Becoming a step-parent - advice/support/honesty needed - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 07-17-2014, 03:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Becoming a step-parent - advice/support/honesty needed

Hi everyone,

I'm in a bit of a pickle. I've been with my partner for a year now, and he has a 4yr old son with his ex. He gets his son every second weekend and Skype once a week, usually. The bio-mum is really petty and jealous. One minute she'll be sending me messages on Facebook saying Happy Mothers Day (for all the things I do for her son) and then the next minute she's telling my partner if she ever sees me on Skype when he's calling his son, she'll hang up and he will be "forfeiting" his Skype "rights." (Because one time I walked behind the computer to get something from the fridge.)
My partner has had to go to a few mediation and court dates just to be able to see his son, and she consistently "forgets" that it's his time with his son, and won't turn up to changeovers (every time this happens, her phone "isn't working", and doesn't start working until an hour or so after the changeover was supposed to happen.)

Their son is a very clever and high energy kid. I honestly think he doesn't get to see either of his parents enough, between how long he's in daycare (she's had him in daycare full time since he was little, while she was at home being a "full time mum") and she goes out most weekends, so I don't know who looks after him when it's meant to be her weekends. Such a tough situation for him and there's very little consistency for him.
But basically he can be a very difficult child. He acts out a lot and tests boundaries. He yells and throws things and doesn't listen. Part of it is swept aside as "Boys will be boys" and I think both my partner and bio-mum both blame each other for any bad behaviour. Behind my partner's back, his family refers to his son as "the little shit" and moan about having him come over to visit because he doesn't listen, basically trashes the house etc. To my partner they say how much they love his son, etc.

I find the whole thing difficult. It's not a nice situation to come into (hostility between partner and bio-mum), and I feel extremely guilty for not being able to love his son immediately. I've been working off the idea that short, really positive interactions are the way to go - doing some puzzles with him, putting him to bed, reading books, etc. Right now, I don't want to step in and force a mother role on his son - as far as I'm concerned, he has a mother. I am more than happy to be a positive adult role model for him, and I try really hard to support my partner in improving his relationship with his son (he feels out of his depth a lot, and I try to help out with stuff like taking over when he's getting too angry/overwhelmed, doing online parenting courses with him, etc.)

Recently, my partner's sister went off at me. She said some really hurtful things, e.g. I need to start being a real step mother or get lost, I'm obviously not cut out for being a mother, good thing I don't have my own kids, I'm a terrible person for getting overwhelmed with this child and for needing time away sometimes, etc. Really nasty and I was incredibly hurt. She was just so hung up on this idea that I need to start being a "proper mother" to this child. (Mind you, she tells me how she just DREADS when my partner brings his son over, and went on to describe a laundry list of reasons she didn't like the child, but finished up with "but I love him so much!" like that excuses it.)

I just don't feel like this is an appropriate time for me to step in like this. In my opinion, my partner's relationship with his son is more important, and that needs a lot more work and effort put into it (not that it's bad - he loves his son, just not really sure what he's doing) before any other big relationships come in. I have said I won't reject the role of step-mother later down the track, but I don't think it's appropriate for anyone right now.

Is anyone else stuck like this? Am I wrong in what I'm saying? I just feel like there's so much pressure from everywhere that because I'm dating my partner, I have to slip into this pre-defined role of step-mum and immediately take up parental responsibility of this child. I feel that's unfair - they've had four years to get to know this child, I've had one year of every second weekend (and those weekends are broken up into spending time with everyone else as well, obviously.) I understand that the situation is different for everyone. I just don't think this is right for this situation. After this last week, I have honestly come to really hate hearing the term "step-mum." It makes me feel really anxious now.

Any thoughts? I'm really struggling with where I sit in all of this. (Please no "Your boyfriend and his son are a package deal" or "If you can't handle it, you should do him a favour and bail." I know they're a package deal, which is why I'm putting so much effort into making this work from all angles.)
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#2 of 4 Old 07-17-2014, 07:23 PM
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I think people need to respect your boundaries. I have been slower to warm up to DP's dd's than my ex's DP has to my own kids, because I am with my own two kids almost 24/7. I have tried to warm up gradually like you are doing to DP's dd's so that they like me more before I become the step mom, so to speak.

My only concern is that you feel overwhelmed seeing the little boy every other weekend and you say even that is split with other family. That doesn't seem like a lot time to get overwhelmed.
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#3 of 4 Old 07-17-2014, 07:35 PM - Thread Starter
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When I say overwhelmed, I mean with the whole situation. The nasty ex that seems to creep into every crevice, and the behaviour of my partner's son comes into it a lot.
But in relation to being overwhelmed by his son, it does happen occasionally. He's very full on. I know that most of it has to do with how I'm feeling, or what I'm thinking at the time - if I've had an awful day at work and then come home to a 4 yr old screaming, and kicking walls and throwing shoes at my head, I find that hard to deal with at the time. I usually take myself off to have a shower or walk the dog or something. It's not just the behaviour, but all the other thoughts that go with it - feeling powerless in the situation, unhappy with how my partner is dealing with the behaviour, feeling it's unacceptable behaviour at all, feeling really guilty about not always liking to spend time with his child.

I don't mean that I'm on the verge of a breakdown or anything over his son, just that I need 10 minutes time out if he's been yelling and banging walls since 5:30am, that kind of thing.
Some days I definitely have more patience than others, but I tend to have more patience than my partner and his family. They immediately start yelling at his son when he does anything they don't like.
I think it just really hurt that his sister was happy to call me a terrible person for taking time out to walk the dog, when I feel it's a better alternative than screaming at a 4yr old :/

Thank you for your reply
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#4 of 4 Old 07-17-2014, 08:37 PM
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Becoming a step parent is hard enough to navigate without extreme problems from the bio parent or child's behavior. My mother remarried a couple of years ago to a man with a 6 yo. The child's bio mom has done everything she can to cause trouble and gone to extreme measures to do it. The boy is often out of sorts and what most people would consider as bratty, out of control, and a host of other unsuitable behaviors. For him it is mostly stemming from lack of routine and security in his life. His bio mom is not very stable and that makes things very difficult on him with all the changes and shifting from person to person and home to home constantly. When we did end up with the child for a period of time after the mother left him he was very extreme at first. He caused trouble at home and at school. It took a while before he really calmed down at all but after a while he adjusted to the routine and felt more secure. He was a much better behaved child after that and was a much happier little boy. I won't bore you with anymore of that story but I say this to let you know you aren't alone. The mother will adjust eventually or it can be dealt with later. I'm sure the child's behavior could improve if you can determine what is causing the behavior and work with the dad and child to find an alternative way of addressing the issues. As for the dad's family... don't worry about it. If you're concerned about whether or not you should step into the step mother or co parenting role then talk to your partner. Are you two living together? Is this already determined to be a lifelong relationship? If you aren't sure if you'll stay together then no I would say you had no business taking on that role. If you are planning to stay with this man forever though and the two of you have already decided that then there's nothing no other set point after that decision that changes you to a co parent. If that decision has been made you already became a co parent so at that point yes I'd be co parenting.

Michelle mom to DD , DS , & lil DD and spending my days
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