Ask SAHM is a place where you can ask our staff & community a question safely & anonymously. Please read our disclaimer.

Nice stepmum has turned mean

My kids stepmum was so nice. She would treat them great and even we had an OK relationship.
But since having her first child 18 months ago she's slowly turned mean. My kids will come home so upset and tell me how rudely she spoke to them, how she has purposely behaved badly by telling them to stay in their room when baby is sleeping, not giving them any attention, play games, read etc. All the nice things she used to do. I've noticed a huge change in her too. She used to give them hugs at pick up but now she just stays in the car scowling.
I tried to see it from a mums point of view. She would be tired and have less patience but my kids are only there two days a fortnight. It's just become progressively worse and my kids and starting to get anxious a few days before the visits.
I've also tried talking to their dad but he shuts me down.
What do I do?
Has anyone else dealt with this?


Got an Answer?

Answers (13)

Are you still able to communicate with her? I'd ask her if she's okay.. it sounds like she's struggling hard. Maybe she has changed because your ex has changed since having a new baby? think about why your relationship with him failed, she could be going through that with him now too? I know it's not your problem but it would explain it.

If this was about a step dad everyone would be jumping up and down but because it is a mum everyone starts making excuses for her. Regardless of whether she is tired, her baby has colic, she is depressed, if she is just a bitch, if she hates sharing her family time or if she is jealous of the relationship your kids have with their dad...none of that makes it ok to treat your kids poorly. Contact the kids father and tell him that the kids aren't happy and are getting extremely upset and anxious before their visit. Just tell him that you both just want your kids to be happy and healthy so you would like to work together to find out what is going on.

 No one has said its ok. People have just offered suggestions on what it could be and ways to help. She could be just a bitch but as this has changed since her baby has come along, it does sound like something has happened and a resolution is what's needed here.
helpful (0) 
 Not the same thing. She said it was a NICE stepmum and something has changed. If she was a bitch from the start that's different. There is a chance here that the OP can find out what the problem is and help fix it. I would say the same about a stepdad.
helpful (1) 

After reading this and your update, keeping them away from her would be the best thing. No way would I trust someone like that with my children. And if she is depressed, even more reason to keep them away from her. A few other things are worrying like your ex, the father of your children. Why is he so dismissive, when this woman is so openly nasty? Surely it is his job to make sure his children feel safe and have the best possible time during their visits with him. I'd be more worried about his attitude than step mum's. Is job is to protect them! I'd say from now on, if he wants to see them, it's not overnight and it's not in step mum's presence. Sounds like she would be A-ok with that.

 If she acted like that in public you can only imagine how she has been behaving behind closed doors towards the kids. I agree with stopping overnight visits for now. Dad definitely needs to step up!
helpful (2) 

Well I did try approaching her at soccer tonight (hand over). I took a coffee, approached friendly, asked how she was, could I say hi to bubs.
Then I gently asked how she thought things were going when the kids were with them, asked if there was anything I could do to help if she needed anything.
She actually threw the coffee on the floor, told me my kids are annoying, she's never liked them and she hates it when they're there.
My ex saw this happening from a distance, came over and said nothing.
I tried to stay calm. Was trying to ask if it would help if she had a break from them for a couple of weeks and she ordered my ex in the car and they left without the kids.
I'm so angry. My kids are just kids. If they were being naughty, noisy, rough then I would happily try to help.
Now I just have my defense mother mode on.

 Holy crap well that did not go well. When I first read this I was eye rolling at all the 'maybe she's depressed' answers but after reading this maybe there is something going on. It sounds like you tried your best to not be confronting, and she's reacted very poorly. I would speak to your ex about this situation. No parent would feel comfortable sending their children to someone who openly dislikes them.
helpful (2) 
 At least you know what she thinks. My kids step mum was always a bit cold toward my kids but once she had one with my ex it was like she stopped pretending. After my son was pushed out a tree and had his arm broken and ignored they stopped going. Their dad comes for dinner once a week and takes them out on he weekend sometimes but can't have them around his other family.
helpful (1) 
 Woah! Yeah. I wouldn't be sending my kids over there when she is behaving like that. Depressed or not, whatever is going on she needs to sort it out. Even if just for the sake of her baby. At least you tried, so good on you for that. Ball's in her court now. I hope your ex supports her cos I reckon she's gonna need it. There is something wrong with a person who reacts like that.
helpful (3) 

Talk to your kids about how to behave around the baby. Remind them to be gentle and to be quiet during naps. It could be that she is getting stressed out when the visit as they may be behaving a little too rough around the baby or screaming when the baby has just settled for a nap. Discuss about how tired their stepmum is probably feeling and nice things that they could do to help their step-sibling with the baby or to cheer her up. Eg Picking her some flowers. It might also improve their own relationship with their stepmum.

My guess is that being her first she is having trouble settling in/that the baby has colic/ is a poor sleeper. Giving your kids things to try that may help the baby settle might in turn de-stress the mum. Eg A toy to play for baby that just happens to have white noise when pressed. An adorable sleeping bag to dress in for bed that your kids have picked the design of and insist on seeing how cute baby looks in just before naptime while playing the white noise :D

Set up a coffee date with their step-mum. Ask how she is coping. If possible maybe offer to babysit the baby so can have a nap? If she is a bit more refreshed just before looking after your kids maybe she will be nicer.

They may (?) be acting out because of the new baby and she doesnt know how to deal? If they are its normal kid behaviour if they are young and it will die down.
does your ex give them attention, play games, read etc? It sounds like the step mum is doing everything with the kids, rather than him, she is probably too exhausted to right now. is the issue that he is not stepping up?

If things were OK are you able to ask her how she is going? Even ask if she would like a coffee sometime without your kids there when she comes. Let her know you are there to talk.

 mind your business ....dont be friends with her
helpful (0) 
 ^ it is her busines because her behaviour is effecting her kids.
helpful (4) 

My first thought reading that was maybe she has post natal depression. Does she have much support? If things were good before, maybe it's worth your time approaching her, not your ex. Ask how she has settled into motherhood, invite her over for coffee, befriend her. There is a reason for her change in behaviour.

My step mum was like this once she had her own,as much as you can love your step kids having your own is very diffrent. She resented having to be the 'mother' for us while we were in her care when she didnt get any of the 'perks' , but with her own she got it all. She struggled with intergrating us when we were there since it disrupted the rytheme she had with her child ,that she developed when we were at mums. For instance she would have to pick us up from school on dads days but school pick up was in the middle of her childs nap, yes as mothers we have to deal with this and work around it but since she it only had to do it twice a fortnight it was difficult, and resented having to mess her childs nap for us, the rest of the afternoon would be spent trying to get the baby to sleep or holding the baby (because he was overtired and cranky) instead of doing all the things she use to with us and we were just being kids but that stopped her little from sleeping and she would get angry at us. Thats just a example.

I have no advice on how to change it since my step mum didnt change and we still have a strained relationship today.

My kids step mother started off so lovely, 3 years later and a baby of her own and shes put the c**t in country. She is horrid. 3 of my kids will not go to their house anymore, haven't done for over a year. My eldest lives there but only for school, he can't wait to graduate next semester so he can get out of there. My ex is to blame really, he lets her yell at them and punish them. She has stopped them communicating with me while at their house. I dropped my son off yesterday and had to pull up in the street because I couldn't pull up on the front verge( which was dirt). I'm not bothered with dealing with it anymore, the eldest will be gone soon enough and the younger 3 wouldn't go there if you paid them so I don't have to worry. If I still had years left I'd try and sort it out, maybe try and have a coffee or something and find out what her problem is. Start with an email or text message.

I really struggled with my step kids when I had my first baby. We lived in an apartment and they could just not be quiet for 5 minutes so the baby could sleep. I ended up very stressed and was a bit short with the kids sometimes. It settled down eventually and we found a better routine.

ok firstly i cant be bothered reading all the comments so if im repeating sorry bout it.
2 things that come to mind. 1. i loved kids and all things about them before i became a mother. and my sons father has 2 older kids so similar situation (altho we split while i was pregnant) after my first was born i just lost all my excitement love and passion for kids. i barely had enough for my son let alone anyone else. and it was just something that happened no explanation. so maybe thats her case here. dont ask me how to solve it tho haha. maybe have a chat to her but she may get all defensive and bitchy.
2. ((dont shoot me here)) how do you know the kids are telling you the right version of things?? maybe they arent adjusting well to the new sibling. before, the stepmum had all the time in the world for them, but now she has less, just like if you had a new baby. maybe the kids are taking it personally because, well, they are kids and may not understand that the babys needs take priority etc. and while you said you have noticed her being different, maybe thats just a reflection off what the kids say. kids minds can be very OTT at the best of times. my son has often said things that are exaggerated, not intentionally but thats just how kids are.