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Hi,
My husband and I have 5 children together- a 7 and 3 yr. old from his previous marriage, I have a 5 yr. old from my previous relationship and together we have a 1 yr. old and a boy due in July. As of right now, our parenting time for the oldest three is that the 7 and 3 yr. old come over on Tues and Thurs night and every other weekend. I have my son full time except for a Wednesday overnight and every other weekend. Our weekends that we have/don't have kids are lined up so we have all 4 of our kids on the same weekend and only the baby on the opposite.

I am stressed to the max in this house. I feel that our 7 and 3 yr. old are completely disrespectful(not just to me, but everyone). They treat their things badly, and bully everyone around them. My SD has had issues at school with friends not wanting to talk to her bc of her behavior towards them. My SS will be 4 in July but still bites(drawing blood and leaving bruises), hits, kicks, and is just a mean kid. When they are here, I feel like I am on guard to protect my 5 year old and 1 year old. I have seen them both push over the baby while walking by(for no reason) and knowingly slam doors on fingers or just hurt.

I absolutely think that they are struggling with me, their parents divorce, going back and forth. My husband and I have been together a little over two years and had our first son together really quickly, then got pregnant(planned) 7 months later. However, I feel a priority to my DS's because my SD and SS have proven that they hurt and have little compassion. I stayed out of the discipline arena for the first 6 months or so bc everything was so new and fast. It quickly became necessary for me to get involved. I have tried timeouts, spending more one on one time with each one and encouraging my husband to do the same, taking toys or valued things until they earn them back, talking to them about what's going on(with their thoughts about me, my 5 yr. old, babies, etc, although the 3 yr. old has a hard time articulating this, he is too young.)We briefly tried spanking(light taps on the butt) but those are NOT effective. Really, nothing is. I am at my ends rope and to be perfectly honest, DREAD them coming here.

I want them to feel as if this is their home too, but I feel like the minute they get comfortable, they get mean. Does that make sense? I am deep in this and maybe need some objective advice. I have suggested that the 7 yr. old talk to someone(she was talking to the school psychologist for a while) but it would be a HUGE issue if brought up to her mom and my husband has not fought this. In the past few weeks, he has also realized the effects of their behavior and come down a bit harder with discipline for them(which I have never witnessed until recently).

I bring this up bc my husband and his ex are discussing changing the parenting plan to where we have them every F-Sat-Sun night and they come over for dinner T-Thu and then their mom picks them up before bed. My husband wants to do this bc he feels that by the time he gets home- kids get here- we eat, it's then usually time for bed and he really does not get much time with them. I completely understand where he is coming from. However, I am freaking out(in my head) that they might be here EVERY weekend. I have become used to and needing the weekend with just the baby, my husband and I. That is really the only alone time I get with him and is also my down time as a parent.

I am struggling with how to bring up what this means for that and our marriage, when I am already struggling to find a way to exist with these children. I know already that this will result in an argument where he states I think his children are dispensable. I am afraid in some ways I do. It's just that it's so negative, I find it hard to look forward to their time here. I feel exhausted and overwhelmed and like I am going to snap. To think about them being here EVERY weekend feels like I am about to be trapped and I have no say in this. However then I think, this is about them, not me and I need to stop being selfish. I feel torn.

My husband and I have worked through SO much in our marriage and have come so far. We were in counseling for us for a bit, however there were problems with our insurance and we have not cleared those up, so it's a bit astronomical to see a counselor right now. It will get taken care of, but it's a bit down the road.

Please give me your advice about ways to deal with what these children are experiencing, your experience with any of this, how I can ease this a bit and possibly an alternate parenting time plan to suggest to him. What has worked for your blended families? Any advice is appreciated- and frankly so is kindness. I am not a bad person or an "evil stepmother" but am just trying to be honest with myself and him while wanting to blend our family so that it flows much more smoothly and there is much less pain and heartache involved in my SS and SD's time here.
 

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It looks as if your DH has 50/50 custody of his kids? The schedule that they are on looks a little unsettling. They probably don't get much of a chance to settle in anywhere if they are going back and forth as much as I think they are. I would be willing to bet that some of their behavioral issues are due to this. The constant change would make me batty as an adult in your home - I couldn't imagine that as a child.

We have had a fairly good experience with week on/week off. We started transitioning to that when DSD was almost 4. Having her at each for a week at a time gives her a chance to settle in, get used to the rules/norms of each house and really feels like she has two homes.

It isn't all roses and sunshine - don't get me wrong. But I think that it is less stressful than having her go back and forth constantly. I do know what you mean about needing those off weekends to chill and decompress. DSD demands a lot of attention and the house is more tense when she is here, so both DH and I need those off weekends. She is a challenging kid, but I don't know how much of that is personality vs situational. Her sister was also very challenging as a young child, according to DH (and she lived only with her mom), so it lends me to believe that DSD would be a handful no matter what. We went through a period from about Thanksgiving to the end of Feb where she was with us nearly every weekend, and it was taxing.

We have had good weeks and bad weeks, and after a bad week, I sometimes dread Fridays. I've been trying hard to work on my attitude about that, starting each week with a positive outlook no matter what, and I think that it is helping. This week has been better than most, and I've been trying really hard to be conscious of my attitude/mood. It is not easy.

The advantage to suggesting a change in schedule vs a change in the amount of parenting time will help you with your conversation with your DH. This way you can approach it as a way to make the schedule less taxing on the kids (and the adults) vs reducing the amount of time that he spends with his kids. It is also one of those things that you can try for a while (and I would give it a good 6 months before making a yay or nay decision) and if it works, great, if it doesn't, then reevaluate. With summer coming, it is a good time to do this sort of thing. Presumably the 7 yo will be out of school, so the 7 yo will have time to adjust without having to deal with school at the same time.

Blending a family is the hardest, most emotionally taxing thing that I have ever done. As a stepmom, sometimes it seems that you can never do right and no matter how you play the game, you lose.

One last little thing - I would edit the part about spanking out of your post. MDC doesn't host discussions on the merits of spanking, and a lot of the mamas on this board will jump on that one aspect of your post and not focus on the rest of it. Then you won't get the help/advice that you need. It looks like you tried it, it didn't work, and have stopped, so I would leave that out. Otherwise this thread very may well get turned into a lot of people incensed about one sentence.
 

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I could have written a lot of what you wrote. My DSD is a challenge a lot of times as well. And lately with the new baby, DH has not been really disciplining her and simply parenting out of guilt and things have been insane in our house.

Pink gave some awesome, awesome advice! And it is very true what she said about the constant bouncing and how that can affect the child.

DSD used to come here Tues, Thur dinners and EOW overnights. She was MISERABLE!
So at that time we worked out to cut Tues out, but would get her every Thurs overnight, and still EOW overnights. I will tell you that made a HUGE difference on her as she was able to get more time to settle here.

Unfortunately DH's work schedule changed tremendously and we get her less time now.
Only EOW. So it's back to being tough with transitions... but sometimes I think it's getting better. I do what Pink suggested about mentally getting into a good place before the weekend starts.

And if you feel too overwhelmed and can't handle the kids on your own or if they are not listening to your guiding discipline... keep telling your DH about it! He needs to help and lay down law so to speak with the kids and tell them they need to respect you too.

DH has done this a couple times with DSD. He explains she should listen to me like she listens to all the adults in her life, like him and Mommy and her teachers at school.

Good Luck! Blending is really really a difficult road.
 

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I also think the change in schedule might be helpful to them because it sounds more consistent. I also think counseling would be helpful... if the kids can't go see someone (talking to someone at school sounds like a great option) you and/or your husband can go to help get tools to better help them. Keep looking to see if you can find someone with a sliding scale... sometimes a university with a psychology or counseling program has supervised students who work on a sliding scale.

If you need some time off on the weekends, or time with the baby, see if you can arrange time for yourself out of the house some weekends and time for dad and the kids out of the house other weekends for a while. Blame it on being tired from pregnancy if you need to right now.

And I think the kids need firm, consistent, yet gentle and understanding, parenting right now. They sound like they've got a lot going on inside them, some pretty big feelings they are dealing with, and they sound like they feel pretty out of control. I don't think for a minute that they want to feel that way. If it was me, I think I would probably look to time outside, gross motor activities (soccer, the park, hikes, etc), and sensory experiences (art, sand, water play, playdough). I would want to ensure they have ample personal space, plenty of options for being alone, and lots of choices for specific activities if they can't find something they want to do on their own. I would be naming their feelings often and supplying lots of "feelings" words and alternate words and behaviors for them when it looks like they migth be hurtful.

I can try to be more specific if that wasn't helpful. I work with kids with similar behaviors for my job, and I just summarized about 3-5 sessions worth of consultation into a paragraph, and gave advice without having ever met you or the kids, so hopefully something in there is helpful, but know that it is just my general personal opinion based on your description... not clinical advice...
 
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