Setting the scene

Parenting can often feel all about giving. You give your time, you give your advice, you give money and much more. Just when you thought you might be able to do something for yourself you find a child somewhere somehow needs you. I was at the school gates this morning and parents are there; – negotiating, cajoling, helping, talking, laughing or screaming at children. Some look totally worn out and some look at their wits end. Parenting changes as children get older, but the fact remains, even when children do not need such physical help, they are still very demanding.

Parents and children establish a routine together. Children can get very used to asking for things. Parents can get very used to giving. When a new adult in a parenting role arrives in the household the child can anticipate that you will behave like the other parents they have been used to. However, you may find this difficult. Giving can be extremely difficult when the emotional ties aren’t there. Yet it would be normal in a step-family situation to find you giving nevertheless, more-or-less as a real parent might. Up at night with an ill child, running around when something is forgotten, buying extra things when needed. Having them at the table at meal times when you would prefer to just be with your partner, accommodating their views, changing your plans to fit in, the list is endless.

What should you do if you are beginning to feel resentful about this?

Biological parents find it tough, but they have the emotional ties and that makes it easier for them. You will still be required to do the giving but you need to become aware of when you are feeling the strain and need to compensate yourself for your efforts. If you give and you do not compensate yourself you may begin to feel resentful. It’s a simple equation. When you recognise one of those feelings of resentment, acknowledge it in yourself, then ask “Is this something I can do something about before it happens again next time?” If so, do it. But as likely as not it will just be one of those ‘giving situations’.

Next, make a list of all the things you like doing to give yourself a treat. These are a few of mine: read a magazine, have a bath with bubbles, play sport, walk in the sun on the sunny side of the street (if the weather permits), buy a coffee next time I’m in town, retail therapy. Those are the little things, depending on the need for compensation I might do more: suggest my partner and I go to the cinema or out for a meal this week, buy something special for the house / myself that I had been putting off, make arrangements to see a special friend. It doesn’t matter what you do providing you feel back to normal and happy again afterwards.

Why is this important

If your relationship with your partner and step-children is to grow, you are best not taking out your resentment on them. Nurture yourself instead.

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