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Help-I'm new at this and feeling isolated

(4 Posts)
misscatte Sat 18-May-13 11:58:50

Hi everyone,

I've just joined mumsnet, as I need some support and advice. I've been in a wonderful relationship for over a year, and my boyfriend and I have previously been friends for 6 years. He has a 3 year old son, who I am involved with, and spend time with on a regular basis. We both have a good relationship with his ex-partner, who is a great mum. So far, so good.

The problem I'm having is that I feel very isolated about being a step-mum to a 3 year old. Only a couple of my close friends have children, and none of them are in relationships with people who do. Therefore, I haven't really got anyone to speak to about the situation when things get difficult. Also, a lot of the people I do know with children seem to have a negative opinion of me wanting to be involved in the boy's life, as I don't think they can imagine the situation if it was them, or if someone else had a close relationship with their ex and child.

I am happy looking after the boy, and I have grown very close to him. I just sometimes feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm terrified of ever having a negative influence on him. I don't feel comfortable disciplining him, and sometimes worry that my partner undermines my authority when I do, as he naturally runs to him if he's been told off by me.

Just wondering if anyone has any advice for me on how to grow more comfortable with the difficult bits and be more confident as a step parent? I'd really appreciate it! xx

YouMaySayImADreamer Sat 18-May-13 13:01:10

I was in a really similar situation to you, my dss was 3 when my and my dp got together, i was only 22 and now nearly 6 years on, things are still going strong.

My advice would be to take things slowly, and that in time, things will become a lot easier and you will find the situation quite natural. The advantage of the child being so young is that they dont really understand the situation and will naturally be more accepting of you. I began by building my relationship with my dss accompanying them on days out, or watching family films etc where there is no need to be anything other than someone they can have fun with - id say that this early on in your relationship (both with your dp and dsc) there is no need for you play any role other than this. Are you living together? We didnt live together for the first 3 years of our relationship, and for the first 18 months, i didnt stay over whilst dss was staying at his dads, just to make sure i was introduced to their dynamic gradually. I think this had a lot to do with us being younger though so it might not be practical in all relationships.

When you talk about discipline, what sort of things do you mean? In my experience, most "naughty" things that three year olds do, arent intentionally naughty, but just because of their age (e.g. tipping their toys everywhere etc). I always took it that if dss was in my care, or even both of our care, it was fine for me to gently discipline/guide him, e.g. "dont do that its dangerous/you will make a mess" etc or encouraging him to say please or thank you - i dont think anyone would find it unreasonable for you to say these sorts of things, as long as you didnt start shouting at or getting angry with him. Also my dss always understood that i was an adult and if i asked him to do something, he would just do it because at that age they dont know any different, an advantage of them being little, and i think if you establish this from the start you will be ok. If dss ever did anything really intentionally naughty, which was rare, i would show my disapproval but leave the decision over discipline to his dad, even if it meant waiting for him to get home. However as he has got older and i have been in his life longer, we have started to show more of a united front over any really naughty behaviour, and if my dss did anything really naughty, my dp would support me in disciplining him (e.g. taking a toy away or whatever) because we want to avoid him playing us off, and because we want his time with him to be as close to normal family life as possible.

I found that treating dss as my own when he was with us helped me to develop a good relationship. Some people might disagree with this, but when he stayed with us or we took him on holidays, he was a little boy away from his mummy, so i wanted to look after him as a mummy would. I took on that role of dressing him, sometimes bathing him, reading him a story, putting him to bed, making him food, cuddling him, playing with him, taking an interest in his school work, sometimes looking after him on my own or taking him out if his daddy was busy (all gradually in time of course). I didnt want to take the attitude of leaving all of his care to his dad when he stayed over, because i felt it would create a divide and make it seem like i wasnt interested in him.

We intentionally acted as though we were a "real" family when we were together. He came on all our holidays with us from the start, and if we got invited to any family friendly events (parties, weddings etc) even by my friends and family, he came with us, even if it was on a day we wouldnt normally have him. It has really stood us in good stead now that we have recently had a baby together.

I would just go with the flow for now, but your dp sounds like a good dad and im sure he would be more than happy for you to develop a close relationship with his child because he will want him to be apart of your family unit. Any discipline issues or family decisions come part and parcel of this. You sound really caring and taking a considered approach to stepparenthood so without meaning to sound patronising, im sure youll do a great job :-)

misscatte Sat 18-May-13 13:26:56

Ahhh, thankyou, that's really helpful. It's all about slow, careful steps I guess. I've been doing a lot of the fun, family things, and we play together a lot (hide and seek is a particular favourite), and this is great.

We do live together, and the boy has his own room in our home, and I want him to feel part of our family all the time. He is young and very adaptable, so this is good.

I think that with the discipline thing, it's more about me not knowing when to 'step it up' from the 'please don't do that, because...' etc, when he's pushing things, as 3 year olds can do! I do try and keep with the tried and tested things we have, i.e. naughty step, calm down time, but I never seem to know when this should happen, or whether I should explain again. Then again, I guess every parent struggles with this, as there's no typical situation!

YouMaySayImADreamer Sat 18-May-13 13:59:50

No problem, glad it helped. Yeah thats true about the discipline, im probably looking through rose tinted glasses a bit! But i think me and dp just worked out "our" parenting methods together because like you said, its just the same as any parent and it was as new to dp as to me. There will be arguments over things like this but try not to take it personally as i sometimes did, or as a critism of your step parenting, because theyre just the same arguments as any parents have and as we still have now over our "joint" child.

Him having his own room is really good, because it does seem to make them feel just as much at home as in their mums.

It wont always be plain sailing, and ill admit that i found it difficult at times having an instant child and most of the responsibilities (and dare i day, constraints) without having made the decision to have a baby yet. But as long as your dp is sympathetic to this, there is no reason why you cant have time to yourselves sometimes too. Its just about finding a good balance.

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