There is an assumption that if you are a good, nice, sweet, giving stepmom, you will be treated as such. There is an in-kind assumption that if your stepkids treat you as a good, nice, sweet, and giving stepmom, you must be OK (or bribing them). There is an equal but opposite assumption that if your stepkids treat you horribly, you must be a terrible, evil stepmom.
Any stepmom reading this should know what the truth is.
It doesn't matter how giving you are or how sweet you try to be. You have likely gone through multiple cycles of trying really hard to be the best you can be, the sweetest wife and stepmom and semi-friend ever, only to find that it had no effect. You may have even kept it up for years. And then when you realize it had no effect, you wonder what's wrong with you. What you're doing wrong. What you could have done better. Why your stepkids still treat you as the evil stepmom you've tried so hard not to be.
We have a teen now. She doesn't use me for all that I could offer her. It bothers me that she doesn't know how much I could help or support or be there for her, as an alternate to her parents. Some have judged that. They think that she must not see me that way, because I was horrible or because of something I did. And they have ideas and theories as to how that happened. They've seen or heard so little of our lives, that I can't put any weight behind those theories. But, thinking about it, interacting with her on a normal basis, and thinking back to all of the years together, I know that I offered my help, shared things with her, and was there for her. And despite that, I'm still not looked at or used as the resource I could be by her. I was the one here, with her, week after week. I know what I tried, I know what she resisted, I know our moments together, and I know "our truth."
I know that I am up against a strong-willed, fearful mother that holds her teen as the secret of her happiness for some reason. She lives vicariously through her. I know that there is pressure for her daughter to put her mother first, act like they are in a mother-daughter clique, and mock the stepmom as the outsider. I know that my stepdaughter has absolutely seen what I can offer her and be to her, but she chooses to ignore it to a hurtful degree. It's most strange, but shows the power of motherhood, that she continues the charade even when away from mom 7 years later. She must have learned her lesson the first year she got to know me, when she imitated me, wore my clothes, and followed me around. I know that something happened way back then that changed our relationship forever, and that was back when I was trying unbelievably hard to be unrealistically perfect.
The stepmom articles are wrong. Even if you just try to be a friend, it doesn't mean it will have any effect. It is misleading to put that expectation on us, just like our families have unrealistic expectations of our behavior, reactions, and tolerance.