Step parenting in general(15 Posts)
I'm just after a bit of advice in general really. I don't have any children of my own and been with DP for about 3 months now. He has a child from a previous relationship who I am yet to meet.
How long did other wait before meeting DSS or DSD? Any tips are most welcome as this isn't really a situation I expected to see myself in and am quite nervous!
How old are the children and how long has your DP been split from his ex?
I waited about three months and kept it casual and we were introduced as friends.
I think it's worth considering other factors too, how is his ex likely to take it, how long have they been apart etc as a bitter ex wife can make things much, much harder.
My tips are more about your DP than his DCs!
When you do finally meet his DCs he should expect them to be courteous and polite to you, and he should pull them up if they're not.
If he is reluctant to discipline them, or allows them to behave rudely towards you or him then warning bells should ring in your head!
Lots of non-resident parents won't parent their DCs because they either feel guilty about the way the failure of their relationship has affected the marriage, or are scared that the DCs won't like them if they impose rules and boundaries. Or both!
The result is often rude, disrespectful, entitled DCs who are not being equipped with the skills to establish appropriate relationships.
Watch out for any suggestion that his ex should be 'vetting' you - it indicates that he is not an equal parent in his DCs lives and that he has accepted her calling the shots in the past (if she trusted him, she wouldn't ask) - and you will become the reason that he stops doing as he's told in her eyes if he begins to stand up for himself now!
As for the DCs - take it slowly, let them lead and if you can find a shared interest, that will help, too
I met my (widower) DP's kids 'officially' about four months after we began dating. (I'd run into him and his DD on the street once before that, after I think our second date.)
My now DSCs were fine on the first meeting, and in fact they were fine (as in, not hostile) for the first couple of months...DSS was really pleased I was there, actually. It was really only once DSD began to see that I wasn't going away and that things were changing in her life, that she began to be difficult towards me directly. We went through a period then of both open rudeness and quiet manipulation that was very tough (we are doing semi-ok now, years later, but still have some conflicts and in a way I think that early period has sort of left a stain on our relationship that is hard to get past...she may not even remember most of the things she said and did, but of course I do).
Even when the kids were happy to have me around, there were definite clues to things (mostly about DP and his parenting) that I noticed. The very first time I met the kids, DP just slipped into the background. DSD completely dominated the meeting, talking a mile a minute. I was relieved that she was so relaxed - ha! - really I should have asked myself why she was allowed to dominate quite so much, and why DP wasn't actually taking charge at all. Then we started doing things together - going out for meals, for instance - and I noticed how the kids just ordered anything they wanted, left messes for the staff, and didn't observe basic table manners. That did bother me, right away. I'd say, be observant. Like NADM said - watch how your DP acts around his child. It may be very different from the side of him you see when it is just the two of you.
The DSCs had met other women that DP went on dates with, but none of those lasted more than a couple of dates. I think they understood that they should be ok wih dad dating again, but the reality was tougher for DSD. DSS saw me more as an ally than an enemy, thankfully.
Thanks for all the really brilliant advice. DP has one 5 year old from a previous relationship. He has another one which is due to be born in the next week or so to a different partner and I think this is where its really hit home with me. The split occurred at the beginning of the pregnancy and i think it was a tough decision at the time to continue with the split. We have only been dating a month so it is very early days and I'm still weighing up the complicated situation I am entering! We are old friends so I have a good understanding of DP as I don't think I would have entered into this situation with someone I didn't know.
I don't know how the mother of his first child reacted to the first partner as it seems a bit early to discuss. I don't expect mum number 2 be amicable as I think she found the split hard. I expect she will definitely want to vet me!!
Its really interesting to hear other peoples thoughts as I hadn't anticipated a change in DP around his children. NotADisneyMum/brdgirl how did you respond to the lack of respect for you? I think this is something I'd find it hard to tolerate and I'm not always the most tactful so good to have a prepared response on that one!
I second the vetting warning! DP let his ex vet me. It's a few years on and the kids still can't stay at mine without her say so! Hence they have never stayed. Whenever DP does stand his ground it gets blamed on me for making him do it!!
He met my child after five months and I met his after seven. This works well.
brdgirl how did you respond to the lack of respect for you?
Not very well, I'm afraid. I am pretty introverted and I know that I do not project an air of confidence. I felt bullied by DSD, that is the only word for it. I think she sensed my discomfort with speaking up and it gave her license to keep going - especially as my DH wasn't pulling her up on things either. She could be sneaky and quite manipulative too.
Once I finally talked to DH about it, he began to occasionally intervene, which did help, but I wish I had spoken up on my own behalf more often too. I used to actually practice saying things over and over again, hoping I'd be able to come out with them with the right tone and confidence. Stuff like "I really don't appreciate the 'dumb blonde' jokes made on my behalf, and I'd like you to stop now." Or "Thank you, but we have already decided what we are watching on the telly; please switch it back now." But then, as a stepmum, you get worried that you'll end up in a confrontation, and that's scary. Or...DSD would totally overreact to any suggestion of criticism....telling her to change a television program I was watching back on after she'd some in and switched it over, just to carry on with that example, was likely to produce a flood of tears from her and a flounce to her room, which would be followed by DH making her a cup of tea and having an hour-long heart to heart with her.
Now my problems are more with SS and his lack of respect for me, for DH, and for the house rules. We have an occasional open row about it, which I find really awful and which get pretty bad. But my only other choice is to bite my tongue and let him do exactly as he pleases. His lack of respect for DH is actually the bigger problem, and I can't seem to just ignore it; it really winds me up.
I think you get to a point where you can't keep quiet and bottle it up any longer, but the alternative is constant rowing and confrontation which isn't nice either.
And then there's the frustration that your DH can't understand why you think it's important the kids are disciplined and expected to treat the adults and each other with respect.
Why can't these men understand that by allowing their kids to disrespect them, they are also encouraging us to think our partners are spineless?
Don't do it
What everyone else has said really. But can I add to that with the fact that you need to do some quiet soul searching and work out if you can accept that you will never have any control over his ex and how she behaves, what she thinks about you, how she spends her time, how she treats the kids etc etc.
Don't fall in to the trap of relishing being the "good" and "righteous woman, or being better than his ex. either as a partner or a mother. Don't bond over frustrations with the ex. Although this is tempting at the start of a relationship where you are both looking for common ground.
All to often time and energy is spent by the SM on being angry at the ex... then the kids... but at the root of it (as much as sisterly respect and basic human decency shouldn't be too much to ask for from their mother) is that your partner is the one who has made the commitment to you, not the kids, or the ex, and he is the one who needs to set the expectationfor the children to respect you - and him of course! And to decide how he and his ex will parent seperately.
You can support him in gaining the strength to do this of course, but as others have said - if/ when he changes, you will be the wicked one who "changed" him and stopped him toeing the line. This is where respect comes in. No child should believe that their dad is simply someone who's strings are pulled by which ever woman he happens to be shacked up with (that goes for you and his ex) and this will lead to problems.
Step situations can work. But rarely and I would seriously seriously urge you to not overlook and issues of concerns in your gut at this stage.
And start saving hard for all the gin you're going to need!!!!!
Aw, thanks Natasha!
how did you respond to the lack of respect for you?
Quite simply, my DP and I both entered our relationship with the mindset that was an enhancement to our lives, and if at any time, either of us were more unhappy together than we would be on our own, then that needs to be brought out into the open. We are not scared of acknowledging that in order for our relationship to survive, we have to work at it; we do not take our love for each other for granted, and we know that we have a family dynamic that significantly increases the risk of our relationship failing.
It means that we are totally honest with each other, and our opinions, even if exposes an issue that could be a deal breaker. We don't bottle things up and seethe quietly - if DP is frustrated because my DD has left the house lit-up like a Xmas tree for the third time in a week, he tells me, and we discuss it, agree an approach, and (as it's my DD) I lead on it.
When we first got together, he was a Disney Dad, who acquiesced to his ex at every turn. No-one was happy with the situation; not me, not DP, not the DC's and not his ex. DP and I agreed that our relationship did not have a long term future unless we 1) attended parenting classes together, and 2) he sought a contact order to stabilise things for his DC's. Had we disagreed, then our relationship would have been over.
Parenting classes led to discussions about our parenting values, his role as a NRP and a step-dad, my role as a SM, and we agreed some common boundaries in terms of house-rules, behaviour etc. We remind each other if either of us fall down or slip up - so if my DD is rude to DP, and I don't pull her up on it, then DP's issue is with me, not with DD. If I think he's being too Disney and is motivated by wanting to be liked by his DC's, I will remind him where the mickey mouse ears are
We share our values, boundaries and principles - we don't always agree, but we thrash things out between us until we reach an agreement. We both know that if we deliberately undermine or fail to support the other, then the relationship would be over.
On a personal note, I do not have an emergency fund, or exit strategy, although I know some SM find these reassuring, and I did keep my house for a few months after first moving in with DP. Having survived a very messy, and financially disastrous, divorce, I am confident that whatever happens I can deal with and it isn't something I plan for
Some brilliant advise NADM. My fiancee has just moved in and I think it would be worth looking at some house rules
I think i'm comfortable where I stand on not bonding over dislike of his ex. I haven't met either so I wouldn't say anything negative and the one time he did mention something negative I just said if that's the way you feel about her it was perhaps a little silly to have a child together and he's never said anything negative again as he knows i'm from the school of there around for the rest of your life so you just need to be civil and get on with things.
I don't really know how its going to work with the new baby boy to be honest. It's a very difficult situation because I think as a new mother you don't want a baby out of your sight so I don't know how that's going to work. We haven't discussed this as I thought I'd leave it up to him to figure out with his ex and I don't think its something they will discuss until he's born.
My Dad was definitely a disney dad. I've never heard that expression before but it comes him up perfectly. I don't think DP is a disney dad luckily. He's son seems to have a set routine as we often talk on a weekend when he's in bed at a set time and they do a combination of normal and fun things at the weekend.
We both have our own houses and I'd be the breadwinner in the relationship were it to progress so another pro for me!
One thing no ones mentioned which has been running through my mind is his little boys relationship with his last partner who isn't his mum. I think they got on quite well and I do worry he will resent me as he'll see me as the reason she's not around. It has been a while since they split now however.
Finally just wanted to say thanks to everyone for being so helpful and welcoming with some brilliant advice. I was a bit nervous posting a 'step' question on a mums forum but you've all been so lovely and helpful.
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