I got married to a man who has a 15-year-old daughter, six months ago. She lives with us in Port Harcourt. She is the exact replica of her mother (I would have preferred she looked like my husband though but that’s not the issue).
The issue is I am expected to warm up to the child immediately. I believe that if both parties are forced to, there will be resistance which will create problems in our home.
Love requires an amount of time to grow. You may feel rush of emotions when you meet your partner or when a mother meets her baby for the first time but if not, it doesn’t happen automatically.
The society as conveniently overlooked the science that goes into the bonding process between step relations. It is more difficult to be a step parent than it is to raise your biological child. In raising your biological child, you know the values, standards and patterns of behaviour you want your child to possess.
When you are given a child whose attitudes and standards are not in sync with yours, then there are problems lurking around (this explains why people prefer to adopt toddlers to teenagers). Being unprepared emotionally makes step-parenting more difficult. The skills of mothering can be learned with time but rejection from children or negative influence from their biological parents can pose as a serious problem.
Most times, the step-parents are doing their best. Doing twice as much, out of duty to their new spouse but sometimes their best isn’t appreciated or good enough, simply because the child isn’t theirs. It is easy for men to shelf the responsibility because they are brought up to think they can’t handle children; after all, it is woman’s duty. A woman may already have a toddler and be proud of her mothering abilities but have zero clues on how to care for a stepchild if given one.
Women, who are yet to give birth to a child of their own, are often pressurized by the society and themselves. They see step parenthood as an opportunity to prove themselves worthy of the opportunity. They instantly jump into building a relationship with their stepchild and when met with the natural difficulties of being a step parent they find it surprising and painful.
The bitter truth is you certainly can’t be expected to love your step kids simply because you love their dad. It’s an unrealistic expectation. Take care of them, help them with anything they need and be careful while at it to avoid marital issues. Please mind your business where necessary because remember no matter how hard you try, the child isn’t yours and you can’t take decisions for her like you would for your child. People in this situation need to understand this to reduce their guilt.
In my own case, I try my best to take good care of my step-daughter. I do the school runs, buy her expensive gifts, and help her with everything she asks me to. However, I don’t interfere too much. I don’t send her on errands and I have never tried to hit her no matter what. I can confidently say I’m easing into loving her a-step-a-day.
I believe she will even enjoy more than my biological kids because I always have to go extra mile for her just to prove to myself, my spouse and her, that I can be a great mother to her but for now I have no emotional attachments towards her. There are no hugs, no kisses, and we have fewer conversations.
DOES THIS MAKE ME A BAD PERSON?
With all the efforts I have put in, my husband feels I haven’t done enough. Will this be the case if she was mine? I feel I have to set boundaries because there is a limit to the discipline I can give her. When it comes to step-parenting no one will ever tell you that the foundation of your marriage will be mostly dependent on that child and you will mostly walk on eggshells in your own home else you would be termed an evil step parent.
I opine that having a peaceful home when step-parenting is not dependent on just one partner, the spouse bringing the child (children) into the marriage has a role to play. They should not dump the child on the wife with high expectations to meet.
An anonymous writer for Diaryofanaijagirl