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Need some advice - DP / DSC / DGM(28 Posts)
I have had a big fallout with DP and could do with some additional perspectives if anyone has any time to offer advice.
I have a six month old baby and an older dd. He has two dc who are with us every second weekend. The older kids are all between 7 and 9.
My DSC have been pretty good so far this Summer but in general I think it's accepted there are possibly some behavioural/emotional issues with one or both of them; major meltdowns over minor things, issues in school, controlling behaviour, aggression - I'm summarising these problems and they can also be lovely kids a lot of the time, but the overall relevance is that they can be very very challenging on occasion. The (usually very relaxed) dynamic in our home completely changes when they are here and it often feels like things are "on the edge" - I find myself always having to think a few steps ahead with potential tantrum points in mind and my instinct is to have clear boundaries and expectations in place for them as I think kids in general respond better to structure and clarity. DP has a more unstructured approach to dealing with them (for example if they started crying about not being allowed to do something he would quite often just allow them to do it to avoid the confrontation).
It's getting to the point where I feel our home life is dominated by working around the threat of meltdowns and confrontations when they are here, and they are bright kids so they know they are "in charge", so to speak. I'm finding they tantrums/meltdowns very stressful and it's making me feel very low that our youngest child is being brought up in a house where this happens. She has gone to sleep twice in the last week to the sounds of both DSC kicking off about wanting to to for a sleepover at their grandparents house (they are only one street away).
They are very close to their grandparents but DP's mum is exceptionally controlling and I think a lot of her behaviour is focused on dominating her grandchildren to the point where it undermines their actual parents. Me included! It feels like the things we should be doing as parents are simply taken out of our hands (hair cuts, clothes buying, packing for holiday, extracurricular and holiday activities) - all presented as fait accompli and arranged directly with the children so we are the "bad guys" if we say no to something. There are no rules at her house for them, they are highly indulged, there's no bedtime....basically they can do as they like which they think is brilliant (of course!). The DGM loathes their mother so there is quite a bit of competitive mothering going on which seems pretty unhealthy to me. This has spilled over into dominating us when they are here, which I am finding stifling and overwhelming. Where I am concerned this is done using an approach that might outwardly be seen to be helpful (dinner/lunch invites, kids sleepovers) but which is presented to DP in a much less pleasant way. When the kids are here they expect/demand to have them at least half the time. If DP says no for any reason there is a barrage of emotional blackmail about it, including saying his dad is "devastated" etc. I don't come from a controlling family and I can see how manipulative this is, but I'm not sure DP sees it after a lifetime of being around it.
I'm never involved in arrangements relating to when the kids come. The is is organised between DP and the kids mum, but if it doesn't suit DGM's agenda she will.sometimes cut across DP and contact the kids mum directly to try and get them for extra days.
Last night I asked what the arrangements were for the rest of the holiday for the children and it led to a really unpleasant altercation where I basically cried for half the night. They are here for all of the holidays except a few days in August when their mum is having them for a weekend. They are challenging but it's more the fact that I feel like I am just hunkering down and getting through it while they're here. This isn't their fault but there is just such a pantomime of behaviour from the adults - we have literally no space from DGM and while I can understand she's pleased to see her DGC it feels as though we are totally dominated by both her and the kids wishes and demands.
Anyway....when I realised there are only a few days of summer without all this, I burst into tears and tried to tell him how being excluded from arrangements with the kids makes me feel like I have no real role here. I don't want our youngest being brought up in an environment with all these power struggles and emotional blackmail and it's reached a point where I feel like I am almost ready to give up. He said I was being horrible and that I'd lost the plot. I think he sees my distress as an attack on him. I don't mean it to come across that way but I do feel angry about the situation, and even worse I feel totally powerless to do anything about it.
More and more I am feeling as though I have no real place here and that is making me feel quite depressed. We've talked about moving but that's all we do. It's not going to be possible as we are all involved in a large family business that would have to be sold if DP was to be bought out - that would lead to huge problems.
How can I sort this out? I know I am probably in the danger zone for PND. He didn't bother with my birthday or mothers' day this year which has also made me feel really low. He was exasperated last night saying he is exhausted from working so hard (he does, he works too hard actually) and looking after the kids and me. I said I did not feel looked after - in fact I feel as though I am basically at the bottom of the pile. My point of view on things is basically an irrelevance and I'm never involved in anything to do with the kids arrangements. Yet I have to navigate a lot of really challenging situations involving them and DGM. I'm getting to the point where I dread them coming and I know that is not right.
Just now I've taken a phone call to say their new holiday clothes are round there. We are supposed to be leaving today. I just feel my role in this house (albeit as a step mother) has been completed eroded.
Crikey OP, I'm not sure you can sort this out tbh, much of it sounds as though your DP will have to come to the realisation that his parents are a very major part of the problem.
But I know where you might be able to start, it doesn't sound as though you & DP are on the same side. Put the stepchildren & the grandparents aside for a moment & have a conversation along the lines of how you felt when your birthday & Mothers Day was ignored & how he feels overwhelmed with caring for you all. Listen to each other's side with no blame involved as both of you are resenting the other & the air needs to be cleared. If you can get your relationship with your DP back on track then you can stand together against everything else, but if you are fighting each other as well as everything else then you don't really stand a chance.
Hi quick brown, that sounds like a really stressful situation and you seem very kind and balanced in how you're describing yr dsc. I come from a family where there is a need to control others, and you need to set boundaries about what's ok and not ok. My dw had a hard time with/from me when she used to point out where boundaries were breached but I've learned and now can establish and maintain them myself (most of the time). Living 100 miles away helps also lol! And while such a big move mightn't work for you, a 5/10/15 mile distance might. It might be enough to discourage impromptu call arounds etc.It sounds as though yr dh expects you to not rock the boat and continue to keep everyone / his parents happy as he appears to do. But he needs to understand that you and the children are his primary family now and that your collective needs are the ones at the forefront of his mind. My dm has fallen out with me/dw a number of times and we've reconciled, but she needed to learn that there were limits she couldn't push/break. I never worried that we wouldn't talk again, I just wanted not to have rows, but sometimes they're necessary.....
I am sure someone more experienced will be along soon to offer more advice, I didn't want to read and run. Take care.
Wow. Just wow. I would absolutely NOT be able to cope with having this dysfunctional family dynamic imposed on me. I would not last a week.
Even with the DSC alone I would find it impossible. Add in the DGP and the exW it's just impossible.
With a 6mo baby to care for your mental health is seriously at stake. The only possible source of support here is your DP, who is overwhelmed himself and is unaware of how bad it all is.
You clearly can't go on like this. The summer will push you over the edge. I would be putting my foot down now about how my own house is run and limiting the amount of time the DSC spend at your home, and the amount of influence of the DGP.
This is quite a tall order, though. I don't know where you could even start?
for you. Are your own parents around? Could you take some time out round there this summer? It sounds intolerable and quite toxic. I certainly would not want my own dc involved in it.
Yes, my parents are around but they are a drive away. I'm really struggling to cope and feeling extremely tearful and defensive at the moment.
Could you take a massive step back from the step children?
This might sound harsh but:
I would not try to parent these children. I would be civil and polite. I would let your husband deal with everything relating to them and their care including discipline.
If he wants to let them off the hook, so be it. They're his kids, not yours. How they turn out is down to him and his wife. If the GP want to spoil them, let them get on with it.
Don't babysit these kids. You aren't a sitter.
Let your dh deal with their mother and GPs.
Focus upon yourself and your children. You aren't ever going to be able to take control here. Not of these children.
Can you stay for a week at your parents? Even if they can't help with your 2, you are more than halving your own work. Surely your DP wasn't expecting you to take on sole childcare during these holidays? His parents will need to take over in your absence and he can deal with the fallout. Don't be pushed over the edge by others who are not taking you into account. Please take care of yourself.
That's kind of what I have done to be honest, I feel as though I have zoned out a bit from even trying to be involved in parenting them. That's why I'm a bit worried about becoming depressed by the whole situation, I'm just starting to feel completely detached from it all. I know it's my way of forming a defence mechanism but it's impacting on our relationship (DP and mine) as he doesn't think I'm being nice enough to them.
Tbh I don't want control of the children, I just want to have a normal mother/partner role in our home. And that disappears every time they come.
The DGPs want them there as much as possible and the situation is basically that the kids are put in charge of where they go. DP has them as much as possible but there are periods of time when I'm expected to have them. There's no planning though, it's all sorted out on the hoof and it's very hard to cope with having no influence (at all) over what's happening.
Just be civil and polite towards them. Then he cannot complain.
The situation is out of control. Take some control back by removing yourself from the source of the stress.
Do encourage visits to grannies house especially if you have them for the whole of the holidays.
Blended families are my idea of hell. I have read your situation a thousand times over on MN.
It's as though DP and his mother are co-parenting the kids when they are here. I'm irrelevant.
Yes you are the live in nanny once they arrive. Expected to put up and shut up
Stand up for your rights and demand respect from your dh
I suppose that is my only option! But it's hard...I'd like to have a decent relationship with them but all this is making it very hard. I have a dd of similar age and still expect her to behave within certain boundaries, which the other kids don't have. That's where it becomes complex. They aren't visitors, they're part of our family and it's quite likely they'll end up living with us later on.
X post. I'm not sure I even have nanny status!
So you and all 4 children off on holiday today? Without the GP? How long for?
This might be a good time to install some discipline and understanding between you all.
To be honest, I think the biggest problem is the GM. The DSC's behavious stems from her control and influence.
Anyway you can get some time alone with DP while you're away? Have an honest conversation with him about how your role as wife, mother and SM is being dominated and overruled by MIL.
I don't know if you can magically turn this around, but as a midnightvelvet has said, unless you can get your DP to understand and back you up, things are unlikely to improve.
If I was you I would be seriously tempted to go away for a week or two.
Keep disciplining your own dd as you see fit. She will turn out accordingly.
The thought of the DC living with you is hurting my brain! Can that not be avoided?
Yes - you are right. Every other family holiday we've rid has been basically jam packed with tantrums so we will see how this one goes. I'm actually feeling physically stressed about it (tight chest and sore shoulders). Agree they are seeing and emulating manipulative and controlling behaviour...the easiest solution would be to physically move but that is not possible.
QuiteLikely- no, I don't think so. It's the whirlwind around them that is the problem, it's affecting them negatively too. I'm normally a positive person but this is really getting me down.
What if you moved just 10 miles so they were not on your doorstep?
I could not do what you are doing, I know I couldn't. Your DH is not helpng this situation in any way. It is him who needs to change in all of this. He is the key piece in the jigsaw.If he behaved differently and was on your side, and treated you better/supported you more, you could work together to change the other things. Without that, you are on a loser.
You sound so nice with just a huge amount of stuff on your plate I would be dreading the holiday
Well I've just tried to talk to him about it and he thinks I'm completely over reacting to it all. When he told me I was losing the plot last night I said I didn't think he was actually a very nice person and he brought that up too. He just gets angry and irritated when I try to tall about it. His view is that the kids are not here often and that we know his mum is controlling but we should just get on with it.
There is literally no point in me talking.
He doesn't have any recognition of my feeling about having no role here. In fact he seemed to think that was a ridiculous statement.
I feel like instead of recognising there are problems, he is getting cross with me for being upset.
Moving even 2 miles away would be enough I think, but it's really not possible.
Why isn't two miles possible? Do you mean he just won't do it?
He isn't coming across as trying to understand your point of view at all. Being angry and irritated is designed to stop you talking to him about it. Let him go on the holiday and take his kids. Then you can have a nice time at home with yours and the baby.
My older DD would be gutted - she is really looking forward to it. Part of me just wants to leave them to it but I don't feel I can just call off. I did go off for a few days at the start of the holidays and it felt such a relief to be out of this whole environment and not to have to navigate all the complications!
We really can't move - we have to be on site.
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