Struggling with step parenting

(160 Posts)
natalie49 Fri 02-Aug-13 15:20:20

Hi, I am brand new to the site, and this is my first post. I visited mumsnet to see whether anybody else had similar problems to me with regards to step parenting and associated struggles. Of course you do!

This is my story (bear with me as I am not familiar with the shortcuts you use to describe relationships etc).

I have been with my husband for 9 years, married for 4.5 years. He came with baggage, 3 kids (13, 8 and 6 back in 2004) and in the throes of a messy divorce, but we survived his angst and financial pressures of getting divorced, and the kids lived with his Ex, which meant that we could get on with our own lives to a degree. He saw the kids on an adhoc basis, but he always kept a good level of contact with them, and we had them to stay occasionally.

Time has moved on of course, but not for the better. Ex wife has mental health problems which did not initially get diagnosed when the kids remained in her custody. Last year she proclaimed that she could no longer look after the 2 remaining kids in her care, social services got involved, and we were left with no option to house the 2 now teens, girl who is now 17.5, and boy is nearly 16.

I have never been a biological mother, and have found the past few months extremely hard, adjusting to having 2 moody teens in our house full time, and it is not a large house. We had to convert a double room into 2 single rooms just to accommodate them, which has cost us an arm and a leg. I really resent having them here, particularly now it is the school holidays, and am wishing the years away. SD in particular is very 2 faced and thinks she knows everything. I have been seeing a counsellor recently as I need to channel my anger and pent up frustration, as it was beginning to affect a previously rock solid marriage. I could write loads more, but really am just after a bit of advice on how to cope with this intrusion of space, lack of privacy and most of all TEENAGERS! Thanks for reading.

emilyeggs Mon 05-Aug-13 21:07:08

Bumping this up for you,

Petal02 Mon 05-Aug-13 21:35:36

I just wanted to say that having two teenagers that I'm not related to, moving into my house, would be my idea of hell. Hopefully Brdgrl or Catsmother will be along shortly - two wise ladies who will be able to advise you.

MorningHasBroken Mon 05-Aug-13 22:01:03

natalie, it may well be worth posting in the Teenagers section for advice on handling teenagers specifically, as well as getting advice here on being a more 'hands on' step mother so suddenly.

Nothing particularly constructive too ad apart from that, I'm afraid...

MorningHasBroken Mon 05-Aug-13 22:01:18

*to add

UC Tue 06-Aug-13 09:23:06

natalie, I wondered too whether it would be good to post in the teenagers section, but I would be careful with how you express things, so that you get real constructive advice, rather than being simply told "they're his kids and you must suck it up".

I think you are right to be seeing a counsellor for yourself, as it must be very difficult to talk about this openly with your dh. He must be finding this hard too, as I'm guessing although they are his kids, he doesn't know them all that well either as they haven't lived with him since they were tiny. It doesn't sound as though you had that regular an arrangement with them before.

And of course the kids themselves must be finding this difficult. THey've been uprooted from the home they knew. You don't say whether this has involved new schools, new area etc. Guessing it may well have done.

I wondered whether you could access some family counselling, for all of you, together and also separately, so that you can all come to terms with what must have been a very unsettling period for everyone.

brdgrl Tue 06-Aug-13 10:05:29

Hi there. Sorry, I missed this before.

I married a widower who had two kids just entering the teen years. We've been together for five years now. The kids are pretty much identical in age to your DSCs now.

We also have a daughter together; she is 3 - but we did not all move in together until she was six months old, mainly because of my concerns about living with the teenagers and about my DH's parenting of them/the state of their home/the lack of healthy boundaries in their home.

I've found it very, very hard....especially with DSD, who can be very manipulative and has always been very resistant to my presence in her dad's life. I completely relate to the 'know-it-all' problem - and it gets very frustrating and even depressing to be constantly treated as though you know less than a couple of (actually fairly naive and often uninformed) kids. One thing I think people 'on the outside' cannot appreciate is the degree to which teenagers can bully a stepparent...for the longest time, I found it very, very hard to protect my own feelings and rights - the kids could say and do whatever they liked, but I was supposed to treat them with kid gloves! Anyway, I won't go on and on about my own issues, but I do understand some of what you are feeling.

Of course, I knew from the start that I'd be living with the kids if I lived with DH. You had a different set of expectations, and you have had a real upheaval now.

We have had counseling, and it has helped, I think. Not family counseling, but couple counseling. First through Relate (I insisted on that before we moved in together, so that we could talk about how we would adjust and make changes) and later through a private therapist. One thing the counselor said to me was that I had to allow myself to mourn. Given that my DH and DSCs were always being described in terms of their own loss, the kids' mum, it had never occurred to me that I was 'allowed' to feel I'd lost something too, but the counselor said that I in effect had lost the life and marriage, even the experience of motherhood, that I had imagined for myself, and that I ought to grieve and then accept that. I don't know why, but hearing that was helpful...maybe it just helped to have someone acknowledge that I was hurting, I don't know exactly. But it seems to me now that you are experiencing that loss,too, and maybe you and your DH both need to really acknowledge that.

Oh, this is getting really long - I am sorry! I will just finish by asking you a couple of questions - how is your DH coping with this change? Is he parenting effectively? And do you have clear roles and rules in the home? - and by recommending the same book I have recommended here to others; it is called Stepcoupling, by Susan Wisdom.

Good luck, and keep posting. There are some lovely ladies here and they have made things much more manageable for me.

natalie49 Thu 08-Aug-13 14:11:31

Hi brdgrl

You have been very helpful, thank you for all your advice. I havent posted on here since, because there have been a few altercations between DH and myself. He struggles to understand why I am so angry/upset all the time, and has shouted at me, telling me I have a foul temper, which I don't. He is more likely to raise his voice, which then causes me to raise mine. He says I am angry with the world, and hate everything, I tell him that I am not, and do not, but he does not understand that this is all to do with having his kids live with us. We have just about got back to normal, and as we are going on holiday on Sunday (all of us plus 2 dogs) so we can not afford to become hostile towards each other, although I really do not want to go.

To answer your questions, I think DH is struggling as well. He is not coping as a parent, not having done it for 9 years, and certainly not with teenagers. He is too soft on them, treating them like friends, rather than being an authorative figure (he told me he doesnt act in this way). Rules and roles in the home are fairly good. Its just them being here which pisses me off as I work from home. I just dont want my space invaded, as I am not used to it. DH has agreed now to joint counselling, which is a big step forward, holidays are now getting in the way, so it will be beg September before we can start that.

brdgrl Sat 10-Aug-13 10:51:59

Sorry to hear things have been rocky.
Good luck with the holidays...I can understand why you'd be anxious. Try to get some time to yourself, even if it means being a bit awkward and insisting on it.

Maybe your DH knows, really, that the kids (or more accurately, his parenting?) are the issue, but it must be hard for him to accept that. I had a hell of a time getting my DH to see that actually, ANYONE (in other words, not just weird over-sensitive angry me!) might have found my situation/roles in the house difficult and unacceptable. We still argue about this - we had a rough week last week - he described it afterwards as "an irritable week" (clearly meaning I was irritable) - I told him that from where I sat, I could just as easily describe it as a "thoughtless week" - that his actions, not just my response, ought to enter into things!

Anyway, maybe counseling will help him see how he's allowing the problem to worsen.

brdgrl Sat 10-Aug-13 10:52:43

What is your home space like? Do you have your own office? Privacy?

PearlyWhites Sat 10-Aug-13 10:54:07

I think you need to change your attitude . The fact that you referred to the dc as " baggage" in your op speaks volumes.

brdgrl Sat 10-Aug-13 11:16:23

Very helpful, pearlywhites.

Anormalfamily Sat 10-Aug-13 11:31:15

OP, I tried to convince my dh over a period of years that all was not well, I.e. it wasn't me being over sensitive or mean to dsc, it was him!
Our counselor has had to explain this to him many times (yesterday again) that he can't be BFF with his dc, but must parent them adequately, respect me and set boundaries so all feel wanted and secure.
Get a good therapist who will insist on nothing less!!

burberryqueen Sat 10-Aug-13 11:33:34

agree with pearlywhites the term 'baggage' says it all

brdgrl Sat 10-Aug-13 11:46:54

I think it probably"says it all" if you have come onto a thread with a preconceived view. It certainly doesn't "say it all" when one actually reads the post.

OP, please don't be put off. I know this was your first time posting on here, or on MN at all. I hate to break it to you, but there are some people who will go out of their way to post unpleasantly on the step-parenting threads. I'd urge you to 'consider the source', and take no notice. There are lovely people here, too, who will offer you constructive advice and empathy. I hope you will come back.

burberryqueen Sat 10-Aug-13 11:48:59

would you like your children or any children related to you to be referred to as 'baggage' then brdgrl?

brdgrl Sat 10-Aug-13 11:56:13

I wouldn't care. If someone refers to my DD as my or my DH's 'baggage' on an online support group, that's their business, not mine. But I am confused - are you concerned that the OP is posting about your own child?

I have been around long enough to know that "brought baggage" and "man/woman with baggage" are turns of phrase used to indicate that a person had a life before the relationship, and that aspects of that life have presented challenges to the current relationship.

I quite like baggage, as it happens. And I don't mind saying that I brought my share of it to my marriage, as did my DH. His included (although was not limited to) children.

Now, if she'd written "my DH had shit on his shoes when we met, in the form of two children", maybe, just maybe, you'd be on to something. As it is, though, it just looks like another a deliberately insulting and shit-stirring post.

burberryqueen Sat 10-Aug-13 12:00:29

i didn't insult anyone...
choice of words says a lot.

brdgrl Sat 10-Aug-13 12:05:59

choice of words says a lot.
It does indeed. The only words you have chosen to direct to a first-time poster asking for support, were critical and decidedly unsupportive. If you feel they were not insulting, you are operating by different standards than most.

brdgrl Sat 10-Aug-13 12:08:10

Sorry, OP, I should not be drawn into a hijack of your thread. Let us know how things go, ok?

burberryqueen Sat 10-Aug-13 12:11:04

the kids lived with his Ex, which meant that we could get on with our own lives to a degree
so you married a man with three children but wanted 'your own lives'? There was no idea that his kids would be part of your lives?
He saw the kids on an adhoc basis - you mean there were no contact arrangements or regular visits? whose choice was that then?
Last year she proclaimed that she could no longer look after the 2 remaining kids
why use 'proclaimed' here? why not 'said'?
we were left with no option to house the 2 now teens how horrible for them to feel they were an unpleasant duty for their father
cost us an arm and a leg what did you expect, that they would disappear after your happy wedding?
I really resent having them here - shouldn't have married a man with children then should you?

emilyeggs Sat 10-Aug-13 12:16:18

Burberry you are not very helpful at all are you!? Why are you posting if you have nothing useful to say? Not a very nice person

Graceparkhill Sat 10-Aug-13 12:16:42

I think this is a very difficult situation for all concerned and am wondering if the OP can carve out some time/ privacy to de stress. Not a solution in itself of course but a coping mechanism.

Presumably there is some light on the horizon as they are older and will move out to study/ work at some stage? They are also in a position to help out with chores/ do their own etc.

My other bit of advice would be a sort of team meeting with the 4 of you where you can agree some ground rules and structure for your new life together.

I would try to do this over food and in a public place- nothing fancy,could even be a picnic- so that everyone behaves appropriately.

burberryqueen Sat 10-Aug-13 12:16:49

really am i not?
maybe op isnt a 'very nice person'

emilyeggs Sat 10-Aug-13 12:17:58

So don't bother posting then!

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