RP looking for advice/ perspective please!(16 Posts)
Hi. I'm not a step parent, but I'm looking for advice/ a way to move forward here. It's long, sorry!
I have 3 children, aged 10, 8 and 5.
We had a good, working relationship with their father until about 9 months ago, when he became seriously involved with the woman that he now lives with.
The children are now refusing to go quite often, and the oldest (a girl) is very distressed.
The partner appears very pleasant and does activities with the children. But they are all 3 sharing one bedroom at the house. They say that they don't get time alone with their Dad (they are only there 2 nights a fortnight - EOW Friday evening until Sunday lunch) and they are not keen on being taken to visit their dad's partner's family.
On two occasions since September, the access hasn't happened, as XH has been away for the weekend with the GF - so once there was a 4 week gap between visits and once 3 weeks.
DD feels responsible for his feelings, and also hers, but is so unhappy about going. She phoned me in tears the other night, but he would not allow her to come home.
There are other issues that have cropped up - XH suddenly "not believing" in DS1's formally diagnosed SN, for example, and the children stating that his GF has given them medication - I feel that is inappropriate, as DS1 has significant allergy issues that his father does not take seriously.
It's gone from us being able to have civil time together (short bouts!) e.g having a cup of tea in each other's home with the kids, to me not being allowed to know where he lives (and where the children are!) or anything about this GF. Other than that he loves her, and in his view she is as important to the children as I am. I have a massive problem with that, as it is really upsetting the children.
For clarity, there is no jealousy from my side, I ended the marriage and we've been separated for 5 years. I was happy for him that he had found someone he could be happy with - but not at the expense of my children's well being! I am not negative about Dad in front of the kids and talk favourably about their time there. I do have a BF, but he is not involved in parenting and doesn't live here.
Do you, as step-parents/ partners of parents believe that it's an appropriate situation? I have stopped forcing the older children to go, as my solicitor said that physically doing so was wrong, but last week I had to peel my screaming 5 year old off me and walk away from him as he "has" to attend access.
I feel that mediation (which we are waiting for) should include XH's GF, if she is going to be taking an active role. She has no children and no real experience of them. I want 3 way communication, as of now. Is that an unreasonable request? At present she does not speak to me at all. I don't know why, I don't know her!
Please help. I am trying to do my best by my children, and to keep their relationship with their father going!
Hello there - sorry no real advice but just wanted say it sounds very hard. Hopefully someone will be along shortly to help.
I'm a SM - DH and I have no kids of our own and his kids visit us EOW, like yours. In our situation I am well aware that I get their dad every other day all to myself and so make sure I give them plenty of space. I do always tell him what I think about any issues that arise but then expect him to do whatever he sees fit - I would be careful not to interfere.
I am not even a speck on the horizon in importance to the kids compared to their mum and dad and would be amazed if your kids are any different, no matter what their dad might say.
I think it's appropriate for the SM to take a back seat in communication.. I never speak directly to the kids' mum apart from a quick polite "hello" on handovers etc - there's no problem there but also no need for us to communicate as the actual parents do that.
I guess there will be loads of replies saying the SM shouldn't be involved in mediation as it's your Ex's responsibility not hers.. probably right but it's good if all the adults can be civil and come to an agreement and maybe that's a way.. (I've no experience of mediation though).
Not being allowed to know the address - that's just weird though.
Agree its weird that your ex does not want to pass on information.
I'm very grateful to my ds sm, she is far more reliable than his dad and most communication goes through her. She has no kids but is a considerate person and deserves a lot of respect (especially for putting up with exh...).
Having said that though, I didn't meet her until a few years into their relationship, but ds always told me how nice she was and after our first meeting went well we've been in steady contact since.
If the girlfriend is so heavily involved perhaps you could speak to her about your concerns. I am a step mum as well as having children of my own so I see where you are coming from but if he won't listen perhaps she will. If not then I guess it's time to stop the over night visits until they sort it out.
I have similar issues with my ex - he is great when he's not in a relationship but a pain in the backside when he is. He has just moved in with someone - someone he had agreed to move in with before she had even met the children (and he introduces girlfriends at the first opportunity so I can only guess at the short length of time he might have known her) and is playing similar games in that I'm not allowed to know where he lives and he is playing happy families with her family and involving the children etc. My children are happy with her (there was one dreadful girlfriend) so I say nothing. I also managed to find her address with a bit of a google and some luck on Facebook. I couldn't stop overnight contact 'cos he uses school as a handover so I'd have to involve the courts and I'm not prepared to go down that route (we've been there already).
I honestly think that you have to let him dig his own grave as best you can 'cos his relationship with his children isn't your responsibility. I would encourage them to enjoy time with dad, even if girlfriend is around, and unless there is any evidence of out and out abuse, I wouldn't tolerate them not seeing him. I would also encourage them to speak to dad about how they feel because you are not in a position to influence what goes on in his house. If he's hiding things, I wouldn't approach the girlfriend directly 'cos it'll send him through the roof and won't help. I personally have nothing to do with girlfriends - because my ex keeps us separate (wouldn't want anyone to know that I don't actually have two heads and breathe fire) but even if he didn't, I don't feel the need to conduct my parenting relationship with a third party.
Oh dear. What a difficult situation for everyone concerned.
I can see this from the girlfriends point of view and find it upsetting to hear that the children don't want to accept her as I've been in her shoes, and it sucks.
It does sound as though your ex and parner could have jumped in the deep end a though and tried force together a 'perfect family' and in the process sent the children running in the opposite direction. Also, suggesting that she is as important to them as you are is obsured. Did he actually even say that or could one of the children have misinterpreted something he said? It's just such a ridiculous thing to say and has obviously backfired on him.
From what you've said it sounds like she is nice to the children is trying to form a relationship with them and include them in their lives together. The children, however, were happy with the way things were before she came on the scene and they don't want things to change. That's understandable but after 5 years I think he deserves to be happy and at some point the children will need to come to terms with the fact that change is inevitable.
As for having a chat and a brew in eachothers houses... Rightly or wrongly, I wouldn't be comfortable with my now husband doing that with his ex wife at all and also i'd think that may encourage the children's dreams of a reconciliation. (obviously others may completely disagree with that) Also, I don't have any contact with the children's mother. If we ended up at each others throats then it would damage my already fagile relationship with the dsc beyond all repair. In any case, I don't want to be involved with parenting my husband's children, I just want us to all be comfortable and happy in each others company.
It does sound like the pressure needs to be taken off the children (maybe shorter visits + some time alone with dad) and lots of encouragement for them to give this relationship a chance.
I can't really offer any advice, only a different perspective. If you find the answer then please send it this way
Thanks for replies!
The "more important" thing is something he's said to me, along with a lot of references to contact being "his" time.
And also a fear that if I don't force the kids to go, that they won't ever.
I'll be honest, I was trying to be balanced in my OP but I am so worried about the kids, DD in particular. I'm trying hard to make sure I don't impact their relationship, but when she tells me that e.g. he gets upset and tells her that her not going makes him really sad (I've witnessed this) so she goes in order to spare his feelings - I feel that I'm doing the wrong thing. I'm not protecting her.
It must be difficult adjusting to a stepmother who makes dad happy, when perhaps for 5 years as the eldest you were what made dad happy. I am guessing perhaps he spoilt them too much? My dh was very Disney and when we got together all that stopped and ordinary family life resumed, proper meals, bedtimes and chores.
I'm sure DSS didn't much like it in the beginning.
I think 10 is too young to decide no contact with dad, I thought courts waited for them to be older.
Unless actual abuse is taking place you need to support contact time. I'm sure if you moved your boyfriend in then your children will not be happy to start with, and you might like your ex to support your decision by siding with you until everyone has found their feet. Your child could phone dad in tears asking to stay with him because they don't like a new rule or something, then dad could either support you or try and come fetch his child (allowing them to play you off each other to get their own way). Sharing a bedroom eow is not the end of the world and possibly even character building. Likewise visiting her family is probably boring but all part of normal life, did you not hate being dragged hither and thither to see one of your parents relatives?
I wonder if agreeing with not letting your children see dad because of gf you are subconsciously sending the signal that the new gf is someone to hate rather than get to know and love.
Your children need to ask dad for one on one time, if you get involved he will get defensive and it will be worse. But dont expect SM to disappear for 2 days it is her home too. If your ex was a bit Disney dad and SM is putting her foot down over this, then it may seem mean now but not when they are teenagers who know they can get what they want from dad making you look like the bad parent for wanting boundaries and rules.
I don't think you should make SM attend mediation unless you and her are both happy to share parenting your children. A lot of women myself included feel awkward about stepping into mums shoes when mum is still very much around.
Agree about the address, but maybe there is a fear you may come over during contact to 'rescue' the children, or maybe its an I'll thought out way of knocking the cups of tea and a chat on the head?
Perhaps your ex wants more space from you and is wanting a clean break as it were to give his new relationship a chance.
I agree, 10 is too young to understand the full implications of cutting off contact with dad. Like a 10 year old who got upset about going to school or the dentist - they'd still be made to go because the parent would know it was in their best interests. Of course if the children were being treated badly or neglected it would be different, but from your post it seems that the crux of the issue is that they are just longing to have their dad to themselves again rather than adjust to the new norm of having a stepmother around too. It doesn't sound like the issues of not liking sharing a room or going to family events are enough to justify being allowed to opt out of (fairly normal-sounding) family life with their dad? Or is there more to it that is making them so dramatically upset?
It's a shame that you no longer have the amicable relationship with your ex though, I wonder whether that decision came from his new partner or him? Personally as a stepmum I have no problem with DP being friendly with his ex, having a cup of tea at pick up etc.
Sharing a room is made worse because of DS1's SN - he's not a good sleeper and DD tells me that Daddy and GF lock their door at night, so she's dealing with DS1.
The living together only happened 3 months ago, and there have been those two big gaps in contact since - I think he and GF need to slow down for the kids. It's too much to expect them to cope with them moving in together, and then a whole new extended family on top!
I absolutely do not expect her to make herself scarce, but I equally don't think she needs to be involved in every activity, which at the current time she is.
stepmooster I would absolutely love a clean break. I would love never to see him again. Sucks to be us, right? He can't have a clean break. He had children with me. He does not get to not communicate with me.
I don't think there is abuse, but I do think that 10 is too young to see have Daddy crying/ upset in order to manipulate you, which he does. When the refusals happen, he stands inside the front door for a long time, cajoling, upset etc etc. DD will be sobbing her heart out but feeling unable to tell him how she feels. When she asks for 1-1 time, she's told that it will hurt GF's feelings. She will talk to my sister or to me about how she is feeling, and I have in the past then passed it on to him, but he ignores it - clearly assuming that I make it up to get at him. I set up an email address for her on her ipod so she had an independent means of contacting him without going through me, but he doesn't use it much, and he never, ever phones them.
It is a really weird situation to move from parenting together but separately, to this oppositional, reactive, hostile model. Nothing happened, there were no rows, just everything suddenly became secretive and hidden and the kids started being reluctant to go - after being happy for years! The rows started after that. Obviously, I am frantically worried - DS1 is not being given his medication correctly, DD is miserable, DS2 doesn't get help with washing/ dressing/ teeth etc
I hadn't even seen a solicitor until 6 weeks ago, but I realised we needed advice and mediation.
It's a real mess. I am utterly sick of being painted as some kind of dragon/ unreasonable RP/ bitch. The two of them were at DD's recent dancing competition, they wouldn't sit near me and kept calling the kids over while shooting me dirty looks. WHY? WHAT DID I DO? It's like they have a story in which I am the bad guy, and no matter what I do, there is no movement.
(I do have a BF BTW, but he won't be moving in. He also takes no parenting role.)
OP, I know you want to fix this for your children, but if you try to offer advice etc it will just end up being thrown in your face.
I am not saying that you should never communicate with your ex but it might be too much to expect this to happen over cups of tea etc.
Your best bet is getting your ex in mediation, and from the sounds of it you might benefit from his GF not being there.
You have gone from saying they dont like sharing a room and visiting relatives, to them now having to fend for themselves at night with locks on adults doors, missing medication, repeated emotional blackmail, and your youngest not being taken care of properly. I don't know why you didnt mention this in the first place? If your child has special needs and your ex is not giving him medication properly then that IMO is a serious concern and one I would be seeking legal intervention over.
I would challenge you not to get slightly emotional if your child did not want to see you anymore. I am not saying it is a good idea to breakdown in front of your child, but it is one thing for it to happen just once or twice to repeatedly happening and being emotional abuse.
Can I ask you a question, do you think that you will ever want to move your relationship to the next stage with your BF, or in fact anyone, or do you view this as letting your kids down? If the latter are you transferring your thoughts on the matter to how you now view your ex?
Why are you being being painted as some kind of dragon/ unreasonable RP/ bitch? What have they said to you? Or what have the children said they have said about you? i can tell you than whenever DH has tried to offer advice - like please can we see about getting DSS counselling due to night terrors and bed-wetting he is met by a torrent of abuse. So mostly now he just doesn't bother.
You don't have to see him again, my DH communicates only by text or email. Handovers are done on doorsteps, and no one is invited in for drinks. If you are not comfortable in seeing your ex you don't have to!
When my ex met his current gf she was very wary of me. She had no dc of her own and I think she saw me as some sort of threat. She happily accepted the dc and threw herself into her new role as SM, giving them her opinions on everything which was constantly fed back to me which got annoying. The dc never saw their dad alone, she was always there and the kids hated her for a while and didn’t want to go there for various reasons (one being that she and ex smoke and she has a dog so her house was smelly). DS1 called her the Daddy thief!
But at no point did I ever say they didn’t have to go. Ive encouraged them to bring their problems up with him as I can’t start dictating what happens when they are with him. He is their Dad and he has the right to have a relationship, as do I. They were too used to having his undivided attention and had to accept the changes. That’s life.
She has chilled out a bit more and the few times I have met her she seems nice enough and she isn’t horrible to the boys so that is good enough for me.
It has just occurred to me that I don’t know their address though. It’s not been withheld I’ve just never thought to ask!
From a SM point of view I have never spoken to DPs ex. She formed an opinion of me from day one based on where I live and decided I was stuck up! I respect that she is DSCs Mum though and would never try and step on her toes.
I am trying not to dripfeed - I was trying to be very balanced in the OP. XH's view is that it doesn't matter if DS1 doesn't get his meds, but he "tries" to remember to stop me nagging. I bloody well do nag, too. He has anaphylactic allergies and asthma FGS!
The children are unhappy there, that much is clear. I don't see why they should be the ones making sacrifices for him. Surely parenting is usually the opposite of that? I should add, the EOW is entirely at his request, I had offered a variety of contact schedules, but nothing else suited him. I honestly think I have bent over backwards to be reasonable, but maybe I'm somehow influencing the kids to not want to go. I have no idea how though!
WRT my BF, we won't be moving in together or marrying, regardless of the kids - both of us have BTDT and much prefer our life as it is. He has no kids, and me and mine are happy as we are. I do find it a little odd that XH has gone down this route again, but if the kids were OK, I would be OK. More than OK, actually, I really like having EOW to get the house sorted etc! And I don't have to pay childcare either (I sometimes work weekend nights) If it were working for the kids, it would be brilliant. They need and deserve a relationship with both parents and our families.
ATM it isn't working, and I am very worried about it deteriorating further. I know I am not responsible for their relationship with him, bur it is very hard to watch them distancing themselves.
I don't have a good relationship with my own father, in large part because of this sort of behaviour, although to be fair to XH, at least this is the only LTR he's introduced! I know it could be a lot worse.
Hats off for the maturity to seek SM's perspective. I'm a SM and whilst I'd be flattered if DSD's mum's sought my insight, I'd entirely understand if she wanted me to entirely butt out. And my DSD lives with us. I really don't know what to say.
I'm was a stepchild too and think the reason why I respected my stepdad in the end was because my mum (non verbally) made it clear that he was her husband for good - and frankly because he butted out. Actually too passive and distant TBH, but I get that now:-being a stepparent is a minefield.
Remember change = loss (even when everyone gets along). If it were me I'd take some deep breaths and prepare to speak my mind and set some boundaries / expectations with XH. Let's face it a break up (are you going through a divorce? You said 'separated') involving children is never pleasant.
Just had a thought, if he's a bit denial Disney, would SM read a book on stepparenting that you could give? Or even a helpful thread from here? A good one should outline what every adult concerned can expect and what the kids go through. Could be a wake up call for her and help influence your XH's relationship with the kids for the better
You have been incredibly measured in your posts do far, but the impact that this woman is having on your child, and her relationship with her dad is potentially disasterous.
IF this situation got as far as court, a number of things would happen. Your Ex would be ordered to provide his address. It's a perfectly reasonsble request and a refusal to do so would paint him in a very bad light. Secondly he would be told in no uncertain terms that a condition of contact would be thst DS receives correct and appropriate medication. I would take a DRs/ consultants letter to mediation with you.
Thirdly, at the age of 10, your daughters wishes and feelings would very much be taken into account. Particularly with regards sleeping arrangements and her having to care for her brother.
Don't feel helpless. It is far too easy for an NRP to throw their childrens lives into chaos. He sees so little of them already. It sounds as if this woman has serious issues about you. I wouldn't involve her in any initial discussions. Follow your instincts about the effect her presence is having on the relationship with her dad and make HIM be the one to start addressing the issues.
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