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One parent too many

(53 Posts)
Hels61 Wed 01-Jul-09 19:31:51

Hi all - I'm new to this and am still trying to work out what all the acronyms mean!

My question to you all is this - has anyone else been in a situation where ex husband remarries and tries to allow new wife to have equal say/input in every minute detail of the children's lives. For the last five years I have been saying til I'm blue in the face, we are NOT three parents - we are two. But they don't listen. I have three children (15, 13, 11) and we share custody 50/50 but ex behaves like I should let his wife have an equal input. I'm angry and fed-up with fighting them both but believe very strongly that he is being unreasonable.

piscesmoon Wed 01-Jul-09 19:41:04

If they are with him in his house she would have to have an equal say, otherwise she becomes the hired help! Put yourself in her position, you have a 3 SDCs who are in your house, you are cooking, washing, shopping etc for them and yet you can't sort out bed time, decide if they can go to a party when you are the one to do the lift, ask them to empty the dishwasher etc.
I can see that you don't like it-but her only other option is to move out when they arrive and move back in when they go. She is his DW and has a relationship with them -in her own right.

mumblechum Wed 01-Jul-09 19:42:34

Agree with piscesmoon.

There are kind of three parents, however annoying that may seem.

piscesmoon Wed 01-Jul-09 19:43:09

My DH is step father to my DS, he treats him exactly the same as our joint DCs-anything else is unworkable-and horrible for DS.

Snorbs Wed 01-Jul-09 19:53:23

Hels61, can you give any examples of the kind of situations that you're talking about?
Choice of schools, medical care, enacting discipline, assigning chores, helping with homework etc?
What is it that she's getting involved with that you find unreasonable?

Hels61 Wed 01-Jul-09 20:41:00

Interesting responses! It was mine and my children's home she moved into (ex wouldn't move out so I had to even tho he chose life with her not me) so I feel she's an interloper in their home as well as mine. She wants to do the Mum things, such as organising their parties, coming to parents evening, having the children when my ex isn't there. Surely if our custody arrangement is between me and my ex, she shouldn't have them if he's not there? And why should she be consulted on their education? It's for me an ex to choose their educational path surely?

piscesmoon Wed 01-Jul-09 21:20:46

I would have thought that if it is 50/50 custody she is bound to have them while he isn't there-for example if one is out at an activity and he collects, she is left with the others. If I had a DC 50% of the time and was responsible for getting them to school and being in when they got back, helping with homework etc I would like to go to a parent's evening.
How do the DCs feel about it?
I am sympathetic- I can see it is horrible for you, especially as she is in 'your' house, but she is with them as much as you are-you can't relegate her to someone who doesn't matter. She can't live in the house and ignore them and leave it completely to your ex -they are a family when they are there. It is sad for you-but a fact.

mumblechum Wed 01-Jul-09 21:43:08

I can see how you feel re. them all living as happy families in "your" house, though.

Did your ex buy out your interest?

Snorbs Wed 01-Jul-09 23:10:54

I know some - well, a very few - custody agreements have written into them a principle of first refusal. Eg, if the kids are with parent A on a given day but parent A can't do it, then parent A is obliged to ask parent B first and only then arrange alternative cover (eg, parent A's new partner) if parent B cannot or will not do it. If you don't have such language in your residency agreement, though, then how your ex decides to arrange childcare is pretty much up to him.

How would you feel if, instead of him getting his new partner to look after the children on occasion, he paid someone whom you don't know to babysit? Would that be better, worse or similarly unacceptable as him asking his wife to do it? What I'm getting at is, is this an issue because your ex is not necessarily always there when the children are there, or is it more to do with whom he's choosing to cover for him?

Parent's evenings is a tricky one. Realistically, he can invite whomever he likes (as can you, of course). However, I would say this is one of those situations where a bit of give and take wouldn't go amiss. Eg, if he wants to bring his wife along then he could arrange to do so on a different occasion to when you see the teacher so you're not confronted with the both of them. I know my childrens' school is entirely open to helping out in such circumstances.

At the end of the day, a court isn't going to stop your ex's new wife from having involvement in your ("your" as in both your and your ex's) children's lives unless she's a registered sex offender or similar. If they're married then a court is going to view it as a stable relationship and, as such, it is inevitable that she will have contact and involvement with them.

The reason I asked about choice of educational path is because you're exactly right - that, and things like choice of medical care, are things that you and your ex are supposed to decide between yourselves. That's part and parcel of Parental Responsibility which your ex's new wife doesn't have. She is allowed to discuss these things with your ex, but the decisions are (supposed) to be made between you and him. But PR only affects major decisions about the children; day to day stuff is up to whomever the children are with at the time.

I know it's hard. I only found out that my ex had moved her new partner in with her when our kids came home and asked why mummy had a man staying at her house hmm. But I also realised that there are some battles worth fighting, and some that aren't.

piscesmoon Thu 02-Jul-09 06:53:57

The problem is that even if it is just you and your ex making decisions, they will most likely have talked it over first.
It is a horrible situation and not one that anyone wants, but from the DCs point of view it is better to have a caring and involved step mother than one who has very little to do with them.
If I were to marry a man with 3 DCs I would be taking them as a unit-love the man-love his DCs-otherwise I wouldn't do it. I would be expecting to have a lifetime's relationship with them and for my parents to get involved as grandparents for example. I wouldn't be 'mum' as they already have one, but I would expect to carve my own position as very significant adult and to be a grandparent to their DCs etc.
50% of the time is a lot-they are not weekend visitors- and I certainly wouldn't be prepared to act as housekeeper, OK for cooking and cleaning but nothing else! I would be an equal partner to DH.
I think that you will have to let it go-you can't freeze this lady out.

wildfish Thu 02-Jul-09 07:47:56

I read with interest, because I instinctively agree with the OP, but can't quite articulate why. What everyone else says is true, but it irks me no end to have the idea that someone else thinks they have the right to decide what school my DS would go to, or think they have the right to attend parents night.

My DS has 2 parents. Just because 1 parent got a new partner IMO does not say the other having to justify my decisions to a 3rd party.

You know what the first words I heard from my ex about her new partner was? "He has decided that DS should go to school xxxx, and you have to pay 1/2 the fees"

I think the 3rd party should simply stay out of decisions that parent 1 and parent 2 are making about their child. I know they might discuss it between themselves, but they shouldn't assume they have usurped the rights of the other parent!

sunshine13 Thu 02-Jul-09 08:15:45

From the "other woman's" point of view, It's tough for any potential step mother. They have many barriers to overcome.

1) the ex wife -you (as you probably dont like new woman & think that she is trying to substitute being a mum)

2) the child -with numerous comments like "You're not my mum" and potentailly being poisened with comments made from real mum.

The list could go on but I'll just leave it at the 2 best top answers. smile

In reality when your children are with ex-husb & new wife, they have to "parent" your children together to give the children some continuity. You cant reasonably expext the new wife to sit in the corner in total silence while your little darlings run a riot around her.

If the situation was reveresed and you had a new husband I assume that you would expect him to be involved in your children's lives too.

There are just 2 parents- you're right... but in reality your chilren it's a bit more complicated than that.

prettyfly1 Thu 02-Jul-09 08:49:20

To be fair op, I can imagine how I would feel if my son had another woman in his life fifty percent of the time and I would find it tough but I also think that he is NOT being unreasonable and neither is she.

Can you reverse the situation. If you get married again and have a partner who for fifty percent of your kids lives, drives them around, pays for stuff, helps with their homework etc., in other words,takes on the roles of parenthood without any of the assumed rights - will you refuse to ask his opinion on your kids schooling. Or for his advice on handling medical matters. Will you freeze him out, not allow him to say how the children he lives with half the time behave in the house in which he also lives and continue on as though you were a single parent. How long do you think the relationship would last if you did.

I have my son fifty percent of the time. DP works evenings a few nights a week and I look after both boys then. Under your reasoning we would have to hire a sitter and I would have to go out, as I wouldnt be able to look after my dss in my own house.

Also, would you prefer if she backed off completely, was uninvolved in your childs life - perhaps just focussing on her other child if she has one - would you feel better then? Do you think your child would feel better to have a woman involved in his life half the time who shows no interest or regards for him at all?

I understand how frustrating it must be and yes as his birth mother you have a stronger bond usually and greater legal rights - legally step parents, even those with full time custody, have next to no rights at all. But this woman is spending as much time with these children as you do. She is raising them as much as you do and she is from the sounds of it putting in as much effort as you do and likely now knows them as well as you. She is morally entitled to at least a say on those grounds alone. Why should she do all the grunt work but get no rights - would you ask that of your own partner.

My only other point is that because they are two shouldnt over rule your wishes. Providing neither party is being deliberately obtusive to annoy the other then surely you should be able to sit down and talk through as parents who really care for these three kids without arguing. I know its hard and I dont get involved in talks between my dp and his ex but I certainly have a say in what happens in my house and he definitely asks what I think of situations because we are partners.

Hels61 Thu 02-Jul-09 08:49:57

Thanks for all your replies. These are all arguments I have had with myself! It's hard to put across the full facts in one brief question but I HAVE been very accommodating to ex and new wife, far more so than many people in my position would be. The kids have a good relationship with her, they love each other and I do all I can to promote that. The kids need to be happy and content spending time with them, I would hate for them to dread going there. I suppose I had hoped that new wife would understand she is NOT a mother, that she can have a fantastic relationship as another significant adult in their lives, that in fact the children would benefit from that kind of relationship - it's a bonus, if you like, to having two parents who also love them more than anything else in the world. I'm single, and actually no - if I met someone else, I would welcome having someone to discuss things with concerning the children, but I would expect him to understand there is a boundary not to be crossed. And if the role was reversed and I was married to a man with kids, I believe I would know when to hold back. Anyway - it will rumble on and on...... bu thanks for your comments

Snorbs Thu 02-Jul-09 09:32:16

Ok, so from your point of view, where is the "boundary not to be crossed"?

Fruitysunshine Thu 02-Jul-09 09:43:38

I have 2 stepchildren. My DH always discusses things with me first regarding anything that is put to him by his EXW because we are married and that is the nature of our relationship. We view ourselves as one family unit whether the ex is happy with that or not. However DH is the one that discusses issues surrounding the children with his EX because I would feel like I was intruding. I do all the cooking, cleaning, washing, bathing etc for the children when they are with us as I have 3 of my own children too so I feel that if I am to show that them amount of practical love and care then I am entitled to put my opinion forward as to any situation regarding them that involves me.

I can see that you would be upset that she is in what was your former home but she is there now and remdinding yourself that it was "your" home is only going to prolong you moving on with your life. It is hard being a stepmum because all I did was fall in love with a man who fell in love with me. Yet I have had no end of criticism from his ex who has never spent 5 minutes in my company and never been in my home. I take it on the chin and don't create an argument with her because at the end of the day I feel that she will "always" find something to criticise about me because she feels that she has the right too. But she does not. I love those children, treat them like my own and at the end of the day I would think she would be grateful that I am that way with her children and not some immature, resentful, attention-seeking grown up who is nothing but horrible to them.

But like I said, I believe his EX will always have something to criticise me about. I just can't figure out why. Divorce means change, life cannot stay the same when you split up with someone and boundaries move for everyone. Some people just take longer than others adjusting I guess.

Hot potato this subject!

IneedacleanerIamalazyslattern Thu 02-Jul-09 10:06:53

I can see why these things irk you, I hear my ex saying things sometimes and I know it hasn't come out his mouth but the reason that it annoys me is that him and his partner (now living together) have only known each other 3 months an moved in together almst straight away. She has no idea why there were certain restrictions put on ex's access (long story) and why some things that happen happen because she doesn't know him at all and he is still on his best behaviour, she has also only me my dc's twice so doesn't know them either, ex however does and shou;ld know when he is talking out his own arse.
But I also have certain expectations over time should they stay together and that is that she is as much of a stable parental influence in my dc's life as me and my DP are. We have also discussed the fact that ex works away and that I have a wedding coming up later in the year and his dp is happy to take the children (should she know them better by then) if ex is away.

I think is we shared 50/50 custody then I would probably have more expectations, in that situation they -ex and his dp- would be doing homework, doing the school run etc and as involved in the dc's education as I am as we have equal time with them so I think her going to parents night would be a goo idea as that way if there were any issues ever raised we would all have had the option of discussing it with the teacher together and all be singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak.

I honestly think that as much as it hurts (I know it does believe me, i've been through every emotion) that if she showed no interest you would be condemning her too.
She is obviously keen to be with and spend time with and be a consistent stable adult in your dc's life. Some step mothers grudge anytime with the step children your dc's even happy to have them when your ex not around. She sounds like she really cares for them and wants you all to be on the same side. I know how hard it is but honestly that is so much better than some of the alternatives.

sunshine13 Thu 02-Jul-09 10:33:58

Well said Fruitysunshine.

I am not married to OH & therefore I feel that I have no right to have an opinion with regards his little one. If my opinion is asked for, I shall give it, but I certianly would never give my opinion in front of little one's grandparents (OH's parents) or indeed in front of anyone else.

It's all about knowing your place, I think. I have no legal bond with OH and I will never be anything bar a freind to his little one.

Now that may change over time. On a practical level OH & I have agreed to "parent" little one together. I also support OH through the difficult battles with mad ex who tries to stop little one seeing his Dad. sad

Haribosmummy Thu 02-Jul-09 21:56:19

Interesting OP....

I think the thing here is compromise.

As a SM to two DSDs (11 and 14), I DO expect a say in what happens in my house as it affects me and our son. If DH isn't here for time with his DDs, then they are always welcome here. THey have bedrooms here and are always welcome here. But, at thier age, they can choose whether they want to or not. In truth, I guess they only come here when their mother is out / away, but again, that's fine with me. Discipline is down to my DH in my house, but can be enforced by me. IYSWIM!

I would never expect to go to a parents evening. Or anything along those lines.

Parties is a difficult one. If the Step parents is involved (because the party will be in their house or they are financially responsible for it) then, they have a right to be respected and included.

Surfermum Fri 03-Jul-09 10:17:31

I agree with much of what's been said. I do see myself as another parent for dsd. I'm not her mum, but I am her step-mum which I feel is a very important role in its own rig ht. It's one you can get hugely wrong.

But I do wonder if this is more about how you feel about yourself than anything she is actually doing? It must be really hard for you to see them in what was your home, and there's two of them versus one of you - not that I'm saying it's a taking sides sort of thing, but I wondered if that's how it feels.

I know in the early years with dsd's mum she thought I was out to replace her, and now a few years down the line I realise it was because she wasn't that confident in her own relationship with dsd and in her abilities as a mum. She's much better with me now, but I'm always very careful not to tread on her toes. For example, when it was dd's birthday and we took everyone out for pizza (she has half-siblings at the other end too) I sent her a text and asked if she would like me to get a cake as I wasn't working that day and I knew she was. I wouldn't have just turned up with it.

mrsjammi Fri 03-Jul-09 13:04:17

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mrsjammi Fri 03-Jul-09 13:04:39

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mrshibbins Fri 03-Jul-09 18:25:18

I am a reluctant full-time SM to a 7 year old girl and, despite the fact that I do ALL and I mean ALL the parenting and mothering and the school runs and the bedtime stories and the homework and the discipline, the BM still maintains that I'm just a babysitter!

One thing is for sure. Children NEED parents. And there are ALL types of parents, not just biological ones. The more positive input the better IMHO.

2rebecca Fri 03-Jul-09 19:12:32

My ex and I were clear in our separation agreement that we are our kids' parents and we make the decisions about them/ discuss access etc. New partners aren't involved, well they are behind the scenes, but the main decisions about the kids are between my ex and I. We go to parents evenings together. On the other hand my husband's ex has done all she can to push my husband out of his kids' life and replace him with her new husband who she takes to parents evenings etc.
I would not let his wife have an equal input. He can discuss stuff with her, but decisions about the kids should ultimately be between the 2 of you.
I wouldn't want another woman organising my kids' parties. The older 2 kids are now old enough to decide where they live and decide their own educational decisions, and soon they won't want adults deciding on their parties etc so alot of it is academic. Your kids are at an age where I'd ask them how they feel about things and see if they feel stepmum is overstepping the mark, or whether they are happy for her to do more stuff and think you are creating unnecessary aggro.

Fruitysunshine Fri 03-Jul-09 21:20:23

How would a child know if a stepmum was overstepping the mark? At what point does caring and practical input become overstepping the mark? Is there any issue of territorial behaviour/control coming in here by the insistence of the EX that the stepmum does not get involved THAT deeply with her stepchild because the natural mother herself has issues with it that she cannot deal with over and above the welfare of the child concerned? Grandparents are involved in children's lives and sometimes are asked for their opinions. Teachers and Social Workers can also influence a child's situation more than the parents, so why would a stepmum not fall under a similar category as a responsible adult who has the child in their care on a regular basis?

My ss once called me stepmummy in front of DH's ex (unprompted) and she immediately contradicted him by saying "She is not your stepmummy she is your stepmother." His face just fell. Children get confused by adults behaviour, not what they do amongst themselves.

Just a thought.

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