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.

burberryqueen Sat 10-Aug-13 12:21:56

i think someone should question the OP's attitude to her husband's chilldren why not?
her choice of words is soooo telling, throughout.
I am not intending to insult anyone but marrying a man with children and expecting them to disappear or not be a bother is a bit...rich.

emilyeggs Sat 10-Aug-13 12:26:40

Where does it say she expected them to disappear? And your first post was very negative....maybe you could have been more constructive instead? She has said she is struggling and was looking for advice!

PearlyWhites Sat 10-Aug-13 12:29:36

Feel free to search my previous posts I do not just come in mumsnet just to insult people on the step parenting boards.

enderwoman Sat 10-Aug-13 12:31:25

My local council runs a parenting teens course. Biological parents often struggle parenting teens so as a sudden full time step parent it is not surprising that you and your dh are too.
Yy to family therapy. Your step children must have issues with sudden change in living circumstances and their mum and it would provide an opportunity to sort out a way forward.

brdgrl Sat 10-Aug-13 12:37:18

That's true, pearly, you have many more constructive posts on other boards.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sat 10-Aug-13 14:13:06

her choice of words is soooo telling, throughout

There's a post on the 'teenage' board you might want to comment on burberry - I'm sure that you'll have an opinion about the OPs choice of words about her DD - or are parents allowed to vent with impunity?

allnewtaketwo Sat 10-Aug-13 14:24:54

Lets not feed the nasty piece of work who has chosen to join this thread purely to insult the OP and polish the chip on her shoulder.

OP, brdgrl has offered some really good advice. There's lots of support to be had on this board so please keep posting.

I'm glad you've been seeing a counsellor as well. I find that as a SP one if the hardest things is to be able to say what I think to someone truly objective.

I'm not in the ame situation as you but have step teenagers here every other weekend, which is difficult enough. One of the hardest things, I find, is the constant presence of the eldest (also 17) as he resolutely refuses to do anything without a parent. I do hope for your sake that your DSCs have interests outside the home that at least give you some respite . The other aspect is the space in the evenings - I've never managed it, but having time just DH and I on an access evening would be nice. Do you have time in the evenings without the DSCs around?

ijustwanttobeme Sat 10-Aug-13 14:52:13

hi Natalie49

My experience:

I met DP when I was 25, with a good job, my own flat and independence. The word children was not even in my vocabulary as I was never going to have any...

He had been divorced with for nearly a year and on our 1st date told me he had 3Dcs, then 15, 11 and 7. Gulp, I thought but I really liked this man and also for being honest with me.

He had them every other weekend and once overnight in the week, so situ slightly different o your DHs.

6 weeks into our relationship his ex wife rang him and said she could not have the children anymore, and they came to live with DP.

They have lived with him (us, once I'd moved in) until they one by one, left home.

It was hard, but I knew from day one he had DCs, so what did I expect? and what rights did I have to complain?

They had just discovered that mum didn't want them any more ( new fella on the scene) and so had to come and live with Dad. I was hardly going to walk about with the strop ( even though DSD aged 15 would report back everything DP and I ever did/ spoke about, and DSD2 7, was unable to ever tell mum that we'd gone to the oark/ cinema etc ( if just the two of us - through loyalty to mum).

What worked for us, was that we tried to involve them in everything, so that they never got the feeling that they were in the way.

Your post reeks of resentment and I bet it's hard to keep that out of your day to day actions/ tone of voice/ body language when it comes to them.

It takes time and effort on all parties, but small things like getting their fave DVD to watch as a family together ( even if after 15 mins they walk out saying , 'it's boring') or something bought for DSD that you heard her mention. Not produced wit a huge flourish but just casually handed over..

You may not get a great deal of thanks today, next week or this year, but it will be noted. After all, it was last month, DSS said to me, 'I remember when you took us all to the theatre to see a show. I really enjoyed it, but made out I hadn't as i didn't want you to know. Can I just apologise now'.

He's 32 now, so must have been at least 18/19 years ago

riverboat Sat 10-Aug-13 15:11:25

Interesting post ijust, and some nice things to hear too!

I agree that to some extent 'fake it til you make it' can do wonders, is throwing yourself into activities/discussions with the DSC even when you REALLLY don't feel like it and are wishing they weren't around. I do this and it usually ends up making me feel much happier and more content in my relationship with DSS.

But this (for me) has to be combined with a careful mix of detatchment and me-time also. I don't have the right to overule DP's parenting decisions, so for example when DSS gets away with something I don't think he should I have had to learn to bite my tongue...

I then would bring certain things up with DP in private if they were really problematic for me and we'd try to agree on a way forward.

From your posts OP it's not too clear if there are major discipline/house rules issues or not but I'm sensing yes?

I think its entirely normal to feel resentful when two teenagers come to live with you unexpectedly and your whole living situation changes. Yes of course rationally she got together with a man with kids etc etc but that doesn't mean she isn't allowed to find it difficult. It seems that OP is seeking support SO AS to not to take out her resentment on them.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sat 10-Aug-13 21:12:14

I would question the future of my relationship with DP if DSS came to live with us full time.

Yes, I knew DP had DCs when I met him - he had a cute 5 year old boy who was fun to be with.

He now has an emotionally damaged, high maintenance 10 year old DS who has significant medical anxiety issues and can't be left alone with me due to the EA he has been subjected to.

Did I know what I was getting into? No. Not a clue. And if DP ever became DS primary carer it would be at the cost of our relationship.

BathingBelle Sat 10-Aug-13 21:24:51

too soft on them, treating them like friends, rather than being an authorative figure (he told me he doesnt act in this way).

I think he may need to start acting in tisxway or your lives will become utter hell. Teen steps (I speak from experience as one and as SM some years ago) have nothing else to do in the holidays but take their hurt and frustration out on you. All the things they want to say or do to their own parents but cannot will come your way.

Your DH needs to get totally involved in finding activities for them, and taking off enough time that you are not managing them alone in an atmosphere that can easily and irrevocably become toxic, especially with a father figure who wants everyone to think he's the good guy, FFS. He's the dad.

Make sure you can escape, make sure there are agreed household rules so you don't come back to increasing squalor, and pass all the parenting back where it belongs, wit the parents.

And ignore the negative bitterness here. You haven't committed a crime, merely asked advice. There are lots of projectors about; you have enough on your plate getting your DH to behave like a father, so ignore unhelpful invective.

Good luck.

witchofmiddx Sun 11-Aug-13 15:30:02

My children have a stepmother. Ds 13 has never shown much interest in her, being merely polite. How would she react if told he would be living there full time? She would probably use the phrase 'baggage' as complimentary! My children are my jewels.. but I wouldn't blame her in the slightest!
Having said that if gd forbid if I wasn't around anymore, I would very much hope she would strive to get the support she needed to support them. Op came on here for support...

allnewtaketwo Sun 11-Aug-13 16:57:44

That's a good way to look at it witch smile. I'd hope that any adult whose home/care my child was ever in for extended periods had all the support they needed too.

natalie49 Tue 13-Aug-13 11:05:00

Burberryqueen, what a nasty person you are. You do not know what I have been through with this man. I could talk for hours or days, but seeing as I am in the SW of France with 2 kids I hate, and a husband I would eagerly divorce then i suggest you shut up for the time being.

brdgrl Tue 13-Aug-13 11:07:26

Natalie, I take it it is not going well! Do you want to talk about it?

natalie49 Tue 13-Aug-13 11:21:46

Yes that would be good but I don't want to give numbers
out on this site. What do you suggest ?

natalie49 Wed 14-Aug-13 05:38:36

Thank you all who have posted positive comments on here. I will not reply individually to you, but I would like to clear up a couple of major points here. I met DH on a dating website, I knew damn well that he had 3 kids. I was there to support him when we went through CAFCASS to get custody of his kids as mother was and still is a chocolate teapot. Said organisation deemed mother to be fit to have custody of kids although she self harmed (but not in front of the children, quote from official report). Therefore, to those posters who thought that I would get married and swan off into the sunset step children free, that was totally not the case. My original post was perhaps misleading. When I said DH saw kids on an ad hoc basis, I omitted to say that he saw them at least twice a week, and we have taken them on holidays intermittently since 2005.

They have always been a permanent fixture in our lives, and yes, we would have them for weekends etc, as ex wife used to book herself into a loony retreat at the last minute, giving us no structure as to when we would have the kids "dumped" on us, and yes I mean that sincerely.

To have 2 teens come to live with us now is destroying me, my relationship with DH and just about everything I can think of. I hate them, they hate me, I do not want them full time. I am the bad cop, DH is trying to make up for the bad years they spent caring for their mother, and in the process, is alienating me. He doesn't realise this, as if I try to explain how I feel, he clams up. His excuse for sluttish behaviour from his daughter is that she is hormonal, has a lot of growing up to do, and he didn't grow up himself until he hit 30. Good excuse eh? He then asks me to remember how I was at nearly 18, to which I reply, well adjusted, and just about to live abroad, despite having had 3 fathers and been to 13 schools! I know the kids have had a major upheaval to deal with, but they just don't get how badly it has affected me/us, and I don't think I can cope with the situation without doing something drastic. There are questions being asked about space, schools, activities out of the home etc. the quick answer is no, nothing has changed and we live a minimum of 25 miles away from their circle of friends. I could write reams but we can not do anything about step sons school until this time next year when he completes his GCSE course. Sorry I am unable to use the short cut DSS as he is not dear to me, just a pain in the proverbial.

When I get angry - at least once a day - I end up blaming their mother for being so useless and dumping them on us. Not good but true.

Well, rant over, it's 6.30am in SW France. Another fun day in the sun with 2 people I want to get rid off. SD complained yesterday that she was going a bit red and wanted to stay out of the sun today. I pointed out that there is factor 50, 30, 20 and 15 right by the front door, so try applying a bit of common sense and using the cream. Unfortunately she doesn't have any common sense......

underdoggy Wed 14-Aug-13 07:12:40

Natalie looking after children is difficult whether they are your 'own' or not (I know this because I do both) but in the nicest possible way you need to get a grip here. This is what children are like.

You are sinking into a spiral with their behaviour - and I'm afraid failing to be the adult. For example, the last example about the suncream is a complete non-event that describes only your own frustration, not the behaviour of these teens.

Teens are very sensitive to people not wanting around. burberryqueen got called rude, nasty etc. but in fact, what she is expressing is absolutely true, although it may not be what you want to hear. I have had many threads about my situation and the harsher comments have made me take a look at myself, as I think you will have to do. Your negative attitude towards the children is a big source of problems, so you will have to change it unless you want to sacrifice your marriage.

You knew your husband had children, but perhaps you did not know what children are. I have to put a smile on my face about ten times a day, but I talk and joke with, am interested in and care for a teen who despite my darkest thoughts, does not feel unwanted around the house.

You can make this situation better and if you're not prepared to then you must remove yourself from it.

We got given a teenager (13) the same year I had a baby and there have been many evenings when I have gone to bed quite ashamed of my behaviour but there have been other very uplifting times and I hope in the future he will look back and know how hard we worked for him.

Ledkr Spain Wed 14-Aug-13 07:29:42

If you "hate" his children then you get the hell out for all your sakes. Honestly, what a horrible thing to say.no wonder its not working out.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Wed 14-Aug-13 07:35:44

Ledkr Would you give the same advice to a mum who is struggling with her teen DC, and says she hates them?

underdoggy Wed 14-Aug-13 07:58:44

The mothers of teens don't have that option china sadly.

However, she is not their mother.

I could potentially have sent back my teen but I never considered it because I am committed to giving him a good childhood. OP needs to reset this whole situation, which I believe she could do.

The DH is an big problem and this I really understand because when we got our teen my DH (who is not his dad but related) failed to get involved in the way that was needed. He also failed to put himself squarely behind me as I built authority and that's a situation that never changed - I had to make my peace with it. In the OP's case though, he DH is the children's father, so perhaps he can be forced to take a more constructive role. The whole 'best mates' attitude to parenting is disastrous at a younger age, but I wonder if it's that bad at this age, when they're nearly adults. He just needs to set it within a framework of respect.

The thing that changes this whole situation, in my view, is the nearly-adult age of the children.

OP, you need to set down your boundaries with them. My boundary is that if he is rude or disrespectful in any way, he gets nothing but haughty withdrawal. If you are not in charge of their money or whatever, then you are stuffed on this one though. Would your DH still give them money when they have just been rude to you?

You are reacting, rather than directing your own course with them. Tell them how you feel, what you need and stop getting drawn into childish tit for tat. They will lose respect for you and quite frankly, they will have a point.

purpleroses Wed 14-Aug-13 08:22:04

It sounds a really tough situation for you, and don't know I have that much to offer. But one thing you mentioned is that when you try to tell your DP how you feel he clams up on you. My DP does this too. One thing that has worked for us on a couple of occasions when I've been really upset about something has been for me to write it all down, and let him have the time he needs to reflect on things. It's harder for him to stick his head in the sand and pretend the problems don't exist if you've written things down for him, and some time to think through his responses to your problems might help him. Write down what you think the problems are, and a few possible suggestions of things that he could do that might help.

brdgrl Wed 14-Aug-13 08:55:55

As a stepmum, I don't have the option of 'sending back' my stepkids.

Natalie, I sent you a message yesterday. I'll write more on here later but I have to go off to work now...

Ledkr Spain Wed 14-Aug-13 09:07:06

Nobody really has the option of sending back their chikdren but I'd suggest its easier to walk away from a step child whom you hate than your own child whom you are temporarily pissed off with.
I'm in a blended family too but nobody talks about hating any of the children.
If my husband said he hated my dc and meant it if tell him to leave.

underdoggy Wed 14-Aug-13 09:21:01

I agree with Ledkr wholeheartedly.

OP this is your life, whether you relish this aspect of it or not. Every morning when you wake up, these young people will be there. And if they feel you don't like them, they will press your buttons all day long.

However, bear in mind, before you alienate them with anger and resentment, that this is the worst time, holidaying all together. It is still something we can barely manage.

Have you tried to find common ground with them?

I am absolutely not saying that it is easy - it has been the story of my life for 3 years now.

With so much muddy water already under the bridge in your relationship with them, I would request their help in finding a new way.

One year after our teen (13 then, and bloody difficult) came to live with us, after a bad day, I asked him to choose a few things he would like to change about our family life. His answers were very enlightening and were the start of the changes for the better.

You need a sea-change in how you deal with them, and what they think of you or surely it can only spell the end of your relationship.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now