Being a Childless Stepmum


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This is something that I have got used to over the years, but every now and then it can make me feel like I don't fit into the world somehow. My OH has a son who is my stepson and who I've been involved with for many years. He is growing up now, and due to EFH not following the court order any more (clearly the plan was to wait until it's too late to enforce an order, when court cases are taking a year or more), he is here less than before.

So I had to get used to finding new things to do in life and starting new projects. As a teenager he has his own life quite a lot as well. So it was a combination of - teen growing up and not feeling needed any more. And also him just not being here as much to feel like we still had a family life.

Anyway. There have been moments, over the years, where I feel like I am somehow less important. Stepmums can feel like that anyway. But particularly as I haven't got children of my own. This isn't my own lack of self esteem but sometimes a subtle thing in other peoples attitudes. They can somehow less respectful of you because you don't have that status of being a parent. I've even had people tell me SS isn't my family (many people don't understand about step parenting at all). So it comes down to - lack of status. You're some kind of oddball category that people can't put into a box.

Most of the time I just get on with life, but there have been moments when I realised I would never be a grandmother or have grandchildren and no children around when I am old. SS may possibly be, but who knows. And even if he gets married and has grandchildren I can see we would not be a big part of the picture. EFH would continue to be an EFH! I can't quite imagine that - SS getting married and having children. If he did, it would be a long way off probably.

These are things you can live with. There are other things in life. Hobbies, pets, your home life. Friends from a distance to chat with. But the one other thing that it sometimes makes you think about is - when you go, there is no one to remember you. That might sound a bit maudlin and clearly some people will remember you, but you won't be remembered down the generations, by children and grandchildren.

So in my case, I always wanted to have children. I had some infertility issues, then ended up divorced. I didn't feel I could have a child on my own with some random man, and wasn't in a financial position to do that either. By the time I was in a serious relationship again it was too late. I would say to anyone now - get your eggs frozen. I did try - but they wouldn't do it once you were over 40.

So with OH, we did have a good go at seeing if I'd get pregnant before I hit menopause, but it didn't happen. Once I had the menopause, I accepted it was never going to happen.

Most of the time I don't even think about it any more, but it's surprising how many other people do. Relatives who say - it must be hard never having had children. Although they mean well it's kind of annoying to think they feel sorry for you,

But the one time it really hit me was a couple of years ago when my Dad died. My Mum had died a couple of years before. But then when my Dad died there was this feeling of being alone and no family. I reached out to some distant relatives to make sure I still existed! I have my own family of course - OH and SS. But I am not a parent. OH is a parent and I'm not, so although we are a couple and a little family when SS is here, it does put you in different boxes.

That is something a lot of stepmums find unless or until they have children of their own.

So this is just a contemplation of what it is likely to be childless, when it wasn't your choice in life. Some women do choose to be childless, for various reasons, and that's fine. It's about having choice though.

I'm not unhappy - it's something that has become normal for me. But I am aware I have less family in my life. I see others chatting daily by Whatsapp with their adult children and can see they are happy for that added dimension in life, and more people to love. OH and I did talk about fostering and adopting at one time, but life was too crazy with years of court cases and EFH issues, and moving house and juggling ageing parents.

I have pets instead :) Pets are great for that - something to nurture.

So because I had no children, I made it a mission to be a committed stepmum and a great stepmum. I think I achieved that. I made huge sacrifices along the way. Emotional, financial, careerwise (as in no career!). I cared and I put SS first. That of course brought it's own problems. Jealousy and hatred from EFH. I was so naive at first. I thought she would be glad of a stepmum who looked after a child well, but apparently not. Anyway, as many of us know. If there is a very hostile ex in the background, nothing you do would be right - whether you were a good stepmum or whether you ignored the child.

And now I have empty nest syndrome! I am just thankful for my pets.
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Thank you for sharing. We all have a different path. We all have a reason to feel pain grief and loss in our lives.
We expect a fairy tale when we are young and hopeful. Life very rarely becomes a fairy tale and that is what I know. People are thoughtless and clumsy with their attitudes and words. People can be very selfish and not even try to look at other peoples lives with an open mind.
I can certainly relate to the point you raised. Birth mothers have a choice. Their child is going to be spending large amounts of time with another woman. They can choose to make their own life, the life of their child and Step mums life easier by being grateful, by trying to co parent, by trying to be kind but seemingly very often they choose the path of jealousy, hatred, anger and greed. It benefits no one. Its harmful to all included. But they cant manage their emotions. Thats why we are here in this forum. I can also relate to the felling that stepmums having no place within the blended family. I feel surplus to requirements with my step children. They have a mother and they dont need or want another one. They don't even choose to be a friend any more.
Sounds like you have been an amazing stepmother. Its a very challenging role indeed and one that can only be understood by those who have experienced the same. You do well to congratulate yourself on your achievements. We all deserve a medal for putting up with difficult EFHs and not fleeing as we actually should do.
Im sorry for the loss of your wishes ❤️
Oh believe me I felt like fleeing a few times! We have had years of it. OH just decided not to even try and communicate with her any more. The last time we were going to send her an email to confirm a holiday date, SS begged us not to. He wanted to deal with it himself - he has to manage her. Clearly any contact from us made her pretty bad. So we live in uncertainty and limbo never knowing when SS is coming, but he does still come.

I have to say though, that after a few months of feeling that child is gone and a bit more independent, and having to change my life a bit, I have actually begun to enjoy having more time and less of a hectic routine.
Thank you for sharing Esme, you have worded it really well re the unique step-mum feeling of sometimes being 'less than' or not prioritised. No-one appreciates how hard it is to be a step-mum outside of fellow step-mums. I have the joy (sarcasm) of having two ex's my partner has had kids with. The ex wife is actually very recently appreciative (her and the new partner were very antagonistic before I came along, the polite way of saying things), but the more recent ex - 5 years down the track or our relationship - is still full of games, jealousy and pretending I don't exist. We have my step-daughter 50% of the time. My partner doesn't support me as fully as I would like either but I have to accept he is emotionally exhausted from the two ex's and juggling all that he's had to do. But there is sometimes great joy too. That random hug or the conversation where they turn to you for advice.
Hi Esme 😊
Nice to read your writing again. You have put it so well. I am also a childless step-mum and very much on the fence about having any of my own. I suppose I have the luxury of time for now (generally speaking although no one really knows until they try and get pregnant!).
Pets and hobbies are a life well lived. And you can be proud of how much you have given to your SS, being a step mum is a very selfless job.
I recently heard that a large study conducted found that unmarried and childless women are the healthiest and happiest demographic of the population. Which I can totally believe!
It’s a shame EFHs can’t see it the same way because any emotionally mature adult would think “how amazing - another adult invested and part of my child’s life that can add something!”. And it’s the children that lose out because for them it often becomes a source of anxiety rather than joy.

Thank you for your perspective. If you could do it over again, would you have a child with your OH?
My OH says he would love to have a child with me because they would be our child and that is different and special. But equally he does not have a burning desire to have more children because he already has 2. So he would be perfectly happy if we didn’t have children. Other than feeling like he gets to have something I don’t have (his own children). But that is also dependent on how I decide and feel about the decision in the future.
The thing I feel most torn about is that when I think I would feel ready to have a child (in terms of life, finances, my career etc) would be around the time our YSS is about leave school (in about 4-5 years) and OH and I will be getting more and more freedom again as his sons grow up - then we are plunging ourselves right back to the beginning again?!
How the SSs would feel is a consideration. And how we would all fit as a new family and having siblings with such a large age gap.
Then I also grapple with whether I really want to raise a child. I have struggled enough to cope with a puppy so maybe I wouldn’t really enjoy it as much other people do.
Sorry this has turned into a huge rambling! Each day I go back and forth - not that it’s a decision I need to make now but I wonder about it a lot. And I have consider getting fertility tested as I have PCOS so it could be very difficult to conceive.
They aren't easy decisions. I think many people feels scared of the idea as it's a big change. There are logical considerations and there are emotional ones. It is hard work, but at least you would have your own child and not the schedules or another difficult parent to deal with! That is what made it so hard for me. I always said it would be much easier to have SS with us full time than part time - because then you can organise, delegate and plan your life. Instead of having a stop start family life. I think it's one reason some ex's do so much stuff to cause trouble - because they just want a normal life and no schedules with the other parent.
If you could do it over again, would you have a child with your OH?
Well it’s something we both wanted and tried for. I even asked about IVF and egg freezing etc but the consultant said you’d have a better chance of getting pregnant naturally than IVF at this age.

We seriously looked at adopting or fostering but we were both also concerned SS might be unhappy about it. A child there all the time when he wasn’t there all the time. But when we mentioned it to him he said it would be great and no it wouldn’t upset him. Of course kids say things like that and the reality turns out to be different! We then had to move and within a few months of that were thrown into a major court case with EFH and my parents health problems. So time just flew.

Now I’m getting used to the idea of having more time and less parenting. I hated it at first as it was my lifestyle - looking after a child. It’s a big adjustment when they’re teens! A friend said to me - don’t try to Mother him at this age and she was right - they really don’t like it!

I do think it’s affected our relationship though - not having our own children. Something that’s part of both of you and you share - and I think it makes you both less selfish. We’ve had some issues in the past year - and it’s like neither of us knows what we are now SS is the age he is. Our relationship was overwhelmed with childcare from day 1!

Whereas a regular couple would have had couple time before having children and have that and those memories to go back to. We sort of reverted to both remembering being single - as the time before we were a family with SS.

It’s a big adjustment generally when the only child in the family is here less and has his own life anyway. After all those lockdowns, SS just likes to be out and about a lot. At least his relationship with me has improved again though - when I actually see him! Like your ESS he shuts himself in his computer room except at meal times. He chats online with friends.

We sit here like Lemons. If he wants to make us happy he will occasionally watch a film with us.

If I remember back to being that age, I wasn’t interested in parents either!

But I know he cares. He kept asking OH how I was when I had Covid and was quite worried. Normally he doesn’t show any feelings - apart from grumpiness occasionally.

So I think having your own children does add another dimension. I can see your point though - starting with a baby now when you have teenage stepsons.

A lot of people say though that you feel different once they are there. And as the child grew up it would be nice for them to have grown up half brothers maybe. :).
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My girls got their brothers when they were 10 and 8. They fell in love with them. I got my baby brother when I was 19 and fell in love with him. If you decide to have your own children, the child will bring happiness and closeness. If you won’t or can’t, live your best life.

As Esme has mentioned, we all experience a big change when our children/SC turn into teens and when they leave, we are left in an empty nest and have to reinvent ourselves. I missed them being around, I had a purpose, now I have to respect their independence and still be supportive when they need me. First you try to be a good parent/step parent and deal with many issues of growing up, suddenly they are leaving your home. I know it is a part of life and not that easy on anyone. It can sometimes affect marriages to a point that the partners no longer have enough in common and that can be a struggle in itself.
Just want to add that I had my girls relatively young. At 27 I had total hysterectomy and a few years later I divorced.
My big concern Than was finding a partner who would want to be with me knowing I can’t have any children. Most younger man want a family eventually.

I focused on work instead and only after 14 yrs remarried a man with his own past/baggage and children. I never anticipated the issues and grief his past brought to me/us. He wasn’t responsible for EFH actions, but nevertheless, would I marry into it had I known, I think I would think twice. I went into marriage thinking all issues were resolved, after all he was divorced 6 yrs. prior.

Many, who did not know my situation said that having a child would make a big difference. Would it? Or would it be even more difficult.
I wonder, I would have wanted to have a child with H, but knowing what happened, how would I manage this crazy situation with another child.
How would they accept that child given who I was dealing with.

Would H side with me or would he believe the lies from those around him.
In my case not having a child with H is probably a blessing in disguise.
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