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communication explosion makes SM's head explode

Gwen's picture

Since BM quit her job, things have gotten crazy. She didn't work for nearly 10 years, then worked for 8 months, and then resigned two weeks ago to accommodate her new husband's student teaching schedule. (They don't believe that more than one parent should work at a time.)

(Let's put aside for the moment the latent hostility I feel over the fact that the only reason she can afford to not work is because my husband forks over an enormous check every month that far exceeds what the kids need. I'd love to quit my job! Or even change to an easier one. But can't. But that's not what this blog is about. I do understand all the different ways to look at that and I'm trying hard--based on sage advice from Candice long ago--to let go of my resentment over that issue and just accept that it is what it is, and a cost of my husband's choices that I need to accept.)

The problem is that now that BM is back to being a full time mom she is INUNDATING us with calls, emails, etc. Between in-person pick-ups, calls and emails we have heard from her 20 times in the last 11 days. Granted, there is a lot going on right now with the kids (dental procedures, school talent show, decisions about switching schools for GATE programs, summer activity/vacation plans); but honestly, over half of the communications/contact could have been consolidated or eliminated, and she is trying to manage things that don't need managing, like reminding DH about appointments that I already have on his calendar. She goes on and on about how she is feeling about the kids, how cute they are, what cute things they said, etc. We are bound to hear from her many more times in the next three days because my DH has appointments today and Thursday to visit/observe the potential new school, she has a separate appointment on Wednesday; Wednesday is a school open house/ice cream social, etc. Friday is a pick-up day. Sometimes I feel like she gets to talk to my DH more than me.

This past Sunday we had the kids, and my SD had a practice session for her school talent show at 4:00. BM suggested in the Thursday email transmitting the practice info that it wasn't necessarily important for us to go (she always assumes it puts us out to participate in events/kids' parties on weekends--in fact, my DH loves it 'cause he gets to connect with his kids in their every day environment and with the other parents). We were expecting an email from the organizer, who had been given our info (and whose number was on the forwarded email, and our class phone lists, etc.) On Sunday, BM called our house AND emailed to tell us that "there isn't any info on location yet for the practice, I'll call as soon as I know." She was all harrassed and fluttery b/c the ladies hadn't confirmed practice location yet. Um, excuse me, but today is your day off, BM. Why are you fretting about this? It's our problem. We are big kids and can pick up a telephone!! (and p.s. didn't you say it wasn't critical that SD go?) She would have called AGAIN but I responded to her very politely that we had the organizers' info and would check in with them ourselves, so we were all set, thanks BM! As it was, she asked to talk to SD while she was on the phone, which isn't a big deal except she had just seen SD four hours earlier prior to DH picking her up, and that day was the first and only time we were scheduled to have the kids in a full 12 day period. Come ON.

Among other things, in the last few days BM called DH at work to remind him about an appointment at the new school that I had already reminded him about (not necessary), called him separately to tell him when *her* appointments were (email would have done nicely, thanks); and emailed separately about school activities, school vacations, the talent show audition, etc. We got three emails from her yesterday, AND she called DH at work.

DH agrees with me that this is getting ridiculous, but won't communicate with her about the need to respect boundaries because we have a custody mediation coming up in May and he doesn't want to be seen as the bad dad who doesn't want to communicate.

If you read my blogs, I am all for positive co-parenting communication in the kids' best interests. But BM has this need to control everything and she constantly inserts herselves in our lives, and I am ready to blow. I am trying to back off, to tell myself that there's just a lot going on right now and with BM just quitting her job there's all this extra energy and things will settle down soon. I remind myself that it isn't about me or DH, it's her personality to be all fluttery about details and need to "check in" and "coordinate" on EVERYTHING, and now there's this perfect storm. But I am ready to blow.

There has been too much tension lately over these co-parenting issues and try as I might to put it all on a shelf, combined with other/related stresses, me and my marriage are under a lot of strain. I have had a headache for 9 days straight. I woke up at 5 am this morning after dreaming about receiving emails from BM, and couldn't get back to sleep even though I didn't have to be up until 7. I have a big project due today and keep talking to myself about compartmentalizing, "making a habit of happiness", keeping things in perspective, etc., but IT'S NOT WORKING.


Little Jo's picture

You are a good soul Gwen. You real are. I'm glad to see you have not lost your sence of humor.

Best wishes always. Jo

"I'll be alright in a year or two after I calm down". Detective Donahue - Soap

still_looking's picture

Here is what our BM does that every other week just irritates the F..k out of me. Why is it that on our pick up time from school BM all of a sudden is the SUPER MOM! Meaning for 14 days straight when the kids are released from school, although BM is off of work at 4:00 pm, she does not pick up kids until 6:00 pm from their after school program, so obviously it would seem that BONDING WITH YOUR KIDS, is not on the top priority of your things to do THAT DAY. Well ironically on the Fridays that DH picks up kids from school, as soon as 4:02 comes along she is calling his cell phone to FIND OUT HOW THE KIDS DAY WENT, WHAT DID THEY DO, WHAT DID THEY EAT, ETC ETC. This is just plain dumb to me, so for 14 days straight you could care less how their day is going but on this FRIDAY, you have got to know every detail of their day, or else you'll die! Whatever, and I was born about 15 minutes ago.

"Be there for the joy. Be there for the tears. Be there for each other."
(Step-Mom the Movie 1998)

Realist's picture

BM sounds completely neurotic! A lot of women who act like that need to feel needed. Try to remember that these are her issues.

In Australia, the custody orders given by the court relate to the responsibility of the child being the role of the parent during times in which that child is in the particular parent's care. At the very least, BM needs to know that when the children are with you both, she must leave parenting decisions to you and when they are returned to her, she can then ask how they are, what they did, etc, etc.

It may not be the case, but it appears to me that BM is trying to control your lives with the children. Maybe she doesn't trust you - she thinks she does perhaps, but her neuroses indicate otherwise.

Bring on the mediation! be armed with a list of phone calls, emails etc by keeping a log to show the mediator the excessive contact which is unreasonable. The extra communication will backfire on BM and it might ensure that there are clear boundaries around communication about the children in future. I couldn't agree with you more about how exasperating her constant contact must be.

For what it's worth - I have real problems when DH's put the kids over the marriage. I appreciate that your DH is concerned about the upcoming mediation. However, you are his wife and you come first. If BM's actions are stressing you out - that should be his number one concern - NOT the mediation. By accepting BM's actions, she knows she can use the kids as a bargaining tool with her ex and affect your marriage.

DH needs to think carefully. OK - the mediation may go well - but by accepting BM's actions now, is he not setting a dangerous precedent? It's better to start how one means to finish. If all the acceptance of the communication is just for the mediation - then what will happen when the mediation is over?

As we have all said before - we can't control BM's. They will do what they will do. However, we can control our relationships and respect that our partners come first. By taking BM's calls at work - TOTALLY UNNECESSARY UNLESS IN AN EMERGENCY - BM calls the shots.

Quite frankly, and I know this sounds hard - but DH has made a rod for his own back and it is totally unfair on you.

The only other option, if DH refuses to cease communication with BM - is to tell DH that you no longer wish to discuss BM or any communication he has with her. If he cannot offer you the support you need by standing up to BM, then you too cannot not be on call to give his such support as it is affecting your health and happiness.

Sorry to sound hard, but hearing about your tension and headache made me feel so bad for you. Look after yourself - stress is very very bad for our health.

Realist x

Gwen's picture

Thanks, ladies. I had a little melt-down to DH last night *hangs head* it is so hard. He says all the right things and then cannot implement in real-life situations. The sad thing is it is not she who incenses me so much, it's him -- she makes me go blech but I cannot control her and so could let it go, but when he doesn't come through, it kills me. If I just felt part of a team instead of always on vigil. But detachment from parenting the skids/interactions with BM isn't possible, for many reasons particular to my personality, his personality and how we operate to manage the household. I may as well get divorced.

I should say I showed DH my post and your responses and it appeared to make a positive impression. He thought everything I said right on target and responses on target. I think Realist's post got to him, at least in the moment. If history is any guide, it won't result in short-term behavorial change, though.

I do need to learn how to let go of my anger, and to assert boundaries without internalizing and ruining *my* internal happiness, but I haven't yet learned that skill. I'm tired of always being angry and tired. It's so hard these days. I want to start laughing again, but nothing seems truly enjoyable or funny. How sad. I feel better every morning about 20 minutes into my first cup of coffee, and then it seems to go downhill from there.

Venting helps, as do supportive words from you guys. Thanks. (what a downer I am today!)

Gwen's picture

The decision about switching the kids to a new school next year must be made by tomorrow, and DH had previously asked BM "would 7 pm this evening be convenient to discuss this issue by telephone" Okay, it's 8:15 California time, and DH says she's not answering her phone, "maybe she doesn't want to talk until after she puts the kids to bed."

Um, I don't know, but every co-parenting guideline I've read says that co-parents should make mutually agreeable appointments to discuss kid issue, and then stick to the appointment times. Because otherwise you're totally intruding on the others' lives. If BM had said, no 7 pm doesn't work let's pick a different time, DH would have said, okay, and they would have done that. Instead, DH and I are sitting around wondering when this stressful conversation is going to occur, so can't enjoy the evening just waiting for the phone to ring. This is lame. It's such an arrogant assumption.

Incidentally, the school switched BM's visitation so happily she was there at the same time as DH, today. So they talked for between and after class visits today. DH is upset; he feels like she totally undermined him with the school authorities today. It was subtle but palpable. She is so syrupy sweet and a stay at home mom, so she must be an angel. And he's a man who works, so he must be the devil. Society's prejudices are incredible. If she really cared about co-parenting in her kids' best interests, she wouldn't be undermining their father with their teachers.

Speaking of society's prejudices, I was talking with DH last night about how awful it feels to be a SM sometimes, esp. at kids' functions. I am a friendly enough person, but many of the BMs treat me with polite disdain/coldness--like they are afraid I might try to be a second wife to their husbands and a SM to their kids too. Like they are assuming that I broke up the marriage (I didn't). DH said ya, he'd noticed that too. And the funny thing, BM's new husband doesn't get the same treatment from the other BMs as I do. He's adored--after all, he's picking up the pieces for the angel BM.

UGH. And all this while my DH supports both of them financially, since BM doesn't work and her new husband is in school. It's so unfair.

Gwen's picture

They never talked. She was punishing him b/c she tried to call him during the workday, on his work phone and cell, about the school decision, and he didn't take her calls. She didn't care that they'd previously agreed to talk at 7 pm; how dare he not be immediately available whenever she hollers. Never mind that he's got a really intense job that supports her and her husband.

This shouldn't upset me, but it does. She pretends to be so . . . "good" . . . so angelic and socially wonderful and a "good mom," but she constantly disrespects DH and me, to the detriment of us and ultimately the kids. My household schedule is completely subject to her whims on any given day. I am so unhappy, after so many straight weeks of hell, I don't even feel like doing this anymore. I think I made the wrong choice to become a second wife and stepmom.

OldTimer's picture

BM has tooooooo much time on her hands.

Wink StepMom

Man has the intelligence to change his life,
Sometimes, he just fails to use it...

Realist's picture

Well, there you go, as we suspected, BM reverts to petulant childish behaviour when ex-hubby won't pick up the phone and talk to her while he's at work.

Mmmmmm, I'm thinking about that rod I mentioned.

Consistency is KEY. If DH takes the calls and then stops with no warning BM will not take it well. If DH is really going to change the communication overload (invasion of privacy) he needs to write BM a letter and set the ground rules and then stick to them.

This is all lovely in theory, but my own experience is that these DHs are not going to change. They may not like confrontation and conflict and therefore pick up the phone thinking it's a short term fix - when however it is not advisable long term. Or, they may feel that their relationship with the children will suffer because of a poor relationship with the ex. All of these excuses, and that's what they are, are false.

Some suggestions I believe in (for what they are worth I will share them)

1. Relationship with new wife takes priority over everything (otherwise go back to past life)
2. BMs should not call DH at work unless it's an emergency
3. Large issues such as schooling - they can be discussed by email in writing and it's better that way as phone conversations are forgotten and cannot be referred to later with any certainty
4. Whoever has the children with them at a particular time is responsible for the children's needs (including what lunch, how much lunch and whether they enjoyed the lunch)
5. Make fixed times to call the children - or provide them with a cell phone that accepts incoming calls only and call them on that.
6. DH must get over the guilt and fear. BM cannot take his children away from him - but by having made a choice to leave BM- he has to accept responsibility for the fact that his relationship with his children is going to be different.
7. No DH can make up for what he perceives as shortcomings in his children's BM.
8. It is not the new wife's role to listen sympathetically to DH complaining about BM is he consistently fails to implement agreed action strategies.
9. BM is the mother of your children, not the mother of DH.
10. DH's who continue to accept calls from BM's who don't use them to legitimately communicate should cut out the middle man, save on phone calls and return to BM's nest.

I hope that DH understands the impact this woman he left really has on you. Is it worth taking her calls? What benefit exactly are the children deriving from them?

Take care of you x

Gwen's picture

I CANNOT STAND IT. I can't. do. it. This morning's rapid succession of emails had me on the phone to DH at work telling him he had better step up and tell her to knock it off, or I will.

I don't want her writing to either one of us to tell us what cute thing SS said at the dentist, or that SS *might* find out today about the new school he's been enrolled in b/c she had to send a form in with him to the teacher, but she sent it in a envelope marked "confidential" so we'll see if that works and she'll let us know "chirp chirp, chirp chirp, chirp, chirp. chirp." She's our goddamn cruise director, I'm telling you. I did NOT sign up for this. Having a syrupy sugary ex assume she's a legitimate part of your DAILY life sucks, sucks, sucks. Excuse me while I throw up. GET OUT OF MY MARRIAGE, DINGBAT.

I am cordial, cooperative -- damn sometimes I even smile and laugh! I give information when needed, receive information, arrange weekends, fill out paperwork, plan events -- and love the kids to death. WHY ISN'T THAT ENOUGH. Why does she have to be constantly barraging us with chirp chirp chirpiness? Okay, I know why. She's a DINGBAT. She thinks it makes her a good mom. She was raised to think that's how you get everyone to like you. She wants to be liked. SHE'S EFFING BORED. GET A HOBBY DINGBAT AND LEAVE ME AND MY HUSBAND ALONE!!!!!!!!! Stick to the kids, stick to the necessary facts, and then shut the eff up. 30 communications in 12 days!! Gaaawwwwwwwwddddd.

(Phew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was ready to blow.)

Anne 8102's picture

Gwen, I have a solution for when you are being over-emailed by someone. I don't know what email program you are using - we use Outlook Express - but any of them can be set up with a filter to handle specific emails from specific people. You just set up a special folder in your inbox, maybe label it BM or something, then tell your email program to automatically send every incoming email from her to that folder. Or you can even set up a separate email account, like at Yahoo or HotMail, and have all of them forwarded there. Then you pick one day each week, month, whatever to sit down and go through them all. This way, she still has email "contact" with you, but you never see them in your inbox and you only have to deal with them when YOU want to deal with them, which can be as frequently or as infrequently as you want. It won't lessen the number of emails she sends you, but it does allow YOU to choose when you want to receive them.

~ Anne ~

We are the masters of our own fate; the architects of our own destiny.

Cruella's picture

OMG that BM needs to get a life! I don't even THINK about my ex. If he wants to talk to sons he calls them up. I wouldn't be able to stand all the emails. I think Anne has a great suggestion.

Gwen's picture

Good suggestions! I'll try that. It would make the emails less disruptive. She would call in an emergency.