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Not sure what my role is here! Advice greatly appreciated in blended family!

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

I will try to keep this short but give you the details needed. We are a blended family. My husband and I have a 1.5 year old and he has two older children and girl and a boy 10 and 13, my step children, who we have live with us every other weekend. My husband and I have not had an easy relationship (unplanned pregnancy, very different, but "learning how to be a couple", and our son was born 3 months premature and we had a 3 month hospital stay, plus a lot of lingering health effects.) Unfortunately this has been hard on his older children, things are pretty good now, but they have not had the easiest of transitions to split families.

 

My question is how do you as a step-mother handle your time when your step-children are down. I find my time with them to be very overwhelming. My husband is a loving father, and a good provider, but he is NOT a hands on daddy. For example if the kids ask (they pretty much seek me out for everything because they know I am much more responsive than their dad, which is really tiring.) "hey what is for breakfast, can we have pancakes?" There dad will just say "No, go make yourself some toast or cereal." Then I end up feeling guilty bc there is no reason why the kids can't have pancakes, we don't have plans and we aren't running out the door, and I end up making them for them, spending an hour in the kitchen cooking and cleaning, while my husband watches the news or surfs the net with a cup of coffee. I am also attending to our 18 month old while doing all of this. It makes me feel resentful and not loving, which makes me feel awful. I have talked to hubby and his feelings are, I certaintly should NOT feel obligated to do this type of stuff, and the kids are fine with cereal. I have a hard time bc i know that if this was my own DS who is just the light of my life I would be making him pancakes every day of the week if he asked me to because I am his Mommy and I love him. Another chronic issue is doing/playing with the kids. For example I took my DS to open gym the other day, and obviously the two older children wanted to go too. I am fine with that, but I feel resentful that I have all 3 kids by myself. My husband thinks if I don't want to take them, then don't. They will be fine at home hanging out with him. Should I just let this be and not really invite them to go along if Dad isn't coming too?

 

Anyway sorry this is getting a little long, this role of step-parent is just really hard and challenging for me. Is it bad of me to seperate the two groups of children? I'm not saying not be loving or available, but take more of a hands off role....like "I don't know what breakfast is, you should ask your dad if he has anything planned?"  or "If you guys are interested in going to the big sliding hill, you should ask your Dad if he will give you a ride over their."

 

Thanks for your insight!

post #2 of 24

I've recently found myself in a similar blended situation, although mine is the opposite of yours as I am the one with the kiddos. 

 

If you and your dh communicate well, I'd start by talking to him and telling him why you feel resentful, what actions make you feel unloving, and what you would like to see changed to bring a little more positivity to the family dynamic. Certainly cooking together and going on outings as a family is a positive thing, although if he is anything like my xh that will never happen because its not what he wants to do. Some parents are more hands on than others. Its frustrating for the more involved parent no matter who's kids they are.

 

If your dh is willing to listen and take a more active role great, but if he's not then really its left to you to decide which actions you can take to feel the best about the situation. I went to counseling early on in my marriage and the best piece of advice I came away with is that ultimately you cannot control your spouses actions, you can only control your reaction. If your dh will not participate more with his kids where breakfast, outings, etc. are concerned but otherwise your relationship is good, decide what level of involvement you are comfortable with to balance the guilt/resentment feelings you have and then try not to feel bad either way when you include or exclude your step kids. If his kids want pancakes and you feel like making them, feel good about that time you spent brightening everyone's morning. If you don't feel like making pancakes, don't feel bad about it, enjoy your own time relaxing or doing whatever you want to do. It's equally important to tend to the needs of kids and yourself. Easier said than done I know, as are most things in life!

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thanks beachmommy.

 

My husband and I don't communicate all that well. I have to really pick and choose when we have difficult conversations, he gets defensive really easily. We have a decent relationship day in and day out, but it is bothersome to me his lack of involvment with the kids. It's not that I need the support, its that I really don't understand why you wouldn't want to go watch your child at hockey practice or give the baby a bath...I just can't stand to miss any of these moments they are just so precious. And yet he is totally fine with taking the back seat and not being super involved. I have accepted that being hands-on is not his cup of tea and I have really stepped up to the plate with our son, to be the one who pretty much does everything. In some ways it makes things easier bc i never have to negotiate what my son and I are doing.

 

With his kids it gets trickier, bc i am a people pleaser and I tend to agree to things like making pancakes, taking them to museums, having their grandmother for dinner, bc I think it is the "right" thing to do and not something that I actually want to do. It is hard bc the kids have learned this about me and they will ask me for this type of thing and not even bother asking their dad.

 

I think I A. Need to find a time to chat with dh about how I am feeling and B. Do just what you said. When I find myself about to say yes to something to HIS children, ask myself "do you want to do this?" You are absolutely some times I am happy to take them sledding, bake cookies, etc....we are a family after all, but when the resentment sneaks in is when I find myself baking cookies, when their dad is watching football and I really have something I would like to do for myself like exercise, etc. I need to remember I am not their entertainer.

post #4 of 24

It is a balancing act, for sure.  My dp is more involved than yours sounds, but works a LOT and often has to take a nap during the day when he is home because he works weird hours-hence, I end up on my own with all 3 kids fairly often as well (2 are my bio, 1 is my step).  You kind of have to pick and choose.  You don't have to make them pancakes whenever they ask, especially if you have other things to do or just don't want to.  I don't make my bio kids or my stedaughter pancakes whenever they want :)  Also, your sk's are plenty old enough to make their own pancakes!

 

I think you nailed it in your last post when you said that you are not their entertainer.  The biggest difference and challenge I have noticed between how I interacted with my dsd and how I interact with my bio kids is that I acted more like a babysitter with dsd-I felt like I always had to be engaged in a meaninful activity, playing with her constantly, making whatever she wanted to eat, doing fun activities all the time, etc, whereas with my own kids, real life intervenes and while of course I do those things some of the time, I also say no sometimes, do chores, etc. 

 

Re: your activity example, if it was also age appropriate for your sk's, yes, I think you should also offer to take them, at least most of the time.  If you only have them EOW, you have lots of time without them around to do 1-on-1 with your son and I do think it would be hurtful to not take them unless there is a valid reason not to (i.e. it's a toddler activity, etc.)  Yes, it is frustrating that your dp is not more involved-they are after all his kids and it is his parenting time-what did he do with them before you were around? But I also think that issue is kind of separate from whether you should take them or not-that is between you and your partner and shouldn't interfe with your relationship with his kids necessarily.  What I mean is, don't hurt the kids' feelings (not that you would intentionally!) just because you are annoyed with their dad.  I say this from experience, because sometimes it is easy to get the too things confused and kind of lump your annoyance with dad into annoyance with sk's, which isn't fair of course. 

 

Good luck-I hope your dp is receptive to a discussuion about increasing his role in everyone's life!

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

You are absolutely correct about having to be careful about my feelings of resentment towards my husband creeping into the relationship with the sk's. That is something I struggle with and feel guilty about. Sometimes I feel like saying no to them just to make a point to their dad "like look...your kids want to do this, and I'm not taking them, so maybe you should." I know this is silly and I am working on it. I think I need to establish better boundaries about my time/space. For example dsd is very cuddly (which is so nice to see in a tween girl) but it is also tiring to me. Sometimes I don't want her in my bed while I am trying to get a few minutes of peace and quiet at the end of the day reading, journal, etc, and she is in there asking me a million questions, while her dad is downstairs doing whatever he wants. How would you set better boundaries about this. I don't know how to communicate this to her without hurting her feelings.

 

I also totally agree with the above poster that these kids are way old enough to make their own pancakes! At their age i was cooking whole meals for my family bc I loved cooking and was encouraged to do so by my parent's. Their bio mom is a HUGE enabler which causes problems on our end. These kids who are almost 11 and 14 still can't do hardly anything independently. that is a separate conversation and one that Dad and I have talked about and probably need to revisit. We need to help them foster these skills, at least when they come to our house.

 

Thanks for the support. I am trying to do a good job, but it is much harder than I realized.

post #6 of 24

Figuring all of this out can be challenging!  My skids are 13 and 16 (boys) and very used to their dad doing things for them - and getting what they want, when they want. The transition (we just got married 6 months ago) has been/is a bit of a roller coaster ride at times!  Ron Deal and Laura Petherbridge wrote a book called The Smart Step-Mom and it has provided invaluable guidance to me in setting boundaries, communication, etc.  Praying for you!!!!!

post #7 of 24

Everyone is giving great advice, so I'll just say "ditto"! :) One thing that may help is not to think of their dad as uninterested, rather, he just has a different parenting style. You say that you can't understand why someone wouldn't want to go to hockey games and make pancakes, well, not everyone is that type of parent. I HATE arts and crafts, I can't stand any type of school event and it is completely unpleasant for me to attend them and I avoid them at all costs. I was bored out of my mind when ds1 was in soccer and convinced my now ex to take him. I hate baking (like cooking, though) and only make pancakes once in a while, when I feel like it. I do not cater to my kids. I love them, I enjoy making them happy and I take their opinions and desires into consideration, within reason. If you view this as a  parenting difference, maybe you won't feel bad that they want pancakes and you don't want to make them; why feel guilty? They aren't starving, and no one "deserves" pancakes every morning. With what you said about their mom, it's probably best that they do learn how to do things for themselves and become independent.

 

A 1.5 year old has very different needs than a 10 and 13yo, give yourself a break, you are dong a great job!
 

post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by avismama24 View Post

You are absolutely correct about having to be careful about my feelings of resentment towards my husband creeping into the relationship with the sk's. That is something I struggle with and feel guilty about. Sometimes I feel like saying no to them just to make a point to their dad "like look...your kids want to do this, and I'm not taking them, so maybe you should." I know this is silly and I am working on it. I think I need to establish better boundaries about my time/space. For example dsd is very cuddly (which is so nice to see in a tween girl) but it is also tiring to me. Sometimes I don't want her in my bed while I am trying to get a few minutes of peace and quiet at the end of the day reading, journal, etc, and she is in there asking me a million questions, while her dad is downstairs doing whatever he wants. How would you set better boundaries about this. I don't know how to communicate this to her without hurting her feelings.

 

I also totally agree with the above poster that these kids are way old enough to make their own pancakes! At their age i was cooking whole meals for my family bc I loved cooking and was encouraged to do so by my parent's. Their bio mom is a HUGE enabler which causes problems on our end. These kids who are almost 11 and 14 still can't do hardly anything independently. that is a separate conversation and one that Dad and I have talked about and probably need to revisit. We need to help them foster these skills, at least when they come to our house.

 

Thanks for the support. I am trying to do a good job, but it is much harder than I realized.

OP, I have a hard time with the boundaries too-dsd stays up later than the other 2 of course being much older, and would love to hang out in the living room reading and chatting and whatever.  I, however, simply need a BREAK after being engaged all day with the kids. I am a total introvert and need time to myself to decompress (plus I WAH at night and like a few minutes to relax, get a snack, whatever in peace before I have to start that).  She goes into her room while I am putting the little ones to bed and I do ask that she stay in there until she goes to bed (obviously she can come out to go the bathroom, etc.)  This "rule" does occasionally get broken if dp is home because he likes to hang out and chat or we will sometimes watch a movie together if I don't have to work, but otherwise I do ask that it be enforced.  Our house is pretty tiny, so I mostly just explained it as needing to be quiet, but I also think it is perfectly fine to explain that you just need some alone time-your dsd probably does sometimes too and will hopefully understand.  Maybe put a time limit on it or limit cuddling together in bed to only one night or something if you don't want to do away with it altogether :) I do feel guilty for this sometimes, because we have limited time with dsd to begin with, but frankly it is not great quality time together if I am sitting there wishing I was alone anyway!

 

Also, re: the teaching independence, we have this same issue too.  I have taught her a few things and made an attempt at enforcing chores, but I simply don't want to be the "evil stepmother" who is the only one enforcing these things.  It is an issue and dp and I fight about it fairly frequently because I think it is fairly ridiculous that a nearly 12-year-old be held to the same standard as a 6 and 3-year-old, but like I said, I'm not willing to shoulder hte responsiblity for this and dp won't.  I go back and forth on this, but as of now this is a boundary I had to draw for my own sanity. 

post #9 of 24
This is very hard. I have been a SM for 10 years. I have been doing EVERYTHING, b/c my husband is handsoff. You have to walk that line very carefully, b/c you will get taken advantage of. It has taken me 10 years of pain to give up. I am just now giving up, and it's so hard. I can't do anything but cry. I know this doesn't help you, but my advice is like many others, and you and your husband need to work together. If you do it all, you will be the one ultimately paying for it. And trust me, it hurts.
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone! It actually makes me feel better that while no one has a clear and cut quick fix, that it seems I am not alone. I am going to talk to dh about this, we have been having snipets of conversations about this this week and that has been helpful. I think for me, par of what is challenging is the time we have them. i often like to be home on weekends, bc my ds and I are very busy all week long and I too am an introvert. i actually enjoy spending the weekend cooking, playing with ds, taking lots of walks and hikes in the woods, folding laundry, etc, etc. So all of a sudden having two "helpless" teenagers in my house makes things feel totally chaotic and out of order.

 

So these are my strategies i am going to try to implement next weekend. Not feel guilty about just letting them "be" or hang out with dad around teh computer, tv, etc. I am trying to keep in mind that if I wasn't in the picture this is what they would be doing with their dad and that is ok. It is diffenent then me, but that is ok. I am not going to do something I don't want to do. Also I am going to pick one thing that we all do together, weather or not Dad does it with us...like all go to the park, etc but also take a morning or afternoon one day of the weekend to do something alone or with just my son and not feel bad about this. It will probably be good for them to spend time with just their father, without me in the picutre. As far as the in our bedroom thing I think I am just going to say "no". Our bedroom, our off limits unless they ask permission, and cuddling time has to be done by 8. It drives me crazy when I go to our bedroom to take a few mintues to my self and my teenage step son is sprawled across our clean bed eating greasy chips and watching a movie. So that is my new plan. i am going to literally write this down so when I am getting edgy I can refer to my "new plan."

 

Can you guys think of anything I am leaving out? Any suggesstions? As far as the helpless thing goes I have to let it go. i am happy to teach some things, but i also am trying to remember I am not thier mother, they have a mother who loves them very much.

post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 

Sorry for all the typos, didn't prof at all and DS is really into "helping" me type! :)

post #12 of 24

I have recently (after 4 kids and 10 years of parenting) come to the realization that my kids can help out a lot more than I have been asking them to. If they asked me to make pancakes in the past, I might have made them and felt resentful, or denied them because I decided it was going to be too much work for me. Now I would likely tell them that making pancakes is messy and get a commitment from them to do the dishes afterward, or tell them that I was planning to start a load of laundry so if they want me to make pancakes instead I need them to start the laundry for me. 

 

Of course, this has meant I need to teach them to do the laundry, load the dishwasher, clear and wipe down the table, wash dishes, etc... but it turns out they are capable and actually seem to enjoy helping out with these sorts of tasks. My 6-year-old started the dishwasher for me this morning all on her own, something I taught her to do last week.

 

And the bonus is that you are asking them to help out IF they want something from you. If they decide they don't want to commit to cleaning up after or to taking on another job while you make breakfast... well, then they can have cereal and you don't have any extra work.

post #13 of 24

Your plan sounds great! Let us know how it goes.
 

post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 

So tomorrow we get the kids. i will keep you all posted. the other thing i am excited about is that DH said last night "we should talk about this weekend, since we have the kids. we seem to do better when we have a plan!" So glad he said this and not me. We are going to plan one thing for me to do with them sat and he is going to do something with just the 3 of them on sunday which is great. I just hope he can hold to it. Thanks ladies!

post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by avismama24 View Post It drives me crazy when I go to our bedroom to take a few mintues to my self and my teenage step son is sprawled across our clean bed eating greasy chips and watching a movie. So that is my new plan. i am going to literally write this down so when I am getting edgy I can refer to my "new plan."

 

I shared a room with my own kids for years, and it's been a few weeks/months since my 14 yo daughter had a "sleepover" in my room (other kid is 12 and no way no how would he ask to have a "sleepover" with mom). And it would put me through the roof if one of them were lounging in my room, greasy chips or no. That is totally a fine boundary to set.

post #16 of 24
Thread Starter 

sparklefairy,

 

what I feel guilt about is that if it was my bio son I would adore him being in my room....not the greasy chip part (who want's that, ever?) but I would not feel that edgy feeling of..."jeez can't you find SOMETHING to do besides watch tv in my bedroom." I am going to work on this. Kids will be here in about 30 minutes. Wish me luck!

post #17 of 24

Good luck, update when you can!!!
 

For me, I don't like kids in my bedroom anymore. My younger son is 10 and if he is sick or if for some reason I want to watch a movie with him in there instead of the family room, sure, but other than those rare times he can lounge in his room.

post #18 of 24
Thread Starter 

So.....this weekend was a success!

 

A few things that were different that helped out ALOT:

 

I bought food on Friday that I know they really like, and let them know what is was and where to find it and told them they were welcome to it anytime they wanted, and didn't even have to ask. This helped a lot becauseit took pressure off me to cook all the time for them bc i knew they were happy with the food in the house. We also did pancakes for dinner on Fri and they thought it was super cool and asked if we could do it more often. The other mornings I offered to make them what I was having oatmeal, eggs, etc. and if they didn't want that they knew where to find the cereal.

 

We were also pretty busy this weekend in a good way. Sat we kinda hung out, went to the playground with friends, etc...but it was pretty low key and Sunday i let Dad have totally control of the activity that we did and he choose to go to a minor league baseball game. It wasn't my cup of tea per sey....but we really had a great time, mostly bc Dad was really involved in the activity bc he took ownership of it. I will try this again for sure.

 

Lastly I just tried to be present with the kids. We don't see them all that often and they are really wonderful kids and they are my son's brother and sister. When I would start to feel edgy I would ask myself why? I also did a better job at asking for help picking up from both the kids and their dad.

 

All in all it was a very nice weekend, and I actually felt a bit sad when they left this morning.

post #19 of 24

That is wonderful news! I'm so glad it went well.
 

post #20 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by avismama24 View Post

sparklefairy,

 

what I feel guilt about is that if it was my bio son I would adore him being in my room....not the greasy chip part (who want's that, ever?) but I would not feel that edgy feeling of..."jeez can't you find SOMETHING to do besides watch tv in my bedroom." I am going to work on this. Kids will be here in about 30 minutes. Wish me luck!


When your son is your stepson's age, you may feel differently. When my son was 1, I adored him being in my room. If I had a 1-y-o now, I would feel differently about personal space/boundaries between myself and that baby and myself and my teens. And I wouldn't feel guilty about it, because I recognize that it's been a natural progression and I think a normal one (certainly for the time and place in which we are living).

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