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How can I help?(17 Posts)
Hi all! I’d be grateful for any perspectives here.
It feels a bit odd to be posting on the step parenting forum, as that isn’t exactly where we are at right now, but I am hoping for other people’s perspectives who understand the complexities involved in this kind of situation!
I am 32, boyfriend is a couple of years older. I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old who live me with ‘full time’. Their dad has contact every other weekend and I try to encourage mid week contact, any lack of this is not my doing, if that makes sense! I encourage his girlfriend of 18 months to be involved and invite her to events that exH is invited to. I have always explained to my kids about stepdads/stepmums as another adult to trust/play with/love etc, and I have a very positive relationship with my own stepdad.
My boyfriend has a 6 year old who is with him ‘full time’. His child’s mum had an affair when they were married - no judgement as people sometimes do not make the best decisions - she moved 30 mins away and was meant to see their child regularly but he does not always want to go to contact and she often cancels or brings him back early too. My boyfriend encourages him to spend time with his mum although his son has reported lots of shouting and arguing between his mum and her boyfriend, and he witnessed DV and controlling behaviour from his mum to his dad so this brings up some anxieties for him. Without going into too much detail, I feel that my boyfriend does as best as he can in a difficult situation - he is encouraging, facilitates phone calls, drives his son to contact, has tried to come up with ideas to make contact more positive (ie son is much more willing to spend time with his mum if he doesn’t spend any time overnight there, so he has suggested/facilitated ideas) and doesn’t receive any maintenance from mum but does as much as he can.
About four months ago we introduced our kids for the first time and have made sure to take everything as slowly as we can. We both make sure that we have plenty of time alone with our children and do something as a group probably once a fortnight, although I have seen his child probably once a week as he has asked to spend time with me with his dad there. About a month ago we introduced the idea of us being ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ which all children were enthusiastic about. Boyfriend had mentioned me to son’s mum when I met his son but stated that we were taking things slowly and kids were not aware that we were anything more than friends. I get on well with his son but we have both made a conscious effort to keep our relationship developing slowing and steadily at the children’s pace and without rushing anything.
A couple of weeks ago mum came at him ‘looking for a fight’ and said that I was not to be called mum, not to watch him at his sporting hobby events, not to go to sports days etc etc. None of this had ever been discussed with his son and he said that he responded calmly and kindly although she still evokes a fear response in him (much as my ex does with me as he was also controlling) - that I was not looking for that, that I just wanted to be kind to him and that I want them to have time together and not usurp anyone’s position. She has basically added 2 and 2 and come up with 5!
I have said to him that I am happy to have a coffee with her - I deal with people who are in heightened emotional states in my job a lot, and I like to think that I am fairly emotionally astute - but that I would leave the decision for this up to him and that I would not contact her. I don’t agree with how she has treated/treats the pair of them - this is really the tip of the iceberg - but I do also have some empathy for her as a mum who has had to accept someone else into her children’s lives. I feel I’ve done that with good grace but I know that isn’t always that easy.
I just hope that I am doing the right thing - I am so desperately aware of their history (also told to me by boyfriend’s parents) and keeping my own children safe, whilst struggling a bit to separate my own feelings from my professional head (job involves a large amount of paediatric safeguarding) - I have tried really hard to keep my girlfriend head on, along with the empathy bit of my job!
Any insight or thoughts welcome!
It sounds like you're doing the right things re the kids.
Spell out how hard it is for mum and dad having someone else special in their child's life and they're worried about being left out. That you're dad's girlfriend and that you'll be there to do fun things but not an extra mum, and mum might be feeling a bit sad about it.
Thank you - I really appreciate that. I am a bit worried that she will start being negative or snippy about me when she does have contact. She has told (not asked!) boyfriend to tell child that he needs to go to contact as he needs to spend time with me. Both of us think this is ludicrous and won’t be doing anything of the sort. I want to protect the kids in all of this. Our relationship doesn’t change the relationship that both of us have with our children. I am such a mix of emotion about it - outwardly calm, kind - inwardly sad that this kind of fracture exists, worried, irritated - just generally want to help him understand his feelings but without crossing boundaries, and if I help her then it will help him too. It’s a tricky path but I’m trying hard!
I also had a step mum as a kid who made it very clear that I was unwelcome in their home. Child’s mum’s partner has kids who are not kind to him and she seems to be unaware of the impact that her actions and words have - eg he said that they recently took his bed to the dump on one of the few days that he saw her as her partner’s kids had broken it, and she hadn’t discussed/reassured about replacing it. As a parent I just find it really sad. I hurt when my kids hurt and I can’t imagine ever doing that kind of thing and destabilising their environment in that way.
It sounds like she didn't have a step parent and is worried/jealous about how you will fit in.
Especially knowing herself that she's not doing a great job about parenting him, now he'll have a direct comparison about who parents best.
That's how she'll see it.
And I wouldn't be offering to meet the mum whilst she's in this mind set. Nothing you do will endear you to her.
@FraglesRock I agree - from her perspective there is an element of ‘competition’ for want of a better word, and she likes stuff to put on FB apparently to make herself appear in a better light...
I think I am maybe trying too hard to look after her feelings too. I know she has not acted in a positive way, I guess that I wanted to explain to her that I really am not trying to take over, but I think you’re probably right. Thank you - I appreciate your insight as I’ve tried not to talk about it much with friends.
Stick to being the girlfriend. I wouldn't give her much headspace tbh. Explain to the ds why she might be feeling like she is. Then just live your life. If you try to think what she'd be thinking about things you won't be true to what you want to be like.
Sadly I don't think there is a lot you can do at the moment and echo pp about not meeting when emotions are heightened.
Honestly and speaking from experience it's one of those situations that need time and space. In time things may change, they may not, but apart from your partner being supportive to you, there is not a lot you can do to steer or change this woman's attitude towards you. Many threads on MN will attest to this.
DH and I have generally found it best to keep the contact about our own children directly between each of us and our ex. There's something really unpleasant about being expected to co-parent with a couple who say "we think bla bla bla" when one of them is not your child's parent and someone who is nothing to you, especially if you yourself are single at the time. It feels unbalanced and unfair. So I've always assumed our exes may feel similarly. We've found it's better to keep all communication one to one with our exes, and then to relay information to discuss with each other whenever something affects us as a family, or just because we want to talk it though.
So I don't think I'd be keen to meet up with the ex in your situation unless she's really pushing for it and seems likely to go into it constructively.
I don't think it's easy for mothers whose children don't live with them. I think they feel judged by society. Best to stay out of that if you can. DH's ex dealt with one of the DSC living with us by pretending it was simply because we were nearer his school. I think it was easier for her that way. She has always been in complete denial about how much I do for her DC, and chooses to pretend that I don't exist. But she causes no bother in our lives so I'm happy enough to leave things like that. DH appreciates me which is enough
Thank you very much for your replies - I wasn’t intending to take over any form of communication, in the same way that I wouldn’t expect my boyfriend to communicate directly with my ex. I guess that I was trying to replicate the reassurance that I got when I met my exH’s girlfriend and realised that she would be kind to my kids. I am just quite a calm and rational person but it was so good to see her in person. I thought that it would be helpful but I hadn’t realised that it might be perceived in a negative way. I’m keen to leave the control of that offer with my boyfriend to extend to his ex, then the control of a meet with her - I won’t refuse if she asks but I wasn’t planning to contact her, by any means. I also wasn’t planning to input on anything at all re: their parenting if she did want to meet - it was literally so that she could see that I am not planning to insidiously take anything away from her as it must be horrendous to be separated from her. I’m certainly not wanting to create any drama or make anything worse as my intention was only to placate and reassure. I hadn’t realised that it might be viewed negatively, so I’m really glad that I posted for some advice.
I agree with you @Firefliess re: being expected to co-parent in that situation, but I really wouldn’t be overriding or offering suggestion in that way - part of my job is to listen at times without judgement or even input - even if/as things progress I feel that I have had a really good model in my own stepdad of how to be another responsible adult in a difficult situation. It was good to hear your input about how mum dealt with the separation. There are a few things that I don’t want to put here for identification concerns, but whilst I don’t agree with her past and present behaviour I feel a lot of sympathy and empathy for her coping mechanisms.
I think I will stick to @FraglesRock suggestion of helping child to understand why mum might feel like that in a brief and age appropriate way with him leading the conversation and being careful about words... I agree with you @giggleshizz that I am probably on a bit of a losing battle in how she will view me.
(Apologies for the long posts - it’s helpful to get my thoughts out!)
Thank you again!
**must be horrendous to be separated from her child....
You sound like a very controlling person. You are even controlling what your BF can or can not say to his son about his ex . Its not your place to discuss what and how his sons mum feels. Not your place. Not your child.
Those people you should leave alone but you are actively meddling in their relationship and causing drama.
Stay away from their affairs and everything will be fine.
There's always one that comes on to berate a stepparent for fuck all. Well done pp.
OP just keep doing what you're doing. Honestly, in time she should calm down. She's jealous, scared and all manner of things. Starve those emotions in her. In time, when she sees her relationship with her DS doesn't alter, she should calm down.
@Annaminna, I’m not sure how I am being controlling? I’ve actually said that I have made the offer to my boyfriend and have left the decision with him as to whether he wants to offer it as an option in the first place, and then the decision is with his son’s mum? I am actively trying to stay away from drama. I just found that meeting my exH’s partner useful and I was extending the same courtesy to her if she wants it. I am genuinely a bit confused about how that comes across as controlling...
Thank you @Kelsoooo, my intention is to leave the whole thing as it is. I am keen to keep the kids at the centre of everything (mine and his) and I just felt bad for his mum feeling insecure and worried. I appreciate your input!
Also @Annaminna I have not said anything about moderating what my boyfriend says to his ex about anything, never mind their child - I listen when he talks and I was asking for advice on managing a difficult situation as contact is limited between the two from her perspective and from how her son feels given his past experiences and how he feels about her boyfriend. I actually want to support the positive bits of their relationship which is why I asked for advice....
Would you be able to meet her more briefly at some point? Eg when dropping off or picking up DSC? If you're just hoping to convey to her that you bear her no ill will and will be friendly that might be all it takes, and less intense that having a dedicated meeting set up. That you're kind to her child and don't step on her toes is something she'll be able to see for herself over time.
@Firefliess that would be preferable for sure! Collection/drop offs are often a bit fraught with tension as he doesn’t always want to go so I’m not sure if it’d work in practice, but low key would be better, if it does happen. When I first met my exH’s girlfriend we discussed when she would be coming, and as I was working a long shift she came with him and I made them both a cup of tea before I left for work and we had a quick chat.
The offer is already with my boyfriend, so I’ll leave the decision with him. I really appreciate the input - thank you again!
Apologies for slightly garbled posts earlier... I was trying to get my thoughts out!