Stepmothers Feel Like a Piece of Raw Meat

stepmothers, mothers, stepmom, stepfamily, stepchildren, remarriage, divorce, parenting, gossip, ex, ex-wife, Stepfamily help, Barbara Goldberg
Stepmothers Feel Like a Piece of Raw Meat

Stepmothers, were you shocked to find that you have been ‘left out to dry?” If you have ever felt this way, this blog is for you:

“No one seems to care about what I feel.  I planned this beautiful event and the stepkids did not come.  Yet, they went to their mother’s event.  I do all of this work, but no one seems to notice. I’m taken for granted and I’m tired of it.”

I feel like a piece of raw meat.

I am hanging from a string in a cold environment where anyone can slap me. My nerves are exposed. A mere touch sends me screaming into my pillow. Remember that scene in Rocky where he was punching the raw meat?  Sometimes, I feel punched…by everyone.

All of a sudden, everything hurts. It is like every nerve is exposed. When you are raw, you hurt easily and you are on high alert for any action, word or facial expression that might touch a nerve. The thought of that resonating pain makes you fearful and a touch crazy.  So, we (stepmothers) try to do everything right, to avoid the pain of our exposed nerves.

The more we try to hide our vulnerability, the more we live in a world of fear.  We fear that our insecurities and our weaknesses will show. We fear our hurt feelings and broken hearts. We click into that win or lose mentality.

“Why is everyone ignoring my wishes?  Why doesn’t anyone care? It’s them or me.”
Dr. Brene Brown wrote in her book, Daring Greatly:
“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging.  It’s being all in.”

Stepmothers are ‘all in’.  We’re so ‘all in’ that the stress and fear of it has overcome our brains. This stress results in the blood moving away from our prefrontal cortex portion of our brains.  Logical thinking weakens.  The mind wants to focus on the part of our life that is out of control.  Let me repeat that.  The mind wants to focus on that part of our life that is out of control.

Now, every invite that is declined, every birthday that is missed and every greeting that isn’t given becomes a huge focal point.  Every lack of acknowledgment holds intense meaning.

“They don’t like me.  My heart is breaking because they didn’t come to my party.
The skids don’t want to come over.  It’s because of me.
I didn’t get a gift for Mother’s Day.  I feel so depressed.”
The real truth is that it is not about us.  The rest of our family members are in their own worlds.  It is our interpretation of what is happening and our sensitivity.  It’s like our emotional system has been put into overdrive. Everything hurts….like those exposed raw nerves or a piece of raw meat.

Let’s take pride in our vulnerability and that we are ‘all in’.  We’ll stoically keep hanging in there.  Although we hate feeling weak and exposed, we recognize it for what it is: our minds focusing on that which feels unmanageable.  These reactions are learned, but really have no meaning.  We’ll close up our open wounds by continuing to do what we feel is right.  We’ll stand in our own strength and courage while having tremendous faith in ourselves.

15 Responses to Stepmothers Feel Like a Piece of Raw Meat

  1. It is so hard not to get inside your own head, especially when you’re a step mom. I am 15 years younger than my husband and his 2 teenagers live with us full time. Sometimes I feel exactly like a piece of meat especially when it comes to intimacy. Thanks for another great post and congrats on number one with circle of moms!

  2. Thanks for the encouraging post. I have never suffered from feelings off loss or emptiness like I have now… and they have been so surprising and profound. It is comforting to know that these types of reactions are very normal for people in similar situations.

  3. This is a good blog. My issue is slightly different. My two step-kids don’t know how to entertain themselves at all and hang around my feet waiting to be steered, directed or told what to do. I find myself zipping my mouth all the time (“what about all your brand new presents you’ve never even played with just filling your bedrooms?” I don’t say). They are 11 and 7. When they come their dad devotes himself 100% to being their loyal servant. He finds it difficult and gets stressed yet he cannot seem to change his own learned behaviour (which has probably caused their lack of imagination).

    Sometimes I dread their arrival – in fact I always dread their arrival. I don’t dislike them but find it hard to love them or even like them.

    Feel awful that I feel this way about two children. Perhaps they’ll get easier – I hope so!


    • Step parenting , for me, is an emotional roller coaster. I am a goal oriented, task driven, give 100% type of person. Getting my masters degree was easier than the bull I have to put up with. I thought it would get easier. I thought I would grow hard and not care so much. I want to not care. But, every time I come in contact with the step children I sit back and watch the lies and the fakeness, I watch my husband be sucked in. I begin to wonder if I walked away would they get back together. Because they seem to have a better “talking” relationship than we do and I am the wife. It’s a big joke. But, I fear I am the joke. I consume my mind with ways to try to tell him that his kids are not perfect. But, I’ve tried that and I ended up being the bad girl. I cannot say anything to his kids. I cannot tell him she is dressed like a slut and until she changes we are not going anywhere. Cause that’s what I would tell my child. But, they are not my children. I knew going in it was going to be tough…but it’s tougher than tough. Especially when I see the relationship my husband has with his kids, his ex, his ex’s mother….makes me wonder if I left would they even notice

      • I am very much like you. I am almost done with my masters degree and although it is difficult to do, living in a “step situation” is much more complex. That’s a good question: would they notice if you were gone? It’s hard to say. I am certain they would, but would it be for the reasons we hope? I find that the main thing I have control over is leaving a situation. Personally, I have grown exhausted of watching his 14 year old dress like a slut, profess she did nothing wrong, watch her side-step doing any homework, all while he just sits idly by doing nothing. I realize his kids are not my own children, but kids of every age needs structure. I say that you should put your foot down, then go for a drive- or go get a coffee. Create some breathing room and then see how things go.

  4. I feel a bit sorry for my husband, who after working all day with women at the family restaurant, gets to come home to a hormonal pregnant wife and my 17 y/o hormonal step daughter who still loses track of when her period is about to start, a mixture which plummeted our house into chaotic drama and almost completely derailed us last night.
    I’m an all in mom. It was always going to be that way, before Dad ever met me. My SD needed a mom. Her real mom is more a figment of her imagination than a reality. I think it’s because my SD has always just wanted a mom in her life that the expectations for both of us seem unattainable at times. This article totally spoke to how I have been feeling lately. I just feel so emotionally drained.
    Most of it comes from the battle of trying to put my needs and my ego in the back seat, but sometimes feeling I am not even in the car. I’m like the third wheel that squeaks too much. I ask myself why I can’t be more complacent while getting frustrated that no one listens and wanting to start screaming.
    The factors I see are that I came onto the scene too late, after dating my husband long enough to be seen as a friend more than as a mom, and that my husband and (step) daughter are very used to being a team. I agree with the philosophy that I married them both, because I can’t deny that no matter how much my husband wants to deny it, we are all in the same circle. I’ve seen this play out more and more as she gets older. My husband will joke about a suggestion I made and it could be something she wants to do, but she will take his side and share in the jesting.
    I have approached my husband about parenting and boundaries from the beginning, but we always slip into it mostly being my field, because I have the background in it, and because I’m more invested now that we have had kids together.
    I hate to admit it, but the older she gets the more I have a hard time with things. OUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP GETS CLOSER, but the dynamics of her becoming an adult who sees me differently than I would have my youngest children see me become worse. She questions my decisions, my choices, still resents my instructions, chooses not to listen and last night told me she doesn’t see her dad and I as one and she doesn’t have to answer my questions about leaving the house without telling us or letting us know where she is going (but then, she was PMSing and didn’t know it, right?) I know we need counseling as much as I know I’m the only one who will end up going and as long as no one listens to me nothing will change anyway. Last year one of my mother in laws started accusing me of using her college goals as a manipulation to get her out of the house. At least she has college goals, she had little reality of that before she met me. Granted, I don’t understand their philosophy of letting the adult live in the house until they are ready to leave, but that’s because I high-tailed it as soon as I could once I was 18, and I haven’t looked back, and I have watched my 20 something sibling be a chain around my parent’s necks for the past ten years. So I guess, yeah, because I want to be free to parent my youngest children without being known as the third wheel, and getting questioned and disrespected, I want her to go make something of her life. BUT, I will be setting up the same goals and expectations for the children who proceed her, because I want all three of them (her included) to be more successful and live better lives than I have, because I love them and care about them.

    • It probably doesn’t help that I feel like a match walking by dynamite. Forget eggshells. And that when I had a miscarriage in the fall it went completely unnoticed and is still completely my burden and struggle. My SD asked me to participate in a program at her school where I am required to write an obituary for her and pretend that she is deceased for 24 hours. She became very hurt that I could not bring myself to do this, and accused me of not caring about her. When I explained that I already know what it is like to lose a child, and that it made me very uncomfortable not only to pretend that she is dead, but to write an obituary for my child in my current state of pregnancy, she just stared. she knows she will get in trouble for rolling her eyes, but there was literally nothing, no empathy, just the stare that feels like a secret alpha-omega competition to see who looks away first.

    • We are having a crisis now because of an upcoming wedding. My husband’s youngest is getting married to a nice girl, and they printed the invites without steps–she has two and he has one (me). He insisted on listing his parents as “Dad and Late Mom Smith” as if I didn’t exist. Because he was a semi-diagnosed special needs/off the rails kid, his father always feels sorry for him. They have decided that he (and his older brother) get a free pass because his mom died. (Their older sister picked up the slack when her mother was dying and has her own life.) Like Nicole’s SD he has an altar erected to a fictional mom whose drinking was probably what caused his “issues”. We just had a big BANG because he found out I didn’t like the invites. Duh, the point was to dis me. I was VERY politic and pointed out that it’s better to be inclusive than exclusive and that he should honor his mother. I pointed out that my girls included their step mom, and they have very little relationship with her. Then he got madder and told me we never had a relationship and never will. And hey! my big bonus is I get to walk down the the bride. Big whoop! And anything I say can and will be held against me.
      What makes step-parenting easier is DISTANCE, or if you are lucky, a husband with a spine. My husband put up with so much bad behavior, including having the pot dealer in and out of the house and the boys’ pals getting stoned on the porch, girls over, bad behavior at holiday meals I worked my butt off to produce, never a thank you, never offering to help.

      Do I have to got to this wedding or is it:
      Time to stay home and watch a Harry Potter marathon!

      I can’t see any way I belong at this “celebration”, which put out its first public face by throwing three step parents under the bus to honor one dead one. They are so f-ing thoughtless. Now they want us to host her father, wife and son at our house for about a week
      while they are in from out of town. Enough!

  5. I have been a stepmother for 7 years and around for 9, it has been a non-stop battle that i loose daily. From video games, bathing, helping out etc. Last night was epic when i asked him nicely to finish the video game and go have a shower. Attitude quickly came and then he advised me i was bugging him and “goodbye” like i am the maid.. So therefore turned off the video game and got an epic tantrum (he is almost 14) and then lied to his father about what he said (as usual) and thank god dad actually heard this time since he never seems too. got the door slammed in my face twice and guess what no repercussions as usaual. At the the breaking point where i have now lost all sanity and sank to his level. Dont even know what to say or anything anymore and our friends are amazed at his behaviour and attitude and how bad it is. Not sure people even want to go for dinner with us and the SK any more.
    help please….

    • My advice
      Don’t get involved. Who cares if he showers? His Dad will eventually. Pick your battles. I try to leave the majority of the parenting to my Husband. I have to remind myself of this constantly! I find myself getting involved sometimes and quickly realize again that it always blows up in my face! I watch my Stepson lie to his Dad, I’ve even pointed it out, what happens is that my husband gets pissed at me for pointing it out, forget that your child has lied straight to your face. You will be much happier if you let Dad handle the everyday stuff.
      We went to Disneyland for 7 days, I think he only brushed his teeth twice both at my urging( I’m a work in progress!) and showered maybe twice, I’m sure you know how smelly a teenage boy is!!
      I know it’s been a while since you posted so hopefully you’ll see this and something will help! I know the helpless feeling, it’s so hard. I’ve just discovered this site and love it so far!

  6. I love blogs about being a stepmom. I always thought (before becoming a stepmom) that it was an extremely rare thing. You mostly hear about stepdads. However it’s clear there are a lot of us out there. We all went through a lot when my husband and I got together initially, for many reasons but mainly because the kids’ mom really worked at making sure they disliked me.
    They were quite young when we met, their mom had taken off and at that time would just visit with them here and there when she had the time and inclination to do so. That all changed when I came into the picture, and she suddenly felt the need to spend more time with them and very quickly decided she was going to have every other weekend visitation. From that point on it was a constant battle, or at least it felt that way to me at the time. Her trying to make sure the kids said awful things about me (she’s very manipulative and knows how to make them feel guilty. If they dared say anything positive about me, a guilt trip would soon follow) So they quickly learned that if they cut me down, she was happy and would not cry. Ugh. The poor kids have been yanked around by their feelings for all these years, (8 yrs now) and know that in order to make her “happy” they HAVE to call me names, say whatever negative things they can about me. Their way of dealing with it has been to watch everything they say in order for me to not be brought up, so they aren’t put in this position. What in the world do you even do for kids that are being used in this way to feed their parent’s ego… it’s a losing battle!

  7. Shame on all of you, and not just on this post, but on this entire site! How self centred and vapid can you be? Are any of you step children yourselves? And how many of you were one of the many factors as to why the family broke up (aka – the mistress)? As any self respecting individual would know, you cannot build your happiness on the misery of others. You don’t need to be your step kid’s mother, they already have a mother. You don’t have to be their friend, they already have friends. You just need to be civilised and welcoming and mind your own business when it comes to your husband’s previous family. You are right, you are not part of that unit, you never will be. Accept that with grace and realise that you and you husband are your own unit. He has two units – his children and you, you only have one – him. If you truly loved your husbands you wouldn’t put him in the position of choosing between you and his children. Grow up. You all sound like spoiled children. And remember – you are the adults, you should have the maturity to deal with your own emotions. Your stepchildren are immature and emotional because they are CHILDREN, and they are trying to process very adult feelings about divorce or death. You need to manage your expectations on these poor kids, they still figuring out who they are. Remeber, Love is Kind!

  8. “Shame on all of you”? I am a bio-mom who has a collaborative relationship with my son’s stepmom and ex-husband. I am also a stepmom. I find it offensive that any woman kind enough to love and take a vensed interest in the well-being of a child not hers would be demonized for choosing to step-up instead of step-out. I am grateful for the unique role my son’s stepmom plays in his life while he is at his father’s and her home. I’m especially grateful they welcome him as an equal family member and he never feels excluded. I would never think to encourage otherwise, and that’s exactly what you are doing when you say the wife shoud mind her own business.

    It’s interesting that your comments come just 2 days shy of Valentine’s day. Get over your own hurt of an ex repartnering and be grateful there truely are some families where multiple parents can have a special role in our childrens’ lives… while still respecting the one Mom and Dad they each have.

  9. Help! I need advice! I am a mom and a stepmom. My partner is a cross country truck driver. He has an almost 3-year old that lives with “us”, which is really me. I love the baby as if he were my own. He is really my little shadow. For a year, it has been just the two of us and I’ve watched him blossom into one of the best and cutest kids I’ve ever met. When his father comes home, I feel totally out of place. He breaks his neck to take him to visit family members, who couldn’t care less about him during the months that his father is on the road. I try so hard to rationalize the fact that this is his family but I’m struggling emotionally. Who am I? Although I’m the person who takes great care of him 24/7, I feel like an unappreciated outsider most of the times. I get that I am NOT his mother but I do everything for my fella and I don’t know how to turn off my motherly actions, thoughts and feelings when it’s convenient for everyone else that I fade away to blackness. Can anyone help? Please!

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