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Expectations: Step-children EVERY weekend

(151 Posts)
Smurfette86 Sun 02-Aug-15 10:25:55

I'm honestly a little bit worried to be posting on this topic, based on some previous threads I've read through - but hey, I'm going to put myself out there because I need some different and honest perspectives.

I'm 29, and I've been together with my defacto for 7 years now.
When we first began dating (I at age 22, he at age 32), he had his two daughters (then 8 and 11) every second weekend, and Thursdays on alternate weeks. This arrangement worked fine, apart from that he worked on Saturdays and I would be left alone with the responsibility of looking after them until he returned home; which I discussed with him was unfair in light that he had sisters or his mother who could look after them, or his ex, who was unemployed. I was told that it was 'only the Saturday' and that 'they're young - they don't take much to look after'.

None-the-less, this care arrangement continued until about 3 years ago when the girl's mother gained casual retail employment, and my partner asked that we have the girls Thursday through to Monday morning each week for 'a little bit' to help her transition back to work. This was fine with me - in fact, I was super-willing because I was glad she was able to find work, and thought this might give her an activity which took up time that she would otherwise direct at her passive-aggressive meddling.

After 6 months or so I discussed scaling the visits back to every-other weekend, resulting in a 'what is wrong with you?' argument where I was made to feel like a monster.

In part, the reason attributed to their ages (then 12 and 15) - where they were messy, combative and bitchy with each other. The younger had frequent temper tantrums and a (well joked about by the family) "diva attitude". While I understand the developmental stage of the ages, and have been very patient with mediating the ongoing behaviour, it's simply exhausting to work Monday to Friday in a stressful corporate job and then spend my 'down time' dealing with more stress. I would start the following week at work more drained - and then the ensuing week of stress would pile on, and then the next weekend would come without release....
I tried to explain very reasonably to my partner that this stress was impacting on my diagnosed anxiety (which my partner is aware of) to which the response was that I 'blew things out of proportion' and 'needed to look at the big picture'.

Another factor was that as an on-call firefighter, my partner would frequently be paged away to incidents, and either be absent from the house in the only family car for hours at a time - or, he would be called away in the middle of a lunch while dining out, or in the middle of grocery shopping, and then I would be left, stranded with irritable and hormonal girls scrapping at each other until he returned. Often, I would try to explain to him that he didn't see a lot of the activity because he simply wasn't around a lot, and that, if he wasn't willing to book himself off for the weekend; that I felt that it was unfair for him to expect the girls to be here every weekend with the knowledge that he wouldn't be home with them to have quality time for the majority. When he is home, they sit on the couch and watch television, or all three of them sit glued to their individual i-Pad/mobile phone/laptop. Or in honesty, as an on-call firefighter, he takes time during the afternoon to nap on the couch, and isn't even awake.

The last factor is the case that I was aware that the girl's mother only worked for 15 hours a week, and of that, only 4 hours on a Saturday, with no employment on the Sundays. I tried to explain that in light of the other factors, why it couldn't be arranged for the girls to have alternate weekends with their mother as it wouldn't be the case that they would be sitting at home alone; their mother would be home with them. Being that the girls are at school during the week, it suprised me that their mother wouldn't want to have time during the weekend to be able to spend with them.

Yes, I know that I made a choice to have a relationship with a man who has children, and I feel that I've done a lot to foster a welcoming, nuturing environment where they want for nothing and have every opportunity available to them.

I don't necessarily agree with the notion that 'I've made my bed and have to lay in it' - in the sense that just because my partner has children means that I need to resign all my own entitlement to enjoy some 'child-free' weekends. I think just as I make compromises, that my partner should be more flexible in reaching a compromise for the things that are important to me too. The girl's mother frequently posts facebook updates about how she's 'enjoying a peaceful lazy sunday' or 'looking forward to tonight (Saturday)! Not like I have anything I have to get up early for tomorrow! drinks on me!' -

I don't understand how I sacrifice every weekend (my only down time) when their mother - who made the choices to have children - and who has 4 days every week "down time" where she gets her nails done, gets massages etc - seemingly gets to enjoy the social freedom of elective parental responsibility. It feels like role-reversal and I think this is very unfair. I've offered my partner for him to have the girls on two different days (eg have them on Wednesday and Thursday night) on alternate weekends, instead of the Friday and Saturday night - (returning to mom on the Sunday evening) but this hasn't happened.
I've even gotten to a point where I've said that I'd handle three weekends a month, just in desperation to know that I have that 'breathing space' for one weekend out of four - but the response is 'i'll think about it' and it doesn't eventuate.

After 3 years of this, I'm at a point where I don't know that I can stay in the relationship because of how drained I am, and how de-prioritised I feel. All I can think is that 'you only live once' - and I don't want a life where I constantly feel exhausted and taken advantage of while the girls biological parents skirt most of the responsibility. Am I being unreasonable? What should I do?

andthenagain Sun 02-Aug-15 10:31:57

You seem to have been given the role of childminder. I would make myself busy every weekend for the foreseable future, go meets friends,, pamper yourself even just out to a coffee shop on your own- do not be available for on tap childminding. Perhaps if your DP has to do all the work himself he will see things differently

carriebrody Sun 02-Aug-15 10:32:17

The thing is, the children could live with their dad full time.

If you don't want to stay in the relationship, don't. Or maybe move out so you can visit on weekends if you want to?

Your partner isn't going to de-prioritise his children though. He probably wants them with him as much as possible. You have to decide if you want to be part of that family or not.

ncterrornc Sun 02-Aug-15 10:32:26

I don't think you're unreasonable although some on here might.

I think a fairer arrangement would be that the girls 'rotate' between their parent's houses every week (so full week at yours, full week at mums) or every say, 4 nights??

That way everyone gets a fair share of weekends free versus ferrying to school and doing homework and washing and other daily grind stuff

goodbyespeech Sun 02-Aug-15 10:33:10

I totally see your point and I wouldn't be up for that myself.

However it could be worse ie he could be a single dad and they could be there permanently (my dc are with me 100% if the time but I am not in a relationship because of that.)

How old are the girls now? Surely it won't be long until they are doing their own thing and they will either not want to go to their dad's every weekend or they will be off out leading independent lives or university. I know that's not a dead cert but I would consider it if you really love your partner and want to be with him.

Alternatively get your own place until they are older.

TheStoic Sun 02-Aug-15 10:36:13

Just because my partner has children means that I need to resign all my own entitlement to enjoy some 'child-free' weekends.

Well...you kind of do, I'm afraid. If that's the arrangements their parents have made, and you have chosen to be in a relationship with their father.

Not many parents have 'child free' weekends. Being a step parent is no different. Sometimes it is, but not necessarily.

Not sure what you can do, other than lay down your boundaries and see if your partner accepts them.

tellmeofthetime Sun 02-Aug-15 10:39:52

They are now 15 and 18 and still being shared out like little ones ??
They are of an age where they can choose where to live / spend their time. My first reaction was 'sod that, tell him it's alternate weekends or you're leaving' then realised their ages and wondered what would happen if they wanted to live with you permanently.
I may be shot down for this, but 18 is old enough to behave and be told to, she's an adult FGS. The 'diva' 15 year old gets consequences if she doesn't.
And you want your own car or you don't go anywhere. Stranded ? Not a chance.
BTW the ex is probably posting stuff to wind you up, and its working. Block her.

StealthPolarBear Sun 02-Aug-15 10:40:11

Yanbu but I think your only option is to leave. Your do is taking advantage of you

pocketsaviour Sun 02-Aug-15 10:42:10

You're not necessarily being unreasonable, but you are being very unrealistic.

You entered this relationship at a very young age and were doubtless unaware of how much responsibility having a child is.

Your partner will always love and prioritize his DC in front of you. (As any good parent will.) If you can't accept that, you need to move on and find someone with no DC or desire to have any.

SlaggyIsland Sun 02-Aug-15 10:44:53

The responses so far are, somewhat predictably, missing the point that the OP has been left doing far more childcare then either of the parents.
OP does he realise that if you leave him he'd be screwed for having them every weekend as without you he wouldn't have adequate child care in place?

FeckTheMagicDragon Sun 02-Aug-15 10:44:53

I'm not a step parent, but I am a parent who's DH is a step parent.

Taking on step children is a huge thankless task. However, if you are expected to look after these children in their fathers frequent absence - but have no say in the arrangements s to when they come - and it's every weekend - that's unfair.
I would say to their father - they can come when ever, but from here on in you are only available for childcare duties every other weekend. If he has to go - for what ever reason he will have to sort out alternative childcare.

SelfLoathing Sun 02-Aug-15 10:45:54

It all sounds utterly exhausting and miserable. Is your partner really so great that it's worth being used as child minder?

The bit about going off in the only family car also struck a chord with me. I don't think I could cope being treated like that AND being expected to have no means of independent transport.

I think you'd have a much nicer life being single tbh. Or with a different partner - one with no children, adult children or a different arrangement.

carriebrody Sun 02-Aug-15 10:46:36

Surely there's no actual "childcare" involved now they are in their late teens?

InTheBox Sun 02-Aug-15 10:47:10

Is it possible for you to move out and gain some perspective?

It seems as though you're effectively convenient childcare. Your partner will always put his dc first.

Don't compare your lifestyle with the dc's mother. Yes she's the one who chose to have children but you have chosen to be in a relationship with their father. His children are a massive part of that. If you're not cut out for it then walk away.

If you're made to feel like a monster when you broach the subject then you're not being listened to. You're only 29 and I'd hate for you to look back one day and feel anger and resentment towards yourself.

holeinmyheart Sun 02-Aug-15 10:48:39

I don't think you are being unreasonable at all.
So what to advise without seeming patronising?
Your DH is in a cleft stick as, as a Parent myself I would not feel happy about his making a straight choice between you or them, because that would be an excruciating decision.
However the present situation is so absolutely unfair. Your DH has is taking the mickey.
Anyway this is what a friend of mine did in the same situation. She also inherited two step children, both girls made her life hell. ( I know the girls and they have admitted it to me)
She then ( unwisely and wrongly asked him to choose. ) He chose them and she moved out BUT they still carried on their relationship. He helped her move out and supported her.
When the girls eventually left and went to Uni she moved back in. They are now married and the Girls like her as she was a decent person( like you) and now everything is hunky Dory.

The only thing is, what about you and children ? At 29 I honestly wouldn't leave it much longer. That is if you want one. You haven't mention your hopes regarding them.
Best of luck and hugs

StealthPolarBear Sun 02-Aug-15 10:49:21

Shaggy I did mention that the dp was taking advantage. But actually I hadn't realised these 'children' are 15 and 18

magoria Sun 02-Aug-15 10:49:46

Except he isn't prioritising his children.

He isn't there for them.

He is happy for someone else to give up their free time and pick up all the slack.

Can you arrange to go away for a few weekends? Preferably in a row. And on a regular basis of once/twice a month.

Go and see family or friends? Even arrange a weekend alone in a B&B to chill and recharge?

Let him sort what happens with his DC if he gets called in.

I bet at 15 and 18 they will be left alone.

CalleighDoodle Sun 02-Aug-15 10:52:25

I dont think your partner is prioritising the children, because it isnt him looking after then fir large chunks of the time. It is you.

Also as youre not married, youre not their step-mother, why should that be your role?

I think tye situation is totally unacceptable from an outsider pov. But the main thing is you dont think it is acceptable and your partner doesnt seem to carr about your opinion.

Youve given them long enough transition time. You have to now be strong. You'll no longer be providing childcare for him at weekends. And give serious thiught to
Whether you want a relationship with a man who will not even discuss a reasonable
Compromise to A situation where you are the one so largely afected so frequently.

3littlefrogs Sun 02-Aug-15 10:52:30

A 15 year old and 18 year old do not need "childcare". They need parenting, from their parents.
The OP has done the majority of whatever child care was needed for the past 3 years.

IMO the OP has been taken advantage of by her DP and the ex. She has offered lots of reasonable suggestions and has been ignored.

OP - if I were in your shoes I would leave and find someone who is willing to treat you with kindness and respect.

Don't waste any more of the the best years of your life with these selfish people.

carriebrody Sun 02-Aug-15 10:53:23

Of course at 15 and 18 the OP can come and go as she pleases on the weekends and the "children" can be left alone.

OP, what difference in practical terms would a "child-free" weekend mean? I do understand that dramatic teenagers can be tough to live with but surely their presence isn't stopping you from doing anything?

BitterAndOnlySlightlyTwisted Sun 02-Aug-15 10:53:38

Both parents are taking the piss out of you. Because they can and you have let them. His kids are his responsibility and it's not fair that all of your supposedly free time is taken up by trying to parent someone else's kids. Is this really what you thought you were signing up for when you entered into this relationship?

In your place I'd ensure I was busy on alternate weekends as an absolute minimum if I wasn't prepared to walk.

Anniegetyourgun Sun 02-Aug-15 10:55:23

As usual, if I wait long enough someone posts exactly what I wanted to say and saves me the trouble. In this case it's Magoria - thank you for that! This great father is not putting his children first, he's getting his girlfriend to put them first.

I also agree with blocking the ex's FB. You don't need to know what she's up to. You need to connect over childcare arrangements? No, the children's father needs to do that.

And yes, get your own wheels so you can drive outta there and never go back

Missdee2014 Sun 02-Aug-15 10:56:00

So what if the children/your partner were to decide they were to come and live with their dad full time?

You take on a relationship with children involved then you take on the children with it. End of.

puffylovett Sun 02-Aug-15 10:56:56

What feckthemagicdragon said

13months Sun 02-Aug-15 10:57:00

I do think that you have shouldered too much for too long (why was it ever acceptable that you child mind alone while you dp is at work and the dm does sfa?) and then when you speak up it is ignored....

You need to be more assertive - although it looks like you have done the brunt of the child rearing for them already - make a proposition with a rational - consequences and a timeline.

But at 15 and 18 what on earth are YOU actually doing for them on a saturday - I have 4 kids work full time and at weekends it is diy food and laundry for everyone and they are out and about with their mates/activities.

Do you plan to have children with this man - what sort of parent do you think he is?

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