Just looking for some advice(31 Posts)
Hello all. I'm new to this and have no idea about all of the acronyms, so apologies if I get some wrong.
I'm new to the role of 'sort of' step-parenting. I've been with the father of the two children, one DSD and DSS, both 5-9, for a year.
I met them very early on, despite my reservations, as it was important to my partner that we got on.
I'm incredibly lucky in that both children are really positive about me, and whilst my partner's relationship with his wife (their divorce is on-going, but has nothing to do with me) is really fraught, to me she is the kids' mother and that relationship is completely sacrosanct. although I will admit to being somewhat nervous about the thought of actually interacting with her.
My problem is that my partner moved in with me a few months ago, and after some initial fraught discussions where I was accused of being selfish and not liking the kids when I asked that I be involved in plans made about when the children might come and stay (I know that parental relationships can be really fraught after a break up but it think it's fair enough to be asked) it got better.
Now the problem is that I'm a bit overwhelmed in the house when the kids are here. As I've said, I'm incredibly lucky in that they are fond of me, and I know that this might not always be the case, but whilst my partner can tell the kids to go off and amuse themselves, I find it a lot harder, as the relationship is a lot more tenuous. Because their dad is a lot more hands off (and that isn't a judgement, he's a great dad) they seek my attention all of the time - sometimes physically hanging off me, or waiting outside the bathroom door when I've gone to the toilet. If I ask their dad if I can have a few moments to myself, he agrees but expects them to leave me alone because he tells them to, rather than, say, engaging them in an activity for a bit. Sometimes he doesn't even notice that they've come in to me, and then I feel awful because when I tell them that their drawing/idea is lovely, but to pop back into the living room, he hears and gets cross at them, and that's the last thing I want.
I feel a bit like when I'm there, he can do whatever he wants and dip in and out of their attention, but I don't have that choice.
It was really stressing me out, so I tried to go out and ensure that I had some time to myself, but then my partner calls me repeatedly and asks when I'll be back, or if he organises to take them out, and I say I'll stay at home, he tells me that the kids would really like it if I came.
I tried to talk to him about it last week. I told him that I was feeling really overwhelmed and a bit lonely, and he said that he'd move out if I weren't up to it. And got really defensive about his children, which I completely understand, but I was only trying to explain that I'm not sure how to address them repeatedly calling me "mama" (I always tell them that they have a mum) or asking about whether I'll ever have children (he said to tell them that it's none of their business, which I'm not sure about, as it really is). He then told me that his relationship with them is being damaged because he's always telling them to be quiet because I asked them to not shout to tell me things at the same time.
I got really upset, and he completely shut down and ignored me.
Am not really sure how to manage the situation best - I work with kids, but have none of my own, so I just wanted some guidance as to how to manage them, but I don't really think he gets how tough it is for me. The main thing I want is for the kids to be stable and happy, because it's much harder for them, and I know it's tough for him, too, but I feel like if I fulfil the role he wants me to then I've nothing left for myself, and if I step back then I'm being unfair on the kids and him.
I'm just looking for any sort of tips and advice.
Tbh I think your partner is being unfair.
He needs to be more hands on with them when in the house and realise that you need time when at home too as you have to get used to it all.
I have very similar with my stepdaughter but I'm already a mum so know what to expect, although if I need time to work or just take a bit of time out my partner always ensures I'm not harassed!
The reality is that children are very needy and require attention, particularly when in new situations, but your partner should be taking his share of the 'attention' & need and he shouldn't be emotionally blackmailing you.
In regards to the 'mama' thing - that's needs to stop, you aren't their mum and he needs to recognise that.
Thank you. I do appreciate your understanding. And I totally get that kids are needy, and I'm sure that I'll look back on these days longingly! Do you think it's ok to just organise trips out by myself? The difficulty I have is that my partner often thinks I should take one or both kids with me, so that he can get a break too. I feel selfish, but then it's hard when it's all the time. My partner works from home, and I have a full time job and am on holiday at the moment, so he gets loads of time by himself whilst my time alone has been reduced to about 2 hours per week.
I know that this is something that full-time parents face all the time, and that only having the kids for part of the week is much less to have an issue with, but it's hard because if the kids ask if I'm going somewhere and can they come, too, their dad says, "No, she needs a break from you." They're not my kids, so it's totally his call on how to explain things to them, but I sort of wish he'd make it less about me wanting time away and more about them having time together. Do I just need to get over that?
I really think he needs to think about how he is talking to his children and also his behaviour towards them.
He shouldn't want a break from them as when it's his time with them he should ensure its quality time & plan things to do with them.
The ideal situation would be you doing things as a family then when home you can have your time and they play alone or do activities with Dad or you do activities together. Occasionally you can do things with the children on your own, but it should not be an expectation, especially when he appears to not bother.
Is he always negative towards the children?
Sadly, if he cannot understand where you are coming from with this, I don't think it's likely to get better.
My dp never understands that I don't want to be constantly interacting with dss. dss is now 15 and more or less lives with us (he is with his mum this weekend but dp is away, so I'm on my own) and constantly talks through TV programmes for example - dp won't tell him to be quiet, and I can't just leave questions unanswered so it's me who ends up having my programmes interrupted.
Your steps are quite young and he should be finding things to do with them. He should also take the opportunity to take them out without you, even if they would like you to go. I always considered dp and dss needed their time - him coming to us was contact for his dad, not for me. But you do also need to build your own family unit.
Re them asking if you'll have kids, I suppose it depends what the actual answer is, but "I don't know" would do. But he could sit them down and explain to them that they don't need to keep asking, you will let them know if things change (and they are very important to you and no new baby will ever replace them etc etc) - that's his job as a dad.
I don't have my own kids (and won't) and I have found dp and dss just expect me to be stand in 'mum' when I am here. I've made a conscious decision not to do that but dp still just dumps on me a lot of the time and I don't think he even knows he does it. For example - dss is here after school, dp goes off to some hobby and I am left to make the tea for everyone. Now, obviously I don't mind making the tea, when I am out he does it, but I do mind that dss needs a different meal because he only eats rubbish and even at 15 he won't cook anything himself, plus he'll be constantly in my face the whole time so I feel a bit put upon (especially as he is here 90% of the time).
Dp totally doesn't get it - for him, his ds being here is the best thing in the world. For me, sometimes it's OK but mostly it's a logistical issue I have to think about and would prefer not to have to, I think it should be dp's job to do that.
I doubt your dp will change unless you have a very serious discussion with him now and outline your expectations. And him sulking about it is not a good sign I'm afraid.
I don't normally pile into relationship type threads but this is really off. That last comment where he tells them ' she is going out to get a break from you' is so far out of line it's difficult to know where to start. He is saying it only to get at you- to make you feel guilty so you don't go out and in saying it he is also demonstrating that he does not prioritise the feelings of his kids. If my DH said that about my time out to our children I would hit the roof- despite the fact that I DO book time out to have a break. You are not being unreasonable in any way, in fact you sound very thoughtful. He needs to attend to them - they are attention seeking because they need the emotional reassurance and they are coming to you because they are not getting it from him. He is not parenting properly and then throwing it at you. You are right that they are not your kids and if he wants to parent badly there is not much you can do - but you don't have to be there to watch. The power balance in your relationship sounds very unequal from what you've written- this should be a discussion on how you manage these tricky times not him deciding how it will be and trying to manipulate you by hurting them.
He isn't always negative towards them, but I think he's got an attention span similar to them.
It's hard because I don't have kids of my own, so it's not like I have a parenting style or anything, but there are ways that I would totally do things differently. And, of course, I have the benefit of not actually being their parent so in a way they're more likely to behave for me - I don't think I'm a model of excellence or anything. I think that the difficulty is a lack of consistency. Promises are made and consequences are threatened that never get followed up on. And of course, that's part of life, but I think some times it's important to model stuff. But if I suggest that we follow some rules too, then I'm being a pain and don't get it. Like a no screens at the table or whilst watching tv policy (his, not mine) for the kids but he can sit on his phone/laptop throughout. But I know that they're not my kids, so it's not my call. It just makes it a bit more tough because as someone without kids and only doing it part time, I've tried to follow rules set, and probably made a bit of a rod for my own back tbh.
Thanks for responding.
"I'm sure that I'll look back on these days longingly! "
You will when they are teens, honestly!
"Do you think it's ok to just organise trips out by myself? The difficulty I have is that my partner often thinks I should take one or both kids with me, so that he can get a break too."
Er, it's totally OK for you to go out without the kid/s. Why does he need a break from them, how often do you have them?
" their dad says, "No, she needs a break from you." "
He sounds delightful, guilt tripping you. He's not really working as a team, is he? He wants his kids to feel that you don't like them?
He could say "no, 'user' just needs to go out for now, she'll be back soon, hey, let's go to the park".
It sounds like they want to go with you because he ignores them.
I wonder why he's getting divorced.....
"Do I just need to get over that?"
No, you really need a long chat with him and if he doesn't accept this.....well.....don't hang around.
Thank you for responding - I know that this is a step parenting thread and probably it's more of a relationship thing, but because of the kids and his wife it's all a bit more fraught and probably has to be managed a bit differently - but I might be wrong. I don't have experience with someone with a really difficult relationship with their kids' mother, and I know that much of his shutting down behaviour might be a hangover from that (and I don't have kids and probably have loooaaaads of issues from my own exes) but I don't really know how to address the problem without it looking like I'm having a go at the kids. I'm really fond of them; it's just a big shift for me and I'm not really sure how to talk about it without him feeling that I'm getting at them, because I get how defensive one might be in this situation.
Any advice is gratefully received.
Thank you. It is really helpful to hear that I'm not being crazy. I think it's that out of all of the people in this I've the least emotional weight tied up in it, if you see what I mean? As in the kids need stability and have been through tough times, he's been though tough times (as has his ex, I'm not suggesting that it's her fault at all) and I've sort of come in to this. And I have willingly, it's just working out how and if I can manage it.
Thank you for your reply. I think you're right. I do need to discuss it with him. It's just hard getting the tone right as he's really defensive about it all. If I call him up on telling the kids I need a break from them, I fear he'll think that's me criticising his parenting. I'm not sure that he gets the difference in the relationship he and his kids have to the one I have with his kids, and that I find mine a lot more fraught to navigate.
OP I could have written your post! 5 years in for me, my steps similar age to yours. I find that unless OH is actually 'doing' something with him, like going to the park or swimming, or playing a board game, he manages sometimes to detach completely, so he will be sat there looking at his phone with a little voice repeatedly demanding a drink, or to know why that lady on the telly is doing x, or what we might do tomorrow. And it always falls to me to answer as I can't deal with the little voice getting progressively louder and more whiny!
If I am doing something I get followed all over the house with offers of 'help', questions about what I'm doing etc. Sometimes I have to ask OH to come and remove him as he's getting in my way / on my nerves, but OH never cottons on of his own accord that this might be a good idea, even when I've said fir the 20th time 'no you can't help with this, it's dangerous, I need you out of my way, go and see your dad'.
I think the children will automatically head to where they think they will get the most attention!
To be fair he does take him out on his own to give me a break, but when we're all in the house together I feel pretty suffocated a lot of the time.
So no answers sorry, just know you are not alone!
" of course, I have the benefit of not actually being their parent so in a way they're more likely to behave for me"
That works for the first few months, and for grandparents, but actually, if they feel safe with you and close to you their behaviour is likely to get worse, the same as with a parent. But worse as you don't really have the mandate to discipline.
Dss behaviour can be really bad towards me, he's pretty rude a lot of the time and when I say 'right, no computers today' he says 'my mum bought me that so you can't stop me using it' (or that sort of thing) - I never say 'well go and live with her then' but it's what I want to say!
I know he acts out with me because his relationship with his mother is so fragile but that doesn't help me. I also know he actually likes the parameters I set for his behaviour because his dad sets none and kids like to know there are rules as rules protect them.
"Promises are made and consequences are threatened that never get followed up on."
Yes, I've had this for years. Similar to the rules you state - no food in bedrooms (house rule, not dss rule), no phone at bedtime (dss rule - no, never ever stuck to), times to go to bed always broken (leading to dss being over tired, which means his behaviour is poor).
I have to say, it's pretty unlikely to get better, never has with my dp.
Thank you shitonyoursofa - I think I've been replying to threads wrongly here, so apologies if it looks like I haven't responded to replies.
It's good to know it's not just me. I guess I feel a bit useless in that I'm trying to be as good as I can be, getting a bit burnt out and then being totally useless. So I need to find more of a balance I think.
"I'm not sure that he gets the difference in the relationship he and his kids have to the one I have with his kids"
Exactly, dp has never got that either. I naively thought at the start that he had dss every other weekend and the intervening one he and I would do something nice - but no. He often booked other things, or we had dss extra because his mum was busy, even just a day, or one of the nights but for years that's how it's been. But for him, this is great, more dss is fab. For me, I used to look forward to the non-dss times but they have become non-existent now.
Thanks Outtogetyou, am sure it's a really short-lived thing! I guess the struggle I'm having is stepping back on things that their dad decides because it's his choice how he parents, but then being expected to deal with the consequences of them, so insanely late bedtime; crankiness and exhaustion the next day.
And the kids are really lovely at the moment, and I think that's what might be worrying me - what will it be like if the honeymoon period ends?
Oh Outtogetyou, I have that, too. I think that's why I feel a bit lonely - because unless I'm being an excellent au pair, I feel like I don't really have a role. But I guess that might be more indicative of my relationship with DP than anything to do with him having children!
The thing is, if you don't have good routines (and dp never put one in because 'he's only here every other weekend' - though it was never only that anyway) then when/if you do have them more they won't understand and it will be too late to put routines in and they'll have no respect.
Yy re having to deal with the grumps next day. That's exactly it. How come I know that even at 15 dss needs a lot of sleep (as do I, as does dp) and if he's not in bed by 10.30pm he'll be unbearable the next day? dp ignores him, tells me he just goes to bed at 10.30pm, then we go up at 11.30pm and dss is still playing games. Why does dp not ever learn? This week dp has been away. One night, despite me telling him several times, dss didn't go to bed until after midnight, he then got up late the next day meaning I had to give him a lift or he'd be late.
" I guess that might be more indicative of my relationship with DP than anything to do with him having children!"
And that might be a throwback to his marriage of course.
I think that's why it's so tough. There's a lot of resentment on both sides from the marriage, and that is wholly their business - I've no idea what went on but am sure that it was v unhappy for both of them. And I have things from other relationships that I'm not great about. But I do think that whatever happened in the past is really hard, but needs to be slightly separate from how the two of us manage now. It's really hard to guess what might be a trigger for him, especially when it comes to the kids, but it's really worth trying to be adult about it and talk about it for their sakes'. Although I do worry that I'm overthinking things. For example, I know it's more healthy to see adults disagree and it not be the end of the world, there are times when I've tried to talk about a thing quietly and then if one of the kids has come in changed the subject and he just keeps saying, "what we're you saying? I couldn't hear you. What was it?" Even when I say it doesn't matter. But I think I might be getting too hung up on the little things there.
Some advice I took from another forum - never do more than the actual parent. In the first year or so I threw myself into being super stepmum - cooking lovely dinners, researching and planning days out, buying toys, making sure we had activities planned, getting the bedroom looking lovely before SS came to stay. And them I realised that OH was doing none of those things! And so I took a huge step back. And then he thought I'd 'gone off' SS. And when I explained, he said that he'd really thought I loved doing all those things, so he was leaving them to me. He didn't realise I was getting more and more pissed off with being the one that was putting the bigger share of effort in, when it wasn't my kid.
I don't do it any more. Don't get me wrong I still plan the odd day out, or buy treats occasionally, but only when I want to.
Find a balance that works for you - he is the parent, he is the one that needs to make sacrifices with his time and attention for his children's sake, not you. Doesn't mean you don't care, or don't want to be involved, but taking more of a back seat might help you feel better about it all. You will have to be prepared for some arguments though!
Thank you Shitonyoursofa. That's really good advice. I think I'm going to try to plan things for myself more, and if that overlaps with the day's the kids are here, then that's fine. I have taken a step back over the last couple of days (was ill) and to be fair to OH, he did see that my absence made a big difference in how the days went. Hopefully he'll be able to make a leap to other days until the future! I hope all is well and as easy as can be with you now.
Thanks again for the advice.
He needs to move out and figure out how to parent his children on his own. While ever he doesn't have to face the consequences of his actions, late bedtime etc he will never step up.
He's basically got you installed as a replacement mum so he doesn't have to do his share. He needs a good solid year or two of actual parenting before he should live with anyone.
His primary concern should be parenting, I'd imagine this behaviour plus all the passive aggressive comments factor heavily in the divorce.
OP I could have written much of your post myself in the first year I lived with DH. Its been two now and DSD still always gravitates to the room I'm in and DH is more than happy to be the hands off dad. When I started reading your thread this morning I was in the lounge with DSD in my lap her father was asleep in bed. A very typical morning in our house. Its also very typical for DH to expect DSD will go to the shops or where ever with me if I go.
My advise always make time for yourself. I have gym time every Saturday and Sunday once DH gets up. And I go for as long as I want. Its great for me and it forces them to have one on one time.
Next weekend we have DSD I'm going to my parents who live a flight away. I took DH and DSD last time this time its my turn alone. I do a night away with family a number of times a year so that DH has to do all the parenting himself and remember that he is her dad and I am not DSDs mum. Don't get me wrong I love her very much and would do anything for her but if I'm always there she doesn't get quality time with her dad as she prefers to be where ever I am. And like you I feel terrible sending her away. If im reading in my room for a break she will be playing on my bedroom floor or on the bed watching a movie.
DH and I had a lot of the same conversations you and your partner are having to begin with. And still do unfortunately from time to time. But on the whole DH now knows if I say I'm not doing something or I'm going out/away he just has to accept it. I think until your OH realises he is the dad its all his responsibility first and you are actually free to help out with the parts you want to and leave him to the rest you will continue to argue about it.
Good luck, step parenting is hard work but its also a real delight at times. I've been teaching DSD to ride her bike and yesterday she just got it and is off. I am so proud of her and its lovely to know I taught her.
Hello Lelloteddy. At the moment, it's four days/nights a week, but we've more coming up in a bit. It's only for the school holidays, and I know that that's far less than full time. but it has been a lot for me to adjust to so quickly and I'm keen to try to get it right.
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