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Blended Families & Step-parenting
Would love some advice about dealing with divorce issues and introducing 5yo son to his dad's new wife & infant step- sister. Any resources & experience appreciated! D
You didn't ask for it so perhaps it's not an issue for you, but for you, I hope this isn't a difficult time as you're experiencing your own emotions of this. Hang in there! Wish I knew the answer
And at age 5, I would simply be excited and let the little guy know he has a brand-new baby sister now. If he asks questions, neutral facts work. Daddy married a nice lady and they had a baby, and how lucky you are - you have a baby sister now! When she gets bigger, you two can play together! etc A Positive Outlook
This is rather long- I need to vent, and get my story out, and due to the emotional sensitivity of it, I haven't been talking about it much. Thanks for reading...
My partner has a five year old from a previous relationship, I'll call her 'Sarah'. She stays at our house every other weekend, and loves it; so much, in fact, that she is usually upset off and on the whole day she is scheduled to go home. In the last few months, when her mother comes to get her, she screams and cries and grabs onto her dad or me. It is hard for me to think of a better way to deal with this, because I understand her not wanting to go home. She used to live a ten minute drive away, and we would often see her for the evening. Now, because they moved, they live an hour away so we can't stop by for the evening anymore (work/driving time). She used to have her own room, but now she shares a room with her mother's mother and sleeps on a cot-type bed in the closet area. She has moved three times in the last year.
There are so many issues we have with how 'Sarah' is being raised... She is a very verbal, well spoken child, and it doesnt seem like abuse is the issue. We found, interviewed, and enrolled her in a good school near her house because her mom had not shown any interest or initiative. At home, she watched tv, or played with Barbies in her room- There wasnt much variation in activities, she had no friends or peers, are rarely went to the park or outside. My partners parents currently pick her up and spend the evening with her several times a week, and take her to their house or to a park. We had hoped that perhaps if she had more outlets for her energy and creativeness (instead of spending all day inside where she has no room to play and a mother who won't let her have markers on her own) would help her overall, and while it has made a big change, she is still sad at home. She often tells us she her mom is crabby when she gets home from our house, and she doesnt like to hear about what we do with her, or where we take her. 'Sarah' misses her room and her toys- it is all in storage. Her mother is newly remarried, but neither of them have worked in a year, so it doesnt look like they will be moving on their own soon. My partner pays child support, as well as the wholw tuition (because otherwise she would have been pulled out of the school she just started and put in public school in a rather ghetto district). Even so, they insist they have no money, although 'Sarah's mom, in the heat of an arguement, let slip that she has a sizeable saving account from living rent free and saving the child support. Rather than use that to go to school to get a marketable skill, or even to get a place to live, she went to Disneyland for a week.
I guess I am mainly looking for advice on how to help this little girl. I am so often filled with hate at her mom, I just don't understand why she is letting her daughter's life be like this. She told her own child that we don't love her and one day we just wont be coming to get her! She has recently told us she cant drive one way twice a month, so now my partner is giving gas money as well. Not only advice for her, but for me. I am so angry at this woman that it shocks me. 'Sarah' of course loves her mom, and her mom loves her. And to be clear, it isn't like 'Sarah' has no toys-- she does have almost every Disney princess thing ever, courtesy of her mom (through the child suppoer funds) but her mother, to me, is seemingly doing little to improve 'Sarahs' life... It is hard to know what to do. Ideally, I would rather her mom get a job and take some community college classes, and use some of her secret money to get a place, maybe even near us. This doesnt seem like it will happen at all. Ahh! This is so frustrating. She is coming this weekend, and I love love love seeing her, but knowing how Sunday will be is making me sad already.
Help! Any advice appreciated... anon please...
Being a male whom experienced a similar situation: pursue a back to work/Seek work order for the mother (hopefully she has an education and some work history/skills, get Income and Expense declarations on file and have a mediated Custody Review. If more time share is what you want, this would be my advise.
Get the girl into a neutral 3rd party (A therapist) so she has an unbiased environment to voice her feelings without feeling guilty and restore her self esteem. Your challenges here appear to be control issues from both sides, the natural mother will attempt to make it difficult for you both and you and your partner have expectations for her (expectations are only ever your own). The Mother sounds as if she is engaging in some alienation tactics, which are a big no no in family court. These issues don't go away easily. If the adage ''it takes two to tango'' was ever true it couldn't be more appropo than when it comes to making two households work for a child. Good Luck D J
My best friend has recently moved
in with her boyfriend, a very nice man as far as i can tell (met
him once). she is really happy with him and is willing to be
involved in a more serious way, if not for one issue: he has two
boys, 12 and 2, from two different women. I talk to her on the
phone weekly and she seems more and more concerned about how to
deal with the whole situation. she has gotten to know pretty well
the 2 year old boy and she loves him, as much as she tries to get
along with the pre-teen one, (that's a harder one). the two
mothers do not seem to want to have any involvement with her, and
she understands that. in the middle is her boyfriend, who manages
to see both kids (separately, the older one does not even want to
think of the other one as a brother) pays support money for them
and of course tries to reassure my friend that they can have a
future together (kids of their own included). she has recently
asked me to find her some books on stepfamilies.
Her boyfriend has
recently gone see a therapist and she is contemplating that too,
since she feels that it is becoming more and more of a problem
for her, and she would not want the kids' issue to spoil the
whole relationship. so i'd like to ask advice for her on the two
sides: can anyone suggest any good book relating to stepfamilies
(she reads english of course)? and secondly, i'll welcome all
sort of theoretical and practical suggestions on how she should
handle it. one not minor issue being that she's in her thirties
and she'd really like to have kids 'of her own' soon and without
feeling guilty about 'complicating' the situation even more.
I'll send all of your suggestions over to her, so that she can
have more opinions than just mine, and see that there are other
people in situations similar to hers!!
I am the mother of a 4 year old girl--her dad and I were together only 9 months before I became pregnant, and for only four months after she was born (a total of almost two years). My daughter's dad was seeing another woman for about eight months who is now pregnant, and is due any day now. I have had a committed romantic partner for more than a year and a half (no kids on the way, thankfully).
I went through a lot of feelings about my daughter's dad's new baby, and decided that the only path was through direct communication and compassion. Regardless of my feelings about the two of them (and their lack of responsibility, concern for my daughter, etc.), my daughter is to have a new sister, and I have to accept and deal with that. The only way for me to ensure that my child is protected and taken care of in this new ''environment'' is to ensure that regardless of what happens to the dad-girlfriend relationship, my daughter will have a relationship with the new baby and the girlfriend, and will suffer if I do not ensure that they can maintain it.
What concerns me about your post is that your friend is involved with a man who has previous children from women who are not open to communicating with his current partner, and thus who have no relationship with a woman who is spending time with their children. This is very difficult for the ''new'' woman, who could be villified or debased by things the other women might be telling their kids--and it will be well out of her control. Also, the man your friend is with seems a bit reckless of his fathering of children with multiple women-- and one of the kids is only two years old. Without the support of the other mothers, or the favor of the kids, it feels to me as though your friend is setting herself up for a rocky road--one in which she might not be comfortable in for a long lifetime. And, if one considers one potentially negative outcome (as I have, in my situation), she could find herself the third woman to have children with this man, and the third woman whose children compete for his financial support and his attention & time. That is what has been most difficult for me to accept--that my daughter is going to have to share her father with another woman's child, and that means more financial and social burdens for him. It is no easy matter to coordinate childcare for one child, let alone two, three, or four. Your friend might want to reconsider having children with a man who is already overextended in that fashion.
I feel for your friend, and urge her to do the therapy. Also, I would encourage her to try to have as much friendly contact with the boys' mothers as possible, to help them feel comfortable with her, and to increase the communication and positive feelings between them. If they continue to refuse, I think she should reconsider the relationship, especially if it is really important for her to have children of her own. I think that it is only through compassion, and considering what is best for the children involved, that parents and partners make the best decisions for the family. elisabeth
i am in a good relationship and my partner has a great son, but sometimes, even with the positives i wonder if i should have made different choices. the intensity of being a mom to an older kid of different mommies is very daunting and not something i really could comprehend when we were in our ''honeymoon'' stage of the relationship.
i know of lots of daddies with babies from several mommies and they are often very attractive and personable men. but have some problem down the line either committing to or maintaining their relationships. sorry to put all these types in a box, but the box has fit most every time!
i'd advise her - if she really wants to pursue this relationship - to find her own support network of friends and things to do (since he is from there i'm sure his is already there) and make sure he continues the counseling for at least 6 months to a year before she considers anything more serious (like marriage). the relationship with his youngest can also be a very compelling lure into a relationship but she should try to remain somewhat objective about that situation until she can really be secure he has resolved some issues.
perhaps because your friend is feeling the ''clock'' ticking she is more earnest to get this relationship to work. but she has to also consider that when she has kids of her own, she might feel the other kids or their mothers and his needs to spend time with them taking away from her kids, her time with him, etc. hindsight is always 20/20
I suspect that the mothers of the children are not friendly to her because they may see too much of themselves in her and in the relationship she is developing with this man. I had a similar relationship, which is now over, and see a million similarities between the first wife and myself. I could see myself being stand-offish to the next woman to come along in his life, not from mean-ness or dislike of whomever she may be, but just because I suspect this man will never change, and I will feel sorry for whoever comes next and, like me, thinks ''I'm different, this time is different, this is really really true love''. But no matter all the good advice your friend receives, she will need to make her own choices and her own mistakes. The saying ''love is blind'' is oh-so-true! 20-20 hindsight!
My partner and I plan to get married in the near future, and he is very close to my son. My problem is that on occassion something flares in my son and he fires back the accusation (or actually, the fact) that my partner is not his dad. This creates an uncomfortable situation for everyone. I feel caught in the middle, my partner feels hurt, and I believe that my son feels hurt, and regret over saying it. Unfortunately I know that I often react in an unproductive manner by getting angry, yet end up later explaining how it does hurt my partner, and how loved he is, etc. I just am unsure on how to try to make this not happen, or really try to get my son to realize how hurtful those words are.
My son does see his dad frequently, but not consistently. As I explained to my partner, ironically I believe that he is getting the brunt of my son's emotions because my son feels so close to him and is probably confused my his feelings for my partner over his own dad.
Does anyone know of some affective ways of dealing with this, or any books that can contribute to a solution in handling it. Thanks much.
One thing you can do is never ever say anything about your child's dad that isn't completely positive. It isn't enough to just not say bad things about him. You have to regularly refer to his daddy in everyday conversation so that your son doesn't feel you disapprove of his dad or that you are trying to separate him from his dad. Say you're having a conversation with your son about a TV show, think about a way to bring his dad into it - "Is this still your dad's favorite show?" Make it a point to ask about his dad a lot. - "Did you and daddy have fun this weekend? What did you do?" Don't worry too much about your current partner feeling left out if you talk about your son'd dad sometimes - these are just occasional references and they are important for your son. Your partner already knows you'd rather be with him. Your goal is to make your son feel secure. You don't want him to feel that he has to have a secret life with dad. He needs to have both of you acknowledging the other so that his world will be coherent.
Another thing to do is make sure your son understands that you and his dad are still his parents and are making decisions about him together. If he gets into trouble at school for instance, you should let him know you and his dad have talked together about it and decided together on what to do. Even if his dad takes no interest, at least you can let the dad know about the problem, and then tell your son that you talked it over with his dad. I think if you can present a picture of a unified parental partnership of mom and dad, your son will feel more secure and be more open to a strong relationship with your partner. It sounds like your partner is going to be a beneficial influence, and that your son likes him, so the problem really is just making sure your son doesn't feel he has to abandon his dad in order to get close to your partner. Good luck!
I found the following (as a parent): I can't always be in the middle. They need to learn to work some of these things out between themselves. It is part of the development of their relationship. I am in the middle. I am the common denomenator. I am my husbands confidant and my daughters advocate.
It is good to know that their realtionship is strong enough that the child believes it will withstand this kind of attack. A test of sorts, but one I belive my daughter hoped we would pass. The hardest thing I had to learn was how to stay calm, not get my back up. I believe that, in large part, she was simply pushing my buttons. And very effectively I might add. It was important to let her know that I understood and respected her feelings, and that they were not going to change the situation. The most important thing I did was to tell her over and over again that I love her and that although my division of time would be different, she would not lose any of my love and support.
She clearly thought that her world was going to fall apart the day we wed. In the photos she looks as though she's marching to a hanging. She soon realized that life was okay with my husband around and they have become much closer. She also realized that there was enough love and space in all of our lives for her new baby sister.
I believe that the child needs to know and be reminded frequently that we are still their mothers, that this will never change.. that we love them deeply and this will never change... and that we deserve to have solid, healthy, loving parters... that what we have with each of them is special and unique.
I did not find any reading that was particularly helpful for us. Therapy was. Best of Luck!!
After the incident there may be a time to discuss the impact of your son's statement on you and your partner - but from your description, your son is not a mean spirited person who needs to have limits set on hurtful statements he makes. I would argue that if these are isolated barbs, that they should be tolerated and taken as a sign that your son is struggling with his feelings in this situation (and, ironically, that his relationship with your partner is good enough that he feels safe enough to say such a thing). Good luck.
My husband has a normal 6 year old son that we have every weekend. We live East Bay and the son lives Peninsula, so my husband seeing his son mid week is very difficult. I am having an increasingly hard time with the every weekend thing and feel growing resentment to the lack of alone time that my husband and I have. I have no children yet, although we are trying, as yet, unsuccessfully, another frustration of mine! Are there any step parents out there who have similar feelings who can offer any words of advice, any support groups? My husband and I have gone to some counseling and are trying to communicate better, but I see no end to it. I do like his son, he's a good kid, but without the biological attachment I do not feel the need to have him around all the time. Thanks for any words of wisdom.
You also claim to like the boy, "but without the biological attachment I do not feel the need to have him around all the time." Hello? He is not around "all the time" -- he is only able to be there on the *weekends*. In a child's life, it can be an eternity between Sunday nite and Saturday morning.
You ask for advice, for support groups, etc. My first suggestion is, get thee to a good bookstore -- there are plenty of resources on step-parenting and coping with your feelings of jealousy, exclusion, etc. But, most of all, you need to look at yourself, and INTO yourself, because if you do not make the effort to become part of his life, you will most likely be shown the door. Good luck; I think you need it.
If you are trying to have a child with this person, be glad he feels this obliglation so strongly. What kind of a father will he make to your child if he won't even give his 6-year-old two days a week?
On this issue, I think you need to consider how ready you are to put a child's needs ahead of your own before you have a baby. I don't buy the "biological bond" issue you raise as being a valid reason to resent having one child -- especially one you acknowledge is a "good kid" -- for two days a week, but wanting to give birth to another that you'll have all the time.
I'm sorry to be harsh about this, but I think it's in the best interest of you , your husband, and especially the 6-year-old and potentional second child to address these issues honestly, before you have another child and before your resentment harms the 6-year-old.
Trying to compress my feelings for so many years into a couple sentences is hard of course. I would never say it was easy and I didn't go looking for a husband with 3 kids. The man I fell in love with happened to have 3 kids. I embraced the whole package and I would do it again. Not only did I get the extreme joy of step-parenting 3 gorgeous, loud, raw, messy, sensitive, loving boys through their childhood and teenage years, I have an extended family to offer my son. As a single mom this is important to me. Step-parenting has such a bad rap but it can be fabulous. I focused on the boys and not on their parent's relationship. We never ever ever badmouthed their mom. I had a party line that they knew was just that but they also got comfort that I wouldn't cross the line. I always said to them "I don't know your mom very well but she must be doing something right cause you guys are so awesome." I cherish my stepsons. Just another experience.... Jenny
There is a support group in the East Bay run by a counselor named Anthony Carpentieri and it's affiliated with the Stepfamily Association. Check with Bananas for details. It's only once a month and it's free I think. Before baby we went and met some other couples there. But I struggled in the beginning with the tough raw feelings of not having a "honeymoon" period with my husband. Now our childbearing years are behind us and I look forward to our adventures when we retire. In the meantime, we share alot - even the ups and downs eventually bond us. We made it this far and I pray we continue to make it. I pray that you will also find the compassion and support for your marriage so that you too can say, we made it!
Having been a step-parent, step-daughter, and now both my children are the step-children of my spouse, I must say that step parenting situations are never so simple or straight forward. Let's try to be a little sensitive and not so judgemental. To begin with, when you have your own children you grow into and develop the bonds - call them biological or what you will. As a step-parent you are suddenly expected to feel what a parent feels for a child when you are not their parent. Bonds do develop, but not if you load people down with guilt and expectations that are unreasonable.
What I hear is that this nice boy is over every weekend. If this person's life is anything like mine, then the weekend is all the life I have that is not work, cleaning and paying bills! Weekends are the only time I might go to a movie or out to dinner. When my son is with his dad we do this alone, when my son is with us, we do it with him. When my son's father went away for a year, we had my son every single weekend (and all week) and had no time alone. Having had time alone during the week would have made no difference! I don't mind very much since this is my son, but my partner minds more. He also feels hurt when he feels left out or excluded from our close relationship. And we tended to do this whithout even noticing. We've had to work at letting him in and remembering to include him sometimes in activities that happen spontaeneously between my son and I.
My husband needs time without my son that I don't need (or at least I thought I didn't). This does not make him a bad or selfish person. It is sad for me, that he will never love my son as much as I, but I came into this relationship knowing he had no children and that my son was not his child as well as he came into the relationship knowing I had two children and that they were my priority. Over time he and my son have developed their own special loving relationship that adds quality to both their lives.
I don't think the posters would have judged so harshly had it been a mom wishing for some time alone with her husband. Maybe they would have recommended getting an occasional babysitter for an evening out - which is what I recommend to the poster now. Yes, children are a priority. Yes you must support this father's involvement in his son's life. Yes, try to develop your own relationship with this boy perhaps doing something with him that his father is not particularly interested in. Yes, encourage your husband to spend some time alone with his son. And yes, hire a sitter occasionally for that relaxed evening out with your husband, now and after when you have a child.
By the way, when I had a second child who was the little brother of my step-daughter my relationship with her changed for the better. Partly because I realized I was linked to her forever (biologically) and partly because her bond to my son became a bond between us.
To the poster I would like to say good luck and hang in there. Step-parents get all kinds of bad raps and lack of appreciation. As a step-parent you will have all kinds of feeling which can make you feel bad about yourself. Don't. Work with them and figure out where they are comming from and don't expect yourself to feel the same way about your husband's child as he does or you will all be dissapointed. Develop your own love for him. Six is a good age to establish a lasting and wonderful relationship.
But secondly, I want to add this perspective. I have an older half brother and sister, though I have never thought of them as "half". They lived with us almost the entire time I was growing up and I remain close with them and their families. I am deeply grateful that my dad always treated them like his own, though it can't always have been easy. It was a gift to my mother, and a gift to me and my younger siblings. I really felt we were a whole family and I have many great and tender memories of my older siblings caring for me and teaching me things. Their father lived far away and did not welcome them because his wife really didn't want them around. As a consequence, my brother is estranged from his dad, and my sister had to negotiate some very rough territory. The most distressing moments of my early childhood were when my mother and sister would argue/"discuss" this matter when my sister begged to spend time with her father. This, really the whole aftermath of the divorce, did cause ongoing pain. I know that you are not in an easy position, but that child is in a less easy one with little power.
I hope that you will keep talking with your husband and find your way into a warm relationship his child.
You've gotten some great feedback already, and I won't echo it. I would like to add another caveat: please work hard to value your stepson, and his feelings, and honor his relationship with his father. Everyone has to be encouraged to have their own feelings (validated) within any family situation, but it may be especially critical in the blended family, I feel. Your feelings are getting air time, because you are putting them out there, and that is good. It is essential that your stepson and his dad have their feelings acknowledged and validated, too.
My experience: In an effort to control how his family treated his new wife, my father, when he remarried after my mother died, did not allow my brother and me to communicate our feelings to him, and certainly not to our stepmother. We were told how to feel, how to convey it, what to give her, and to always give her more. She has three sons as well, so lack of (her own biological) children was never an issue. She did not, however, have a daughter, and I know she pined for me to treat her as a mother. However, her behavior to me was not maternal in any way. It only centered around her needs.
The result of these years of manipulation is that twenty years later, I finally stepped down from the role of "the good (step) daughter" and conveyed, for the first time, how the whole episode had made me feel. There had been some betrayal of my mother's will and estate, and I expressed my great disappointment to my father and step mother. I had just read "The Dance of Anger." I recall that it was a good motivator. Believe me, it would have been much less stressful for everyone if we had been acknowledged as important members of the family with feelings to share, all along. My father and his wife are still working through the aftermath of those decades of deceipt. Everyone has learned that it is no good to try to protect someone who perceives themself as emotionally "the needy one" (my step mother, in this case).
The good news is that I now have far, far fewer migraines, and my father and stepmother are now in counseling. The bad news is that they may never develop a healthy relationship, because of those many years of artifice. I realize that your case is different from mine, but I would heartily encourage you to work hard to value each member of your family, including your stepson, and to not try to come between him and his father, because I *promise* you, it will come to no good.
I have told the young men who will soon be, technically, my stepsons, that I hope they will see me over the years as a loving adult in their lives. To ask or impose more would be, I feel, the worst kind of cruelty. Good luck to you; I hope you have a marvelous counselor with whom you can work over the years if need be, and I hope that you can come to treasure the relationship your husband has with his first child.
Last week I asked for advice, thankyou Fran, for sharing your experiences, your wonderful and encouraging advice. It was good to hear from someone who had actually experienced this situation and had a successful outcome. We were told to keep our stories shorter, but anyway. When I met my husband one of the reasons I fell in love with him was because he is such a wonderful father, and he has a great heathly 6 year old son, and I have deep respect for their relationship. They are both fine, the problem is not theirs, I realize that, it is mine, that is why I am writing to the advice line in the first place.
Rather than let resentments build up, sweep them under the carpet, only to explode at much later date, maybe ending in marriage break up (not a great situation for a child) I want to explore and learn to cope better, gain better understanding of the dynamics of how I am feeling. We have my stepson every weekend, his Mom has him 5 days, true, but he is in daycare/school from 8am until 6pm, something I do not want for OUR child. His Mom is a good Mom, and going it alone was her idea long before I ever showed up. She has to work, and I think it leaves her very little energy to play with her son. Sometimes when she goes to pick him up he clings to me and says he doesn't want to go with her. I don't like it when he does that because, if the roles were reversed, that would break my heart. So I try to discourage him, without making a big deal about it. The reason, I believe is because I play with him.
Although I am aware of building resentments, I never allow my stepson to be aware of this, he is a child! We still have fun and play as we always did. My husband and I work long hours all week, our alone time is limited to non existent. I am sure natural parents relate to the lack of alone time, however, I am NOT his natural parent, so it's not so easy for me to accept. I am looking for advice from other step parents, who have walked the path, and have positive words of encouragement and kindness, and hope. I want to be a good step Mom, and am so far, just want to stay that way. By the way, has anybody ever looked for a book on step parenting? The isles are full of real parenting, I eventually found a book while traveling to the East coast.
NOTE: Bananas is located on Claremont Ave. They are listed in the telephone book.
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