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To be supportive or not!

(21 Posts)
Tootingbec Fri 08-Jul-11 15:08:38

Hello all - looking for some sound Mumsnet step-parenting advice! I have basically been on maternity leave for two and half years (small age gap between babies!) so have been at home and able (if not willing!) to take and pick up my DSD (10 years old) from school, thus meaning we have increased the amount of time she is with us to just under half and half with her mum.

I am due back to work in October and therefore will no longer be around to either take or pick up from school or be at home until 5.30ish when I will pick up my DC's from nursery. My DH does not have a 9-5 job and his working pattern is erratic (self employed). This means there is no consistency around his hours so cannot guarentee in any given week whether he can do the school run.

When we agreed to DSD spending more time with us, I did say to my DH that he would need to investigate before and after school care for when I went back to work annd give DSD the option of breakfast/after school club or not coming to stay with us in the week and being at home with Mum instead. Her mum is a SAHM and so my DSD is used to being at home on the sofa watching telly at 3.45pm, not stuck in some afterschool club. I am sure the novelty of breakfast/after school club will wear off pretty quickly!

If my DSD decides she is fine with before and after school care, then if I am honest I don't know if I can face having come home from work, pick up two small children, schelp over to my DSD's school in the car(with small children) and then deal with them all during the hell that is the 5-7pm slot! All this with the added complication that we won't necessarily know week to week when my DH can do the school run and when I will be needed to do it.

My dilemma is that I know what the "right" thing to do is i.e. I should treat my DSD like my own daughter and help my DH to ensure that we can continue with the current arrangements. But quite frankly, the thought of it all fills me with horror - juggling work, small children, school run etc.......Also my DH has made no mention of sorting out care for DSD so I am keeping quiet and focussing on arrangements for my DC's only - is this really selfish and unsupportive??

I guess there is no real answer, just wanted some views from the boards!

Thanks all - is it wine o' clock yet???

Petal02 Fri 08-Jul-11 15:45:46

Sorry if I'm missing the point here - but if the ex is a stay-at-home-Mum, why should YOU be busting a gut to arrange care for your step-daughter, while the ex drinks cappaccino and watches Daytime TV ???

Or do you feel that your 'temporary' additional help during your maternity leave is now viewed as a permament arrangement?

redfairy Fri 08-Jul-11 21:40:27

I agree with PETAL. You've done a heck of a lot and it's now time for Stepdaughter's mum to do her bit. I know exactly how exhausting it is to do a full days work then have to collect kids from childcare etc... Your DSD is in the fortunate position to have three adults to care for her and this is the time to get a more equal share. What does DSD's mum have to say about a change in arrangements?

TheFeministsWife Fri 08-Jul-11 21:42:22

I agree with Petal02. Was your DSD's mum made aware that the arrangement wasn't necessarily a permanent one? Even if she wasn't, your circumstances have changed and she'll just have to deal with it changing. It's not as if she's working and has to change her working hours to fit around you. I'd leave the onus on your DH and just tell him you can't do it anymore. Let him pick her up when he can.

onionlove Fri 08-Jul-11 23:43:40

I agree too its been generous of you to help but you have enough on your plate now and to deal with when you get back to work time for her mum to take over again

olibeansmummy Sat 09-Jul-11 09:15:09

Could you compromise by offering to pick her up on a Friday after school but not any other days? Then if your dh wants to have her any more he'll have to pick her up? Then you're doing your bit but not having the stress of picking her up regularly smile

chelen Mon 11-Jul-11 12:51:33

Hi, it seems to me what is really at issue is whether you and your partner want to carry on with roughly 50-50 in principle, or if you want to return to SD being majority of time with mum.

If as a couple you want to keep 50:50 I guess it will take some juggling but if you had three children of your own you would be able to find a way to make it work.

It might end up with your SD feeling hurt or resentful if she gets shunted back to mum because you return to work, she will have much reduced amount of time with the other kids (her siblings) in your home for example. Also she might feel she was sent away because she was an inconvenience.

Re. after school care, I think kids often really like them, my SS does anyway. It was tricky with homework and clubs, but I found he came home with a lot of energy run off having been playing with other children so the evenings were not that tough.

Another practical option could be a childminder who takes the younger ones by day then picks up the older from school so you only have one stop? Obviously I don't know what kind of city/town/village/hamlet you live in but that is a fairly popular option round here and means kids get to see each other even if their parents are busy. Many childminders also do breakfast runs and will even feed the kids a proper tea which means you avoid the tea time melt down.

mdoodledoo Mon 11-Jul-11 15:30:35

My first opinion is that the changing circumstances mean a shift in arrangements and it does feel although the blended family thing isn't really working out as a blended arrangement.

While you've been off work it seems entirely reasonable that you've done the majority of the school runs as they fall within 'normal' working hours and may be difficult for him - but now you're back at work I think there should be more of a sharing arrangement with your DP. This isn't your problem to solve, this is a family issue and both adults need to support the arrangements.

So - by shift of arrangements I don't necessarily mean a change of access pattern, although that may be the best outcome for everyone (DSD included). My first thought is for a shift of parental responsibilities. Am I being harsh at thinking that your DP has effectively had 2.5 yrs of not having to worry about this stuff, but now it needs to come back on his radar so you guys can work out a solution together.

In the three years of my DP's access arrangements there's been little shuffling of access days, but there has been a shift of payments as Mum has increased her hours in work and can't do the school pick up on each of her days any longer and morning school runs (which we used to do every day) when we (all) decided that the kids just weren't getting any benefit from that 15 mins of contact. That's just the way this stuff works and juggling/flexibility here and there is necessary.

Have fun back in work after the long break - you'll have enough to manage with integrating back in, your own tiredness for the first few weeks of doing different things etc etc, without shouldering all the worry & responsibility.

Tootingbec Fri 15-Jul-11 14:31:52

Hi all and thanks for your messages and just to clarify, it was my DSD who requested more time with us, not her mum. We were able to facilitate this as I have been off on maternity leave.

Chelen Hi, it seems to me what is really at issue is whether you and your partner want to carry on with roughly 50-50 in principle, or if you want to return to SD being majority of time with mum.

Yup that is basically the crux of the matter. My DSD and DH would no doubt like the arrangement to continue. I do not. I am an evil, evil stepmother but I just don't. I want to go back to weekends and the odd ad hoc day here and there when it is possible.

I think what it comes down to is that I would like to move to a bigger house (we are bursting out of the seams here) but this won't be possible and still be 10 mins away from my DSD (we live in London and therefore to get more space we will have to move 30 mins away as a minimum) Thus I think it is unrealistic for my DH to think we can 50/50 parent in our small flat for the next 8 years until my DSD leaves home! Sorry, I sound so horribly selfish but that's how it is......

I guess I am just burying my head in the sand as I want my DH to figure out that something will need to change when I go back to work, so that I don't come across as being lukewarm about the idea. However, I realise that the mature thing to do would be to have an adult conversation about how we manage childcare for all the children............

Petal02 Fri 15-Jul-11 14:49:19

I can understand that your DH is keen to carry on with the present arrangements, but it's YOU who would be doing the donkey-work. I can also understand that you'd prefer to go back to the 'old' arrangements of alternate weekends and an ad hoc week night. It seems like you've got enough on your plate with your two babies, and to have someone else's child on a 50/50 basis is quite a big commitment, again, especially if it's YOU who does the running around, caring, etc.

If I were in your shoes (what sort of shoes do us Evil Step Mothers wear by the way, Jimmy Choos??) I wouldn't want to spend the forseeable future in cramped accommodation, just to be near the ex. Obviously your step daughter and her relationship with her father should be carefully factored into whatever decision you make, but it's not the ONLY factor. Otherwise, it's another case of an entire household living their lives to suit the needs of a child from the first marriage. Surely there's a balance that can be struck?

lateatwork Fri 15-Jul-11 23:05:59

i can see where you are coming from.

you are going back to work and are also being expected to take care of all the children as well (ie collect, organise etc) whilst DP and DP ex dont seem to be picking up new additional responsibilities when you make the change back into full time work. I am sure both though, and DSD, will benefit from the addition of another full time salary into the mix. that would really grate on me.

oh and it is sooooo not the same as having three of your own. three of your own would not place a location restriction on where OP can live. three of your own would mean that the OP could work out where and how each of the children could be taken care of without having to consider another adult's input (input that is considered more important and valuable than her own and that can vetoe any additional considerations or compromises that may be necessary to meet the needs of three children, rather than thinking one in particular is more important).... and with regards to your own child feeling hurt or resentful for going back to work ... hmmm...

have the discussion with DP. find out where he sees you guys being location wise considering you are bursting at the seams already. maybe he will come to the same conclusion that you have...

Tootingbec Tue 26-Jul-11 16:29:39

Hi all - I'm back! Petal and Lateatwork you have nicely summerised how I am feeling.

I often feel I "should" be doing things to help my DH maintain a good relationship with my DSD and ensure that she has a relationship with her siblings. But.......the truth is, I find having my DSD here hard going, which makes me feel bad because she is not a bad kid (although somewhat over indulged by DH etc etc) and I feel I "should" be doing everything in my power to help our family be "blended".

But truth be told, I can't wait for her to chip off to university (or wherever!) and the thought of her ever coming to live with us full time (or even 50/50 as a permanent arrangement) fills me with dread. I know, I know, should have thought about that before I married a man with a child but when she was small, we only saw her alternative weekends and half the holidays and this was ok. That sounds awful as it wasn't ok for my DH who misses my DSD dreadfully when she is not with us and would love nothing more than to become the resident parent.

My DH and DSD are really really close so it's not like they have an distant, estranged relationship

We are all living on top of each other when it is 5 of us in the flat but the problem remains that to get more space we will need to move, meaning 50/50 contact will just not be possible. My DH does understand this and has talked about what it would mean for DSD if we moved. I think as it is likely that in 12 months time we won't be living down the road from the Ex, I should just do nothing and let my DH work out for himself that unless he organises proper childcare for DSD in September, it will be nigh on impossible for her to stay with us during the week. I have already decided that I am not going to run myself ragged looking after DSD during the week. If DH wants to see DSD during the week then he needs to be at home and able to pick her up from school and do her homework with her etc.

I am now ranting to myself so prob best to put the laptop down!!

Petal02 Tue 26-Jul-11 16:57:39

Hi Tootingbec, nice to hear from you. I think your post is very sensible, particularly these two points:

“if DH wants to see DSD during the week, then he needs to be at home and able to pick her up from school and do her homework with her etc” – I can’t argue with that, you’re not stopping DH from seeing DSD, but you accept it’s not your responsibility to facilitate the access (ie you’re not a chauffeur), and that if he does want DSD at your house on week nights, then he needs to be there to make it happen, otherwise we’re getting in the realms of ‘access by proxy’, which is a whole new thread, and simply not on when you’ve got other young children to consider.

Secondly, you say “I should say nothing and let DH work it out for himself that unless he organises proper childcare for DSD from September, it will be nigh-on impossible for her to stay with us during the week.” Again, totally agree with this. You’re not blocking access, but you’re not prepared to become responsible for organising it.

In your situation, you might get a better result by saying nothing, and letting reality speak for itself. That way you avoid countless arguments and men often respond better to seeing things for themselves, even if you have presented a careful considered argument.

Good luck with this, and do keep us posted.

Petal02 Wed 27-Jul-11 19:49:17

Just bumping this up - has there been any progress, Tootingbec?

Tootingbec Thu 28-Jul-11 15:04:59

Hi Petal - thanks for the bump smile and hiope things good with you!

No, no further update this end - I have just decided to keep quiet and wait for my DH to twig that as of September I WILL BE AT WORK and as I have done everything regarding organising childcare for our DC's, my DSD is his look out.

I actually read the thread about detaching and while some of it is a bit harsh, the general tone of it i.e. stop agonising over things which are just not worth fighting over, sounds like a plan for me in the future! There are so many things that cause me undue frustration but that quite frankly, I should just switch off from and let my DH sort it out. So, if my DSD' room is a mess - tough - I am not going to tidy it or pick up clothes to wash from the floor. I will change her sheets but that's it. If between them my DH and DSD can't ensure that she has all her e.g. sports kit then I won't be driving over to school to drop them off AS I WILL BE AT WORK!

I refuse to feel guilty about this anymore! My DSD has a lovely mum, is cared for by lots of close family and friends and is fawned over by my DH. I do not need to be her mum or even act like her mum. Instead I have decided to take on a caring aunt/godparent role - I will be kind and welcoming but my DH can do the donkey work, including sorting out practical arrangements. I will happily step in and help out when needed but I am not creating more stress for myself than necessary - I have 2 children under 3 and a busy and demanding job for christ sake!!

Ranting again! Ahhhhhh, feel better for it though.......

Petal02 Thu 28-Jul-11 15:43:41

Hi Tootingbec – I agree with your approach about keeping quiet, and letting your DH work things out for himself. I often wonder if that’s the best stance to take with men/difficult subjects – I think that if we bang on about something, particularly an awkward subject, a man just shuts down to further communication – whereas if we just stay silent and let the situation speak for itself, you often get a lot further.

Detaching - like you, there are plenty of access-related issues in our household that I get really frustrated/angry about, but in the grand scheme of things they’re not major issues, so I’ve just decided to let it all go. I too wish to be kind and welcoming, but DH can sort out practicalities, and if he decides to tie himself in knots, trying to fit the access rota around his working life – well, not my problem. Because, like you, I WILL BE AT WORK.

I’m now into week four of “detaching” and it’s been interesting. It’s really taken the heat out of the situation, I’m convinced the household atmosphere is calmer, and (surprise surprise) some reverse psychology is definitely taking place. Now I’m “off DH’s back” regarding SS, he’s far less defensive and has actually done some positive parenting over the last week or so.

I’m glad you’re no longer feeling guilty, there’s only so much you can do, and only so many hours in the day – you’re not superwoman !!!!

Tootingbec Wed 24-Aug-11 15:23:58

OK, so a bit of an update on my new assertiveness. DH still hasn't mentioned to me about arrangements for DSD being here when I go back to work but this week I have put my foot down and I THINK I have done the right thing!

DSD due with us this coming Sunday having been with her mum for 2 weeks of the holiday. She is unwell and asked my DH if she could come to us on Tuesday (yesterday) rather than waiting until the weekend. Her mum is fine with this.

DH working all week, me at home with small children. DH tells me "casually" that DSD will be coming to stay from Tuesday. I told my DH that I was not prepared to look after a sick 11 year old (bed ridden sick!) and 2 tiny children on my own for 3 DAYS while he is at work - particulary as the arrangement is that DSD is meant to be with her mum until Saturday and therefore that is where she is meant to be!

DH sort of looked at me oddly and said "but DSD wants to come and stay". To which I replied "that's fine, but you need to be here to look after her as she is ill as I am not prepared look after small children and a sick step daughter because the two of you on a whim have decided that she is coming her 5 days early without consulting me"

He got in a right huff and said things along the lines of "stop treating her like an inconvienience" and "I have to work to pay for things blah blah" and "I wish you would treat her like your own daughter".

I stood firm and said "If she was with us and she was ill, then I would of course look after her, but she is not meant to be with us until Saturday so why have you agreed that she can come here, when you will not be around to help care for her."

He got the message and told DSD that she couldn't come early because he was working and I was "away". We have not talked about it since but he is no longer in a huff as I think he realised that I was right.

I guess the message I need to keep putting across to my DH is that I am prepared to help out but:

a) he needs to consult with me BEFORE he makes arrangements with DSD and her mum for changes to plans

b) It is great for him to make grand gestures ("come and stay and I will look after you my precious princess!" but much of the time it is muggins here who is doing the donkey work which is not fair......

Still debating whether to have a mature talk with DH about access come September or just wait until my DH figures it out for himself......

Petal02 Wed 24-Aug-11 15:56:09

Hello Tooting! Well done for standing your ground! Firstly, I don’t see the point in a child ‘changing houses’ when they’re so ill that they’re bed-ridden. I wonder if BM wanted a break? Which is OK if your DH was prepared to look after his daughter, but it’s NOT alright to land her on you ……….. access by proxy can be bad enough when the child concerned is healthy, but when they’re ill – that’s just a whole different ball game.

Just an aside, is the illness contagious? In which case, should be really be coming over when you’ve got two small children? I realise that if resident children become ill then you just get on with it, but I never see the point in risking cross-infection by bringing a child into the house just to adhere to with previously planned arrangements.

But even though he got into a huff, it’s great that he didn’t let her come down early, and I think this is a victory for common sense. Hopefully this has boosted your confidence, and I think you should consider sitting down and having a proper chat about how access will work from September.

It’s all very well your DH wanting to see as much of his daughter as possible, but as I said in an earlier post, it’s up to HIM to facilitate this, not you ………

Keep us posted!

MissKittyEliza Tue 30-Aug-11 12:51:52

Ludicrous. The ex should be responsible for her child. She is a stay at home mum. You are about to return to work. End of.

theredhen Tue 30-Aug-11 13:13:54

Whilst I completely sympathise, it's so nice to read that I'm not alone! I could have written that. We've had exactly the same thing. DSC are ill, DP runs round to the house to collect them and then goes out to work leaving them home alone. Cue ex getting shirty and sending snotty e-mails, DP fighting back and then a few weeks / months later exactly the same thing happens again. And she is a stay at home mum too!

As a mother, if my child was ill in bed, I would not want him/her shipped off anywhere in a car. Surely that's not going to help the girl?! If BM needs a break then your DP should be going around to her house and helping not just expecting you to help without even having the decency to ask you!

You are not wrong to say no, your DP trying to deflect the blame on you is a fairly typical reaction but grossly unfair and don't let yourself be pulled into thinking you are being unreasonable. You are not!

Petal02 Mon 05-Sep-11 14:29:58

Tootingbc - just bumping this up, as I wondered if there had been any progress/discussions on how access will be arranged once you're back at work?

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