What is expected of me vs what's fair? Advice please.(15 Posts)
I really don't know how involved I should be with parenting DSD.
She was ill during the night earlier this week and I pretty much let DP get on with sorting her out as I thought she'd probably just want daddy when she was feeling poorly. You just want mum or dad when you're feeling shit don't you? I saw him on the landing and asked if he needed any help but he said no. So I kind of just stayed out of the way, got showered and dressed in the morning and then quietly left while she was dozing in the morning.
Anyway DP said he was disappointed I didn't show more sympathy to DSD. He thinks I should've been in to check on her before I left. He said he wants DSD to see me as a mother figure. But that doesn't sit very comfortably with me because she already has a mum. I feel like I need to protect myself a little bit because if DP and I ever broke up I'd have no right to see DSD or anything so I feel scared to love her too much.
Anyway he's also asked me to stay in and look after DSD while he does a sport event in the past and I said no. When I work from home and it's his contact night he always asks me if I can pick up DSD from school (basically knocking 2.5 hours off my working day). So I say no to that too. But I think he feld disappointed that I say no to these things. Like I'm not being motherly enough or see looking after DSD on my own as a chore.
I'm really not sure what a reasonable amount of involvement is. Am I U for not doing the school run?
If DP wants to go out on his contact nights should I be the one to look after DSD.
Sorry if these sound like stupid questions but I'm still feeling my way round this step parenting thing.
I don't think they're stupid questions at all. But I don't think the answers are easy, and what works for you and your DP may not be the same as what works for everyone else. I very much feel that DP and I are grappling around with those issues as we go along, and trying to find what works for us - we've been living together less than a year.
I think your DP's basic approach of asking you to do things for your DSD, rather than just assuming you will, is the right one. And you're also right to say no when you're not comfortable doing so. Knocking 2.5 hours of your working day to do what sounds like a very long school run I don't think is a reasonable request in anything but a real emergency. I wouldn't ask that of my DP with my DCs, nor expect him to ask that of me with his.
On the other hand, feeling like you're on your own caring for a sick child is always something (as a lone parent for many years) I appreciate your DP might find hard. When my DSS was sick in the night a while back, DP sorted him out whilst I made his bed back up ready for him - though if you've not got your own kids, sorting out sick in the middle of the night is a big ask I guess. Even though you offered to help, your DP might have felt that was too much to ask, but still been struggling to do it all himself.
My DP seems quite comfortable with me taking on a mother-like role with his DCs, but has very much let me (and them) dictate the pace. If your DSD already has a mum (who she lives with most of the time?) then there are motherly things you don't want to get involved in to avoid treading on her toes (liaising with school, haircuts, routine GP appointments, etc) but some of the things that are more day to day care, you can - but only if you, and she are both happy with that.
DP refuses to ever ask his ex to look after DSD if he needs to go to a work thing or whatever. He's got this thing where he wants to have DSD at ours as much as possible, even if he won't actually be there to spend the time with her. I think because he wants to establish himself as the primary carer, the 'main' parent, the 'winner'.
He's not a bitter person at all but I think he's still angry at the fact his DD was taken away from him and he had no say in it.
I also think he'd prefer DSD to be with us as much as possible because her mum doesn't seem that bothered and forfeits her contact with DSD quite often.
Anyway I feel like his refusal to ask ex to help means that what I perceive as her responsibility is falling to me. And if I'm honest, it bugs me.
Is there anything I can do? If I say anything DP thinks I'm saying I don't want DSD to live with us all the time. I'm not saying that but I do think he should be making more of an effort to get his ex to do her share instead of expecting me to pick up the slack.
But then ultimately is that just unfair on DSD and all she really needs is people who are consistently there for her (ie me and DP)?
Do you think it's partly that your DP hasn't really come to terms with the fact that he's not going to be bringing DSD up in an intact family? A nuclear family with mum, dad and DCs is what most of us imagine we'll be in to raise our children. Separated parenting, and step families are something different. Wanting you to act the mother role, rather than encouraging DSD's own mother to take this on whenever he can't suggests he's trying to recreate the nice simple family he's lost.
Talking it through is good, and a book I read called Mums House, Dad's House, which is really good on getting people to understand what co-parenting across two houses is all about.
There's also nothing wrong in acknowledging that some aspects of parenting are a burden - nothing fun about driving around for hours, or having to take time of work at short notice. Best if you can have these conversations out of earshot of DSD, so she doesn't pick up on it and feel unwanted. And emphasise that you like to have a role in her life, but want that to be secondary to her own mum. Even if her mum forfeits contact some of the time, she's likely to be a consistent part of DSD's life - and as you say, your role is dependent on your relationship with your DP.
stop thinking about the word motherly and replace it with parent - ly, so he is supposed to be doing the parenting bits and you are not the parent so can be kind and pleasant etc but not the parent if that is how you think you should play this.
As for a child going to see there parent for contact and then that parent going out - well what is the point in the child going to see the parent if they are not going to be there - a bit like arranging to meet up for coffee and sending someone else
If he is concerned that DSD is picking up on her mum not being that bothered about spending time with her by doing other things when she should be with her, then why is he trying to do similar by passing her to you so he can play sport? Surely being with his daughter is more important than sport?
I think he is trying to pass some of the responsibility to you to ease things for himself. He is unfair to emotionally blackmail you into taking 2.5 hours out of your working day to pick up his daughter.
I think the issue of him going out when DSD is with you very much depends on how much you have her. If it's one day a fortnight, then it's out of order. If it's a 50-50 split, then it's a normal part of life. DP and I both leave our DCs with the other and go out sometimes (I plan to this evening) but we both have them quite a bit - so see it as them living here for much of the time, not just coming to visit.
We have her 50:50. Well more than that actually because of all the times her mum forfeits.
In Feb we had her 18 nights, her mum had her for 10.
Whoever said DP hasn't come to terms with not raising DSD in a nuclear family struck a chord. It's odd because for the first couple of years of our relationship he was very slow and cautious about everything. But since I've moved in he's gone the other way and wants me to be a mother figure.
The thing is, he wants to win. He wants DSD to grow up and say 'dad, you were a much better parent than mum.' I get it. But I will never win. Because I will never be better than her mum, even if her mum is rubbish. So I feel like I don't want to be part of this 'competition'. But I think that disappoints DP.
God I'm making him sound like a nutter. He's not a nutter. Honest.
I don't have SC so I could be totally wrong here but I think if this child is living with you for at least 50% of the time then you should be having an active parenting role . That is not to say that you are trying to replace her mother , or take on all the care that her father should be taking on . Surely at the end of the day you are a family unit ( albeit a part time one ) .
Now I'm going to sound like a nutter. But it hurts when DAD goes back to her mum. It hurts me on behalf of DP because I know he misses her so much. And it hurts me because one minute we're a family unit and the next she's off at her mum's.
I find myself secretly hoping she'll have a boring time with her mum do that she wants to be with us. How terrible is that?!
So my defence to that is to want to keep everything business like and be a bit detached.
Also, I do think DP could encourage his ex to do more of her fair share.
It's such a hard balance to strike. And I feel like I'm just doing a really shit job all the time. I've never felt like such a failure!
See, I think the 50 50 split changes things. This child doesn't just come round to visit, she lives with you, for at a minimum half her time, and I think, in this situation, you do need to have a more parental role. Particularly if she is young, as as she ages, it will be more difficult to establish the role, and living half your time with a teenager who does not respect you as a parent is no fun for anyone.
My DSS's lived with us 50 50 when they were little, but by the time they were teenaged lived with us full time.
I think it is fine for your dp to ask that you look after her whilst he goes out, as normal life has to go on while she is there. I think it would actually do you some good to spend time with her to build a relationship with her away from your dp. No, you can't compete with her mother, and nor should you, but you should, I think be thinking of yourself as an "extra" parent, but a parent none the less. It isnt about being "better" than mum, its about being as good a step parent as you can. Otherwise she will think of you as a distant person with whom she lives, and may feel that you don't like her, or resent her being there. If her mum is being a bit casual about the contact, all the more reason to build this child's self esteem, by building a positive, parental role.
It strikes me as quite hard on your dp too, if he has his child in the house most of the time, but does not have you helping him. It makes him a bit like a single parent, and this is probably not good for your relationship in the long term, as it keeps you at a distance from him too IYSWIM.
And don't be too hard on yourself, it is really difficult to work out your role! you will get there. And step parenting is really difficult. There are some good books out there to help, to try and understand the role.
I think you need to sit down with your dp and discuss your fears with him. Detached and businesslike is not the way to go. Nothing in your own home should be detached and businesslike, particularly for a child!
Keep going, it will get easier!
There is no rule book for step parents is there?
Everyone knows what is "expected" of a Mother but what is expected of a step mother? You only have to frequent these boards to realise that there are some massive differences in peoples opinions and attitudes.
Personally I think you have to go with your gut. The OP's DSD is living with her a lot of the time so OP is a role model and a big influence in her life, however, she is not her parent or her mother.
I think you need to find a place that you are comfortable with, not what your partner thinks you should be.
My DSD lives with us and only sees her Mum one night a week. I don't try and be her Mum, she has a Mum, but I am her main female adult role model and I try and treat her fairly, but ultimately she is not my responsibility. I don't love her as my own child and doubt I ever will. That doesn't mean I don't want the best for her and want her to thrive. I do and I want to help and support my DP to help her acheive that.
When my youngest DSD has been ill (who lives part time with us), I have helped DP with her, but I let him take the lead. So he might do the clearing up while I sit with her, or I might get a glass of water while he sits with her. When I can see that the situation doesn't need two people, I retreat and let DP get on with it. I would expect and want him to do the same for my DS and me. Personally I don't think a mildly sick child warrants two adults fussing about.
I too share your feelings on being expected to look after a child when the Mother is sitting around doing nothing and I am expected to give up my time for the child. I have felt really resentful when that has happened in the past. Fortunately my DSC Mum is now more keen to pull her weight now she has changed boyfriends so it's not really an issue anymore. I also think as time has gone on, I have got more used to having the kids around and they are older so don't cause me much hassle - teenagers don't demand my attention unlike younger ones.
I think a lot of people see "working from home" as just sitting around watching daytime tv and therefore think they can decide that your time could be better spent. If your partner is one of these people, don't give in. Your work is no less important because it's from home.
As for the playing of sport, it's a difficult one, because he has his DD more than half the time. He is still entitled to have hobbies and a life away from his DD, however, it's how that is acheived that's a real dilemma. A lot of single parents with no family support will find it difficult to participate regularly in anything. Do you think your partner could ask someone else in the family to look after your daughter sometimes or could she go to an after school club and he can play the sport then? If you weren't asked every single time, would that make you feel better?
I think it's probably unreasonable to never expect to look after your DSD alone if she is with you for so much of the time and I also think it's important for her development that she sees her Dad being independent from her, so that she doesn't think her Dad's life revolves solely around her. There are a lot of children parented by "Disney" dads who end up very entitled and arrogant, so that's something to be avoided, I think.
I agree regarding illness - if my DSC are ill then I leave DP to it.
And if DP has them then they are his responsibility and he can't arrange social things when he has them but if he has to work I will look after them.
I do certain 'motherly' things for them as I do them anyway for my own kids (cooking, washing etc). But then we only have eow contact not 50:50 which might make a difference.
It's all about striking a balance - the problem for step mums is if we don't pitch in we are wicked and selfish - if we do too much we are overstepping!!
I completely see what you are saying about worrying about getting too close to your DSD - I felt like this in the past, and worried about what would happen if me and DH ever split as I would have no rights at all.
Ultimately I had to decide early on if I was in, or out. My DSD lives with me and DH and whilst she sees her mother regularly(ish) she really isn't in a position to 'parent' as such.. all of that has always fallen to me. As it is, DH and I parent together, I see myself as the mother (rightly or wrongly), and whilst I constantly battle my feelings of resentment towards ex, it is the only way I would want it, to be honest. I recognise that it's not for everyone but I think that given how much contact you have, you have to take on a certain amount of that role- I don't think it's unreasonable for your DP to leave DSD with you whilst going out to play sport, in fact I echo what someone above (redhen?) said about it being good for her to realise that dad's life won't revolve around her.
You clearly have your heart in the right place, but I think part of being a step parent is that you step into those shoes once they walk through your front door, and there will always be a degree of co-parenting involved. That is what taking on a partner with children entails. Enjoy the good bits (there are good bits, a lot of shit bits, but a lot of good bits too) and good luck!