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If you have step-children and then have a baby of your own...

(62 Posts)
Ginda Mon 15-Oct-12 08:26:21

how does it change things? Please tell me honestly.

I have 2 DCs aged 8 and 11. Their dad has been with their stepmum for about 7 years and they see them most weekends. Stepmum has always been good with them - does their homework with them, is nice to them etc.

Recently she has had her own (much longed-for) baby. She's made it quite clear that hey baby is now her priority, which I suppose is quite understandable but I feel sad for my DCs, who up to now have been the sole focus of attention in that house, as they are in mine.

I know someone who was in the same situation, i.e. had 2 stepchildren who she was very involved with and then had her own child. She said to me that, no matter how much you love your step kids, it never compares with the love for your own child. Is this true?

glasscompletelybroken Mon 15-Oct-12 08:53:51

Of course it's true - but you don't need to worry about it. Actually it is not healthy for children to grow up feeling that they are the sole focus of attention and presumably their dad doesn't love them any less than he did just because he has a new baby. They have a mum and a dad who love them and are lucky enough to have a caring and involved step-mum too.

When you say she has "made it quite clear that the new baby is now her priority" what has she actually done or said? Of course she is overwhelmed with it all, as we all are with a new baby. Things will settle down - she won't suddenly have stopped caring for them and they are old enough to understand that a new baby's physical needs generally don't like to be kept waiting so become a priority. The best thing you can do is reassure them that their step-mum does still care and is just a bit busy with the new baby at the moment.

Other than that - to all step-mums out there yet another example of the "damned if you do - damned if you don't" dilemma we live with!

NotaDisneyMum Mon 15-Oct-12 09:00:41

Of course it's true!

You only have to look at all the posts from parents who are at the end of their tether elsewhere on MN to see that sometimes, DCs are hard work and the only thing keeping a parent going is that they gave birth/created the DC concerned.

That said, there is no reason why your DCs should be negatively affected by the birth of their sibling; if their Dad is committed and responsible, then he will ensure that he spends quality time with all his DCs.

It is refreshing to see a mum worrying thatblush her DCs will not spend as much quality time with their stepmum - but unrealistic, I think. Your DCs stepmum has chosen to spend time with your DCs; to love, nurture and parent them - its not something that anyone can expect or demand of a step-parent and it is inevitable that her own child will become her priority.

N0tinmylife Mon 15-Oct-12 09:10:07

I found when I had my own child it helped me be a much better stepmum. I had no idea about how to parent a child before that, whereas once I was doing it every day, it came more naturally with DSS.

I don't think you can love a step child in the exact same way you love your own child, but then in most cases they have two parents who can give them that level of love, so a step parent is an added bonus. I would say the way I love DSS compares most closely to the way I love my Nephews.

Bonsoir Mon 15-Oct-12 09:13:23

I am a stepmother: I have two DSSs, aged 17 and 15, and DD, aged 8.

No, I do not love my DSSs the way I love my own child, nor do I pretend to do so. That is right and normal and healthy, and that is also the reason I have a great relationship with them. My DSSs and DD are siblings and never think of one another in any other way.

Cloverhoney Mon 15-Oct-12 09:40:08

Yes it's true.

On the plus side your kids are going to gain a new baby sibling who at the age they are, they will probably dote on.

It's certainly true that the dynamics of the house will change and your children may have some readjustment issues but that happens regardless when a new baby arrives - whatever the family set-up.

If your ex is a good husband and a good father he will allow his wife to spend time with her new baby while he continues to give his own children the time and attention they need. That's not to say however that he won't also need time to bond with his newborn. It's about everyone having to compromise and accept change.

Like I say though, if you had a new baby your kids would have to adjust to that too in exactly the same way. It's not a situation unique to step-families.

Beamur Mon 15-Oct-12 09:44:53

I'd agree with all the above.
I have 2 SC and one DD. I love them very differently, but think since I became a Mum I have been a better SM - gentle, kinder - more patient. The kids all consider themselves siblings and get along very well.
In our case, I think the new baby made our family.

Ginda Mon 15-Oct-12 09:51:58

Thanks all. The reason I am - well, concerned is the wrong word, so I suppose just the reason it is on my mind is that their dad does nothing for them, and their stepmum is the one who does all the things their dad should do. When we were married he never lifted a finger, and as soon as we split up, he installed their stepmum, got her to give up work, and thereafter she has been his PA/surrogate parent. As a husband and father, his attitudes and behaviour are akin to a man from the 1950s, i.e. the kids spend their weekends doing what he wants to do, and if they want to do something different, like go to the park, they do that only if stepmum will take them. Up to now this arrangement has worked ok because stepmum hasn't had anything else to do.

I should add that, even though exH is like this, he still requires that he must see the DCs most weekends, so in practice this means that they now have to spend the weekends indoors as it is too much faff to go out with the baby and "Dad didn't want to leave [stepmum] alone". The DCs love the baby, but they also have needs to be met, and while the baby isn't going to notice what goes on each weekend, the DCs definitely do. DS has been told he can't do his Saturday morning sports club any more because "we don't have time". I can't take him, because we live over an hour apart. The sports club activity happens near exH's house rather than mine precisely because exH refused to agree to a Sat lunchtime pickup rather than Fri night. He still won't agree to that, so I can't even enrol DS in a club near me.

I feel a bit like: it's great that they've had a baby, and of course the DCs should spend time with their new baby sibling, but actually they didn't ask for this and why should their lives and their activities have to be stymied to suit their father's laziness now that his wife can't do what he should do for his DCs?

SamSmalaidh Mon 15-Oct-12 09:55:30

Is the every weekend arrangement due to a court order?

Beamur Mon 15-Oct-12 10:03:58

Now you put it like that, that's a whole different issue.
How old is the baby? It's odd to think that baby=indoors only. I would have driven me crazy to have been indoors all the time.
Perhaps you should try and renegotiate the access arrangements? A Saturday lunchtime pickup would make much more sense. If it is because it cuts down his time with the kids - could the kids stay over a different night instead or is it too impractical?

Ginda Mon 15-Oct-12 10:30:07

Beamur, exH completely resists all attempts to vary contact arrangements. He believes that contact with him is the most important thing in the DCs' lives to the exclusion of all else. They should not even want to see their friends at weekends or go to birthday parties etc. as I should arrange for all of these things to occur during the week so that his time is not affected. I work full time now. When I have told him that it is not possible for me to ask the mothers of the DCs' friends to hold parties/invitations to play at times that suit exH because THEIR kids have after-school activities that are at different times to those ours attend, he says "I don't believe you".

Basically he is a totally self-absorbed, self-regarding knobhead devoted father and won't countenance any arrangement that isn't exactly what he wants, so I either have to go along with him or impose a unilateral decision which results in a massive war and which I can't cope with. So I hardly ever do.

He has had a baby, which of course is the most marvellous baby the world has ever been blessed with, and his DCs should of course want to sit on his sofa all weekend crooning at the baby along with him, with Sky Sports in the background of course. This is what he spent the first year of our first DC's life doing. When it came time for the DC to need more interaction with him, like going to the swings, a bit of football, etc, he just wouldn't do it. That was all my job, and later, his new wife's. But he still considers himself a fantastic father.

Ginda Mon 15-Oct-12 10:38:47

Samsmalaidh, no contact order. The arrangement stems from what was agreed in the divorce, when the DCs were much younger and their needs completely different. ALso I did not work then. Since then I have tried on various occasions to negotiate an every other weekends arrangement, but exH goes beserk every time, screams "parental alienation syndrome", threatens court proceedings again, and generally is so vile and upsets the children so much that I have so far just conceded. I've given more of the detail in my posts towards the end of this thread in Legal.

The thing is, I have wanted to change the contact for years - I really don't think that every other weekend for DCs of this age and with both parents working full time would be unfair on him - but I don't want it to look like I am doing that now because of the new baby. It's nothing to do with his new baby, it's to do with my DCs' lives and my relationship with them. But he won't accept that.

I really want the DCs to have a good and close relationship with their baby sibling, but I am worried that with the father they have (lazy and selfish), and with their stepmum's attention now on her own child, they will just end up feeling like second-class citizens there and worse, that they don't get to spend enough time with their mother either. But how to change things?

Cloverhoney Mon 15-Oct-12 10:42:06

Yes, that's a totally different issue.
If you ex isn't pulling his weight and leaving his wife to do all the work for your kids at the same time as dealing with hew own newborn then she'll likely build resentments towards her SC. I suspect at some point soon she'll snap and tell your ex to get his act together. I've been in her shoes and that's what I did.
Absolutely your ex should be taking your son to his sports club! I very much doubt his wife 'doesn't want to be left alone' - on the contrary she'd probably appreciate the peace!
Are you on good enough terms with your ex or even his wife for that matter to discuss this with them? I mean if you can approach her, I would, because I suspect you have a common interest here...

Cloverhoney Mon 15-Oct-12 10:49:12

PS Regarding changing contact - your kids are at an age when they can articulate what they would prefer in regards to contact arrangements and a court WOULD take note, especially of the 11 year old.

Parental alienation would be quite difficult at this age and after so many years of this level of contact so I doubt a court would pay much attention to your ex if he did make that allegation.

madelineashton Mon 15-Oct-12 11:50:43

Just to pop on to my soap box and say that parental alienation can, and does, happen at 11, and 12, and 13. Because the abuse has usually been going on for a long time before that undetected until it's too late. But courts (at least in the UK right now) know very little about it and if the 11 year old (possibly even the 8 year old) makes a decision, the courts will most likely uphold it.
To be sure though, you might be better to wait a year or so. Although, I would use making the children choose as a last last last resort. What a horrible amount of pressure to put on them, particularly if their Dad is a bit of an arse. He sounds like a classic narcissist to me. He will go in to a rage if this isn't handled properly.
Have the children said anything to you about being unhappy with the recent changes? I would take my cue from them, if I were you. I can see why you would be frustrated (my ex has just told me, after buying a two bed house, that he and his df are trying for a baby so I'm worried about how that will affect my dd who lives there a third of the time) but the children may have adapted quite well and you might be best to wait until theyre a bit older and make the decisions for themselves...

UC Mon 15-Oct-12 12:00:58

Have I understood this right - your ex has contact with your DCs every weekend? You work full time. When do YOU see your DCs?

I assume your DCs go to school near you, and their friends are near you. I can't imagine an 8 and 11 year old not complaining about this arrangement - esp if their dad doesn't support them going to parties, meeting friends etc. Socially this must be damaging for them surely? If they are never at your house at the weekend, when on earth do they do anything with their mates?

I can't imagine a court in these circumstances giving your ex's shouting about parental alienation a look in. However, I can imagine them totally understanding why YOU need the situation to change.

Do you get on with your ex's DP?

Ginda Mon 15-Oct-12 13:29:20

madelineashton, my DCs have said a few times that they would like to be at home more at weekends. But I would not pursue this line of discussion with them as I don't want them to feel "in the middle", and I am certain that if I presented to exH the argument "we want to move to every other weekend because that is what the kids want" then the next time he had them, he would have a parallel discussion and then say "well they say to me that they want to keep it how it is". And I'm sure that they probably would say that to him, because he doesn't hesitate to "guilt" them into missing out on things they want to do at home if it affects his contact.

UC, the contact arrangement at present is 2 weekends with him, one with me. So I have one weekend every three weeks. I think this is completely ridiculous and unfair, but exH and his DW argue that as I see the DCs every evening and morning, they should have more weekend time. If I don't like it, we can change residency and then I can have 2 weekends out of 3 for contact. Clearly, even if I were prepared to accept that, which I'm not, it is totally unworkable because the DCs' school is where I live and exH and stepmum live 80 miles away.

I do believe that it is damaging for the DCs to be at home so little. One of them in particular has never really been accepted in his year group at school because he is hardly ever around at weekends to play (we live in a small place where all the kids in the neighbourhood go to the villeage school and all play out together at weekends). I have put this to exH in the past and he just says that seeing him is more important than making friends. Someone up the thread said he sounds like a narcissist and I think that's probably right. His children are there to validate him, not as independent people with their own interests.

When I get home from work I just have time to deal with homework, do bathtime and bedtime, and that's it. One hour from me arriving, to them in the bath. In that time I am washing up lunchboxes, hearing about the day's events, sorting uniform for the next day. The activities that the DCs like doing with me, we can only do once every three weeks. I hate it. But exH seems to consider the birth of his new baby to be a reason for even MORE contact, so they can all "bond" as a family.

I get on OK with the stepmum most of the time, apart from when I try to raise any remotely contentious issue like this with her. When that happens, she goes very cold. I can't decide if she genuinely thinks that exH's opinions are valid and fair, or if she just feels duty-bound to present a united front.

ExH never responds to any emails I send him about the DCs, so I cc the wife and she will respond on his behalf if it is a pressing matter.

It's all quite unsatisfactory. Writing it down, it seems as though I should just say "we are moving to every other weekend contact now", but I know that will just light the touchpaper, it will all get very nasty, and the DCs will end up upset. I would like to find some other way, but I don't know how.

LauraPalmerPlusOne Mon 15-Oct-12 13:35:56

For someone who has been divorced from this man for such a long time you seem to be awfully angry and bitter. And frankly, you're quite negative when you comment on his youngest child. It comes across that you're a bit jealous. I imagine it must be emotionally difficult that your DC have a new sibling and it has nothing to do with you.

However, instead of assuming that you know how your exH behaves when you're not around, or basing your assumptions on how he behaved almost a decade ago when you were married to one another, perhaps you should stop concerning yourself with criticising him and focus on legally sorting out a more appropriate contact order. It would be a more constructive use of your energy.

izzywizzyisbizzy Mon 15-Oct-12 13:49:19

This is a ridiculous situation - the DCs social life should come first and if he won't sort it - it's down to you as their mother too stand up for them.

Next time they have a party invite simply say - they are going to this party - collect them afterwards or tale them yourself.

Get a new mobile just for them (or for you and use old no just for them) and don't take it everywhere when you have kids, ditto to email address, start keeping a diary and so what if he takes you to court - he won't get far - a DCs social life will be important to cafcass

He Is a bully and you are teaching them it's ok to accept that

SamSmalaidh Mon 15-Oct-12 13:57:37

Could he have them every Sunday instead, and drop them off at school on Monday morning - then he's still seeing them every week but they can do sports/parties on Saturday?

Ginda Mon 15-Oct-12 14:02:02

Laura, you're well off the mark and perhaps if you have nothing helpful to say, say nothing.

I left him, not the other way round. I left him because of how he is, and lo and behold he continues to exhibit the same behaviour towards his DCs.

I'm certainly not jealous about the new baby; in fact I am very happy for his wife, as she had to have a lot of fertility treatment to get the baby and I know it would have been terribly sad if it hadn't worked.

As to his behaviour when I'm not around, I know exactly what he says to the DCs about what he is and isn't prepared for them to do, as they tell me. It's not an assumption, it comes straight from the DCs' mouths. The whole point of this discussion is that I do not want to end up in court regarding a contact order. The whole process is costly and stressful and will result in a permanent loss of what goodwill there presently is (which arises largely as a result of my conceding to almost all of exH's requirements). I want to revise the contact to suit the changing needs of the DCs WITHOUTa adversarial legal proceedings.

So, back in your box please.

izzywizzy, occasionally I do put my foot down but it always results in a very nasty row which goes on for several days with abusive texts and emails from exH and the DCs are always left with the feeling that whatever it is they had wanted to do, it's not worth the amount of hassle.

I am afraid of looking obstructive although I have never been obstructive.

Ginda Mon 15-Oct-12 14:06:39

Sam, I don't think that would work unfortunately, as he has to be at work himself very early on Mondays and the DCs' school is 80 miles away from that. And the stepmum can hardly be expected to be up at dawn to do it, with a new baby as well.

If only they lived closer to us, things would be much easier in terms of more frequent contact, but they have said they are staying put.

izzywizzyisbizzy Mon 15-Oct-12 14:22:24

I guessed re the abusive texts and emails - that's why I suggested separate numbers and email address - hr has as much power as you give him

You don't have to read them/answer them you know.

You could just take stuck record routine - this is the party - here is a copy of the invite.

This is going to have to be tackled sooner or later - seriously you could self rep in court - and look reasonable with an eow and half hold proposal.

It's not right that they can't do anything

izzywizzyisbizzy Mon 15-Oct-12 14:25:17

Half hols even

PropositionJoe Mon 15-Oct-12 14:28:46

The issue is the father, not the new baby. Maybe as the step mum sees with her own baby how you put your child's needs first it will shine some light on her husbands lack of parenting skills and she will kick him uo the arse a bit. Which will benefit all three siblings.

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