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The Light at the End of the Tunnel: What Worked

JRI's picture

I'm the 75-year old BM & SM of 5 who suffers flashbacks as I read the blogs & forums.  We made it to the end of the tunnel & I wanted to share what worked as we coped with the day-to-day chaos.

1)  Counseling, the best money I ever spent.  Takeaways: assertiveness, engagement & more one-on-one time with DH. This is contrary to the often-recommended disengagement but in those days, I needed to step up to my family role.  As DH & I spent more time together, we became "deeper than dirt" as we shared our kids' issues.

2)  DH took all 5 kids out of the house for at least a few hours one day each weekend in the early years.  As an introvert, i needed downtime.  Him doing this made the situation bearable 

3)  All the kids living here full time.  The first 4 years were incredibly difficult & I seriously dreaded the SKs' arrival each weekend.  They weren't bad kids, just aggressive & boisterous. After a day or so, things would be better but we'd start all over again the next weekend.  To my surprise, everything went more smoothly once they moved in full time.  I now realize the back-and-forth was hard on the SKs, too.  When i read about co-parenting, i wonder how that can work.

4)  I went back to work & completed my degree.  I had a 33-year career I loved.  Gaining financial independence also gave me the option to bail which I seriously considered many times.

5)  Easy-going housekeeping attitude.  I wasn't then & am not now a perfect housekeeper.  I didn't stress out about the kids' rooms.  Once in awhile, i'd shovel out or hire cleaning help.

6)  My happiness is central.  If I'm happy & centered, the whole family does better.  Period.

Step-parents, I'm with you.  Hang in there, dear ones.


notsurehowtodeal's picture

Great advice. Nice to hear from someone who was able to make it work. Just curious, how was the BM in your situation - high conflict at all?

JRI's picture

Yes, very hostile.  I plan to write about her in a future blog, I'm still working out my feelings at this late date.  Writing these blogs is cathartic for me, lol.

tog redux's picture

#5 - thank you. I don't understand all the battles people have about cleanliness in rooms. I closed my SS's door and let him live how he wanted to live. I didn't care about him eating in his room, he was good about bringing dishes back to the kitchen, but when he left for BM's, I'd go in his room, take out anything that might get nasty, and close his door. He did his own laundry when DH ordered him to, not my problem. He never changed his sheets, don't care. That was DH's stuff to deal with if he wanted to.  If SS left stuff in the living room, I threw it in his room.  He was usually good with picking up if I asked him to, but if not, into his room it went.

Life is too short to give yourself a heart attack over how clean a kid's room is, IMO.

Cover1W's picture

It depends on the kid, the DH support and the level of filth. Personally I don't care if a room is messy. But filth, like moldy food, hidden dirty dishes, moldy towels, etc and a stench that can be smelled in the hallway with the door closed is beyond messy.

The carpet was ruined, we were worried about the mattress but thank goodness there was a mattress pad, and mold and potentially vermin infestation is damaging the house and its contents too.


tog redux's picture

I suppose. That's a different level of dirty. I'm talking more about the people who insist the room be picked up and the sheets changed and the bed made. 

JRI's picture

I agree.  I didnt have too much more mess in the common areas, or maybe I was too numb in those days to react. But as far as their rooms went, i had much bigger issues to spend my limited energy on.

BethAnne's picture

I'm glad you had a good outcome after your efforts. It seems that you and your husband were able to become a good team and work together with the help of councilling. For me that is a consistent theme that I see running through the successful relationships talked about on here. Those people who are able to work with thier spouses and find methods and solutions that work for their situtations and families seem to be the most sane and have the strongest, happiest and longest marriages.

BethAnne's picture

Engagment vs disengagement is an interesting theme. From what I read it seems that a lot of the time disengagement from step children comes after a long period of engagement that has led to the step parent being taken advantage of by their partner and an uneven distribution of responsibilities becomes expected. Disengagement becomes the only tool often to redistribute the responsibilites back to the bioparent when reasonable requests are ignored. 

JRI's picture

You are correct that disengagement often cones after a period of engagement when the step parent feels taken advantage of.  Our youngest son was DH's favorite and he just could not back me up concerning that one.  SS would get in trouble at school  and I'd have to meet with the school before he could be reinstated.  In the evening, DH & SS, both comedians, would laugh about it all.  The next time, i refused to go so DH had to go.  That was the last incident.  I started to disengage from that son about that time.  Year's later, i now wish I could have handled it differently because there were a lot of things I coukd have taught SS, "polish" things.  On the other hand, he's a successful salesman so maybe he didnt need it!  Lol.

LittleCloud9's picture

Glad I found this. Your points are well laid out and have proven to be true in our family as well. I wish I had read this 4 years ago. It took awhile for me to also discover that full time would be easier in the end, to lighten up about some daily stuff like cleaning, and how to balance engagement with occasional personal time. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us