Everything's basically fine, but I can't help feeling increasingly resentful and discontent...advice?
I'm just looking for a bit of advice, or to speak to anyone who might be or have been in a similar situation to me. I don't really have anyone in my life I can speak to about what I'm feeling at the moment...
I'm 28, and have been with my boyfriend (36) for two years, living together for one. Everything is good between us. He has a 6 year old son from his previous long-term relationship. The son stays with us about two weekends out of three plus half of the holidays.
(just for background: things went wrong with my BF and his ex during the pregnancy, and they mutually decided to separate when their child was about 1 year old. She is now in a new long-term relationship, has had another baby with her partner etc. My boyfriend and hi s ex-partner have remained friends, and still have a really good relationship - there's no animosity there, we often all meet at various occasions or for dinners etc (ie me, my boyfriend, his ex and her new partner, all the kids etc) and that's fine.)
Actually, having read some other posts on this forum, I think I'm pretty lucky given the lack of animosity in my situation, and maybe I should just be counting my blessings rather than posting this. But anyway.
I knew right from the beginning that my BF had a son, and what that would mean in terms of his priorities and the impact on his/our lives. I absolutely understood and can't even imagine thinking anything else other than that of course the child has to come first, that he didn't ask for this situation and we all have to do what's best for him etc. It was just obvious. I met the son after about 4 months of me and my BF being together, and it was all fine. No acting out on his part, we got on fine, he was just happy to have another person to play with during the weekends he spent with his father. I was happy that he liked me, and that I was making my BF happy by forging a good relationship with his son. All very easy.
The problem is that, one and a half years down the road...I feel like a horrible person for saying this, but I think the "novelty" of having a child around is starting to wear off and I find myself focusing more and more on all the ways this is impacting my life. Maybe its partly because the kid has got more bratty over the year - nothing serious I'm pretty sure its just normal behavious for a six year old, and its certainly not specifically directed against me or anything, but I just find I can stand it less and less. All the suddenly refusing to eat food he used to eat before, the tantrums when he's told he can't have something, the endless need to be entertained, the lack of understanding of adult people's feelings...I know as I type that these are all normal kid things, but I just can't stop myself from being SO annoyed by it all. I find this annoyance permanently welling up in me, and I know it's not a good thing but I don't know how to combat it. We still get along OK, but I'm aware that I don't really make an effort to talk to him or play with him nearly as much as I did. On the other hand, I very rarely actually verbalise my annoyance at his behavious, or reprimand him.
I've started to think about how for my whole life, if I stay with my BF, who I love, I'm going to be tied to living within 20m drive of wherever the kid's mother chooses to live...and since she's lived in the same town all her life, she's not going to be moving any time soon. The problem is that I'm not even from this COUNTRY let alone this town (I came here from England with the intention to stay for a year, but after meeting my boyfriend and liking the country I decided to stay) and it pains me to think I can never choose where I live again, or live in my home country again, at least for the next 12 years or so, as I know my BF would never want to live far from his son, and I would never ask him to.
I've started to resent the weekends where we have to do kid-type outings and keep the kid entertained...it's not like I don't enjoy these things, but it feels like overload.
I'm certainly resenting the fact that our holiday this year is in a kid-friendly camping type place, rather than somewhere I'd actually be interested in going.
I can't stand the mess the kid leaves everywhere after I spend ages cleaning the house...or the constant sound of computer game music instead of music I might like to have on...
Basically, I think that its just that I'm 28, I don't even know if I want children of my own at all, yet I'm suddenly in a situation where I have a part-time kid and have all the hard work but not so much of the reward...I know he doesn't love me, how could he be expected to, and I don't love him, and I feel like that mutual love would be the reason to accept all the stuff that I don't really like doing. BUT I really really love my BF and I don't want to make him unhappy by bringing this up with him. Because honestly...what can he say? I don't even want him to make any changes to anything, what's the point of just saying "I'm a bit fed up with suddenly being a part time mum"...I mean what can really be done here?
I just want to know if anyone else has been in a similar situation to me, if it got better or worse depending on the kid's age or the length of time or whatever. I can't imagine leaving my boyfriend, but at the same time when I stand back and look at the situation that would seem like the only thing to do really in terms of an actual solution. Maybe it's even irresponsible of me to stay in this situation if I'm not sure about my commitment to it it, is that not fair to the kid?
How on earth do you decide if the sacrifices and concessions you have to make when you're a step-parent, are worth it? I can't imagine just walking out of my relationship, it seems unthinkable, but at the same time I don't know if I can imagine a life of kid-based summer holidays and weekends of unspoken annoyance and resentment, of knowing that the future will always be a certain way because the kid will always be there with the same needs and demands...help?
i thought your post was very sensitively written.
i'm not a step mum, but ds1 has one, and even though she gets on well with him, she seems to basically feels the same way about him as you do about yours. she is considerably younger than me and in the beginning she seemed to quite enjoy day trips out and buying him clothes etc, and sort of 'playing' at being mum. but as the years have passed she has definitely become increasingly resentful, and you're right, the cuddly little 4 year old is quite different when they're a smelly stroppy 9 year old.... so i suspect you're not unusual, but i also think you're right to seriously think about whether it is something you can live with, because there are still an awful lot of parenting years left, and i don't think it necessarily gets any easier.
Riverboat I think you are describing what most normal parents feel. The thing is you haven't had the maternity leave or new born phase and bonding to get used to the idea that your life has changed forever if you are in the step parent role.
Its sounds like you are simply not ready for this yet and may have to rethink. Possibly explaining to BF that you want to be sure you want to do this parent thing forever and you need time to think about this. Of course this may end your relationship.
I have a split family, having grown up with my parent and their married to partner. My other parent had a hard time finding a lasting realtionship after the marriage broke down. So I am speaking as the child in all this I suppose but I can see that the issue for my single parent has always been the needs of the other person's children. Its like a family style as much as personality. The live in your pocket totally dependent on each other family doesn't work with a person who has a certain amount of detachment and independent spirit.
You should only continue with this if you are very sure you want to live within 20 miles of the place you are in and for now only want to go kid friendly holidays.
I love my children dearly but last night when the sun was out I really was thinking 'when am I going to get another evening where I am not on bedtime duty and can sit and watch the sun go down with my wine' No time soon and I chose this.
Thank you very much for the replies everyone. It's interesting to hear from people coming from different perspectives on the situation, ie stepchild, stepmother, mother of a child who has a stepmother...
I guess I knew there would be no easy answers.
The thing is I seriously cannot imagine just leaving my boyfriend right now. I just couldn't. Do you think it's would be wrong for me to just give it more time, see how things develop? I guess that as slimbo says, at the moment the love I feel for my partner outweighs my concerns at the stepparenting situation. Maybe the natural thing for me to do is wait and see if this balance changes? Or is that being unfair to my partner, ie leading him on? Or unfair on the kid, letting him get used to a situation which may turn out to be temporary? Or unfair on myself - after all I'm nearing my thirties, and while I'm not positive I want children of my own, I certainly haven't ruled out the possibility, and if this isn't the situation I want to have them in then maybe I should be getting out and looking for the situation that is?
But then maybe if I did decide I wanted children in a couple of years, having a child of my own would make this situation easier to deal with? I mean at the moment it's dificult because I haven't chosen to be a mother, and so resent making mother-type sacrifices...but if in a few years I do feel ready to be a mother and have my own child, maybe this whole situation will be a lot easier on me?
Sigh it's just so difficult.
You obviously love your boyfriend. I don't think anyone could say you were doing wrong by staying with him if that is what feel right. After all i cannot imagine there are many people who get married yet feel they may change their minds later. However they obviously do or we wouldn't have step families at all. If you are prepared to work at it and you obviously are then as others have said keep doing what you are doing. Also as parents and partners you can still be a healthy, happy family without doing absolutely everything together. Make sure you make time for yourself and tell your partner you need this. No one bats an eyelid these days if you go to see a film or have a coffee on your own. I thought I would feel really stupid going to see a movie by myself but actually it was fine, especially if you go during the day.
You have acknowledged your feelings, you may need to share them with bf. Now you can work with them. Think carefully about the having children yourself thing, does bf want to do this with you in the future. Ultimately that might answer your question for you. Good luck
You say that a mutual love between you and your step-son would be a reason for accepting all this - but it seems to me that it's the mutual love between you and your partner that is the reason for doing it.
My partner has two teenage daughters, and while I have a perfectly friendly relationship with them, and like them both, I don't love them, and wouldn't expect to. I don't feel guilty about this - they have a mum and a dad who love them loads, I don't need to do it. I tend to try and keep my distance from them in terms of actual parenting. They don't need a third parent, and a bit of distance in the relationship makes it easier for me to cope with their moods, fussy eating, boring TV choices and mess, because I can kind of "switch off" to those things in way I could never do with my own kids. So, to me, not loving my partner's kids is a way of making the relationship work and keeping a space in it for myself.
That probably sounds a bit cold, but I really don't think it is - it's just a way of making a difficult situation work.
I would be wary of taking advice from people speaking from the stepchild's perspective because they have an unrealistic view of what a sm can do - as do many sms at the start of the relationship. I have been a sm for 7 years and relate to a lot of what you feel. I wanted to be perfect - as a stepchild myself - but have found it much harder than expected.
The thing that helps is not doing everything to make your stepchild happy but to consider your own needs and set some boundaries. In my case his meant instituting a bedtime - which I now discover most parents want to! I need evening time with my dh. I also think you should have couple holidays. If you can manage one couple holiday and one family holiday, great! If not, perhaps the couples one is more important.
I would also talk to your partner about your very reasonable feelings. I have and admire my dh greatly for his ability to take my feelings on board. We've talked a lot about behaviour over the years and I do tell dsc not to do things etc.
We have two dcs now and it's made me pretty annoyed to see dh getting irritated with dd1 for doing things that didn't bother him with dsc! Dsc still gets away with things because dh doesn't want to spoil ther time together. I wish I had had greater confidence in the validity of my feelings early on - because I certainly put up with behaviour that we would never tolerate in my dcs.
Ultimately it has all been worth it for me - because of the strength of my relationship with dh. And I play a very important role in dss's life too.
I really feel for you riverboat. I've been in your shoes (though with a lot of animosity between my partner and his ex) for about 3 years and although some aspects have got easier ultimately it's still not my child and we're still beholden to his ex calling the tune on where we live, when we see his child and causing problems for us relentlessly. Given you say your partner has a good relationship with his ex perhaps you can use that to agree new access arrangements etc if you were to move further away. You are in a good position from that perspective. It is a shame you don't have anyone to talk to about this, though I know from experience that people always seem to automatically judge you and your partner and side with the real mother - even when they absolutely don't deserve it! Ultimately however, you should put yourself first, the child has both parents and they are their responsibility not yours. Over time I have come to love my step child, but that doesn't make things easier (because they're still not mine and my partner and I still have no rights compared to the ex) and in fact worse because it brings out all the petty jealousies of the ex. Good luck with your decision.
if your family live internationally, whilst they might be well and healthy now, what happens when they fall ill or / if you want to return home? its not like you can pick up DSS and take him with you.... if he was 'your own' then you could. be prepared to make enormous sacrifices that are neither recognised or reciprocated. think very carefully about whether it is worth it to you.
With regards to the comment about not being near to your family and home, there are a lot of people who have to follow their partners for their work and leave their family behind. So I don't think it's unusual to not be near to your family when you have a partner.
However, the difference probably is that you feel you are supporting your partner and the end result is probably of benefit to both of you. Better job, better quality of life etc. whereas staying in a certain place because of a child means that there is very little, if any, benefit to the step parent.
From my experience, I thought I would be a "part time" step parent and I am finding that I am constantly bombarded with the needs of my step children on a daily basis. It's relentless and hard work. I also get frustrated that I have to seem to constantly make my son sacrifice things in life for his 4 step siblings, wheras I feel they have only "gained" from having me and my son in their lives.
I too am a parent and I have had many, many times when I wished for freedom and time away from my own son who I love with all my heart, so I completely understand any step parent who feels the same way about a child who isn't biologically their own.
I have no answers, but you are not alone in experiencing the feelings you have.
Thanks again for the new replies. RE: making time for myself, this isn't really a problem, my boyfriend is absolutely fine with me going off by myself sometimes to meet friends or go shopping or whatever on the weekends when the child is here. If there's a party that we're both invited to that isn't kid-friendly, he will always say that he will stay at home with his son, but I should go to the party if I want to. So that side of things isn't a problem. It's more just the constant low-level stuff of sharing my home with a child - mealtimes, mess, etc, the stuff I mentioned before. Getting out on my own for a bit definitely helps me to cope with this, but annoyance can start to creep back in surprisingly fast once I'm back home with the sound of video game music blaring and/or toys thrown about everywhere and/or complaints about the dinner and/or a constant and relentless barrage of requests to play games...
I guess what I'm worried about also is the likely effect on my long-term relationship with the kid (assuming I stay with my boyfriend) if he can somehow pick up on the fact that i kind of resent him being around, especially in terms of me not talking to him very much or making a huge effort to play games etc...Part of me thinks I should be putting more into my relationship with him in order to get more out, but I find playing the kinds of things he likes so boring! Or even when I do play with him, it never seems to be enough, he constantly wants me to keep playing and then I feel like I haven't done enough, then I feel annoyed at him for not understanding that his games aren't that interesting to me and that I have other stuff I want to do...
lateatwork I now live in France (just outside of Paris) and my parents are in England, so it's not massively far away. Also my parents aren't very old, so hopefully by the time they reach a vulnerable old age (eg 70) the kid will be grown up anyway so it shouldn't be an issue. But yes, I take your point, and it does worry me what I would do right now if something happened to one of them, especially as I am an only child myself.
One thing I haven't mentioned is the language barrier...I speak French, but only the French I've learned from living here for 2 years, I'm still not what I would consider as 100% fluent and comfortable in the language. So I think sometimes my relationship with my "stepchild" suffers because I can't communicate with him totally freely and completely understand all the nuances of what he says all the time...another frustration to add to the mix!
OP I read your thread a couple of days ago and have been meaning to reply to it.
First of all, when I read what you are feeling and going through, it sounds like me talking. All these feelings of being overwhelmed/outnumbered/resentful are all very relevant to me, and have been since the day I met DH 9 years ago.
Before I had DS (with DH), I think it was a lot worse. I was used to living as a child-free person, and so when the children were around every other weekend, I actually used to dread it like a big black cloud looming. My heart used to sink (and to be honest still does_ when DH arrived back with them.
I used to resent that every other weekend, we couldn't plan anything or do normal stuff. Like you, I was completely free to do my own thing, and used to plan these weekends in advance to keep myself busy. It was made worse by the fact that the ILs used to decend on us when the kids were around. So I was utterly outnumbered, and like you, my family lives overseas. I absolutely hated it.
Since having DS it is a little bit better, in that I no longer am used to being child-free at any point. But yes, I still get that sick feeling in my guts when weekends loom, and yes I could still scream when their mess is all over the house. I completely empathise with you.
Being a parent is extremely hard. But with you own child, the intense bond of love makes sure that every hard point is outweighed hundredfold by positives. As a SP, there is nothing to offset the negatives. It's a slog.
I think you are right to question your future at this point. I'm not saying you should leave - that is your decision. But it is extremely wise to think it all through. I was a bit naive in retrospect.
I have now read your blog and I can definitely see similarities. When I met my boyfriend I knew he come as a package and after getting his eldest to accept me I thought things couldnt be better.
But as few people said we dont have that special relationship with our step children, we didnt carry them and we didnt bond in a maternal way. We give and dont get much in return. If a friend of mine came to my house and took, took, took I would not necessary want to have that friend over again. I know we are the adults, but as human beings we need to feel appreciated, noticed and receive something in return.
Someone here said that when one has its own child the love for the child outweighs the negative feelings and I couldnt agree more.
I look at my BF and his love for his 3 sons is great as they test his patience at times, yet he still loves them unconditionally even thought sometime HE gets irritated by them. But soon he forgets as they give him a cuddle or say something he can be proud of or generally he is interested in them in a way I cannot be and will never be.
His 8 year olds jokes make him laugh whereas I find them silly and wish his jokes were more mature. I see other children his age and they ARE more mature, so I find it frustrating that he isnt so. Kids grow up at different times, so I hope he will catch up sort of speak.
The good thing is that you have a great relationship with his ex and her new partner. I cant say that for mine unfortunately! The other day we were driving from an airport and we were picking up the boys straight after. I NEVER come with my boyfriend to pick up the kids as I dont want to make a scene and knowing her there would be one, but this was a one-off.
When I go out of the car she came out of the house screaming to my BF to get her out of my drive way or I will call the police! My BF said go on then, but I will remain here until I pick up the kids. I later had the 8 year old telling me that his mummy wanted to call the cops for you. Nice. And this is from a woman who gets married in 2.5 months and apparently has never been happier in her life her text and e-mails to my BF. Strange.
And at least your boyfriend understands the fact that you want to stay in bed or do things with your friends or on your own whereas mine even if he does understand he wishes I was more involved, which is difficult for me at the moment.
As for you to think about where you want to live. It is hard. I am not from this country, but I lived here for the last 15 years (apart from one year in Sydney few years ago), so I can sympathise with you. I have chosen to live here (after 7 years together my ex husband and I divorced) and I decided to stay here as I had my life here, friends etc. But if the choice wasnt mine in a way that it was dictated by where the children live I wouldnt be so happy. I know we will never live in North London because the kids are in Surrey, so we chose Wimbledon as we both like they area and it is close-ish to the kids, about 40 minutes drive. I think 20 minutes is a little bit unrealistic especially if you see them every 2 weeks. Perhaps you can discuss this with you BF and his ex and her new partner. Perhaps her new partner shares some of your view.
If you live in another country and you miss UK, then it is not just about the kids, but where you see yourself living in the next few years.
There are no easy answers, I know it took me good 2 years to adjust to living here and I had much less to worry about as my ex hubby and I didnt have any baggage. You said your step son is only 6 years old, so if your BF wants to stay with him till your step son is an adult, you will have few years living where you dont necessary want to and I know from my own experience from Sydney that it can be a killer as you will resent the situation more and more.
Is there any possibility that you can have some of the holidays in the UK just the 2 of you? Perhaps when you will have more friends and you are more settled where you are you will be thinking differently although I know I didnt few years ago. I have now travelled greatly and lived in 4 countries, so I got my travel bug out of me a little, but if you miss UK you must think of what you want out of live not just what your BF must have, which is being close to his son. You matter too and it is your life and you must decide what is best for you. Sometime it is better not to do anything and to wait and see how things turn out. I am sure that if you find this sutuationa increasingly difficult you will know what to do althought it may not be what you want to do now.
Take care and good luck,
I dont think its unusual to be away from family either- but I cannot think of another reason other than a step child that would lock someone into a particular location for potentially 18 years. Following a partner's job just isnt the same..
Riverboat I could so easily have written what you posted. OK, so the details are slightly different (I met DH six years ago when SS was 11) but the sentiments are exactly the same. I cant describe the black cloud of despair and frustration, that I used to feel when DH pulled into our driveway with SS in the car on Thursday evenings, knowing he would be with us til Sunday 6pm. The word resentment doesnt come close. Having to suspend normality to accommodate someone elses child for days on end, is not pleasant. When SS arrived, hed restrict my use of my home, have a negative effect on my relationship with DH, curtail our freedom, blight our leisure time he brought nothing positive to the situation. Of course, if he were bio child Im sure I would have felt differently. But he wasnt, so I didnt.
The worst times were coming home from work on dark winter evenings, knowing Id arrive home to find SS already ensconced on my sofa, clutching my remote control, effectively preventing me from relaxing in my lounge. I often used to stay late at work to avoid coming back to the house.
The only reason I stayed, is that I love my DH very much. I love him enough to tolerate his son. But the resentment does spill out into other areas when you lose every other weekend to a stepchild, you dont feel able to cut your partner much slack in other areas. The frustration of step parenting has already pushed your tolerance levels to their limit, theres just no more capacity for further annoyance. The most minor trespass on DHs part felt like the last straw at times, simply because I already have your son ever y other weekend, do you really expect me to put up with your golf clubs in the porch as well?????? Im sure you get the drift.
DH and I often discussed whether wed try for a child of our own. But with SS in the picture, it always felt like a non-starter. The thought of bringing a new baby home, and then having SS arrive for a long stay, just didnt compute. And also any child of mine/DHs would have to live by the restrictions imposed by SSs existence and that seemed so wrong. There are some atrocious stories on this forum about ladies trying to organise child-birth around access weekends, and second family children playing second to first family children. Then you get ladies who have c-sections, only to find the step children arrive two hours after shes been discharged from hospital ..
As someone once posted, animals rarely tolerate other animals offspring. They kill them. Its against nature. Which is probably why so many of us find it so hard.
hi Riverboat not got long to post but just wanted to sympathise. Like others say - I think it's good that you are thinking things through.
I am a stepmum to DSD aged 13. I have since had 2 children of my own, who are toddlers. In many respects, so far, things have worked out brilliantly well - in that, DSD lives with her mum not too far from us and comes over here every other weekend and every thursday. She gets on with my two, and we all get on pretty well. She's hit adolescence which is exposing new challenges, (she's said she wants to live with us, for example - to my horror! - that's another story) but we are all muddling through.
Anyway, I really identified with the tales of feeling encroached upon, and how it feels as though someone takes over your house etc that came up in this thread and I guess those feelings are really just normal - I don't think you should feel you can't mention those to your bf - as those are valid feelings too. Yes children are important, but you are important to your bf too, and I think it's better to get these things out in the open. I don't think you can expect to love your stepchild in the same way that you love your husband - but if your views were being aired and respected you might feel a bit more included & therefore relaxed and better about the whole thing.
I would recommend scheduling time for you and your BF. Apart from our honeymoon (2 whole weeks away!) , myself and DH have only had 4 days holiday alone in 7 years. But we have had weekends away and that has really helped - in terms of space from my DSD as well as my DDs. Also we will try and go out alone in the evenings together. I think a lot of Dads who don't live with their child feel bad about going out at the weekend when their child is with them - but if they are in bed asleep anyway, it's easy enough to get a babysitter - and it is also part of normal life. It's easy to spoil a child in this sort of situation, and this is something your partner might need pointing out.
I am older that you btw and did want kids - I don't know if I'd have felt the same way at 28. Also my DH was very good at seeing my perspective from the start, which helped! So I didn't actually have to verbalise so much.
Anyway, hope some of this made sense - my two are about to wake. good luck!
I feel better about the whole situation I think just for having concretely expressed what I feel here, and have other people identify. I'm going to see how things go this weekend with DSS, I feel like I have a slightly different perspective/expectations now since our last weekend together (2 weeks ago), so maybe this will influence some of my emotions during our time together.
At the very least this should be an interesting weekend as it's DSS's birthday on Sunday and there's a big family barbecue (which will include me, my BF, his ex (ie DSS's mother), her BF, her BF's child, DSS's half sister, plus extended family of ex) and generally these occasions actually make me feel pretty good about the whole situation as they tend to go very well, everyone has a good time, and I come away feeling that this whole 21st century blended family thing has the potential to be a good thing.
That said, at these events I do sometimes have momentary twinges of "I am the only childless person here" and "it's pretty weird that suddenly this whole someone-else's-familial-suburban celebration thing is such a big part of my life" ...but I think I can cope. Life takes us to unexpected places sometimes, but unexpected doesn't equal bad, I think I need to remember that.
Wow, I am so glad I read your post riverboat. For the last few months I've been having all the feelings you described and I ask myself on a constant basis, "What's wrong with me??" My details are slightly different only in that I'm 42 (too late for children of my own) and my DSS is 11. I also live in a foreign country but thankfully we all speak English. My relationship with his ex is non-existent but it drives me crazy that every decision she makes (or can't be bothered to make) has a direct impact on my life.
It's no secret that I generally dislike children but my relationship with my BF is very strong and he's very understanding of my struggles as a reluctant stepmother. And my DSS is a very nice child, no tantrums, generally easy-going and always very polite. So why do I cringe when I think about the upcoming weekend when I have to cook "child-friendly" food and invent ways to keep us all entertained? I have no interest in his yo-yo tricks or boring video games, I think I just find it extremely difficult to relate to kids.
I found this post a while ago (the Stepmother's Prayer) but it made me laugh and I don't feel quite so horrible when I read it:
And no, you aren't the only childless person here (I thought I was too)!
kimeleon - I've been really relieved too, to read your post and also the posts of others here. It makes a big difference to know that these feelings are so common, even when on the surface there isn nothing really "wrong" in teh situation in terms of concrete things to complain about...
PS: I meant I am the only childless person at the various celebratory get-togethers with DSS, BF, DSS's mum and stepdad (ie my BF's ex and her partner) plus the ex's partner's kids from HIS previous relationship, plus their new kid, plus assorted aunts and uncles and godparents and family friends ALL of whom have kids of their own, plus grandparents...the saving grace is that they are all seriously lovely people and go out of their way to make me feel welcome and included, but even so I'm sometimes a little taken aback to realise I am literally the only childless adult there, the only one who doesn't share some kind of blood-link with at least one other in the group...where have all my peers gone?!
riverboat, I can really understand where you're coming from with respect to "am I the only childless person here?". Obviously women who choose not to have children are in a minority and are often misunderstood. How many times have I gotten that pitying stare from mothers when I tell them that I don't have children of my own? The ex-pat community where I've ended up revolves around play-dates and other people's children, which often results in me feeling like a freak. Never mind that it's a ridiculously tight-knit group and everyone is friends with my DSS's mother! Where are my martini-swilling, like-minded, child-free friends?? ;-)
But seriously, I think it can be difficult and lonely when you're the only person without children. I've surprised myself by posting here on MN but, in spite of BF's best efforts to understand, it's difficult to confide in people when it comes to my feelings about step parenting without being judged as a selfish cow.
Riverboat, you sound very thoughtful. I think one of the hard things about your situation is that you have no one near you in a similar situation to talk to, to sound off to and to get reassurance that your feelings are normal. Usually when one becomes a parent (I am a mum but not a step mum), one gains a new set of "mum friends" some of whom may go on to become very good friends, some may not, but they are an invaluable sounding board for mutual support and advice. You are missing that and it will be hard.
Also, I would say to you that if you do have a family with your DP, things will be different because you will then be used to putting your children's needs before your own and the annoying kid habits that all the little buggers have will then be easier to bear.
Can you articuate anything that you do like about this little boy? How would you feel if he suddenly disappeared? It's fine, obviously, if you don't want to say on here, but it might help you to clarify your feelings.
Another thing that helps with parenting is reading the odd book to understand about children. They are self centred and demanding and that is absolutely normal. I can't think of a book about kids of this age in general (the ones usually mentioned on here are to do with behaviour management and communication).
Also, if you do want to stay with your partner, can you try to show warmth towards this little boy in the hope that eventually your feelings become real? Fake it till you make it, as they say?
Have been a child free step parent for 7 years now so am qualified to advise...
Avoid mealtimes becoming a battle. Just give in. Make dp responsible for the catering. NEVER put care and effort into food specifically for the boy. Feed him the same old boring stuff he likes and eat nice things yourself. This one really isn't worth it because you'd need a huge amount of day to day consistency to get anywhere.
Irritating noises in shared spaces are not allowed. This is a massively reasonable rule.
6 year olds are generally pretty easily influenced, so share your hobbies and favourite activities. Walking, swimming, theatre, computer games (of my choice), cycling have all been pretty successful primarily because I like them and I've made everyone come with me. Shopping and eating yummy food are probably out, but there's likely to be something you can all properly enjoy as a family.
You have identified that you like spending time with extended family so do more stuff with other people. Ask the ex for some names of possible playmates for the boy or use your own or your partners friends to fill chunks of your time. Other children don't necessarily have to be the same age or sex, keep trying until you find a family you can all happily hang out with and then cling on. Don't let them move to Australia (personal bitterness there).
This is your golden rule for holidays too. Make the family holiday one where your family/ friends are invited too. If your friends are anything like mine it won't be until they start sprogging and then it will be easy to get recruits for an easy, cheap kid friendly holiday. Then do all you can to get an adults only holiday too. This is a massive advantage of shared parenting so grab it before you start getting broody!
Anything else? I could run a seminar on this stuff.
The real secret is to look for the positives but that is a good general rule for life anyway.
Amaretti - I had been meaning to try to get my hands on some parenting books actually. Just a little bit more tricky not living in an English speaking country, not being able to browse at bookstores/libraries etc. But I just started searching on Amazon, and came across a book called "Your Six Year Old" and even just reading the summary of the advice it gives has been pretty enlightening! Here it is:
*The overriding message is that the time from 6.0-6.5 is volatile and often not much fun. Children are going through a lot of changes, very unsure of themselves, and need lots of reassurance (even when they're misbehaving terribly). The authors make the point that kids at that age typically aren't ready for advanced tutoring in morals, and suggest that simply ignoring a lot of the bad table manners, lying, pilfering, attitude, etc. can be the best approach. They observe that you can typically accomplish the same things better at age 7.
1. Praise -- Sixes need more affirmation than other ages and are more fragile
2. Chances -- Say, "you've used up one chance. I'll give you two more chances to do _"
3. Counting -- Say, "Let's see if you can do this before I count to 10."
4. SIdestep -- change the subject, change mode of interaction, etc.
5. Bargain -- "If you play nicely with your brother until lunch, I'll let you watch Scooby Doo while he's napping."
6. Give in -- think of yourself as modeling the behavior of compromising
7. Isolation -- Good old time out -- physically transporting the 6 to timeout if necessary
8. Ignoring -- Say, "I can't hear whining" or "I can't hear potty talk," i.e., let them know you're ignoring them
9. Not noticing -- just let the little stuff slide because it isn't all that productive at this age to try to reign it *
..the "ignoring" thing is particularly interesting to me, because I as I touched on above, I have noticed that DSS is getting naughtier, particularly in little things like minor lies, bad manners etc, and I can sometimes barely restrain myself from giving a moral lecture...but I've resisted partly because I didn't think it was my place, and partly cause I wasn't sure if it would have any effect...reading the above, and seeing that in fact the best strategy at this age could be to ignore the little stuff is kind of great...I think reminding myself of this could really help me regain my inner cool when he's being annoying.
redandgreen - yes, I love it when we are with friends who have children. It's like magic, he suddenly demands NOTHING from us except that we leave him alone so he can play with his friends! He's really really good at integrating into groups of children really quickly, even if he doesn't know them. In fact DP was thinking out loud the other day, and said he has been thinking that DSS is at an age now where we need to make more effort to get other kids involved in the weekends he spends here, and I totally agreed.
Unfortunately all the friends-wth-children are my DP's friends, none of my own friends (in this country) have children. But even so, I totally get your point, and thank you for the other advice.
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