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I'm glad I found this forum. Maybe you can help me!

I'm 31 years old and have for the past 12 months been living with my girlfriend and her five year old son. I have known them for nearly three years. I moved in with them and then rented my own flat out to a friend.

On paper everything is great. My girlfriend is pregnant and we'll have a baby in February. I can't wait! Her son really likes me as a stepdad and says that I'm the funniest one to play with. I love both him and my girlfriend who is an openminded girl and just everything I have been looking for my whole life.

The thing is that I'm having personal issues with a few things that stresses me a lot and that I don't know how to handle them:

I miss my dad! Sometimes when my stepson is at bed in the evening he cries and says that he "misses his father". His biological father lives in another country. They have only seen eachother maybe 20 times on Skype. They don't even speak the same language so my girlfriend has to translate their (very short) conversations. I'm a great stepdad, but I still get the thought of "am I good enough?".

Mom only! My stepson can be very "mom-sick". He's never allowed me reading him a story before bedtime. Sometimes his mom has to help him with something and DEFINITELY NOT me. These things are very normal for every child (even with both biological parents present), but it still hurts my heart because I really love this kid.

Am I a guest? The other day I heard him say that my girlfriend is the one looking out for him - and not me because I'm looking out for my own family (my parents and sibblings). This hurts because does he just see me as a funny guest or what?!

I feel trapped! I know this is how it is when having a family, but I genuinely feel that a lot is on their terms. I moved into THEIR home, I wake up when THEY wake up, I eat when THEY eat, I can't play video games until the KID sleeps. I feel like their world is perfect, but not mine.

These are the main things that in one combination hurts and stresses me. I really don't know how to tackle it. My mood and emotions can go from top in a whole week to bottom in a few minutes, especially when I get a gentle "reminder" of what my place is in the house.

I get in a vicious circle and I see only the bad things!

I have several times spoken with my girlfriend about and she supports me, but mostly I'm just making conclusions on my own and that's not healthy of me because sometimes I don't see the bigger picture. Deep down inside I know that my stepson in time will see and appreciate that I have been a great father to him, but it's hard to give so much love without getting much back.

Thanks for reading! Any advice is appreciated.

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    Have you talked with your girlfriend about what exactly your role should be to the kid? And talk to her about the feeling of being trapped, too! Co-living with someone an be tricky; and especially with a 5-year-old around and a baby on the way will require talking, talking talking and, oh, talking! – Layna Dec 18 '17 at 11:59
  • @Layna Yes, she wants me to be a father. She's already told her son that he has two fathers. We have already talked about being trapped. Because of this we decided I could have my own gamer corner for my computer in the living room. That works out really well. – FreePalestine Dec 19 '17 at 7:27
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If your goal is to eventually adopt your stepson officially (and I hope it is -- it sounds like your stepson is lucky his mother found you!), then I suggest you take a class on Foster and Adoptive Parenting. I took one with my partner in preparation for adopting. I learned a ton. I've tried various parenting workshops but none have held a candle to the Foster and Adoptive Parenting class we took in preparation for our adoption. Mine was offered through the Salvation Army "Hearts and Homes." It was a really well though-out, national curriculum, and it was team-taught by a social worker and an experienced mother (who had raise homemade children, foster children, and adopted children).

You might also enjoy reading books about step-parenting, such as one by Delia Ephron. Here's an interview. Some of the highlights of the interview:

'In a divorced home, everything is really about the divorce, including the death of the children's guinea pig,'' Ms. Ephron asserts. Her own role as stepmother proved more traumatic than she had anticipated. ''It was as difficult an experience as I've ever had, but I absolutely adore my stepchildren and it's been extremely rewarding, so the whole thing is very complicated,'' she says. ''It's gotten a lot easier now, but I nearly drove my husband nuts the first couple of years. I'm a really bossy person, in general, and as a stepparent, because you're an outsider, you feel stifled - and you overreact tremendously. You need to have your opinions known and heard and acted upon, because if they're not, it's proof that you're not in that family -and you want to belong so badly. So I gave my husband advice constantly. He'd be on the phone with his ex-wife, and I'd be talking to him in sign language.''

Ms. Ephron came to see her own expectations as unrealistic. ''The kids I talked to didn't tend to think of stepparents as parents, even when they liked them a lot,'' she notes. ''It's the fantasy of the adult, and it's not an appropriate expectation. The peace I've made with stepparenting came from accepting the limits on the relationship. You're not the parent, and you may never be the one the child wants when he bursts into tears.''

She interviewed a lot of stepchildren for the book.

Ms. Ephron's own perspective has evolved considerably. ''Until I wrote about it, I did not fully understand what a real threat a stepparent poses to children, and how vulnerable they are,'' she admits. ''In my head I understood it, but I didn't understand in my heart. The thing that changed me most was realizing that everyone else was in a really difficult situation too. I was seeing myself as a victim; the children were seeing themselves as the victims; my ex-husband was caught between us, so he was the victim; his ex-wife was seeing herself as the victim; and I started to think, 'Are we going to make a career out of this?' I began to see that I didn't want to go through life seeing myself as a deprived person, and I started to empathize with everyone in the family. I learned not to take everything personally.''

Try to find a parent-buddy for mutual support. Your partner obviously can provide some support, but it's also helpful to have someone just for you, for parent to parent (or step-parent to step-parent) support. Try the playground, the PTA/PTO, the science museum, the second hand store, etc. Set up playdates and see if a relationship starts to develop. What you're looking for is a relationship where you're both getting support from the relationship.

Now I'll share some thoughts about the specifics you mentioned in your post.

I miss my dad! If you want to be a true rockstar of a stepdad -- learn some of bio-dad's language so you can support child and bio-dad's communication with each other. Personal example: My mother was a German refugee, so it was difficult for me to play the support crew role for my children to develop a close relationship with my German in-laws. But I found the courage to do it and I'm very glad I did.

Mom only! It's common for this to switch over to the other parent at some point. In my kids, we saw it around age six and again in adolescence. I'll tell you what really helps: set up a weekly males-only play date, just the two of you, a special fun time, when Mother is not present. It could be something as simple as going to the park together. Try to find your stepson's special interests -- it might be "let's cook dinner for Mama" or "let's do bicycle maintenance (something simple -- tighten something with a hex wrench, spray on some lubricant, make up a song about the Bike Mechanics; don't forget the best part -- assisting as needed in telling Mama the story afterwards!). Start with something fairly short and work your way up. Always end on a high note -- BEFORE child has had enough.

Am I a guest? All I can say here is that it will take time for him to believe deep inside that you'll be sticking with them over the long haul.

I feel trapped! Do you have a room or a space in the house of your own? You need a safe place you can retreat to, even if it's only a garden shed.

It hurts sometimes, hurts a lot. Sorry to tell you this, but in adolescence it may be ten times worse. Whatever coping mechanisms you can find now will stand you in very good stead twelve years from now!

  • Thanks! To adopt him would make me the happiest man alive! His mom has already told him that he has two fathers. I will use google materials on this subject as you suggest. We have already had quite a few "man-trips" the past months and we're having a great time alone. We done things like going to the movies, playing sports and other things. It's always a success. Maybe that's why it hits me so hard when he says that I'm not the one looking after him or doesn't want to say goodnight to me. Recently I built my own gamer corner for my computer in the living room as a safe place. – FreePalestine Dec 19 '17 at 7:56
  • i dont think you need advice, you have all the answers already. :) I'm a step parent too and the me-space is a valuable tip. I simply don't have it. – bigbadmouse Dec 19 '17 at 9:50
  • @FreePalestine: It's great that you are having fun trips together, and a good start. About the "it hits me hard when he says that": Maybe it helps you to remember that children are a lot more direct, and live more in the moment, than adults do. In these situations, it may help to translate things like "you are not looking after me" to "right now I am missing my real father (even though I may not really know him), and want him to look after me, not you" or something similar. It's easy and natural to take that personally, but it is usually not. – sleske Dec 20 '17 at 7:53
  • @sleske - Good point. The loss of a parent, for whatever reason, can be so deeply felt by a child. – aparente001 Dec 20 '17 at 20:13

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