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Please help me find my 'role' as 'SM'

(19 Posts)
OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Fri 04-Mar-16 14:07:00

My DP has 2 DCs who live with him 60% of the time. ExW is nearby and they share care, EOW and odd nights in the week.

I have 2 DCs (all 4 range in age 6 to 10) and live a half hour drive away from DP. My STBXH is long distance, so not in the day to day picture with my DCs.

DP and I have been together ~2 yrs and spend most weekends together, with either all or some of the DCs.

DP is essentially SF to mine, but due to circumstances I don't feel I can really be proper SM to his, at least while we are not living together. Also I get s fair amount of resentment from his DCs as they seem to not want or need another person/kids in their lives. We are working on this, and this is why I need help.

Problem is that up to now, I have been aiming at us having similar roles in each other's DC's lives, but now I am realising that because our circs are so different, that's not achievable. It has felt a bit like a competition (pressure on me from DP but also myself to develop a stronger relationship with his DCs that is equivalent to his relationship with my DCs).

I'm finding it hard to bond with his DCs as a stepmom as time is so limited and they spend a lot of time with their BM and I feel like a third wheel if I try to be any kind of 'parent' to them.

Part of me wants to detach completely to save my sanity, but I don't think that will work as I want to build, not cut off relationships with them.

So I need to find a middle ground that will keep me sane and make things less stressful. I often feel like I'm under scrutiny in trying to create a relationship, and his DCs push back on me, which makes for bad feelings.

I'm struggling to adopt an approach that works for us all, so I want to find one that I can model, IYSWIM.

I'm thinking of behaving like an aunty - I get on great with my nieces (same ages) as I am warm and open with them, happy to see them, but not in charge of them. I will step in if there's any trouble between all the cousins together, but ultimately I leave it to my sis to 'parent' them. I enjoy seeing them when they visit, and then they go home. I'd like to achieve the same with DP's DCs for now, and can then just build on that if/when we live together.

Does this sound like a plan?

They are visiting tonight after a difficult weekend last week, and I need a fresh start. Something I can slot myself into as a fallback persona when things are tricky. Their BM is a bit of a nightmare, inconsistent handovers, changing access at last minute etc, and I think it's making my job much harder, as I end up feeling like the intruder sometimes. The kids seem to like me most of the time, but then revert to resentment when their BM appears in my world without warning.

I don't want to interfere in their world, but ASAP and I are serious about our future so I need to find a corner of it that I can own.

Wow, long post, sorry - thanks to anyone who is still reading smile

OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Fri 04-Mar-16 14:09:56

DP and I are serious, not ASAP!

OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Fri 04-Mar-16 15:11:07


mouldycheesefan Fri 04-Mar-16 17:37:33

It isn't the done thing to refer to the children's mother as 'BM' or birth mother. She is their mother full stop. Lots of people find that offensive which may be why nobody has replied.
As I see it, you are the dads girlfriend, you don't live together and you aren't married I don't see you as the stepmother really in this situation so I would take on dads girlfriend role. You aren't their auntie. Let things develop naturally over time.

OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Fri 04-Mar-16 18:19:24

Wow. Hostile. What would the 'done thing' be then? ExW? I see that a lot. That seems acceptable, but doesn't refer to her as their mother. DP's DC's DM? I mean really, it's just a way of being clear who I am talking about. Never mind. I will figure it out on my own. Thanks anyway.

daftgeranium Fri 04-Mar-16 18:49:49

Hello OP. Ignore the last post. mouldycheesefan isn't answering your question and is throwing a load of her own baggage into the equation, let her get on with it!! Just the kind of nasty post that isn't needed here when SMs are looking for practical advice.

First of all - congratulations for working with all this positively and trying to find solutions. These are challenging situations and there are different answers for every one....

Second - you need to work with your partner on this. You need to be deciding solutions together and implementing them together. You need some support, you shouldn't be trying to do this on your own.

Third - it is important that if you both want to create a family unit together, that all of the children are treated equally, whether they are yours, or his, or both. This is really important no matter how the BM behaves - the kids need to know that they will all be treated equally when they are with you and in your household.

I think this mitigates against treating your kids and his kids differently. Can you try to find some consistent house rules and relationship constants that will help you through this with all the kids? Can your DP support you in setting expectation with his kids about how they should behave towards you? Reading between the lines this is an issue here.....

I hope this helps a little, it's just my opinion from my experience. good luck!

Bluelilies Fri 04-Mar-16 19:59:53

I've struggled with that quite a bit - but concluded that you shouldn't try to compare your role with your DSC with that of your your DP and your own kids. As you point out the circumstances are different, and also people's personalities are different - so we all form our own relationships which aren't exactly like anyone else's.

I'm always aware that I'm not their mum, and that sometimes I need to back up decisions that she's made and I don't agree with, or at lest reassert that it's her right to make them. It's not the same relationship as I'd have with them if she wasn't around at all and I was their full time mum.

I do think that a kind of parallel parenting where you each discipline your own DC doesn't work terribly well if you have similar aged children (our are similar ages, like yours). What works better is having clearly defined house rules and routines in a more formalised manner than you're used to when you're a single parent and can just make it all up as you go along. If you agree the rules and then each parent makes sure their own DC know the rules, it's then much easier to pick up a DSC for some sort of misbehaviour as you're not imposing a new rule on them they're not already aware of.

The other thing I found that helped a lot with building up a good relationship with my DSC was having some time with them when I didn't also have my own DC with me. That may be why your DP feels like more of a dad to yours - that he's been able to build up being a step dad without always having his own kids around to balance things with. If time without your own DC is precious it's hard because you also want to find some child-free time together too. But having some time with your DP's DC when you're not trying to be mum to yours at the same time might help.

lunar1 Fri 04-Mar-16 20:58:02

Regarding treating children equally, do you parent in a similar way? Are you house rules
Similar or do you have two sets of children going by different rules or expect one set of children to be parented in a different way?

If you are very different I would find a middle ground and slowly move towards it. Make little changes so that his children won't think your relationship with their dad is a threat to the way their routine has been established.

Do all the children get time with their own parent as well, without a step parent/siblings around.

One of the biggest things for me was that in both my parents new relationships, the step parents were always there. Sometimes all I wanted was a weekend with my own parent and brother.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Fri 04-Mar-16 21:08:23

Firstly I'd say unburden yourself from the notion that you have to have a relationship, or that it will be the same as DPs. I think it's generally harder for SMs for a start.

You can still try though, see what happens. I'd say focus on spending time with them in your house or neutral territory. I plumped myself by moving in to DPs house with his Ex near, and that has been a huge barrier, constantly resented for just being on their territory, and like you if frequent sharing between houses just accentuates that their parents are working closely, and you'll be an unwelcome outsider.

OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Fri 04-Mar-16 23:16:05

Thank you those who ha love given practical advice. But it seems that my relationship is over anyway. 'D'P arrived with his DCs tonight, all fine, we ate, watched a film all together, then my DCs said they'd like it if the sleeping arrangements could be the same as last week, and I agreed since it means not swapping sheets etc. None of the kids objected so P and I sent them off to bed all fine, no issues.

Then DP later said he was unhappy that I'd arranged that and that he would tomorrow check with his DCs that they are happy with the fixed sleeping arrangements. I said everyone already seemed happy, why Rick the boat?

Apparently he 'felt' a sense of unease from his youngest (8). I said well what did he do or say, as I didn't notice anything.

All hell broke loose as DP couldn't or wouldn't tell me what it was, just that he decided his DC wasn't happy.

Yet they all went to bed and are sleeping fine.

I said if you open this can of worms,
And one or both of yours
Say they don't like the arrangement, then what? Will you then come and discuss it with me and mine to find a solution? Why do that when they all accepted it fine tonight and knew it was the plan for the future?

Is it unreasonable for me to just want some stability in my one home, one night a week, with an arrangement they all seem to be ok with?

Bananasinpyjamas1 Fri 04-Mar-16 23:58:50

I'm sorry to hear that OP. You posted here wanting to try, wanting to make it work. Your DP is being very sensitive and over protective. The sleeping arrangements sounded fine and not a big deal. Your DP did not come up with any better suggestions at the time. Yet you are made to feel like his DSC is being not made at home and somehow this is your fault?

Tbh I did get a sense of familiarity reading your first post. With your DP having much of the childcare his Ex close and chopping and changing. The kids confused loyalties, and you being made to feel an outsider. Your DP is probably having an easier time as your family is easier!

OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Sat 05-Mar-16 00:17:17

Bananas yes. I think you understand
Thank goodness someone does. confused

I think we are done. I asked what the issue was and DP couldn't or would t tell me. Maybe he's realised he's being player this DC or something. I don't know.

I don't think I have the energy for it. Which is a big shame as we get on like a house on fire. He just seems to let his toughest ride roughshod over it all.

I feel worst for my own DCs who have adopted him as SF. envysad

OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Sat 05-Mar-16 00:18:21

Youngest, not toughest. Although arguable

swingofthings Sat 05-Mar-16 09:19:38

Oh dear, your argument doesn't make much sense! Sounds like a big misunderstanding between yourself and your DP and if something like this is going to result in such blow and considering breaking up, than you certainly are not even close to be in a position to consider your relationship serious enough to take on the role of SM to his children.

Sounds like your priority should be on communication with your DP way before communication with his children. I do hope you make up though, seems like a very silly thing to end things over.

OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Sat 05-Mar-16 12:08:38

No, the argument made no sense at all, which made me even more annoyed. I really think his youngest casks too many of the shots and P let's him, for a quiet life of for fear of upsetting him or whatever. I've seen so many threads on here with a similar situation and no clear solution.

Communication between me and P is breaking down over it because he can't see how hard it make my job and I'm cross with him for letting it happen all the time.

On this one occasion, why couldn't he just see it for what it was - a simple, practical arrangement that nobody objected to - and just say that if everyone was fine with it, then all fine. Why did he have to turn it into a deal breaker?

This morning I asked if there was anything more he wanted to say on the subject, and he stuck to his guns. And so did I - my point being that I can't believe he's willing to sabotage everything I've something so petty. But it seems he is, so I guess that's that.

They are all gone now (they were leaving for handover anyway, but left earlier than planned by mutual agreement).

I doubt I will hear from him again, although he has left clothes and stuff here. Oh well, I will cross that bridge if I come to it.

I'm very sad and frustrated sad and angry.

MsColouring Sat 05-Mar-16 12:31:04

Sorry to hear about the argument Once. Sounds like a bit of a power struggle going on. When dh and dss first moved in with me we had quite a few 'discussions' about acceptable boundaries etc. Dss did a few things that made me uncomfortable e.g. switching on the TV without asking, looking through drawers etc. We butted heads a few times but we needed to agree on what to compromise on and things are generally fine now.

In an ideal world I guess you would have had the conversation about sleeping arrangements before they got there. I'm guessing this isn't just about sleeping arrangements, it is about general communication. If you decide this is worth salvaging, is it worth you and p trying to have some time to talk things through without the kids and spending some time just with your own kids.

Wondering if the ex has a part to play here as well - is he getting flack from her all the time about arrangements and finding himself stuck in the middle?

lunar1 Sat 05-Mar-16 14:31:19

Is there a chance that dss wouldn't say infront of you that he didn't like the arrangements. My ds1 would never say to anyone but me or his dad if he wasn't happy with something. He'd politely smile and go along with it.

In this case I would have to check with him if he was happy, the alternative is that he would bottle it up.

Could this be the case and you and dp have just blown the whole thing out of proportion as you were already cross with each other.

Bananasinpyjamas1 Sat 05-Mar-16 19:44:10

It doesn't sound like a communication issue. It sounds as you say OP, things are fine except your DP is letting the slightest 'look' from his DS decide that it just won't work. That really is bananas! I bet everyone has to compromise over many things, but why are you the bad guy?

OnceMoreIntoTheBleach Sun 06-Mar-16 09:49:58

Lunar SS has never had a problem speaking up, he's usually the first to complain loudly about anything he doesn't 100% like and that's I think why this was so puzzling.

Bananas I think you have hit the nail on the head. P's attitude seems to be that he needs to seek approval from one of his DCs about everything and yes you're right, I always end up as the bad guy hmmsad

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