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Give me your tips - new step parent

(45 Posts)
Rosiew16 Sun 24-Nov-19 09:33:31

Hey!
I'm hoping you can all give me some tips to help me become a great stepmum to my partner's son.
He's had a relationship with him since he was born but his ex has done her best to stop him from seeing him since before he was even born, so the relationship has been off-and-on. He's just taken her to court at last and won rights to have him over every other weekend. The littlun is 3.5 years old, I've met him a few times when he's been to stay sporadically in the past and we got on well, but we haven't seen each other for 8 months. During that 8 months, his mum has been telling him that I'm a bad woman and I'm not very nice (she's still angry that they broke up, she's never even met me). Obviously that's sad for him because it's made him feel worried about coming to stay with me!

We also have another baby who is 8 months old who his son hasn't met yet. Now that the court order is here, we just want to try and create a normal and consistent life for him and provide the warmest most loving family we can, in the hope that it will override the tension he deals with between his mum and dad, and make sure he knows families don't always have to be so full of tension.

I'm not one of these "natural with kids" kinda person. I'm loving and warm but ive always just been one to let relationships develop naturally rather than force it. However, I want him to feel safe that I'm not a bad woman, which I think she'll be telling him for the rest of his life, so I need some top tips for how best to handle it!

It would be easy to say "let him do whatever he wants and he will love you" but I also need him to follow the same house rules as the rest of us!

Thanks in advance.

OP’s posts: |
aSofaNearYou Sun 24-Nov-19 13:09:53

It's a little bit tricky to work out the scenario - you say they haven't been together since he was born, was there overlap between your relationships and that is why she is telling him you are a bad person? I'm not judging but it will be much more likely that he will see for himself that you are a nice person if there is no basis to what she's saying and she can't pass on ideas about you splitting mummy and daddy up.

Similarly, is there a reason it's been 8 months since he's seen his son and that happens to be the age of your baby, is it likely she will have been telling him daddy stopped seeing him because of the new baby? He's more likely to be resentful rather than excited if that's what he's heard.

As to tips, there's so many different ways he could view it you can't really preempt it, I would just go in friendly and positive and hope he mirrors your energy. Speak to your partner about house rules beforehand to make sure you're on the same page and he will be on hand to enforce them so you don't end up in a situation where you are bad cop.

Rosiew16 Mon 25-Nov-19 08:23:18

There is a lot of history. There was no overlap in relationships but we met very early on in her pregnancy, after they had broken up, and she is convinced thats because of me even though shes wrong. It is this very fact that has caused 4 years of resentment, anger and unfortunately, the boy as had a patchy relationship with his Dad because of it. We have been nothing but calm and consistent. He's paid maintenance every month, made every effort to see him at least weekly, never lost his temper etc, but sadly she finds it too difficult to put her son before herself. He has now taken her to court to get parental responsibility and to get rights to see him on alternate weekends so she cant keep using the boy as a weapon.

She stopped him from seeing him 8 months ago over money. She wanted double the maintenance amount to pay for her rising nursery costs (father used to go over 1 day per week during the week but he got a new job and could no longer do weekdays - she was given 3 or 4 months notice of this but when it finally happened, she said she needed money or he would lose contact). When he said he couldnt afford to, she said he wouldnt see him again unless he took her to court. So he did. So this all happened at the same time as the baby but thats just coincidence. We have no idea what shes been saying about the baby - shes never mentioned it to us so we presume its not a cause of contention.

In all honesty - the above story is just background and I am not here to have it discussed. I am now looking for advice on moving forward because this story has dominated our lives for 4 years, we finally have a court order and I would like to move on. I guess the story is important because she'll always feel I am a homewrecker, and she'll always feel he "kicked a pregnant woman out onto the street" (he didn't) so her anger towards us both will never go away.

I don't want to be part of any of the debate between them - I never have been. I support my partner to do the right thing for his son, and then I stay out of it. But I now want to make sure I can be a good stepmum to him when he is staying with us and I would love some tips on how best to handle that!

OP’s posts: |
Sotiredofthislife Mon 25-Nov-19 08:36:45

She wanted double the maintenance amount to pay for her rising nursery costs (father used to go over 1 day per week during the week but he got a new job and could no longer do weekdays - she was given 3 or 4 months notice of this

Why is childcare the sole responsibility of the mother? How would 3 or 4 months notice reduce the cost of childcare or somehow make it easier to manage the cost? Why is the child's father not paying for the childcare if he previously cared for the child but stopped doing so? Why should the mother step in and deal with something outside of her control?

Maybe recognise that bringing up a child is a joint enterprise and that maintenance rarely covers half the real costs of bringing up a child?

Gallivespian Mon 25-Nov-19 08:43:13

If he got her pregnant and then left her immediately for another woman, I can see why she’s not keen on you, even if there was no actual overlap.

Gallivespian Mon 25-Nov-19 08:43:30

Or keen on him.

kitk Mon 25-Nov-19 09:19:28

I have a lot of questions about what you've said has happened but to answer your question about being a good step parent, my advice is to hold back at let your partner reestablish his relationship with the little boy first. At his age he prob can't remember his dad after 8 months of no contact and now all of a sudden he's expected to spend time with two adult strangers and a new baby who he's going to be jealous of. Things need to be managed slowly and your partner should take the lead on making him comfortable

ColaFreezePop Mon 25-Nov-19 12:18:58

You were always going to be attacked on here for your situation. Even if some blended families work well regardless of how the adults split some people just cannot accept blended families exist and that some people end up with half-siblings who they get on well with.

As a PP pointed out your partner and his son need to re-establish their relationship first. After that the relationship between the half-siblings needs to be established.

The reason being that if you ever split up from your partner then you have absolutely no rights to see his son. However your child has a right to see their half-sibling and his son has a right to see your child, his half-sibling. This can be facilitated through your partner.

So ideally your partner needs to regularly spend some time alone with his son then some time alone with his son and your child together. This includes them doing mundane things as well as exciting things.

aSofaNearYou Mon 25-Nov-19 12:54:16

I wasnt attacking you by asking those questions btw - I am "you" in this scenario; step mum with a young baby, step son's mum passes on negative ideas about us. It's all recently come to a head and the term parental alienation has been thrown out there, so I do think realistically the likelihood of this dynamic working out is largely dependent on what message she is sending him, and how strongly.

I don't think there's much point you overthinking your approach, you just need to be friendly and see if he responds well to it.

Rosiew16 Mon 25-Nov-19 12:54:53

Thanks all for your tips so far. I dont need unhelpful comments about the situation we are in, that is not why I'm here, just advice on helping his son develop positive relationships with us all thanks.

Great point about them developing their relationship as siblings, it's a good idea to have all 3 of them hanging out together without me there too.

OP’s posts: |
GrumpyHoonMain Mon 25-Nov-19 13:01:19

I think if he’s being told you’re a bad person the initial focus should be on his relationship with his dad first then this sibling. Suggest you leave the three of them for an afternoon every week for bonding time, and while you should definitely give him attention don’t try to parent him (leave it to your DH). Kids aren’t stupid - if they like you, respect you, and think well of you (even if it’s more of a similar vibe to a favourite teacher) they are less likely to believe the negative things others say about you.

But definitely don’t try and confuse things by trying to go all ‘stepmum’ on him from the start- let him come to you for that kind of relationship and respect it if he never does.

Rosiew16 Mon 25-Nov-19 13:05:07

Thanks. His son hasn't forgotten any of us in the last 8 months. He's spent the last 2 weekends with him re establishing the relationships and he remembers all of us, he still has a good bond with his dad, hes looking foreward to coming and seeing our dog and playing with the friends he's met when he's stayed with us. He's just worried about me because his mum has told him I'm a bad woman and said I'm not very nice. I know I'm not a bad woman and it won't take much to show him that I am safe and loving, so hopefully it shouldn't matter what she decides to say about me. It's a bit of a mean thing to say to a 3.5 year old as it's just caused him to worry.

I'm from a step family myself and I know how easy it is for stepchildren to resent the step parent for various reasons, and I think that's why I'm over thinking it. I just want to get it right for his son because it's time for them to have a good relationship now at last.

OP’s posts: |
GrumpyHoonMain Mon 25-Nov-19 13:12:57

True. Just take things one day at a time and let your DSS have control and definitely do leave the three of them alone regularly - even if it is to get your hair or nails done or have a coffee. Your DP kind of needs to establish the dynamic between the three of them - there is likely to be a lot of insecurity around the new baby.

Bibidy Mon 25-Nov-19 13:23:06

What a tough situation for you to be in!

I agree with others, I think the key thing is to let your partner re-establish a relationship with his son - including talking to him about you and letting him know you're excited to see him and do x,y and z with him again.

If I were your OH I'd also give an age-appropriate explanation to him about why his mum might have said those things about you to help him deal with his worries. Just along the lines of 'I know mummy has said some not-nice things about Rosie but it's just because they're not good friends, like sometimes people at school/nursery might not be friends. It doesn't mean Rosie is really a bad person and she's actually really looking forward to seeing you again' etc etc.

Bibidy Mon 25-Nov-19 13:28:58

Your DP kind of needs to establish the dynamic between the three of them - there is likely to be a lot of insecurity around the new baby.

I don't really agree with this. I think definitely give your DP and SS all the time they need to re-bond and get comfortable together again, but I don't think your baby should be included and not you.

If SS is being told negative things about you at home then really you need to be involved so he can see that you're not bad, and the easiest way to do this is for you and your baby to join in together once your DP is ready. Otherwise there is a risk that SS will get used to it being him, his dad and your baby and it may even reinforce the idea that you don't want to see him because you're mean!

If I were you, I'd encourage your DP to do several visits alone with his son, where he can spend some time chatting to him about how excited you and baby are to see him and how baby can't wait to meet his/her brother. Make it a positive thing rather than just steering clear.

mclover Mon 25-Nov-19 14:06:09

Could you extend an olive branch out to his mum? Imagine if a woman you had never met suddenly had your 8 month old every weekend - totally terrifying and no wonder it makes people act a bit crazy. Maybe even just start from a practical point of view and some flattery - X is a really happy, bright little boy, you're clearly a great mum - can we make sure we get things right like the bed times and dinner times etc? Is there anything he loves / hates for his tea? Do you think he'd like X soft play? Do you think he'd like the cinema or too loud etc? You might be met with I'm not telling you you need to find out but you can always say 'ok I just want to put his happiness first' and after a while she'll appreciate it. Obviously this isn't to pander to her all the time but worth trying to build a relationship of sorts as you'll all be in each other's lives forever.

If she starts to feel like you care about his needs and will keep a similar timetable to her then that might make her feel less anxious and she'll be less likely to say you're the bad person in all this.

Bibidy Mon 25-Nov-19 14:14:42

Could you extend an olive branch out to his mum? Imagine if a woman you had never met suddenly had your 8 month old every weekend - totally terrifying and no wonder it makes people act a bit crazy. Maybe even just start from a practical point of view and some flattery - X is a really happy, bright little boy, you're clearly a great mum - can we make sure we get things right like the bed times and dinner times etc? Is there anything he loves / hates for his tea? Do you think he'd like X soft play?

Nice in theory but this is massively playing with fire. I think the fact that this mum has been drumming into a 3.5 year old that his dad's partner is 'bad' shows that she's not a reasonable person. Otherwise he would never do this, no matter how much she felt it inside.

Also she can't be given the right of veto over what OP's partner does with his son on his contact time, so asking her whether he likes a certain softplay or the cinema etc etc is just asking for trouble.

Best to keep her at arm's length and just communicate about essentials.

Annaminna Mon 25-Nov-19 14:16:47

Just dont try too much!
His son is probably very happy to have a brother at last.
Think positively not negatively.

ChaosisntapitChaosisaladder19 Mon 25-Nov-19 14:18:32

Can you not for a second op having being pregnant yourself and recently had a baby imagine being pregnant you're dp leaving you and getting involved with another woman in the early stages in you're pregnancy that you go it alone whilst they are having fun? Then you now have to share you're newborn baby with you're ex and there new partner is there? Tbh I would have ran a mile if the bloke I found out I was dating had another woman pregnant. Tbh childcare shouldn't be solely down to the mother and if shes a single parent shes trying to financially support him by working he should help meet childcare costs. It's very easy to see why you have come to the situation you have come to, emotions have clearly been running high. Maybe have some empathy as a new mum to see what his ex has actually experienced and ask yourself how would you had coped if it was you it might give you better understanding moving forward.

Rosiew16 Mon 25-Nov-19 14:19:22

This is all great advice thanks. I think we will likely do things together as a family, as we always did that when he came to stay before. I don't interfere, and I let them be together, but I am there too enjoying the activity. They can do bath times and bed times together, and cuddles on the sofa. Now I have the baby to include so I hope all 4 of us can enjoy activities together (and the dog) so he can see that his dad, his sister, the dog and me can all get along and no-one gets given any preferential treatment.

Equally, I hear what you're saying about giving them time alone and as a 3 to bond. I would be delighted to be able to grab an hour to go to the gym or take the dog out, so no problems there :D It probably will be hard for him to see his Dad with another child too, so I guess thats a good activity for him to learn theres no need to be jealous or threatened by his new sibling.

I also appreciate the advice to try and speak to his ex, but honestly, shes near-impossible to communicate with. They barely speak themselves and when they do text about something to do with the son, it nearly always results in a barrage of abusive messages to him about what a piece of he is, which he has to ignore until shes calmed down a bit later and able to speak reasonably. I do think its important for me to communicate with her at some point, but if I did it now, I would probably somehow make the situation worse.

I make sure when he comes to stay that he goes home with washed and dried clothes, all his things packed away nicely, that he is well fed and rested. I hope that she'll see that as some level of respect for her and her routines with him but who knows!

OP’s posts: |
Bibidy Mon 25-Nov-19 14:25:45

Can you not for a second op having being pregnant yourself and recently had a baby imagine being pregnant you're dp leaving you and getting involved with another woman in the early stages in you're pregnancy that you go it alone whilst they are having fun?

But just because they split up doesn't mean that OP's DP was the one at fault, if anyone was even at fault. It may be that they split up mutually and then he happened to move on quite quickly and his ex just can't handle that.

Whatever the reason, she shouldn't be withholding access and trying to poison the mind of a 3 year old so that he hates his dad's partner. It has been several years since they split, what she is doing is not OK at all, regardless of her pain over a split that was years ago.

Goodnightjude1 Mon 25-Nov-19 14:27:13

As a step-mum myself, I’d say...Give him time on his own with his daddy, have special things at your house that are just for him, things that show him this is his home too. Don’t try to be ‘the fun one’ or his ‘best mate’ you may not be his biological parent but you are still one of the parents in your house. Have rules and stick to them but let his dad enforce them. Involve him in things like baking and helping with his little brother, tidying up the garden, washing the car...things that show him he’s part of your team. It’s hard work to start with, finding the happy balance, especially when you have negative comments coming from his mum. Children are good judges or character though and he’ll soon make his own mind up about you regardless.
Good luck!

Rosiew16 Mon 25-Nov-19 14:27:53

ChaosisntapitChaosisaladder19 thanks for your input but this is not particularly helpful nor is it answering the question. I am very aware of the situation she was and is in, I have empathy. You guys don't know the ins-and-outs of how their relationship came to an end either. To be frank, I have most empathy for the child who is stuck in the middle of all of this.
All I want is the best thing for him, and this thread is about how to move forward and have positive relationships.

OP’s posts: |
Gallivespian Mon 25-Nov-19 14:33:30

You guys don't know the ins-and-outs of how their relationship came to an end either.

Well, no, because we only know what you've said on the thread, but if he started another relationship with you when she was newly pregnant, even if they had broken up before he got together with you, it's not hard to imagine that this fact is central to her attitude to him and to you.

Bibidy Mon 25-Nov-19 14:37:48

Well, no, because we only know what you've said on the thread, but if he started another relationship with you when she was newly pregnant, even if they had broken up before he got together with you, it's not hard to imagine that this fact is central to her attitude to him and to you.

Aside from safeguarding issues, there is no excuse for any parent to withhold access and try to alienate their child from the other parent. Whatever happened between OP's DP and his Ex and however much she might hate him, she is completely in the wrong to have done this.

It's not up to OP and her DP to try and coax her into being a decent human being just because they broke up several years ago and she didn't like it!

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