If you’re a parent with multiple children, you can try and treat all of them the same — but there will always be exceptions because every child is different. If you’re a step-parent, this can be even more fraught.
One Redditor who married into a family with five children has taken it upon herself to pay special attention to the oldest daughter because the daughter’s biological mother does not want anything to do with her.
The OP takes this daughter on trips and bonds with her in a way that leaves less room for time with the other children. But instead of recognizing the OP’s attempts to cheer this essentially abandoned child, her husband says she’s not doing enough for the others.
“I started dating Daniel 2.5 years ago and we got married last year. Daniel has 5 kids with his ex-wife, Ava (11), Jason (9), Isabella (6), Sofia (5), and Andrew (3). Daniel’s ex never liked Ava. She blames Ava for leaving her trapped in a relationship with her dad. When they got divorced, she said she didn’t want anything to do with Ava. Ava was 8 years old at the time. Ava’s mom leaving but having a relationship with her siblings destroyed her. She had to go to the hospital 3 times over the first 4 months. She didn’t sleep or eat and would have panic attacks at school,” the OP writes.
“The weeks Ava’s siblings were with their mom were the hardest because it was a constant reminder that her mom loved her siblings and not her. She would barely get out of bed those weeks so around 2 years ago, I surprised her with a day trip to the beach. I bought her a cute swimsuit, we got ice cream, we went boogie boarding, went out to eat, and went shopping. It was the first time I’d seen her smile in weeks. I noticed it was helping Ava so we started to go out more and more. When her siblings are here it’s something small like dinner before therapy but when they’re not here we go camping, we go hiking, we try new restaurants, we go back to the beach, etc. and she loves it.”
“I don’t spend nearly as much one on one time with the other 4 kids for 2 reasons: These kids already have a mom that loves them and they don’t need it as much. It is so much easier to do anything with one kid than 5. When I spend time with Ava, I stick her in my Honda and we go. When I have all 5 kids, we take a big passenger van and they fight over everything. It takes twice as long to go somewhere because I keep having to pull over and break up a fight.”
“I do take all 5 kids out 1-2 times a week when they’re with us but it’s not usually a big trip like what I go on with Ava. We’ll go to the beach 20 minutes away instead of the one almost 2 hours away, we’ll go on the walking trail by our house instead of a 4 mile hike, sometimes we have picnics in the park. The big thing this summer is the amusement park. I’ll take all of the kids with their dad or their nanny, we go on some rides together, Then one of us will take the older two to go on all of the ‘scary rides’ they want while the other takes the younger 3 to the kiddie rides that the older two are ‘way too big and mature’ to go near, then we meet up at the waterpark. We’ve done this at least once a week this summer.”
“Recently, my husband asked me to start taking the younger 4 on day trips like the kind Ava and I go on because they’re starting to get jealous. I said I’ll try to plan more fun activities but my trips with Ava aren’t suitable for all 5 kids. He said I should try to treat the kids equally and either not take Ava or take everybody. I said I will when he takes all 5 kids camping or on a 4 mile hike by himself. He called me a bad stepmom so I wanted to know if I was the a**hole.”
This stepmother is amazing, and her husband needs to pick up the slack and be as good of a father.
“NTA. That poor little girl. You may not have come up with a perfect solution for helping this child, and it may be unfair to her siblings, but you are putting a hurting child first. She’s lucky to have you,” saidincogspeedo.
“It’s not unfair, it all happens when the other kids are out of the house at their mom’s place. It’s only to keep her supported and help her see she is loved by someone. It’s a perfect example of the difference between equity and equality. The other kids aren’t getting equal time with step mom, but they are getting fair treatment. This is all just evening things out for a little girl who has been abused and neglected by her bio mom. When her siblings are older they will understand better. They will remember Ava was never with them at mom’s and wonder about it. and they are old enough now that if they express jealousy it can be answered honestly. ‘Your mom hates Ava and ignores her, we are just helping her heal from that while you are out of the house. it doesn’t mean we love her more.’ Honestly I can’t understand why they haven’t gone for full custody. The bio mom sounds unhinged and shouldn’t have alone time with any of these kids,” notedtiredtonight101.
“NTA. I can see the other kids viewing it as unfair, however Ava needs a mother and they just need a stepmother. They weren’t abandoned. Their dad should realise this. In the long run the others might be grumpy but you are going to save Ava a lot of trauma by being there for her. A good middle ground I would think would be doing 1 on 1 things with the others at least twice a year (at least the 9 year old- the things you do aren’t super age appropriate with the toddler),” suggestedAuroraburst.
“He says you should treat the children equally but they are not equal. Ava has been rejected by her own mother. She needs to feel loved. Worthwhile. Like someone’s daughter. You give her what is not there for her, just as the other children have a mother to fill that role. The other kids do not need the same and so you are treating them according to their needs. In an age-appropriate way – perhaps through therapy – they need to learn some empathy for their sister. They are not the ones being left behind – the ONE being left. And your partner calling you a bad stepmom when you are the opposite is well out of line. NTA,” saidDogmother123.
“NTA for sure. Reading this I kept thinking ‘what a great stepmom!’ You consciously chose Ava and are probably more of a mother to her than her biological mother. You probably bonded more than you and the rest of the kids did. What you do for her is therapeutical as well. And on top of it all, you take all the kids out 1-2 a week? Wife and I can’t manage that most of the time with our own. You’re doing a great job as far as I’m concerned. What do the rest of the kids say? Is this their wish as well, or only daddy trying to squeeze out more free time for himself? Honestly, he seems oblivious to what relationship with her mom did to Ava, otherwise I cannot imagine how he could say you cannot take her anymore if you don’t take all of them. He’s the a**hole here,” saidbosko43buha.