I haven't posted on MDC in a long time but I could use some advice. About 18 months ago my fiance gained custody of his 4 daughters because his six year old alleged that moms boyfriend was molesting her. Cps said mom had to choose the man or her daughters and she sadly stood by her man. Despite a failed lie detector test by the boyfriend and countless experts agreeing that abuse took place the mom still refuses to believe it. So it seems our custody of them will be long term.
I have two children of my own and so we are the modern day Brady Bunch now (without Alice). I am so tired and stressed all the time. Our kids are 3,4,6,8,9, & 10. It is soooo much work. His girls have wonderful spirits and I love them but they are so damaged. Their mom encourages a disrespectful, uneducated, manipulative way of life. They lie, sneak, fight, tattle, talk back, are totally sexually inappropriate, and are very disrespectful. I see it rubbing off on my kids
But through all the drama and court dates and fighting between their parents his girl's hearts are pure and I love being a positive female influence and watching it actually make a difference. I just have so much guilt about my own kids.
We don't get to do as much because outings with 6 kids are difficult and expensive. My fuse is short because I am worn down. They have to share my time and attention. They love their "stepsisters" and get along really well but I fear I am robbing them of a peaceful childhood. We are all in counseling and the counselor says that this is teaching them valuable life lessons but I'm not sold on that. Financially this situation is best for my kids and I (allowing me to remain a stay at home mom) and in September I will be able to start college which I wouldn't be able to do without my fiance's help. Also I just love DF so much and can't imagine walking away. Please give me some insight...I'm losing sleep because of the guilt.
I don't guess I understand why you are asking if you should stay or go. I would continue the counseling for everyone involved and work to keep my family intact.
It sounds as if you are happy for the most part but concerned that your kids aren't getting enough of you. I would stay and continue counseling. I would also set up times throughout the month for you and your kids to hang out together without the rest of the family or perhaps you take each of your children out for a special date so you have one-on-one time with each of your children. Is there any way you could hire a mother's helper to come in and help our around the house thus freeing you up to spend more time with the kids?
To me it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job, but you need help! Does your fiancee do his share of the upkeep of the house? Can you afford to hire someone to help with the chores and give you some time to nurture yourself? You haven't said anything about your fiancee's attitude in all of this- does he know what it means to take four traumatized kids into your heart and home and be their new Everything? I hope your stress isn't partly because the incredible work you're doing is being minimized.
I'm in a similar situation, except my partner and I don't live together- we're neighbors so I'm close enough to do a lot of that mommy stuff, but he still has the lions share of responsibility for his own kids- the laundry, the meals, the cleanup, the bedtime, etc, etc, etc! The counseling appointments, the tantrums, the sadness and anger, the fighting. I see it, and I help, but I don't bear the brunt of it. I experience enough to know where you are at right now. In fact, I'm worshipping you for the fact that it's not squishing you like a bug! I may be crying to you for advice in a couple of years, if we decide to move in together!
I wouldn't advise you "Yes. Definitely leave!", but I can see why you'd consider it. You're not married to this guy yet. You can still choose not to marry him and to make a different life for yourself. And you are seeing things that aren't good for your own kids.
It is right, responsible and mature of you to be concerned about the things you've mentioned. Kids who are close to each other do pick up each other's bad habits. Kids who have been oversexualized - through no fault of their own! - will affront the age-appropriate innocense of other kids who are close to them. You're right: your kids' exposure to these things is something you can manage and deal with, if you need to, but it's not a healthy, desirable learning experience for them. The counselor sounds like she may be more focused on the needs of the most damaged kids in your home.
You're also right that a mom can't give six young children the same level of attention that she can give two, especially if four of the six (your BF's) are needier and more of a handful than the other two (yours). And your kids will be little for SUCH a short while. Especially if you're young (just starting your post-HS education?), you will have a whole life to live - and men to meet - after they're older and don't need you so much.
It sounds like your BF is a good person; that he could really use your help with his daughters; and that the daughters could really benefit from your influence. If you all love each other - and if you and your BF are equally committed to teaching his daughters appropriate behavior - then there is nobility in the decision to stay, despite the hardships and exhaustion. I feel certain his daughters will turn out better, if you do. And, if a large family has good parents, then the diminished individual attention can - in ways - be made up for by a sense of tribe; sibling support; and the responsibility that comes from everyone needing to pitch in (because Mom can't do it all!). You just need to:
* Have a no-tolerance policy, as far as the SDs' behavior that you don't want your kids to imitate.
* Be confident and authoritative in telling your own kids, "I know your stepsister does that. She has not been taught the proper way to behave and we're trying to teach her now. You have been taught what's right and you're expected to do it. Her behavior is no excuse for you to behave badly. No 'but's. No discussion. That's how it is."
But it's not wrong for you to leave, if you think you should! You will feel guilty. You'll feel like you're abandoning him and his kids when they need you most - and some people in your life will probably say that to you. Since you're already living together, it will feel like a divorce and a huge, scary, uncertain upheaval in your lifestyle. But:
* As committed as you may feel, you're not committed yet. You're not married, so you're not responsible for his kids yet. You're only responsible for yours. Plenty of people who love each other make the hard choice to walk away because the relationship isn't in their or their kids' best interest for some reason or other. And the reasons you've given are as sound as anyone's. Thought - not just feeling - should go into any life-long plan, especially marriage.
* All kinds of women in this generation and the last have found ways to manage single motherhood and getting an education, without relying on a man. It's harder, but it's possible. If he were abusive - and that's why you thought of leaving - you'd find a way, wouldn't you?
You should sort out in your own mind:
- When you think of leaving, how much of that is the exhaustion (which lots of moms with big families have and deal with and it's not the end of the world) and how much is concern that your own kids might become better people, without the influence of your SDs?
- When you think of staying, how much of that is the financial convenience and how much is a sense that this is the life you were meant to live and the people you were meant to live it with? I know you love them, but when you're not exhausted, do you feel like "This is my family. These are my people. This is my life. Even though it's hard sometimes, this feels like where I always should have ended up?"
- If you left, would the childcare arrangements you'd have to make for your kids so that you could work/go to school leave you with more time and attention to devote to them than you have now?
Thanks so much for the thoughtful and helpful responses. I think when it comes right down to it I do feel like this is the life I was meant to be living. The girls do feel like family to me. My kids and I utilize date night and when the girls are with their mom on Saturdays my kids get me all to themselves. Also I try to do my errands in the evenings and generally bring only one kid with me so that everyone gets some one on one time. My fiance is awesome about watching all the kids when I need a break and will even bring the youngest two to work with him if I have a commitment during the day. While I do the lions share of the housekeeping he always pitches in with meals, dishes, etc. We are working now with the older kids to delegate some chores which is helping me out a lot. I'm still not sure if this is the fairest situation for my kids, but I'm hoping that it isn't the worst either.
I think Jeannines response is nearly exactly what I would say if I were articulate enough and took long enough to think it out
Also, to me, your post sounded a little more like asking for help thinking this through and maybe some reassurance, rather then actually seriously thinking about leaving.
I wonder how long you've been living with the girls? While my experience isn't nearly what yours is, I can tell you that there was a long adjustment to my DSD learning to live with our rules (more disciplined) even just on weekends. She asks all the time to live with us and I always tell her that there will be a very long adjustment period if that ever happens. She doesn't have much structure or sadly enough attention at home.
As to your worries about your 2 (non step) daughters. Honestly, you and your fiance sound like good strong people. Jeannine's advice in this respect is good and I feel that if you were to follow that, these 2 little girls will be just fine. And they will grow up with experiences and understandings about others they might not otherwise have. Consistency in your parenting and being firm, but always with love will be very important.
That's just my (mostly) uneducated, and somewhat inexperienced, but very heartfelt .02.