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Stepmum and adopter. Worried(22 Posts)
First post. Very emotional and stressed right now. Love my DH very much but need a real change from him as we enter Stage 2. Met my DH when his daughter, now 17, was 10 - he was a single dad when I met him. Don't know how many people here are step mums too who went onto to adopt.
I've spoken to my husband a lot about not neglecting our marriage and having boundaries with his daughter (he can be both over protective and permissive, which can result in rudeness and self centredness in her). E.g last Sat he took her to a hair appointment explaining that he couldn't pick her up as he'd be out. She returned and asked why he was home (he hadn't left to go back out yet, her hair appointments are usually longer) and she asked him to call her mum to apologise because she had to break a lunch date to bring her back. It didn't seem to occur to her she could have come home herself or waited until one of us 3 was free with a car and could have apologised to her mum herself. I told DH later that at an age younger than her I paid for my own hair appointments and got myself there and back, yet his daughter was so demanding. I told him that for years I have been asking him to agree with me some principles about how we live at home, so we can lovingly set this out for DSD and so we can support each other. He says yes, but never does so, spends time playing Wii with her and excludes me from conversations with her about chores, respect etc. So the teachable moment and natural consequences get completely lost and I feel like an interloper in my own house, not able to say anything when I notice something wrong, but raise through him. He does sometimes say, you can raise it with her. Tonight in bed we were talking about an adoption meeting we're having later today, and DSD knocked he invited her into our bedroom, she stayed for about half an hour and I was thinking, erm we were mid conversation here. I can hear you saying, so why didn't you just say that to her? Unfortunately because in something as small as that we have few boundaries, there. My husband doesn't seem to realise we also need uninterrupted time to talk about important things. He will frequently come to bed go on his phone then go straight to sleep hardly acknowledging me. I get that he's tired this time of year. I'm mentioning all this on the adoption thread because we're in Stage 2 now with panel in February. Ironically practices like therapeutic parenting that we've been reading about have principles that I've been trying to share with him in relation to his daughter over the years: empathy, structure, discipline, listening. As much as he's interested, I feel like it'll be a 2 tier household where I'll still have no say over how his daughter behaves, only over the adopted children. I honestly feel like I want to be honest with the social workers and say we struggle to be a united front as parents in this home. Adoption is going to be rewarding and very hard, especially for me as the stay at home parent. I'm resilient but will not be able to handle my DH checking out, denying any poor behaviour on his daughter's part, neglecting me as wife or just treating me as business partner. Adoptive children don't need that. For those of you that were step mums first,, which is a different dynamic to having your own DCs, how did adoption affect your existing family? Apologies for emotional vent. Christmas, work and family stresses.
Sorry I am not am a step parent. We have a birth dd and adopted son.
I think your dh needs some basic manners and he clearly is used to being on the parenting driving seat how will he cope with your being the stay at home parent? How will your step daughter cope with not ruling the roost?
Good luck with the process.
Hi, I’m a step parent of four children. I completely understand that divide you are talking about and the fact you feel to be an outsider with their relationship. As far as adopting is concerned I am not sure how to advise you there as it’s obviously a concern of yours. Do what you feel best for you and the child you will be introducing into your family. Sending you hugs & strength right now
I'm not a step parent but I have an adopted son, I think you'd be better off being honest with the SW, if you have a child placed with you and it doesn't work out because of problems which you have already identified but kept quiet about, not only will you feel devastated imagine how a child will feel, they don't know about your problems just that once again their life has fallen apart.
I think raising the lack of united front is a good idea. It will give you time and space to work it out.
But - can i very gently suggest that some of your expectations are too high. Being interrupted by kids is pretty normal - and she knocked which is good. A teenager coming to chat to her parents is brilliant.
I think you need to talk about house rules and also how they are enforced. Maybe you need to be open to thinking how to do this and deciding what battles are worth fighting and which ones to let go.
I agree that you’re expectations seem too high. I thought you were going to say that your step daughter was abusive or shouted at you or something. Not that she wanted a lift from the hair dressers and interrupted a conversation! Is there more to this? I work with teenagers and this doesn’t sound like the kind of behaviour that should be putting pressure on a marriage.
On the adoption side of things, it sounds like you both have very different views on parenting. I’m sure any decent social worker will pick up on this in stage 2. I’m not sure they would let you proceed until you could come to a compromise anyway, where you are both on the same page.
Sorry, I realise I sounded really abrupt and I apologise. This is an emotional time of year really. There are just several concerning parts of your post about your relationship and I’m not sure adding an adoption not the mix will be a success. Perhaps put stage 2 on hold and have some marriage counselling? I honestly think if you did that and worked through some issues, not only would you be stronger but SS would be pleased you have recognised and tried to put right the issues.
I agree with the other comments. I think your SD sounds like an average teenager. She sounds like a walk in the park. If you had of mentioned drinking, abusive, staying out all night. I would be concerned.
I think there may be more to it and you and your husband need some quality time to talk.
But I would be honest with your SW as if you're struggling now adding another child into the relationship will not help.
I'm going to paraphrase that much loved Mumsnet phrase, and say you don't have an adoption problem, you have a DP problem. And I don't think you have a step-daughter problem, either, you have a DP problem.
'Neglecting' you, treating you as his business partner, not talking to you coming to bed...those aren't brilliant signs and would be something you'd want to sort out for the sake of your relationship anyway, wouldn't you?
And it's certainly something you need to address before bringing an adopted child into the mix.
Ps you might also want to take a look on the step parenting board here. You'll see the full gamut of issues people face and might get some support.
I did find myself thinking this morning about how damn annoying teenagers can seem. DH's sister is 10 years younger and that age when we got together - i've never forgotten the horror of my first visit and being made to get out of the chair that i was sitting in because she wanted to sit there! Older and wiser now i can see that they were still treating her as the family baby. She had a lot of good points that i took a long long time to see.
Some form of counselling might be good. I think maybe your DH needs it pointing out from someone neutral that she's not a baby anymore. As well as getting to the nub of other problems.
Equally - on the basis of all behaviour is communication and starting to flex your attachment parenting muscles - do you think it's perhaps subconscious concerns about her dad being a dad again prompting her to be over demanding? Have you involved her in discussions about making time for each other and reassuring her things will change but she'll still get 1:1 time with her dad etc. Why is she over demanding? What is she compensating for etc etc.
But cos it doesn't sound easy.
To be honest it sounds like your DH has a really nice relationship with his daughter - and it's ok that she looks to him for lifts. It might be worth looking at your own experience of being patented given you feel she's overprotected. She might be but it also may be the case that you didn't get the care and protection you should have and so it seems excessive to you but is actually fine.
Have you got experience of children and young people beyond your step daughter because your description of her behaviour sounds both typical and actually quite well adjusted. I'd respectfully suggest that "teachable moments" aren't yours to decide in this relationship, she has a mum and dad whose role it is to raise her.
The bigger issue may be the lack of communication between you and your husband, maybe arrange times for the two of you to talk. Before kids my hubby and I would go out to dinner if we really needed to speak - if we tried to carve out time at home we both would end up distracted. Ask him to put his phone away and focus on the two of you. Any AC will be both your responsibility - yes it's hard being the SAHP but you both need to work together with these kids in a different way to how you care for your step child. If you already feel he neglects your needs and treats you like a business partner, the last thing I'd be doing is adding children into the mix, adopted or otherwise, because in the mix of caring for a traumatised child your needs will come quite far down the list.
Hi I am a step parent to DSS 8 and have adopted DD 1 with DH. The difference with us is that when I became part of DSS life 4 years ago he was told outright when he was asked who was in charge that it was both of us. My DH and his ex out us on equal pegging ( well I remind him that when it boils down to it that his parents are his mum and Dad then I'm next ). We made sure discipline is split. No parent out of the 3 of us disciplines more or less. People forget you're a stepPARENT. There are so many times when he is on just my care. Trust me I parent him. He comes to me with problems and achievements in equal measure. This dynamic only arose through early conversations with my DH and the support of his ex we were able to establish this united front.
As for the adoption process our SW wanted very much to know how we parent and my DSS was used as a primary example which was discussed at length with us and his ex. Has your SW discussed this with you?
I believe this is something you need to discuss with your DP. If you haven't parented together with your DSD then this will be new ground and a new dynamic and he needs to prepare for a shift in your role. You will be on equal footing with him.
Also just to clarify I understand you believe that she is overprotected. Unfortunately that seems to be this generation. (I'm not old by the way!)
I think OP concern is parenting with her DP as they are not in sync in these matters.
Sarah there is lots of good advice here. I hope it is useful.
Our birth dd is a teen, a young one, I must admit I would prioritize her if she wanted to talk when dh and I were talking (it would be so rare!). I'd also give her lifts and 'Molly coddle' her (in some people's eyes) but to be honest most of my friends do the same.
It 's a tough time to be a teen, a tough time be a parent and an especially tough time to parent a teen, IMHO.
What worries me (and struck me) about your post is...
"My husband doesn't seem to realise we also need uninterrupted time to talk about important things. He will frequently come to bed go on his phone then go straight to sleep hardly acknowledging me."
You really do need to be a team to parent well, IMHO. Plus this sounds very lonely for you.
"As much as he's interested, I feel like it'll be a 2 tier household where I'll still have no say over how his daughter behaves, only over the adopted children."
I think it is very realistic to think it is highly unlikely you will have more say in how his daughter behaves once another child/other children arrive. Why would you expect to have more say? Plus she is almost an adult.
"I'm resilient but will not be able to handle my DH checking out, denying any poor behaviour on his daughter's part, neglecting me as wife or just treating me as business partner."
This doesn't sound like your step daughter's fault. What is she doing that is so difficult?
It sounds rather like your husband is emotionally vacant.
When you say "... work and family stresses." Do you mean dh and step daughter or wider family?
Good luck, I really think done couples counselling may help. DH a d I had this pm a few occasions and it was useful.
Please, please, please don't adopt yet.
Nothing you are going through is unusual for a relationship, but it really needs sorting before you go ahead with stage 2. Adoption is hard and adopted kids are potentially more vulnerable and harder work than a biological child. It's a lot easier to fix these issues now than later in the process.
You two need to be on the same page with parenting- not just in theory, but now with your step daughter. Parenting is a skill; adopted kids deserve the best.
You need to strengthen your communication skills. If they aren't fab now, you'll feel a lot less accomodating of each other after one of the hardest years or two in your life. I shudder with fear at the prospect of adopting with someone who I 'tried to share' things with unsuccessfully so much it feels like a '2 tier household'.
Adoption is not about your needs. It is not a right. It is about the child. Even if you are overselling your worries because of a bad day/week etc, you need to go get some counselling together and come back when you are ready. Please.
Wow, thank you so much for replying.
italian DP himself agrees that he is sometimes 'the problem' and that he knows I'm not getting at his daughter when I raise concerns. Which is progress - he used to be v defensive, bless him. I advocate for her in fact if he's a little unfair, which they've both welcomed.
Those of you that said this is normal teenage behaviour, I kind of agree - we've lived full time together for 5 years - but last night DH was non communicative with me but v communicative with DSD, we hadn't discussed the meeting for today, hence me asking him to chat as we went to bed. I've been off work sick with heavy cold last 2 days too, consequently not sleeping properly, 25 people coming to ours for Xmas dinner too ! plus a bit of building work before then - so all a bit heightened for me yesterday. DH does get tired and less talky this time of year needing the Xmas break.
just happy The meeting was good, we're comfortable with our social workers. I did raise concerns over the united front, we talked about it lovingly and with respect. DH admitted that he had done things his own way in the past and would need to adapt in terms of the adopted children and in terms of our whole household so DSD is v much integral to our future family. It's not just a DSD thing, we talked about him sidelining me once in the past over an issue with his mum, and he admitted today that he's not always 'gotten it'. We both agreed that over the years we've gotten better at listening and will need to keep improving.
Re: it being pointed out that she's not a baby anymore, yes - DSD herself points this out, I never raise it with her, she tends to raise it with either or both of us, sometimes saying how much more responsible her friends are compared to her. In other ways though esp as an only child she's much more responsible than her friends. I can see DH making progress and starting to let go of babying her, but being there for her age appropriately - so I don't give him a hard time. He's come a long way he previously refused to allow DSD to do little jobs to earn money (which she's asked to do) like tidying the car or simply an errand such as go to the shop, in case she gets kidnapped. Or refused to let her do her own washing at 17 because she might fall down the stairs to the utility room!
She's now gone from never having gone to the shops alone (at 16) to getting a p/t job recently, flown by herself for the first time this year to Greece (!) met at the other end by family. And college has been a huge turning point for her with parties, boys, new friends - all (relatively) more normal now. So I think it's fair to say my DH (and me actually) have stopped catastrophising - if we ever were.
love no offense taken - as I say we've worked hard to have a close strong family life and we are very fortunate to make it work, DSD is close to us both, clearly she shares things with dad and not me, and with me and not her dad, as well as talks with her mum. Interestingly, I told SS and DH that on reflection I needed to manage my own expectations, so interesting you guys picked that up.
Been lurking on the stepparenting thread for a while :-)
jelly Do you have stepchildren at home? My friends who are both parents and stepparents often find the parenting role far easier, no matter how much on the same page the adults are. It's not only mum and dad's role to decide teachable moments, especially when DSD wasn't raised by mum and has a tricky relationship with her. Her parents didn't marry or live together with her - we do and I'm not going to ignore concerns in our home. E.g. some time ago she unusually made a threatening comment towards me, I spoke with her told I didn't appreciate that, she apologised, I asked what was going on for her, we chatted it through and that was it - normal parenting in my view. Brought my DH up to speed, neither of us raised it with her mum, sorted. So I disagree it's only for mum and dad to do the raising in our home .
Agree it's important to look at our own parenting, which we both do. To be honest outside of DSD I've more experience with children than my DH, I've worked with children and young people professionally and voluntarily for many years with more little ones in my family than there are on DH's side. I'd say parent friends of ours are far stricter than us.
We've always worked on our relationship, and had good friends to rely on, have date nights etc. Interestingly today DH told SS that a lightbulb had come on for him in terms of therapeutic parenting. We do love each other enough to do the hard work and if I notice a communication or emotional problem I'll always raise it, because we're keen on learning for the best interests of the children and we do make good progress.
completely agree with your comments. I respect the parents but also did the school runs, school plays, arrange work experience, do the holidays (taking her friends usually), host the sleepovers and parties, doctor runs, overseeing homework, teaching about cooking, playing, dealing with hygiene, pubity, nightmares, hugging, reassuring and listening. Like it or not that's not part of parenting and raising a child.
DSD's mum has had relationships, some serious incl almost marriage, in the past and is besotted with a new interest, so yes DSD has spoken about potential changes coming up on her mum's side too. So we're mindful of those development too.
Thanks all for your comments.
Won't trivialise things, but I was definitely reacting last night. Hopefully will sleep better tonight. zzzZZ
Sarah if things are all going so well why did you post about a 2 tier family? You first and last posts paint very different pictures. If things are really great, that is fab.
If you have any concerns, do address the now, together. DH and I have had counselling sessions as we had a lot of fertility treatment and for some of it counselling was essential (donor eggs) and we also chose to do some voluntary counselling together. DH hates it, but it does/did help.
Whatever happens, I wish you all the best. Your dsd sounds amazing and lovely.
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