Spending Money on Stepchildren

by TTMK on December 10, 2012 · 69 comments

When many of us are looking for a partner, and thinking of getting married, there is some kind of standard narrative at play.  Meet someone attractive and fun, someone who you really enjoy spending time with. A person who shares your values and with whom you can see spending the rest of your life.  Perhaps even having a family.

The fairly tale doesn’t necessarily include the idea of a built-in family, where there are stepchildren involved.  How many people have this as a part of their vision?  My guess is that not many do.  It’s just the way it is.

However, as we get older, we tend to gain life experience.  For some people, a part of that life experience is becoming a parent.  It’s one of the most rewarding things you can do, and one of the biggest responsibilities you could take on.  Really, could really be more important to someone than their own children? Personally, I find it hard to imagine finding anything more important.

This makes the idea of becoming a stepparent one that involves understanding that the person you married has children that are a major responsibility – in terms of providing for them, handling their emotional development, and many other things.  It’s the most important job the person you married will have in life.

Having said all that, this makes a particular situation I know about quite hard to understand.  There is a couple I know where the two people got married with the man having custody of a young child.  The woman did not have kids of her own.

Apparently, when dating and in many detailed conversations, it was mutually understood that the guy had a major responsibility for his kid, and was a devoted parent.  This meant handling all aspects of parenting, including – quite naturally – spending money on the child.

Well, once married, the woman had a difficult time sharing money, and having joint finances in marriage. This wasn’t something she indicated would be an issue before, apparently, but she couldn’t handle income being spent on the child.  Thus, she kept her finances separate, with paychecks going to a personal account.  Her income may actually be higher than his, not that it necessarily matters, but just something to consider.

Without getting to into too many details, some of behaviors of this stepparent that would catch your attention were:

  • Insisting that the husband personally pay for more housing than her – as in a 60/40 split – because of the presence of his kid.
  • Making him pay for a majority of utility bills because theoretically the kid could result in extra electricity or water costs
  • Getting angry at him if he bought new clothes for the kid, demanding that he return them and stretch older clothes for another season
  • Throwing fits if he wanted to sign the child up for more than one extracurricular activity
  • Becoming very upset and screaming over his spending money even $100 on Christmas gifts for the kid
  • Generally expecting to be the #1 priority in his life, ahead of his kid

Her overarching thought was that he should be the primary breadwinner, and responsible to take care of his family – including her.  However, her money isn’t to be used on the kid.

My thoughts?

  • This is entirely crazy bonkers wrong to treat a stepchild that way.
  • A single parent – man or woman – should get some empathy for their hard work.
  • A stepparent should “step” up and try to help her (or his) spouse
  • It’s perfectly understandble to prefer to marry a person with no kids, but if you actually do it, you need to embrace them – to be a good person, and to have basic consideration for your spouse
  • Nobody should be jealous of a child in this way
  • A child shouldn’t be put on the back-burner financially (or otherwise) by any parent, just because it isn’t a biological child of the new spouse that’s a stepparent
  • Money earned by both husband and wife should be shared together, and used to support the family – including stepchildren.

Bottom line: When two people marry, they become a family. A kid is a part of that family, whether biological to both or just to one.  If a person can’t fully accept the reality that their spouse will spend on kids – then don’t marry the person, or be ready to fully accept it. Kids deserve kindness, patience, and love.

What Do You Think?

In this situation, do you think the biological parent has a legit reason to be stressed about his spouse’s behavior as a stepparent?

Or, do you think that the stepparent has a valid outlook on this?

Purely hypothetical here: how would you handle this topic, and approach money and family, based on playing either role here (biological parent or stepparent)?

{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily @ evolvingPF December 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Wow, what a major marriage problem. This is an ultimate argument against separate finances.

I think compromise is in order (as well as joint money). The step-parent shouldn’t dominate the spending decisions for the child but neither does the biological parent hold a trump card once the new family is formed.

I have a rough time thinking about blended families. In a traditional nuclear family, I think the marriage should come before the children. Once a divorce or death occurs, the kids move up to the #1 spot. With a new marriage, I think the marriage should resume primacy but I can see how that would be difficult to implement, especially if the children have been given preference for a number of years. All this just goes to emphasize that you should to be extremely cautious in choosing to marry, whether you have kids already or not.


TTMK December 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Emily – I think your comment is quite insightful, really. There is a balance, and some of this does change as family dynamics change. It’s important to be very cautious when marrying, absolutely. In this case, I think the stepparent needs to be an adult and not behave so poorly with a child. No child deserves to be treated as, or feel like, the proverbial “just a stepchild”.


Maddy April 30, 2017 at 2:53 pm

I agree completely.
As a child of divorce, I was treated like unwanted debris from his previous marriage when my father married a woman that he’d known for 6 months who clearly did not want us. Gradually I stopped trying with him, but it was only recently, after cautiously marrying the man I’ve been dating for 7 years that I’ve been actually thinking about cutting contact with my father all together. He, along with my step mother ruined my wedding and I’m pretty sure that I’m done with him.


AverageJoe December 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Interesting. I had clients where the step mother didn’t get along with the step children, but it was a two way street: they treated her like dirt and she returned every bit of the sentiment. Ultimately their relationship ended the way I believe this one will: in divorce. When you’re married you take the whole team. If you aren’t ready for the baggage, why waste your life yelling about a piece of the guy’s life that he’ll never give up?


TTMK December 10, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Average Joe – two way streets sound unfortunate all around. That’s too bad. In this case, I totally agree with your point, that the whole team comes with, and most people thankfully would never give up kids for a partner.


Maddy April 30, 2017 at 2:54 pm

But they were just that- CHILDREN. She was the adult, she should have behaved like one.


Emily July 11, 2017 at 9:16 pm


And maybe the kids should have behaved like kids. It most definitely is a two-way street. A big problem for stepmoms I know is that the kids have been elevated to adult status…and these women find themselves voiceless and powerless in their own homes. Homes they are usually helping to pay for and maintain…while the kids get to decide how the household runs.

That scenario would make any woman resentful. I think the stepmom in this article sounds smart for setting boundaries and sticking to them.


The College Investor December 11, 2012 at 1:02 am

Being a step-child, and being treated in a similar way by the step-parent, I just think its wrong. It makes you, as a child, feel not welcome in the household. I know I never wanted to go over to that house, and instead stay with my mom. Now that I’m older, I don’t talk to my stepmother ever, and only sparsely to my dad. It really made for a bad situation.

If I was a step-parent, I would treat the child as an equal and part of my family, including money. Everything in one pot is my philosophy on marriage and household finances.


TTMK December 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Robert – thanks for sharing your own personal angle. Sorry you had to go through that, it sounds very unfair. The end result of such things is probably what you’re describing, where a relationship with the actual parent suffers when the stepparent behaves unwelcoming. That’s great that you can see the impact of such behavior, and would treat a child equally. I agree with your philosophy.


Emily August 23, 2017 at 3:03 pm

I’d love to see you actually do that. I highly doubt it would be as easy as you seem to think. Read below for some perspective from actual stepparents.


FAV January 24, 2018 at 5:59 pm

I agree with Emily. I was a stepchild and treated unfairly for years and always believed that I could NEVER feel that way about a child. I am now a stepmother since 2.5 years and instead of resenting my stepmother I now have the utmost compassion for her. It is not an easy role! I admire women who do it with ease, but I remind myself that every stepfamily is different. Perhaps the father made his new wife a priority, like he would the mother of his child if they were still together. Maybe the stepkids are affectionate and easy to bond with. Not all stepmothers are this fortunate to have the right factors to make stepfamily life work effortlessly.


Savvy Scot December 11, 2012 at 5:02 am

To be perfectly honest… I think that the marriage may have been a big mistake… She is clearly bitter!


TTMK December 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Savvy Scot – it sure seems weird to be bitter about a stepchild, especially since the person knew the kid existed and the parent has responsibilities, but bitter it just might seem!


Emily January 26, 2018 at 7:18 pm

It doesn’t seem ‘bitter’ at all…it seems like a smart woman setting boundaries. Why should the biological parents of a child just assume that ANYONE else is going to be financially responsible for those kids? That’s an insane attitude to have, and yet it appears it’s common when it comes to CODs.

So…if this stepmom and her husband have a child or two together…will the husband’s Ex be contributing to HER kids? Leaving HER kids an inheritance? Buying birthday and Christmas presents for the stepmom’s kids? Why not? I mean…after all, those kids are the half siblings of the first family kids…why do we just assume and expect from stepmoms…things that would be considered rude and unheard of to expect from anyone else?


Christopher @ This that and the MBA December 11, 2012 at 7:45 am

Must be why most the dating ads specify no baggage….As some have had experience with this type of situation….It is tough all around bringing children into a new situation….but she needs to realize that no matter what he isnt going to move on without them…and they need to work together to make their home a household!


TTMK December 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Christopher – especially when the parent has custody, no way he (or she, in the case of mothers) would move on without their own kids. That’s the biggest responsiblity, taking care of your children.


Goldeneer December 11, 2012 at 11:26 am

Very interesting insight.
I’ve never been part of a blended family but have seen the repercussions of one. My views on a marriage is all kids, step or not, should be treated equally and the marriage should come first, not the individual. It appears as though this woman was not ready to get married.

A parent’s expense is closely related to their priorities. If the parent is not spending their share on their step kid or husband, then their family is not a priority. This is a sure way to build a toxic relationship with your husband and step child.

I have close family that consist of a blended family. The woman’s views are that marriage is incredibly important, especially for the kids. Yet this woman favouritizes her biological daughter and expects her step daughters to serve her biological daughter first. The husband has treated her kids like his own and has put significant finances into their upbringing. There is resentment between the kids because of her behaviour.


TTMK December 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Goldeneer –

I agree that kids should be equal and that the individual (grown up) shouldn’t come first. Also, you have a very interesting observation about how expenses can be related to priorities. If someone won’t spend on a spouse and stepkid as most spouses would on their own family, then clearly there’s an issue where the two people aren’t a priority.

As for your story, that’s simply mindboggling that she would expect her husband to tolerate her own kid being favored over his own kids. How could anyone expect their own child to be treated as a priority over their spouse’s child in a blended family? Hard to get the mindset of some folks. Anyway, thanks for sharing and the comment!


Aloysa @ My Broken Coin December 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Interesting. My husband’s father has two stepchildren, and he treats them better than his own children. He takes them on vacation, he gives them money, he solves their children’s (his step grandchildren) problems. We talk to him about three times a year. 🙂 I guess every family has their own story.


TTMK December 11, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Aloysa – well, on the one hand it’s good that he’s nice to them. However, nicer to them than his own kids? Seems unfair, and analagous to stepparent behavior in this post. Anyway, hope you don’t mind my voicing the opinion.


Emily August 23, 2017 at 3:01 pm

I wonder how his children treated him and their stepmom when he decided to remarry. There’s probably another viewpoint there.


Michelle December 21, 2014 at 11:48 am

As a step child, my step mom and dad always contributed to the gifts-whether we were on speaking terms or not. The gifts were clearly marked, “love mom and XXXXX”


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BILL February 12, 2015 at 2:44 pm

I am a widower who has got married again this last March. My current wife before we got married, stated that her boys have a Father and a Mother to take care of there financial needs. I have two adult daughters that are in College. Well have we got married the first thing her ex did was to get child support reduced by 90% he has his own business and can adjust the figures. With only one son left at the age of 15 he wants a car like his older brother.He went to his dad who has told him that since his mother got married he needs to go to her for money because he just got out of child support. Reading this article I am suppose to treat them like my daughters, but the ex that I am dealing with it will you only embolden him to not be a dad. Since I got injured in combat the oldest son is getting college benefits as will the youngest. The father is not contributing anything!! There mother feels bad because of the stress that it has brought into my life. I am feeling used not by her but by him


TTMK February 12, 2015 at 7:11 pm

I can sympathize, and understand how you would be upset.


Stepmom December 7, 2015 at 9:42 pm

The ex really is the problem much of the time. My husband’s ex was the one to file for divorce nearly a decade ago, but since then, she has not remarried. My husband and I have been together for four years. My husband pays most of his income in child support, which was determined when he was able to work much more and made more money. Now, he has the children almost everyday and cannot make as much money, but my contributions to our home (and to the child support that he pays his ex-wife) give us and the kids a nice standard of living. The ex is constantly jealous of this. She tells the kids that their dad doesn’t take care of her and makes them feel guilty for living well with us. It’s a disaster. So the advice that the stepparent should contribute equally is not always the best advice. It leads to inequality between the biological parents’ homes. Also, as far as the 60/40 split for housing described in the post, don’t forget that this is how child support is often calculated. The biological parent is not required to give equally to the raising of the child, so why should the stepparent?


Lalis March 23, 2015 at 4:48 pm

My boyfriend and I are planning on moving in with each other. He has two kids, which I adore, and I have one.

We take weekend trips together, all five of us, and usually have a great time.
But he gives his kids money in front of me and my son without offering my son any.

It feels awkward since I am not used to speaking about money in front of people, working in accounting, you learn not to speak of money or wages.

How do I confront him about this? I know my son is not his own, but is this an indication of our future together?


TTMK March 29, 2015 at 4:56 pm

That’s a tough one. Do you give money to your kid in front of his?

I think the dynamic you’re mentioning is a little different than someone not wanting a biological parent to spend money on his/her own kids. In this case, the father spends money on his own kids but not yours (or at least gives to them openly). If you do the same, maybe it balances out? I’m similar to you in that I might not want to talk about salaries/wages openly.

Ultimately, he’s responsible for his kids and you for yours. That part is fair. But how to openly treat each kid in kind way is another subject.


sarah jones April 18, 2015 at 11:06 pm

I’ve not been in a blended family myself, but my take on this is the new wife should not have a say in what her husband buys for his child. That’s his child. However, new stepmom is not obligated to support this child, abd there should not be joint finances. First there’s an ex involved and once her money is mixed in with his in a joint account, it’s fair game if she tries to come after him for more child support, also, she has no bioogical children, hopefully the marriage works out but sadly as we all know there’s a fifty percent chance it will not, she needs to keep her money seperate, in the end she needs to be able to support herself, the kid has two biological parents , they created him or her, it’s their responsibility to pay for the child’s upbringing and the new partner should not be expected or looked down upon for nor contributing financially


Emily July 11, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Since you haven’t been in this kind of situation yourself, you may not understand all the nuances and implications.

As a stepmom, it bothers me when my husband spoils his kids because he works freelance and doesn’t have much retirement saved up. His priority should be his own welfare and retirement, not buying his kids everything they could possibly want and spoiling them out of guilt. He is 10 years older than me, and I am the higher earner with no kids. I don’t want to be working into my 60’s because my husband didn’t know how to tell his kids “no.” Technically, he may be the one buying this or that…but’s it’s far too likely that I’m going to be the one subsidizing his spending habits in the future. That’s not fair to me.

Yes, the new wife should absolutely have a say in how money is spent. She knows what their situation is and what he can actually afford without jeopardizing their future. This author can’t possibly have any idea what’s going on behind the scenes, so she should really butt out.


Emily July 12, 2017 at 5:22 pm

I should also add, briefly, that in most states, your spouse is also on the hook for any debt you incur, even if you have separate finances and even if you take the debt out in your name only. It’s assumed that the debt was spent on the household, so both partners are responsible. Which is why it’s such a big deal and so selfish for one spouse to run up debt. So, again, yes…joint finances or separate, spouses should communicate about long-term financial goals and try to get on the same page about spending. The need to plan together and have a financial plan doesn’t go away just because it’s a second marriage. It bugs me how this author seems to think this woman should pony up for her stepkid…put all her money in one big pot….but have no say about household finances or general spending. What kind of deal is that?? My husband and I have a combo joint and separate finances, and I do most of the bill pay and accounting, but we still meet every month to discuss where our money is going and why. We don’t make each other account for every penny, of course, and we each have some money that we can just spend as we see fit…but there are no big surprises.

I love to be in love…like I am with my husband. But too many people forget all of the legal and financial implications. It’s a contract…and it should be one that benefits and protects both partners, not just the one with the kid.


Mia January 24, 2018 at 7:47 pm

A bit slow to respond on this one but I have to concur with Emily.

When my husband and I bought our place, I put the majority of money in. He brought his 2 kids in to move full time . I work, despite us now having more children together, and his now fast moving towards adult children haven’t (yet to be fair) bothered to get a job and just hold their hands out for all their social, entertainment and other expenses. I have no problem providing them food and shelter (of the time being anyway but not sure how I will feel once they both turn 18), but when they start asking for new phones and get bought the best… I feel I am going to work to pay for their phone. And their birthday parties.

I sometimes worry I will eventually lose the plot with living with them and just want them gone, at the expense of my marriage. Sucks being a stepmother and I can definitely see why most step families fail at the 5- 7 year mark.


Emily January 26, 2018 at 7:23 pm

Yep. All of this and more. You need to get those kids to step up and start earning their own spending money.

Judgmental articles aside that call you ‘crazy bonkers’ for not being willing to buy your stepkids everything under the sun the moment they want it…no one else is going to be on the hook for the debt your partner racks up or the lack of planning that he does for retirement after he’s done spoiling his kids. It’s your money…so take back the reins.

antonieta April 30, 2015 at 12:45 pm

hello, what about if the step children are now grown ups, with marriages on their own and they still expect father and step mom (me) to help with money.. is that right?


Susan February 18, 2016 at 12:48 pm

It sounds like this woman took things to the extreme, but I can definitely see part of her side.

I earn twice what my partner earns, three times if you include usual bonuses. Child support comes directly out of his check. If you count all the money that goes out from him to his ex for the children, I am bringing in literally 6-7 times what he earns. Essentially, I am covering 85% of all of our household expenses outside of payments to his ex for the children.

Additionally, I spend a lot of money directly on his children. I pay for any activities they do with us. I buy them nice clothes since they never come with any during visitation. I cover Christmas and birthday gifts. I pay rent on an apartment which is higher than it needs to be for just us because we have an extra bedroom for them. I also pay the mortgage on a vacation home (which is mine, not his) in which one of the bedrooms is also for the kids preventing us from having other couples up on kid-free weekends.

Yes, I am resentful. There are so many things I could afford to do before we were together, that I can no longer afford because of the resources being eaten up by the children. I think it is totally fair that our shared expenses are divided up proportionately to our incomes (and for his I consider income after child support deductions). However, I do not think that any of the money I earn that goes to the kids should be an expectation. I don’t expect gratitude from them (because they are kids), but I do expect gratitude from him.

One thing i will add is that I fund my retirement to the absolute max allowed by law. This always comes first ahead of household expenses, discretionary spending, or anything related to his children. After all, there is no expectation that they will do anything to help me in my old age, even though they likely will care for their father. Therefore, my first priority has to be to take care of myself.


Stephanie November 17, 2016 at 10:10 am

Susan- I completely agree with you. I to0, am the higher earner in my relationship and determining how to allocate finances has been such a struggle. My guy, who I have been with for 2 years now, has two children, elementary school age. I have one son who is in middle school. I am a physician and have been in practice for 5 years prior to meeting this man. While I do make 3-4x his annual income, I too have my own financial obligations (student loans, retirement, investments, vacation shares, etc) that existed before I met him.

As an established professional, I do not believe in a joint share of income.

I contribute maximally to my retirement account and savings account first as well. I pay for vacations, dinners out, more expensive gifts for his children than he might purchase, an on. Clothing on occasion, groceries, the mortgage, and 90% of the household expenses. He has also been using my nanny to care for his children before and after school, all at my expense I have payed 195% of the mortgage and bills due to a change in his business, but this month he was able to resume contributions and we reached an agreement where he will pay a share of household expenses based on annual income. He will pays 25-30% of mutual expenses (including 2/3 of the childcare) which has alleviated much of the growing resentment I have been harboring.

However there are still so many unanswered questions on how handle short & long term situations. My question is, I contribute to my sons college fund. He and his X do not and cannot afford a college fund for their children. I also want my son to be in a private school for middle and high school, an expense I don’t believe I will undertake equally for his children, despite I do love and care for them.

What the right answer is, I don’t know. But I spent 20years working very hard to reach an income where I could take care of myself and my son. This new, and certainly wonderful man who I love dearly, and I am learning to love his very high energy children, they played no role in the blood, sweat and tears over those 20 years, and therefore, in my humble opinion, becoming a 2nd spouse does not entitle him to 1/2 of that income.

I’d love to hear your perspective on the issue and if you have found any further resolution to your situation.


Mia January 24, 2018 at 8:12 pm

Out of interest- where did you get to on these issues?

We have much the same issue. And even beyond just taking care of them, I actually spent a good 17 years in a professional environment building up a decent nest egg before meeting this man and his 2 children whereas he had very little.

We have two (much!) younger children that we have together . I worry that by spending now on his kids, I am depriving my kids of a solid financial future at a time when I may be wanting to move back to part time work or change jobs into a less high paying role. I spent all these years making sure I was secure in my financial future and now I see the funds being eaten up by two kids who are approaching adulthood and who are not biologically mine. And who, although they are not rude, are not particularly appreciative of the inputs that a stepparent puts in, and the nice house and area that they only live in because I put in the majority of the money.


Stephanie January 24, 2018 at 10:06 pm

Mia- I did respond to another comment on Oct 20th… if you scroll down you will find an update from October.

At present, my husband and I are seeing a therapist that specializes in blended or merged families. Let’s face it… these relationships are HARD. And there are no books, podcasts, nor blogs that are fitting for most of us. However… If my car were to break down, or I were to break a bone, what do I do? I’d seek professional help! A mechanic, an orthopedic surgeon, a therapist! We only recently began therapy but the feelings of resentment both within myself and Ive learned- in my husband as well, have been growing for many months and the escalation in negative energy was quite surprising! We would have benefitted from help much earlier, if not before we married.

I have not changed my financial contributions in general since October, however, I have decreased my visits to the grocer the weeks his children are apart of our life. I’ve also decreased my overall effort to household responsibilities those weeks (cooking, cleaning) and have ask that all children (particularly his) have chores each day since the house (and the bathroom…. BOYS are gross) seems to turn upside down with dirt (and urine… is it really that challenging to lift the seat? 😳) when they visit. I’ve learned that boundaries are just as important to me and to protecting my own sanity- so I’ve created some in areas where I was beginning to feel the greatest negative energy (referenced above). This negative energy has eaten away at the core of what brought my guy and I together inthe first place!

John Gottman, from the Gottman Institute, has many articles on relationships, couples of all sorts. Remember how we all started with these merged families?? We started as a couple! This is key! We must continue to build a positive relationship with our partner first and foremost! Kindness and simply trying to have a positive thought in my head about my husband, and then, maybe about my stepchildren… has utmost importance to me right now. This kindness is an extension of emotion, not my bank account (the boundaries) and these few simple changes have made an enormous difference in my personal happiness. It’s my hope that developing and creating a stronger relationship with my man will help us better navigate these tricky and difficult issues.

Please let me know if you have found some solutions or inspiration!


Emily January 26, 2018 at 7:29 pm

The kids are getting older. You need to sit down with your husband and make an exit/launch plan for them and also explain that they need to get jobs and start being responsible for their own entertainment.

I’m assuming your younger kids are also your husband’s? He has as much obligation to care for your kids together as he has to care for his older children. Don’t let him put all his resources into the older children at the expense of your children. And, when you write up your wills, make sure that your kids are provided for…and for longer. Since they are younger, they are more likely to need funds for longer. Should both parents die while they’re minors, everything should go to them. Once all kids reach the age of majority, you can reconfigure the wills.


daniel November 17, 2016 at 6:23 am

I am a step parent. My partner whom i love has 3 children. We go 50/50 on everything. I’m a good man, quite generous and a very caring and good role model. I really tried my best to be a good father figure. Their father doesn’t have anything to do with them.
This will change. After 4 years of being used up, held in contempt, not respected and life being very difficult with them I will change the ratio of money to go into our joint account to 33/66. Also I will no longer contribute to their schooling (was 50/50).
If my partner is not agreeable with this then i may have to leave her. I love her but her children are pricks to me and I don’t deserve it.
To those that say step parents should take everything in their stride, treat them like your own etc. I challenge you to walk a mile in my shoes. I’m looking at the possibility of leaving a woman I love because her children are a nightmare to live with.


Marla October 19, 2017 at 3:57 pm

I understand fully….my stepkids treat me like a door mat and an ATM. I’m leaving a man I love as well because of them. And I don’t agree that the stepatents should have any financial obligations to their stepkids. Again….are they going to take care of us in our old age? Of course not. They have Bio parents that are responsible for them. Granted, they should be taken care of, but ultimately it’s the bio parents responsibility.


Susan December 4, 2016 at 4:12 pm

I have been with my partner for over three years. I make at least 30% more than he does.
We keep the majority of our finances separate. He has five children from a previous marriage. He pays nearly a grand a month for support. I previously paid our car insurance and AAA. I was paying for the bulk of our groceries which was expensive. His oldest daughter has come to live with us and my grocery bill nearly doubled. He often asks me to go half on dinners out- even when we are tight on cash- instead of just saying No to his kids or choosing fast food.
I feel really resentful because I am behind in my own bills and finally had to say enough! I have to be responsible for my own financial welfare. His children are unappreciative and I am tired of buying things and clothes just to have them ruined.
I love him and I do love his kids- but I am done being taken advantage of.


anonymous December 27, 2016 at 8:49 pm

I agree with the article, if both people have income to contribute then it is reasonable to make it a team effort. But as a stepmother myself I have NEVER been willing to blend finances. My husband didn’t follow up on child support obligations when he got laid off, in spite of my encouragement that he needed to deal with it. He has some messed up taxes as well. And because he is in arrears on his child support, I can never file jointly with him without my income refund being at risk. That isn’t fair. I’m working 3 jobs to keep my family going because he previously made so much more than me, and no, I am not going to cheerfully pay for his 4 kids to be entertained. I have a hard time even paying for lavish food for them. They visited last summer and my stress was palpable to the point that I needed him to set some boundaries about food (nothing crazy but here is a long list of things they can have for lunch, here is a long list of things they can have as a snack, and he didn’t back me up when they were eating other things instead) and he didn’t and I got mad at him. I told my husband before we got married that I care for his kids but they are his responsibility. Especially when I make around 30k a year, I have no business trying to support myself, my husband, our new baby and his four kids. I never try to interfere with his time with them. I never expect him to put my wants above their needs.

But it is his job to support them, and he didn’t do everything in his power to increase his income and reduce his unreasonable obligations to the ex, so I have no sympathy about it. I don’t expect him to take care of me financially but I need him to take care of himself and his marriage 1 obligations.

If both people are honoring their responsibilities and commitments to the extent possible that’s one thing, but not every case is like that. Those kids will easily eat $300 in groceries in a week, and no I don’t think it is fair that I should pay for them. I still do but I resent it.


New Stepdad December 29, 2016 at 12:03 pm

I married my wife in April and we then moved in together with her 1st grade daughter. My stepdaughter and I have a great relationship, although I probably spoil her too much. For example, I took the family to Dismeyworld this year.

I make more money than my wife and I pay our home loan and utilities. Our finances are seperate and I have kept them that way on purpose.

I want to have a conversation with my wife about long-term expenses for my stepdaughter. I attempted to bring up the topic before we were married by suggesting we set up a prenuptial agreement. She was highly offended. Now we are basically in the same place of uncertainty but with slightly more skin in the game.

Does anyone have a suggestion for how to bring up the subject and avoid emotional blow-ups?


Weaselina March 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm

I am in a situation where I do not feel comfortable marrying my partner because of the situation with his ex and his kids. I in no way want my income sacrificed for any potential child support, as currently they have 50/50 custody, but I suspect one day the daughter will choose moms house to be close to her friends.

I talked all of my feelings over with my partner before i bought the house we all moved into. House is in my name, and he is earning equity by working on it and paying my share of the mortgage, which is 1/3 of whole since he has 2 kids.

I don’t understand why all the people who felt the step-mother should pony up her income for the kids can see it that way. Being a step-mother is already a huge challenge, with little appreciation, often from kids who will view her as the enemy of “their family” no matter how kind she is to them.

Now she should pay for the abuse?

I think if people decide to marry, they definitely should discuss this honestly beforehand.

I put 20% down on the house we live in, and was clear that the profits from flipping this house in a few years goes into the fund earmarked for my partner and my future emergency and retirement fund. We currently have zero saved up. We have no safety net.

For those of you that feel a new partner owes all of their resources to the kids that came from another union are super short-sighted. And wrong. The adults need to meet their needs as well, and the kids wants should not be a challenge to that.

I told my bf that anything coming out of our investments that have been funded by me are for us, not his kids to use for college or anything else. Ours. Alone. He works, and if he and his ex did not set anything up for the kids prior, why should I give up the only thing i will have for myself? I have no issue pitching into the kitty for my partner and I, but the kids are simply not my responsibility.


Emily July 11, 2017 at 8:52 pm

^^^^THIS 100%^^^^

Here’s the reality of being a stepmom…which you would have no way of knowing unless you become one. So, no. You don’t “know what you’re getting into.” From the instant you come into these kids’ lives…kids who aren’t yours…everyone in your life starts harassing you about it. The kids must ALWAYS come first. You MUST think of the kids as your OWN KIDS. There must be NO difference between your stepkids and your bio kids…none at all. The kids were there first and they will always come first!!!

People get downright rude and pushy about it and feel justified to butt in and comment on your life decisions…kind of like the author of this article is commenting on how her friend chooses to spend HER money. Most people wouldn’t dream of being similarly critical of the financial decisions or other decisions of the bio parents.

Most of this advice is truly terrible advice for blended families. Numerous studies have shown that the kids don’t want their stepmom to act like their mom…and may start to resent her if she does try to act like a mother figure. It’s best for stepmoms to set clear, understandable boundaries…kind of like it seems this woman is wisely doing.

Of course, it’s a total double-standard, too. Nobody goes to children of divorce and lectures THEM about their role. No one says – you have to think of this woman and treat this woman JUST LIKE your OWN MOM. That would seem insane and cruel. Nobody goes to these kids and says: “Now, the thing you have to always remember is that she and your dad are a PACKAGE DEAL, OK?” Again, that would seem silly. But these poor stepmoms are supposed to be superhuman – loving kids just like their own, while the kids have no such expectation…aren’t expected to treat her like a parental figure…sometimes aren’t even required to treat her with basic respect and civility.

Then there’s the matter of divorce. Second marriages end at a higher rate than first marriages. Why should a high-earning woman sink her resources into a child that isn’t hers…a child she will likely never see again if the marriage doesn’t work out. She could be left with nothing in her retirement years after sacrificing for years for someone else’s children…sadly, I know many women who have allowed this to happen to them. It doesn’t even have to be divorce. I know many women who have lost their husbands to death, and the stepkids turn on them the instant the body is in the ground…demanding that she sell off her house (that she helped pay for and maintain for years) and other assets because “it’s their inheritance.” Entitled snots. Knowing all this can and does happen…isn’t a second wife wise to protect herself and her earnings? I know far too many who haven’t and have lived to regret it.

The fact is, parents invest in their children with some expectation of filial love and an ongoing relationship. It doesn’t always turn out that way…but that is the expectation. That expectation doesn’t exist for stepmoms, so I don’t understand why people seem to think stepmoms should be financially responsible for their stepkids. The law doesn’t see stepparents as financially responsible…and I hope that more stepparents, especially stepmoms, will start to be smart and set boundaries like this woman has. The kids have two parents…and you’re not it.


Marla October 19, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Here here! Yes, walk a mile in our stepmother shoes. The stepkids are not given the same “rules” that we are supposed to abide by. If I had actually known “what I was getting in to” there is no way I would’ve chosen to marry a man that had full custody of his children. I’m sorry, but being a stepmother is just way too hard and not for the weak minded. There is no way anybody can actually “no” what they’re getting into. Unfortunately it’s always after the fact when we finally figure it out


Megs July 26, 2017 at 3:32 pm

I know from the article it is hard to gauge the exact circumstances of the reasons behind the step mums decisions but as a step mum myself I wish I had been as clever as this woman has been in clarity with her partner over finances (maybe minus the ‘screaming’ part).

My partner earns a lot more than I do. We recently temporarily moved back to my country of birth and I rented the house we are living in in my name. We spend a lot of the year away at work but I am the sole rent payer and pay all the bills (don’t ask!). My partner is not particularly domestic and because I hate the idea of not having any food in the fridge for us or his two children when they stay, his way would be to shop for each meal when they were hungry, I tend to meal plan and order from a super market online. I also invite his children for christmas every year and buy all their presents as I would hate them not to have anything under the tree and my partner ‘isn’t into christmas’. I also pay for activities as a family as I am the instigator of the ideas like going to the zoo or exploring castles etc. I even paid last year to rent a really expensive holiday cottage for us all as I wanted to join my parents on their holiday but had his children staying. I love his children and I love seeing them happy and enjoying their time with us but recently I have been resenting the spending. I have tried explaining to my partner but he retaliates with the fact he pays for the children to come over. I want to throw it in his face that of course he does, they’re his children but I don’t want him to think I don’t love them and it’s not always the case either. I often split travel costs if we are travelling with them.

I know this all sounds weak and easy to solve but the problem is when you become a step parent, possibly more so when you don’t have children of your own, you don’t fully understand what you are signing up for. The time getting to know the kids and your partner are complicated and emotional enough without thinking about money and living arrangements and then a few years down the line you find yourself in a situation you are not sure how you got into or how to solve without seeming like a mega bitch. As other people have written above, if you are lucky, like I am, your step kids will respect and like you and even love you, like an aunt or similar relative but never as a mother. You will most likely never have the unconditional love that their parents receive, this can mess with the head (even when you accept this and wouldn’t expect or demand it anyway) when you realise you’re paying out all this money and love for potentially little to no return. If you are a prospective step parent, it can be rewarding and fun but from someone who is in it make sure you protect your own future. All the money you haemorrhage (whether you mind at the time or not) will never be returned to you if you and your partner break up. Make sure you are OK and then any extra money, time or love you have feel free to share as you wish.


Emily July 26, 2017 at 4:42 pm


He makes more money and you’re still paying the majority of the bills?? Did I read that correctly?

Stop it this instant. You don’t have to make some huge announcement or discuss it with him. “NO” is a complete sentence.

I have pitched in for my stepkids many, many times. I do it for my husband…because he hit a rough spot in his business and wasn’t bringing in enough…and I still really resented it and felt taken advantage of. I would have flipped my lid if he was making more than me and still expecting me to pony up for his kids. That simply isn’t right. He should be paying more than half of the mortgage and all household bills to account for the two additional people he brings.

Who cares that he pays their tickets to come see you? That’s his responsibility, not yours. It’s kind of amazing to me how bio-parents become so entitled when they go into a second marriage… but why wouldn’t they? Other people feel entitled for them and for their poor little mistreated kids all the time…and tell them they “deserve” extra considerations and extra support and sympathy…like this author saying that single parents “deserve a little” financial help from their partner. Um…no, they don’t “deserve” help paying for kids that THEY made.

I totally understand the situation you’re in. I, too, jumped in eagerly with my stepkids and did a lot for them…and I do genuinely love them and they also seem to like/love and respect me to some degree. But I also have always felt like I’m getting the short end of the stick in a lot of ways. I don’t think my husband means to or even realizes that he does this (or, used to do it…the kids are mostly grown and gone now…just one left at home who’s about to be 18), but it was almost as though he had a giant trump card because of the kids. He got first dibs on holiday plans, weekend plans…everything…because kids. That’s completely unfair to your new partner…I didn’t feel I should have to totally subsume my old life, friends, and family to his life just because he brought three additional people to the equation…and then pay for it to boot! There also seemed to be this attitude of: “What’s yours is mine and the kids and then yours, if there’s anything left. Oh yeah. And what’s mine is also for me and the kids…and you if there’s anything left.” It doesn’t take too long to realize that you, the poor stepmom, are the only person NOT being taken care of in this scenario. So you have to set boundaries and start taking care of yourself.

All the resentment I’d been feeling really crystallized for me a couple years ago. I had given my husband and his youngest daughter a trip to NYC for their birthdays. They share a birthday, she was turning 16, and he’s always wanted to take her…and I got a bonus. My husband stayed an extra week for business reasons after the birthday trip, so I picked up my stepdaughter at the airport. On the way home, we talked about her trip and how it went…she fell in love with the city and was full of energy and excitement about it…which made me happy. Then she showed me the souvenirs she bought. For her mom, her dad, and her two siblings. Guess who wasn’t on the list? Yep. The person who paid for the whole trip and met her at the airport. My point here is not that I wanted a 16-year-old to spend her pocket money on me…I didn’t need a souvenir. But it’s interesting to see who she naturally considers “family” when left to her own devices. I’m not on that list, clearly.

Again, like you, I have never expected the kids to consider me “just like their mom” or expected any kind of reciprocation. That’s not their job to care for me. But I’m supposed to pay for these kids? That’s kind of not my job either, then, right?

Look…I know from experience that it’s not easy to backtrack after set up a certain way of life and a certain expectation. Your husband will most certainly complain and call you selfish and uncaring…but you aren’t. He makes plenty of money and he should be paying for his kids, not you. I also know from experience that it is possible. After that summer trip to NYC when I realized that my financial resentment was poisoning my marriage, I started taking care of myself more, paying myself / my savings first, and backing way off from what I was willing to do and pay for when it came to my husband’s kids. I still pay for some things…I haven’t totally cut them off…but I only do it AFTER I’ve paid all my bills, put money in savings, and done a couple nice things for myself. For you, I’d suggest that you start with groceries. DON’T buy any the next time the kids come to visit except snacks for yourself. Who cares if your husband will buy each meal as the time comes rather than meal planning? His circus, his monkeys…if that’s how he wants to do it, then let him. If he gets upset that you aren’t cooking for his kids, tell him that you’ll be happy to if he’ll give you money for groceries…otherwise, he can take care of feeding them. Again. They’re his kids, not yours. I would also never, ever “split” travel expenses with him for his kids again. WHY?!?!?! You pay for you. That’s it.


Megs July 26, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Thanks Emily!!
Even writing it made me think WTH too. Had to chuckle at the ‘his circus, his monkeys’ as this is how I fondly think of them in my head. This whirlwind circus that comes to town, depletes the resources and then heads off. So bizarre how you get into these situations when you’d normally class yourself as a sensible woman.

Totally relate to the souvenir thing. Sounds trivial but it’s not the act itself but the thought process or lack of behind it.

Here’s to regaining ownership! Hugely appreciated the kick 🙂


Emily July 26, 2017 at 5:46 pm

You can do it!

I know, for me, it was a bit of a process and it’s still ongoing as I’m learning to take care of myself first. It’s not natural for me…but you only have to watch your husband put his kids whims and indulgences ahead of your needs a couple of times before the resentment and the realization that you are going to HAVE to take care of yourself set in.

Just this past weekend, I was annoyed that my husband went out and bought my youngest stepdaughter a $17 lunch because she asked for wings…when we had plenty of groceries in the house…and even some fully cooked, really good leftovers that just needed heating. But…nooooo. The little princess needs to be catered to in every way…with my money…

I was sitting there feeling guilty about my reaction…beating myself up for being “petty”…when it dawned on me. All of my stepkids joke around about how their mom never stocks the fridge or cooks anymore and they always have to buy their own food. My husband doesn’t have any money right now. So…my youngest stepdaughter currently works and makes money and is capable of getting her own food, my husband doesn’t have money and really can’t get her food (so, instead, he uses my money…), and her mom doesn’t bother to cook or get her food. So this girl has two parents who DON’T feed her who aren’t beating themselves up over this fact…and here I am wasting guilt units over the fact that I really don’t want to spend money TWICE (once on groceries which didn’t get used and once on a special trip for wings) in order to feed a kid I didn’t make.

Something is seriously wrong with that picture…


Emily July 26, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Oh yeah…and a quick PS.

I notice that a lot of the money you’re spending is on activities that you feel you have to pay for fully because you suggest them. I get that…that’s the kind of thing I would do, too, simply because I like going out and being active.

I also notice that you do Christmas presents because your husband “really isn’t into Christmas.” I suspect he’s just not into making an effort and would prefer to let you do it all. Learn this and believe it…it’s not your fault that your husband isn’t a proactive parent, and you can’t make that up to your stepkids or fix that for them or for him. Also, it’s not your job. Next time the stepkids visit…if they ask you what the plans are…tell them to ask their dad. If they ask you what’s for dinner…same thing. Tell them to ask their dad.

When I started stepping back like this, my husband HAD to parent because I wasn’t picking up his slack any more. This actually made him a better parent and, I think, ultimately strengthened his relationship with his kids. So, if it helps, think of it this way. Quit taking away your husband’s opportunities to be a dad and actually provide for his children, quit assuming that if you don’t do it, no one will…and see what happens. It may actually be the best gift you could give your stepkids.


Elizabeth August 23, 2017 at 2:23 pm

As a stepmom myself, I don’t think it is as easy as the author suggests to cheerfully assume responsibility for your step kids financial expenses. Day to day is hard enough, but I am really struggling with how to approach my stepson’s college tuition.

For background, I met my husband when the stepson was living in another country with his mom. My husband told me that the stepson would never live with us. We got married and two years and a messy custody battle later (because ex reneged on taking care of her son), he moved in with us full time at the age of 10. I was fully supportive of having him live with us, and heck even paid all of the legal fees for the custody fight. We have never developed a particularly close emotional relationship though overall we have reached a polite compromise, at least as much as is possible with a teenager, despite some terrible years.

Financially, my husband and I share the household expenses like housing and food based on our respective incomes. I make significantly more than my husband, about three times as much, and so I contribute three times as much. My husband covers some more specific things for him like doctor bills and clothes, though I cover lots of special things like Christmas gifts and activities. I had to scale those back for my own sanity; I had an epiphany when I was shopping for Christmas gifts for my stepson and husband and then scavenging for some 50% off socks to wrap for myself to put under the tree since no one else was going to buy me gifts. Since then, I learned to treat myself at least as well as I treat others to avoid being resentful.

My husband and I also have a daughter who is almost a year old. Financially for her, we cover basics like diapers and food from our joint income and I pay a lot of extras like hospital bills and toys and activities from my money. I suppose I could just increase my contribution to the household account to cover that, but it feels like a shell game.

Point of all this is to say, stepson is graduating high school in a year and no one–not me, his mom, or his dad–has saved a penny. I felt bad about this for years but decided that I couldn’t judge myself to a higher standard than his own parents, who had never even bothered to consider college savings. To be fair, they are immigrants who really haven’t heard about these things or have a lot of extra income to save, but still. Unfairly, I believe, the federal government considers my income when calculating his financial aid because he lives with us. Since I make so much more than my husband, this will really limit the aid that my stepson gets, so I am causing him harm, so to speak. In a general way, I do want to help my stepson get started in life and be a successful adult, but I don’t know how many dollars that translates into. Because of my husband’s limited income, the only way we would have any extra money to pay for tuition is if I work more hours or otherwise am more successful with my business, and I am already feeling a bit resentful at the thought. My husband and I had an initial discussion last night and what really rankles me is that he somehow thinks we will have money, when any additional money would really just be from me increasing my income.

As a double whammy, my daughter will just be starting day care at about the same time as stepson is starting college. I am not willing to sacrifice my daughter’s care for my stepson, but I also can’t imagine how I can earn enough extra to pay for both of them. I am also not willing to sacrifice all my time or health working extra hours to pay for both. But of course my husband feels guilty and feels like we should support both kids equally. I see how he needs to support both his kids equally, but I don’t feel like I have to support both kids equally. Essentially I am willing to help him if it doesn’t involve giving anything up for me or my daughter, but that isn’t going to be very much in financial terms. Meanwhile my husband is feeling guilty and will blame me for spending too much on groceries, etc, but is very resentful when I point out how little he makes as the root cause. I have always been happy to support the household and pay a larger share based on my income but I don’t think my husband has a right to say that I use my money to pay for college, or to take away from our household to help his son. My husband also supports his aging mother in a third-world country and often targets his frustration at me for not having enough money to support her and pay a modest share of our living expenses, so I expect he will blame me out of his secret guilt and resentment at not being able to provide for his son.


Emily August 23, 2017 at 2:42 pm

You bring up lots of great points that people who just say: “You should pay for your stepkids!” never have to think about. Easy for them to say…I’d love to see them do it, cheerfully. Especially if said kid clearly doesn’t have any…filial feelings for you. Spend like a parent would…on a person who doesn’t see you as a parent in any way other than monetarily. Sounds like a great deal!

Like you, I make more than my husband, put more into our household, and subsidize what he does with his kids. It does cause resentment, especially since I don’t have kids of my own and would like to. Like you, I care about my stepkids, I have supported them in many ways in addition to finances, and I want them to launch and be successful adults. Also like you, my stepkids are basically good and basically respect me and are friendly with me…still not the same as your own kid…they still clearly prefer their own parents (Which is only natural…I don’t blame them at all. But don’t expect me to love them like my kids when they don’t love me like a parent…doesn’t work that way.) Even when I’m the one doing over 70% of the support…higher than their mom or dad. What kind of saint wouldn’t find that cause for resentment?

Bottom line dudes with kids. You want your new wife to have a good relationship with your kids? Great! Don’t put the burden of raising them or paying for them on her. Don’t give her all of the responsibility and none of the authority. It’s not a fair deal…you are setting her up for failure and resentment and then blaming her for it. Really not cool.

Hopefully society will also get them message soon and we’ll stop getting inane, clueless articles like this one. To answer your specific questions. No. You should not put all of your dreams and desires or your own child’s well-being on hold for someone else’s kid. No…you should not be expected to do more for someone else’s kid than they are willing to do. At the same time…I’m sure you do want your stepson to launch. I would look into the Pell Grant and any merit-based help available in your state…and then I would tell him it’s Community College time, at least for the first two years. College doesn’t have to cost 40K a year. My SS is at a very respected 2-year trade program and his annual cost of attendance is 19K…which includes books, fees, and housing (room & board). Actual tuition is something like 4K a year. The Pell Grant and lottery assistance get him about 5K, and he’s working and getting student loans for the rest. It looks like he’ll graduate with less than 15K in loans in a field where he can make about $400-$500 a day…so he’ll be fine. Start talking to your husband and stepson about options like this. Even if SS wants to study something like History or English (no knocking it…I was an English major) doing your first two years at a Community College can save you a bundle.


Stephanie October 20, 2017 at 2:09 pm

I am in a similar situation to you, nearly identical in income difference and how our household is set up. We married last year, and I posted on this site before we married my concerns about finances… He has two boys, ages 8 & 10. I have a 12yr son. My husband and his ex-wife have joint custody over the boys, and it is the understanding in our home that the parents should share the general expenses for them, as their parents, such as buying clothing, school supplies, health insurance, etc.

I pay 90% of the household expenses, as my husband has been going through some financial struggles. I also pay for 100% of the groceries and every other week, when we have his two boys, the grocery bill is 3-4x higher. A few months ago, his 16yo daughter moved in with us for a year (she was raised by her mother in another state and wanted to get to know her father better). She is very kind and sweet. Her being in our home has been a real blessing and has not added much to our overall expenses. If anything, it has been helpful as we now have a babysitter and can once again have our date nights. We have very full house, most of which are his responsibilities. However, he is a very good man and I don’t mind sharing the day to day expenses.

Neither my husband nor his ex-wife have considered saving for college. I started a college fund for my 12 yr old son when he was 6 years old and plan to have enough saved to easily cover 4 years of college for him when he graduates from high school. I am not starting a college fund for my husbands children. This is not my responsibility.

I read many books, blogs, articles prior to getting married about finances, blended families, what is best, what isn’t. There as so many different ideas out there, imposing what is BEST for YOU. The initial article of thread is one of what I consider to BAD ideas articles that would set you up for failure if you are blending a family later on in life. I’ve come to realize that only YOU know what is best for you. After my husband and I were already married, we had to have a sit down… I felt a deep resentment growing due to an expectation that I pay for everything because I made more money. I have worked VERY hard in my life for the past 20years and finally am in a position to enjoy the fruits of all that hard work. Now, I was expected to share it all with someone who has been in my life for a couple of years? That was a monumental day. We divided our shared expenses based on income, and established that we each brought our own pieces (children, debt, income) to this relationship and we were each solely responsible for those pieces.

In other words… My assets and my garbage is MINE. My husbands assets and his garbage is his. I DO NOT believe you share your bank accounts… NOR do you share each others debt. My debt is mine (which is tremendous from student loans) and his debt is his (from his previous marriage… not my problem). I do not expect him, even if he were someone that made more money that I, to pay my debts. He did not create them… I did. They are my responsibility. And the same goes with him. He created the debts, he created the children, his family issues, etc.. he created his own responsibilities, and he is responsible for them. Whether or not his children go to college, or not, will also be his to decide. I have suggested that he consider starting a college fund for his children, shared with his ex-wife, and put away money when they can. They have not.

We all have choices and options how to handle our life.

You and your husband have been married for many years. Yet he still has his own responsibilities- His family in another country, his son. How he chooses to handle these situations is ultimately his choice, not yours. Any money you CHOOSE to share, is a gift and yours alone to give. You have become a strong, financially independent, and professional woman of your own accord and your own hard work. This is your asset. You also have your own responsibilities. Your own child and her success in life. In my home, I can choose to help him with his children, and I do. However, I will not sacrifice that which would benefit my son to pay for his children. I have learned to not feel guilty about this decision.

Not feeling guilty is a choice. Feeling resentment, anger, or guilt is also a choice. If your husband holds this towards you, he chooses to feel this way because of unrealistic financial expectations from you, and his own inabilities to handle his responsibilities the was he would like. If he wants more for his family, his son, he has options… he can get a better job, a second job, his son can work. It is not fair for him to place these responsibilities on you.


Ellie September 10, 2017 at 11:20 am

If you treat other people with love, you should have no expectation of a return on money, love etc. The very nature of love is that there isn’t an expectation to get back what you give. If you truly love your husband why can’t you love the people that are part of him without an expectation of return?

I feel like if you showed love to the children without expectation of return you would find you’d get better results from both your spouse and the kids and they would be more motivated to care for you and your concerns.

And if your spouse is a user and you’re worried they’ll take advantage of you why are you with them in the first place?


Emily September 10, 2017 at 12:33 pm


Spoken like someone who has zero knowledge or understanding of how blended families work…and where and how they fail.

I am the most generous, giving person on the planet. I currently have 3 stray cats and a stray dog that I care for with no expectations of love in return. I have 5 younger siblings and 6 nieces and nephews who I give to unconditionally. I have also given and given to my stepkids. I didn’t do it expecting anything in return…however, you can’t deny that parents can generally EXPECT a parent-child bond that lasts a lifetime (doesn’t always happen…but that is a common expectation). Parents also feel that bond and made the child.

Until you’ve given and given and sacrificed (time, money, dreams, other resources) for a child who isn’t yours and doesn’t even acknowledge you when you’re in the same room…perhaps do a little research about how stepmoms really feel and then spare us the sanctimonious lectures.


Emily September 10, 2017 at 1:30 pm


What’s also interesting about your response here is that you’re basically saying that if the stepmom loves these kids unconditionally and without any expectations…she may get better results from her stepkids and spouse.

Putting aside the fact that I know for certain from many, many stepmoms that this isn’t the case…why do you assume it’s the stepmom’s role to love kids who aren’t hers unconditionally, without question or expectation…but it’s totally cool for the kids and her spouse to have conditions on their acceptance/love of her? I mean, isn’t that what you’re saying when you say – if you’re perfect in every way and completely selfless…THEN the kids and your spouse might be more motivated to treat you like a human being and care for you and your concerns.

Am I mistaken…or doesn’t that IF…THEN scenario sound like a CONDITION or an EXPECTATION on the part of the kids and the dad? Why is the stepmom the only one in this scenario who isn’t allowed to have expectations or conditions?


karen lindquist September 11, 2017 at 8:06 am

Yeah, it is typical old school thinking to feel that the step mother (I don’t even allow that phrase to be used for me, as I am not their mother in any capacity) should make all the sacrifices and expect nothing, and even suck it up and take whatever crap is given to her. But those days over over, thank goodness. Because we do not have to allow others to cross our boundaries or disrespect us any longer.

Money is not something that is automatically shared any longer (again, if it ever was, as men used to control the purse strings and even had rights to take the wife’s inheritances). So, in my life, I do not mix my finances with my partner. It would be too confusing and messy.

We had a clear agreement when I bought us all a house. What money he had saved up for his kids was their money (he had saved $0 for their future) and what we made from restoring and flipping this house was ours, and ours alone, as we have no retirement funds.

Every person needs to do what works for them, but it is smart to outline what that is clearly before moving in, and more so if you plan to marry, which I do not, as their is no practical reason to do so.

Every couple should talk openly about money and clarify their expectations before they merge into one household. The idea that love somehow just makes everything good is magical thinking and is to thank for how many marriages fail.

When it comes to my partner’s kids, I expect nothing from them other than respect and civility. One of them is almost 19, so I also have firm rules that he has to be taking college classes and working, as I am not having his piss away his time, living under my roof, not working toward sprouting wings. He does have a mother, so if he can’t live by my rules, he can patch up his relationship with her and go over there, and I guarantee her terms will be much harder. That is why he is here.

If there was an emergency with his kids and he needed help to cover an expense, I would not hesitate to help. But otherwise the cost of those kids is his and their mother’s to deal with, and no grounded person should have a problem with that. I have a dog and three cats, and nobody is going to pay for their food and vet bills and pet sitters. Kids are the same.

Some people don’t have a problem with giving their money up for step-kids. Great. Each to his own. But I find it irritating and hypocritical how people get angry at step-mothers for having the gall to take care of themselves when it comes to these situations. It is a provable fact that step-mothers are the most abused in these blended family situations and that people expect them to be saints and whipping posts who stifle their own needs and feelings and just do what everyone else wants. How absurd.

But then again, isn’t that always what conventional society has dictated for women: we are there to serve everybody else, and anytime we put our own goals at the top of our priority list we are considered selfish and bad.

At the end of the day, the only person whose opinions about it matter are those of my partner, who thinks it ridiculous that anyone would expect me to take any shit from his kids, whether it be allowing them to be rude, manipulate me, or to shell out for whatever thing they want. He knows they are his responsibility, and he is also clear on who he is planning on spending his future with, and while the kids are his kids forever, he is planning his future with me. He and I are the hierarchy of this situation, and the kids are people that are being raised to go out and have their own lives, so we can get on with ours as a couple.


Emily September 11, 2017 at 8:20 am

My spouse feels the same way. I do help out with stepkid expenses because he’s hit a low point in his business. It does get stressful, and I do resent it sometimes…but not too much, because DH doesn’t expect it and isn’t cool with the arrangement…he is, in fact, working his butt off to change it.

That doesn’t mean that I “owe” him this or that he and his kids are entitled to my resources…because???

I truly don’t understand people who think this way. It’s archaic and wrong…and even damaging and abusive to stepmoms.


karen lindquist September 11, 2017 at 8:28 am

Agreed, it is still considered to be “a woman’s place” to sacrifice herself for those she loves.

I think most of us would not hesitate to help our partners and in a lot of circumstances, their kids, when a true need arises. And most of us probably give a lot more to the kids with no expectations of a return, either monetary or emotional, than people want to admit. But it is those of us putting our foot down and drawing boundaries that are clear and keep us from falling into the old roles where we feel we are not “good, loving” women if we don’t just take crap from everybody that is changing the way these family dynamics operate.

It is also important for people to understand that you cannot just “love” a child, or any person, simply because they come from someone you love. Love does not work that way. And you can’t expect someone to fake love for a kid while taking a lot of emotional kicks from the same kid.

I like my partners kids. Maybe someday i will love them. But the nice part is that if it grows into love, it will be because it is true and genuine, and not because people on the internet, or some sanctimonious parent told me I have to love them or i have no right to love my partner.

Too bad all the single mothers who partner up are not held to a standard of making sure their new fella doesn’t molest or rape their kids, because that is a way bigger problem. But we don’t judge men the way we judge women.

Emily September 10, 2017 at 12:43 pm


You “feel” that if stepmoms were just a little MORE selfless and denied themselves any kind of normal human emotions, then maybe the stepkids would like them?

You can feel anyway you want about the situation, but that doesn’t make it the reality. Go read some studies about what stepmoms, in general, give to their stepkids in terms of time and money and how they’re treated in return.

Here’s a good place to start: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wednesday-martin/when-and-why-you-shouldnt_b_343135.html

I’m sorry…but I just highly doubt you would continue to bend over backwards and give and give for people who don’t care about you even in the slightest. I just really, really doubt it. Then there’s the fact that the kids often actually RESENT stepmoms who try to do too much, as they see this as a threat to their biological mom. So a SM is damned if she doesn’t…damned if she does, unfortunately.

Your response is clearly spoken by someone who has zero knowledge or understanding of how blended families work…and where and how they fail.

I am the most generous, giving person on the planet. I currently have 3 stray cats and a stray dog that I care for with no expectations of love in return. I have 5 younger siblings and 6 nieces and nephews who I give to unconditionally. I have also given and given to my stepkids. I didn’t do it expecting anything in return…however, you can’t deny that parents CAN generally EXPECT a parent-child bond that lasts a lifetime (doesn’t always happen…but that is a common expectation). So, parents do, in fact, have expectations of their kids. Parents also feel that bond and made the child. But, in your mind, a woman who doesn’t have that bio-bond and didn’t make the kid should love and give with no expectations…um. OK? Not sure how that makes sense.

Until you’ve given and given and sacrificed (time, money, dreams, other resources) for a child who isn’t yours and who doesn’t even acknowledge you when you’re in the same room…perhaps do a little research about how stepmoms really feel and then spare us the sanctimonious lectures.


Kate September 14, 2017 at 6:54 am

Hello. I was looking for a few answers and found this website. I would like to ask you for your opionion for my ‘case’. I have been a stepmother for nearly 3 years now and i have to say..its been the hardest 3 years of my life. There are lots of things that bother me. And here’s one of them. When i moved in with my partner he had a custody of his now 13 year old son 50:50. The things always work the way that it was more 70:50, we had and still have him more of the time. After the first year the things got bad and i decided to move out..that was the time when my i found out about my partners debts, and they were not small. I was pretty shocked and after a lot of time thinking i decided to help him. His debt was £7000 pounds plus he had to pay another £175 each month for the next three years because of his business that didn’t work well. I don’t have children myself, i had quiet good saving as for me it has always been important to look forward to future and have some savings. He had to pay really high interest from all these debts, so i payed out £4000 straight away and we managed to pay out the rest together. Now hes debt free, he still have to pay £175 a month for another two years. The things is…i feel very depressed lately. I didn’t expect him to go down on his knees and thank to me for the rest of his life…but i think he uses me. Now, when he has got quiet ok paid job, he didn’t even come to me with something like..i will pay you some money back or at least do something for me on the other hand. When his son is here he trying to make a teenage heaven of our flat, food gets wasted, his son doesn’t have to do anything apart from spending all his time by pc playing games, going to bed at 3am at the weekend, waking up late in the afternoon next day. Then when we have the weekend to ourselves I feel that he is missing him too much and is not actually there with me…if it make sense. It all makes me feel empty, unwanted, not important. There was always an issue in the past when i found out he was talking to his ex wife about our problems which really bothered me and I stopped trusting him. I just feel so desperate atm and tbh i have no clue what to think. Its pointless to ask friends about some opinion or advice as they don’t have a clue how it is to be a stepmother.


karen lindquist September 14, 2017 at 7:13 am

It sounds like you need to sit down and have a difficult conversation with your partner.

You have already invested a lot, financially and emotionally. If you love him, I would recommend trying to find a path where you both are on the same page about what has transpired and what you would like to see going forward.

Remember, you have to feel secure in yourself to be able to feel secure in a relationship, so if his financial situation and his parenting are stripping you of your own ability to feel secure, think hard about what you need to restore your own sense of well-being.

Honestly, if you decide you need to break it off to be okay in your own life, maybe come at your partner with a request for him to sign onto a contract paying you back for your financial help.

I bought a house so that my partner and i could move in and restore it and flip it for a profit down the road. I outlined all of my needs and expectations first, because i did not want to get into a mess financially or emotionally. Being up front and honest will save you a lot of misery later on.

I sometimes feel my partner hears what he wants to hear and just goes deaf when it suits him. But i made him speak out loud repeatedly what our plan was and made him swear that our future was what we are working toward. He is building sweat equity in the house that i keep in my name until he has put as much in as I have, and i made him promise he was okay with all of the profits going into our future home and life and none of it to his kids.

As for parenting, my partner had no rules and there was no discipline. So, I made a list of concrete rules. These house rules apply to everyone and make it clear to the kids who is boss of the home. The kids should never be boss of the home. They don’t pay for it, they are responsible for nothing. so they are not going to rule the roost.

I would suggest writing out a list of what bothers you and a solution for it. I would also write out a plan for your fella to restore your own bank account since it was depleted rescuing him. It will either make or break you, as a couple. You will find out very quickly if he is with you because you are the love of his life, or if you are just his new mommy who he uses to make his own life better. If it is the latter, and he does not agree to re-pay his debt, I would consider cutting my losses or finding a way to recover the money as much as possible. In the US we have small claims court. You can sue for up to $5000 and no lawyers are involved. If your guy has an issue with paying you back and you are going to break up, I would sue him for the money.

Good luck. Teenagers are hard to deal with even if they are yours, and other peoples are the worst.


Sarah February 3, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Getting married is a legal obligation, and legally, this binds you to step-children if you marry a custodial parent. You will be legally responsible for the children that live in your house. When it is time for them to go to college, you, the step-parent and the custodial bio-parent are on the hook together. Again, this is a legal obligation. If you do get married into this situation, then don’t complain.


Emily February 3, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Wow. You’re so misinformed it’s almost comical.

Step-parents are no more ‘legally obligated’ to support step-children than grandparents are ‘legally obligated’ to support grandchildren or aunts and uncles are legally obligated to support nieces and nephews…

Or, more to the point…stepparents are no more ‘legally obligated’ to support their stepkids than you are ‘legally obligated’ to support a random kid down the street who you aren’t related to in any way.

Now, many stepparents DO pay for their stepkids and are happy to do it. But the entitled attitude needs to end. Often, stepparents are just ‘expected’ to sacrifice for kids who aren’t even theirs’ while also having no say, no rights to, and no authority over those kids. So…pay for them (because it’s your legal obligation)…but they’re not YOURS and don’t you dare forget it!

Great deal!

Anyway…do some research. You’ll see this exact issue has been brought up in court and it’s been decided in multiple cases that stepparents bear no legal responsibility to their stepkids.


Karen Lindquist February 4, 2018 at 8:44 am

That is not true in the slightest. There is no legal obligation of a step parent. One has to assume the responsibility before any court would consider them obligated.
You should not spread misinformation about these things, but it sounds like you are assuming that is true based on your feelings. Fortunately, your feelings do not matter in a court of law.
I know what a person is legally obligated to if they marry a person with kids. I have spent money on a lawyer just to be able to ask such questions.
The reality is that unless the custodial parents put you down as someone who has the right to pick up the kid from school or interact with any of the people that kid deals with at school or the doctor, etc, you actually have no legal right to do those things. Marriage does not instantly change that.
What marriage does is allow an ex to look at your income as combined if there is a child support case.
The bottom line is that the people who make the kids are the ones who are legally responsible for them, unless someone else legally adopts them.
If you divorce a spouse who came into the marriage with a kid, you are under no financial obligation to those kids for something like child support. Only in rare cases where you assumed the obligation while you were together could someone sue you for it.
In other words, your kid = your problem, not mine.


Emily February 4, 2018 at 9:32 am

Yes…thank you, Karen, for explaining it much better than I did in my haste and frustration.

Getting married to someone with children does not automatically impute to you any legal rights or responsibilities to someone else’s children. That’s just an insane way to think…and incredibly short-sighted.

Of course, someone having children from a previous relationship WILL most likely impact your household finances because the bio-parent will have less to contribute and more responsibilities, whether you marry the CP or the NCP…so you do have to calculate those costs and consider if you’re willing to see that happen. However, the act of marriage does not make you in any way legally or financially responsible for kids you didn’t create.

The only way a stepparent ever becomes financially responsible is if the stepparent voluntarily took on the financial responsibility to such an extent that it would be damaging to the child to withdraw the support…or if the stepparent hindered the relationship with and support from the bio-parent when the bio-parent had the means and desire to provide support…or in the case of adoption. So, yes, there are actions (both legal and informal) that a stepparent can take AFTER marriage that would make the stepparent financially responsible and might result in a child support ruling in the event of a divorce…but just getting married doesn’t make the stepparent responsible.

Another reason it’s wise for stepparents to limit their spending on stepkids and keep finances separate. Too often, stepparents…trying to be ‘nice’ and help out their spouse accidentally put themselves in a hole. Only in the stepparent-stepchild relationship do people ever assume that it’s ‘normal’ or ‘right’ or ‘fair’ for an adult to hand over finances for someone else’s child without getting any say about how the child is raised or how the money is spent. It’s literally insane and a completely disempowering, unfair assumption. Glad to see some stepparents are being smart and not allowing themselves to be taken advantage of by greedy, user bio-parents.


Karen Lindquist February 4, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Agreed. People are waking up and more importantly, speaking out. I am glad to see women especially starting to set boundaries and to reject the idea that was always pushed that all women must love all kids and take all the abuse that comes with step kids with a smile and a forgiving heart.

Women have worked hard to get to a place where they can stand on their own feet. We don’t owe anybody just because they are the offspring of someone we love. Kids are just more relationships that happen when you love a person with kids. And we all know that not all relationships that come with a partner will be happy ones. And some are downright intolerable.

So, we need boundaries and to not feel used by people who we have no real connection to if you eliminate our partner. I would not hang out with my partners kids ever again if we break up. I don’t have a relationship that would warrant that. I would just go back to being blissfully child free.

Anyone being honest has to admit that most step parents end up making life easier for the parent and often for the kids just by being involved at the level of a loving partner. I take a lot of pressure off my fella, and i improve the quality of his life, so he can actually be more focused on the relationship he has with his kids. I don’t need to kick in financially to help our family, and I also have strict boundaries about anyone asking me for things a parent should be doing.

I won’t even legally marry my guy until the younger kid is 18. I refuse to have a court look at my finances if his ex ever does anything like manipulate the daughter to live with her full time so she can go for child support. She is so bitter about paying it to us after kicking out the older son a few years ago, I have to be prepared for the worst. So, since we stand to gain very little of importance right now if we marry, I see no reason to do it. I can wait until the kids are out the door.

I made it clear to my partner that what he had set aside for his kids financially prior to our being together was what they would be getting. It was zero, zilch, as he had nothing. I am the one with the nest egg, and it is because of that nest egg that we will have some comfort as we age. I am not giving that to his kids, not one penny. I am not sorry about it. I don’t see why anyone expects that.

So much entitlement from so many. I got my money from working my ass off. They can do it too. Nobody owes them anything other than love, a stable environment to grow up in, food and clothing. People need to reassess what they think is owed to them.

But when you look at how most people’s kids and relatives consider the parents money as “their future inheritance” you can see how it naturally shifts to try to appropriate the money the step parent has, and also to try to prevent a parent from sharing their money with their partner. Because people are greedy and entitled. No one, not even your own parents, owe you everything they have.

I am setting my estate up as a trust so that if I die before my partner, he can stay on, but when he dies, it goes to charity.


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