Help for new 'step mum'?

(40 Posts)
Seashell78 Fri 25-Apr-14 19:03:25

I would love advice/encouragement/coping strategies on this situation.

My partner and I have been together 18 months and have recently moved in with each other. When we started dating he told me upfront about shortly becoming a Dad - he'd had a two night stand 9 months before we met which resulted in an unplanned pregnancy. The girl wanted to have the baby, despite my partner making it very clear there was no future for the two of them and he would rather not have the baby. During the pregnancy the girl returned to her native country for more help and to have the baby.
My partner went to visit them after the birth and every couple of months, but has felt deeply depressed throughout about the whole experience, trying to force a bond but not feeling it, not getting on with the girl etc etc
At the time, I felt quite distanced, maybe tried to brush it under the carpet a bit, it was all happening in a different country. I just tried to be supportive although did have some serious misgivings about the whole affair, spent a lot of time agonising about how I could be with someone so irresponsible about contraception, I also had difficulties not digging at him all the time - you play you pay etc.. but I have managed to move on from all this and accept that mistakes happen and now it is about the child and doing what's best for them.

Fast forward to the last few months. The girl and baby have moved back to the UK, my partner visits once every 7-14 days. I have no problems with him visiting his child and am happy for him to do this as much as he wishes. However, I am struggling with so many other issues and am turning into bit of a nightmare. Suddenly I feel so resentful of their existence. I am/was very keen to have a family myself, but feel that this girl and her baby have 'stolen my thunder'. I really despise myself for having these selfish thoughts but this is how it is. I resent the money that is shipped their way, the time spent with them, the way we now have to take them into account all the time. I find it upsetting that the girl and baby spend time with my partners family, doing grandparent stuff etc. I find it really painful to go shopping for things for the baby that he's had with this other girl and not me. It upsets me when we go out and his mates are asking me how the baby is. All these negative thoughts are very preoccupying. My partner and I have spoken at length about this all. He is very understanding but we keep going round in circles without me feeling any better. He himself has still not accepted the situation completely. We are both 'down' a lot.
I have had 4 sessions of private counselling, wanting to try and become a more accepting and gracious 'step mum', however I got very wound up by them and decided to stop.
I haven't met the baby yet and am building up to this. I wonder how it will be, how I am supposed to act, how I will be judged. I really want to avoid meeting the baby's mother as I feel very negative towards her.

I would be grateful to hear if anyone can relate to this story. I do understand that the child's wellbeing comes first, and I should not come between them and their father. I would like to try and stop being a dragon and work this out rather than leave the relationship, my partner is definitely a keeper. Thanks for reading this far!

NatashaBee Fri 25-Apr-14 19:13:54

It's difficult to be with someone who has a child already (tougher than being an actual parent, in my experience). Have you met the baby? Will his visits change at some point so that the child comes to stay with you instead? Do you feel that would be easier and make it more about the child (who you will hopefully grow to know and like) rather than the mother?

Malificentmaud Fri 25-Apr-14 19:30:22

Oh darling I really really feel for you: I often feel sad that my husband had all his "firsts"with another woman but I also have a child from a previous relationship so we're matched in that way, so to speak.

I don't rly have any words of wisdom but I really feel for you and would say unless this man is the love of your life I would personally move on x

elizalovelace Fri 25-Apr-14 19:50:27

Your realationship will have to be very strong in order to survive all that is going to come your way in the future. Unless you are a very strong person and willing to accept this child and its mother are going to be a part of your life forever then I would advise you to leave this man and his family behind you and start a fresh. You should put your happiness first whatever you decide. Life really is too short to spend it unhappily.

alita7 Fri 25-Apr-14 20:01:14

You know I was about to start a thread about how I suddenly feel a bit sad that dp isn't experiencing his first with me, I'm 12 weeks pregnant and love his 3 dsds to bits but In past couple of days he's said things like he doesn't need to read up on things as he's done it before etc and he's not as excited as me which makes me feel sad. so I get where you're coming from, It's hard especially if you've always seen yourself getting married and having kids, I thought I didn't mind that he had kids when we got together and that my new normal worked for us, but I think it will make my experience of having my first different and almost feel like we're not equal, in that he knows what he's doing and I want to be able to figure out what to do without him constantly saying you do it like this.

You may get over it when you meet the baby. but do consider if you are going to feel like this for your whole life with him or if you think you can move on from it, I'm hoping what im feeling is pregnancy hormones, but if it was something I thought would grate at me and i wasmt pregnant then I would consider the possibility that being with someone with kids wasn't right for me. But then again every perfect guy has something that you find hard to deal with, at least yours is not his personality!

alita7 Fri 25-Apr-14 20:01:49

sorry my dsds his dds

JumpingJackSprat Fri 25-Apr-14 20:10:40

I think id walk away. My dp had a child but he was an established Co parent so was a lot less complicated. Your dp is still feeling his way with building a bond with his child it might be that he doesn't have room to accommodate you as well. It's going to get harder for you. This child's will be in his life forever. I'd think very hard about whether you can continue to put this child first in every decision you make as a couple. Want to go on holiday? Can you afford it after maintenance? Do you take the child or not? Arranging access? Moving house - is there room for this child as well as any children you have together? As the baby gets older he may have joint care - could you cope with that prospect?

BertieBotts Fri 25-Apr-14 20:26:44

It's very difficult.

The thing is that these things are totally reasonable to feel resentful about, but if you're going to stay with him, then you also need to accept that this is the case. It is always going to be there and it's not going to magically get easy.

Try to detach from "But I love him and he's great" - with your head leading the decision, yes you would meet someone else as great as him, he is not the only good man in town. Yes a break up would upset you both greatly, but this situation is also going to tarnish everything that happens between you. I'm in sort of the opposite situation as I had a child before meeting DH and now we're in a position to TTC ourselves and he feels like he's missed out on my first pregnancy/first baby, which of course he has! And while he gets to go through the first pregnancy/first baby thing for the first time, it just won't be as new and unknown and exciting for me and I feel crappy about that as well. I'm lucky to have DS, he is a great kid, but don't get me wrong, it's hard from both sides.

Meet the baby. If she is little then just meet her - if she's older (18 months from your post?) then it might be best not to introduce as "dad's girlfriend" but just as your name. She'll be too little to make assumptions. But once she's a real human being (and probably adorable) you will most likely have more of a feeling one way or another - either yes I very much want this little person in my life as well as DP, or, no, can't do this.

It IS a big sacrifice to make. Don't assume that it will all be fine because you love him and he's "a keeper". It's a really massive deal, it's going to have huge ramifications on pretty much everything you do as a family - the money thing, decisions about where to live, as she gets bigger she will be more involved with your family life coming to stay, having her own room, sharing holidays. And the mother, of course, will always be there although her involvement will probably be more distant as the child grows up. Not to mention it changes the family dynamic when you have your own children. And if you have trouble conceiving or suffer miscarriages it could be even more painful.

I'm not saying you should definitely leave - I'm just saying that you need to consider the worst and embrace the situation as it is. You can't go into this half wishing that it was different. If that's likely to be the case, it would probably be kinder to end things now, rather than get to the stage where you have your own children and it's still difficult or perhaps you're older and your chance to conceive easily with somebody else is diminished. You really can't be naive about what it's going to be like and you need to decide - head here, not heart, unless your "heart" reason involves the little girl - if it's worth it.

BertieBotts Fri 25-Apr-14 20:28:48

And Jumping Jack is right that in a way if you did split up it would probably be easier for him to start a new relationship when his co-parenting role is more established. At the moment you really do take a back seat to the baby which must be incredibly tough and then there are all of these other emotions going on too, not all of which you can really share with him without hurting him.

doziedoozie Fri 25-Apr-14 22:46:34

In more normal circumstances your DP and the girl would have had a relationship and a baby together, then, when they broke up he would have the baby to visit his home. Also he would be the one taking baby to his parents. Instead he is visiting her and she is visiting his parents, which leaves no place for you. Which might be why it seems so unfair, which in a way it is.
As she has no family in the UK this arrangement will probably continue, at least for a while. When will the girl be happy to hand over baby to you and DP? - as she doesn't really know DP that well.
She might decide to move back home in the future. But it isn't going to get easier for you for a while but perhaps meeting the baby will help you decide.

Fluttercub Fri 25-Apr-14 22:47:16

Op do you intend to have children ? Because at the end of the day if you do have children with this man they will have a half sister wether you like it or not . You need to ask yourself if you honestly can accept a baby into your life that is not yours ? Do you like kids would you be prepared to care for her when she visits your dp ? I would advise meeting baby and try to stop over thinking the situation . Of course you will feel resentment towards her mum but the baby is an innocent and at that age she does and always will need her daddy I'm afraid . Can you handle the fact that he is going to have to have regular contact with the mother ?

purpleroses Sat 26-Apr-14 05:17:45

I'm not sure I really see why he needs such regular contact with the mother. An 18 month old should be old enough to visit her dad for at least a day at a time and probably overnights. I can see why you feel left out of all the contract takes place at the mum's house. Time for your DP to start being a dad rather than a visiter. Once the child is having contact at yours and you get to know her I think the whole relationship would feel quite different.

I split up with my ex when DD was only 3 months old. He only had contact at my house for the first few months. By about 10 months she was doing overnights. My ex takes the DCs to visit his parents (often with his new partner) and I take them to visit mine. We don't do that sort of stuff together. It is hard when a baby is young and maybe the mum is nervous of letting her be away from her. But 18 months isn't really a baby. It's a young toddler and unlikely to be still breastfeeding do I'd definitely encourage your DP to move towards more of a co-parenting role. I think that would leave some space for you in the relationship.

swissfamily Sat 26-Apr-14 07:47:30

Hi there OP.

You have had some great advice already but I thought I'd chip in as my DSD (now 8) was also the product of my now DH basically having casual / unprotected sex and yes, that makes him a bloody idiot

Like your DP, he was pretty desolate when DSD's Mum told him she was going through with the pregnancy. I met him a few weeks after DSD was born and he was having a nightmare getting regular access / bonding with the baby. Mum was basically taking the line that if my DH wanted to see his child, she had to at least be present and preferably, in a relationship with DH.....She swing from screaming that she loved him (they barely knew each other) to calling him a 'sperm donor'.

I tried to offer support emotionally but not being a parent myself at the time, or having much experience of babies in general made it quite hard. I stayed well away from the ex and the baby. We got married when my DSD was 2 and at that point, DH secured regular overnight contact. I remember the first night she stayed I went to sleep in the spare room; I just couldn't relax with this toddler in a cot at the end of our bed.

As time went on DH got 50:50 contact and we have had three children of our own. It's been bloody hard work. DSD's Mum still makes life very hard for us. All the 'blended family' issues you read about on this forum combine to make life really complicated sometimes.

When you say you resent your DH having all his 'firsts' with another woman / baby, please don't worry. I had the same concerns but DH told me over and over that all his memories of DSD when she was a tiny baby were all so fraught with bad feeling and tension that it was like doing it for the first time when our DS arrived. And I really believe him. He's a great Dad to all 4 of his children, they all love him and he adores them. Equally.

I do agree that if you've been with your DP for 18 months, you live together and the baby is 18 months now it would be appropriate for you to meet and have contact with her. She is old enough to do overnights and for you to have some family time of your own if that's what you want. Your DP needs to become more of a real parent and less of a visitor.

Seashell78 Sat 26-Apr-14 10:56:30

Thank you to all who have responded, I really value the experience that you are sharing.
My partner often feels I am making bit of a mountain out of a molehill, but he is very much a 'live in the moment' sort and I am a worrier and think a lot more about the wider impact and times ahead.

In response to some of the comments above - yes, I am very keen to have a family, but feel that the current situation is distancing my partner and I somewhat. I have a lot of friends with babies, a nephew, godchildren and love them to bits. My partner accuses me of having double standards - resenting that I can be so maternal with other kids but then show little interest in his offspring. I know I'm not making life particularly easy, but he doesn't show much interest in the baby either, and it's hard to know whether this is my fault or his own turmoil.

Walking away from the relationship is really not on my agenda at the moment. We have come so far, I'm in my late thirties and it hasn't been an easy journey finding a partner. I would also hate to blame an innocent child on the end of a relationship.

The comments have encouraged me to try and stop over thinking, see how it goes with maybe meeting the baby in the next couple of months and make it less about the baby's mother. Thanks.

alita7 Sat 26-Apr-14 11:15:09

That Is a good point, if all his contact is with the mum and she went abroad for a while then he will have missed so much with his child that it will all seem new when you have one smile

NomNomNom Sat 26-Apr-14 11:47:47

'The girl'? Was she under 18 when she had the baby? You've never met her, so why do you see her so negatively?

If your DP told her he didn't want her to have the baby, it was sensible for her to go to where her family live. Why did she come back to the UK?

Does your DP pay maintenance?

Of course it's a difficult situation, but you're not going to make it easier for anyone by building up the mother of his child as some kind of enemy.

If she is not comfortable with immediate overnight visits, you should respect that. It sounds as if your DP is a stranger to his child, and that might have been partly his decision.

Also, why do you buy clothes for his child? I thought you've never met her. If doing that makes you feel rubbish, just don't do it.

BertieBotts Sat 26-Apr-14 14:10:08

You're in danger of placing too much importance on some mythical version of "the one" and worrying that you'll never find someone again. Don't be afraid of being single. I can understand not wanting to end the relationship, but you should only stay with it if you're really on board with what's involved and what life is going to be like. It wouldn't be anybody's fault if it ended, least of all the little girl, so no reason to use that as a justification. It would be hard to leave, but it's also going to be hard to stay. It IS worth considering even if you ultimately choose not to.

I think it sounds right that he's seeing the baby at her house at the moment, 18mo is pretty young (my DS didn't see his dad overnight at that age) and especially if they've been abroad he needs to build up the relationship before she will be happy to come over, which is fair.

It's a little concerning though that you say he doesn't show much interest in the baby - what do you mean?

Seashell78 Sat 26-Apr-14 21:30:54

Thanks BertieBotts, I phrased that wrongly I think.
More overwhelmed rather than 'not interested'.
My partner and baby have met every other month for a year and a handful of times over the last few months. The baby doesn't recognise him and isn't being brought up with English as a first language. My partner is still coming to terms with their existence. He feels no bond yet. Like a poster previously mentioned, he sometimes feels like a sperm donor. He is paying though.

Now I know the majority here would say tough, man up and do the parenting, and if I wasn't so intimately involved and had witnessed first hand his pain I'd feel the same.
We both know there is no way back, only forward, and I think my partner is seeking my support, approval and help in becoming a parent, and unfortunately recently I haven't been able to offer this - quite the opposite. And that's what I'm hoping to change.

BertieBotts Sun 27-Apr-14 10:02:46

Every other month really isn't enough for a baby to build up a close relationship - I'm shocked at that since you said in the OP it was once every 1-2 weeks, I assumed that had been taken down from visiting more regularly when the child was smaller. Really with a little baby it needs to be multiple times a week, and if a toddler is not ready to stay overnight (which she won't be if she's seen him so little) then you're probably looking at about twice a week still now, definitely at least once a week. I'm really not surprised he doesn't feel a bond.

I think if he wants to be more involved then he needs to take some active steps towards this - he's had over two years to get used to the idea/fact, and it isn't going away, but doing it half heartedly isn't going to help either of them. She won't be comfortable with him until she knows him, he won't get to know her until she's comfortable, she won't know him and feel comfortable when they're meeting so infrequently. Especially if English isn't the main language used in her home, he is effectively her English exposure. Could you learn a language if you were only exposed to it once every 2 months?

Sorry, I don't think I realised what's actually the situation here - of course he's feeling unsure and out of his depth, because really he's just [being allowed to?] dipping his toes in the water, he needs to jump in more, or get out completely and go for a more distant kind of "skype once a week, visit in school holidays" kind of arrangement. This kind of half, wishy washy kind of relationship is no good for either of them.

Is she (the mother) resistant or has he just not really thought/wanted to ask for more? I'd say he needs to be seeing her about 3 times a week for maybe an hour or two and then as she gets to know him he can start taking her out twice a week for 2-3 hours at a time, increasing the time until she's comfortable and happy enough at your house to be staying overnight.

Or more extended visits over a longer time period but further apart - but he would probably have to do this at her house/at a familiar relative's house at the age she is at. And taking this role, he would have to accept that this isn't really a "dad" type role but more of a more distant relative like an uncle or grandfather.

purpleroses Sun 27-Apr-14 10:18:21

I think you need to support your DP to see that he does have a choice here. He doesn't have to be an active parent. The child's DM made the decision to go ahead with the pregnancy when she wasn't in a relationship with him and he'd made it clear he didn't want to be a dad. She must have realised she was going it alone in some sense. He could if he wanted keep up only very ocassional contact for the next few years with a view to having the odd bit of contact in the school holidays, or whatever when the child's a bit older and can remember who he is - a relationship a bit like many grandparents have really.

I'm not saying I think he ought to do this, but to talk it through as an option might help him feel less like he's been forced into something.

The alternative, if he wants to be a proper parent to a young child is to go for much more frequent contact - as the poster above suggests at least once a week, preferably more with a view to building up within a couple of months to having regular contact at your house without the mother involved, and after that going to overnights or whole weekends. A proper parental role. You would have to get used to your DSD being a big part of your life. But you wouldn't be left feeling - as you are now - that your DP was leaving you to go and be part of some other family whenever he saw his DD, as she'd be spending her time in your house with the both of you.

What he's doing at the moment is kind of sitting on the fence, maybe unsure which route he wants to take. I think it is his decision to make, but you might be able to help him think it through

Seashell78 Sun 27-Apr-14 11:29:10

Thanks.
I didn't really want to this thread to turn into my partners issues with being a reluctant parent - more about my own coping strategies in how to turn this into something more positive. But I now appreciate everything is so intertwined.

Purpleroses you have hit the nail on the head - my partner hasn't got a route or role yet. His conscience is obviously telling him to step up and be the active parent, but my reluctance to get excited, our depression and resentment about the issue, all that stuff is forcing him the other way.

Just to clarify BertieBotts - they were living abroad until recently, so the weekly/fortnightly visits have only been happening the last couple of months. The mother isn't in any way resistant to the visits, in fact she'd like us to take the child off her hands more and can't understand why we're not delighted parents.

We would probably have to move closer if the frequency of visits were to increase, and that would have wider implications for both of us.

RedFocus Sun 27-Apr-14 12:42:26

It does suck when your dp/dh has done all his firsts with the ex but if you want to stay in the relationship you are going to have to get over it otherwise the relationship will have to end. It's not the fault of the baby though and of course they should come first. Hopefully the baby will be able to stay over night and you can get involved too. You may even learn to love the baby. When you have your own baby it'll be totally different and so wonderful. If you love him though I'm sure you can work it all out. Good luck.

BertieBotts Sun 27-Apr-14 12:46:59

The higher frequency visits would just be for a short time, though, to build up the relationship to a level that the child would be happy to come and stay with you for longer periods. Sorry I had assumed you lived closer, but it's still important to build up the relationship first. I appreciate that's difficult! Sorry to focus so much on him but it really sounds like this in between limbo is making all of the issues so much worse. If it was clear one way or the other then it would be easier to make sense of it and build your life around it whichever way.

TinkyWinkyDipsyLalaPo Sun 04-May-14 12:45:57

How are things progressing seashells?
Have you asked to meet the baby? I think you might find it a lot easier once you have, and it's probably also easier to bond with her while she's young rather than leaving it for much longer.

LineRunner Sun 04-May-14 17:18:43

I don't understand why your partner's mates ask you how the baby is, when you haven't met the baby?

Do you mean they ask your partner in front of you?

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