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Expectations of step parent -what's realistic? Am I expecting too much?

(153 Posts)
StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 08:48:57


I have 3dcs (aged 3,5,7) from prev relationship, and now live with DP, who has 2 DCs (aged10,13). He came to live with us in our small 4 bed house. We have fallen out because he says I over indulge, and baby my dcs. He complains they are spoilt brats. After some reflection, I accept he is right, in a way. So I'm in the process of setting up better boundaries, and trying to get my DCs to be more independent. I am trying hard.

I think I parent this way partly due to guilt of leaving my ex abusive husband, having not had a supportive partner from when ds1 arrived, and trying to make up for a difficult home environment. I left and set up a great family home, have a well paid job, work long hours, and have indulged the kids. Initially they used to all creep through and sleep with me, and not fall asleep unless I was with them at bedtime, so after a hard slog, we now have a good bedtime regime, and no night time bed hopping. This has been a massive improvement.

My exH is a bit of a Disney dad now, made worse by he fact his parents and him all stay together whilst the DCs re there, so they are very indulged. The DCs are away every second weekend and half school hols. When they come back there is usually a settling in period, when they are weepy or sullen, which I feel awful about. However, it is getting better.

Anyway, my new partner moved in 7 months ago, and I'm confused about what his role should be. After reading heaps of threads I feel I have had unrealistic expectations, and I see that I have been too soft with kids.

I get up with them every morning for breakfast, which can be early, whilst DP stays in bed, having set an alarm for nearer 8 on a weekday, always lies in at the weekend. I feel resentful of this. I do all the getting up to see to the kids at night, but they're little and understandably want their mum. He doesn't tolerate toys in the living room, as the kids have their own rooms and a playroom. If he's at home he watches his choice of TV programmes, whilst I usually put on a kids channel, if the tv is on at all.

I feel that the DCs initially resented his presence at home, but now accept it, and are affectionate towards him now, as he is with them.

He has no fixed contact arrangements, with his own DCs, we have been away on hols together, arranged and paid by me, and they have stayed when my dcs are at their dads.

I feel we need to bond more as a family, and have suggested a get together every second weekend. We went on holiday altogether in the Summer, and they seemed to enjoy each others company. Due to space it's difficult to have them all stay over at one time.

My DP and I get on fabulously when the DCs aren't around, tensions build when they are.

So my questions are, what role should my DP take with my DCs? Our relationship is on shaky ground, because of the way I am with the DCs, however I feel he is overly strict at times. What's the best way to try to resolve this? Should I be expecting him to be more of a dad? He's happy to discipline,but there's no other parenting going on, which I find difficult. He says he will try to be less strict, and interact better with the DCs, but its such hard work. I'm piggy in the middle, can you have it all?

Thanks for reading my rant!

MrsMcEnroe Sun 25-Aug-13 09:09:46

My initial, instinctive reaction to your OP, having read it very carefully, is that your new DP is not a very nice man!

Red flags:
He doesn't have regular contact with his own children;
He criticises your parenting;
He refers to your children as spoilt brats (WTF???);
He moves into YOUR home and instantly takes over the TV;
Doesn't tolerate toys in the living room;
Lies in bed late in the mornings;
Happy to discipline the kids but not interact with them in any other way....

He sounds awful. Is he nice to YOU?

You are being massively unfair to your children by tolerating this.

StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 09:38:13

Thanks for your frankness MrsM, he says he feels like a lodger here. We've had some terrible rows. I feel that I've made lots of changes, and he's being intolerant. I guess I wanted to know f I was being unrealistic.

In my ideal world, he would help me with the kids in the morning,but as he gets up at 8 and I have to be at work for 8, he doesn't. I do resent this. Also I think it's ok for small kids to have toys in the living room. When we get home he's usually there before us, and before he lived with us the kids would watch a bit of telly whilst getting ready for bed. Occasionally he does switch it over. He only referred to DCs as spoilt brats during heated debates.

When it is just me and him, it's fine. I have always said to him I find this arrangement difficult. I want him to bond better with my DCs as it was their home first.

My parents didn't take to him, raising concerns about his motives.

There has always been issues. I thought we were moving on but 2 days after the DCs return after their holidays at their dads, he has a massive sulk and walks out for and hour or so, and since been sullen with me, it's been tough.

MrsMcEnroe Sun 25-Aug-13 09:56:06

Yes it sounds tough, and it is obvious that you have very different expectations.

YOU want him to be your partner and a fully involved step-dad to your children. Fair enough, but did you have that discussion before he moved in, or did you just assume that it would happen naturally?

HE wants to control you, and is not interested in having a relationship with your children. Had he met your children before he moved in? If he had, was he nice to them? Have you met his children? How long were you together before he moved in?

I am wondering why on earth you are with a man who is so horrible to your children? And who is not interested in his own children??

StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 10:08:08

You're voicing my underlying concerns. we were together for over a year before we lived together, he used to stay at weekends and occas during the week. He was nice to them, he seems to have bonded with my youngest. I've met his children, they come over occasionally for sleepovers, and cinema etc. we've all been away together twice as a family. He says he sees them, but on an ad hoc basis.

I thought we had discussed things, perhaps not realising the pitfalls.

He says he doesnt like the way the kids treat me, "like a slave" and they can be disrespectful, and won't take a telling. He says I need to back him up more consistently.

AnythingNotEverything Sun 25-Aug-13 10:25:21

I think he's jealous of the attention you give your kids.

I think you have four children here.

louby44 Sun 25-Aug-13 10:37:16

I can relate a bit to your situation. I do was a bit soft with my 2 DS when I first met my DP. Like you I was working fulltime, still getting over my husbands infidelity and moved out of our family home.

He made me see that I had to set firmer boundaries and stick to them.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 25-Aug-13 10:46:26

I'm going to put the other (step-parent) perspective here:

Firstly; Why the hell should he get up earlier in the mornings to help you with your DCs? If that's what you expected from him when he moved in then your motives are as questionable as his! If he offers to help then that's great, but he has no responsibility towards your DCs at all.

Secondly; why can't you agree to compromise about toys/TV etc? It's his home too, and I can understand why he wouldn't want toys strewn around all the family living spaces. Equally, he can't expect it to be a show home, either.

Thirdly; he thinks you spoil and indulge your kids and in the heat of the moment has called them brats. How do his DCs behave? If they are polite, well mannered & respectful then maybe his parenting skills are worth learning from?

Moving in with an established family is hard enough and if you want this to work then it's your responsibility to make the changes that create a home for both of you.

StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 11:21:04

China why is it my responsibility to make changes? Surely it's a 2 way thing. Also I feel as he's the other adult he should help with the kids, otherwise I'm still living as a single person, surely he should do his bit as he's joined our family, and as a partner not a live in lover. I'm not asking to help every day,but once in a blue moon would be good.

His kids seem in awe of him,unquestioning, but they are older, and yes I think he has identified flaws in my parenting, which I accept.

I appreciate your perspective.

Just now, for example, DP got up, came through to the living room and switched the tv over to his programmes, and sent the kids upstairs. My eldest whispered tome on the stairs, "why did x change th channel?" And DP overhears, shouts don't be cheeky, then chastises me for not backing him up. I dunno, I see the DCs point better in this instance.

StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 11:22:16

Oh and we do compromise about telly etc, DP has got his way entirely, and we accept that's the way now.

NatashaBee Sun 25-Aug-13 11:45:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

testedpatience Sun 25-Aug-13 11:47:28

I was in a very similar situation to you when i met my now Dh. 3 kids, working fulltime and guilt about kicking abusive ex out.

It took about a year for Dh to find his place and role in our home and family but the one thing he did do was take the responsibility of the children on very quickly.

He did the school run so we didnt have to pay for breakfast club (he offered) and it fitted with his hours, cooked for the kids if he finished earlier than me and i was on lates so that they were all ready for me to put to bed. Money was always joint so that any clothing, haircuts and treats came out of either account with no resentment on his part as far as i know.

The one thing we did fall out about was discipline because he is much tougher than me. I'm laid back and more free flow, he is far more strict and if i'm honest has far higher expectations than me!

We have had a few whopper rows about it in the past but since having our own Ds i have realised that it wasnt him having a pop at my children because they are someone elses, its his parenting style is different from mine even with our own.

We fall out over our own Ds nowgrin

I couldnt tolerate a man who would send the kids upstairs and took control of the remote so i would question where your relationship is heading. Dont allow yourself to be a single Mum living with a man. You and your kids deserve better.

Boundaries are good but a divided household is a nightmare and your children might get angry about it as they get older and hold you responsible.

Have a good chat with your DP and tell him how you feel, hopefully you can find an answer and if not, show him the door.

onedev Sun 25-Aug-13 11:53:35

I agree with Mrs M & it seems terribly harsh on your DC.

ruthie2468 Sun 25-Aug-13 12:05:48

The children were watching tv, he sent them upstairs because they were in his way?! Bloody hell - he is horrible! Your kids will really resent you if this keeps happening.

DragonsAreReal Sun 25-Aug-13 12:15:27

Why is it because he's a step parent it's so awful to send the kids to play?

I send my own kids to play in their bedrooms when I want a bit of space/peace especially in the holidays. I wouldn't have no hesitation to send any dc in my house off with them to.

As for toys in the living room I have a rule that any toy out must be put away so one toy at a time in living room (don't care about their bedroom) but OP said they have a play room so why do they need toys in the living room to?

Also they are your kids to get up not his and if they haven't clicked yet I doubt he wants to be in charge of them as such when you two are not a team yet. I would start small by getting him to take them out for pizza/cinema/park/dinner/school run before getting them ready in the morning.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 25-Aug-13 12:24:11

Also I feel as he's the other adult he should help with the kids, otherwise I'm still living as a single person, surely he should do his bit as he's joined our family

So you haven't formed a partnership? You consider he has joined you?

That's the fundamental issue I think - you see him as an addition to the family you had established - not a new start in which both adults are equal.

As for expecting him to help with the kids otherwise you consider yourself to be living as a single person, there is only one other person you can reasonably expect to share parenting responsibilities; your DCs other parent. Don't try and palm the job off to someone else, particularly if they aren't willing. confused

lunar1 Sun 25-Aug-13 12:44:06

I think these rules are fine if that's how your children have been brought up, but i dont think its right that you move someone into their lives and all of a sudden the rules all have to change. Presumably the toys were in the lounge and the children's channels on when he came to visit? Did he say then that he wasn't keen on this or that you were too soft? Or did it all start when he moved in?

Obviously some compromise is needed, but this just sounds like he is making demands that should have all been ironed out prior to moving in, after all he was staying with you at weekends so knew your setup.

I really dont think you can complain about the mornings though, again unless you agreed before he moved in that you would get up together to see to them then its really your responsibility.

He doesnt sound a great dad to his own children which would be a huge warning for me.

I dont mean this specifically at you OP but i often wonder in situations like this what happens if you separate and move someone else in further down the line? do the children have to change all their routines and lifestyles according to the demands of the next step dad.

Mueslimorning Sun 25-Aug-13 13:11:25

Dh calls this moving the goalposts. How about a set time that is kiddy TV time and after dinner/ youngest bedtime its adult time? Then your dc would probably not moan or whisper and your dp couldn't just kick them out, but would have to respect their time too.
Same with toys, allowed during their time in living room and then they take them upstairs.
I'd have to say though that I'd expect some help In the mornings, even if its dp making breakfast for adults and you looking after the kids, but there should be some give. I'm sure he expects you to be willing at night when you're tired after a days work and childcare...

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 25-Aug-13 14:00:36

I'm sure he expects you to be willing at night when you're tired after a days work and childcare...

Willing to what, exactly? If you mean what I think you mean by that, all I can say is thank goodness most DCs aren't being brought up with that attitude, how 1950's grin

Surely noone really trades sex for help with their DCs now-a-days, do they? Really?

elliebellys Sun 25-Aug-13 14:44:10

Stonebear why on earth wasnt all this discussed before him moving in? How long have you been together .

StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 14:56:07

Thanks for your comments. We did chat, and initially he started staying for more time, done knew what I was like with the kids, and the routines we had. In many ways things are better for us all, better discipline, better regime at bedtime, and more independent DCs. I said before he moved in what my expectations were- that I expected an adult to help out, he agreed.

In the holidays when we all went away I got up with all the kids except for 1 day, his kids and mine.

Anyway. There has to be compromises.

We have been together for 2 years now.

reup Sun 25-Aug-13 14:59:30

I wasn't quite sure about the holiday part. Did you pay for a holiday for you and him and both lots of dc? Was there a reason he didn't contribute? Does he contribute financially to the household?

Is he as strict with his children?

StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 15:06:50

Yes I paid for the holiday, as I did last year. Financially things are not organised, everything in my name, he pays for shopping if he gets it. I ask him for money towards bills.

He is strict with his own kids.

cupoftchai Sun 25-Aug-13 15:12:32

he sounds controllling. You've been with an abusive man before, is there anything about this partner that reminds you of your ex? anything at all? what about friends, what do they think about him? you say your parents questioned his motives, what was that about?

elliebellys Sun 25-Aug-13 15:16:44

Well sorry to say it but he sure has a good thing in your house.why would he want things to be different..

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