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Questions about maintaining a good relationship with DSS's Mother

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hello All,

I have been a long time lurker here on MDC. I've enjoyed reading posts from people on a variety of topics, but now have a valid reason to be posting on here. My fiance and I will be getting married soon. DF has a 6-year-old son. This means that I am going to soon be an official step-parent. I don't have any children, so DSS will be my first experience with official parenting duties.

Anyway, my question here is about trying to maintain a good relationship with DSS's Mother. She doesn't like me, AT ALL. She has written letters to my employer trying to get me fired (that didn't go anywhere), she required (up until Christmas) that DF have supervised visitation with DSS (not court ordered) when there was no foundation for that, and tracked me down through my employer and sent me some pretty nasty emails. To complicate matters, DSS has been diagnosed with autism and has had some other health issues, so there is a heightened sense of protectiveness.

I don't want to have a bad relationship with her. In fact, I want to have a good relationship with her, but her anger at DF is over-shadowing the whole dynamic. I don't know how to handle this with her, as I have never had a step-parent and don't know many people who have.

Anyone have thoughts or suggestions who has BTDT?
post #2 of 8
I am coming from the other end, so not been there done that but I am a mom who does have a good relationship with the soontobestepmom, as I call her. (Dd's dad and her are getting married 7/3/10.)

Your partner's ex sounds like someone who you may never have a good relationship with, I hate to say. She sounds pretty frightening. Did you and her have a tumultous relationship (that involved your participation in conflict other than just being a victim of her harassment) at anytime?

If I were you I would be looking into restraining orders from what you describe. Youch!

That aside...If you do want a good relationship, here is what I have to say, from the mom end. Let the bio-parents hash out the details such as child support if that is a factor, child-rearing, discipline, etc. Maybe not forever, but let everyone kind of find their bearing and just kinda transition into the changes, give everyone time, including yourself. Be open and friendly, but if you try to be her new BFF that might be weird too.

Be a support person for your step-child and do your best to, while the child is transitioning to the new marriage, allow consistent dad/child only time. This will make it easier for you in the longrun, and the child will take to you better...even if you have an already established relationship with the child...marriage can feel like a big deal so this small reassurance that he/she still has her daddy is crucial.

I don't know how sane your partner's ex is....but remember that even a sane, thoughtful mom will get a little mama-bear or defensive when she feels like her child might be slighted. I know that in the few times my co-parenting team has had issues is because my daughter was upset about something, and I felt like I needed to be her advocate. It did create some conflict, but I told my daughter's dad that I will always fight for my daughter if I feel like there is something going on that is unfair to her. He gets it and works really hard to make things positive for our dd, so does the soontobestepmom. Also, do your best to love that child like your own....I am not in your experience but I have been a stepchild; kids can totally sense it when they are resented, when other kid's interests take precedence over their own or when someone feels put out by their presence.

post #3 of 8
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

It's good that you want to have a productive relationship with the mother of your DF's ex. I don't know if it's totally realistic given that she, um, writes crazy letters to your employer, but things will certainly be better if you don't hang onto your anger over those kinds of incidents and just try to improve things moving forward.

I think the first thing to do is to really hash out with your DF the kind of coparenting situation HE'D like to have. Does he want unsupervised EOW visitation with a medically fragile autistic kid? If he does, great, if he's already having that, great, but if it's something that's only coming onto the scene as a possibility now that he is going to have a new female caregiver living in his house... you see where I'm going with this. In order to figure out how to deal with the ex, you need to be crystal clear on how DF envisions your role, and you need to decide if that's the role that you'll be playing, or if it's not a role you want to take on. Personally, if I were marrying a man who had a child with those issues, and he had not been doing any custodial parenting beyond daytime visits and his ex was protective and opposed to extending the visitation, I wouldn't push it. I'd make myself a part of the existing structure of daytime visits, rather than trying to create EOW back-and-forthing for a kid with a condition that makes transitions such a challenge.

But if regular in-home visitation has already been established, and you've already been participating in the care of your dss when he is in your house for overnights and you are happy with that situation, then really, the PP is probably right. The best thing you can do is stay out of the crossfire between Mom and Dad and be a positive presence for dss. That doesn't mean that you don't put in your .02 privately if Mom tries to "insist" on things like non-court-ordered supervision of visits, or asks for money beyond the support payments that your household can't afford/doesn't want to provide, but as for direct contact with Mom? Not the first priority. The first priority is to figure out how to make a welcoming home for dss when he is in your care. All else follows from that.
post #4 of 8
I have two diametrically-opposed perspectives. I'm a mom whose kids have a step-mom and I get along great with her, so I know how such a relationship CAN work. I'm also a step-mom and my step-son's mother hates me - in fact her past actions have included things very similar to what you describe with your step-son's mom.

Sorry to rain on your good intentions, but my best advice to you is that you can't possibly make friends with someone who wishes your husband weren't marrying you and who wishes you weren't part of his son's life. Maybe someday she'll change her attitude, but you can't do that for her. And right now, you may be putting your family at risk if you open yourself up to her - in the spirit of trying to get along - when she has made it clear that she seeks chances to sabotage you and your husband and your involvement with the child. While those are her goals, the more information you give her about yourself, your life, your home, your work, your relationships... the more ability you give her to twist what you said into things she may use against you or your husband.

The best, most peaceful thing you may be able to do at this point is to just accept her hating you and not get wrapped up in trying to fight it.

* SAVE nasty e-mails she sends you, but don't respond to them. (You never know what you may need to prove or disprove later, in court. If you don't listen to anything else I say, listen to this part: Don't. Discard. Evidence.)

* Don't refrain from answering the phone in your own home just because it's her calling. You live there and you/your husband don't owe it to her to pretend that you don't. But accept that she may hang up or not want to have a conversation with you.

* By the same token, don't refrain from answering the door when she comes to pick up your step-son, or dropping him off at her house if it's inconvenient for your husband to do so, or attending special events at your step-son's school. You're about to become part of your husband's - and his son's- family. You don't have to pretend you don't exist just because the ex wishes that were true. But she may act like a jerk to you. Be prepared to remain calm, NOT to feel defensive, not to try to reason with her when she's being unreasonable... and, for God's sake, don't yell back at her. You must be the bigger person. Your step-son and people in public will judge you more harshly for seeming mean to her, than they will judge her for seeming mean to you. That's just the way it is.
post #5 of 8

About the Autism...

I have experience with that, too. My twins sons (whose step-mom I like) are mildly Autistic. For a year, I taught a friend's child who was severely Autistic. You haven't said much about your step-son's condition, except that the diagnosis was recent, which makes me guess he's not severe (or it probably would have seemed obvious from early on).

On a certain level, dealing with any Autistic child means striking a balance between his craving for routine and predictability and things he finds comforting (like rocking) against the need to stimulate him, get him out of his comfort zone and tuned in to the rest of the world and to teach him appropriate ways to handle and react to new or uncomfortable situations. The pendulum will appear to swing more toward "routine and comfort" in severe cases, less so in mild cases.

There is no reason an Autistic child can't be cared for by a non-custodial parent without supervision. Even severely Autistic kids adjust to having various caregivers and therapists, in addition to care from their parents. They adjust to having one schedule on weekdays and a different one on weekends, that type of thing.

Sometimes - particularly in milder cases where the kid appears fairly "normal" - even married parents have conflict because one of them recognizes the kid's special needs, but the other one thinks the kid's quirks are just a discipline issue. If this is the root of the problems between your fiance and his ex, then you could be instrumental (behind the scenes) in helping him to accept his son's condition; to see all the hope and potential there still is, rather than despairing over it; and to be receptive to the techniques recommended by his therapists and teachers. Also, the more severe the Autism, the more important it will be for your fiance to work with his ex in maintaining consistent schedules and approaches with your step-son. (But if it's a mild case, this may not matter at all. My sons are just fine with things being different at their Dad's house and mine, as long as they know more-or-less what to expect in each place.)

However, if your fiance is already accepting of his son's diagnosis and willing to work with the therapists, etc.; if Mom just asks for supervised visits because she's angry and controlling, then you should stand behind your fiance in not accepting his ex marginalizing him as a parent - and using Autism as an excuse.
post #6 of 8
It's been almost a year since DX has been with his live in girlfriend and I have never met or talked with her. I think it's what we both want. I just deal with my ex when it comes to the kids. I see no reason why she and I should have any relationship.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
My Fiance is VERY accepting of his son's diagnosis. She was putting these arbitrary conditions on visitation because of her anger toward DF. DF is trying very hard to maintain communication with her, but it's like pulling teeth to get her to share any information and then accuses DF of not wanting to be involved. I am very supportive of his relationship with DSS and I am thrilled that we get to see him regularly at this point.

I generally find her very difficult and I have only had email interaction with her. I just know how she has tried to behave towards me and how she treats DF, and how that impacts DSS. I don't want to make it worse, but I guess what I'm hearing is that there really isn't a way to make anything better until she comes around, if she ever comes around.
post #8 of 8
I doubt there is a way to make anything better. IMO...the best thing to do is smile, be friendly and maintain communication as best you can on your side. I think that's helped my relationship with BM. Mind you, the BM in my sitch isn't as...um...industrious as yours. I'm fairly certain she didn't like me at first though. One of the first times I stopped by with DH her 3-year-old called me a b*tch several times as we were playing. He was giggling and I don't think realized it was a bad word but he's obviously picked it up from somewhere.

At any rate...our relationship is pretty good now even though she and DH are still very much at odds. I find if I'm consistently nice, give her updates from daycare and such, then she's pleasant to me as well. Her new boyfriend has even gotten to the point that he'll chat as well. In some ways I guess DH and I have a "good cop/bad cop" thing going on with her. I stay out of the drama.
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