If you’re best mates with your step-children, give yourself a pat on the back cause this blog posting isn’t for you. It’s for the rest of us. Step-parents like myself who just can’t seem to forge a warm bond with their step-children.
In my case, I wanted to be a wonderful mother to my step-children as I knew their biological mother was neglectful at best, abusive at worst.
But even an abusive biological mother is still their mother. My step-children were naturally bonded and loyal to her no matter how badly she treated them. They were even bonded to Rhys’ ex-girlfriend. She was the pseudo step-mother they’d accepted and the step-mother they wanted. After Rhys and she broke up, his son married her thus perpetuating the culture of incest of which Rhys was a child victim.
In retrospect, I never stood a chance as a step-mother.
So I took a step back and re-evaluated my goals. Most important, was Rhys. I took vows to ‘love, honour and cherish’ him…not his children. I thought they’d respect and appreciate me for taking good care of their father during his many bouts of ill health. But I hadn’t counted on Parental Alienation. For many years, it seemed that the more I cared for him, the more I fought for him and the more his health improved, in part, from my devoted nursing, the more my step-children hated me. They said they wanted him to suffer. I often wondered if they wanted him dead and I was standing in the way of that goal.
Thankfully, all that ended this year when their mother overplayed her hand and Rhys children began to figure out Parental Alienation. They’re all grown up now. The mothering days have passed. So I’ll be their friend, thought I. But that’s not as simple as it sounds.
They were raised by their biological mother in a culture, a dynamic, an ethic that is utterly foreign to Rhys and me. After all, the break-up between his ex-wife and him happened for a reason. Yes, she cheated on him but they were an ill made match from the start. Incompatible in their ethics, religion, beliefs, goals, priorities and lifestyle.
Her children were raised in her culture, not Rhys’. What is normal to his children is utterly abnormal to Rhys and I. We watch in mute horror as his five children bounce from partner to partner leaving a trail of fatherless children, and yes, STIs in their wake. There is domestic violence, arrests, stints in gaol, alcohol abuse and illegal drug use. One child briefly joined the sex industry. All this and the eldest isn’t thirty yet.
Rhys struggles to maintain a relationship with his children, with whom he has so little in common, as he watches them make a bloody shambles of their lives. He chooses to remain neutral and keep things light, laughing at their ‘shenanigans’ to remain detached.
That’s impossible for me. Advice springs to my lips, as it would any ‘mother’. They resent it and blow me off. ‘It must be nice to be so smart at twenty-one’ I remark wryly to Rhys. ‘What happened to learning from other people’s mistakes?’
Even friendship is difficult. They want a ‘yes’ woman. Someone they can brag to about how trashed they got last night. Who’s shagging whom. Who gave whom the clap. Who knocked up whom. Our very own Jeremy Kyle Show. They seem to think it’s funny.
It horrifies me to the bone. It worries me. I want their lives to be serene and happy. Instead, their lives are a shambles that bring them nothing but pain but they don’t want a step-mother’s advice. I can’t and won’t give them a careless friend’s thumbs-up. It’s an impossible situation. A perfect Catch-22.
That’s when it occurred to me that my inability to connect with my step-children is as it should be. If I were hand-in-glove with them, I’d be incompatible with Rhys, just as his ex-wife was, just as she raised his children to be.
My inability to bond with them is what makes me a good wife for Rhys. We were and still are compatible. We share the same lifestyle, priorities, ideals, ethics, morals and religion. If his step-children don’t like me for those reasons, that’s just too bad. It’s their loss.
As long as Rhys and I are at peace and our relationship is solid, that’s all that matters.
Photo by foilman