People's Opinions of Step Parents

Updated on April 04, 2014
S.H. asks from Santa Barbara, CA
9 answers

Someone posted here and deleted her questions. Some of the responses made me think about others' opinions.

You married the father, so you are responsible to take on his adult children. Or: You are the step mother, not the mother, so you have no rights to know anything (even though the 27 year step daughter lived for free in the step mother's home).

I am confused by these opinions. Why do so many hold step parents to a higher standard than Bio (or adoptive) parents? If a 27 year old lived off a bio mom, most here would say to stop enabling the woman.

It makes me feel bad for step parents, especially ones who married people with adult children (I understand minor children are a priority for the bio/adpopted parents). I am married to my husband, the father of my kids, and when they grow up we will decide how much we want to help. If we ever got divorced and each remarried I would still expect to be the mother and not have another woman take on the responsibility.

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So What Happened?

J.B. your story sound like real life. I was just reading some of the comment to the person with the 27 year old step daughter and felt a few comments did hold her to a higher standard than if a bio mom would have written the story. I happen to not agree with a step parent not having any say if they pay the bills and are the legal adult in the home. If your step son was smoking weed and you are the only adult home, I feel you have a right and duty to tell him that is not allowed. Now I assume he is not that type of kid, but for argument sake, I do feel home owners (person on the lease) have rights and responsibilities.

More Answers


answers from Iowa City on

I think it is ridiculous that so many people are like 'she better not even think about disciplining my child' or 'he's the step father so he doesn't get to have a say in what you do with your children'. Why can't a step parent actually parent a child who is in their home? Why can't a step dad say pick up your toys kids? Why can't a step mom say if you don't stop whining you will go to your room? Why can't parenting decisions include all parental figures, step or otherwise? Why shouldn't a husband and wife agree to terms regarding the children in their care?

In the situation to which you are referring, I think all parties need to be in agreement and a step parent shouldn't be made to be the bad guy if he or she says wait a minute this is my house/money/living environment too and I am not willing to shoulder the burden of your adult child for years to come.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Without reading a lot of the answers here, I can only say this, having been a kid with step-parents since I was young. (parents divorced and remarried multiple times)...

I think the biggest problem we are really seeing is a lack of forethought and communication between the COUPLE. Now, add in entitled adult children, and you have a huge problem.

If a couple is looking at getting married, any parties with kids NEED to discuss the level of support they are wanting to provide their adult child. I am, of course, not considering some severe circumstance like an unforeseen serious illness here, but in the cases of long term medical or mental health issues-- or unemployment or lack of any drive to be self-sufficient-- this is a conversation people need to have with each other before rushing into getting married.

The relationship I had with mom's third husband -- who became my step-dad when I was eight-- was of course extremely different than the sort of relationship I had with her fourth, who became more or less my step-dad when I was in my late teens. The former disciplined me; he'd signed on to make sure that we kids were housed/fed/clothed. The latter basically told me his house rules and I respected them (we only lived under the same roof for a short time, couple months); we had more of a 'you're my mom's boyfriend' relationship-- I supported myself from 18 years old and onward. I did not expect either he or my mother to support me.

And you are right, S.-- we would tell a mother "really, get your kid grown up already" if a grown adult child were living at home with no sense of participation to the betterment of the household at all. We might even wonder aloud/in print how she raised a kid to be such an entitled, selfish brat, to be expecting mommy and daddy to float them through life.

I try to consider my step-parents as individuals, not just collectively. My stepmom from one of my dads has not been financially supportive, but she's been there at every turn and has been far more emotionally supportive than my own mother-- who didn't have much to offer besides money. So, there's another perspective, I suppose-- that emotional support to grow up into a functioning adult (and she helped with that) is far more important than continuing to pay someone's way through life and not challenging that presumption that they are "owed" just on the merit of being born...

In most relationships, it is the health of the relationship of the parents which determines how functional and healthy the family as a whole are. That still needs to happen, whether or not one of the parties involved is a stepparent. Our spouses will always have their kids from previous relationships, but hopefully HOW those kids are parented and supported will have evolved in age-appropriate ways.

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answers from Indianapolis on

I think it greatly depends on how old the children are when the step parent becomes their mom or dad's new spouse. I had a step dad from the age of about 5 til around 16. That man raised me. I called him dad. We had a terrific relationship.

On the other hand, my husband gained a stepmom when he was around 20ish. He's forced to interact with her because she is his dad's tag-along. But they do not have a parent/child relationship. They're not even friends. His mother also remarried around the same time as his dad. He didn't even speak or spend time with his stepdad. They literally had no relationship. His mother remarried again last year, and to this day he has met his new stepdad once.

My father-in-law and his wife had her grown son living with them for a while. They had the same issues with him as what that poster had described of her step daughter. There was a lot of animosity between husband and stepson. Because again, there is no parental relationship.

I think if you remarry when your kids are adults it's almost viewed as competition on both sides.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I am a step-parent, and so is my husband. At the end of the day, his daughter isn't mine and my son isn't his. We've known each other's kids since they were 3, and we've been married for 10 years (they are now both 16). We have custody of both kids and neither sees their other biological parent (by the choice of the parents). But, my son is my son. His daughter is his daughter. We love each others' kids and do right by them and do our best to treat them fairly and as we treat our own kids and the ones we have together, but we don't always agree on everything and when we don't, the bio parent rules.

At the end of the day, I have no rights to my SD and can't make any decisions for or about her. Same with my husband and my son. At the end of the day, I have the final say. I'm the one who will be his mother forever, my husband will be my SD's father forever - on the contrary, if my husband and I split up, whether or not we have a relationship with each others' kid will be a matter of choice and permission. So the relationship really is different from that of a biological/legal parent and child.

The advice in the other question wasn't about holding the step-mother to a higher standard, it was about her putting the responsibility of dealing with this adult child where it belongs, which is with her husband. HE is the one who is setting a poor example and is allowing this to continue. HE is the one who should take on the tough job of launching his child into adulthood. He has failed at that's way past time for HIM to step up and parent his child. This is not the step-mother's right or responsibility. I don't think anyone said she was responsible for his children, but she IS responsible for her relationship with her husband and she can choose to put up with his reneging on his parental responsibility or not.

I can honestly say that I have never felt that anyone has held me to an unrealistic or unfair standard as a step-parent.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Muncie on

It fully depends on the dynamic of the family. My mother, was my sister's mother. My parents were her parents regardless of genetics. Dad stood by Mom, Mom stood by Dad.

It seems to me that a lot of step-parents feel like outsiders and feel as if they are over stepping their "place" in the family especially if the birth parents is still involved with the children. As you said you wouldn't want another woman to take responsibility for your adult children. However if that adult child lived with that other woman and your Ex, imagine hows she's feeling. Trapped dealing with another adult who has this bond with her husband and she has no say in the situation even if it's a horridly toxic one.

I believe couples who are entering the "step-parent" part of their relationship need to figure out what they are to each other and each other's kids before rings are exchanged. It would solve a whole mess of issues if the step-parent knew they were step-PARENTS and not just that person who is sleeping with mom/dad.

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answers from Detroit on

I do believe step parents are held to a higher standard.
My parents divorced when I was seven. My mom remarried soon after. None of the parents involved ever spoke poorly of each other. I understood that I had different rules at each home. I lived with my mom and step dad for my last years in HS. They let me know about a month before I graduated that I would need to leave the home (and my step brother who was also living there and graduated with me). We both moved to our other parents houses and I started Jr. College. No drama. No hard feelings-because the parents acted like adults.
I'm a step mom now and we are the primary home. I also have to play counselor when negative things are said or bio mom is inconsistent (making broken promises). I have told her several times that is is important for the adults to present a united front and not to speak poorly of each other. It falls on deaf ears. It's sad, depressing, stressful. But it's what I do. It's A LOT more than a traditional parent role and I envy parents who stayed together (at times).
Ours are young, but fast forward 15 years and one of my sks is living here and doing nothing? I would put a stop to that quick. And I wouldn't worry what other ppl thought about it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

it's a touchy subject, and varies wildly depending on family dynamics.
when i acquired a stepmother (my mother died) i was 11, and resented her bitterly. she was patient, and loving, and calm, and did her best to bridge that difficult abyss between having authority in her own home, and not utterly alienating a passel of stepkids. in retrospect i can appreciate her brilliance and sensitivity, but if you'd asked me as a 15 year old my answer would have been very different.
i wish more parents who are going to blend families would discuss it more. it seems that many of the problems arise because the step-parent is left to twist in the wind, not having any sort of say, but also not getting anything in the way of support from their spouse.
obviously in the case of divorce you also have to consider the role and responsibilities of the bio-parents, and hopefully work with them.
i don't think anything can be said in a blanket overview way. it's always a difficult role, but some people have an easier time of it than others. good clear communications are the best way to make it work.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

It is my opinion, and I live by this with my husband and HIS adult son. If my SS doesn't want to abide by the rules of the house, he can pack up and get out. Heck, I'll help him pack and give him a ride if need be. If daddy doesn't like it, daddy can go with him. I am way too old to be playing nonsensical games; yes, it is my way or the highway when they get older. My SS knows this and he doesn't test the waters. He knows that if push comes to shove, HE will be leaving by himself. His father will NOT put him above me, which is the way it should be. Now, when he was younger, of course he came first and I happily played second fiddle. But once he became an adult, daddy had to make a choice. He could continue to coddle his son and they could move out together. Or, he could be my husband and let his son be an adult and sink or swim depending on what he did or didn't put into his own success and happiness.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Because your mama bear will come out fighting if that "other" woman dares to tell your child off for living off her father or taking financial assistance from her father, by God, that's not her business, that's between her mother and her father, not some busybody step mom...just think about if it were you, how would you feel if a step mom butted in and told your child something in this venue?

You'd be pissed of big time. So that's why step parents have to take stuff far more than a biological parent. They don't have any given right to tell your child what to do in the event it's more than "Do your homework".

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