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WWYD - increasing contact?

(31 Posts)
DrunkenFlamingo Sun 14-Feb-16 13:57:24

First post in step-parenting, just looking for some general thoughts and advice if possible. Its a sensitive one so please be gentle.

Background - I've been in a relationship with my partner for 18 months, been living together for 12 months. He has two children, a daughter aged 10 and a son aged 12. He has very limited contact with his children (not his choice) that is Thursday 3:30pm to Sunday at 10am twice a month. Effectively 6 nights and two full days per month.

I don't have any children.

The kids are fine, quite well behaved and likeable but they have been brought up by their mother as Jehovah Witnesses and there are some things about their behaviour that I find difficult to cope with. They utterly adore their Father and I have strived to look after them well when they are with us, joining in and encouraging family activities, cooking family dinners, going on holiday together etc.

My partner has left the JWs and that was the ultimate cause of his divorce. He wants to have greater access to the children and is currently applying to the court to have 50/50 access to his children, i.e. from Friday to Friday. So two full weeks a month.

In my opinion, the religion is stifling the children. They are not allowed to play with their friends from school, they are not allowed to have Christmas, birthdays, Easter or celebrate mothers day or fathers day or other similar events when at home with their mother. They go to 3 meetings per week (all day Sunday and two after school) and on Saturdays they go out on ministry work - knocking on doors etc. They are not allowed to join scouts or guides or go to any sports clubs or similar. They are made to watch lots of the programmes on jw.org - a lot of which are quite frightening/upsetting in my opinion.

Outside of their contact time they are not allowed to see or speak to their father - the mother forbids it. The youngest daughter recently tried to call her Dad to have a quick chat on the phone and her mother gave her a big telling off for it. The son has expressed he wants to see his Dad more and his mother said he sees him enough. When its time for the children to leave us on a Sunday they are visibly upset about having to go home so soon.

I support my partner in this and I would certainly like to see the children have more of a normal upbringing, I'm just not sure if I can cope with a 50/50 arrangement. I like the time I have with my partner just as adults and I sometimes find the time around the children stressful.

WWYD?

lunar1 Sun 14-Feb-16 14:39:46

I wouldn't do anything if I were you, leave your dp to it. I would however never again refer to their upbringing as not normal.

A religious upbringing may not be your choice (or mine) but those children were born to JW parents and its up to them to find a way to bring them up now one of the parents has left the religion. I imagine the children are feeling very torn.

I'll admit I couldn't do what you are doing, I would find it incredibly hard to bite my tongue over it all!

DrunkenFlamingo Sun 14-Feb-16 14:57:10

Thanks for your thoughts. I'm finding it all quite difficult to cope with and its good to hear that someone else would struggle too.

If I do nothing then he will press on with getting the court order changes and our time with the kids will go from 6 nights a month to 15. Not sure I'll cope with this.

I'm really torn.

Castasunder Sun 14-Feb-16 15:04:51

I understand you're torn. It's hard for you. I do agree however that you shouldn't comment on their upbringing in the way you have. I also think week on week off arrangements are incredibly hard for children.

DrunkenFlamingo Sun 14-Feb-16 15:13:03

Its just sad to see the children so visibly upset that they aren't allowed to do things that other children are.

What would you suggest as an alternative to a week on week off? Its what the children have requested.

lunar1 Sun 14-Feb-16 16:06:55

If both your partner and step children want this arrangement then it's very likely they will get it. Do you want them 50:50? I would keep in mind that if the children decide to either embrace or completely reject the religion this could change things again. Including being with your partner more than 50:50.

I don't envy your choices here, I'd have a long think about what you want. You deserve a life you are happy with, not just one you feel railroaded into.

VimFuego101 Sun 14-Feb-16 16:10:19

This sounds really tough. The kids current life sounds really miserable. I think both parents have to be on good terms and willing to cooperate to make 50/50 work though - there needs to be a lot of discussion regarding activities, school uniforms, appointments etc - I can see your DH's ex not making that aspect easy for you.

WhoGivesAFlying Sun 14-Feb-16 16:46:08

You could try a 2.2.3 pattern? So mon, tues with mum, wed, thurs with you then Friday to Sunday with mum. Then swap it te next week. This seems to work for a lot of people. It's not such a long stretch for the kids and our dp and mum still get a full weekend eow.

WhoGivesAFlying Sun 14-Feb-16 16:46:49

*your DP

DrunkenFlamingo Sun 14-Feb-16 16:47:35

Thanks all. The parents are not on good terms at all. The childrens' mother resents their father for leaving the religion and they are not on speaking terms.

This makes things even harder for the children as they clearly love their mother and father. Their mother has not once wanted to meet me nor speak to me which I find very odd seeing as I am occupying that 'mummy' space rather frequently.

The 50/50 split was thought out because the children will then have less time participating in the JW activities, when they are with their Dad they can have friends to visit, and participate in activities such as clubs and have birthdays and christmas etc. It would also make the time they spend with their Dad feel less like a temporary holiday and more like real life, with a routine.

I don't know how I feel about it. I struggle with the current arrangement as we have 10 days just the two of us, then the kids land with us and its a bit of a shock, soon enough they are gone again and I'm left feeling so sorry that they have to go back to their life. I also see what its doing to their Father and I feel for him, I really do love him very much.

When the kids arrive they are usually quite factious, by the time they leave they have chilled out but then it starts all over again 10 days later.

My heart says I should go with it, that in the long run the kids will appreciate the fact we have done what they wanted. My head struggles to deal with their attitudes and beliefs and in general being a parent - I haven't had any children and sometimes I find their presence difficult.

ElderlyKoreanLady Sun 14-Feb-16 17:19:11

I really sympathise OP. But under the circumstances I believe you need to either get on board or leave. Your partner wants to increase the amount of time he has his kids. It sounds like this is something the kids would really want. And from what you've said, you genuinely do believe they're happier when staying with their dad. If they're genuinely unhappy living the life of religion that their mum has them lead, they'll increase contact with their father themselves when they're old enough. 3 people benefit a lot from a 50:50 arrangement...it's not your place to step in and try to make them compromise.

DrunkenFlamingo Sun 14-Feb-16 17:31:47

This is what I'm thinking. I either need to be 100% behind what my partner wants and love it, or go. So far I have been incredibly supportive. I'm just apprehensive about the new arrangement - who knows, it could be great. I just struggle with the kids sometimes and not sure if more time will make this easier or will ultimately finish off our relationship.

lunar1 Sun 14-Feb-16 17:38:41

Do you look down on their religion?

Your posts sound like you do. Your dp chose to have children with a JW while he was a JW. It's completely understandable that his ex is struggling with his decisions.

While he is free to change religion the way you post sounds a bit like he's saying, come stay with me more, we have birthdays and Christmas over here. It could end up that he is the ultimate Disney dad.

These children will go through a very difficult few years because of their parents.

Katenka Sun 14-Feb-16 17:46:15

Forgetting the religion issue for a minute.

Those children have a right to be with their father 50:50. You will get 50% of the year with your dp on your own.

They are his children. You knew he had children when you decided to move in and should have known that arrangements can always change.

It could even happen that when they are older, they decide they want to live with their dad for the majority of the time.

Your dp is a parent and should always put his kids first. If you can't accept only getting dp to yourself 50% of the time you need to leave before this is sorted. If you leave it until the new arrangements are in place they will feel they have driven you away and that's not ok.

DrunkenFlamingo Sun 14-Feb-16 18:05:04

There are large aspects of the religion that I don't like, to me it feels like a cult. My DP hates the religion.

I didn't move in with him, he moved in with me. We now have a joint place together.

I think the children are already in a very difficult place with their parents and agree that the next few years will be tough for them.

I agree that I need to decide what to do before this is sorted, hence the post.

What is a Disney Dad?

Castasunder Mon 15-Feb-16 00:28:11

I agree a 2:2:3 pattern could work better than week on , week off.

WhoHasACrystalBall Mon 15-Feb-16 00:42:51

A "Disney dad" is a dad who lets the kids do what they want.

He may look over discipline so as to not upset the children and keep himself in thier good books. It's not real parenting, it's just being fun dad.

Op this sound so tough. Honestly if I were you I would really reconsider this relationship. Being a step mum is the hardst thing. And it will be so so much harder with a resentful/unwilling ex with very different views/religion a Disney dad and to very confused children.

Read a few threads on this board, it's not easy.

And yes, you may have known he had children (I hate when people say that) but know one can know what it's like in reality until you go down that path (just the same as if you had your own child) After all, no one has a crystal ball. wink

Katenka Mon 15-Feb-16 06:59:53

And yes, you may have known he had children (I hate when people say that) but know one can know what it's like in reality until you go down that path

yes but if you get with someone with children, there is always a chance they could end up living with you more or even full time. Surely that's considered. You think about all the things that could happen.

I am glad you are seriously considering the future OP. Because if they reject the religion too, there is a good chance they will want to live with you too.

Especially if they get used to being able to do a lot of fun things they haven't been able to do. They may, understandably, decide JW isn't for them.

It is a difficult situation and I hope you find away to accept this as it sound like you and your dp really love eachother.

DrunkenFlamingo Mon 15-Feb-16 08:06:17

Thanks all - I should have started posting here a while ago, think it may have helped me!

He's not a Disney Dad, he's big on discipline, we do do fun stuff but I suppose that's because he sees them so infrequently, we try to do a trip out mountain biking, day trips etc.

He's not the most organised guy in the world and that was starting to drive me a little crazy where the kids were concerned so and we both sat down and drew up a list of rules, chores for the kids, put a routine together with fixed bedtime etc.

This has been in place a month or two now and it's working pretty well. The kids like knowing when their screen time is and they are getting good at just doing their chores automatically, but this is a recent thing.

At the start it was such a whirlwind romance I didn't really consider the impact that having two children around would have. Apologies for my short sightedness! Like I say I don't have children and I've never dated anyone with children. I'm 31 and have a high-stress job that has taken precedent over having a family.

I think I'm going to stick it out (I adore their Dad and can't imagine life without him, plus he thinks it's great for the kids to have positive, non JW role models around them) and just use the time they are at our house to have more me time - I'm going to go to the gym more and do some volunteering projects, leave dealing with them to their Dad as much as possible, and try to to let the mess get to me too much!

I'll suggest 2-2-3 to their Dad although I'm not convinced the kids will remember day to day which bus stop to get off at!

Emeralda Mon 15-Feb-16 08:27:24

It's good that you're asking yourself these questions now as it sounds like the court process hasn't really started yet. In my experience, the court process took several years, multiple court dates, and hours and hours of paperwork, letters and meetings to gain an increase in contact time. It's also incredibly isolating as nobody reallly gets how hard it is. Maybe my DPs situation was unique but I doubt it. I thought the increased contact would reduce the hostility from DPs ex too, and it hasn't so far. It is great for DP and DSD though.

My point is - do you want to invest a huge amount of time and energy into getting an outcome you're not sure you want for yourself? Is that what you want to do with your life? It sounds like an increase in contact would be great for DP and the kids. I agree with Elderly that you need to be on board now or bow out now. I also agree about leaving religion out of your decision as much as possible.

Good luck with it. What support do you have around you?

ArmfulOfRoses Mon 15-Feb-16 08:48:08

What does 50/50 mean for you?
Does it mean you doing school runs and homework and being in sole charge of the dc until he's back from work?
Or does it mean he will be seeing them off in the morning, sorting lunches and being off if they're ill?

DrunkenFlamingo Mon 15-Feb-16 14:41:40

You're right, court process is just at the start - paperwork is in. Thanks for the insight into the process, I assumed it wouldn't be straightforward but forewarned is forearmed. Obviously I'm supporting my partner with this - administratively and by discussing things daily but have no experience in this. Mediation has been tried and failed, we have also tried writing to the mother to request more time and that has been ignored.

Emeralda - that is exactly what is going around in my head. This in my opinion would be great for DP and the kids but I'm not sure if its good for me or not. I suppose time can only tell. At the moment the time they spend with us is ok, but if I were honest I prefer the weekends without the children. They are sometimes fun and entertaining and Christmas with them is great. I think it would be a lot easier if they were our children, but I've never been keen enough to have them. The religion is a huge part of my decision, it would be great to get them some time away from meetings and into some social activities. I think this would help their behaviour, the eldest has a preechy manner and seems to be short on friends. The youngest is often moody and rude. Their father recognises this and is working to combat this behaviour but its difficult at the moment as he has such a small window of time with them.

In terms of support I have my partner, my family live at the other end of the country and whilst my relationship with them is good its distant. I have some friends who have their own children, and my partners sisters. Most of my friends are from uni which are spread around the country.

Armful - it varies. The children get the bus to school and home from school so no school runs. They have lunch at school so no packed lunches although it costs a lot so I would think we'll go the packed lunches route eventually. I would probably end up making them. I cook most evenings, do the food shopping, a lot of the cleaning. I do entertain them if I'm home and DP is out working or commonly he'll take one of them off on their own to do something and leave me with the other (he's self employed so has flexibility to take care of them if they are sick).

I do the majority of the household organising, paperwork for the business and come up with ideas of how to entertain them, plan holidays etc. For example I completely organised Christmas this year, presents, food, family etc. DP is getting better at getting them to clean and tidy their rooms, although this has fallen to me in the past. He also does all of the household laundry. I was always the one driving homework but DP is getting better at this now, especially since we set up a routine time for it.

I should note, if I ask DP to do anything household wise he will do it.

I'm thinking I should go with it, its what the kids want, its good for DP and I can always go out/visit friends/go away for the weekend etc if it all gets too much. It may actually be better if the gap between us seeing them is smaller (at the moment its 10 days of nothing, then 3 days of kids, then 10 days of nothing again). Another good arguement for the 2-2-3 arrangement.

I think the problem is both DP and I get used to living just the two of us in the long 10 day stretch then wehn they arrive its a complete change of lifestyle for me.....

Long post - thanks all for reading!

Heavens2Betsy Mon 15-Feb-16 15:36:05

How does the Mum feel about the dc going from full time JW's to every other week? Isn't your DP undermining her by letting the dc do all the things they aren't allowed to do with her while they are with him?
I think this will lead to confusion among the dc and cause problems for the Mum when they are with her.
It seems wrong to teach the dc that their religion can be conveniently forgotten about when they are at their dads and want to join a club, celebrate a birthday etc.

Heavens2Betsy Mon 15-Feb-16 15:38:50

As for the general change from a few days a month to 50/50 this is HUGE. It will totally change your life, your relationship and your family dynamic. If you are struggling with their behaviour now then you will find it even harder with 50/50 contact.
I have been with my DP nearly 7 years and have eow contact and the odd week here and there in the holidays and much as I love my dsc I would severely struggle with 50/50 contact. Think very carefully about if you could do this now before it is a done deal and you find your self with no choice.

cannotlogin Mon 15-Feb-16 17:28:41

I would be interested to hear how this works out. My gut reaction is the religious complication will make it somewhat difficult for the courts to make a decision on 50/50. On the one hand, the father has (at least initially) agreed to the children being brought up with this faith. On the other hand, he has rejected it. Where does that leave the children? Being a Jehovah's Witness isn't quite the same as being Catholic or C of E - it's far more 'lifestyle' and not something easily dipped into and out of. The children are, however, of an age where what they want can at least be heard by the courts/CAFCASS and their opinions taken into account. But how, as a judge, do you decide to let a child come under shared care when shared care is going to mean such a massive difference in lifestyle between the two houses? I suppose in one way, 50/50 would be giving them the best of both worlds but I am struggling to see how keeping religion out of this is going to be possible. Has your partner spoken to a solicitor who has come across this before? I know religion is something the courts can make decisions on so it won't exactly be new to them but it is, nonetheless, very difficult. I think seeking very specialist advice would be prudent prior to make a court application.

I would personally be prepared for this to get nastier than the average court case (and the average court case isn't pretty) and that on it's own will be a massive strain on your relationship. You seem reluctant at the idea of 50/50...have you even considered what would happen if they wanted to be with their father full time? Or if it were forced (if mum were to become very ill or die, for example?)

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