The Light at the End of the Tunnel: What Didn't Work
I'm the veteran BM & SM of 5 who reads the posts & remembers my traumatic steplife. I've shared what worked to get us to the end of the tunnel. Here's what didn't work.
1. Fluctuating Visitation Schedule. I was naive. My only experience with divorce visitation was a school friend who had to visit parental GPs for 2 hours each Sunday. What a laugh! Two hours each Sunday! DH wanted the SKs as much as possible & BM enthusiastically agreed. Visitation evolved from every weekend (as soon as school was out until late Sunday night) to "if they aren't in school, they are here" + 2 weeknight visits. The summers were overwhelming with all 5 kids + their friends. I was not consulted about any of this scheduling & felt blindsided, like the SKs were being dumped on me. In retrospect, this was a DH problem but it led me to resent BM & the SKs. I said this was a DH problem but really, it was my own. I should have set & held strong boundaries. It would have meant a big fight but it would have been worth it.
2. Mini-wife. I think this began when BM left & DH & SD bonded at an emotional time. Of course, she resented me. She and I have a love/hate relationship to this day.
3. DH was somewhat of a Disney Dad. Altho quite vocal, DH seldom enforced boundaries with any of the 5 kids. Four of the 5 seem unharmed by all this but SD suffers because she never learned that her actions have consequences. If you don't pay your electric, they turn it off. If you treat people poorly, they dont want to be around you. Simple concepts, but she just doesnt get it.
4. Financial support of BM way over & above. I knew BM casually before I got together with DH & once heard her say, " I know how to get money out of him". All I can say is, yes, she did. She was a never-employed SAHM who played on his love & fear for his kids to get money, babysitting, a place to live & anything else she could. It was emotional blackmail. His own mother had left when he was 4 so he was ready to move heaven & earth to foster close mother-child relationships. She seemed to have a different agenda.
Step-parents. I feel a solidarity with you. Bless you all.