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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!

Kaluki Mon 26-Aug-13 23:44:08

This thread is very interesting because I can see both sides.
My DP was terribly soft on his dc and a complete Disney dad when we met and when we moved in together I insisted that he discipline them and set rules and boundaries and I am sure at some point I called them spoilt brats (they were).
I don't get up for his dc while he lays in bed unless there is a good reason and I tell them to tidy up/clear away their toys and after 8pm I take control of the tv remote and send all the kids off to do something else. So in that respect I am like your DP and think your expectations are slightly unrealistic.
But the difference is that DP and I are a team, we respect each other and treat all the dc the same and neither one of us is the 'boss' or the alpha parent. We have both compromised a lot and made changes.
The thing that worries me about your posts is that he seems to be using you. He is living in your house, hardly contributing financially, enjoying holidays at your expense and about to move to a bigger house funded by you - he's what is known in here as a cocklodger!!!
Maybe you are soft on your kids - only you know that, but I think you are being too soft with him too. He has no right to treat you with such little respect and you have every right to disagree with his rules. Things like this should be discussed between you and agreed on as a team, not one person imposing his will and the other having to go along with it!!

ballstoit Mon 26-Aug-13 23:14:41

The staying in bed and not helping with the DC is not a pretty picture. I often have my parents, friends and siblings round for dinner (not all at once usually grin ). Then, after dinner they will often volunteer to bathe my DC, read stories etc while I tidy and wash up. Or vice versa. That isn't because it's their responsibility, or because I can't cope. It's their way of offering support with the hard work that is being a lone parent to 3 small children. Why doesn't your do want to offer you the same support occasionally?

Bottom line is, are you and your dc happier with him or without him? I suspect it's the latter. You are providing a role model for your DC of how people behave in a relationship, and it's not a model I'd want my children to aspire to.

There's no shame in ending a relationship that isn't working.

SquidgyMummy Mon 26-Aug-13 21:40:24

Well I would just live separately and see him without your DCs around.
Maybe in an ideal world that would be enough for you both.
He is certainly no help as a co-parent (step or otherwise)

SquidgyMummy Mon 26-Aug-13 21:38:37


SquidgyMummy Mon 26-Aug-13 21:37:49


[ This] article is a bit long but really tells you everything you need to know about controlling people.

Sounds like you are walking on eggshells around this man.
At least you have done sensible things like having a cohabitation agreement drawn up.

I think next time your DCs are at their Dad's you and your DP need to have a frank chat. Be prepared for a (positive) change in his behaviour to appease you, but really you and your DCs were just fine before he came along.

Please Please don't put up with or let your little ones have to put up with living with this man any longer....

StoneBear Mon 26-Aug-13 21:30:38

The change is he is happier, more relaxed, fun to be with. Less moody. I could go on.

StoneBear Mon 26-Aug-13 21:27:33

Thanks. In a way when I started the post I wondered if I was being unrealistic, but I realise we were both unrealistic. Last week I felt very upset when we fell out as I was too soft with the kids, and he stormed off out of the house, and on return and for several days after he was sulking. I felt it was my fault, but it wasn't, it was differing expectations.

SquidgyMummy Mon 26-Aug-13 21:27:31

You're not happy and it looks like you now know what to do.
Be strong and see it through for your DCs

SquidgyMummy Mon 26-Aug-13 21:25:27


I see that he helps out a bit, but making dinner for just the 2 of you isn't loads of help. (I initially thought he made dinner for the whole family.)

What is the change when your DC's are away?

I just think you are taking on too much. If you lived separately, you could choose what to do with the child-free time and when your DP visits your home, he should be treating you and your DCs with respect, not ordering them around.

There are so many red flags here. You've got out of one unhealthy relationship before try and see this one for what it is...

brdgrl Mon 26-Aug-13 21:21:18

Good luck, StoneBear. It sounds like you are a strong person, and you'll be fine if you do go back to being on your own. (keep us posted, if you feel like it!)

StoneBear Mon 26-Aug-13 21:18:19

I think I have suppressed my resentment of him, but I can see that even if he loves me, he doesn't love me with DCs, and that's the bottom line. And maybe when we started out, even though he said he accepted we all came together as a package, maybe he did have good intentions, it's not working out. I'm sad, but I'd much rather put my DCs first, than accept this double life of my own creation.

StoneBear Mon 26-Aug-13 21:14:18

Thank you for all comments, it's helpful to get differing opinions.

DP does a lot of cooking our meals, and the washing, so when I putting my DCs to bed he's usually preparing our tea. There is certainly a change when my DCs aren't here, and one I have raised with him, several times.
I feel at times I have a double life, and it would be great if it didn't have to be like that.

SquidgyMummy Mon 26-Aug-13 21:14:16

Op, this has turned into a bit of a bun fight.
However, reading your posts, i would say that you know that this isn't the right relationship for you and most importantly your kids.

Your current DP is luckily not as abusive as your Ex, but he definitely seems controlling. He is on to a good thing, you came along at a time when he was in a financial mess. You have basically subsidised him paying off his debts.

I really don't think you should be living with him anymore, he is not adding to your life. I would suggest that he rents somewhere locally and you see him when your DCs are away. They don't need to be bossed around by him. So what if you are soft towards your children, you implemented structure after your divorce and they get love and cuddles from you.

The extra energy you expend on looking after your DP's children and generally being piggy in the middle could be spent on your DCs and time for yourself...

Listen to your family, they have your best interests at heart and can see your DP for what he is....

brdgrl Mon 26-Aug-13 20:57:13

Precisely, Ellie.

nicknamegame Mon 26-Aug-13 20:54:07

I think there should be a sticky on this board to warn that alternative views will not be tolerated and that you'll immediately be labelled as a 'step-basher' if you flaunt that rule.

elliebellys Mon 26-Aug-13 20:52:59

Brdgl,so dont let it wind u up,everyones entitled to their own view whether we agree or not..

brdgrl Mon 26-Aug-13 20:47:34

and it is always the same posters who do it. Always.

elliebellys Mon 26-Aug-13 20:46:34

O come on please why when a different view is expressed ,its then called step bashing...the views are on his apparent behaviour,not because he,s step dad..o nd it always seems to be the same posters who claim it.

MrsCampbellBlack Mon 26-Aug-13 20:44:24

Sadly, not much good about him though from what the OP has posted.

I'd just be very wary of getting even more financially entagled with him whilst I was so unsure of the relationship.

brdgrl Mon 26-Aug-13 20:19:48

I've read every word of the OP's posts. I don't think she's had any problem with what I have written, and she's been remarkably honest and sensible about the good and the bad of her DP.

lunar1 Mon 26-Aug-13 20:17:03

Op the more you post the worse he sounds. Did you even make a decision for him to move in or did it just happen due to his circumstances?

Please put your children first, they shouldn't have to live with a man who clearly hates them. There are some incredible step parents out there, my dad is one of them. We had our moments as my mum really rushed things when she met him, but the he always made us feel wanted.

You can do better than this man.

brdgrl Mon 26-Aug-13 20:15:58

Not every step-parent is a bad one. I'm not defending the DP, but I am willing to accept that the OP knows her own mind. And I think it is really ridiculous for her DP to be labeled a bully and abuser with such certainty, based on the fact that she and he are discovering it is tougher than they thought for him to adjust to living in a house with children or for her to adjust her own expectations about his role.

Is it about me? No, but it is certainly relevant that I am in the same position, in some respects, as the OP's DH. And that I have the same rules and expectations in my home as he would like to have in his, and I think that is worth pointing out, since the usual step bashers see fit to tell the OP how extreme, Victorian, unrealistic, cruel etc her DP is...what is wrong with my pointing out that, in fact, some parents do have similar rules in their own (reasonably happy) homes?

nicknamegame Mon 26-Aug-13 19:56:24

Brdgirl and China own this topic, everyone knows that.


AmberLeaf Mon 26-Aug-13 19:22:22

According to some posters here, I am clearly a bully and abuser of my own DD, because I don't let her have her toys in every room of the house. Pish-posh. I have a bright and lively and very loved child whom gets comments everywhere we go about her sunny disposition

That is obviously because you are not also an abusive cocklodger smile

But seriously, this isn't about you is it?

MrsCampbellBlack Mon 26-Aug-13 19:18:31

Brdgirl - are you reading what the OP writes.

I know this is the step-parenting topic, but come on, you must surely see that not every step-parent is a good one?

Stone - perhaps you should just post in relationships about your relationship - it doesn't sound like you get a great deal from it and I'm pretty sure your dc's are getting even less from it sadly.

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