“Not My Kid, Not My Problem” Is Not For Us

By Diane Stark

When my husband, Eric, and I got married nine years ago, our his-and-hers children ranged in age from five to twelve years old. We each brought a boy and a girl into the marriage and, two years in, we had a baby boy together.

From the beginning, we were determined to treat all of the kids the same, regardless of their biology. And it worked. Those first few years went so smoothly that I actually wondered why people said that blending families was difficult.

But then the teen years hit. My husband and his daughter began to have frequent arguments, and I found myself in the role of mediator. I longed for the peace we’d once enjoyed. I wasn’t sure how to help us get it back, so I scoured the internet, looking for advice.

I joined an online support group for mothers in blended families, but it wasn’t long before I realized this group was anything but supportive. They offered the same advice for all situations that involved step-children. They even had an acronym for it.

NMK, NMP. It stands for “Not my kid, not my problem.”

The step-moms on the “support group” offered this advice to any newbie, including me, who actually wanted to play an active role in their step-children’s lives. If you didn’t help make the child, you shouldn’t have to help raise the child, they said.

Many of these women all but ignored their stepchildren. “My stepson knows better than to ask me for a ride to Little League practice,” one woman said.

I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t even imagine completely checking out of family life like that. But the more I read, the more I discovered that the problems these women were experiencing had more to do with their husbands than their step kids.

 These women were given all of the responsibilities of parenting their stepchildren, but none of the rights of being a parent. They were expected to cook for their step-kids, clean up after their step-kids, and help them with their homework. They did everything a mom does, but they were never given the respect a mom deserves.

One step-mom said that her step-children were constantly telling her, “I don’t have to do what you say because you’re not my real mom.” Her husband would merely shrug and say, “Well, you’re not their real mom.”

The woman said, “If I’m not their mom, why do I have to cook and clean for them? Either I’m a parent or I’m not. You can’t have it both ways.”

These moms were completely responsible for caring for their step-children, but they weren’t given the ability to enforce any household rules. The kids sensed that their step-mothers had no authority in the house, and they refused to obey. The step-moms ended up feeling like nothing more than taxi drivers and maids in their own homes.

And that’s how the “not my kid, not my problem” mantra came to be. These women were hurt so often that they gave up and stopped trying to successfully blend their families.

As I read these women’s stories, I felt sorry for them. I also felt incredibly grateful for my own husband. From the very beginning, he made it clear that while I might not be their biological mom, I was the mom at our house, and that granted me the same authority he had. I was an equal partner, and all of the children were expected to obey me.

From day one, Eric and I had presented a united front, and I knew it was the key to our success.

We were united. We were a team. And with that, I’d discovered the best way to make decisions when it came to blended family issues.

When in doubt, I was going to do what was best for my marriage. Our four older kids had already been through one divorce, and Eric and I were not going to put them through a second one. Besides, if I allowed my marriage to fall apart, the whole blended family thing became a moot point anyway.

I spoke to Eric about the “not my kid, not my problem” philosophy. “But I’m not like those women,” I said. “You’ve made sure of that. You’ve always supported me and backed me up.”

“Marriage is a partnership, and these husbands who don’t give their wives authority over the kids – all the kids – are setting themselves up for failure. And these wives who give up on their husband’s kids? That’s got to be hard on a marriage.”

I nodded. “If something is your problem, then it’s my problem too. That’s the way marriage is supposed to work.”

Eric smiled. “I would hate it if we were the kind of family that divided up the kids by biology. I’m so glad that we don’t say ‘your kids’ and ‘my kids.’ We have five kids, and even though they don’t all carry the same genes, they are all ours.”

I know every family is different, and what works for one family won’t work for another. But in our house, we’ve decided that “not my kid, not my problem” is not for us.

Five children live in my house, and none of them are my problem. But regardless of biology, they are all my responsibility, and it is my privilege to help raise them.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

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One Response to ““Not My Kid, Not My Problem” Is Not For Us”

  1. Diane, your story resonates with love. Step “parenting” is a team effort and your husband is a wise man. My husband and I are grandparents to 9…not step, and not his and mine…but ours, through marriage.

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