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Struggling with being a step-mother

(55 Posts)
SukiBambuki Thu 02-Jul-15 10:50:14

DH and I have been together 5 years and have 2 DSC kids from our previous marriages. His are 12 and 10 and mine are 7 and 5. I really love DH but, being totally honest (and knowing I am going to get blasted), I struggle with living with his kids who are here 50% of the time. Compared to some of the threads here, things are really not that bad and DCs are nice kids but there are multiple things that annoy me, DSS being one of them. He is quite clingy and demanding, and often sulky if not getting 100% of DH's attention, and DH treats him like a 2 year old which I find so annoying. I try to grin and bear it but end up feeling mean and resentful. It's also really hard to deal with the change in pace/atmosphere when DSC are here. They of course become DH's sole focus and his main aim is to spend as much time with them as possible so my DCs of course take a back seat which I know DS finds hard to deal with sometimes, especially as he does not have a close relationship with his own dad. I don't think the resentment I feel is helped by the fact that DH and DSC have been living at mine for free for the last two months as DH has not yet sold his flat. He buys food but does not pay towards bills or the cleaner or anything else which grates a little. I told myself to give it 6 months before I ask him for a contribution by which point he should have sold his place but still, it feels like I am paying to put a roof over everyone's head. Getting to the point where i feel I need to make a decision. I am not sure I will ever be happy with the situation as it is now. Should I just grin and bear it and see it as a cost of being with DH? Or if I cannot embrace the role of stepmother should I end the relationship or suggest we live separately? It would be extremely difficult to do that but I sometimes feel that the only solution is to live apart.

PeruvianFoodLover Thu 02-Jul-15 11:14:09

They of course become DH's sole focus and his main aim is to spend as much time with them as possible

It sounds like this is your problem - or rather, your DHs.

I have 50:50 care of my DD yet she doesn't become my sole focus in life when she's with me. She fits in with family life that goes on regardless of whether she is here or not. I certainly don't adjust my life around her - I still accept extra working hours, go to events with DH and accept that she may want to go to sleepovers etc. Of course, I plan things that involve her, and ensure I'm available to "parent" (irrespective of whose care she is in), but I don't put other aspects of my life on hold when dD is in my care.

Saying that, there is nothing wrong with a parent prioritising their DCs at the expense of other aspects of their life - but those parents shouldn't expect other people (spouses, stepDCs etc) to accommodate that. He is asking too much of you.

riverboat1 Thu 02-Jul-15 13:13:25

I think it sounds difficult. My DP, like Peruvian, wants to spend time with his kid when he is here, eg he wouldn't go out for the whole day leaving him with me or a babysitter, and we/he usyally plans an activity that DSS would enjoy for when he is here. But life doesn't stop for DSS either, if we need to go out and buy a new sofa or get stuff done in the garden we do that even if DSS is bored. And I personally don't feel sidelined when DSS is here.

So in short, I don't think you are being unreasonable but at the same time maybe your DP isn't either. I think you are probably on a hiding to nothing if you try to get him to change his attitude ...so you probably have some difficult decisions to make. Have you already tried talking to him about it?

hampsterdam Thu 02-Jul-15 13:46:33

Can he not move back into his flat until it sells? Say it's about the money not his ds.
He shouldn't be living in your house for free. What does your ds 'taking a back seat' actually look like/ play out? If my dh wants one on one with his ds he takes him out somewhere or makes the most of times my ds is with his dad. He treats my ds as his own and that doesn't change when dss comes.

Tryharder Thu 02-Jul-15 15:03:44

You are married and your DH is not a lodger.

If you ask him to move out until his flat sells you are effectively ending your marriage. I can just imagine the response on here if a man asked his DW to move out because she wasn't contributing towards his flat whilst waiting for her flat to sell!

I'm sure your SCs find it unfair that your DCs spend all their time with your DH and they are only there 50% of the time - through no fault of their own.

Life is about compromises. If you can't cope with not being number 1 priority all the time - and some people can't- then you need to rethink whether this marriage works for you.

hampsterdam Thu 02-Jul-15 17:51:53

Tryharder if this is the poster I think it is her kids don't spend 100% of their time with the dh they actually go to nursery /school then get looked after by a nanny even when the dh gets home. The dh spend more time with his kids than op spends with hers because she is working lots of hours.

K888 Thu 02-Jul-15 23:47:59

I understand where you are coming from.

It just isn't easy, and I'm not sure what to say to you. I have my own DS (12) and a 2 year old with my OH. He has 4 DSDs (teens and one twenties), one full time the rest every weekend. I very much love my OH but I think if I had to make the decision again I would not have moved in.

However some people do seem to make it work. They back each other up, spend enough time with each other and say it does get easier. I know that if my OH had been more supportive I think it would be have been worth it. I know that my DSDs have had phases of being really difficult but then they have changed and grown up.

Once your OH contributes and if you could spend a bit more time being 'normal' family rather that ultra focused on DSC, do you think that would make a difference?

swingofthings Sat 04-Jul-15 08:36:44

It a constant debate. Is the normality of your family DP, you and your two children, with his two coming in unsettling that normality until they go, or is the normality his status of dad to two children who are not yours and you being mum to two children who are not his?

My view is that it is the second, especially so shortly after moving in together. The fact that your son isn't close to his dad is nothing to do with your OH relationship with his own children. It is totally normal that he should give his own children more attention than to yours even if your children live in the home full-time. It might very well be that for your OH, normality is when his children are there and that won't change for some time.

My advice would be that instead of seeing his children are the enemy to your normality, try to build the momentum so that it also becomes so when they are here. DSS is probably sulking because he can feel you are trying to take his dad's attention away from him. The best way to go about it is to try to build your relationship with him so that at some point, he will not just come for his dad's attention, but also yours which will result in him less likely to monopolise his dad's attention.

SukiBambuki Sun 05-Jul-15 20:48:00

Thanks all. The problem is that DSS is already super competitive and sometimes boasts so I am really not sure that I can bring myself to "build him up" even more. He often makes competitive comments to DSs, e.g. saying that he has so much more homework than they do and how hard it is and I often intervene to point out that he is two years older. He asked me what DSs got in their end of year reports then blurted out how well he was doing before i could answer. All normal for a 10 year old I am sure but I find him hard to like which I feel terrible about. I think it's becoming a bigger and bigger problem as I find it hard to pretend. DSS often sulks for no reason, e.g. we have dessert the other day and DSD got the ice cream he wanted (there was only one) so he said he didn't want any dessert and went quiet for the rest of the evening. We then went to the park and it was very sunny so he sat down and said he felt sick. All the others were fine! Just feels like there are constant attempts to get DP's attention all the time and it's really annoying.

SukiBambuki Sun 05-Jul-15 20:51:35

I am not sure what DP sees as "normality" as he only had DSC 50% of the time before moving in anyway. Both feel "normal" to me now but there is a lot more tension when DSC are here.

hoobygalooby Mon 06-Jul-15 13:18:07

Why wait 6 months?
He should be contributing now - I assume he is working and earning money?
If you feel this way about his DC now it won't change - it will get worse.
You need to have a talk with him and tell him how you feel.

hampsterdam Mon 06-Jul-15 14:06:33

I'm not really sure what people can advise or if you will take any advice given.
I get what you mean about the boasting being annoying, my dss is similar, some weekends it feels like all he does is criticize my ds who is 2 years younger. It does get very wearing to say the least.
If you really are asking for advice about ending this relationship I would say yes because I don't think living with resentment is good for you. I don't think your dss living with someone who doesn't like him is good for him. I dont think your son having to take a back seat and being looked after a nanny whilst your dh is in the house is good for him. Basically the only person gaining from this relationship is him. It's not and had never been equal.

SukiBambuki Thu 09-Jul-15 00:43:13

Maybe that is why I feel so angry all the time. And anxious. Trying to work out where these feelings come from.

CookieDoughKid Thu 09-Jul-15 00:55:38

You should not have any qualms asking for money!! That's a huge problem in itself and living does cost. Ask for regular money straight away and give him a break down on the domestic budget if need be.

Honestly, you need to have an honest chat with hubby. Cite examples and get HIM to contribute and suggest a solution. Talk it through so you can get on the same page. If after these talks he won't budge or sees you as being unreasonable etc.you have to decide what you can live with. I actually think you guys would be better living apart so that you can both concentrate on your respective children whilst they are young and needy and given he may not want to compromise. The issue is not the children. It's you and hubby's.

SukiBambuki Thu 09-Jul-15 11:36:49

Cookiedough, it's difficult as I would be paying for the mortgage, bills etc anyway, so he will say that his kids being here half the week doesn't make any difference except for food which he does contribute towards. He is of course here the whole week although he might argue that my costs are not increased by him being here, except for food which he occasionally buys. I think I feel annoyed at having to house his kids when he is not contributing. Is living apart an option if you are married? Just wouldn't seem like a proper marriage to me.

PeruvianFoodLover Thu 09-Jul-15 12:47:32

Is living apart an option if you are married?

It can be, although it's out of the financial reach of most couples, as it required running two separate homes despite still being a "couple" in the eyes of the law.

DH and I have looked into it in the past - it can be really complicated, because one home has to be legally/financially designated as the "main" marital/family home where you live "as a couple". The only way around that seems to be to for the couple to legally separate, in which case, you would be deemed to be two separate households at two different addresses. From what i can gather, if you are married, the law automatically assumes that you live together and share/benefit from all assets as a single unit.

TheMushroom Thu 09-Jul-15 12:50:16

WTF? As far as I can see all your problems stem from your DH acting like a cock lodging twat.

If he lives there all the time then of course he should contribute to bills. Does he not use hot water then? Or use the internet? Or watch TV? Or charge his phone?

He might buy the food but does he not use the fridge to store it in or the oven to cook it then? In winter does he stand outside in the cold while you have the heating on?

Same goes above for his DCs when they're with you.

I think your resentment stems from this and it's being displaced onto his DCs. If you weren't constantly annoyed at him you'd find them less annoying I reckon.

TheMushroom Thu 09-Jul-15 12:51:09

Does he have a job? Your OP doesn't say if he works.

SukiBambuki Thu 09-Jul-15 13:54:54

He does have a job but he earns a lot less than me and works flexibly which means he can pick up his kids from school and look after them 3 days a week so no need for childcare. I too think that if contributed more then I might feel less cross. He is emotionally very supportive and good with my DCs but I keep thinking, that doesn't put a roof over our heads does it!? I am sure I would be in a much better mood if I didn't feel solely responsible for all costs whilst he looks after his kids. It just feels that his whole life is set up to benefit his kids (and his ex) although I guess mine is too. I feel cross most of the time which is so damaging for our relationship. I love him but I feel resentful that my life is hard and his life seems so much easier and that we can never truly be a proper family. I am wondering if/how blended families ever work as there are always competing interests. I know that his main focus and source of happiness is his kids, as it should be. My kids are also my priority but they do not define me as a person and I am a different type of parent to DH. I think DH needs to feel needed and seems to encourage them to be needy/dependent on him whereas I am the opposite, always trying to get them to do things for themselves. I find his approach to parenting really annoying, I have to say, and it seems to be a constant attempt to treat them as babies rather then giving them independence. Again, just makes me cross as I feel that my DSs are younger and only have one parent properly involved and looking out for them (their dad pays maintenance and sees them often but is not an involved parent to whom they are close) yet the focus always seems to be on DSC. DH is always saying how little he sees of them, how awful it is where, as I see it, he seems his kids about as much as I see mine as he gets 3 afternoons a week with them, which I don't with mine as I work full time. And, even worse, ever time he complains, i think, well, you shouldn't have had an affair and left your kids should you? If value them and love them that much then you just don't do that. Or am I being totally mean and unfair here?

GatoradeMeBitch Thu 09-Jul-15 14:23:47

Your feelings are valid. Are you sure you want all this? A DSS whose company you don't enjoy, a DH who doesn't think to contribute towards utilities and focuses on his DCs to an annoying extent, leaving your child feeling pushed out?

I think going forward it might be an idea to let some of your feelings out. Tell DSS that it isn't nice to be boastful (I'm sure some MNetters may disagree!) Remind your DH to be inclusive of your DS. Ask him to pay the water bill and TV license, because he isn't a lodger. (When he does sell the flat, how would that change things, are you going to buy a place together? Because even with more cash if he doesn't see the need to contribute towards gas and elec now, why would he then?)

If you want a future together you need to bring the real you into the relationship, resentments and all. It won't last otherwise.

Melonfool Thu 09-Jul-15 15:00:38

Your costs are increased by the loss of the single person council tax discount, so he should at very least pay that.

But he should obviously pay a share of all consumable utilities too, for his and his dc use. And when he sells his flat he should pay you a proper amount - rent, or half the mortgage, whichever.

hampsterdam Thu 09-Jul-15 16:17:48

When you say he 'might argue' or could say certain things about the money are these conversations you have had? Had he said those things or are you guessing that's what he will say?
Good point made by pp your costs won't go up when his flat sells so will he still not see fit to pay?
There are not always competing interests in blended families, all families have difficulties but most are working towards the same goals in the interest of the whole family. Not all members of the family will have the exact same methods but there should be a general feeling of pulling in the same direction.
I really just can't see this working out for you. He's a cock lodger, his parenting and especially his work ethic are at the opposite end of the spectrum to how you live your life and want your son's to be raised.
It's not good for you to be angry and anxious all the time, it's not just your relationship that will suffer but your work, health and your boys.
The longer he's there the more of your assets he will be able to get. Have the conversation and if he doesn't want to start paying now at least for the sake of the relationship I really think you need to end it.

TheMushroom Thu 09-Jul-15 16:24:23

It just feels that his whole life is set up to benefit his kids (and his ex) although I guess mine is too.

But it reads to me that his life is set up to benefit his kids and his ex at your expense.

I'd be pissed off too.

And I completely see where you're coming from with the affair thing. (Although, if you were the OW, surely you'd be partially responsible for the situation you now find yourselves in?)

He obviously feels huge amounts of guilt and that's making him a useless Disney dad. But again, it's at your expense. It doesn't sound like you respect him very much.

I'm irritated with him just reading about it.

yellowdaisies Thu 09-Jul-15 17:42:46

I don't think it's really possible to run two parallel families under one roof when each has their own finances, rules and routines re childcare etc.

What has worked for us is a bit of a sense of being a team. So if one of us is home, we will look after any DC/DSC who are there. Bills are split, but according to ability to pay them, in recognition that you can't have half the family able to afford things the other half can't. There's also (usually at least,) a sense of joint parenting so we at least consult each other and very often make joint decisions over parenting.

If you find DSS annoying, but don't feel you can talk about this to your DH, or agree joint ways of tackling some of his more babyish habits, then I think you're going to get more and more frustrated. His behaviour sounds normal for a 10 year old who's been used to being the youngest but now isn't and I'd feeling jealous and insecure. It is also irritating, so he ought to be gently taught not to boast, so your DH needs to tackle this.

swingofthings Thu 09-Jul-15 18:58:25

The behaviour to describe and don't like....sometimes I experience with my own children! Last time we went on holiday, I found them rude, disrepectful, arrogant, and frankly, I felt like I didn't like them much at all. The thing is, they are my kids, I do love them deeply, so it is ok to feel that way too. Inevitably, a few days later, they turned into the lovely children I remember them to be, they did something to make me feel proud and the rest was forgotten.

I think the problem with being a step-parent is that it is easy to focus on the negative and reasons why one might not like their SC, however, it is much more difficult to find reasons to really like them, so the balance is not there. For instance, both mum and step-mum will get annoyed by the child turning into sulking behaviour because they don't get their way, but step-mum won't feel that same rush of pride when they get selected for a school award.

Still I think the best way to go about it and accept that your DSS will do things that will make you not like him, that's fine and you shouldn't feel guilty about it, but try to see whether there is anything about him that makes you feel caring or a bit protective, or even a tiny bit pride and then build the positive feelings from there.

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