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#1 of 17 Old 05-13-2011, 11:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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 I am new to this forum and a new stepmom as well. I am so confused in what my role should be. I have a 7 year old stepdaughter who lives most of the time with her mother. We live in the same town as her mom. Hubby gets stepdaughter every other weekend, Wednesday dinners, a month in the summer, and alternates school vacations and holidays. However he is considered the noncustodial parent. But he tries his best to stay as involved as he can.

 

   What I struggle with is that the exwife is basically supermom. She's remarried so is now a stay at home mom once again and is always available. She's on lots of PTA committees, brownie troop leader, chaperones every field trip, ect. I know its wonderful that my stepdaughter has a good and involved mom. But I feel there is no room or place for me in my stepdaughter's life. I feel like I will always just be seen as the "fun aunt" and never as a parent. I feel like I am not needed at all. Volunteering at her school is completely out of the question. The exwife sees that as her territory and is highly threatened by my presence and has told me that she will never share being a mother with me. I never said I was trying to be stepdaughter's mother. The most I do is attend public school events (like award ceremonies, school plays, ect). But even that is too much involvement for the exwife.

 

   I just wish I understood my role better. Its hard being a stepparent when both Mom & Dad are so involved, and then I am left feeling like the 3rd wheel. My stepdaughter and I have a good relationship, but I always feel unwanted at events cause as long as my husband and stepdaughter's mom are present, then stepdaughter is happy.

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#2 of 17 Old 05-13-2011, 01:36 PM
 
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You should definitely attend school events, extra-curricular performances, sports meets, birthday parties and ANY kind of celebration of your SD and her accomplishments, even if it makes Mom uncomfortable.  That's how you show that you're interested in your SD, you support her and you support your husband being an involved father.  Bringing you is how your husband shows that his relationship with you (and thus, his daughter's connection to you) is serious and permanent:  You're not just some mistress he wants to keep hidden, to keep from making waves with the mother of his children; you are his wife and you're here to stay.

 

But be gracious about Mom's insecurity over you.  If she attacks you - publicly or privately - for attending SD's events, respond quietly and nonconfrontationally.  Do not promise to stay away in future, but you might say, "The last thing I wanted was to offend you.  Everyone knows you're an amazing Mom and I don't want to take your place at all.  I just wanted to be here to see SD's performance and be one of the people clapping for her.  I hope you'll try to see that I'm not trying to hurt you, by coming."  If you give in to an impulse to tell her off, because she was rude to you first, you will only confirm her fears that you're out to replace her with her kids, just like you have, with her ex-husband.  Let it be clear that those fears are irrational and she may get over them, in time. 

 

If SD has two parents who are both fully involved, then she doesn't need a third parent, in terms of volunteering at school, attending parent-teacher conferences, doctors' appts., etc.  Those things should be primarily about the kid.  If you doing them shifts the focus to Mom's resentment of you, then there's no benefit in you participating.  However:

>> You are your DH's partner, so if something came up that prevented him from attending a teacher conference, IMO it would be better if you went in his place, than for neither of you to go and only the Mom, especially if she isn't great about communicating with your DH in detail about their kid.  The most important thing is that your DH stay aware of what's going on with his kid at school.  The Mom's hostility toward you IS a consideration, but it's a secondary one.

>> If Mom becomes less hostile toward you in the future, there's no reason you can't go to these things.  But it's not necessary.  For example, I go to pretty much everything, for my DSS and volunteer at his school and activities.  But he lives with us and his Mom's across the country.  So, like it or not, I'm doing a fair amount of the raising of him, not just step-parenting.  But if his Mom were here, and involved, I would probably back off.

 

In your home, let the relationship evolve naturally.  It's a tightrope.  You want to be OPEN to doing anything for your SD that you'd do for your biological children, because if you and your DH have children together in the future, you don't want SD to feel like a second-class citizen in your home.  Yet, you don't want to make her uncomfortable - or overshadow your DH, as a parent - by insisting on doing things for her, if your DH is willing/able, or she'd rather have him do them.  Just take each situation as it comes and try to read your SD's cues.  You may need to just be a friend, a fun aunt, for now; and it may evolve into more.  For example, when DSS first moved in with us, he would only hang out in DH's and my bed (not sleeping together, but flopping down together on top of the covers to watch a movie, or talk) if DH was there.  Now, if he passes by our room and the door is open and the 3-year-old and I are watching a Disney movie together; or he wants to talk to me about something, he'll just hop on the bed and hang out.  But that wasn't something I could have planned.  If I had pointedly invited him to join in the family lounging, before he felt comfortable doing it on his own, it would have been awkward.  It just had to evolve.

   


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#3 of 17 Old 05-13-2011, 02:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your advice and suggestions. I guess since both Mom & Dad are so involved I'm not really needed in parenting matters. I guess I'm more of a person to support stepdaughter like that of an aunt. I definitely attend school events just as a grandmother or aunt would attend, but not things that have to do with academic matters. I learned that the hard way. I did attend the school open house where parents meet the teacher back when I was engaged cause Hubby asked me to go. That is when I learned that was too much for Mom to handle. She told me that her daughter's school matters were none of my business and that she would have it put in her daughter's file that I am not allowed access to academic records and that stepdaughter's teacher isn't allowed to speak to me cause by law I'm not entitled to any academic matters. I think I will try to keep my distance from Mom. I won't go to parent/teacher conferences with her, or things like Open House and Meet the Teacher, but will go to the public events that people other than just parents typically attend.

 

 

She's also went so far as telling the school that I am not allowed to pick up my stepdaughter from school and told my husband she did so. The only school night we have my stepdaughter is on Wed for nightly dinner, and my husband picks her up from her mom's and takes her back after dinner. I guess Mom wanted to make sure I knew that I have no legal right to pick her daughter up from school. She also has right of first refusal in their divorce agreement and that a stepparent can not be called any form of Mom or Dad (not that I would suggest that anyway). I think Mom was threatened by the existance of a stepparent long before it even happened if she put those things in her divorce agreement.

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#4 of 17 Old 05-13-2011, 07:07 PM
 
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I am a stepchild, not a step parent and mostly lurk here but post occasionally...OP, I'm speaking as a step child here, and from that perspective (gently and respectfully) , I have to say that I agree with you SD's mom on this. I would have found it invasive and disrespectful  if my stepmother had attended parent teacher conferences and things like that. Just because she had a relationship with my Dad didn't mean she had carte blanche to enter my life on intimate terms and certainly not as an instant parent. School performances and stuff she was welcome at.  My stepmother never tried to take on a mother role in my life and it would have been detrimental to our relationship if she had.

 

Take it slow and easy, don't make it be about you, don't make it be about your DH's ex. if you are going to be with your DH for the long haul you have plenty of time to build a genuine relationship with your DSD... AND if you are really in it for the long haul you're going to have to deal with the fact that DSD's mom will always be in the picture.

 

Today my sister and I and our kids (2 each) and our Mom and our Dad and our Step Mom all went out to brunch; after Mom, Dad, and Step Mom attended grandparents day at our kids' school. To our children, Step Mom is a beloved grandparent. She would have never attained that status had she been disrespectful to our Mom or our relationship with her. Think about the long haul. Be patient.

 

 

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#5 of 17 Old 05-13-2011, 07:25 PM
 
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I'm not sure how long you've been at it, but I went from not attending anything that my step-daughter's mom would be at to volunteering at her school during our parenting time, doing parent-teacher conferences with my husband (though mom and dad do them separately from one another), etc etc. This summer I will go to my first doctor's appointment for her with my husband (though mom will not be there). It is a long, slow road. We started 8 years ago and it has been slow but steady progress... and we still have plenty of room to keep improving.

 

I have almost always seen my obligation as being to my step-daughter, and she is the one from whom I take my lead. If she wants me to come to something, I will come regardless of her mother's feelings (though my husband will let her know that I will be attending at his daughter's request so she has fair warning that I will be there). I absolutely spare her mom's feelings where I can, and I don't go out of my way to make her upset or to insert myself in situations that would make her uncomfortable... but I also don't let her feelings dictate my relationship with her daughter. It is a balancing act that can sometimes be tricky, but when I keep my step-daughter as the first consideration (sometimes this includes staying informed so that I can support my husband in doing what is best for her), it makes the decisions easier. 

 

The best thing that happened was that my step-daughter's mom got remarried, and then the next great thing was when she had another child. Somehow, between these two things, she came to realize that if she wanted her husband to be included as a parent (or almost-parent) she was going to have to come to terms with me being included as a parent (or almost-parent). And having another child I think really drove it home for her that my step-daughter was part of a family and not just part of a parent-child pair... that we functioned as a family and made decisions as parents for our entire family, and that it is difficult, if not impossible, to make decisions for any one child in isolation of the rest of the family. It was a huge change in her willingness to accept that she was being parented by both of us, and that it was good for my step-daughter to feel she was truly part of a FAMILY and not just a visitor in our house. 

 

One other thing that really helped for us was for my step-daughter and I to have a "thing" that we did together, something that we shared. For us it was a parent-child gymnastics class when she was a toddler, but since it has been other things... another gymnastics class, a dance class, a special routine of making dinner together, a special homework routine... different things at different times, but it is something that has allowed us to develop our own relationships separate from our relationships with anyone else. It has been a great foundation for our current, extremely close, relationship. Over the years when our relationship has faltered due to changes in our family (a new baby, a new job, a move, etc), I've always fallen back on finding us a special something to have together, and it has helped to quickly get us back on track.

 

Good luck! Being a step-mother is one of the hardest things I have ever done, but has also been incredibly rewarding and has been a big part of making me the person I am today.


Parenting four little monkeys (11, 8, 6, and 4) with the love of my life. Making it up as I go.
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#6 of 17 Old 05-14-2011, 04:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by bella00 View Post

...I did attend the school open house where parents meet the teacher back when I was engaged cause Hubby asked me to go. That is when I learned that was too much for Mom to handle. She told me that her daughter's school matters were none of my business and that she would have it put in her daughter's file that I am not allowed access to academic records and that stepdaughter's teacher isn't allowed to speak to me cause by law I'm not entitled to any academic matters....

 

That must've felt really awful and embarrassing, especially when you were trying to be a good stepmother and wife.  You do understand that this is about her hurt feelings and insecurity, not that you did anything wrong, by going to the school - right?  I would have said Open House is something you should attend.  It is a public event and, whether Mom likes it or not, you probably will be involved in academics as things move forward.  I am mostly a SAHM and perfectly competent to help my bio. kids with their homework, but there are some things they need help with that DH has a better way of explaining.  Or, sometimes they're more receptive to help from him, because they get sick of hearing the same old things, from me.  Sometimes when my kids are going to do homework at their Dad's, if there's a critical assignment, I'll actually ask them to have their step-Mom look it over b/c I'm not certain how careful a proof-reader my ex is.  Your SD may not have weekend homework yet...but she will.  And, again, the focus should stay on the kid.  If you are living in one of SD's homes, married to one of her parents, and a potential helper with her homework, you should know her teachers, attend the Open House where they discuss their expectations and be welcome to e-mail the teacher about a homework question and get a response!  Mom is being self-centered, to insist on anything else.  Also about the grades.  Mom can't keep your DH from showing you SD's grades.  But it's selfish for Mom to want that.  What if, for example, SD is struggling in Spanish and you speak it fluently?  Rest assured, if Mom has actually said such hostile things about you to SD's teachers, they understand that she's being irrational and insecure and don't assume there's something wrong with you.

 

I think, now that you're married, it would be reasonable for you to attend Open Houses.  However, if Mom STILL makes a scene, you and DH will have to assess how much your presence distracted SD's teacher from communicating whatever she needed to communicate?  If Mom takes you aside to complain, fine.  Deal with it and keep going to the Open Houses!    

 

She's also went so far as telling the school that I am not allowed to pick up my stepdaughter from school...She also has right of first refusal...

 

You and DH need to quietly investigate his rights.  Picking her up at school may not be an issue now, but it could become one.  SD might get sick at school when Mom is unable to pick her up and care for her.  Or, as SD gets older, your DH might want to extend his Wednesdays to picking her up at school and dropping her off at her Mom's at bedtime...or spending the night and taking her to school Thurs. morning.  And if DH has joint legal custody, then he has the same legal right to pick up his daughter at school - and to authorize others to pick her up on his behalf - that Mom has.  Even if DH doesn't have joint legal, he should insist that his name be on the list of people who can pick up SD at school, in a pinch - and yours really should be, too.  Let's say SD vomits at noon, Mom has taken a P/T job and doesn't get off until 4, but your DH can leave work and be home by 12:45.  If you're available, you should be allowed to pick up SD at 12:15 and take her home to wait for your DH, until Mom gets off work.  This is the main kind of situation right of 1st refusal was meant to address!  Again, research your own local guidelines and your DH's court orders.  But generally, ROFR is a bigger deal for the NON-custodial parent, meaning Mom can't leave the kid with a sitter - or even Grandma (unless Grandma lives with her) - and go on a business trip, or a romantic weekend jaunt for her anniversary, because Dad has a right to parent the kid if Mom isn't there to do it, even if it's outside his normal parenting time.  But adults who LIVE with one of the parents are generally exempt from ROFR issues.  IOW, DH can leave SD with you for a couple hours, if he has to run in to the office during his weekend parenting time, because you are part of the immediate family at DH's home.  This also usually means that Mom cannot (legally) deny Dad's parenting time just because he's late getting off work and sends Step-Mom to pick up the kid for him!  (Same applies to picking up at school...)

 

I'm not saying go to war over it, for no reason.  But be aware of what DH's rights are, in case it becomes an issue.

  


 

 


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#7 of 17 Old 05-14-2011, 08:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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 Aside from being a stepmother, I am also a stepchild. While I never needed another mother (i lived with my mom full time) I do have to say it hurt deeply that my stepmother never attended anything in my life and was never interested in anything about me. I've known my stepmother since I was 11, and the first event she came to in my life was my wedding(also the first time she met my mother who she hates). There were past graduations, confirmation, and school events that she was invited to but chose not to attend. So I do feel its important to attend public events like that to show my stepdaughter I care. I never want her to feel unloved like I did and still feel from my stepmother. Even now after 20+ years my stepmother just avoid eachother and have no relationship outside of my dad. I want to at least have an aunt-like relationship with my stepdaughter but at the same time respect that Mom is mom. I never want her to feel like I am trying to push her out of her daughter's life or take over her role, which is why I am staying away from doing things like chaperoning field trips or doctor appointments cause I know Mom will already be doing those things. So for now my rule of thumb is to be like an aunt to my stepdaughter.

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#8 of 17 Old 05-15-2011, 06:44 AM
 
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Interesting how our own experiences as step children influence how we perceive the Step Parent--Step Child relationship, isn't it? Sorry to hear that your own relationship with your step mom was (and still is) hurtful.

 

It sound's like you want to be a loving adult who takes a genuine interest in you DSD, I don't see how you can possibly go wrong with that approach. As long as you can be that loving adult without putting expectations on you DSD that she should respond in a certain  way, you should be fine.

 

:)

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#9 of 17 Old 05-15-2011, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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 My stepmother at least taught me how NOT to be as a stepmother. For instance don't badmouth your stepchild's mother. My stepmother did that from the beginning (although she doesn't anymore and denies she ever did it) and it destroyed any chance for us to be close. I am still nervous and uncomfortable around her cause of all those bad years. And I guess I want so badly for things to be differently with my stepdaughter. I want to be someone she trusts and feels comfortable coming to as I don't feel that at all towards my own stepmother.

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#10 of 17 Old 05-18-2011, 07:08 PM
 
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"What I struggle with is that the exwife is basically supermom. She's remarried so is now a stay at home mom once again and is always available. She's on lots of PTA committees, brownie troop leader, chaperones every field trip, ect. I know its wonderful that my stepdaughter has a good and involved mom."

 

Yes, this is a wonderful thing for your stepdaughter and yes, it is her mother's prerogative to fill those roles. You will be able to do these things someday with your own child. 

 

BUT. Jeannine is right that your DH needs to investigate his legal rights. Unless you are an ex-convict coke fiend, it is beyond inappropriate for your DSD's mother to try and keep you from doing things like picking her up at school. It's disrespectful and petty. In your ex's shoes, I'd want to resolve that issue NOW, while your DSD is young. If his parenting plan indicates that he gets his daughter from end-of-school Wednesday until evening, and one of you is available to pick up from school, then it's in your DSD's best interests for one of you to pick her up, because that maximizes the time she can spend with her Dad. And regardless, you both need to be on the pick-up list - and your DSD's stepfather also needs to be on that list. It may not be worth a war, but it's worth a surgical strike - like your DH going down to the office with paperwork in hand and demanding that his wife be on the list.

 

A month is the summer is great - maybe you guys can do something special together, outside her "normal" mom-daughter activities? Horseback riding lessons? A family camping trip? 

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#11 of 17 Old 05-20-2011, 05:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bella00 View Post

Thanks for your advice and suggestions. I guess since both Mom & Dad are so involved I'm not really needed in parenting matters. I guess I'm more of a person to support stepdaughter like that of an aunt. I definitely attend school events just as a grandmother or aunt would attend, but not things that have to do with academic matters. I learned that the hard way. I did attend the school open house where parents meet the teacher back when I was engaged cause Hubby asked me to go. That is when I learned that was too much for Mom to handle. She told me that her daughter's school matters were none of my business and that she would have it put in her daughter's file that I am not allowed access to academic records and that stepdaughter's teacher isn't allowed to speak to me cause by law I'm not entitled to any academic matters. I think I will try to keep my distance from Mom. I won't go to parent/teacher conferences with her, or things like Open House and Meet the Teacher, but will go to the public events that people other than just parents typically attend.

 

 

She's also went so far as telling the school that I am not allowed to pick up my stepdaughter from school and told my husband she did so. The only school night we have my stepdaughter is on Wed for nightly dinner, and my husband picks her up from her mom's and takes her back after dinner. I guess Mom wanted to make sure I knew that I have no legal right to pick her daughter up from school. She also has right of first refusal in their divorce agreement and that a stepparent can not be called any form of Mom or Dad (not that I would suggest that anyway). I think Mom was threatened by the existance of a stepparent long before it even happened if she put those things in her divorce agreement.

 

You dont say how long you have been married to you DH.   That can make a huge difference.  As a mom who's kids had a former step mother who tried to get very involved very quickly it is shocking even in a good relationship.   Xh's ( then) wife did not come to meet the teacher nights or was not allowed to pick the children up from school she also was not permitted to go on field trips, scounts, take them to the doctor etc.  It was written in our custody agreement that if the other parent was not available they went to the available parent FIRST.   So such as the Wednesday nights the dad should pick her up.   I KNEW my X would put care of your kids to any woman in his house so I put those things in the papers.

Stick with the fun aunt.   Making waves will just be hard on the kid.   Sounds like her mom and dad have it handled.
 

 


Jeana Christian momma to 4 sons Logan 18, Connor 15, Nathan 6, and bonus baby Jack 1
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#12 of 17 Old 05-20-2011, 09:07 AM
 
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Hi Bella00,

 

I think you've hit the nail on the head :) working out what on earth your role as a step parent is, can drive you nuts. The best advice anyone ever gave me was;
 

You are a grown-up friend to your step child unless the time comes when you have to be more than that. 
 

Take the pressure off yourself. It sounds like this little girl is well cared for, and she will love having a grown-up girl around to hang out with. She needs time to get to know you and you her.

It does sound like your husband's ex has always been terrified of a possible step parent, and the sight of you at school events may have sent her over the edge. Talk to your husband and perhaps its worth him having a conversation with his ex partner reassuring her that you've been unsure what was expected of you as a step parent, but you have no intention whatsoever of crossing any lines. It may be as useful as using an ice cube to put out a fire, but at least you've tried to be reasonable. 
 

It is always worth looking into your legal rights (its seems strange that she has first refusal about the child calling you 'mom', if the child decides to call you mommy, there isn't a whole lot she can do about it, legal docs or no.) but unless there is a dire need for you to pick kiddo up from school, it may not be worth the stress in the short term. Don't pressure yourself to attend all school functions, just some every now and then. You don't want to be consumed by your new family. Instead focus on your own life and try to accept that this is not your issue to work through - its hers. Once things have settled and you've been on the scene a bit longer she may realise you've no intention of over stepping the mark.

Hope this is useful.
For a cracking list about 'step parent responsibilities' head to www.stepchildren.co.uk (its in the for you section)  

Delilah.
 

 

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#13 of 17 Old 05-20-2011, 09:43 AM
 
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I agree with pretty much everything everyone said above. I think that you have a very good handle on this situation and you are trying to be prepared for the future.

 

But here is what I started wondering:

 

Where is SD new step dad?? You said that her mom was remarried. Well, does he get to pick up SD from school? Go to parent teacher conferences, etc.? Is your husband ok with him being there????

 

And your husband has a complete legal right to her academics and should be able to pick her up from school anytime he wants. I am a substitute teacher and I know that a lot of parents send a note with their kid, or call the school if any pick up arrangement differs from the norm. Schools are great about this usually. 

 

I am guessing he has joint custody with mother as the residential parent and he as the noncustodial parent. That still means he can get her half the time. That agreement to me doesn't make him any less of the parent and despite her mother's insecurities she needs to acknowledge that HE is her FATHER and is a good one.

 

 


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#14 of 17 Old 05-20-2011, 09:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Even with summer visitation, the time is limited. Since there's right of first refusal, SD will be cared for by her mom during the day(even though its my husband's summer visitation time), and then my husband picks her up after work. I am thinking of taking a family vacation together, that way we'll have more time than just late afternoon/evenings.

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#15 of 17 Old 05-20-2011, 09:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Where is SD new step dad?? You said that her mom was remarried. Well, does he get to pick up SD from school? Go to parent teacher conferences, etc.? Is your husband ok with him being there???? Stepdad doesn't get involved in parent/teacher conferences or pick her up from school. He works long hours and lets stepdaughter's mom handle most school matters. He does attend evening things like Open House, award ceremonies, ect.

 

I am guessing he has joint custody with mother as the residential parent and he as the noncustodial parent. That still means he can get her half the time. That agreement to me doesn't make him any less of the parent and despite her mother's insecurities she needs to acknowledge that HE is her FATHER and is a good one.

 

 No its not joint custody. Mom has sole custody with my husband having visitation rights. Since my husband doesn't having joint custody I doubt he  can get her half the time. The custody agreement says every Wednesday, every other weekend, alternating holidays, and summer. I have my doubts that he could just walk into school on a Monday and pick his daughter up, when that is Mom's custody time. I could be mistaken, but thats how I interpreted it, meaning DH's time is every Wed and every other weekend.

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#16 of 17 Old 05-20-2011, 10:00 AM
 
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Wow. Well that is a unique situation. I think a family vacation is a good idea and the ladies here always have excellent advice. Best of luck! :)


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#17 of 17 Old 05-20-2011, 12:04 PM
 
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I am a stepmom, and I am pretty much just there. I hang out with stepson, play vid games with him, watch tv with him, ill pick him up from school, im more like an aunt id guess you say. DH works all the time so he barely sees stepson anyway. Mom pretty much just uses us when she wants to go out, as there is no visitation in paper, so we get him when she wants us to if she has something to do. We are not involved in anything, b/c we dont know about anything. In fact, I picked my SS up from school yesterday and he was like, did you know it was honors day today? Im like, nope or I would have came and he said, nobody came for him. If I would have known, I would have, these things kinda bug me but w/e. I try to just be there for him if he needs a hug or what have you but I dont discipline.


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