Expectations of step parent -what's realistic? Am I expecting too much?

(153 Posts)
StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 08:48:57

Hi

I have 3dcs (aged 3,5,7) from prev relationship, and now live with DP, who has 2 DCs (aged10,13). He came to live with us in our small 4 bed house. We have fallen out because he says I over indulge, and baby my dcs. He complains they are spoilt brats. After some reflection, I accept he is right, in a way. So I'm in the process of setting up better boundaries, and trying to get my DCs to be more independent. I am trying hard.

I think I parent this way partly due to guilt of leaving my ex abusive husband, having not had a supportive partner from when ds1 arrived, and trying to make up for a difficult home environment. I left and set up a great family home, have a well paid job, work long hours, and have indulged the kids. Initially they used to all creep through and sleep with me, and not fall asleep unless I was with them at bedtime, so after a hard slog, we now have a good bedtime regime, and no night time bed hopping. This has been a massive improvement.

My exH is a bit of a Disney dad now, made worse by he fact his parents and him all stay together whilst the DCs re there, so they are very indulged. The DCs are away every second weekend and half school hols. When they come back there is usually a settling in period, when they are weepy or sullen, which I feel awful about. However, it is getting better.

Anyway, my new partner moved in 7 months ago, and I'm confused about what his role should be. After reading heaps of threads I feel I have had unrealistic expectations, and I see that I have been too soft with kids.

I get up with them every morning for breakfast, which can be early, whilst DP stays in bed, having set an alarm for nearer 8 on a weekday, always lies in at the weekend. I feel resentful of this. I do all the getting up to see to the kids at night, but they're little and understandably want their mum. He doesn't tolerate toys in the living room, as the kids have their own rooms and a playroom. If he's at home he watches his choice of TV programmes, whilst I usually put on a kids channel, if the tv is on at all.

I feel that the DCs initially resented his presence at home, but now accept it, and are affectionate towards him now, as he is with them.

He has no fixed contact arrangements, with his own DCs, we have been away on hols together, arranged and paid by me, and they have stayed when my dcs are at their dads.

I feel we need to bond more as a family, and have suggested a get together every second weekend. We went on holiday altogether in the Summer, and they seemed to enjoy each others company. Due to space it's difficult to have them all stay over at one time.

My DP and I get on fabulously when the DCs aren't around, tensions build when they are.

So my questions are, what role should my DP take with my DCs? Our relationship is on shaky ground, because of the way I am with the DCs, however I feel he is overly strict at times. What's the best way to try to resolve this? Should I be expecting him to be more of a dad? He's happy to discipline,but there's no other parenting going on, which I find difficult. He says he will try to be less strict, and interact better with the DCs, but its such hard work. I'm piggy in the middle, can you have it all?

Thanks for reading my rant!

AmberLeaf Mon 26-Aug-13 09:27:09

Re him not getting up with the OPs children in the morning, she also says while camping he didn't get up with his own kids either bar one day.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Mon 26-Aug-13 10:01:36

amber his DCs are 10 and 13, so don't need supervision in the mornings in the same way as the OPs DCs do; they didn't need parenting in the same way.

Saying that - I would resent my DP if the rest of the family were up and about and he repeatedly laid in bed while on holiday - I'd be encouraging him to get up and help his kids cook pancakes while I got my little ones ready wink

WaitingForMe Mon 26-Aug-13 10:06:40

What stands out for me is the only parenting being the discipline. I like a tidy house, insisted DH was less of a Disney dad etc but I was immediately involved in all the good bits - taking my DSSs to the park, planning Birthdays/Holidays/Christmas.

Things like who gets up and TV rules can be worked on but if he doesn't actually want the kids in his life (both his own and his step kids from the sound if it) then there isn't much of an answer to be had.

nicknamegame Mon 26-Aug-13 13:07:03

China I have to say, I think you've been very harsh in your advice on this thread.

OP, I see nothing wrong in expecting the other adult in your life to have some responsibility towards your children. I would also feel very resentful (and experienced this) if my partner 'cherry picked' the parts of family life that appealed to him and opted out of the bits that don't. As others have said, there are red flags here. I do hope you're ok.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Mon 26-Aug-13 13:20:00

OP, I see nothing wrong in expecting the other adult in your life to have some responsibility towards your children

The overwhelming advice here on MN from Mums to Stepmums who have been delegated responsibility for their DSC by the DCs dad is to butt the hell out!

The double standards are incredible - on one thread, a stepmum is being sympathised with for having her DSC dumped on her, and yet on another, a stepfather is being castigated for not taking DCs on as his own.

WSM syndrome at its best wink

MrsCampbellBlack Mon 26-Aug-13 13:45:48

I don't think its WSM at all. Its basic human kindness. If you live with someone and you see they're tired as they get up with small children everyday, well it would be nice to let that person have a lie-in occasionally surely?

Sparklysilversequins Mon 26-Aug-13 13:51:46

Well my expectations must be impossibly high because the idea of a man who is supposed to be my partner, who has a nice lie in every morning and then when he DOES get up throws his weight about with regards to the remote control switching it over mid programme and sending my children to their rooms with a nice little bellow ringing in their ears does absolutely nothing for me. Maybe that's why I am still a Sad Single confused.

OP he sounds like a twat and I fear it will only get worse as your children get older.

edam Mon 26-Aug-13 13:58:59

agree with Sparkly.

He's behaving like a bully. Stalking into a room and switching over the TV that other people are already watching? Extremely rude. Lounging around in bed EVERY morning while his partner is up with the kids? Extremely lazy. Doesn't have consistent, regular contact with his own kids? Red flag, especially as he hasn't given the OP any reason.

edam Mon 26-Aug-13 14:00:43

Oh, and not contributing to household finances? A parasite. He's getting bed and board for free, ordering the OP's kids around - something is very wrong here and it isn't the children. His behaviour needs sorting out.

FourLittleDudes Mon 26-Aug-13 14:03:33

He sounds like my ex. Scarily so.

He started off the exact same way, but it wasn't long before he could barely hide the dislike and irritation he felt towards my children. He wanted them upstairs and out the way as soon as they walked through the door. Things got alot worse before I finally woke up and left him.

My children though, still wonder why I let a man move in and turn their lives upside down, we were happy until he came along and decided on his no toys downstairs and no kids programmes rules, until them playing became "them making a noise" and it was told repeatedly that I was to soft with them etc. They have never been badly behaved children, just normal children. And I let them down. I should have defended their right to be children, to act as children do and to feel comfortable in their own home.

Never again will I allow anyone to talk about my children the way he ended up doing (brats among other things) they were an annoyance to be endured until they went to their dads and he has me to himself, but his tolerance wore thin in the end and he stopped hiding his dislike for them.

It is my biggest regret.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Mon 26-Aug-13 14:07:30

mrscambell it entirely depends on the DCs, surely?

The OP has said that her DCs are cheeky and play up - I wouldn't get up so my DP could lie in bed for longer in that case, I'd expect them to co-operate - especially as there are mornings when the DCs aren't there so the OP gets a lie in then. My DSD is left to 'care' for DSS on school mornings and he plays up for her - if she goes and gets grandma or mum out of bed and he magically behaves. There's no way I'm introducing that type of dynamic into my home; dads kid, dads problem!

I've made no secret of the fact that I leave all the parenting of the DSC to my DP - even now, DSS doesnt welcome or appreciate my input and experiences physical symptoms of anxiety when left in my sole care.

I accept some people have interpreted other aspects of the behaviour as unacceptable - I think it depends on the circumstances but the fundamental problem imo is that the OP considers her DP to have joined her family. That makes being a stepparent 100 times harder than it already is.

Alwayscheerful Mon 26-Aug-13 14:11:00

Your children are very young and whilst you should be encouraging their independence they are still at the needy stage which can be exhausting, if your partner loves you, ask yourself, why he doesnt make himself part of your family by occasionally getting up and making breakfast and bringing you a cup of tea in the morning, why doesn't he take them to the park for an hour whilst you have a long bath?

I agree you should not be looking for a replacement father you are looking for your soul mate and life partner, he is either a man child or very selfish, to be honest you would be better off on your own, ask your self what will be left after the initial attraction wears off? Two years is very early days, too early to be building a house with joint funds.

MrsCampbellBlack Mon 26-Aug-13 14:16:39

China - sorry, I think you're wrong.

As sparkly so eloquently put it he sounds a 'twat'.

And he OP's children are young, still very young - some naughtiness is to be expected. I'm also not convinced the OP is too soft - its just her DP has convinced her he is.

And yes, the ad hoc contact with his own children seems very odd to me.

nicknamegame Mon 26-Aug-13 14:17:56

China people are allowed to disagree with you from time to time. You know that's ok, right?

I'm not sure how you got double standards from my post - I wouldn't advise a step parent to do nothing for their kids anymore than I would say a step parent should 'butt out'. I personally don't find it acceptable for a partner to behave in the way that the op describes, hence my post, but you would find me saying the same thing to a step parent who came on here and asked if its was ok for them to behave in way. So really, it's a bit unimaginative to wheel out the 'double standards' card every time someone on here has a different opinion from you.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Mon 26-Aug-13 14:27:48

nickname I'm sorry, have I said something to upset you?

I was only trying to highlight that your view, that stepparents should take on parental responsibility for DSC, is not widely held here on MN and that Stepmums are regularly abused and insulted for being as involved as you expect the OPs DP to be.

It's the fact that your view has not been shouted down is evidence of double standards - from experience, i would say that you would very quickly have been flamed if you were proposing that a stepmum get up in the morning to care for her DSC.

AmberLeaf Mon 26-Aug-13 14:29:15

It isn't that he is doing nothing with his step children, he is happy to punish them and is criticising the OP on her parenting while trying to convince her that a 3 yr old should be more independant. jeez. Do you really think that is healthy and normal?

OP take note of FourLittleDudes post please.

AmberLeaf Mon 26-Aug-13 14:31:33

China this situation is just not comparable to a regular/healthy step set up.

There are other worrying issues at play here, maybe take your step hat off and you may be able to see them.

This thread really would benefit from being posted in relationships.

This relationship isn't healthy and will in the end have consequences. This man is abusive, you need to put your children first.
They are very young and need totally different parenting than that of a 10 & 13yo.

Alwayscheerful Mon 26-Aug-13 14:48:19

I agree 3, 5 & 7 is very young, parent, step parent, auntie or friend the childrens needs are the same, normal step parenting 'rules' do not apply to children this young, their needs are their needs full stop. DP needs to support you or leave and OP please do not enable him.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Mon 26-Aug-13 14:48:50

amber I'm struggling to see it, I'm afraid!

Taking just the OPs posts, she has said that:

financially nothing has been sorted and her partner pays towards bills when she asks him and buys shopping. The OP paid for a family holiday they went on. poor planning but not financially abusive, there's no suggestion that the OP has tried to change things or that her DP has dictated that it must be this way

The OPs DP has expressed his desire for toys not to be left in the living room. No suggestion he has been abusive or rude about it. This is his home too, and the DCs have a playroom.

The OPs DP turned to TV to a channel he wanted to watch, compared to a situation, described by the OP, in which 'when the TV is on, it's on kids channels'. i don't see anything wrong with an adult in the home turning the TV over to watch a programme he wants to see if the kids TV programmes are background noise and the DCs roam backwards and forwards to view while doing other things

The OPs DP sent the DCs upstairs. Where their toys/the playroom is?

There has been a lot of projection and assumption on this thread by others - some of whom have even said thst the OP has been brainwashed into believing she has been soft on her DCs, yet the OP agreed that she has!

I just can't draw the same conclusions based on what the OP has said!

brdgrl Mon 26-Aug-13 14:50:25

StoneBear,
You seem very reasonable about it all in your last post. I hope you will find ways of adjusting expectations and behaviour on all sides.
You know your situation. The rest of us are only speculating, and sometimes projecting, based on our own experiences (and in some cases, our own prejudices). Of course your DP would have a very different take on things, and you acknowledge there are improvements to be made on all sides. Please do think about seeing a counselor and also looking at some of the step-parenting books. The advice you will get from professionals is often very different indeed from that given by the non-step-parenting public.

brdgrl Mon 26-Aug-13 14:52:15

I'd also of course suggest reading lots and lots of threads on these boards. You will begin to see patterns in stepfamily conflicts, and you will also get a sense of which posters are routinely negative about stepparents.

nicknamegame Mon 26-Aug-13 14:55:50

Amber I agree with everything you say. There is too much focus on what he is and isn't doing as a parent/step parent rather than the very obvious bullying.

China, the difference here I guess is that I would expect a step parent, male or female to get up now and then with the step kids. I would also expect them to help out with school runs, bed times and all the other chores of being a parent. Not by way of replacing a parent and certainly not by way of shouldering the bulk of the responsibility but helping out from time to time? Yes. I just don't see how a family can work if there are such definitive lines drawn in the way you describe, and I don't see how one parent wouldn't come to feel resentful if they are run into the ground while the other does nothing.
I suppose I took issue with you saying things like 'why the hell should he get up with your kids'? I think it's harsh, and I would also like to ask the question - why the hell not?

Sparklysilversequins Mon 26-Aug-13 14:56:09

China I actually think its YOU that's projecting and assuming. The OP has used all the examples you have used in your post to show situations that have caused her concern, she is not just describing every day issues, she is using them to express that she feels something is not right and shes the one on the ground, you are ignoring that fundamental point.

MrsCampbellBlack Mon 26-Aug-13 14:56:58

China - what you described re. tv would be sort of ok, although in my family we politely ask before turning the tv over. But anyway, that is not what OP described.

Not sure I'm the only one projecting to be honest.

But I agree with amber that its more of a relationship issue between her and her DP.

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