The Disengaged Stepmom: Is Disengagement Right for You?

Updated on April 3, 2018
Alice Marlowe profile image

Alice Marlowe PhD, PMHNP, RN, holds a BA in Psychology and is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

How Did You Get Here?

If you are reading this article, you are likely a stepmom on the brink of a blended-family-fueled mental breakdown. For most stepmoms who are contemplating disengagement, when you met and married your husband you probably wholeheartedly embraced your new role as a stepmom. You were likely eager and enthusiastic to be another loving adult in the lives of your stepchildren. In the beginning, you were undoubtedly thrilled about your new family and the future you would all share together as a blended unit.

Over the years, the visions of blended bliss you had on your wedding day have given way to resentment, annoyance, irritation, and maybe even rage. Your life feels chaotic. You feel others are taking advantage of you. You probably feel your stepkids are rude and disrespectful towards you and do not appreciate any efforts you have made over the years.

If you find yourself nodding in agreement you have come to the right place. This article will examine the meaning of disengagement in a blended family, help you decide if disengagement is the right choice for you, and discuss new ways to think about your responsibilities towards your stepchildren.

Definition of disengage
Definition of disengage | Source

What Does Disengagement Mean?

dis·en·gageˌ

disənˈɡāj

verb

  1. separate or release (someone or something) from something to which they are attached or connected

synonyms: remove, detach, disentangle, extricate, separate, release, free, loosen, loose, disconnect, unfasten, unclasp, uncouple, undo, unhook, unhitch, untie, unyoke

What Does Disengagement Mean in a Blended Family?

No one singular disengagement solution is right for every blended family. There exists a continuum of disengagement and it’s up to you to decide exactly what will bring back your happiness and sanity. For some stepmoms, disengagement will mean having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the stepchildren. For other stepmoms, it may mean only disengaging from a few tasks, such as cleaning rooms or washing dishes. For every stepmom though, disengagement means no longer accepting the responsibility of raising stepchildren.

Have you thought about disengaging?

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Why Do Stepmoms Disengage?

Many stepmoms disengage because they think they have a problem with their stepchildren. More often than not, the problem is actually with their partner or husband. This is especially true in high-conflict custody situations where children are caught in the middle of a loyalty bind between their mom and stepmom. In high conflict situations, stepchildren may be actively coached to hate or disrespect their stepmom or the ex-wife may place enormous unspoken pressure on the children to not like their stepmom. If this is the case, the children will likely never feel comfortable thanking their stepmom for all she does for them.

In many first marriages, when children are born, mothers take over certain roles in raising the children and fathers take on different roles. In a blended family, the father of the children often expects the stepmom to take over the roles traditionally held by a mother in an intact family. These tasks include many traditional household chores such as cooking and cleaning and many tasks related to childcare such as purchasing clothing, keeping track of the activity calendar, and being the main caregiver in the home.

In many situations, stepmoms find themselves doing all of these tasks but receiving little or no thanks from their husbands or stepchildren. After a while, the stepmother begins to feel resentment and no longer wants to take on any of the additional duties that she was once happy to do. This is especially true if no one in the household seems to care or even notice all the work the stepmom does to keep the blended family running smoothly. The unseen work and emotional burden placed on the stepmom becomes too much and can begin to affect both the physical and mental health of the stepmom.

Quote from a non-custodial stepmom who chose to disengage.
Quote from a non-custodial stepmom who chose to disengage. | Source

Is Disengaging the Right Choice for You?

If you have made it this far you are likely wondering if now is the right time for you to disengage and what might happen to your marriage and stepkids if you do choose to disengage.

First, both custodial and non-custodial moms can and do disengage from the day-to-day care of their stepchildren. Although it is easier for a stepmom to disengage from stepchildren who are only there every other weekend, full-time stepmoms have also successfully disengaged and taken back their sanity.

Emily*, a non-custodial stepmom had constant anxiety about her stepdaughter's grades. For years she worked closely with the school and teachers to ensure assignments were completed and turned in on time. Eventually, though Emily felt like she was putting more effort in than either her husband or her stepdaughter's mother. Emily decided to disengage from anything related to her stepdaughter's school.

Emily said, "It had gotten to the point that I was the only one checking the parent portal for missing assignments. My stepdaughter had gone from a straight A student to making C's in her important classes. I spent several hours a week trying to keep up with it all and trying to make her keep up with the work in the limited time she was at our house. My relationship with my own children was suffering because of it. I disengaged from everything related to school because I realized I was putting more work in than her mom or my husband and that wasn't right."

Emily also described what happened once she disengaged.

She said, "At first I felt an all-consuming guilt, like I had let my stepdaughter down. I hoped her parents would notice her grades were worse than when I was spending all my time trying to stay on top of it but they didn't. It was like they didn't even notice or care. Eventually I worked through the guilt once I realized it wasn't up to me to make up for her parent's lack of involvement. My job was to make sure my own children were successful in school and her parents were responsible for making sure she was successful in school."

Do you now think disengaging is the right option for you?

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Accepting Realities of Disengagement

For many years stepmoms have turned to the virtual support site StepTogther for advice on disengaging. The online resource provides an essay on the realities of disengaging and lists ten realities that stepmoms must accept to successfully disengage. These ten realities serve to set excellent mental boundaries for stepmoms who do decide that disengagement is the right choice in their situation. Here are the realities as found on StepTogether:

  1. Your stepkids are not your children.
  2. You are not responsible for overcoming their previous 'raising.'
  3. You are not responsible for what kind of people they are.
  4. You are not responsible for what kind of people they become.
  5. You are not obligated to become an abused member of the household just because you married their dad.
  6. You are not responsible for raising your stepkids.
  7. All the responsibility belongs to your husband.
  8. Your husband is not a mother.
  9. Your husband is not going to raise his children the way you want him to.
  10. Your stepkids are not going to turn out the way they would if husband supported you.

Disengaged stepmom mantra
Disengaged stepmom mantra | Source

Tell Others About Your Choice

Stepmoms often find themselves without a "tribe" and it can be very difficult to discuss disengaging from stepchildren. If you feel comfortable, please leave a comment about your experience with disengaging or choosing to remain engaged so that others who read this article can hear more real-life examples from experienced stepmoms.

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      Leslie Callder 

      25 hours ago

      After 5 years of being with my now husband I am still ignored and ostracized, never included in group texts or special times. He and his ex wife went through a divorce that lasted five years. During which time she had a significant other ( which my adult step children accepted and actually spent Christmas with them and other times) I was always the outsider. I still am. I am tired of reaching out to them constantly. I am tired of being the door mat in the family. Seriously considering disengagement. My husband will not stand up to their rudeness and disrespect.

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      Katie 

      3 days ago

      Finally words to make me feel sane and not alone. My 7 year old SS I met when he was 5. He’s always been very dramatic, rude and talks back to his parents and then me once he got comfortable enough. He’s always been a stressful handful. His mom abandoned him for a time when he was 3 1/2. It was the same time my husband and her split up. They were ready to break up until she got pregnant and then they stayed together for my SS’s first 3 years. Long story short my husband talked about getting the 7 year old counseling since I met them. Finally my SS goes to counseling for the first time today and all he did was complain about me. I’m the most annoying person to him apparently. The counselor told my husband to apologize to me for putting me in a position of being an authority figure so soon in his son's life. Because his mom is a mess and emotionally unstable, it's been my husband's dream of having the boy during the week for school. We just had our first baby together, a sweet little boy and he saw that as an opportunity to have me take the 7 year old to school twice a week. I was very hesitant since I just had this new baby and he's my first, but my husband made me feel guilty like it's all up to me to give the 7 year old a better, more stable life. That way he wouldn't have to go back and forth everyday between here and his mom's. Because she's in school he swayed the mom to let us have him all week and I felt like I had to say yes to taking the boy to school. My husband would bug me every week when I'd be ready because the boy and his mom have a lot of issues since she's very childish and inconsistent in her mothering. He wants to limit their time together as much as possible, yet wants him to have a relationship with her for fear of him not having good relationships with women in the future. I feel like this poor beginning example of a woman in his life set me up for failure. My husband just lacks awareness for telling the 7 year old things that I'm just too aware of. The counselor told him to tell me that I just need to focus on being like the cool aunt with the 7 year old instead of taking on a role of authority. Reading this article has been the most relieving thing I've read in 2 years. I'm not responsible for this child and I'm constantly made to feel like I have to be or else I don't love him. There have been so many times if I was hesitant to take on that role for the 7 year old my husband would accuse me of not loving him. It's been a roller coaster and I finally feel some weight lifting from me. It took a counselor to show him that putting all of that pressure on me is just hurting the relationship between the 7 year old and me. I'm so ready to step back and get my sanity back. I think I'm even going to suggest that the mom take him to school on Wednesdays like she was. Why should I feel guilty when I've done everything that has been asked of me and I'm still the bad guy? Thank you for this!!!!

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      3 days ago

      I have disengaged after reading articles about emotional abuse, realized it was occurring to me, and noted that the perpetrators were my stepchildren and their biological mother. I have emotionally disengaged from them though they remain in the home. It has saved my sanity and my marriage. I now live my own life, focus on my marriage, and have stopped pretending that the situation is something that it will never be.

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      Felicity 

      9 days ago

      I’ve been together with my husband for over 8 years. I met his son when he was 2 years old, however because of my stepson’s unstable mother and grandmother we were unable to have consistsnt time with him. This made me unable to bond with my SS. I then had my own daughter with my husband and life was great. SS’s mother would make remarks to SS that I am not his mother, and my daughter is not his sister. At this point my husband would have every other weekend with his son, and it always ruined our weekend. At the time I didn’t realize how much SS had become brainwashed by mother and grandmother. A few years later when SS was in 2nd grade my husband gained full custody due to his mother abandoning her children to live in another state. When this happened I realized just how terribly they have ruined my SS’s life. He had to repeat the 2nd grade because when his mother left his grandmother hardly took him to school, and when she did his appearance and school items were so terrible the teacher alerted the principle to neglect. My SS acted like a young toddler, helpless, unable to do anything. My husband has always left everything to me as the “mother”. I felt an unexplainable guilt to try and fix this child’s life. I felt like it was my responsibility, and if I failed then I failed as a mother. My husband has always turned a blind eye to my troubles. Fast forwarding time to now, my SS is in 5th grade, and we have full custody. We send him to spend time with his mother during the summer break because my SS is highly obsessed with his grandmother. They have a very unhealthy relationship. The grandmother makes my SS feel guilty for living with his father, and makes him feel like he left his grandmother. My SS continues to have trouble with school, telling lies, and manipulating my husband. My husband works as a chef in a busy restaurant so he is gone 13+ hours of the day. His involvement with his son is very minimal. Because of this I have spiraled into a depression of anger and sadness. I now have 2 daughters with my husband (8,4) and I feel my time is taken away from them. My SS does not change his bad habits despite all of my efforts. I am a behavior therapist who works with children with autism, yet still my SS does not respond to my parenting. I have disengaged before, but was drawn back in due to guilt. Now I feel mixed about my choices. My husband is constantly saying my disengagement is neglect, I am a bad mother for doing that. If anyone can give any advice I would greatly appreciate it.

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      Jennifer 

      9 days ago

      Wow! This article is so good! Took the words straight out of my mouth. Also gives me a clearer understanding of my burn out.

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      Leslie 

      12 days ago

      Wow, finally my feelings validated! What I’m coming to realize that it’s not so much the kid but my husband lack of parenting, anyone else notice this?

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      Nancy 

      2 weeks ago

      I never even had the opportunity to engage with my step children in the first place because right after I married my husband, Ex wife made it crystal clear to me and her children that she did not want me mothering her children, even though she lives across the country and we have full custody during the school year. She turned the kids against me and my husband and made up a bunch of lies to try and get full custody of them, but the court did not believe her, so she lost badly (at times I wish she had won). I have two children of my own and it feels like two families living in the same house sometimes. I'm luck my husband and I both work from home, so we can tend to our own children, as my step children have completely rejected my cooking, cleaning and decorating ideas, and don't even answer me when I greet them. So I've given up trying. Ex wife has won, I don't want her rude children anyway, but guess what? She did them a disservice by turning them against me because they now have to live with me until they're 18 and I'm treating them the same way they treat me.

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      Jennamomma 

      3 weeks ago

      Anne-

      i feel your pain and your situation is the exact nightmare im trying to avoid as my step kids turn teenagers. My best advice is if you know it will need to be discussed wait till your alone with your husband. Mine does try bring up issues or challenges me in front of the kids and although its still tense i firmly say "im not going to discuss this now" and dont say anything reguardless of what is said after. At first i let him be in control but now that we share a kid in addition to his first two i no longer allow him to have the final say on all our partenting. Its still very new and i didnt know how to handle any better. His kids knew how to play their parents very well or better put they taught their kids how to. Being the step parent makes an easy target for "she scares me" "she said this" i dont think she likes me" it hard to hear a sad they think that but it infruastes me the way my husband handles the situation. Today both stayed home due to being sick before im even out of bed my husband says my son thinks youll be mad if he stays home...yeah because he wasnt that sick but heard his sister wasnt and was giving the option. All i said was im not taking them to a doctor. Their mom thinks they should, she made an appt, shes taking them. Thats how i disengaged. This is coming from a month ago my step duaghter complaining about her ankle comes home from her moms saying "she said you guys have to take me to see the doctor" (it was said to be growing pains. I wasnt born yesterday i know the difference between not feel good, not well engough to go to school, and needing to going to the doctor) parenting is full of guilt and second guessing being a step parent well i wish it could be called saint parenting the stigmas are so deflating. We have to be 10x better to seem only half as good as whatever their parents do.

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      Jennamomma 

      3 weeks ago

      Im riddled with guilt but willing to share. Proof reading will not allow me to post this in a timely manner so excuss grammitcal and spelling errors due to the emotional nature. Im 33 and have been married for 3 years almost with a step son 13 step duaghter 11 and made a half sibling 2 yrs. Where do i begin to paint the picture clearly without omitting major factors? 1 I have a mental illeness that i was competely open with howover when having our son i... Well i stayed in a mental hospital twice for a month each within 2 years. Its not anyones fualt but mine however i also knew i had to disengage in order to be the mom i wanted to be for our baby and am so glad to find this artilce now a month into the guilt of disengagment. I love my whole family but theyre all so deprived of love that i began resenting how selfishly they took from me. I knew what i was up agnianst when i said I Do but i could have never anticapated the amount of needy jealousy from my 2 step children and my husband displayed although i vainly thought i did before i even left the materinity ward. It was obvious each had deep emotional scaring surfacing And i have been doing damage control ever since. 2 My husbands parenting style is to be their servent! Whatever thought that gives you... Thats it "your royal highness" and all. They are well tempered kids and will do what you ask them no problem which i know is a blessing comparitably but my counter arguement is that !theyre not asked to do much! I came from a Very discaplined upbringing but in a mild manner do agree with chores, responsiblity, and consequences, oh and horrible forcing of quality family time which quoting from husband in a heated debate "and look how well you turned out" so...3 the living arrangment is: i moved in to a situation where their mom was living many states away. A month after i had moved in she made plans and moved back that summer splitting the weeks and weekends. An agonizing transition that no one handled well. 4 well thats it over the summer we spent a week with my family and my divorced step moms family and in her wisdom she said "you dont have a problem with your kids, you have a major problem with your husband And unless you work on that the children will only continue to be a bigger wedge". A month ago i made it a point to my husband that i love my family and im not giving up but stepping back and not engaging. I will stop here before getting totatly defensive ... Im not a bad scary step mom bossing everyone around nor am I a wet blanket being dragged through their past issues theyre not willing to resolve.

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      LISA 

      4 weeks ago

      HI iammrswright. I JUST SEEN YOUR POST AND REALIZED THAT YOU WERE PROBABLY STILL ON HERE. I CAN SHARE MY EXPERIENCE WITH YOU IF YOU HAVE A FEW MINUTES.

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      Iammrswright 

      4 weeks ago

      I took on the roll of wife and step mother on March 3rd of this year. I'm 23 and my husband is 30. My step son is 7 and my step daughter is 9 and they do not have the same mother. My husband has full custody of his daughter, but not of his son. Anyway, my husband and I decided shortly after we got married that I should stay home with the kids. I tried working and juggling the kids but I found myself in bed most of the time and not enjoying them whatsoever. Being home seemed to resolve this for a while. However, I feel a bit lost as to what my role is with them. And as far as disengaging, there are things I feel that I should be actively trying to fix or help with, especially since I'm home with them, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. For example, my step son is 7 and doesn't know how to tie his shoes. I've been working on this with him for months and it does take a lot of patience because he has such a short attention span, but I just kept working on it. And then when I picked him up from school after him being with his mom he was wearing velcro shoes. I was so frustrated. My step daughter has a bad habit of talking like a baby and acting like a toddler. It starts to go away after being with me for a while but when she comes back from her moms or is around other people it starts back up again. Those are just a couple of the many things that I'm trying to parent and do my job in, but it's really hard when theres so many other influences involved.

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      Smokymountainsoul 

      4 weeks ago

      I have an appointment to discuss this with my husband at a counseling session today and this is one of the articles I've brought with me to reference. Pray all goes well. Here goes!

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      Melissa 

      4 weeks ago

      I’ve been married, for six years, to a man with five daughters, four of which he had with the ex wife, and he ended up with custody of. The ex wife has always been, and continues to be, a thorn in our side. I won’t go into details about everything that’s gone on, because it sounds like complaining. I will say thi, tho; the collective attitude, about what my role, as his wife, and as a stepmom, seems to be “well, you married him. It’s YOUR responsibility.” And, the collective includes my husband, his ex wife, my mother in law, and even his ex mother in law! I’ve even had friends tell me this. I used to keep quiet, when that collective attitude would surface, and I would just remind myself that the girls had NO fault in this—don’t take it out on them. After several times of being told “you married into this”, while my husband sat around on his butt and left me to cook, clean up, do laundry for husband, myself, my kids, AND his kids, I finally responded with “you know, you’re right. I did marry into this. And, I can divorce out of it.” As much as that sounds like a threat, I had to remind them of where that responsibility really belongs. I do what I do to help my husband, because he’s a good man. But, I didn’t give birth to those kids, and I won’t tolerate being bullied into picking up slack for their parents—especially when both parents are able bodied, and perfectly capable of taking care their own kids. I’m his wife, and their stepmother, I’m not the Nanny, the maid, or the cook. I strongly believe in boundaries, and will reinforce them when I need to.

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      Sam 

      4 weeks ago

      Deelightful-1....I couldn’t agree more. You said that perfectly. The people I deal with (BM & skids) have major disfunction!That’s not how I’m programmed. My spouse just shuts up to their disfunction and drama because he’s tried healthy ways of dealing and is always the bad guy. The kids are always right in BM’s eyes...even with blatant lies. I feel My spouses silence to their drama sends the wrong message. Disengagement is a way to keep sanity. I’m going also going to say for safety so no lies are conjured up because there is little interaction.

      I hate feeling this way in my own home!!!

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      Patricia 

      5 weeks ago

      I am at wits end with the mother of my stepson. I met my now husband when we both were going through divorce in the same situation both of us being cheated ok and with a 3 year old son each we found a lot in common. His ex wanted to share their son’s time between them equally so they agreed 7 days with her and then 7 days with dad, it was working, my husband at the time struggled as he runs his own business and had to have a full time nanny to take care of his son during the day but he made it work, at the end of each day he would come home cook, feed, bathe and tucking his son to sleep. As we mums know it is a hard job to do with very thing for a child after 12/13hours work but he done it no complains. We met and I moved in with him after 6 months, I started to help out when I could. Then a couple of months later we bought a house together, we wanted a fresh start new house new life. When we moved to our new bigger house the problems started. His ex kept telling him that we weren’t her sons family so neither I or my mother shouldn’t be looking after their son. I done everything for the boy, he and my son gone on well and now they see each other as brothers. She went to a solicitor after over a year of the arrangement saying she wanted full custody, my husband and I were divastated but he fought, went to mediation to try and reach an agreement, sh came up with one week he would pick his son from school on Thursday and drop him Friday, then the following week he would have him Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday then Monday he drop him in school. My husband didn’t want to go to court because this would cause his son to be in the middle of a parental war, so he agreed pained but his son always put first. In the mediation it was specified he wouldn’t need to pay child support because all expenses were shared, then just before I gave birth to our little girl she demand d child support, my husband gave in again so it wouldn’t go to another argument(because of the stress I had high blood problems and had to be induced to give birth luckily i was full term) yesterday 4 years later she again demands that my husband has to be the one to pick and drop his son from school and he be the one to do homework with him not me, even though I tutor a few children and help with homework, also I go to school every day to pick and drop my son from the same year and same school. We are a close nit family I love his son, yes I am tough with him at times but I am tougher to my own children, I have routine and there are rules in our household which I need to make sure they follow otherwise with 3 children at home I would be able to keep up. She is constantly arrasing us , even thought in 4 years she had at least 4 men leaving with her and she says the boy is not stable with us. we had enough we are getting legal advice but please tell me I’m not wrong to say she is not doing this for the best of her child, she is bitter and doesn’t except he moved on.

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      Anne 

      5 weeks ago

      Hopefully someone has good advice for me. I have been stepmom for 15 years and only had to deal with his son who played us against each other 1 month each year. He is now 17 and his mother gave him to us because she cannot handle him anymore, he smokes marijuana and was selling it and ran away and is just unruly so she washed her hands of him. Now he has been here 2 weeks and he does nothing but sit in his room and play games and goes out every night. I bought him new sheets for his bed and told him to clean up his room and put sheets on bed before he goes out so he hid top sheet and put bottom one on and threw top blanket on and left. My husband said he would deal with it when he gets home to not worry about it. Maybe petty but I was mad he didn’t call him and make him come back and do it right. That’s just small things but if I say no he say yes in front of him . I tried to speak with my husband about not fighting and letting him come between us and was told it’s none of my business and leave it alone so his way or the highway I guess. I don’t want to deal with him at all now, is that wrong? The room story is just a piece of a lot of things and just the beginning of hell to come I feel. My husband constantly uses my kids and grandchildren as ‘well your kids and your grandkids do this or that’. My kids are adults and grandkids are young and since we have been together for 15 years I thought by now they were ours. So you see he has already started splitting our family apart. I love my husband but I cannot deal with this kid coming between us on a full time basis. He says that he’s 17 he can smoke pot if he wants and there is nothing I can do about it and he’s to old to change. I probably sound confused right now because I am, I’m at a loss to what to do. Do I smile and let him do what he wants and let him walk all over me or what ? I just don’t know cuz my husband obviously cares more about trying to be his sons friend than his father and obviously doesn’t care what I have to say. Feels like I’m going to loose this battle and maybe my husband of 15 years. We have been through a lot to get here and it’s going to take 1 kid to destroy it all. I was trying to give him chores to earn money and learn responsibility and my husband tells him he doesn’t have to do it and hands him money. Yes that made me mad also. So does anyone have anything that could help me?

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      Deelightful-1 

      5 weeks ago

      Disengagement is the only way to maintain your sanity as a parent and spouse in some instances. Your spouse and step children may have developed an unhealthy and toxic dynamic of manipulation, disrespect and ineffective boundaries that will not be addressed. Such is the case with my spouse. He and the ex have spent over 15 years in a high conflict, dysfuncyional conundrum. No effective parenting has been occuring and my spouse gave up years ago. No. I did not realize this before we got married and no I cannot accept ownership for their choices as parents. Disengagement is not cruel. It is often the ONLY healthy adult boundary your step kids may experience.

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      Sam 

      5 weeks ago

      Disengagement is the way to go!

      Let the bio parents deal with the bad behaviors and manipulation. After all, they learned it from them.

      Brats are what they are. Lies and manipulation. I distanced myself for my own sanity and safety. I care to welcome CPS at my door like the bio mom. SD lied to the school about “cutting” SS didn’t come with his Dad for 4 months because he didn’t like his Dad parenting him. SD didn’t come one weekend because she felt like her Dad “ didn’t love her” (clear manipulation) It goes on and on.

      They only call their Dad when they need something.

      I hate when they come around. Wished they would move away

    • profile image

      ??????? 

      5 weeks ago

      Disengaging? Sounds like neglect to me! But they have time for their bio children, wow! Poor little mites who are stuck in such a hellish existence.

      If you marry a man with children you are taking everything that comes with that.

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      Angie 

      5 weeks ago

      My stepkids are young. Like twins 3 and an 5,8 year old. It’s virtually impossible to disengage them being so young. I have stepped in and done it all that a momwould do. I’m falling down a rabbit hole of anxiety to depression. I’ve lost myself in this house but I love them so much. I need help badly!!!

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      Brandi 

      6 weeks ago

      I am a full time step mom of three. I feel I hdve no choice but to disengage. I don’t want to be divorced so I’m order for me to survive I must disengage from them. I still help with some cooking but only when my partner also helps. I help out when asked. But I do not offer anything. I do not do their laundry lunches or anything else. They are not my children. I am trying to co-exist in the same house.

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      I Said F it 

      7 weeks ago

      So disengagement means F it!

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      Julie 

      7 weeks ago

      I have been with my husband for nearly 8 years now. It was great in the beginning, my daughter and his two daughters got along splendedly. But now, for the last three years, his oldest, who will be nineteen in November, has become disrespectful, more spoiled, and just lazy. I am tired of being the maid, the cook, the planner, the banker, and the one to take all the criticism from the spoiled teens and their mother. My daughter sees this and also dreads tbe step kids visits. I have learned to avoid my step kids and their mom. I now only talk to them minimally when they visit. I use to reach out to them daily, only to be ignored... I no longer try to be apart of their lives because they don't seem to care if I am involved anyways. my husband and I argue less and I am a much less stressed person and I focus on my marriage and my daughter now.

      After I accepted disengagment was right for me, I was a lot happier! Good Luck Ladies!

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      Breathing again 

      7 weeks ago

      11 years ago my 5 stepchildren came to live with us FT. I am just now disengaging!

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      Overconfident 

      8 weeks ago

      I never had children of my own and thought I could take on a stepson (9) and stepdaughter (7) because of my love for my husband and have them immigrate to our country to live. There is no way you can ever foresee how difficult your life would become.

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      Lu 

      2 months ago

      I am a step mom to 3 kids (2 in puberty) with a high conflict ex wife. I have slowly started to step away from being responsible for them, I go through the motions of making sure their daily needs are met and safety but I Beginning to refuse dealing with any legal documentation or paperwork during custody battles, I am not concerned so much about their grades going down, or behavior problems with teachers. I no longer care about what their mom does with them do at home and how spoiled they are. I’m feeling like a maid too often, my husband works 12 hours a day and I try and empathize and help but I have learned to put my own boundaries to keep my sanity. I’m 4 years in and still struggling to find a system that works, my privacy is invaded when they are here because mom asks them plenty of questions on what was done or said and uses it in court, but from my husband I get no empathy or help. But I try to focus more on my bio kids especially since we have every other weekends only. He’s paying more child support but I have more peace of mind?

    • profile image

      Tracie 

      2 months ago

      I think step mothers can be shelfish and one sided...never considering that you take away or prevent the bio dad from being the bio dad and you extort your new husband to get your way...especially if you have your own kids..you want everything for your own kids and want your husband to treat your kids like there own but kick out and create a double standard for his kids or kid adults. I read these posts and see the one sided views...you are NOT victims and have a responsibility to be see others points of view!!!

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      Chris 

      2 months ago

      As a stepdad I relate to much of what is written above, because I am the one who tracks grades, coordinates chores, deals with the schoolwork and parent-teacher conferences and my partner (the stepkids' mom) is the one who rarely gets involved in academic or household stuff and who rarely expresses appreciation for pushing and nudging the kids. I have had to accept that my teenage stepkids don't want to act towards academic success; they are craving some kind of substantive attention from their mom, and they are acting out with bad grades, as that substantive attention from her is unlikely to occur and their bio dad walked out completely 15 years ago. As I accept this and partially disengage, I have more time to focus on my biological sons (7th and 11th grades). I try to find something to celebrate everyday.

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      Julie G8580 

      2 months ago

      Im lost in it all as a stepmom all i ever wanted to do was be there for her. But its began to be so much more. I have been w my husband for over 15 yrs and in 2010 we gained custody of his daughter due to the mom being an addict for yrs i have been the one to do it all for her not anyone but me but for some reason her grandmother and aunt state that i aint anything to her and havent liked me for yrs. Just recently in the past yr we have allowed her mom to come into her life slowly letting her do for her and stuff but this is when things take a turn my stepdaughter went and said some awful things about me that we dont understand why she would go and say things like that. Is it cause her mom is telling her she wants this and that and telling her that she wants her to live w her and so forth. Like what is it? We dk. But heres the thing she hasnt been able to get her life together still til this day but yet her family does everything and anyhting for her she is not allowed to be around her till she does what is said on the court order papers. But yet when she goes over there shes w her mom. We all get that she wants to be in her life and were all for it but just take the drug test and get ur own rights like its not hard. Mind u she has 4 other kids one lives w the sister and 2 live w her and one lives w grandma and she still going thru cps. And both know that she not to be around the kids but still allow it all to happen. We want whats best for her but ahe just dont get it cause shes so brainwashed and thinking that lying is ok. I think at this point in my life im ready to disengage. But where do i start? And how does it work? Im just so stressed over all this bs!

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      recovering step monster 

      3 months ago

      I can not tell you how much of a weight was lifted off of my shoulders after reading some of the other experiences stepmoms have had. I have been married to my DH for 14 years. When we met, he had two daughters ages 7 and 9 and I had 1 daughter age 3. We got married pretty quickly and became an instant family. He adopted my daughter as her bio-dad had passed away. His ex-wife remarried just 2 months after their divorce and the main reason for their divorce was were multiple incidences of adultery with several men, including some who were also married and now divorced because of her. My DH had his girls most of the time but they slept at their moms house so she could still get full child support. She also refused to report her private business income to the courts and so he was paying more than he probably should have all along. She was negligent of the girls with things such as hygiene, packing enough clothes, and would show up late, change plans last minute, and also call our house or have the girls call our house sometimes up to 5-6 times a night when they were not with us. We sought counseling, tried email communication in a calm manor, and would get nasty and hateful responses. So, we took her to court and had to set up set visitation times. We spent a lot of time with girls when they were with us and it was all about family time when they were at our house. At their moms there was a lot of adult parties and they were encouraged to yell, argue and fight it out if they weren't getting along. Any discipline or beliefs we had were met with rebellion and hostility from girls, their mom, and stepdad. Visitations lessened as girls got older, their mom became their "friend" as they reached high school, and their attitudes towards my DH and I was awful until 2 years ago when I had enough and had my DH to tell them I was not wanting to have a relationship anymore with me or my younger daughters. He did not confront them over the teen years much because they would get so explosive so we just tolerated it and put up with it. Since I have chosen disengagement, stepdaughters ages 21 and 23 have stalked my daughter and left gifts at her school, reached out to my family and other people in community to try and get to my daughters, refuse to stop sending gifts in the mail, and I have recently been stalked and harassed and tagged on Facebook from stepdaughter and their mom and my sister in law telling people I am abusive, playing the victim and evil and that karma will have it's way. My husband has tried to reconcile and communicate our side of things to them off and on for 2 years with no success. We believe this is a form of emotional parental alienation and tried hard to work on our behaviors and responses all along over the years. We went to counseling, read books, and did whatever we could to try and make our blended family work. I attempted to bond with them in many ways for years until I began a slow fade of disengagement. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't. I was harassed, interrogated, bullied, misunderstood, and made to be the villain for a total of 12 years and now 2 more years after trying to disengage. My DH only has brief contact with the older daughter but we learned that she has been going back to his family and mom to give information about us. My children have suffered because I felt guilty for being their mom in front of my stepdaughters. I finally decided that I wasn't going to waste another moment on not being the best mom I could be. I am thankful to have my DH's full support. I know that is not always the case. I support his decision to try to mend things with him and will always be supportive of that even if they continue to hate me, they still deserve to have their father. Others are saying that I made him do this, that he is controlled by me, and that I ripped their father away, and that he doesn't want to see them. This is all a warped and twisted view of the situation. But, I have to keep moving towards healing and pray the girls and their mom get the help and healing they need as well. Fellow stepmonsters, you are not alone, you are not evil, and you do have rights. Validation is key to surviving this complicated role. God bless you all.

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      StepMom3 

      3 months ago

      Terrible advice below from dashingscorpio. Disengaging isn't about being someone else, walking on eggshells, and keeping your mouth shut. It's the freedom to STOP doing that because it didn't work at keeping the peace--all it did was encourage the crazy ex wife and brainwashed kids to use you and your husband and kids as a doormat and scapegoat for everything wrong in their lives (because you've taught them being the bigger person means you won't call them out on how nasty they behave, you'll try to reason with crazy). Disengagement is accepting that it will never change because crazy ex wife won't let it so all you can do is stop letting her and the kids control you by sucking you in to lies, namecalling, and abuse. They can continue, AND WILL, but you no longer care and refuse to acknowledge it or play the game. (Ex wife)You can't ignore me at school events and games or tell me to back off because I'm in the way of father/child time and don't belong there, have your kids do the same, AND get mad at me for not being at every event so you can continue the abuse game, because I no longer ALLOW any of you to treat me and my kids that way. You wanted a wicked stepmom to further your victim narrative? You got one. You created one. Disengaging after 7 years...

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      Struckdumb 

      3 months ago

      Just a comment on dashingscorpio, I very much agree that disengaging is a horrible compromise of who we are, and a desperate last option when talking things though has failed, but I wasn't ready to give up on my marriage even when my dh was displaying the emotional intelligence of an amoeba, and guilt trip parenting at the expense of his marriage, he was, and still is otherwise my loving soulmate and I'm personally glad I played the long game and stuck it out, as we are all of us very happy and settled, moreover, my dh is now if anything over vigilant when it comes to any hint that I might appear to be not included, although disengagement has become a habit, and I take myself off because I want my own company, feel no obligation to cook, fuss, bother about a thing, my step kids come and visit and cook for me

    • profile image

      Struckdumb 

      3 months ago

      I am a veteran at disengagement, as I went there when my full time stepchildren were small, now they are adults and things couldn't be rosier

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      Emily Barth 

      4 months ago

      I disengaged myself about 6 months ago. I've been a part of my step kids lives for almost 3 years and was still trying harder than ever to be accepted and appreciated. They are disrespectful, stubborn, hard headed and very hard to take care of. They don't listen and they treat everything like it's disposable. I was feeling needed but unwanted in my own home. Like I was the maid and should be getting paid. Bio mom left most responsibilities to dad and dad left them to me. I was handling things like school matters, dr. appts, dentist appts, hygiene, shopping for clothing and school supplies and at the end of the day I got no credit for busting my ass. I was cooking and cleaning and on top of all of this I have 2 bio kids of my own who were not getting none of my attention and starting to get upset about it, to the point where my oldest broke down and asked me if I still wanted her. I lost it and bawled for hours, literally before I finally let go of my expected responsibilities and told dad it was his job not mine. I didn't know there was such thing a "disengaging" until a few hours ago when I stumbled across it and I'm happy to see I'm not the only step mom who feels like this isn't my job! I didn't combine this family to give up on my own kids and life my life trying to raise and entertain someone else's. And for the comment below about how you shouldn't join a family if you don't get along with your SO's children... I did get along with them, until recently when the oldest (only 7) realized she can push her dad around enough to give her anything and now I've become the evil step mom and none of this is fair to me or my girls.

    • profile image

      4 months ago

      I am disengaging to the point of leaving. My son and I need this as we are tired of living in a house where the other "adult children" have no repercussions for their behaviours whatsoever. Bleh!!

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      Cyntella 

      4 months ago

      Yup, this page made things so clear! I’ve been taking on too many tasks that should be done by my spouse! I care way too much for his 3 adult children (all 18 and over). I will NO longer actively provide advice, assistance or inquire about how things are going! I’m done, I’m totally disengaging.

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      Notgoingtotakeit 

      5 months ago

      I disengaged a completely after four years of court ordered advocacy. I wrote the following email to the court advocate:

      There is no easy way to say this so I am just going to be direct.Child is not welcome in MY HOME until her behavior of vomiting all over my home or anywhere else is stopped and her eating disorder is addressed and clear actions are being taking by all the adults in her life. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I have done everything humanly possible to give child every tool she needs to stop flinging her bodily fluids all over my home and child has chose to continue with the same behaviors.

      Friday night, while husband was working night shift child vomited all over her bed and over 80 % of the carpet in her room. Then, she proceeded to walk down the hallway and fling vomit everywhere. It took 4 hours to clean and get the vomit smell from my home.

      I can no longer ride on this merry-go-round and compromise my own health and sanity.

      The mother and the grandparents the child lives refuse to address the child's behave and eating disorder.

      The court advocate has backed me 100%. After 4 years of having a child vomit all over my home, crap herself and smear everywhere, sneeze and fling her snot everywhere. I have my sanity back and a peaceful home.

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      Wini McGee 

      5 months ago

      There’s some comment from someone below the article stating, “All moms feel like they are treated like maids, are under appreciated at times, don't always get the support warranted, etc.” Gee, I thought SMs weren’t supposed to be moms. But, now we are? I get the insinuation here is that SMs are supposed to suck it up just like BM does? Pretty much all BMs get a gadzillion more rewards than any SM does, too. They get hugs, kisses, Mother’s Day gifts, cards, hear accolades all the time about near-Sainthood from everyone around them. SMs rarely get that; yet when it serves someone’s purposes, we are suddenly just like moms, and supposed to accept that “All moms feel like they are treated like maids, are under appreciated at times, don't always get the support warranted, etc.,” so what’s the big deal? Gag!

    • profile image

      Lori Sims 

      6 months ago

      Disengaging with the NachoKids method saved my sanity and marriage!

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      Lynne 500 

      6 months ago

      I am learning about disengaging. I wish I had heard of this 30 years ago when I thought it was my responsibility to be the mom I thought my step children needed . I walked into that house and did everything I could to be the great mom I feel like all children deserve. I have been treated like an outsider since day one and now the grown step children I raised treat me like I don't exist. They spend time with their mother who basically deserted them. My self esteem has been rock bottom, but now I have heard about disengaging. It never would have occurred to me because I love my kids. I am realizing now though that they truly do not love me or care about my decision to parent them. The more I keep them out of my everyday life, the better I feel. I don't deserve to be hurt like this anymore. My self esteem has been trashed but I am starting to see myself as someone worth while again. I am trying to look at what I did for them is a gift, but have the freedom to move on.

    • profile image

      YesIndeed 

      6 months ago

      Think it is pretty important to stress the fact that all co-parenting is hard. There is a certain difference in step parenting and raising a non step child. But, it is imperative to know when to start taking off points for bad behavior, and when the other person needs to step up as a regular parent. It's actually pretty normal for one parent not to support the other one. (That's true if the children are small and teenagers.) New parents, especially, need to know the difference between normal parenting fights and step parenting problems. Saying "I feel like if this were OUR child.... " can be a dangerous assumption. Comparing the young child that the couple now have together is still not the same.

      It cannot automatically be assumed the problem is the "step problem" without considering it may just be how the other parent raises children. Doing so can result in over expectations of the other's parenting skills.

      All moms feel like they are treated like maids, are under appreciated at times, don't always get the support warranted, etc. Only point is- start calculations where the real step parent problem are, and then work up from there. It may or may not be a step problem. It may just be that a good part of the problem is just the other parent.

      Either way, diagnosis should start at a reality "ground zero" and work up from there. Zero out the minus 5 points for the regular bad parenting skills, where applicable, and then start counting the step deficit from there. Only then can any real calculations be figured.

      It would be a shame to disengage and find out only 1/10 of it was due to being a step parent and the rest because the other parent just stunk at parenting skills. You can really be selling yourself short of an otherwise recoverable relationship with a normal rebellious teenager.

      Over crediting the step word can also give you self confidence issues, as well as rob you of joy you might otherwise have with the child.

      First step must be to accurately assess how much to attribute to being a "step." If you have a younger child together, you also need to know where to be stronger now, rather than later.

      Otherwise, careful not to totally disengage before you correctly diagnose the cause, need and degree of action required. Step parenting can be very rewarding for everyone involved.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 

      6 months ago

      If you don't get along with someone's children you probably shouldn't marry into their family. That's probably the best way to avoid unnecessary stress and aggravation.

      In a world with over 7 Billion people odds are in all of our favor there is someone for us who does not bring a boatload of drama! :)

      If your or your mate has to change your (core being) in order to make a relationship "work" it means you're with the (wrong person). Compatibility trumps compromise.

      Like attracts like and opposites attract divorce attorneys!

      The problem with "disengaging" is it means you have to "change" and more often than not it's impossible to be happy if you can't (be yourself) in a relationship or marriage. Keeping your mouth shut when you want to say something, looking the other way, and walking on eggshells is not a way to live.

      The goal is find a "soulmate" not a "cellmate".

      Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

      Each of us has our mate selection process/"must haves list".

      Each of us has our boundaries and "deal breakers".

      There are only two ways to experience joy and peace of mind in relationships: We either get what we want or we learn to be happy with what we have. Accept them (as is) or move on.

      Choose wisely!

      "Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

      - Oscar Wilde

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