DH and I will be moving out of state at the end of September. We have a daughter (4.5yrs) and a baby due in August. DH also has a 7 year old son. We just found out for sure that we will be moving, so SS (and his mother) haven't been told yet. I am wondering what some out of state co-parenting scheduals look like. I feel really uncomfortable with the idea of him staying with us for more than two weeks or so (DH works very long hours and SS has a lot of behavior issues) at a time and was curious to know what other people have heard of/use themselves.
I'm also curious about how people dealt with visitation immediately after giving birth. I'm feeling really stressed at the idea of having SS for the weekend within the first week or two after giving birth and am not sure how to address it. We currently have him every other weekend and it is often extremely difficult. Lately DH has been spending those weekends at his parents house in his son's hometown (which is about an hour away from our home.) I've been feeling really awful about the whole situation a lot lately, to be honest.
Well, it sounds like an awful situation...and not only from your perspective. The kid already has issues, now his Dad's moving away, and two other kids will get to spend plenty of time with his Dad while he suddenly gets a whole lot less of it. Lose-lose.
My DSS's Mom moved out of state when he was also 7. He came back here to spend time with DH for:
- 1 week of Christmas Break
- Every Spring Break (9 days) and
- 7 weeks of Summer Break.
That schedule is standard here, "when distance is a major factor".
Strangely, one school year, DSS had a Fall Break that was just as long as Spring Break and we were able to have him then, too.
Any month DSS did not travel here, DH went out there to visit him for 2 consecutive weekends (9 days). During those visits (well, after a LOT of court intervention...), DH would exercise parenting time:
- Both weekends (Fri. after school 'til school started Mon.)
- Tues. and Thurs., after school until bedtime
- Any time DSS would otherwise be in daycare (Mon. and Wed., from the end of school until dinner).
Now that DSS lives with us, he visits his Mom for the same standard schedule. (He doesn't have the long Fall Break, here, so it's just the 3 annual visits.) When she comes here to visit, DH lets DSS spend basically the whole time with her, including weekday overnights. If she comes for a whole week, DSS spends one night here with us, usually mid-week. But she doesn't visit nearly as often as DH did.
I know your new baby - and the safety of both of your children (if safety around their 1/2-brother is an issue) - must be your 1st priority. But try your best to remember that this situation will be hard on your DSS and he deserves a lot of compassion. He's only 7, so he doesn't mean to have behavior problems and arguably needs more involvement from both parents, because of them. And while he may be too young to verbalize it, the fact is that his father has made a choice to move on in his life with a different family and to make it where your DSS is no longer a regular part of his schedule. There's no real way around that. It may have seemed unavoidable, on your end. But it stinks, for the kid.
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! I really appreciate it. I understand that it may seem as if I am not thinking of SS's feelings from my brief post, and at times I really do have a hard time remembering he is only 7 and none of the stress from these situations is his fault. I probably should have said, though, that I am aware of the emotional implications for him and I do try to keep that in mind. I've seen a councilor specializing in working with children and families to try and help with my anxiety surrounding SS, which has gotten much worse after my pregnancy. His mother is remarried and SS also has a 1 year old sibling (who was born 3 months early) and his mother is pregnant again and is, again, having a very difficult pregnancy. SS also has, for his entire life, been cared for by his mother's mother, mother's father, mother's grandmother and DH's parents. He essentially has 6 primary caregivers (if you count us, which honestly I wouldn't and I don't think SS feels that we are either). I also want to add that I have been in his life a little less than two years, my daughter is not DH's biokid but we are in the process of adoption, as her father was never involved in any capacity. So anyhow, there's even more going on behind the scenes.
I understand from other posts that you don't feel like any parent should choose to be away from their child. DH was 18 when SS was born, and he and SS's mother had broken up before they found out she was pregnant. DH has been offered multiple jobs across the country that he has turned down because he felt like he needed to be with his son, although there is not a large job market for his work in our city. SS is at an age now where DH feels he will be able to stay in touch and have SS come for visits. I don't feel that it is selfish for him to choose to seek the life he wanted before an unexpected pregnancy and I honestly do feel like there is realistically going to be times when he needs to make decisions that benefit all of us, not ones that are good for his son to the exclusion of the rest of the family. As I said, there isn't a job market anywhere around where his son lives and we have been living paycheck to paycheck in good months, even with careful budgeting. This move will allow me to stay home with our new baby, which is a big priority for us in the first year or two of his life.
I think that SS has a lot of anxiety and I honestly feel that him staying with us for extended amounts of time would be very, very difficult for him as well as for us. By the end of a weekend with us he is acting out a lot and being very, very cruel to my daughter (although thankfully physical safety is not an issue.) I think that as DH had become a father to my daughter he has also really stepped up with SS, but before that his role was less of a dad and more of a brother/uncle as he spent weekends with SS at DH's parent's house, where they were not respectful of his parenthood, but I think that is part of the difficulty with SS and his time with us. I don't know! It's just really hard, and it's difficult to have my daughter, who loves SS so much, tell me she doesn't want him to come over because he hurts her feelings. (The biggest and most telling is reminding her frequently that she is NOT his sister and that DH is NOT her dad.) There's a lot more than that, but... This little guy is hurting and so are we.
Even in our situation, if we could afford it, I think it would be better for DSS to visit his NCP for 2 or 3 2-week periods in the summer, punctuated by time with his CP. It's a major upheaval, adjusting to being away from "home" for so long (Yes, I know his Mom's is also "home" to him because she lives there, but I'm talking about the place where he spends the vast majority of his time, goes to school and where 95-100% of his friends live.)...then adjusting to coming back, after he's grown accustomed to not seeing us.
When your DH is working in his field, perhaps it will be an option (financially) to fly his son out twice each summer, for shorter visits, instead of one long one?
I was hesitant to reply because our situation, while in some ways similar, is also quite different. I have a very strong bond with my step-daughter, and she is absolutely part of our family. In fact, we planned our last pregnancy so that she would be with us when her littlest brother was born, so obviously I don't have any of the same concerns about having her around after birth! She was with me while I was in labor with her oldest younger brother, went to the neighbor's for a couple hours, then returned an hour or two after he was born. She was with her mom when her next sibling was born (has she been with us, she would have gone with her brother to a friend's during the labor and delivery, then returned as soon as practical afterward), but my husband picked her up the next day as per our usual schedule. And, that said, even though she is sweet and helpful and loving toward her siblings, I'd just had a baby and relied on my husband to keep the older kids (including my step-daughter) entertained and the house somewhat quiet and peaceful for those first few days. He took them on lots of outings, walks, etc the first couple days.
The circumstances of our husband's non-relationship with the mother of their oldest IS something we have in common, as is our decision to move away in order to better meet the needs of ALL the children (including my step-daughter). I'm not going to get into a discussion of whether or not other people believe our choice was the right one, but I understand what it is to decide to move away and to believe it is better for the health of the family overall even when it is in some ways harder for individual members of that family. So, at the very least, don't feel like you are alone in thinking that it isn't always selfish to move away, and it isn't necessarily a case of sacrificing your step-son's happiness for the sake of the other people in the family. That has not been the case for us at all (and we moved much further away).
There are two things that stand out to me as really positive about this arrangement for my step-daughter. First of all, my husband travels to her mom's state every month and spends 4-11 days JUST WITH HER. While he has occasionally brought one of the other kids with him, and once a year we go as a whole family, this is time that is dedicated just to the two of them. I think it has made their relationship really strong, and they have an amazing set of memories together of some incredible father-daughter time that she wouldn't otherwise get. And it allows him to have a turn to help with homework, volunteer in the classroom, take her to lessons, meet her friends and friends' parents, which is important for that real parenting bond.
The other thing that has been a great benefit is the long stretches of time we get to spend together without interruption. We used to have 50/50 custody and she went back and forth every couple days. That arrangement definitely had its benefits, but we rarely got long stretches of time to be together... there's something about having aweek, two week, several weeks that really bonds a family together. And she is with us when we are on vacation, so we really get to focus on being together without having to worry so much about work and school and schedules. I think having those long stretches has helped keep our family bond strong in between visits. It allows her to settle in (all of us to settle in) and really feel like she lives here. She has friends here who she looks forward to seeing, and we are able to enroll her in extracurricular activities so she makes new friends through those as well.
It is absolutely challenging... it takes a lot of time, money, and dedication. If you are lacking in any one of those things, I think it could be disasterous. We dedicate a huge amount of energy to making sure we are doing the absolute best we can with the less-than-ideal circumstances, and it is no small feat. I'm not sure I could do it if I weren't 110% committed to her, and if I didn't absolutely see her as one of MY children, worth the sacrifices and effort that I give to all af them. It is hard on all of us, all in our own ways and to varying degrees... not in the same ways that it was hard on us to live where we were, but in different ways that can be just as challenging, sometiems moreso. To do it well, it is HARD work.
I am totally feeling for you right now! I have 2 stepsons who are almost 7 and 5. They were 1 and 2 when I started dating their father, so you'd think I'd be used to them by now but I'm not! The 7 year old has Asperger's Syndrome and is very difficult to deal with. When we had DD 2 years ago, I could not handle all three kids, so about 2 weeks after her birth we had the boys meet us at my in-laws house so we could all spend time together but I was free to just care for my new baby. We are currently expecting our 2nd together and I'm not quite sure how it will work out with them meeting the new baby, but I know I will ABSOLUTELY not have them alone. They have been here for 3 weeks (they live in Chicago, we live in PA) and I'm struggling with them now, so I certainly can't imagine taking care of them while also doing newborn care.
If he is going to come for the weekend shortly after you give birth, I think it's paramount you have another family member there to help you. The reality of step-parenting to me is that I don't have these kids all the time so I have very little influence on their behavior and that makes it a thousand times more challenging than dealing with the kids you have all the time, ya know?
Hope this didn't sound rambling and disorganized - I'm attempting to serve the kiddos lunch right now but I really had to reply to this. PM me any time you want to talk!