-old boys who listen to their parents all the time and keep their living spaces tidy is vanishingly small. You don’t work. You apparently have nothing going on. Why are you spending your time reminding and asking and yelling instead of just handling small clean-ups like coffee cup rinsing (petty indeed) yourself? It wouldn’t take that much time out of your empty day, which you currently fill following The Child (in middle school!) around, nagging about [insert issue here].

    Get a hobby. Join a club. Get a part-time job at the local diner. Follow Wendy’s advice so you simply don’t have time to sit around your house, staring at every out-of-place coffee cup and hating your husband/The Child for your lot in life.

    1. Why? Hard to believe that husbands and their children are not assholes?

  2. I totally agree that the LW needs to take some ownership of her own happiness, but I also think it’s very possible that part of the problem lies with the husband.

    The example Wendy gives of her vacuuming her son’s crumbs has he eats has a crucial element in that her husband supports her partial insanity in front of her son. I totally agree that a 13-year-old is pretty unlikely to express any kind of appreciation for investment in his homework schedule, but her husband should be doing that, and displaying support for his wife.

    I vote for marriage counselling for the two of you, in combination with becoming less invested in appreciation for your work at home.

    1. I think the problem is with the letter writer. She starts off with ‘my husband has a 13 year old son” not “I have a stepson” and then proceeds to refer to him as “The Child” throughout. There are so many letters about women that marry men that have children and then are so shocked when they’re not number one, and it’s her problem if she decides not to have a job, obsess about the house and nag everyone because she made poor choices.

      I don’t want to be involve with someone with children, so I don’t. I don’t date men with children and then expect them to drop their children or change. I take my boundaries into consideration and then don’t make a legal choice (marriage) that comes with conditions I expect to change once I become wifey. And then give up apparently anything important to me, so that I can sit around nitpicking and complaining, because that sounds like a stupid life wasted.

  3. I agree it was strange to call her stepson “the child” and it seems like she really has little, if any, real affection or caring for him. Ont he other hand, I DO feel like a 12 year old, even a BOY, should not be picked up after. Some chores are for adults, but a he is certainly capable of not leaving stuff all over and getting out of all chores, just like her husband, who spends his days earning money, which could be a major contribute to the sum total of what needs to get done. I think just because SHE likes a very neat house, that her way is the only way. They will have to compromise. Maybe “the child” can leave his room messy if that’s what he chooses to do. maybe a coffee cup can stay in the sink overnight. With that compromise, though, there has to be help with the other stuff. I also agree, though, that she really needs to find fulfillment somewhere besides her home life. Maybe there is a job that is not JUST what she wants but it gets her out of the house. Maybe there is a social group she could join. It is unfair and unreasonable to expect one’s husband and teenager to be one’s sole source of fulfillment, especially ones who seem pretty indifferent.

  4. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    No 13 year old is going to thank you for cleaning or cooking or running them around. They take it for granted that adults do adult things. He also is more likely than not to resent the push to do better in school even though the results are good for him.

    I think the idea to babysit is a good one. Can you run a home daycare? Most states allow a certain number of children to be watched in a home without licensing. I’d look into it and then go ahead if you can. There is always demand for childcare, even in places where there aren’t many jobs. Another option for a job is to look further away from home. Up to an hour drive isn’t unusual in many places. You could look even further and get an apartment, live near your job and go home to your husband and stepson on the weekends.

    The tidying makes you feel better but not them. You are basically saying that you have established the rules for how the house will be kept with no input from them. Then you explained what you wanted done and how you wanted it done and then you were angry when they didn’t do it. They don’t do it because it was never their decision in the first place. You made rules that they see as arbitrary. You like tidy. Your husband doesn’t mind whether his coffee cup is rinsed or not. Try tidying your things and leave theirs alone. Even if theirs bugs you. Even if your husband ends up with stained coffee mugs. If you can’t leave theirs alone then do it but with the knowledge that you choose to do it. If you want something to be done in an exact, precise way you do it yourself. If there is no room for variability you do it yourself.

  5. Anon from LA says:

    Um, are we not even going to talk about the LW’s fertility struggles? It’s pretty obvious to me that that’s driving at least some of her frustration towards her 13-year-old stepson.

    As far as the nagging and division of labor issues: I’m really torn. I grew up with a mother like this LW. She was VERY particular about how things were done and her frustration/anger when her expectations weren’t met was often out of proportion. (Screaming at your kid over dirty dishes in the sink is just plain overreacting.) This made her unpleasant to live with and did real damage to our relationship.

    But: my dad made the situation worse. He was (still is) lazy and unwilling to take on any of the emotional labor in the home, which put a heavier burden on my mother. And when he said things like, “just relax and don’t worry about the dishes,” that just made my mother MORE frustrated. And of course it did–there are few things more frustrating than having your feelings invalidated.

    All this to say: I think ideally in this sort of situation, husband and wife will meet in the middle. Wife will lower her standards a little and be more patient and tolerating of people who less organized. Husband will put in more effort to remember to rinse out his mug and will support his wife by encouraging the kids to do what she asks. But to do that, you both have to be on onboard. You both have to stop blaming each and work together to improve the situation.

    1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      Yes. I agree that a part of her frustration is probably stemming from her fertility issues BUT underneath all of the issues, I think she has unrealistic expectations on parent-child relationships.
      I think a LOT of new parents think that they are going to raise their kid to be perfect. To be tidy, get perfect grades, and never have to admonish them. That is very rarely the case. Kids have their own minds, and what you think they should do is very rarely what they think that they should do.
      Or maybe she’s hella unhappy in her marriage but doesn’t know why. Her and the husband should def get marriage counseling, and she needs to learn how to handle a teen-aged kid.

      1. Anon from LA says:

        Good point. Not only do new parents expect their kids to be tidy, sweet, and obedient, they expect their kids to be grateful and loving for all the sacrifices they (as parents) have made. Which would be awesome, but let’s face it, that’s not reality.

    2. The LW sounds like she thinks being a wife and mother, specifically one who doesn’t work outside the home, sucks. Having a baby isn’t going to solve that. I get that the lack of control over everything in her life is eating away at her. She cannot control when or even whether she ever has a baby, and even if she could, having the baby is only going to ADD to the chaos of the home. What she needs to do is focus on the things she CAN control (cultivating a life outside her home, finding companionship and fulfillment outside her husband and stepson, communicating with her husband about her needs, and working with him to make and meet compromises that work for both of them and the family). I don’t say this to dismiss the enormous feelings that struggling with infertility creates, and I don’t doubt that those feelings are impacting her relationship with her husband and stepson, but I don’t think it’s the largest issue here or the one that makes the most sense to focus on…

      1. Anon from LA says:

        I agree that the feeling of lack of control is eating away at her.

        But I also wonder if she resents her stepson because she’s sad/frustrated that she’s struggling to have one of her own. (Sort of like: “I’m running around, killing myself to raise this kid, and he’s not even mine!”) This is an understandable reaction to infertility, so I wouldn’t blame her if that’s how she feels. But I also think it’d be helpful to recognize that she’s redirecting her anger at her infertility towards her stepchild.

  6. LW – honestly, you sound like every wife and mother I know. This is a constant negotiation. Over the weekend, I do all the meal prep and laundry for the week. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, my two year old came in for food and attention. Finally I ran upstairs to find out what my husband was doing and he was playing video games. I nearly lost my marbles.

    So, what you do from here is important. I think you need to take care of yourself. If you have gone through IVF – it wrecks you. It did for me. What you need to do is be kind to yourself and find ways to put yourself on the list every day. Workout or do yoga or paint your toenails. Do something every day that is sinfully just for you.

    One more thing, I make the joke that my son thinks I am his caddy. I just follow him around and hold things for him.

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      Have you tried sending your son to his dad to get fed? Your son comes to you because you are the one who feeds him. What if next time your son comes to you for food you tell him dad can get him something to eat and send him to find dad. “Go find daddy. He’ll get you something to eat.”

      1. That isn’t a bad idea. I think it is more that my husband isn’t proactive. He doesn’t see laundry and say “I should do that”. He needs to be told to do it. That is frustrating especially because we both work so our weekends have chores packed in. I just rule the house but I resent it sometimes as well.

      2. I’m with you there csp. I think something about how men are socialized makes them not notice these things (I don’t for one second believe they are somehow incapable of seeing messes and cleaning them, they just have the benefit of not needing to develop that skill).
        2 weeks ago my husband grilled and left some grill tools in the dish drainer. When they were dry, I moved them into a pile by the back door. Then last night he comes looking for his grill tongs. Where are they? Still in the pile by the back door which he walked past multiple times a day for the last 2 weeks but never took notice of. So of course he grabbed his tongs and walked back outside… and I’m like “take the rest of it, too!”
        This stuff just becomes part of the landscape for them.

        I told my husband once that I don’t think he appreciates all the mental/planning work I do around the house, and its surprising he’s still alive because he had the nerve to tell me that if I didn’t do it we’d all be fine and I shouldn’t worry about it.

      3. I like Skyblossom’s method.

        As far as the “not seeing it” and not being proactive, my husband used to be more like that. At one point, I stopped doing the invisible work that I was frustrated with and I think it pushed him to start doing more and after many years of that, he is much more proactive.

      4. Portia, I’ve contemplated that many times but I always come to the conclusion that I value having my life run smoothly more than I value making a point. I think the time to have made that point was before we had a baby and, well, I missed my window!

  7. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    I think that this situation was set up by the LW and her husband making a move that worked for him but not for her. When you are in a relationship you need to make every major life change work for both of you. This was a major life change that only worked for the husband. He got a better job. She ended up with no job. She wants validation for the sacrifices she has made for him. He probably feels that since he provides all of the income she should take care of the house without expecting him to do much of anything.

    Because this move was only good for one partner it has set the couple up for unhappiness. It doesn’t matter how good the change is for one partner if it doesn’t work well for both it doesn’t work for the relationship.

    LW You need to find a way to make this work. I think finding employment for yourself would be a step in the right direction. Even if you have to live somewhere else during the week. You need to make an income and he needs to be more invested in maintaining your joint home. If you live away during the week you get to keep your place tidy and they could keep the home less tidy. If you do go that route I wouldn’t spend my weekend cleaning up after them. They will learn to take care of themselves but only if they have to.

  8. Bacon Mistress says:

    I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND YOU! I just wanted to say that first. And I dont think there is a loss of love there for “the child” or your husband. I have been pushed to the end of my rope where I dont have a nice thing to say either. Doesnt mean I wouldnt die for them in a heartbeat. It just means they are being assholes. You have a right to feel like you do. It doesnt make you a bad mom or a bad wife.

    I am continually doing what you do. But if someone tries to call it nagging I shut it down and tell them it is simply repeated requests for a service to be done that is WAY PAST DUE. If things dont get done then I refuse to do my parts that they benefit from so much: cooking dinner, doing laundry, driving them some where. Yeah… if someone isnt getting bacon and pancakes or getting a social life it changes things. LOL! Good luck!

  9. I agree with everyone here about her attitude and expectations, but I wonder if she and the kid wouldn’t benefit from some kind of chore schedule/allowance. If he’s making some kind of expected contribution to the upkeep of the house, she might feel less resentful about the things he isn’t doing and it might cultivate a sense of investment from him about how hard it is to maintain the house.

    I would also suggest that you get some kind of part time work. Even if it’s not in your field and doesn’t pay that much, it will help in at least the following ways:
    1. It will give you a sense of accomplishment/value/contribution outside the house and make you less sensitive about the upkeep.
    2. It will expand your regular social relationships -you’ll be dealing regularly with people who are not your son/stepson and you won’t be as sensitive to signs of disrespect from them.

    1. Yeah a chore chart is a good idea. Its not unreasonable to expect a 13 year old to contribute something to the household, learn some responsibility and some housekeeping skills that will be useful later in life. Her husband’s thought that he should be “left to his own devices” is a big NOPE from me.

      1. Well, I think that it’s also helpful to create a dynamic where he feels some sense of ownership/investment/control over the process. He sees her showing up and telling him what to do as a form of subordination and if he sees certain discrete tasks as his “job” he may take to it better. I don’t think that this will make him less messy generally, but it may ease the tension a little if she sees him regularly helping out.

  10. I completely understand how you feel. 100% I am in a nearly the same situation from moving, fertility, same age son, resentment. I lost my shit last night over another dish left in the sink after I had cleaned the whole house. Luckily my husband isn’t the culprit for the most part but the teenager is. I am not even mad he won’t do what he should anymore he just flat out refuses to do anything he is asked. I mean, actually says, no. Que my eyes nearly coming out of my head as I think what my mother would have done to me if I even attempted that shit. Sadly dad is not around a ton right now, although we have discussed that MUST change NOW! Hopefully it will.

    I do think you need someone to talk to. A counselor of some sort. We are arranging this for my husband and myself currently and frankly I am excited because I need to vent and work through my stress.

    I also agree the chore chart thing is a good idea. Granted we have that in my house and he simply doesn’t do it. That is when discipline needs to come in. My husband hasn’t been around to follow through on that so hopefully that will change. He also is a bit of a pushover where as I was raised in an old school Italian family so am much the opposite. Your husband needs to stand behind you as far as consequences for the kid not doing things. Your husband should also do his “chores” to set the example. I think since he is working and you are home those can be small things. I think (and we don’t have this defined) in my house my husband of course always puts his dishes away, will clean a mess he makes unless I tell him not to, usually because I am in the process of making a mess there and will do both when done. He will be attentive to things as he see’s them even if they are part of what I regularly do. Crumbs on the floor will grab the broom. Your husband needs to get on the same page and help.

    I can say though that a little time with family could help. Not to get rid of you but for you to breath. Seriously if you don’t go see your family I will. I need a break from stinky boy world and talking about video games so much!!! I

  11. Bittergaymark says:

    Good Lord. Please, please, please STOP trying to have a baby when you clearly can’t even handle one who is practically fully grown. NEWSFUCKINGFLASH: If you can’t handle the mess of a 13 year old — Hah! You really couldn’t handle the diarhea and projectile vomiting of your average infant — much less the constant toynado of a toddler.
    Grow the fuck up already and be more aware of your hilariously obvious limitations. If you can’t handle you average mess — you are a Mommie Dearest in the making.

    1. Someone who has difficulty with a teenager is, everyone. Someone who has difficulty with a new step child is, everyone. Chill out. Oh wait, you tell everyone to be sterile. Good thing you can’t reproduce.

    2. Yes, when I think of all the things that got destroyed from each of my kids when they were toddlers.
      Like my son was having a fit the other day when his sister broke a lamp. (was my husband’s grandmothers) I reminded him that when he was her age he broke the Halloween Pumpkin lamp that his Great-Great Grandmother hand made back in the 1950s. (I am a 1950s collector, a Vintage Halloween collector and it was my Great Grandmothers, so this was a triple blow) Fact is my kids have broken, peed on, pooped on, barfed on, lost, eaten, “modified” etc hundreds (thousands?) of dollars worth of my stuff. (It is just stuff, but I like stuff. ) No, I did not like it when my older daughter scratched a giant set of rings through the paint of my car hood when she decided to make a snow Pikachu. I still cringe thinking about it.
      Kids f**k stuff up…it is in their job description. LW could not handle this if cleaning up after a family of three gives her a nervous breakdown!

      1. Bittergaymark says:


    3. I guess the actual father has nothing to do with raising a child, making him do his chores, getting his grades up and feeding him. I guess it is always up to the woman whether she is the actual mother or step mother.

      1. Bittermark says:

        If she was working outside of the home I would have more sympathy…

  12. My son is 11 and every day I have to tell him every single thing he needs to do. It is the exact same thing every day. I asked him why I have to tell him every day when he knows what is expected of him… he just “forgets”.
    Drives me crazy!
    And my little one makes ten times the mess that she is capable of cleaning up. She is learning.
    But I have accepted it. I have gotten to where I can at least get them to put their dishes in the sink and he will put the silverware away.
    My husband is very good at cleaning up, but he works a lot now (and works on his car at the family shop after his paying job), so he kind of stops in, goes to bed, gets up, makes a breakfast mess and leaves. He helps sometimes in the weekends. I complained a little at first, then I realized it wasn’t that big of a deal. He works 6 days a week, sometimes 7 cause it is the summer and his job is recreation oriented.
    As far as the laundry goes NOBODY touches my washing machine EVER. I paid for it myself and it is MINE! Lol I am so particular about how everything is washed.
    My husband did put up a new (well, it’s from the 1950s) red T bar laundry line up for me. I have wanted one forever! We dug it out of the back yard of and old house sanded it and painted it bright red. Sheets smell SO GOOD when they are sun dried. (And the sun gets out a lot of lingering Stains) I guess that was my payment for extra dishes.
    What struck me as odd was that there was no love in her letter. Does she even love her husband? Does she love her stepson? She should go take some R&R and see if this situation is one she really wants or just found herself in cause she wanted a baby.
    Does she really want to stay at home? I agree that she should find some kind of life outside the home. Sitting around with nothing to do except find things wrong would make anyone nuts! I chose to stay home. (I also work from home part time now) I was glad to leave corporate behind, but it sounds like this wasn’t really a choice for LW. Maybe she should go back to work. I know she said there isn’t much opportunity. Well, there are other types of options.

  13. From the LW:

    So I read the response as well as the comments. Thank you for taking the time to give your insights. I must say my heart hurt when I read it. I was fresh angry when I typed the letter. Firstly, I do think some of the remarks were very harsh. I do not normally refer to my stepson as the child, I just wanted to keep the letter very clinical. He is lovingly referred to as “My angel” in our home. I accept that I am a nag. I will definitely work on that. Thanks for that. I do also understand that he is a child an trust me in no way do I expect him to be perfect. I do spend alot of time reading up on what I can do to be a better parent and ensure he is getting all the love and support he needs.

    I probably should not have written that letter while I was so angry as I see how it can make me appear like an evil stepmom. Which anyone that knows the situation will confirm that it is quite the opposite. With regards to my fertility issues, I by no means equate that to have anything to do with my stepson. He is a blessing to my life. The reason I said I raise him as if he were my own, was to highlight the fact , that there is no prejudice and I’m giving him the best of me. Was not meant in a negative way. I am by no means bitter about my infertility. It is a challenge but I do believe if it is meant to be it will and if its not I have my experiences with my stepson so that is okay too.

    My husband and I had a chat and cleared things up. We agreed that from here on out, he will do more activities with “the child”, so that I have more time for myself and so that my stepson can get more guidance from a man.I think the time is right for them to do more things together as I feel I might be coddling too much and maybe expect too much. I’m doing some studies while I am at home, so that keeps me busy. I do agree, that I should probably do more things outside my home. Me investing all my time in my family was my choice, so I agree it is not their fault. Ultimately, I should find a job and go be organised there. I think not having a job and interacting with like minded grown ups adds to my frustrations at home.

    I will certainly take each and every feedback into consideration. With regards to my stepson, there are things my husband and his teachers agree on, that he needs to work on. When I was venting about him it was not with regards to him doing house chores, more to do with his personal development , school work and approach to life. With regards to my husband, he can for sure do more to help me around the house, like rinse his own coffee mug. Everyday, I do my best to give both a clean loving homely home. So to feel that appreciation can at least be shown by tidying up after yourself , I think is not asking too much.

    1. Anon from LA says:

      Sounds like you are moving in a positive direction. Glad we were wrong about your relationship with your stepson!

      I hope you are to schedule more time for yourself, whether that be taking classes, finding work, engaging in self care, etc. Perhaps if you’re busier and less readily available to wait on your husband and stepson, they’ll stop taking all that you do for granted. (Well, maybe. One would hope.) If you happen to schedule a mani-pedi that runs through dinner time, I guess they will have to fend for themselves! Your stepson is old enough to help with the cooking and cleaning, so this could very good for hiim as well.

  14. LisforLeslie says:

    I like the self reflection LW -that’s a good sign.

    I don’t think you’re wrong for being disappointed that your efforts are unappreciated. I do think you’re expecting too much from a 13 year old. I don’t think you’re expecting too much from an adult man. I also think there is lack of clarity – everyone expects the woman to play maternal mom – and as a step parent, you have limited authority. So you get overruled or undercut. You either are or are not to act as a parent. You and your husband have to be on the same page and then your husband and you and the kid need to sit down an your husband has to lay out the expectation. And then if your husband undercuts you, then you have to determine if it’s a battle you should keep having. He can’t have it both ways.

    But I think you have to step back too. I think you’re hitting BEC here. Been there with lazy ass roommates. Where I started getting more hyper and crazed about keeping neat because I was the only one. When my roommates would be messy, I would go super neat. Obsessively neat. When my roommates were neat and more considerate, I could relax a little (I would maintain neatness but not obsessively so). So I think you need to determine if you’re getting hyper because of how irked you are and if so … walk away. Seriously. Find something to focus your energy on. Anything. Take up a hobby. Make quilts. Learn tennis. Become an expert in local history. Grow a garden. Find something else on which to focus your energy. Find something that is yours that is not shared (like the house).

  15. LW — I like your follow-up note a lot more than your original letter. It shows that you are beginning to grasp the step-parent role. In a way, it’s nice that you think of your husband’s son as your own and treat him as if you were his mother — it shows that you feel a real attachment to him. On the other hand, you aren’t his mother; he already has a mother. The formal parenting must be done by his mother and father. Your husband needs to take the lead and you are the support person. My father remarried and was a step parent. He quickly recognized the limited range of interactions step parenthood allows.

    Your husbands son is a beginning teenager. That is a particularly difficult and hormonal age. It is an especially difficult age for the children of divorce. He knows you’re not his mother. He has a mother. He resents his parents divorce and he undoubtedly resents your efforts to assert yourself as replacement mother. A lot of kids rebel against both the parent who remarries and the stepmom or stepdad. Their life was upheaved by their parents’ divorce. Now one parent is trying to return to a new stable normalcy with a new woman at a time the child simply isn’t ready for his father to move on and most definitely is not ready to accept a new person in the role of mother. It’s nothing personal against you; it’s the natural reaction of a teenager whose life was turned upside down and would rather interact with his mother or his father than with you. He feels you have no right to tell him what to do or blow up at him. You aren’t his mother. You are just the woman his father forced into his life. Harsh, but teenagers are also harsh to each other and take their hurt out on others.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wow….what is the color of the sky in the world you live in? Everything you complained about is normal and it’s called reality. It sounds like you have an unrealistic idea of what marriage and being a mother is all about. I would strongly suggest that you reconsider having a child of your own at this time, considering you can’t handle the current situation as it already exists. Also, by the way you speak of your stepson, some parenting classes would be beneficial to you. Solve the issues you have with the normal everyday stuff before adding more complications to the mix. It would be a great idea to take your husband up on his offer to go be with your family for a while. A much needed break would benefit you all and give a clearer mind about the current situation.

  17. Wanted to say I 100% understand your frustrations LW, more than you can know!!

    I am a stepmom to a 6 year old boy, his dad and I got married when my stepson was 18 months old. We have 50/50 custody with his mom, who is very much in the picture. I love my stepson, he’s an awesome kid, and I’m glad to get to have a part in that. He introduces me to strangers as “his mom at his Dad’s house” 🙂

    However, step-parenting is, hands down, the hardest type of parenting there is. I will argue that until the day I die. It becomes impossibly difficult if the biological parent acts like it seems your husband acts sometimes. My husband, especially at first, wanted me to step right into a “mommy” role, honestly, because that was easiest for him. But he wasn’t as keen on me parenting/disciplining as I saw fit. Nothing will kill a blended family faster than that, and it almost got to that point for us, because I was doing so much more than I needed to. Sounds like you’re taking care of a kid who gets to treat you however he wants according to his dad. THAT SOUNDS HORRIBLE, no wonder you’re frustrated. The people here saying you “signed up to be a mother to a child” are, quite frankly, wrong. You married a man who has a child. Your primary responsibility to that child is kindness, compassion and to be a positive adult role model to him. You don’t have to force yourself to feel maternal overnight, or ever. It is your HUSBAND’S job to make sure his child’s needs are met, unless you offer your help (as you obviously have). You obviously care about your stepson, so screw all these people saying otherwise. You live in a house where you feel like a 13 yr old is the boss of you. That would drive anyone insane! Time for your husband to have your back with disciplining your stepson. If he expects you to take care of his son, you damn well get to discipline him too, otherwise you’re essentially a teenager’s prisoner.

    And finally… anyone saying you shouldn’t have kids because you don’t like your 13 year old (!!!) stepson not cleaning up after himself… those people are useless jerks. Yeah, 13 year olds are messy, but they can CERTAINLY be held accountable for their actions and TAUGHT to change. Infants can’t. 13 year olds shouldn’t depend on you to clean up after them. Infants obviously should. To those saying all 13 year olds are messy and there’s not a lot you can do about it, y’all failed a little with your kids, sorry.

    Anyways, to use your frustration with your stepson and husband to imply YOU will be a bad mom is an epic form of douchebaggery. I don’t think you’re really angry at your stepson for being messy, you’re frustrated he doesn’t listen to and respect you when he is fully capable of so doing, and you’re probably MOST angry at your husband too for not backing you up. As you should be. Honestly, it sounds like he has been kinda crappy to you lately. You move so he can take a job. You are the primary caretaker of his son and your home. When you’re having a nervous breakdown, likely influenced by infertility struggles, he says you should go see your family?????? WTF??? Seems like he prefers having a woman around who will take care of things for him but isn’t a human being with emotions and feelings.

    The only good advice I’ve seen given is to get some new hobbies. Anything to take your mind off things and focus on YOU. Oh, and read “A Single Girls Guide to Marrying a Man, His Kids, and His Ex-Wife”. I almost cried with relief after I read this book, because I realized I wasn’t as evil as I felt sometimes! Or read how AskPolly talks about the different ways she feels about her stepson and bio daughters. Hell, send her your letter, she’ll give WAY better advice than this mommy blog. Both the author of that book and Polly have experience being bio parents and stepparents, so they are actually qualified to give advice on the topic, unlike a lot of these commenters. Just goes to show that in step parenting, as in many scenarios, society expects SO much more from women than men.

    I’ve rambled enough. Good luck with having a baby of your own. You’re going through a lot right now, and it’s ok to actually feel your emotions. I wish you all the best in everything.

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