Thanks so much to all who might read and comment on this. I really don't know anyone else in this position and am just looking for advice but also to know that other people have gone through this- and arrived on the other side!
I just wrote a very long explanation of all the ins and outs of our history. And while that was probably therapeutic, lol, it's probably not necessary! The short story is this:
My partner and I (we are recently engaged and together about 2 years), had decided to move in together last spring after maintaining a long distance relationship for the entirety of our relationship (this was HUGE for me- I have never lived with any partner). We planned the move for November 1st as we wanted to make sure that we gave the kids enough time to adjust to him leaving their town and being a couple hours away. His ex and children (6 & 8) have been aware of the move since late last spring (we worked with a therapist to help the children to understand that he would still -of course!- be a very active and involved dad and that we would be so excited to have them every other weekend, holidays and vacations just as it's always been). When he let his ex know (September) that we were planning for the move to happen November 1st, she told him he would need to bring them as she felt unable to care for them anymore. So tough on the kids. And tough on me. And our relationship. And though he is thrilled to have custody, also tough to have it come out sf nowhere. My head was spinning for weeks.
Woah. I am 36. Never lived with a partner. Never lived with or had children in my home. And he has a lab. I have a rather small apartment that will soon be home to 3 additional human beings and a large dog. We went through many long talks about whether this was something we both wanted to do/should do with such a change to circumstances. We have agreed (most moments of most days) that we deeply love each other and want a life together. That life now includes full-time parenting. I work very hard to not be resentful of their mother who pays little to no child support (we are working on that through the courts now), is entertaining the idea of heading back to school for a professional change, partying all nights of the week, and has extra income to take the kids on elaborate, out of state vacations multiple times a year. I earn more money than my partner and though we had initially decided on a 50/50 financial split (before the kids were with us full time), I am now reassessing that initial agreement as I think that their mom should be responsible - at least in part- for their care. I would like to have a child (or children) in the future but I worry that financially, since we will already have two children, that is going to be tough. I understand that this is my choice but I feel very guiltily selfish for some of my feelings of loss that are happening right now. I honestly think the reality of what I'm about to take on is still setting in.
I really would appreciate any advice people have to give on this- and almost more than that I'd love to hear from people who have gone through this process from singlehood to live-in partnership and motherhood all at once. I have tried to be proactive with my partner and discussed what life might look like- but there is so much to talk through!!! So much pressure to get it right now that the kids will be moved from their home town to a new school. I'm a reader so books hints will be helpful too! Basically, anything to help me feel a little less alone would be awesome. Oh, and I should say, my partner is super-supportive! But, it's tough at times to deal not only with the logistics of what needs to happen, but also all this emotion! He really is awesome- but his experience, though challenging in it's own right, is different from my own. And one more thing, the kids are really great kids- and we get along very well so far! So that's something, right?? But to be blunt, I'm an introvert living with a chronic illness that is exasperated by stress, he and the kids are loud and full of energy, and at times, it's just plain exhausting!
Thanks so much for reading and I thank all the bloggers before- it's been so helpful to read others stories!
I think this is a huge adjustment. It's a lot for the kids and for the adults. Get support!
There is one kind of flag for me in your post, which is the talk about finances. You say you'd initially planned on 50/50, but now you are rethinking, and think that the children's mother should have some financial responsibility. Who was the original 50/50 with? And what will you do if family court doesn't agree with your ideal setup, or if the children's mom doesn't pay?
Yes, the counseling is ongoing for all of us. We are also thinking about family counseling once the move occurs.
In terms of the finances, when my partner originally planned to come on his own, we had planned a 50/50 split. We are still working out the details on what our finances will look like now that we will have the kids. I'm actually a little unsure how this should all work. Should we be splitting the groceries an household needs evenly or should we be working out something different? Should I be contributing to the regular needs of the children as well? If not, does this change once we are married? To be honest, I'm not counting on a lot from their mom at this point. I really just want to leave that between my partner and his ex. If there is support, (and since I am in NY and somewhat aware of the family court system, I am inclined to say that there will be), I am sure that will be put aside for specific needs of the kids. I have very little knowledge of how this works (from the step parent/ new partner point of view). I certainly don't want to be unfair but I also am a little cautious about giving more than way I should at this stage of the game. Though we are engaged, I've been open about my need to take things very slowly in terms of wedding planning since we are going through so many changes so quickly. I am sure it will all work out but I am the kind of person who needs to take one step at a one. Given the circumstances, you can imagine my slightly raised anxiety .
Your fiancée's ex is is in desperate straits to be doing what she's doing. Maybe it's addiction, or mental illness, or just that she's a marginally functional human being. Whatever the impetus, she is reacting to this move by resigning as the mother. If you let this family move into your house, You Are The Mother. If you aren't ready to shoulder that, back out NOW. It's OK to back out and sacrifice the romantic relationship because of all the baggage. It's not OK to move this family into your house and keep track of their heat and water and food expenses, all of which pale in comparison to the emotional expense of mothering children whose biological mother has tossed them out like trash. You need to be all in or nothing.
I'm so sorry for your trouble. If you want to walk away from this, no sane person would blame you. But if not, you are going to have to mother these children with all the energy you'd put into a child you had borne. If you can't do that, bail.
Frankly, I would not be happy with making the lifestyle change with the way the goalposts have been moved. Taking on full time parenting of two young kids while your own health is not great ....
I also think that getting a new house is *vital*! I can't emphasise that strongly enough. Apart from the stress of trying to fit too many bodies into a too small space, you will have the added stress of people living in "your" house and they will feel like guests rather than family members. This doesn't always happen of course but it sounds like there is a good chance of it here. You can eliminate a lot of stores if you all have your own space and there is room for everyone's stuff.
All the best. You have a hard decision to make.
Mother of two spectacular girls, born mid-2010 and late 2012
Maybe it is the mothers intention to make her bail. It really seems to much to ask of someone.
What if you continued to live on your own, whilst still being in a relationship with your fiance, and he takes care of his own kids? Perhaps with time, an adjustment can be made. It seems like too much, too soon...
You have a lot of change going on! I wish you the best of luck with this new step. While I have to admit, that I entered my stepfamily with a daughter of my own, I can say that I have also had my own fair share of challenges What I can tell you is that there will be a ton to talk through for quite a while - wait, forever. Talking about all these things to make sure that you agree with your partner ahead of time is critical to make it work. Any gap in what the two of you present will become potential areas for big fights later on down the line. My husband and I chose not to talk about certain things up front for a lot of reasons (it was too tedious, it didn't feel natural, we couldn't seem to agree on certain things, etc). But in the end, it made it so difficult to get on the same page, that we ended up going back and having the conversations we missed. I think about what it would have been like, and all the headache we would have saved, if we just would have started with those conversations.
Work to build a strong relationship with the kiddos. This is a huge change for them and they'll need to know that you are there for them and that they can trust and be safe with you.
You and the kids will all benefit from time (and space) away from each other! Eventually you'll stop feeling guilty about it! They need time to settle, be with just their dad so they don't build resentment against you, and time process emotions sometimes. You need time to rejuvinate (as most introverts like myself do), time to decompress, and time to just clear your head. My sister suffers from fibromyalgia (I know I spelled that wrong), and she is religious about having her own time and weekly massages. Her health and ability to manage her stress and pain levels depends on it. Don't feel guilty about doing what it is that you need to be at your best. And know that everyone will feel good about having a space they can call their own.
Is staggering some of these major events possible. Between a new home, new school, losing mom, etc., it is possible that you'll see some acting up in the near future. Therapy could be a huge help with their ability to cope with the transitions.
All the best,
A. S. Noraford
Personally, i think the kids need more than someone who takes the attention from their father, someone who is inexperienced and whose interests conflict with theirs. If their mother has bailed on them (very strange), then they need their father all the more. So from their perspective as well, i would want to not move in with the father, but live somwhere else where i am not compelled to become a mother to children i dont know, nor to take energy away from the father who needs it all the more with his new responsibilities.
However, i would want to continue with this relationship in a serious way, with an eye to marriage and moving in together, but only after this adjustment has been made. I dont think its fair on the kids. Why do they have to share their affections with someone they dont know? Of course they are going to 'act out'.
In other words, i would want take it easy. You have to work on relationships with these kids as well as the father. That would be better from a distance, so you have your own space.
Stepping back doesnt mean bailing. It means doing whats right for the good of the entire family, with you as part of that family in time to come.
I agree with a lot of the PP's. The kids are going to act out, even in the very best of circumstances, because it is new and stressful for them. That is natural. This to me looks like a time bomb. Why are you moving a father, his two kids, to a new place, a new home, new school, have to make all new friends, partner has to find a new job (if he works)… I think if you want the relationship to work, which means not just your partner, but these two kids, you should be moving to their area. I think the father should be on his own for a while, with the kids, in their area where they are already established and comfortable. You move to that area in a separate place. You will be able to be together more and more, and the kids will then have time, and you will also have the time, to adjust properly. Then you can think about moving in together, getting married… We all have the greatest intention, but if they all move, and it doesn't work out, the stress on these kids will be tremendous. And I am sorry, but once kids are in the picture, their needs come before yours and your partner.
When DH separated from his wife, it was hard on the kids, who were 11 and 16 at the time, Even though it was totally obvious to the 16 year old that his parents had not gotten along for YEARS, it was still an adjustment. And it was harder on the 11 year old. Even as bad as all the arguments were between her parents, this is what she knew and she was MAD. Really mad at her dad for leaving. DH was living alone in a small place, in the town where he worked, which was only 10 minutes more to where his wife and kids were still living. Meaning it was easy for the kids to come when they wanted. And I was not there. They knew about me, but we did not meet until they asked. I came when they were not there, and then over time came more and more. We then had time to relax, adjust to each other, the children to adjust to us. Also financially it was more practical. Instead of rushing into something, we had time to house hunt together, for a place where we could all fit if needed. Both kids adjusted fine. But it takes time.
I really agree strongly with the others that say if you do move all of them instead of you moving, that you find a new place, neutral territory. Otherwise they will be guests in your home, and not a family. They do not have to rush out now. You can look for a new, properly sized place while they stay in their neighborhood, finish out the school year. If you are not willing to do this, you need to question why. If you think, well, I don't want to buy a whole new place, because what if it doesn't work out? If you ask yourself that, then you are not ready. Because that is just playing with two kids lives. This isn't a quiz you can retake later.
I think you are in a difficult position. But you are not stuck. There are other options that maybe you are not considering.
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