It sounded to me like this was a difference between helping out and being taken advantage of. It sounded to me like it happened all the time. I certainly wouldn't advocate denying visitation or being inflexible if there was a legitimate and/or occasional need. We have certainly changed pick-up and drop-off arrangements when the other parent had a need, and I have offered to do driving that was not technically my responsibility because it made sense given the situation. But I have been on the recieving end of manipulation with someone who knew that ultimately we would continue to do what was right by my step-daughter, and took advantage of that. So I am speaking to that experience and my reading of the original question and situation.
Sorry, I guess I'm feeling defensive because I feel (inadvertantly) accused of advocating inflexibility and not doing everything possible in helping the NCP maintain a relationship with their child... which I am definitely not. I am just advocating step-mothers setting boundaries when needed and giving suggestions on dealing with manipulative behavior based on my own situation and experience.
Blended parenting is hard. Doubly hard when there is drama brought into the picture. It should be about the kids, and only about the kids.
As I said in my post, I often don't have a working car. It isn't that I don't try very hard to have one, but I really don't have the money to buy brand new or even make the repairs in a timely manner. I can't just work extra hard and work extra hours. I'm on SSDI. I'd love to have a brand new working car, but its just not possible at all.
For a few years my ex husband was a jerk about it. He was a jerk because he got pressure from his new wife to stop falling for my manipulation. So for two years I borrowed money when I couldn't afford gas or repairs. My two children at home went without clothes and food because I needed to fix my car so I could see my oldest daughter. Once we went without electricity for awhile because that was the only place we could take repair money out of. I made those sacrifices so that my oldest didn't have to suffer. But gosh, it would have been nice for my other kids to not have to suffer too. They don't deserve that. Under normal circumstances, I can keep a roof over their head and food on the table. But when my car costs 900 to repair and I just don't have it.. but I know it will crush my oldest not to see me.. I'm left with little other choice.
It would have been nice if my ex husband had used his brain and not been so caught up in his new wife that he couldn't think for himself and realize that he was only hurting our daughter by being this way. His new wife did a good job at making sure that I couldn't "manipulate" him. She did a great job at making sure that he was as horrible as he could be towards me. He couldn't even speak to me civilly because she didn't like that. She wanted him to hate me. Or at least pretend to. That made her feel better, and more important. What she didn't realize is that it wasn't about me, or about her. But only about our daughter.
When his new wife left, he went back to being himself. Someone I most certainly don't want to still be married to.. but a human being at least. And guess what? He started acting kinder. Nicer. Understanding. Helpful. If I can't pick her up, then we don't stress about it. He helps me find a way, or brings her himself. And when something comes up on his end, I try my best to help him out as well. After years, we can finally CO-PARENT! Because there is no one else that is getting in our way. My husband certainly doesn't get involved with drama in the way that my ex's new wife did. As far as my dh is concerned, he loves his step daughter.. but my ex and I are the ones that need to work things out and come to agreements. He can be involved without feeling the need to make my ex disappear.
My point is, in my experience... its the outside influence of the step parent that caused all the problems and introduced the word "manipulate" into the situation to begin with. I am the mother, and was for years the non custodial parent. And I heard the word manipulate a lot used in reference to me, when I have never done anything of the sort. So all my experience surrounding this is about the stepmother making drama for herself and reading into situations that she has absolutely no idea about, because of her own insecurity and jealousy issues.
And before anyone throws things at me, I'm sure everyone has a different story, and by all means this is not meant to be a blanket statement post. We all have our own opinions on things, and are coming from different places in our past and present. You are all individual parents and step parents, just as I am.
I just explained why I think the way I do. Because I'm coming from the total opposite other side.