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getting worked up about what may never happen...but still!

(50 Posts)
brdgrl Tue 23-Aug-11 18:59:26

so, on the tail-end of a pretty spectacular (unrelated, sort of) argument with DH - during the making-up stage, really, he drops casually into the conversation "DSD thinks that she wants to take a gap year and work before going to art college."

Now, let me say right off the bat that this is two years away. Lots could change, so no point in getting worked up, etc, etc. But I am pretty annoyed that a) she clearly presented it all as if it were a decision solely up to her - that of course she could decide to live at home for another year and just present that to us... And I am pretty annoyed that DH didn't seem to think it had anything to do with me.

DH thinks this is good because it shows that DSD is thinking about the fact that she will need money for art college. I think - it is a load of bull. It goes against everything DSD has said or indicated about her expectations.

I think that DSD has two long summers ahead of her, to work and put some money aside for uni. I think that DSD can work part-time while at art college. I think that we have a certain amount set aside to help DSD out with fees. I think she may have to look into other options as well, because we are not well-off people. If one of those options is working for a year first, I think she had damn well better have a job. I think that we strongly suggested to DSD that she look into a summer job this year, and she did nothing about it. I think that DSD slept until noon every day, watched a helluva lot of telly, and went out with her friends, while we gave her a generous allowance. I think that DSD imagines a gap year in which she will sleep until noon, watch a helluva lot of telly, and go out with her friends, while we give her a generous allowance. I think that after several months of this, she MAY get a part-time job, the pay for which will go towards going out with her friends.

Some back story here - we are living in another country from my family (aging parents, siblings, nephews, cousins, etc). It has been understood between DH and I that we will move back to my home country, where I want DD to be educated and to know her extended family. (Neither DH nor I has extended family here.) It has also been understood that we will wait at least until DSD finishes school, because DH feels that is what is best for her. It has been very, very hard for me since DD was born - like, nervous breakdown hard - and I have come very close to taking DD and going back home on our own. But now instead of two years until DSD finishes school, suddenly it is looking like - who knows? As far as I am concerned, if we do decide to move, we're not going to 'undecide' because DSD has changed her mind about art college.

And if we DID stay here longer - like until DSS finishes school as well - we'd talked about either moving to a smaller house that will be more affordable, OR if our finances improve and we can stay in this house, we'd agreed that DSD's room would become DD's room when DSD finished school. DD is basically in the box room now. So if DSD decides to stay home another year - again as far as I am concerned - DD gets the bigger room and DSD can move to the tiny room. (DSS has a nice room already.) But she won't be expecting that, I can tell you, even though we told her when we moved in here that it was her room until she was out of school.

Oh, I know! Getting ahead of myself here.
DSD and I are getting along pretty well these days, actually. And I love her, in that 'she's family even when she infuriates me' way. But we've been making every decision in our relationship, for so long now, based on what is 'best' for her (and not for DSS or DD, or ourselves - it is quite unbalanced and there is so, so , so much more to it than I can really go into right here). But I feel so - let down, I guess. I've been hanging on by a slim thread sometimes, thinking well, two more years and things will be really different. And the feeling I get that no one will even consult me about any of it....ugh.

Petal02 Wed 24-Aug-11 11:58:43

This is the old chestnut of the father thinking it's the most natural thing world to have his child around, to the point that it doesn't warrant any consultation with is partner. Why would he consult his partner over something so NORMAL? Although when YOU are the partner, it's not normal at all, it's intrusive, disruptive and downright unpleasant.

I often worry what on earth we'll do with SS if he doesn't go to Uni. Because at present, I've got TWO MORE YEARS of the wrteched acess rota, and Uni is my light at the end of the tunnel. And if SS were to decide to defer for a year, or not go, I'd be beside myself. Although this is two years hence, so I shouldn't be getting het up, but i do, so I understand where you're coming from.

Do you feel able to ask your DH what will happen to YOUR plans if DSD does what you fear? To be honest, I think a gap year is something of luxury, and should only happen if it doesn't impact on the rest of the household .....

careerwoman Wed 24-Aug-11 13:02:59

The thought sends shivers down my spine, with one SS just going to Uni and one hopefully on his way in two years - and they don't live with us!!

That said, a gap year can be valuable and doesn't necessarily mean living at home. There are options like a kibbutz or a ski season in the alps that give them great experiences, they live away from home and will benefit them long term with work experience and a general outlook on life.

How about doing a deal with DH that if DSD can come up with a plan for what she will do for a year you will support, but if not and she expects to do nothing it is not a goer? Plus you could present the fact that you will actually stop her allowance...

brdgrl Wed 24-Aug-11 14:25:27

thanks for the replies. it is nice to be able to talk about it with some other people in the same situation!

We definitely aren't going to be able (or willing) to foot the bill to send her to a kibbutz or a ski season in the alps!!! I have thought that it might be a good thing for her to do some 'work abroad' experience. For instance, there are summer camps in the States, for disabled kids, and they have schemes for teens to work as counsellors. DSD knows some older girls who worked in orphanages in Eastern Europe, or did work experience in Germany...but the way those schemes work, they are quite expensive. If she wants to have that kind of experience, she's going to need to work a summer or part-time job between now and then to pay for it. I agree, Petal02, a gap year is a luxury. For that matter, university is a luxury - it absolutely should not be, higher education should be accessible to everyone - but it is. We just can't afford the life she is imagining for herself, and DH is reluctant to face up to that. The reality is that she is going to have to work to have the things she wants and needs.

I took time off from uni to work, and that's what I did. I lived in a lousy flat with roommates, and worked a full-time job. When I went back to uni, I worked part-time. My parents did help me out with uni, in as much as they could, but I worked too. When I was older, I didn't start a 'career' straight away: I worked a retail job 9 months of the year, and that paid for me to travel and work at a volunteer job abroad. It was great experience and I'd love her to have the same opportunities to travel - but I also worked from the time I was 15 years old, and my lifestyle expectations were quite low. DSD doesn't want to sleep in youth hostels or in campgrounds; she wants to stay in 3 or 4 star hotels, on DH's bill. She's no a princess, exactly - but she told me the other day that 'only homeless people don't have broadband and sky'. She meant it.

I'm going to sit DH down today and talk to him about it all.

careerwoman Wed 24-Aug-11 15:30:26

brdgrl - ski season in the Alps would cost you nothing! I meant as her working as a chalet girl. The deal is usually that you may have to pay flights (easyjet to Geneva for £100), and then they get board and lodgings plus about 50 euros a week for basically cleaning, helping out with cooking etc. The Chalet pay for everything needed to live on, and then the pay is either to save or to spend on a couple of nights a week. Similarly I don't think you have to pay for a kibbutz either. You'd be suprised what is out there for free...

I have to sympathise though - they don't seem to get what is luxury and what they believe they are entitled to whilst doing nothing for it!!

Petal02 Wed 24-Aug-11 16:03:57

Yes, I'm sure she could do something abroad with very little financial input from the OP, but if she doesn't want to .......???

MouldyCarrot Wed 24-Aug-11 16:34:23

I totally understand how you feel OP.

We have had the same situation with my DSD. EVERYTHING has had to revolve around her since the day we decided to live together with little regard to my children. For instance when house-hunting we just had to live near HER school (no matter that this was miles from MY child's school). Our holidays have always revolved around what SHE wanted to do with little regard to the rest of the family. Everything has been about her and it has caused huge resentment to the point where I honestly can't wait until she moves out as cruel as that sounds. The original plan was that she would do a-levels and then go onto uni which would untie the ropes stopping us from moving closer to DS's school which I fully intended to do once she left home - imagine my horror then when DH decided she would be better off going to the uni in our city and living with us until she finished her 3 year course and then for a few years afterwards until she built up some savings!

Thankfully I am the main wage earner and the house is in my name and he pushed me one step too far on this one. I have told him I intend to hand in the notice on this house before next september (when she finishes her a-levels) and we will be moving closer to DS's school and he will be getting the bigger bedroom as originally planned. This will go ahead no matter what she decides to do because quite frankly I'm sick of revolving the entire family around her.

MuckyBogStain Wed 24-Aug-11 16:50:38

Wow.

Bet it wouldn't be a problem if the child deliberating over uni was your own bio-child though? This thread is shocking.

2blessed2bstressed Wed 24-Aug-11 17:00:23

MBS - there would be no issue if we were discussing "bio-children", that's true. Because if we were, we would have equal say in what was going on in our families, our wishes and opinions would be heard, and one childs needs in the family would not be being put ahead of anothers.
I assume from your shock that you are not a step parent?

MuckyBogStain Wed 24-Aug-11 17:16:07

No I was the step-child who's stepmother blatantly couldn't wait to get rid of. Therefore I was pretty much forced to leave home way before I was mature enough to deal with it so that my bio-parent and his new family could live in "perfect family bliss" without old baggage left lying around making the place look untidy.

2blessed2bstressed Wed 24-Aug-11 17:34:47

Ah, ok. I can see why you might be upset about that.....but, you do realise that projecting your own (admittedly very difficult) experiences onto other peoples lives is not fair, don't you?
OP has been putting her dsds needs before her own and other children for a long time now, and a previously understood arrangement is now possibly changing without any consultation. That was not your life.

MuckyBogStain Wed 24-Aug-11 17:38:39

But it is incredibly difficult for step children to live amongst such feelings of resentment. My step mother hated everything about me. She hated the fact that I slept in when I was a teen, she hated the fact that I got up early now and again as it meant she had to share her space with me, she hated the noise I made when I ate, she hated the way I walked (she actually told my dad this), she hated the way I spoke (she told me this to my face) and she hated the fact that I took up a bedroom that she wanted for her own beloved DC.
She couldn't wait to get rid of me and when I said I didn't want to go uni when I was 18 she made sure my dad kicked me out. Funnily enough her own DC was allowed to stay living there even though he didn't go to uni.

2blessed2bstressed Wed 24-Aug-11 17:58:18

Again, while I feel your pain, and sympathise greatly - I truly do - that is not the situation here.
Most step parents are trying to do the best they can in some very difficult circumstances.

MouldyCarrot Wed 24-Aug-11 18:02:13

I'm sorry but unless you've been a step-parent you can NEVER understand how difficult it can be. And I say that as a ex step-child!

When you marry someone you expect to take on another child and treat them as your own, what you don't expect is for that one child to become to centre point of EVERYTHING you do. What you don't expect is for everyone else's feelings to come second to that one child. What you don't expect is for your husband and his child to become some exclusive club that excludes you from any plans or decision making essentially making you feel like a guest in your own home.

Petal02 Wed 24-Aug-11 19:21:19

Mouldycarrot, your posts are excellent. I agree totally that step mothers who resent their step children generally do so because of being excluded from making decisions about what goes on in their own homes/lives. The step child gets put on a pedestal, often having greater power than the new wife. If a bio- child were making decisions about uni, then both parents would have a say in the decision, but that doesn't usually apply in step families.

brdgrl Wed 24-Aug-11 21:28:02

If the child in question were my own (bio) DD, I can tell you straight up what I'd be saying:
"You can take a gap year out and live at home if 1) you make a convincing argument to me as to why it is a better plan for your future than going straight into uni; 2) you have a full-time job BEFORE you cancel any uni plans; 3) you are going to continue to do all your existing chores at home, plus several new ones - I will no longer be doing your laundry, for instance; an adult living at home has to contribute more than a child living at home; 4) your pocket money stops, because you are not a child anymore; 5) your paycheque goes into an account to save for uni, not on nights out; 6) sorry, but you are going to have to take the small bedroom, because when we moved into this house, we knew that the baby was going to need a bigger room, and you have had the best bedroom in the house for 18 years already; it is time for your siblings to have a turn; and 7) our house, our rules. If you want to stay living at home, you will have to follow the same rules we've always had about asking permissions, letting us know where you are, having friends and boys around, etc, etc - if you want a new adult lifestyle, you will have to take on adult life and move out."

That's what my DD can expect. If I could only say this as directly to my DSD, MuckyBogStain, I would. If I were her "real mum", that's what I'd be telling her.

I don't hate my stepdaughter, contrary to your assumptions. It is like the others have said - we can't continue to make decisions based solely on her wishes. My DSS is not thriving at the school he attends. Our DD will be starting school, and we need to make a good choice for her. My parents are old, and we anticipate that they will need more care - already, they cannot travel to see us, and I want time with them before it is too late. My job prospects are seriously, seriously limited in the city we live in now; to go on in my career, I would absolutely need to relocate. We have no family here, so there is no one to help out with the kids, and it puts a burden on us emotionally and financially. I had to get married without my parents present, because DH did not want DSD to miss a single day of school. We live in a neighbourhood where I am extremely isolated and uncomfortable, because of the kids' understandable desire to stay in their school. Every part of my life is compromised - and that is the deal I struck, when we married. But it was understood by all parties that it was a deal we were making in order to allow DSD to remain in her school, where she is happy, doing brilliantly academically and socially, and to help her to get the best education she can get. And it was understood that once we'd done that, we would do the same for the other kids. Nobody is kicking DSD to the kerb - but she is not going to remain the centre of the household indefinitely, and at the expense of the family.

careerwoman, thanks! I will definitely check those things out, then. She used to sound keen on the idea of traveling abroad, and going to art college - so this is a totally new tune she is singing.

Petal02 Thu 25-Aug-11 09:04:46

“Nobody is kicking DSD to the kerb – but she is not going to remain the centre of the household indefinitely, and at the expense of family.”

That’s a very sensible statement, I really can’t argue with that. Just because a child has separated step-parents, they can’t be given elevated status/preferential treatment for ever, to the detriment of the rest of the household.

YouMeandDupree Thu 25-Aug-11 09:51:42

I don't hate my step daughter. I hate DH because of the way he behaves regarding her. He causes resentment towards her.

ladydeedy Thu 25-Aug-11 13:00:34

i have been quite shocked by this because I have stepchildren and I think I would be very supportive if either one of them wanted to do a gap year. One of them lives with us and this is not an option that we would ignore. We'd want to know what he plans to do but otherwise, if he wants to go and travel etc, then great! if he wants to stay at home with us and do something else, also great. Either way I think it is beneficial to have some experience of real life before going to uni. Our situation is different though in that we are happy where we are and DH and I have a great relationship and I am treated as an equal partner. I wouldnt dream of stopping my stepchild having a year out if that's what they wanted to do. I would want to talk it over with him though and give him guidance and support where needed.

MuckyBogStain Thu 25-Aug-11 13:51:38

Well it just seems to me that the majority of you, if given one wish would wish that their partner didn't have kids from a previous relationship. And your skids know that.

theredhen Thu 25-Aug-11 14:04:02

MBS - I think the majority of step parents on here wish that they had the positives aspects of parenting their step children and not just the negative or mundane ones.

I think the 2 biggest single problems ar;

1. Step parents partners not parenting their kids properly for fear of the kids "not liking them".
2. Step parents simply not being allowed a say with regards to things that affect them.

"Together" parents make choices and decisions about their children together. They can weigh up the consequences not only for their child, the child's siblings and both the parents, including themselves. A resident parent is highly unlikely to consider the needs of the step parent when making decisions about their child from what I see. Mostly when parents are seperated the parents still make the decisions but the step parent has to live with the consequences but is allowed no say.

It just breeds resentment towards the partner (more second marriages fail, than first ones) and in turn towards the children who often do learn to manipulate the situation and behaviour of their parents to suit themselves.

I think most step parents want to be part of the family and have a say in what goes on. Feeling part of something is important for self esteem and that can only be good for the children too.

Petal02 Thu 25-Aug-11 14:16:08

I think there are two issues here – some of us find the whole step situation quite challenging, and thought that University represented “the light at the end of the tunnel”. And then someone runs off with the light bulb ………

But I think the biggest cause of friction is when your DH makes a decision either alone or with the step child, a decision which is going to have a significant impact on your life, and you don’t get consulted. Normal bio families don’t operate like that, and it’s beyond infuriating when you’re continually by-passed, as if you don’t count.

My DH recently made a decision about access arrangements and I wasn’t consulted – when I challenged him, he said “but it doesn’t make any difference to you whether DSS is here or not.” Er, helllooooooooooooo?????? But that sums it up for me – the bio parent thinks it’s completely normal having their children around, but the step parent doesn’t. And managing that mismatch is tricky..

If you combine a difficult relationship with a step child, AND being excluded from decision-making – I can totally see why step parents get upset.

It’s usually the bio parent whose behaviour causes the resentment, not the step child.

Petal02 Thu 25-Aug-11 14:17:42

Redhen - I posted before I read your most recent post. I think you make excellent points. Particularly that the step parent doesn't get a say in what goes on, but still has to live with the consequences.

pinkbraces Thu 25-Aug-11 14:18:42

Im not sure if this has made me sad or angry - your SD is just going into yr 10 and you are already resenting the fact she might want a gap year together with the fact she has to vacate her room the moment her GCSE's are over - this itself is wrong. Is she the eldest? In most families the eldest gets the biggest room, and stays until she naturally leaves!

I think there is so much more to this than her gap year.

Im a step mum and I very rarely come onto this board now as the resentment and anger towards step children just upsets me.

Its so much harder being in a blended family but we are the adults, there the kids and as far as I can tell most of the time the resentment and anger should be directed at husbands/partners for not parenting properly and not the kids.

You also need to take into account if your step daughter wants to do an art degree it is better for her to do the art foundation year first - this is a HE course which means the course is paid for but she must be under 19 to get this paid so her gap year might need to come after the foundation year!

Petal02 Thu 25-Aug-11 14:37:48

Pinkbraces, I think it's widely acknowledged that step relationships are some of hardest relationships in existence. Which is why we come here to seek support anonymously. There are so many of us experiencing the same problems/feelings/emotions - surely we can't ALL be nasty, flawed individuals?

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