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Boymom's picture

So, I have a question - being new to the group I was told yesterday in my post to read about disengaging. I found it very interesting. Since I am new to this stepparenting thing becuase I am engaged and not living together yet, wouldn't it be a good idea to start off this way? Start off by disengaging? Right now, my issues with my SD are her spoiled antics. She is not disrespectful towards me (at least not yet because her father is on top of that). She is spoiled and loud (needs to be heard). I have never and never will discipline her. I already feel that is not my place nor do I want it to be. I do have to talk with my fiance because I think he thinks I will just take over the "mom role", and I will make it clear that will not happen. I am not her mom and I will not pretend to be. She has a mom - a documented mental case, but she has one. So, why not start off this way - right??


lieutenant_dad's picture

It's personal preference, really. If you feel starting out disengaged is the best thing to do, then do so.

I practice what I call selective disengagement. There are certain issues/topics that I refuse to be part of, either in action or conversation. I have no issues disciplining for things DH and I agree on, but for others, that entirely falls on him. I am invested in their school work, but not their health. Some of this stems from things a stepparent shouldn't be part of, and some is personal preference due to differences of opinion (or, more recently, my want to have some freedom when the boys are over).

If total disengagement works for you to start, try it out. The worst thing that will happen is that the approach will fail, but that could happen with engagement, too. It's really a 50/50 chance either way, so pick the approach you want and go with it. So long as you remain respectful and don't endanger the child, you're doing the required.

Boymom's picture

Thank you!!! This is new to me and I know it will be FAR from easy. I just don't want it to be a complete nightmare. I lived the nightmare with my ex - not interested in a nother life like that. Thanks again!

mapitout's picture

"I do have to talk with my fiance because I think he thinks I will just take over the "mom role", and I will make it clear that will not happen. I am not her mom and I will not pretend to be. She has a mom" - Have that talk ASAP!

Make sure you and fiancé are on the same page with both your children and his. Make sure you have a family talk at the beginning with everyone present. Script it ahead of time. Good Luck with everything, the Pollyanna in me says it can work if enough forethought is given.....

Boymom's picture

Yes, the talk will be happening soon. I have faith it can work out too - of course with bumps in the road. I never have high expectations of everything being perfect because nothing ever is. My fiance is very open to my opinions and ideas, so I do think he will understand this. He is aware his daughter can be annyoing. He just has to see how he is responding - though he thinks he is doing it the right way, he has not had anyone see it like I am. And again, nobody has perfected parenting, but I don't think he sees how he gives in and spoils her. That has to stop and be addressed. It is my biggest pet peeve right now! My boys are the furthest from spoiled. They look at me when she acts like a toddler and they know to just walk away. HE has to get control of this and he has to see that only HE can do it because I will not engage in her tantrums.

DaizyDuke's picture

It's generally not a good idea, to proclaim to your SO that you are disengaging. As to the parent it sounds like you are giving up? Or don't care? And while yes, disengaging is a little bit of both of those things, it's more about YOU retaining YOUR sanity through this.

And like Lieutenant Dad said, there are varying levels of disengagement. It's really up to you what you feel comfortable being involved in when it comes to SD. My SD20 is a horrible person and I was completely disengaged when she lived with us. So that meant, no cooking for her, no rides to friends or wherever from me, no help with homework, not giving AF when she was failing school, not giving AF when I knew she was lying and wasn't where she told DH she was going etc. I was cordial to her, would say hi and goodbye, but never asked how her day was or if she had fun somewhere or what have you, because I truly didn't care.

She was a teenager though and not home very much and when she was home, she was generally holed up in her room, so I wasn't really forced to interact with her much. Not sure how that would work with a 10 year old?

secret's picture

variying levels for sure.

You can disengage from the parental responsibilities without disengaging from the child... that would probably go over much smoother, because all you're doing is no longer doing the things a parent should do for their child, but are still doing what a caring person does.

CARE for the child but don't TAKE CARE of them.

ESMOD's picture

I even go a bit softer here. Like my MIL likes to say, I am a help mate to my husband and vice versa.

Sometimes that means I did things for his kids and watched them etc... It was all about helping him though. I wasn't watching the kids because it was my responsibility, I did it because it enabled him to do something he needed to do.

Now, I also did treat the girls nicely. I treated them respectfully. I cared about them and their well being. I also felt free to correct certain behaviors. Like if we were driving somewhere and they started getting loud, I had no problem giving them a shussh! If I was going to be expected to be responsible for them alone at times, I needed to have my husband's tacit permission to deal with that kind of stuff. Now, big stuff went to him for consideration. When the older girl got caught "buying blunts" for her crush in junior high.. HE was the one who dealt with it.

So, I wasn't placed into the role of primary caregiver in our home, but I was put in a position of respect by my husband and he backed me up 100% in front of the kids.

So, that might mean that you pick up his kids and yours from school because it's convenient and works better than you both doing it separately. It also might mean you watching them one evening when your husband wants to do something... if that favor is returned for you on a quasi equal basis.

I also didn't have a problem giving my SD's advice on stuff, of course, always with a "you might not care but..." They have both taken a lot of my advice and both of them are 100% independent of both their parents now at only 19 and 22, so we must have done something right:)

secret's picture

Same here. I think we have the same approach. I don't babysit my SS if SO wants to do something...because if SO is going out with his buddies, I'm also going out with my girlies... but I will help him and look after SS if SO has to unexpectedly work... much like I'd babysit my nephew, or a friend's child, if they were in a pinch.

I also "take care" of SS in the sense that I take care of him like I'd take care of a guest in my home... if I'm in the kitchen and comes in and asks for a drink, I get it for him, I don't make SO come in the house from mowing the lawn to get SS a drink, kwim? He's not asking me because it's my job, he's asking me because it makes sense... I'm right there. I would also tell guests the expectations in my home... so SS is aware of boundaries.

Take care of him because you want to, or because you're doing a favor for your SO... but don't do it because it's your "job" to.

Boymom's picture

After reading so many posts on here the last few days, I am scared now - LOL. Some stories are so awful, and though I may feel my situation is rough, it pales in comparison to what I have read. My SD is not disrespectful. She has a horrible mom who does not give her the love and attention a 10 year old girl needs. She is just her meal ticket. She loves being at her dads. But, with that said, I know my fiance loves that (who wouldnt) and her being an only child all these years has her spoiled, and my fiance does'nt see it. I don't fault him - if I had an only child I can see how it can happen. But, we are engaged and not living together yet. We are going to start house hunting this Fall, so I need to get all the ducks in a row. We need to discuss boundaries and rules that we agree on. As far as the parenting the children, I feel he should parent his daughter and I will parent mine! I have a good relationship with my ex, so there is no conflict there. He has a horrific relationship with his ex, not on his part. He tries but its to the point they communicate via email only and her emails are nasty and full name calling. And the BM does not hide these behaviors from the SD. He needs to teach her that the behavior her mom shows is wrong or she will be just like that! And, I also think there is a jealousy part with the SD - and that is completely understandable. It has been her and her dad for years now. Now here I am with two boys. I totall get it and need her to know I would never get in their way. We have agreed to each take our own kids on a trip once or twice a year without the other kid/parent. Not a big thing but I think it is important. My fiance's mom lives at the shore, so they go down more than we all do togehter because of my son's sports schedule, and it works out fine. It is a nice break and we will be keeping that going. I take my boys away overnight somewhere in the Spring and Fall and they love it. The other issue is my SD is not the warm and fuzzy kind of kid. She is glued to her dad. That's the jealousy thing - understandable. However, dad needs to break that a little and reassure her that I am not a replacement. This is a full time job!

ESMOD's picture

There are a lot of horrible stories here. (some real.. some maybe not so much).

However, keep in mind, people don't search out sites like this because they are having a smooth ride of it.

Like my husband who just had to have part of his kidney removed. The stories he read on line really worried him. So many complications and difficult recoveries. He seems to be fairly breezing through everything so it's likely those stories were exceptions, not the norm.

My advice would be open but aware. Don't let yourself be forced into doing things you are not interested in doing. Be clear in your boundaries and expectations. I don't see anything wrong with you and your fiance having a serious conversation about what each of you expects from each other in relation to the children in your lives.

I think it's fine to tell him that you love him and will support him, but that you don't expect to be a primary caregiver to his children. That while you can care about them and for them, you are not sure that you are going to be able to be a defacto parent.

Boymom's picture

True - I have heard more horror stories telling me to run when my situation is not a pure hell. I have known my fiance for over 20 years - we just happened to find each other after each ofour divorces. He is the best! And no one is a perfect parent. He has to focus and discipline his daughter and I will do the same to mine. I can say, boys are much easier. I will take 10 boys before one girl anyday! I just want it to all work out. I have had a rough life, and thats ok. Made me strong! I just want it to not be as bad as everyone is making it out to be on here.

Harry's picture

So it you and SD are alone and she does something wrong you are not going to discipline her ???
That how things goes sideways

Aniki's picture

SD is there to see her bioparent - NOT stepparent. I was a "skid-sitter" ONCE. It immediately became expected that I would skid-sit on a regular basis. NO, NO, NO.

Boymom's picture

I am definitely not a sitter. My fiance does spend almost all of his time with her and makes a point of it. He does not leave her with me.

Boymom's picture

I have not figured that out. How would I? I could discipline her to a point and discuss it with my fiance. Suggestions??

Veritas's picture

Well, yes and no. I find that having strong boundaries in place is especially helpful. Letting people know up front what you will and won't do/accept/tolerate prevents them from steamrolling you, prevents a situation where you are not wanting to say anything for fear of hurt feelings and then you are left with resentment. Your level of disengagement should fit the situation.

Disengagement takes practice and is trial & error. It is all based on your needs, though. I found for myself that I really needed time to figure out things as they happened, so I kept my reactions limited until I could get my head around what I personally needed to do or how I would respond. Don't let anyone back you into a corner to make a quick choice. If something makes you uncomfortable, it does so for a reason...

Boymom's picture

Love this! I may have to use some of these. However, for the most part my fiance rarely goes out when he has his daughter. He may make plans when she is not home, and I am 100% ok with that. I rarely make plans when I have my boys either. I have always been that way because I only have my kids 50% of the time. I wont make plans to jeopardize the time I have. My fiance has been an active single dad for a while now and does it well - minus the spoiling part!

Boymom's picture

I understand. Right now we are not living together yet, so he is with his daughter every Wednesday and Thursday. I am not there. I work and go home to my house to do my house work or make plans to see friends those nights becuase I dont have my boys those days. Most weekends we have the kids we do our own thing because they are all different and have different plans. My SO definitely has his own time with his daughter - but its those times where she is getting spoiled, then when we are all together it CAN become a train wreck!

lieutenant_dad's picture

I'll add to this to say that there is nothing wrong with telling your SO that you need alone time, too.

If I have had a rough week at work, I need some "me" time on the weekends. DH likes me being home when the kids are over because he likes having his family home. There's nothing wrong with that, but I do tell him when I need to go for ME, but ensure that I schedule HIS wanted/needed family time. Usually I make sure Friday night and Sundays are for "family", then leave Saturdays open for fun - whether it's solo, with friends or my family, or with DH and his kids/family.

This has worked out REALLY well for us. Not saying you SHOULD do this (BF99's approach works well, but I found with my DH that his issue isn't feeling like he can't do it alone so much as he doesn't want to), but it helps DH understand that I do care about his wants and needs while also respecting my own autonomy as "not the mama".

NobodyMom's picture

I agree with selective disengagement (but not declaring it to your SO unless necessary). I can tell you however don't be afraid to stand up for yourself if she does get disrespectful in any way. I was too focused on being "nice" and not upsetting my SOs kids. I did not speak up directly to his daughter as she got older and more comfortable and did get disrespectful to me at times. I SHOULD HAVE. I would get SO to speak with her as her father. His daughter just twisted that around as a weakness in me and ended up attacking me with vile hateful words later down the road (I had never done or said one unkind thing to her EVER). I so wish I handled any disrespect towards me by speaking up politely yet firmly and did not go overboard in trying to please everyone but myself. Then if she got upset and things blew up back then, it would have been better for me to find out sooner in my relationship with SO of his daughter's true character.

My SD had quite the sense of entitlement, but YES, only her own parent should discipline. But that doesn't mean you should not speak up when necessary.

Boymom's picture

Thank you - great advice! If I felt disrespected by her I would say something firmly and discuss it with my fiance. If she speaks this way to me (and I am sure she will at some point going through her teen years), she would only do it when her father is not around. She would never do that in front of him - he can be tough on her with that. He just does not see the spoiling and pouting to be a long term issue. At least, I don't think he does.

Acratopotes's picture

Disengagement from skids is simple.... you are not the parent, don;t even start doing parent stuff with them.

You are not living together, so don't stress about them when they are on their own, you are dating the father not his kids. Keep boundaries in place, make sure your kids is always polite to SO , never feel guilty for doing things with your kids and not with skids... they are not our responsibility.

Your house your rules, regardless who's kids are around, if SD is loud and rude in your house, correct her, but you can't do that in SO's house... thus do not spend allot of time there with them Wink

Boymom's picture

I think I am going to start off disengaged - the parenting stuff. I have no intention nor do I want any part of that. I def do not stress when they are on their own. I tend to over think everything and I am thinking of how life will be when we have our house. And, some of the things I read on here are scaring me to death! This is why I have to talk and get boundaries in place. The other issue on why I want no part of the parenting, is the BM. The second she hears I do anything, as far as take her daughter with me to a store, she picks a fight with my fiance. I have never met her. She knows nothing about me. I am not an evil person. I wish parents could work together and get to know the other parent. I would never do a thing to harm anynone and I would NEVER be a replacement. She is just evil and thrives off of arguing - where I am the complete opposite. I am not confrontational at all. I did tell my fiance that I will not have any kind of life changing talks with SD because her mom will go off the deep end and the only one that will pay that price will be the SD. The poor kids takes the brunt of everything. My boys are not perfect by any means, but they have always been respectful and remain so with my fiance. They see the SD's ways and we talk about it at my home. Its hard to explain it so I keep it to a minimum and tell them girls are very different, dramatic, and that she has a different situation with her other parent than my boys do. My teenager just says it doesn't bother him. He is the most laid back kid I have ever known. My younger one gets annoyed, but I just keep him in check and tell him to walk away and that her behavior is my fiances job to handle, not ours.

secret's picture

The other issue on why I want no part of the parenting, is the BM. The second she hears I do anything, as far as take her daughter with me to a store, she picks a fight with my fiance. I have never met her. She knows nothing about me. I am not an evil person. I wish parents could work together and get to know the other parent.

Don't meet her. Don't bother. You wish that parents could work together - but you need to realize that "parents" does not include you....

Her behavior is your FI's job to handle, yes, but that doesn't mean you don't get to set boundaries. You can have the boundary of being treated with respect.... it's just that your FI needs to be the one to lay out that boundary to your steps, and needs to be the one to keep SD in check.

Whatever you decide to do, don't tell FI about it until he asks about it. If he asks why you aren't... for example... driving SD to her friends anymore, you can just say you're busy with xyz and that maybe he could take back that parental responsibility...

Boymom's picture

I have no intention or desire to meet her. he things I have learned about her are pure evil. She is toxic and I wont allow that in my life. And my fiance would never allow it either. He says he will do everything in his power to keep her out of our lives. When she acts up he takes care of it completely. He is an attorney, so he knows how to shut her down. He just needs to learn how to get his daughter in check and stop spoiling her.

Acratopotes's picture

what happens between SO and BM is none of your concern, if he talks about it, laugh and say - not interested Hon if you can't tell BM to eff off it's got nothing to do with her what happens in your house then it's your problem.

I never used any excuses with my son, if he complained about Aergia getting away with things, I simply smiled and said, Well I'm your Mother and you will listen to me... I'm not her mother.....

However, I did not tolerate rude behavior from her in front of people, if we where with the family and she was loud and cursed I would tell her loud enough, excuse me you are being rude... I would do that with any child.... Adults are there to teach younger persons.... not keep quiet and jump when they demand. I felt nothing telling the children, hey this is adult conversation make yourself go away and shut up...

Aunt Agatha's picture

Staying positive about your boundaries, as Brighter said, is key. By supporting your SO as you feel comfortable, it allows them to be the great parent you know they are. Or at least start from there as a base to avoid an immediate busted ego shut down from your SO.

Early on, I made some mistakes in telling my SO what I thought during times things were rocky. I've learned the hard way that turning it around on them - asking questions instead of telling - as well as staying directly out of any child behavior issues, has helped me immensely.

I also use skids weekends to get caught up on projects, time with friends, etc. Being busy naturally creates boundaries.

Hang in there! While everyone's situation is a bit different, there is some great advice to be had.

Oh, and if you've not read Stepmonster, it's a book I found very helpful.

Boymom's picture

Ya know - sometimes I wish our schedules were completely opposite. I feel bad thinking that way, but I do. Right now our schedules during the week are opposite so all the kids are only together every other weekend, and most of the time one is playing friends or at a sporting event and I am with them. But sometimes I wish the weekends were opposite too. However, if they were he and I would never have "our" time. It's a catch 22 really! I will be looking that book up for sure - THANKS!