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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there,

My name is Bethany. I'm new on these forums. I'm posting here looking for some advice, guidance, networking....I don't know.
I'm not sure if this is the right place to look, but I've been scouring the internet, reading books and articles, and I think some interactive help might be a better solution, so I'll start here. Let me tell you about my situation and why I'm looking for some guidance. This is kind of lengthy, so I appreciate the time anyone takes to give this a read and consideration.

I'm 28 years old, 29 in a month. I never really wanted kids. Just over a year ago I met and began dating my boyfriend (39). He has 2 kids. A girl (now 8) and a boy (now 7) When we began dating, he was still married at the time, but in a separated co-parenting kind of situation. Talks of divorce had been happening for about 3 years at that time and they hadn't been in a romantic relationship for the majority of their children's lives. They'd slept in separate rooms, never really had family time (save a couple of vacations) so the kids really never saw them together as one parental unit. They did live in the same house, but she worked all day. He was a stay at home dad and watched them till she came home and then he'd leave until after everyone was in bed. And that was the situation for about 7 years.
At first I was present in their lives as their dad's "friend" and nothing more. But we spent a lot of time with them and they liked me a lot.
At Christmas the divorce was finally filed and he moved into his own apartment (about a 10 minute walk away)
It was a little difficult, more so on him than the kids. They never really had a cohesive family so there wasn't much to miss from that perspective. But now their mom is the primary parent and they spend most of their time with her and less time with him, so that's quite a change. Around this time we explained that we were dating. They seemed to accept this and life carried on just fine.

Well after a year of dating, I've moved in with him. I lived in a different state before so I was only around about once a week. The kids loved when I would visit, but the time was limited. They seemed excited about the prospect of me moving in (and bringing my dog), but now that I have, they're angry all the time and acting out all of the time. It's hurtful and stressful and I'm not even really sure how to make things better.

We have them 3 days a week. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. All school days, which means our time is limited. They have an after school program they like to go to where they can visit with their friends. So we were picking them up around 6. Bedtime is at 9 and 9:30. Which means we only see them for a few hours a day. And that time is spent doing homework and eating dinner and not much else. We try to get in a board game when we can.

Over the summer we did lots of stuff together and it wasn't so bad, but my moving in has coincided with the new school year and I can't tell if they're upset about my presence or if it's school or both. They don't want to open up to me, and I make a point not to pry ever, but they aren't opening up to their dad either. They just tell me that they don't have fun here and that they hate our house and they want to go to their mom's.

There a few things that have factored in to why I think they don't have fun here anymore. For one, my boyfriend wants them to eat better so he asked me to start cooking. So I've been making them eat things they don't normally. Not gross things. Stuff like grilled chicken, and turkey burgers, and white chicken chili. But they're insanely picky eaters and have only ever eaten what they wanted (basically spagettios, pizza, and ice cream) so dinner time is a nightmare every night. It's usually an hour long ordeal, and my boyfriend rarely backs me up. So I'm struggling to get them to eat. So I've become someone they don't like by a) being someone that makes them do stuff they don't want to do and b) suddenly being a parent now that I've moved in...which isn't fair to me or them. I think it's really too soon for me to take on that role. But I don't know what else to do if he isn't going to step in and discipline them when they're getting out of control. I either have to just let them misbehave or correct them, and I don't know what the right thing to do is to be honest.

The next thing is that they keep telling me that at their mom's they get to play on their ipads. But they don't have ipads here and they hate that. They do have computer games and video games and board games and tons of toys, just no ipads. And the boy always tells us that we are too poor to buy him the things he wants to play with. I'm not sure where he's getting this. It's a bit alarming

The girl is sassy as can be. She never used to be like that. I'm not sure if it's her age or what, but she's getting downright mean. Last year she was so sweet and fun. They both resent their dad so much. And he's been far more detached from them than I've ever seen him be. He loves them more than anything, but anytime they're doing stuff with me, he just lets me handle them and he drifts off into his own world.

There are days I want to break down and cry. I'm trying to learn how to be a parent all of the sudden and I never thought I was going to be. I didn't raise these children from babies so I fear I lack the patience that comes with knowing them from when they were sweet and quiet little babies. I get so angry with them as if they are able to comprehend their actions. I obviously care about them and want them to be happy, but everything feels likes it's spiraling out of control. Their moods are unpredictable and each time I think I've got a good idea it comes undone. If anyone could point me to where I could find some support or advice or information on how survive this phase of my relationship with these kids and their dad...
I know I'm not a parent, or a step parent really, but I know I'm not the only person who has been in this position.

Again thanks to anyone who took the time to read through all that and respond. I sincerely appreciate it and any advice or encouragement.
 

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First, hugs :) I am no expert at all in any situations like this but I'm sure some mommas who are more experienced in blended families will reply soon too. Perhaps the children are undergoing a family identity crises and its really their Dad that they need, I really don't think you can do much to resolve it yourself as I don't think you are doing anything wrong. Maybe if you took yourself off to the movies or something a few of the nights when they are staying so that Dad doesn't have the opportunity to step aside and let the parenting land on your shoulders. I would think them playing up is likely in rebellion to lack of Dad playing a strong role and their relationship with you will improve once they feel safe in their connection with Dad. So make yourself scarce and reappear half an hour before bedtime for a hot cocoa and a catch up perhaps?

I think you are doing awesome for having no kids yourself :).
 

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More hugs. To me, I'm kinda pissed at your boyfriend right now. He doesn't want to be the "bad guy" so he makes you do it. Honestly, that's pretty shitty. To me that speaks a lot to a serious personality flaw of his, but I won't get into that.

But, you need to tell the BF that this is unacceptable. He's the parent. You are NOT the parent. It is not your job to be the parent. Personally, I would set no rules and enforce no punishments. I would let everything go except injury to themselves or others. If BF doesn't correct it, that's between them. Your job is to stay out of it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you both for your insight. It means a lot :)
I think that's a good idea to give them some time with their dad. We have them for a full day on Monday as they have no school, and I encouraged him to take his daughter out for ice cream, just them and do something fun for a bit. I'd have the son, but we'd probably play video games together or something or maybe go to the park and run off some energy. Then, I'll be visiting my parents the week after. It was going to be Thursday, but maybe I'll push it up and spend a few days home and give him some QT with them. I think maybe they are getting mad at him for being so removed.
It makes me mad too that he doesn't back me up or try to discipline them. And we've had discussions about it recently which hopefully means things will improve. I honestly thought I was imagining it, but his sister was here this week visiting from New York and he did it with her too. I know he feels an immense amount of guilt for "leaving" them and I know he's sad that he doesn't get to spend the same amount of time with them as he used to. After all, he used to be the primary parent, and that changed almost overnight. I'm not sure why that guilt translates to being so uninvolved in the small amount of time he has them though.

He never really disciplined them before, but he never really needed to. They were always really well behaved. So maybe he just doesn't know how to approach it. I've suggested a few rewards systems to try to implement just basic responsibility like picking up after themselves and urged him to introduce it to them instead of me, so we will see how that goes. But I don't know how to go about the mouthiness and the lying, he'll need to figure that out. His daughter has just been a bully and she's been making things up. For example she told his sister that my dog chewed up her toys. My dog is a pet, but he's also a trained service dog (I have epilepsy) so he doesn't chew on things. I just don't understand how they got so rebellious so quickly and I just can't help but wonder how things can be so much more stable and happy at their mom's than they are here. We try to keep things on the same schedule at both houses. But maybe there are things going on there that I'm not aware of. I have no idea how their mom feels about me, and he communicates with her as little as possible. So far they've both been amicable and accommodating to each other so that's been pretty painless, but it's hard to say if she puts ideas in their heads about things being bad here (like us being too poor to buy them fun toys for example) I know so very little about her, and just assume that she's been mature and reasonable.


But yeah, maybe right now they need some time to reconnect with their dad and I need some time to just take a break from it all.
 

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It could be

that their behaviour is their way of showing loyalty to mom, maybe things aren't that much better with her, but you aren't her. I've seen kids behave really poorly like that when they feel challenged/threatened. Could also be they haven't been parented the way you would have...I was looking after my little nephew one day (it is not something we do a lot) and for fun, I offered to bake some cookies with him. He got angry and upset with me because to him, it's a mom thing. When I was able to convince him I wasn't trying to take over being his mom and that she would be coming back soon he calmed down. Maybe your bf's withdrawal is his way of dealing with sadness and stress, even though that sounds counterintuitive. Can the kids get involved in meal choices? (instead of you making them). Maybe even help cook some meals too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I have been giving them some options. If I ask what they want it's always "pizza" or sometimes "grilled cheese" but only one of them likes grilled cheese. So I offer up a few ideas until we come to a decision that seems agreeable to everyone. I usually try to make a side that is something that I already know they like or think that they will like so I can tell them that if they finish everything they can have seconds of whatever they liked best. And then I don't give them a lot of anything so if they really don't like it, it isn't hard to finish. My boyfriend suggested having them help with meals, it's just usually when I'm cooking is when they're doing homework and that's kind of his time with them too. Sometimes we make a dessert after dinner and I'll ask them to help with that. Sometimes they will sometimes they won't.

I can see how me moving in feels like maybe a replacement to their mom even though I've been around for a year. I usually would cook for them too. But now it seems like I'm making rules and stuff. When really he's making the rules, I'm just the one trying to enforce them. So I can see how that would be a challenge for them. Hopefully maybe if he goes out with her tomorrow he can kind of get her to open up about her feelings on her own and try to explain some of that away so she feels better. The boy isn't as bad, I think he feeds off of her energy more than anything. If she gets more stabilized, I think he will too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Another thing I considered is the custody arrangement. Having them for (at most) 15 hours a week is not enough. When they filed, it was supposed to be split 50/50 so he has them half the week and she has them half the week and there was no court or anything involved. However, she has them every weekend, where they spend all day with her. Plus she takes them on vacations any time they're out of school. So she has way more time to build trust and a relationship with them. He only has them for a few hours a night during the week. It's like an inconvenient disruption to their lives. No wonder they hate it here. It feels temporary and it probably isn't fun. I mean I was thinking about how the past year, as much as I loved my boyfriend, trying to manage the 2.5 hour commute to see each other each week felt more like a chore and an obligation sometimes. It was nice to see him but trips were not always relaxing or enjoyable. And even though I began moving tons of my stuff in, it never felt like home. It's probably like that for them. We can do more to make it feel more like home for them, like getting their art on the walls and such but the schedule they're on still feels like a disruption I imagine.

The custody arrangement as it is was necessary at the time, but now it isn't. She has someone moving in this month and with both of us here childcare will never be an issue despite work schedules. They could alternate weekends, or even weeks. They both live within walking distance of each other and school. It's just a thought, and definitely not my place to make decisions regarding, but I suggested he seek some counsel on changing their custody schedule. It feels like she's edging him out of their lives. For example: Tomorrow is his day to have them and they have no school. So she would drop them off in the morning they'd be with him all day. Well she decided to work from home and told him she wouldn't be bringing them here until after 5. She didn't ask or even give him a choice. We had plans to go to the pumpkin patch with them and then he was taking Caley out. And he just said "ok"

I told him this was not okay. And he said it would give us time together. Which is nice and appreciated, but they need time with him and he needs to stand up to her. He said he's afraid if he asks for more time with them that she'll just file for full custody and he'll never see them again. I don't understand any of it and it makes me so sad. And he seems far more focused on our relationship than them right now. He says it's a phase and he's sad, but it'll pass. Maybe I'm overreacting, because I'm not a parent so maybe I shouldn't get so alarmed about these things. Or maybe I'm feeling more burdened by it because I feel like I'm the cause of their distress. I don't know.
It is frustrating when I never had plans for kids in my future, being the one trying to make things better for them and having no flipping idea what I'm doing. My heart aches a lot.
 

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AlexB, these aren't your kids. DH needs to step up. No matter what state you are in, courts don't just award sole custody to one parent unless there is a very good reason to do so. Your DH needs to talk with an attorney and ease his mind. Then he needs to man up and talk to the ex.

And you need to start drawing some boundaries. When I married into my four, there were some boundary issues. My husband didn't want to be the bad guy, and I didn't want crazy children running all over the house. So I had to learn to disengage and let the chips fall. There were many times I simply told my husband I was done and "putting myself in time-out". That meant I either disappeared into the bedroom to play video games or went to the mall. I told him he needed to get his brood calmed down, and it's not my job to be a parent or a bad guy.
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You're right, this isn't my role. It isn't healthy, for anyone really for me to try and take it on. I think maybe I'm feeling a lot of guilt, as if my moving in is responsible for a lot of their distress. Maybe that's why I'm so concerned and stressed out. Today was a really good day though. They didn't have school and we ended up getting them around noon so we took them to the museum and they were in good spirits. Still though the comments like "I wish we were going to mommy's" were said. They're facing a potential strike with school and may be out of school for a week or 2 and despite us trying to plan out some fun activities and small trips in the event that happens, they're still saying things like "I hope we don't have school because that means Friday we can help mom's friend move in" and just things like that. I know how much it hurts my boyfriend to hear and my heart breaks for him. But I guess just learning to let the roll off may be the only thing I can do. He needs to rebuild with them and I clearly cannot do that for him.

I really need to switch gears and focus on me again and stop fretting so much. They seem much more warmed up to me, so I think that rough patch has passed at least and I can resume my role as a positive figure here for them and that should be good enough for my part.
 
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