I met my husband when his daughter had just turned 3 years old. She was born out of wedlock so was born into a broken home. My husband and I got married in 1999 (when she was 5) and the understanding (per her mother's insistence) was that she was never going to live with her father. My husband and I decided to have a baby and she was born in April, 2002.
My husband received a call in August, 2002, from his daughter's mother saying she could come live with him. Notice there was no plural there ... just him. No consideration for what it would do to "my" family. Needless to say, I am deeply, deeply resentful that she was dumped here.
My husband, of course, doesn't feel that way but he isn't having to taxi her here and there, etc. Everything to do with her feels like a chore because my heart isn't in it. I have tried and tried and tried to get over it but I just can't. The only right I have is to walk out the door and I won't do that to our daughter.
Just to add to the injury, her mother told me via telephone she is glad her daughter lives with us because she wouldn't be able to handle her. I just don't know how anyone could say that to someone they dumped their child on. I just feel awful any which way I turn and don't know what to do. So, I guess my question is how have people dealt with this and moved on? I can't seem to since she is under my nose! There is more but I've droned on long enough. Thanks for "listening".
Step Parent Answer:
There are a lot of issues going on here, but first, let's deal with yours. Obviously, you feel betrayed (and rightly so) because your husband has not lived up to your agreement about who would be responsible for raising step child. A man stands up for his family and lives up to his agreements. His failure to do so has put you in a position in which you have a big decision to make. After all, this is your life too. You need to decide if you want to do the work to create a good life or if you want to settle for a life that has been poisoned by resentment. Is this the kind of man you want to raise your child with? Is this the kind of man you can count on to stand up for you in the future? It takes courage to ask the questions that will help you create a life of your own making.
I suggest you have a talk with your husband in which you express your feelings of hurt and disappointment. Tell him how it felt for him to betray your agreement and leave you out of a life-changing decision. Do your best to express yourself in a way that reveals your pain and vulnerability, rather than your hostility. Pay attention to how receptive he is to your feelings. Pay attention to whether he realizes what he has done and is willing to take responsibility. His receptivity and remorse reveal his depth of feeling for you and his respect for you as a human being. Due to what has happened here, I recommend you do this with the guidance of a therapist.
Even though your husband has betrayed your agreement, consider that he may feel stuck between his love for you and his love for his daughter (assuming that he really does love her.) Still, he should have never have agreed to bring his daughter into your home with consulting you and amending your agreement. So again, watch how he responds or reacts to your expression of your feelings. This will tell you a lot about his regard for you.
As a step parent, you are a steward of your step child.
Next, as a step parent, you need to deal with your feelings of resentment toward raising step child. While life does not always give us what we want, it often gives us what we need. I'm guessing that if you are honest, you will admit that in some ways, you are taking out your resentment on your step child. You talk about how she was "dumped on you," so imagine how this makes her feel—she is that which has been dumped. It doesn't matter if she's actually heard you use these words, she feels them in your demeanor. Remember, you are her step parent and she is a child and it is not her fault that she was abandoned by her mother and now finds herself in another home where no one seems to want her. My heart goes out to her, as it does to you.
While you are deciding what you will do with this situation you find yourself in, see if you can create a relationship with your step child that is separate from everybody else. Start slow. Expect her to be resistant due to what she has been through. God knows how she was treated by the mother who has abandoned her. Like all of us, your step child needs love to flourish. I am certain there is something beautiful inside of her that your willingness and openness will allow you to discover if you choose.
Copyright © 2006 by Laura Ramirez. All rights reserved. This article may not be copied in full or in part without the express written consent of the author, however, you may link to it from your web site, blog or forum.