Ex Etiquette: You Never Wanted Kids -- and Now You're a Stepmom

I've been married to my husband for six years. He has a 13-year-old son from a previous marriage who used to visit every other weekend. That was fine with me. I have a career I love, and the custody agreement gave my husband and me plenty of alone time. I've never wanted children, and my husband has known that from the beginning.

I thought everything was perfect until six months ago, when my stepson's mother announced she could no longer deal with the child and sent him to live with us. I am now "mother" to a 13-year-old. I am expected to do everything '- cook for him, clean up after him and chauffer him around. His father thinks he does no wrong and will not discipline him sufficiently. If I hear "He's only a boy" one more time, I'm leaving. This is not what I signed on for.

It's important that women who marry men with children understand that just because their new partner doesn't have custody now doesn't mean he won't have custody later. Custody, like life, has an ebb and flow to it. And, as a child grows and changes, he or she becomes a full-fledged human being with likes, dislikes and quirks. As a result, a frustrated parent who is not used to butting heads with an insubordinate child throws up her hands '- and off the child goes to the noncustodial parent's home. All of a sudden, a stepparent who was content to sit on the parenting sidelines finds her life has done a complete turnaround. If the changes ahead are not navigated properly, divorce or separation can certainly loom in the distance.

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