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Help a frustrated stepdad - Upset stepdad holding empty wallet while sitting on sofa at home

Help A Frustrated Stepdad

The following is from a stepdad at the end of his rope and desperate for help.

I am a stepdad. I feel like I am alone on this and need affirmation or correction on how I feel. My adoptive son is 15 years old. His bio dad, was apart of his life early on, never paid support, lied, everything else you hear about bio dads.

The bio dad ended up going to jail. I adopted my son after a lengthy legal battle. The bio dad is now (with the praise of the bio mom) back in my son’s life, though not financially, he basically acts as a best friend who gets to take him places and buys him stuff, with no rules.

I now feel like all my “work” is all blown out of the water, I feel like I am nothing but someone to pay the bills.

The recent thing that got me to write, was his bio dad just bought him a smartphone and my wife wanted me to not get mad about it.

I am kinda mad, I am his father, I was there for most of his life, and I am feeling like I am the wicked step father with the rules and no gifts because I am only one income. (Married with 2 Bio, one adopted step, single income)

I want to believe I am just being selfish, that I should let whatever happen, happen since it is out of my hands, that I am being an ass… but am I supposed to be the bad guy? Am I supposed to now go into a competition with the bio to be the best friend whom buys gifts?

I really am confused how this feels like it all turned on me and I am at a loss, it seriously has brought me to tears and anger with myself. Do I just need to let it go and try to shrug it off? I can’t talk to my wife about it, I want to say she thinks I am in the wrong which is even harder for me.


Here’s my response.

Dear Frustrated Stepdad

I applaud you for stepping up and becoming your stepson’s adoptive dad. Your role is special in you’ve minimized the impact of his bio dad’s issues – his absence while in jail, failure to financially support his son, etc.

Your motivation to reach out for help is also commendable. You wisely choose not to stuff your feelings and suffer in silence allowing your frustration to manifest itself in possibly dysfunctional ways getting the better of you and at the risk of damaging the relationships of those closest to you.  

What you’re feeling is understandable as well as common to many stepparents – it comes with the territory and you are definitely not alone.

For example, feeling unappreciated for what you’ve done and like you’re just there to pay the bills.

It does sound though like you have an unreasonable expectation of loyalty from your son that’s not fair to him or you. Your son will always have a unique and special bond with his bio dad, the same way he has a special and unique bond with you his adoptive dad. Allow your son the freedom to love you both. 

Your son’s relationship with his bio dad is outside of your control. This is something you must graciously accept as it will help reduce your frustration.

My hope is you speak positively of your son’s relationship with his bio dad so he doesn’t feel conflicted and is free to love both you and his bio dad.

Do you have a relationship with the bio dad?  If not I would encourage you to build one it will go a long ways both for you and your son. 

Regardless of the number of positive things you’ve done for your son you should be prepared for the reality you may always find yourself in second place when it comes to his bio dad.  With your son’s growth and maturity he may eventually come to the realization who really was dad in his life.

Don’t enter into competition with the bio dad – it’s a losing proposition both from a financial and emotional standpoint.

Your son doesn’t need another friend he probably already has plenty of those. He needs a dad who cares for him emotionally, physically, financially and is not afraid to set boundaries so continue just being dad to him.

I’m in total agreement with you regarding the smartphone. I don’t believe you give a child a gift with a financial impact especially a recurring one on the parents without prior conversation/coordination with the parents. 

It sounds like you have responsibility for the bill. Suggest bringing this up to your wife focusing on the financial impact especially since you’re a one income family. If you and and your wife are in agreement with requesting the bio dad’s payment of the monthly bill then together you should both bring it up with his bio dad.

Your “work” is truly a labor of love. The “work” done out of pure intentions is never done in vain. It was and still is the right thing to do regardless of your present feelings or your son’s relationship with his bio dad. Keep on, keeping on.

About The Author

Gerardo Campbell is a Nebraska native who now calls Silicon Valley, California home. In 1995, Gerardo married his wife Roberta aka the Pretty Lady and became the stepdad to her two children. In 2011, he started the website Support for Stepfathers in an effort to reverse the nearly 70% divorce rate for blended families in the United States. His website is to help and inspire stepfathers, aspiring stepfathers and the women who love them worldwide. You can follow Support for Stepdads on Twitter @support4stepdad and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/resourcesforstepfathers.

If you have any other ideas or thoughts you would like to share with the frustrated stepdad please share them in the Comments.  Thank you.

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