“At 5.30pm, three evenings a week, a dramatic performance takes place in my house, with me centre stage. I’m in the kitchen chatting with my four-year-old daughter and two teenage sons. I relish these moments together, just the four of us. The windows steaming with the boiling pans, the smell of home cooking, the banter and anecdotes about their days. I feel bathed in warmth and love.
Then I hear a key in the door and my heart sinks. It’s my stepchildren, and I must appear pleased to see them. I live with not only my own three children but my stepchildren as well
What would they like to eat? Are they cold? Would they like me to run them a hot bath? A mug of cocoa, even? It’s pathetic and I know they can see through my saccharine platitudes as they dump their school blazers and rucksacks in the hall, and stomp to their room.
Quite often my partner’s eldest child, will pop in unannounced, too, and I start all over again — gushing, cooking, fussing and smiling through gritted teeth.
It’s a performance that leaves me exhausted (understandably, as often I will cook six separate meals from scratch to meet their various tastes) and feeling a decade older than my 35 years.
By the time my fiance arrives home from work, I am often too tired and resentful to bother cooking again, and we’ll sit down to a miserable plate of leftovers.
No wonder I sometimes wish we could drop the pretence and my stepchildren would all clear off and leave me alone. I put on this show because of a pact I made with myself when their father Kevin and I decided to build a future together three years ago. I silently promised I would treat his children in exactly the same manner as my own three. I swore I would do whatever it took to ensure they feel loved and nurtured in our house.
Maybe, in turn, I figured, I would learn to love them and they love me. But I fear I’ve failed on every point. For the reality is I don’t love these three as I do my own and I fear I never will. I’m afraid the sentiment is very much reciprocated. ” Katrina
It sounds harsh, doesn’t it? Yet, I suspect many other women secretly feel the same. Admitting you don’t love, or even sometimes actively dislike, your stepchildren is breaking a taboo. It’s expected that a step-parent will automatically allow their partner’s children into their heart, too.
After all, it’s not the child’s fault that they find themselves the victims of a broken home with two sets of parents, two routines and two sets of loyalties playing havoc with their disrupted lives.
With one in three people in Britain a step-parent, stepchild, step-sibling or step-grandparent, there must be millions like me, worrying they’ve failed when those feelings of love just won’t come.
This is where Relate can help. we have highly experienced counsellors who can talk to people with problems like this. We can offer the advice and support needed to get to grips with the guilt, shame and downright exhaustion that these sort of situations can cause.