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Maybe I am doing this all wrong?

Worried_Worrier's picture

I have been reading here for a little while and have posted a tiny bit. Trying to learn all I can about this whole step parenting thing. Although my partner and I aren't married so I am not technically anything!

I love my partner and his children. We have been together for 2 years (living together for 1) and I met the children about 4 months in. All very slowly at their pace. I was so scared before hand because the ex would ring my partner when she knew I was here to say that the kids felt pushed out and that I was stealing their dad and crying themselves to sleep etc. I met them and they never said anything like this. They seemed shocked that I wasn't a monster.

His ex is very different to me. I tend to be quiet and calm and drama free. I was pleasant when I saw her on pick ups / drop offs etc. but kept my distance as she isn't someone that I had anything in common with and she made little digs that I wasn't keen on. She was always unreasonable and made demands and threats but I stayed out of it and she said that she liked me.

Now she has decided that I have an easy life so she apparently has an issue with me. The kids are as lovely as ever with me. We go on day trips and to the cinema. When I have them on my own (my partner works shifts and the ex would drop the kids off up to 9 hours before he was due to pick them up) we bake and craft etc. The ex has now decided that I shouldn't have the children on my own but that her boyfriend can look after them. I know I have no rights to see them at all but this change has been brought about by her family / friends commenting to her that she should do more with the children.

I keep reading on here about disengagement and staying away from the children. Is that the best way to handle this stuff?

Plus it turned out that me not having them alone didn't count this week when my partner was at work, his daughter was off sick from school and her mother was busy.

I just wonder if it is going to get worse. The kids don't stand up to their mum but SD has said she wants to move in here as soon as she is 16 but that age was because she thought her mum stopped getting benefits for her at that age.

Should I carry on as I am? Should I take a big step back?

I don't really parent them I don't think. My partner does the parenting. I sometimes help with homework / packed lunches / uniforms etc.

I feel like I am going in blind as I have no children and have never dated anyone with children before.


Worried_Worrier's picture

I just don't want to make things worse for the kids. It is so odd as they are lovely kids and really seem to want attention and to do daft stuff like paper chains and going to the park but their mum makes comments about them not being into stuff life that, not believing they have made something and saying it is too good for them to have made it and saying I am lucky to have time to do that stuff with them. I work and am studying but I make time for them.

My partner is so worn down by her after all these years and seems to think it is easier to let her think they are friends so he knows what is going on in her life and where the kids are.

Worried_Worrier's picture

There isn't a parenting schedule - my partner works rolling shifts so doesn't work set hours / days each week.

She wouldn't have had to take a sick day as the ex doesn't work. This week she seems to have just opted out of parenting for a few days. She was just busy apparently.

The kids want to be here mostly. If they have been here maybe 4 nights in a row they sometimes ask when they are back with their mum. A few times they have been supposed to be here for a night then back to her after school the next day but she changes her mind ..... she did that 3 days in a row once. So the kids went to school expecting to be with their mum that night but then weren't.

SD is wary about her mum's boyfriend after the big drama this weekend but her mum has said before that she isn't letting her children run her life so it doesn't matter. She said that when she was dating an alcoholic that the kids hated.

Worried_Worrier's picture

There is no court order. The kids are 10 and 14 and so sweet! I mean they have attitude and stuff but that is aimed at their dad and they behave really well for me. So odd because their mum can do what she wants and they don't expect any better from her and she is super mum is she does something just basic and normal for them. But their dad is held to a much higher standard. It is sad that he does so much for them (and she does so little) but they give him the attitude - never their mum though even when she breaks promises and lets them down.

Worried_Worrier's picture

That is interesting about double standards. SD just said something to me about knowing I wouldn't let her down about some baking stuff she needed for school - she didn't even ask her mum even though it is on "her" day.

It makes me sad for my partner as he does so much and gets attitude then their mum does a basic mum thing and gets praised!

Worried_Worrier's picture

Anything legal or official would be seen as an attack and she would step up the manipulation and guilt tripping of the kids.

The kids are gradually seeing through her and seeing that she is unreasonable but I think they are too scared to speak against her.

Worried_Worrier's picture

Are court orders the normal thing? I don't know many divorced people but don't know any with court orders for contact / pick ups etc.

Any perceived attack (real or imagined ..... usually imagined) is an signal to really ramp up the guilt on the kids and to protect her perfect mum image.

I don't get involved with the decisions about the kids. My partner will ask for my opinion / advice as some of the stuff affects me directly such as me taking SD to school on my day off. But he knows I will put the kids' needs first and back him up. I don't think he realises how hard it is sometimes - he has said that he forgets that I am not a parent myself so much of this is new to me.

Worried_Worrier's picture

Maybe they aren't as common in the UK? It is scary to think what she might do! I honestly don't think she could cope with the kids full time anyway and even in her delusional state I think she realises that. She rings my partner when the kids are playing her up as she just yells at them then cries to make them feel bad.

I think it was all done in an unofficial way (all way before I was around) to keep her friendly. This way he knows what is going on at her house - who she is moving in and trying to get ahead of dramas before they happen.

hereiam's picture

I agree that you have no reason to disengage from the kids.

However, I would not let BM use you when it's convenient for her. If she doesn't want you watching the kids when their dad is not there, then she will have to make other arrangements or get un-busy when things, like illness, come up.

I think she will get tired of her new rule pretty quickly when it becomes inconvenient for her and her BF. And, frankly, when she does, I would not be available but that is up to you.

Worried_Worrier's picture

She loves her child free nights so I don't think the ban would last long. Plus I have had them before and after school most of this week.

I am torn because I don't want to be a walk over but I don't want the kids to feel rejected. Their mum rejects them and puts them down and I want this to be a home where they feel safe and welcome.

Monchichi's picture

You disengage when the children and your spouse are the problem. Say dad spoils them too much and won't set down boundaries. You'd disengage. If the children hate you and are badly behaved in your home, you disengage. If you have a supportive spouse and the kids really like you, then stay invested and be present. I hope that helps you?

Ignore the BM. Think of her is an annoying speedy fly, swat the air and carry on with life as you like it.

Worried_Worrier's picture

That does help thank you!

My partner is a good dad - pretty good at setting rules but does sometimes spoil them. The kids behave better for me- I don't get attitude from them. The kids were keen for me to be around and move in so I have been pretty lucky. Just hoping that now their mum's view of me won't colour their view now she has decided not to like me.

I really try to ignore her! I guess I am pretty insecure as sometimes it gets to me when she is all needy with my partner and when she does the reminiscing thing even though he doesn't respond.

I genuinely like doing things for the kids - even daft stuff like surprise Christmas duvet covers and doing crafts together.

WokeUpABug's picture

I would not get a court order. It sounds like BM is mostly having a tantrum. Just ignore it. If she wants to drop kids off early and you want them say yes. If it's an imposition say no. It doesn't sound like she is withholding them from their father. If you go to court things will get much worse before they get better. Expect the crazy and alienation to ramp up. Your relationship with the kids may also get worse as they may be forced to chose sides.

Overall your steplife sounds pretty good! I agree with other posters. Ignore BM and carry on as you were with the kids. Sounds like you have a good relationship with them!

Worried_Worrier's picture

It does sound pretty good compared to some of the stories around here!

At the same time she is unreasonable - screaming in the street, damaging stuff in the garden, making threats and not being bothered that the kids witness this stuff and are scared and crying.

She threatens to stop them seeing their dad but everything is a drama with her. Fall out with her boyfriend equals dramatic posts on Facebook and texts saying she is homeless and she and the kids will be sleeping in her car. My partner can't do anything right when she is in that mood and unfortunately it is pretty frequent.

I love my partner and I love the kids. I didn't think I would before I met them.

I don't know what the kids would do if they had to take sides. They see what their mum does but she has brainwashed them into thinking she is the victim and they need to look after her - major guilt trips.

One time SD said that she wanted to move in with her dad to go to college and ex threatened to kick her out of the car right then and go pack her a bag.

Worried_Worrier's picture

I have photos of the damage done and notes on various things she has said and done.

She is just one of those people who feels entitled to everything. It is really odd to see a grown woman begging her mother to buy her some boots. Or hear her getting offended because a company want her to pay a debt she ran up.

I think she would put up a crazy fight. If she didn't have the kids she wouldn't get the child benefits and would have to get a job.

Worried_Worrier's picture

The kids love their mum and are protective of her if they feel she is attacked. They are getting more and more open (while here at least) about not liking what she does and says. My partner's view is that they will gradually see through her more and more but if he pushes them they will rally round her.

I fully support him.

Worried_Worrier's picture

I guess I do a fair bit of parenting stuff especially when my partner is at work and it is one of my days off. I enjoy all that stuff though and am the organised one. I am working hard to turn this cluttered bachelor pad into a comfy and welcoming home. I sometimes have to remind him that I am not a parent and this stuff doesn't come naturally to me.

I know they have 2 parents and no legal rights. I keep that in mind! My partner knows I will do stuff that the kids need. So tonight there was some sort of car drama with the ex so he picked SD up (her school is near his work) and dropped her here. First I knew was her walking in the door. But he knew I would say yes if he asked me and that I always have food in that the kids like.

Worried_Worrier's picture

Oh I didn't take offence or anything. I know I have no legal rights and I am very wary of their mother. I don't deal directly with her often as my partner sorts (or tries to sort) stuff with her. You never know what mood she will be in though which can be stressful.

I hope the kids know that I am doing my best. They have never said the whole "you aren't my mum" thing to me.

Amcc13's picture

Worried , your step kids sound lovely. You seem to enjoy them and they you.
Disengagement is for those who do not so much enjoy their step children- because these step children are usually spoilt and entitled and really in need of a good spanking. Yours do not sound like that from what you have put there.
If the children are with you, be engaged and happy to be with them if that is what pleases you. It sounds like it is from what you have said.

I think your partner is right about the children- they will come to see through there mother and the way she goes on. But if you push they will defend her.
That being said, all the texts, emails, conversations should be recorded so there is evidence of any crap going on at a later date. Then you have proof for court social services and whoever needs it. From your other posts I reckon with enough evidence your partner can get full custody.

In the mean time you need to as many have said get a court order about specific times to drop off and pick up and who is doing what. Other wise you are at the whims of this woman and I know you had concerns that she will try to ban the kids from being there when you are out of spite. A court order can put an end to all of this very easily and may make you a bit less worried

Worried_Worrier's picture

They aren't perfect (who is?!) and sometimes have attitudes and want what they want right now. Or they are tired from late nights / arguments but their dad gets brunt of that.

I hope that one day - hopefully soon - they see how much their dad does for them and how little their mum does.

I will mention the court order thing to my partner. As well as not wanting to stir anything up there is also the issue of money. I think if he went for full custody there would be resentment from the kids.

onwednesdayswewearpink's picture

I wouldn't disengage at all. The kids sound like they are really lucky to have you.

Worried_Worrier's picture

I put myself under a lot of pressure as they don't have a stable female role model - most of the time I have no clue what I am doing!

onwednesdayswewearpink's picture

We're all just fumbling around in the dark. Don't worry so much!

Worried_Worrier's picture

I am trying! I enjoy having the kids here - sometimes it gets to me that the ex gets her date nights and child free time and we don't really as either one of us (or both of us) is at work or we have the kids but that isn't his fault or the kids' fault.

Worried_Worrier's picture

That is what I aim to do - I tend to over think every little thing though. But I guess I am doing ok as they actively seek me out to chat and tell me their worries especially SD.

Worried_Worrier's picture

I have never been cool!

It must be so much easier when the ex does the mum stuff for the children.

misSTEP's picture

I don't think it is necessary for your to disengage from the skids. Maybe more from the BM if you can!

I always wanted my role to be not so much a "mom" or even "bonus" whatever, but more like a caring aunt. Like, my aunt would sometimes take care of me when I was sick. But she also was more of a friend and a person I could talk to about things that I didn't want to discuss with my parents.

Worried_Worrier's picture

Luckily now she is over the trying to be my friend thing (I really didn't want to know anything about her relationship / parties etc) so I hardly see or speak to her at all.

I don't see myself in a mum role - SS has said I am like Mary Poppins ..... I am assuming he meant it as a compliment. The kids do share stuff with me and tend to come looking for me if I decided to go read a book somewhere. They do know that I tell their dad anything I think he should know but it doesn't seem to bother them.

Maxwell09's picture

Disengagement isn't so much for dealing with the Ex but with skids themselves. If they like you then don't distance yourself from them. You said she only recently decided to keep them from you and you think it's because some people have told her she should be spending more time with them. It must have resonated with her on some level that you spend more time with them than she does so she's removing them from your access. Have you heard before, "she doesn't want them, but she doesn't want him to have them either". That's what's going on here. She doesn't want to spend more time with them but she doesn't want people noticing how much you do with them either so this was her solution. I'm sure something will come up to boost her ego back to MOTY and you'll get your time back with them.

Worried_Worrier's picture

That does make sense. I assumed that she would do more with the kids after a comment like that rather than stopping them being around me. But when SD was dropped off here after school we sorted homework and baked fairy cakes so I am not going to let their mother decide what I do with them. I tend to be led by the kids - if they want to do something we will - unless they have been indoors for ages then I tend to drag them to the park.

Worried_Worrier's picture

The Saturday thing of me not being allowed to have them was spite I think. But then she had a big fallout with her boyfriend so the kids have been here pretty much all week - before and after school just with me as my partner is working days. Then I am working the weekend but they will be here as he is off.

The thing with the sickness is that the ex can be very difficult to get in contact with. Many days she doesn't get up until lunch time and will ignore her phone if she is busy. They understand their dad's shifts but their mum doesn't work and is still too busy to look after them.

I don't know if I can stop it. My partner prefers the kids here even if he is at work as he doesn't have to worry about them with me, the kids choose to be here much of the time, and I like them being here.

Worried_Worrier's picture

I honestly couldn't say no on Sunday - the kids were crying and scared and didn't know what was going on. Then mum disappeared. I don't want the kids to feel rejected - they must feel that sometimes when the ex doesn't want them back for a few days as she is busy.

When we first met it was a big thing for me to continue in a relationship with someone who had children as I knew they would always come first and I am not naturally good with kids. I never expected to love them. I mean sometimes the mess makes me crazy but kids are kids I guess. As I am a natural worrier I scared myself thinking about worst case scenarios - although I thought worst case was the kids being here full time (which I don't believe now) as the mother role is utterly alien to me.

It very much depends on who she is with as she seems to change to match her latest boyfriend.

Worried_Worrier's picture

I probably am being a doormat.

I don't want the kids to feel rejected (mum would use it as ammunition) and I want them to feel welcome here. SD has said that she wants to move in when she is 16 (she thought her mum will let her then as she mistakenly thought child benefits ended at 16) and SS has made the odd comment about being able to walk to big school from here. Their dad works so hard to provide for them and to try and do the work of 2 parents for them and to try and keep one step ahead of his ex and her dramas.

LikeMinded's picture

So where are your dreams, your goals, your needs in all of this?

You are avoiding your own life to take care of DH's baggage, family and karma.

Time to recenter.

Worried_Worrier's picture

I am working a job I love now (never thought I could do it but my partner pushed me) even though it was a pay cut and am studying qualifications too. He believed in me when I didn't and really encouraged me to go for it.

Because the kids are older and in school I have time for my stuff too. I don't know how it would work with little kids. Plus I introduce them to stuff that I already liked to do (baking etc) so it I get chance to do stuff I enjoy. It just takes a little longer and makes a bit more mess.

LikeMinded's picture

I came here a while back, like you, looking for a direction. I wanted to know what disengaging was about. After a little research I did what I call a modified disengagement:

1. I had to disengage from BM and MIL because they were making me unhappy and after 5 years I decided my life was too precious to live like that. So, I don't communicate with BM or her SO at all. I am polite with MIL at family functions but that's it. If she texts me, I have DH respond.

2. I disengaged from doing the mom stuff as I was startintg to feel used. So I don't do laundry or go over homework. They still come to me when they need a bandage or aspirin, and that's ok. But, I didn't like being the mom with no say in anything, so I took a small step back which DH noticed, and I don't think the SKIDs did.

I don't think you need to disengage from the SKIDS completely as you have a great relationship with them. I would however set up boundaries in your mind so you don't get used. Remember that if BM pushes really hard, she can turn them against you. There are women on this board who helped raise kids as there own for over a decade only to have them turn against them. I'm not saying that's going to happen to you, but be sure to protect your heart.

Also remember that as step parent you should only be copiloting, not piloting. Let DH do any pick ups and drop offs. Let him lead as far as the doctor or school is concerned. Let DH discipline and set rules. Try not to communicate with BM. You are the assistant.

If you take on too much, it may bite you in the rear. Not only that, when teenage SKIDS have problems, everyone blames the step mom. Don't get so involved you become the scapegoat. Also, do not become the unpaid nanny.

Are you taking care of your own needs? How about your life dreams and goals? I'm a little worried, you are doing what I did and putting everyone'sn needs ahead of your own. Eventually, this can kill the relationship, be careful.

Worried_Worrier's picture

I do try to take care of my own needs. I changed jobs into one I liked with full support from my partner as it was a pay cut and different hours and he is good at taking the kids and giving me time to study.

I am definitely just the assistant! I do no pick ups or drop offs, 99% of communication is between my partner and his ex, he sets the rules (consults me as I live here too) and I would only discipline if I had the kids on my own. School and doctors - I tend to be more organised but he does all the direct dealing. We split homework helping between what subject we are better at.

I have spoken to the ex once in the past month Smile which is much better than before. She used to try and get me to say negative things about my partner but quickly discovered that it didn't work on me.

Laundry is split and so is cooking. Cleaning tends to fall more on me as I am home more and like cleaning. I do some mum stuff (which is probably why I find my role is a bit cloudy) but with SD being a teenager I guess some things are just not easy to talk to with your dad. Plus he has never been a teenage girl!

I do worry that she will turn the kids against me. Not necessarily that they would believe her lies but that they would be too scared to go against her.

LikeMinded's picture

Well it sounds like you are doing pretty well! A lot better than I did, lol! I would just keep your eyes open and remain clear as to what your role is.

Worried_Worrier's picture

Because I am a worrier there was a lot of overthinking about this stuff before I even met the kids! I think it helps that we took stuff slow with the kids and made it clear that we were serious from the start. And I am super lucky that in 2 years I haven't had a problem from the kids and I think I have had to tell them off once each.

I worry about the influence their mum has but that is out of my control. It is hard to accept but I can't fix that for them.