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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!

MrsCampbellBlack Sun 25-Aug-13 15:23:06

Golly, I do hope your 3 year old is really independent now!

Seriously, he just walks in, turns the tv over and then tells your child off. And you just accept this.

You are going to have bigger problems with your children if you continue to allow this to happen. Its very easy to parent small children by fear but we all know its wrong.

I'd suggest you look long and hard at what your children and you get out of this relationship.

Fairylea Sun 25-Aug-13 15:25:11

I see a lot of red flags.

I have a dd aged 10 from a previous relationship and I have remarried and now have ds 14 months with my dh.

Dh has brought dd up as his own for the past four years. We share parenting completely, good and bad parts and especially as we now have ds it's very important to us that both dc are treated exactly the same. (Well age permitting!).

Dh has always taken turns getting up with the kids, I couldn't be doing this mine and yours thing you have going on. In my mind if you are a family you share everything.

That extends to our money too. Waffling now but I am a sahm and dh and I put all our money into a joint account and we have equal spending money. We don't do separate anything, dh would never suggest dd isn't his child. He feels that she is as much his as ds (she still sees her dad regularly too).

The toys in the living room and tv thing would be a massive red flag for me. I think toys should be availableIn shared living areas of the house and tv controls should at least be shared, not monopolised by your dp.

I think he sounds selfish and controlling. Sorry.

elliebellys Sun 25-Aug-13 15:31:50

Op have you ever had councilling after your split from exh?.you seem to have a recurring pattern going on.

Fairylea Sun 25-Aug-13 15:35:12

I also get the impression that he feels that his "baby days" of parenting are over.. his dc are a lot older than yours. Your dc are still very little, the 3 year old is little more than a baby.

I'd be worried he essentially wants them all "seen and not heard", he seems to have a very Victorian and authoritative way about him.

Be very careful.

StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 15:38:31

I had counselling at the end and after we split up. I do have issues with assertiveness, lack of I mean. I just wanted a normal family life, where both adults share parenting responsibilities, and I did discuss this with my partner.

Maybe I jumped at this relationship.

MrsCampbellBlack Sun 25-Aug-13 15:45:24

Stonebear - he just doesn't sound from what you've written, the type of person I'd want my children to have as a father figure in their life.

cupoftchai Sun 25-Aug-13 15:53:36

your kids are too precious to risk exposing to all the disadvantage and harm that comes from their mum being in a controlling relaitonship. You've got out of it once, with the right support and strength you will all recover: but don't do it again!

it's great that you're listening to yourself and also a real positive that you got some counselling. Is there anyone you can talk to to explore what is going on in this relationship and see if there are all these red flags, and help you make a plan to step back from it? Or can you do this yourself?

what do you mean by 'jumped at', do you mean rushed in too fast or are you thinking he maybe wasn't right for you after all?

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 25-Aug-13 15:55:03

I just wanted a normal family life, where both adults share parenting responsibilities

The reality is that you have split from your DCs dad, which means that you will always be a separated parent even if you are in a relationship with another man.

If by 'normal' you mean a cohesive family unit, with equal responsibility for the DCs - it's very, very unlikely to happen.

You made a poor choice of father for your DCs but you can't replace him with a more suitable model who you can reasonably expect do all the things as a Dad that you want him to - sharing nighttime wakings, helping get out of the house in the morning etc.
If a stepparent chooses to do these things, then it is a bonus, something to appreciate - not part and parcel of a relationship with you.

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

Yes I meant a cohesive family unit. And I believe that is possible. I gues I mean rushed into. Perhaps. I think if the roles were reversed and I had moved in with my partner, with dcs there most of the time, I'd try to be like a mum, and that's a little unrealistic and simplistic. I see that. We're having a big chat tonight, so will see how things pan out.

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 25-Aug-13 16:18:40

I'd try to be like a mum, and that's a little unrealistic and simplistic

Yes. It is. How would you feel if your DCs were suddenly expected to accept another woman behaving like a mum.

Stepparents rarely do that. It's a minefield of expectation, obligation, conflicting emotions and social judgements.
If you are serious about wanting a 'new man' in your life then before you create an image in your head of what his role will be in your DCs life, I suggest you read one of the many Stepparenting/blended families books available so that your expectations of your partner and your DCs is realistic.

newlifeforme Sun 25-Aug-13 17:41:23

Being a step parent is very tough and not every one is cut out for the role.It feels like your partner isn't really onboard.He may have valid views on boundaries but he seems to be expressing those views aggressively.I would react strongly if my husband spoke to my daughter (his step daughter) as your partner did.

Your children are very young and I don't feel any of your rules are that inappropriate.I also think it takes 2 years to know a partner so I suspect you are now seeing the real him.I think his adhoc parenting to his own children reflect his parenting desires, which is to not be highly involved.You however want a more involved step parent so you are not compatible.Please don't settle, its too easy to replace one bad relationship with another.You often don't know you have settled until you have invested too much, either emotionally or financially.

brdgrl Sun 25-Aug-13 18:22:33

Chinacups has given some great advice, I think.

I'm surprised at the strength of feeling against your DPI must say, the only thing I see from the OP which I would call a 'red flag' is - possibly - the lack of regular contact with his own DCs. And without knowing any more about that, I guess it is hard to say any more.

The other points - Well. You agree that your kids have been a bit over-indulged and that your ex doesn't enforce rules and boundaries.

TV - I'm trying to picture what is actually going on there. If the TV is on for the kids for long stretches of time with no particular focus, and then he is coming in to switch it over to his programme, I don't see the problem, frankly. If the kids have one hour in which they are choosing a specific programme, and are glued to it and then he comes in and abruptly switches it over, that's a bit different. Maybe the solution is to have a more structured approach to tv time. (I mean specific times when the kids are watching and choosing - not the other way around - DP and you are the adults.) I do completely disagree with other posters, though, in that I think tv control should sit firmly with the adults. That doesn't mean being unkind about it, and if your DP is being unkind, that's a different thing, too.

Toys - I also have a front room where I don't tolerate toys. You say the kids have bedrooms and a playroom, same here, so I just don't let DD (3) or the DSCs (teens) lying around in the front room. It's mainly DD, really, so this isn't about stepkids, just different ideas, I guess. (And anyone that knows me IRL would laugh at the idea of me being very strict or Victorian!) But your DP is entitled to have some of his ideas about homelife taken on board, too.

Help in the mornings - DH has never expected me to be up with his kids in the mornings. I know couples manage this differently, but I do think there is a lot to be said for taking responsibility for your own kids in these circumstances. Likewise, when his kids are there, he should be doing the primary care, not foisting it onto you. That doesn't mean there can't be flexibility and help. I do a lot of the parenting of my DSCs, but there is a big difference between the bits I do willingly and voluntarily, and feeling taken for granted.

I too get the feeling that you see it as your DP having moved into your home and joined your family. That's a problem if he feels like he would like to be in a home he can think of as his own home. I'll be honest - I'd never ever ever have moved in with DH and the DSCs - we all moved into a new place together, and immediately there were - for ALL of us - new ways of doing things, new rules, new pictures on walls, new spaces...of course that isn't always possible, but what I am getting at is that it is not really fair to expect DP to feel like an outsider who has no ordinary adult life or say over how things happen in his home.

brdgrl Sun 25-Aug-13 18:23:20

Book recommendation: Stepcoupling, by Susan Wisdom.

eslteacher Sun 25-Aug-13 19:49:27

Great post brdgrl

StoneBear - to answer your original question, I don't think there are universal ideals for stepparents. Some people have a very successful setup where the stepparent is fairly detached, other stepparents love their DSC like their own and parent them as they would their own.

It's all down to what works for you and yours.

I think that give and take is key. On the one hand I would be taken aback if DP expected me to get up in the morning on a regular basis with his son while he stayed in bed. I do it once in a while as a favour if I know DP particularly needs sleep, but not because I feel it is in any way my responsibility. But then I am also accepting of things like toys in the living room or DSS sometimes watching cartoons when there's a programme I want to watch, because I don't have unrealistic expectations about what it's like living with a child.

brdgrl's post asks a lot of pertinent questions. So often from posts on these boards it's hard to discern enough from the facts as they're posted, so much depends on the manner in which things are done...

MrsCampbellBlack Sun 25-Aug-13 21:01:36

Thing is with the tv thing that it does sound as though it was done unkindly. There was no 'come on children, you've watched enough tv' - he just turned it over - and that is rude and modelling very poor behaviour in my opinion.

And also the fact that he's good at discipline but not interacting with the children - do people really not think that's a massive warning sign?

The OP is busy blaming herself for being too soft but I actually wonder if she is or that's just what her DP has convinced her of.

StoneBear Sun 25-Aug-13 22:45:50

Before we lived together we did discuss our expectations, about roles. I feel sad that he feels at times like a lodger in the house. My DCs can be cheeky to him, I felt it was an age thing, as they're 3,5and 7. I do back him and vice versa even if he doesn't agree.

I know I need to be firmer with my DCs, and he's agreed that he can be too strict at times.

We are planning to build a new house together, just got planning permission, with rooms for everyone.

I am soft, always have been, and realise that you need to parent not befriend your DCs.

So I think there's scope for improval from all of us.

MrsCampbellBlack Mon 26-Aug-13 06:43:28

I totally agree that the role of a parent is not to be the best friend of the child. But kindness is very important and I would not build a house with someone who wasn't kind/interested in my children.

I'd take a long look at your relationship before you start building a house together, especially if its going to be jointly funded.

Mojavewonderer Mon 26-Aug-13 08:21:42

I am in the same situation as you op but I know it's not my husbands job to be my kids dad, that's my ex husbands job. I get up with my kids and my husband gets up with his kids when they stay (its just unfortunate my kids get up at 6 while his don't get up until 9) I don't tell his kids off and he doesn't tell my kids off. If we see something naughty going on we point it out to the other parent to sort out. We give each other advice about parenting skills. We get on well as a family but its not always been this way. I am soft at parenting, my kids could get away with murder because I felt guilty about leaving their dad because I was unhappy so I overcompensated with them and my husband helped me see that. My husband gets cross quite quickly he had a terribly abusive relationship with his ex wife who used to belittle and hit him and he was quite strict with his kids but helped him chill out and actually have fun with his kids and not worry if they made a bit of a mess. 4 years its taken but now it's great and we all are happy.
Its not been very long since you moved in together and it does take time to settle.
We went through exactly what you guys are going through and it's hard but hopefully you can all get through it.
Good luck

AmberLeaf Mon 26-Aug-13 08:31:52

You have moved from one abusive man to another.

I think you should repost this on the relationships board.

ElenorRigby Mon 26-Aug-13 08:42:29

FWIW I'm a step parent too, however I see huge red flags with this situation.
What exactly are the positives about this relationship, apart from getting on when those pesky kids arn't around.

bellabom Mon 26-Aug-13 08:53:36

I really don't see why he should get up and help with your kids in the morning at all. You haven't moved an au pair in! However, if he wants to be playing a part in discipline and how they are raised he will need to do a mix of fun stuff, praise, drudgery, and discipline. You can't have one of any of that without all of them and earn the kid's respect.

The TV thing is just rude though and bullying IMO.

JumpingJackSprat Mon 26-Aug-13 09:01:16

I dont think he sounds abusive. He sounds like hes struggling to find a place for himself in your family unit and nobody is particularly willing to make room. What happened with the tv - was it cartoons in the background or were they actively watching it? I dont think the tv is the kids to control personally - if theres something i specifically want to watch and dss isnt already watching tv then i turn it off. sometimes he then moans that he wants to watch "his programmes" but hes only interested in the tv once i have turned it over. i think its important for him to learn that other people in the house may not want to have cartoons on all weekend and their wants are important too. likewise dp often puts sport on in the same circumstances. op sounds like this man has brought some positive changes, only you know what the dynamic is like. i dont think its fair to expect him to get up with your kids.

pumpkinsweetie Mon 26-Aug-13 09:08:50

Big red flags waving here, he moved in just 7 months ago and he is already trying to rule the roost in your house, and make digs at your parenting when he doesn't have anywhere near a perfect relationship with his own offspring.

I would consider splitting up as he is becoming far too involved and opinionated with children that are not not even his. After just 7 months he shouldn't be interfering in your life and putting you down, it isn't right and it isn't fair on your children if you follow through with his demands.

I'm sure your dc have been through enough in the past with your abusive ex without having to deal with another one on the scene. Put your dc first and ltb

ballstoit Mon 26-Aug-13 09:18:19

The only involving himself in discipline worries me. IMO discipline is the last bit a step-parent becomes involved in. When I was first with ex-h, I think I was more like an aunt type figure to his ds's. I wasn't responsible for them - didn't cook for them, do their washing or discipline them. I did play games with them, read to them, took them out separately to the park. I didn't discipline them until I started looking after them on my own, which was when I was pg with ds and we'd lived together for 2 years.

I am a lone parent to 3 DC, who are 4,6 & 8. The thought of them being disciplined by someone who has no relationship or real interest in them, other than trying to minimise their presence in our home, turns my stomach.

AmberLeaf Mon 26-Aug-13 09:25:37

He's happy to discipline,but there's no other parenting going on

That is worrying.

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

As is that.

There are some things here that you could say are part and parcel of step families, but the biggest issue is IMO his controlling bullying way and that you seem to have gone from one abusive relationship to another.

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