Becoming a step-parent - advice/support/honesty needed
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.)