Wicked Step Mum vs Wicked Mum

When the priority is the child/ren but everyone is made to forget this fact!

Wicked Step Mum vs Wicked Mum
Gardening with K when she was 3

Did I intend to become a step-mum? Not one bit, in fact, if anything I had a rule that I wouldn't date a man with children because when you enter a new relationship you can imagine that the other person will have baggage, but a child is another thing altogether. Somehow, I fell for my partner before I really had the chance to think about the fact that his very cute 16-month-old daughter came with an incredibly difficult past relationship and an unreasonable birth mother who uses the child as a pawn and would continue to do so for several years. Hence my question, who is the "wicked" mother here? Me the step parent or her the actual birth mother?

I didn't ask to meet my stepdaughter (K) until I knew I was serious about my partner, it didn't seem fair to do so beforehand, I didn't want to build a relationship with her until I knew I would be there to sustain it. I suppose it was also my way of ensuring I didn't get attached to a little person if I wasn't going to stay with her Dad too, so I was protecting myself as much as I was her.

Over the following months, I started to learn that her Mum really wasn't putting her daughter first, she was quite happy to offer my partner time with her if it suited her but otherwise would deny him access for weeks at a time. One Sunday afternoon, when she'd ordained to let him have her after three weeks of no access K was obviously annoyed that she hadn't seen her Dad for so long. We took her out for lunch and she threw things, wouldn't show any affection was just generally upset for the whole time. I wasn't surprised, she couldn't express herself with words, she couldn't say "Daddy where have you been?" "Why haven't I seen you?" - Her Mum told him that she'd not been sleeping well and was often upset but still wouldn't let him have proper involvement to allow a vague sense of normality for little K to see her Dad regularly, she was far too annoyed to see that her daughters' welfare was more important and sharing the burden of parenting would make life easier for her.

This has gone on in varying degrees for six years, sometimes she'll border on reasonable, when she turned 6 we even got to take her on holiday properly with us which was wonderful. We only have her every other weekend Friday evening - Sunday afternoon otherwise and it just isn't enough time for her to relax into how she can be here vs how she is at home.

Over the last couple of years, her mum has taken to saying "I'll ask K if she wants to do that" rather than agreeing to suggested activities because it would be a great experience for K to have. The problem is we don't know what she actually says to her, getting even a phone call can be difficult as her Mum claims she doesn't want to speak to her Dad, I find this hard to believe as she obviously adores him when they are together.

Due to yet another recent run-in with her being unreasonable and it causing my partner and me to fight as well I sought some advice from other step mums, wondering what their situations are like and how they handle it. After joining a couple of Facebook groups I discovered that firstly we are not alone, many mothers use their children as blackmail rather than seeing that they are the innocent party. What happens is that you end up with horrible scenarios where the birth mother makes the lives of their ex so miserable that they might as well have stayed together!

These groups firstly gave me hope, perhaps we'll get a resolution at some point, then the women on women battering combined with comments of "and of course my OH doesn't stand up to her..." has just become a little depressing - I've only been in them a week! I'm not saying all of them are like this, I have received some really helpful information about mediation and how to handle situations but for the most part, its just step mum's getting annoyed and children being passed from pillar to post.

Truth is, as I write this I realise that I have even less influence on this situation than I do on the larger worldwide issues that I am aware of. All I can do is show my stepdaughter that I love her and make her feel welcome when she visits. I want this to be enough, but as we are currently in a scenario where she is refusing access made worse by the fact we had full conversations with K about what we would do on her next visit it's a very helpless situation to be in.

Step-parenting, its hard, its unpredictable, it is not what I expected when I set out on this journey. But am I the wicked stepmother or is it her mother who's the wicked one? All I can do is support my partner and hope that soon enough K is old enough to see she isn't being given the full story by her Mum and actually make her own decisions! We have an almost 4-year-old daughter of our own and another on the way, having a consistent relationship with K is all that we all want!

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Lisa Sherratt
See all posts by Lisa Sherratt