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Afraid to Admit it

The_colorKatie's picture

For those of you willing to read this all the way through, it may take some time. 

Long story long, my husband and I met in 2016. When we had started dating I had a lot of red flags about his ex-wife. His ex-wife had a key to his house, would do laundry on week days there, and talked intimately with him often (on a platonic level, nothing sexual, but enough to raise an eyebrow). To get rid of my insecurities at the time I proposed that we meet for coffee and get to know one another. During our conversation she would make comments that were questionable, such as wanting to co-parent but also wanting to take their son to the park together (alone). Better yet, she proposed alternating holidays where he would join her family, like it was split custody. In response, I said that we could do things together as a group to help establish rapport. Though these weird signals, and red flags, ended up being completely validated. As it turns out, my (now) husband was still married to his "ex wife". They were separated so that they could pursue their own interests and she could stay on his insurance. Needless to say that super awkward coffee date made me feel resentment towards her, like she had played me for a fool, until the truth came out. I'm not saying my husband had no part to play in it, and they divorced soon after (which ended amicably). This post is not about that one scenario, but many others that would soon follow. My husband and I have healed together through out the last four (almost five) years, but I never got the closure with her. 

Fast forward to today and we're a well balanced family that has its ups and downs like everyone else. About 2 weeks ago I sent her a letter congratulating her own her marriage (which was 8 months after ours) and told her that I wanted to start fresh. Drop off and pick up between us has always been incomfortable. I'd either avoid her completely, and visa versa, or not acknowledge her like I should have at times. It was my way of avoiding the pain and re-traumatizing myself. I even scheduled my first counseling appointment in years to talk about my trust issues (an ongoing battle, not just related to this relationship) so that I could hopefully find some peace. 

The problem now is that, despite our past, our parenting styles are vastly different. She's more laid back (almost to a fault) where I'm more structured. I thrive on routines due to my background as a teacher and social worker, whereas he seems to waste away at her house in front of a screen or electronic devise. We both work from home and I set up a summer schedule due to the disruption in their education and the pandemic. He's mostly unattended to on her time. We couldn't be more night and day, and I respect that everyone is different, but there's no happy medium and it's starting to affect my son negatively. To clarify, his mom has a history of not prioritizing him. She's prioritized unhealthy relationships, and even her current marriage, over him. She loves being doted on. 

What it boils down to is that she doesn't seem to be putting in the effort. My son was in tears when he was dropped off and she said "He wasn't ready to come back". Not the greatest statement to hear. But after talking with him it turns out he feels like he doesn't have enough time with her (even with a 50/50 schedule) and it doesn't help that she no longer engages with him like she used to. So we had a chat. I explained that he misses her and would like to spend more time with her in the evenings (his words) but he has a hard time communicating it. I've worked with my son since day one on emotional regulation and communication. He was severely underdeveloped in this area and at least dad recognizes it. She seemed receptive, but that's her MO. Too agreeable but with no change, and no difference in outcome. Just same shit, different day. And I'm TIRED. I have a child of my own with her own set of needs, and I'm resentful that mom isn't pulling her weight. When my husband talked to her later that day she said "We're not that strict", when all we proposed was some consistency (limited screen time, quality family time, reasonable bed times) so that the transition between the two homes was less difficult for him.

So I'm at a loss. I know you can't teach a dog new tricks, but her laziness is triggering. She takes advantage of other people's efforts (my son has made leaps and bounds in his social and emotional development since we met) but she doesn't contribute much. She's always focused on her best interests without looking at the bigger picture, hence, our super weird coffee date in the beginning. But even now, I feel I'm carrying her weight and it's frustrating. Our past doesn't help, and any advice is greatly appreciated. 

A tired mom, 




notsurehowtodeal's picture

You cannot control how BM parents, or what goes on in her house, so don't even try. Children can figure out and understand that the rules are different in each household. There is no reason for you to "carry her weight," and if anyone should be making up for her parenting deficiencies, it should by your DH, not you. If she chooses to ignore her son, it will have consequences on their relationship, and that will be on her. You and your DH should parent how you see fit, and you should never let your worries over your SS take you away from your own child.

A piece of unsolicited advice - you will be much better off if you think of, and refer to your step-son, as your "step-son," and not your "son." He already has two parents. And while you may not think BM is a very good parent, she is his mother and she is going to mother him in the way that she chooses. You can't care more than she does, it will do you no good. Read around this site and you will see in the vast majority of cases that kids always choose their biological mom over their step-mom, even if the bio mom is not a good parent.



The_colorKatie's picture

Thank you for reminding that whatever she chooses to do on their time will have consequences (good or bad). It's up to her what the outcome is, and I fail to see that sometimes. 

Rags's picture

Why would you have issues regarding closure with your DH's XW?  That is not your relationship to have closure with.

Odd. IMHO.

Your pespective that BM needs to prioritize her son over her marriage is dead wrong. Kids are not the priority in adult relationships. The marriage and partners are the priority for the equity life partners in the marriage. If they are not, the relationship is on borrowed time.  Kids are the top relationship responsibility but not the priority.  In all liklihood the falacy of kids being the priority in adult relationships is what ends adult relationships. Particularly blended family marriages that include   at least one failed family veteran.   IMHO.

As for your dictation to BM how she parents and structures her relationship with her son, that is none of your business and If our blended family opposition had tried to pull that shit it would have been game on.  

Fortunately for us.... they were toxic, manipulative, and petty.  They also are in a dead tie with an Amoeba in intelligence and resources so we could keep them firmly in their place and under control with a rolled up copy of the CO to beat them about the head and shoulders with and by applying the CO, supplemental county rules, and state regulations.  When I say they are in a dead tie of intelligence with an Amoeba, I am including at least three generations of that shallow and polluted gene pool collectively.

IMHO you need to back off.  Set the standards of behavior and performance for your home, hold your SKid accountable to delivering to those standards when he is in your home, and quit fantasizing about some relationship with your DH's X that you should not even be considering.  Keep SS abreast of the facts so that as he matures he will be able to understand healthy relationships and be able to protect himself from manipulative adults in his life and protect himself from them  into his adulthood.

Again... IMHO.

Good luck.

The_colorKatie's picture

I appreciate the advice, though I would disagree with you on a few things. First, it's not that I want her to prioritize her son over her marriage, but to put more effort into it versus profiting off of others hard work. For that reason, I do see him as my son, and choose to call him that because of my love for him. I understand he has two parents and I'm not trying to replace her. I was adopted so I guess I come from a different back ground. I never addressed my mom as my birth mom, and just because she didn't carry me doesnt mean that her status is any less than my biological mother. It's slightly archaic to look at parenting in such a black and white manner. IMHO. My husband works odd hours so I spend the most time with our children. I think the family dynamic dictates who qualifies as mom versus a caregiver/extra parent. I do see a reoccurring theme that I need to back off, which I respect, and have considered. But I also see these comments coming from those who believe a step child is simply as step child, when they're more than that (depending on the relationship). The world is too diverse to look at it that way. But to each their own. 

Rags's picture

Please do not misinterpret my comments or perspective. In all likelihood you are the only REAL mom your son (SS) has. I certainly am the only REAL dad that my son has.   My son is also my former SS who asked me to adopt him when he was 22.  Even prior to the adoption I never referred to him as my SS except in discussions in communities like STalk.  I raised him as my own and took the honor of being chosen by my incredible bride to be her son's dad very seriously.  We never or at lease rarely ever used the term Step in our family. Whether applied to me as StepDad or my SS as StepSon.  My DW was raised by her mom and her StepDad.  My MIL was widowed before she knew she was pregnant with my bride.  She remarried when DW was 2mos old.  Her daddy was her StepDad.  She never knew her BioDad.  As a gift to her dad, when we renewed our vows on our 20th anniversary, my DW gave her dad adoption papers for her.  

As for my son, his mom and I met when he was 15mos old and married the week before he turned 2yo. 

A SKid is a kid.  I completely concur with your thoughts on that topic.

You absolutely nailed my black and white perspective. There is little if any gray in my world.  As for archaic parenting.... I am all in on archaic parenting.  If it "ain't" broke, don't fix it.  I focus on behaviors.  Idiots are idiots because they choose to be idiots. Toxic people are toxic because they choose to be toxic.  When people make a choice, they choose the consequences associated with that choice.  Choices that the blended family opposition makes on their time with a Skid are their choices.  We never attempted to tell my SS's SpermClan what to do on their time but we did spend a lot of time purging the toxicity from our son when he returned from SpermLand visitations loaded with their toxic manipulative crap. I nave gave even a flying rat's ass about them or their shitty life outcomes. They have never been anything more than bugs to crush to me.  They set my perspective on that from before my DW and I married. Their crap 

The facts did a great job of that.  We kept him abreast of the facts in a age appropriate manner in response to their lies and manipulations of my SS.  Eventually they knew that he knew and that tended to limit their lies and manipulation attempts.  As he progressed through the later years of the CO he was perfectly capable of countering their crap in real time and as an adult has kept them firmly in their place. He tolerates none of their crap.  They have learned not to pull any of the usual crap with him.

Anyway, I applaud the relationship you have with your son.  I cherish the relationship I have always had with mine.

Now, back to my archaic black and white world.


Merry's picture

My best advice is to take a giant step back and put BM on ignore. You don't need to be friends, you don't need a relationship (civility is nice though), you can't control what goes on in her house. It would be a lot easier if the parenting styles were similar at both houses, but they are not and you can't change that. You're wasting energy trying.

Where is your DH in all this? If you are tired, then he needs to step up HIS parenting. I fear you are overfunctioning for him, and trying to overfunction for the BM too.

The_colorKatie's picture

I failed to mention that he has been helpful and communicates our concerns. He's supportive. Thank you for catching that missing piece. 

Dogmom1321's picture

Where is your DH in all this? If you are tired, then he needs to step up HIS parenting. I fear you are overfunctioning for him, and trying to overfunction for the BM too.

This right here. I used to do the exact same thing for DH. I would "help" him parent. In reality, I was enabling him and causing unnecessary mess with BM. I had to disengage and let them parent their own daughter. Even though I totally disagree with their (lack of) parenting, it's not place to step in for either of them and make up for shortcomings. 

Also, why are you the one that spends the majority of the day with "the kids"? You said he works odd hours? IMHO DH got a RUDE awakening during COVID and he actually was home when SD was also home. Many dads are oblivious until it's right up in their face.

I would stop communicating with BM totally. No amount of communication with her will bring you "closure". You got off on the wrong foot, but no need to "make things right." DH needs to do the co-parenting and communicating. It might feel like you are helping your DH, but you are enabling him in the long run by stepping in. 

With my experience... BM "apologized" after she found out I was pregnant. I was shocked and impressed. Looking back I wish I never responded at all. Things went back to her regular manipulatives ways pretty fast. Sure, I have a million things I would LOVE to say to BM along with a punch in the face (jk of course). But I have realized no amount of reasoning or understanding would come of it. It would only benefit me "getting it off my chest." It wouldn't actually change anything, so I save my breath.

Maybe a change of perspective/expectations of BM on your part needs to be changed... I think that would help a lot of the issues. 

The_colorKatie's picture

He works swing at a hospital while I work at home. Not everyone has been able to be present for their family during the pandemic, so a lot of it falls on me. What I've realized is that I can give him my input on what I experience and hope that he translates that in his own way to the mom. If she doesn't get it, then I wouldn't be surprised. Knowing who she is I married him anyways because my love for him is greater. But I can vent my frustrations. I just have to learn to expect less from her and I'm sure those frustrations will be easier to handle moving forward. Thank you for the advise. 

ESMOD's picture

You don't talk a lot about your DH and how he parents.  Clearly, he had no problem with how things were proceeding before you came on the scene.. so he is just as "guilty".. it seems of not being a more structured parent. 

I will say, that in your post, you talk a lot about your Skid as "my child".. and that, in itself, can cause conflict with a BM.  She is really under no obligation to coordinate parenting with you.  And coparenting doesn't even involve you really.. you are not that child's parent.. he has two a mother and father.. and it's up to them to navigate that.  And coparenting doesn't even mean you necessarily have the same style of household either.. or rules.  Children are able to navigate and understand that rules and expectations of behavior may be different... and trying to impose your standards on her home IS overstepping.  And it is an exercise in futility.. so you do need to adjust your expectations of what you can and cannot control.  You can't control his EX or what happens in her home.. unless it is outright dangerously harmful to the child (then call CPS).. her allowing a less structured environment for her child doesn't necessarily make her a bad mother.

You may or may not be the only root cause of the child's improvement either.. the child is older.. has had more school.. more time to mature and develop... so time is often a great healer right?

I appreciate that you are putting your heart and soul into this child.  But, I think you will end up happier when you stop trying to control what happens with his EX and stop trying to have a relationship with her.  It isn't necessary really and likely is a point of conflict anyway.

BTW.. the meeting that you called with her early on?  It was not her place to explain the logistics of her separation from your BF.  She maybe even thought you knew.. making your meeting even more awkward for her.   I don't think you need closure with her because she didn't decieve you.. it wasn't her relationship with you to be honest about.

The_colorKatie's picture

I would agree that it wasn't her place to provide clarification, but what she proposed early on was innapropriate considering the circumstances. I guess I look at it as if the tables were turned, I wouldn't ask for alone time with my ex, unless I was struggling with closure myself and having difficultly adjusting to the new partner. But that's my own observations. 

ESMOD's picture

Honestly, he may not have been completely honest with you in the early stages too.. perhaps there was more of a "testing the waters" idea back then.. and maybe that could have been one sided.. but I think she clearly didn't want to include you in what she considered the "family unit".. and for a new relationship... she doesn't have to necessarily but it does seem that they initially at least had decided to present somewhat of a joint upbringing for the kids.. including joint events and visitation time.  Maybe they thought it woudl be easier on the kids.. but it really doesn't address the complications that arise when one or both of them would have new partners and how that would factor in.

Who knows.. maybe she thought or hoped it would be a temporary split.. but now things are more certain.  In any case.. I think that the best course for most stepparents is to let their spouse deal with the ex... I personally would object to them having "private" family time without me.. but again.. that woudl be an issue to bring up with my partner.. not the ex.  the ex can want what they want.. but my partner can do or not do what they want.. and I would have objected to them wanting to spend time "as a family" if I were you too.  But, my beef would be with my partner.. not something I would ever have tried to address with his EX.

I figure they were the ones that decided to have kids with the "crazy".. let them deal with the  My role is to support my partner... but that doesn't mean I have to deal with his EX..haha


ESMOD's picture

and.... I think sometimes we think that "hey we are all reasonable adults that can work together for the better good of the kids... and why wouldn't the other parent want their EX to be with someone that supports and cares about the children.. " but in reality.. it just doesn't seem to work that way.. even the most otherwise reasonable people can have issues.. the more HC? worse.

Esperanza's picture

I feel for you, you seem like a genuinely caring and loving person. It is really a shame that BM has ruined all efforts at coparinting and is doing such a lousy job at parenting. I'm in a similar position as in my case BM allows my SS to do whatever he wants resulting in obviously conflicts with discipline and expectations of behaviour when with us. 
I can only advice, and this is something that others have advised me here, to set your rules and structure in your household and forget about whatever happens at BM. Unfortunately you cannot do anything about that and having any expectations from her will only frustrate you. You will have to let it go (I know, easy say than done)


good luck 

The_colorKatie's picture

Thank you for your empathy. I appreciate it. I would agree that setting rules in our home and forgetting what his mom does there is best. It's just so hard when he comes home crying because of the disparities between the two homes. I understand that so long as we stand strong here then we're providing some stability for him. So I'll start channeling my energy into that a little bit more. 

Esperanza's picture

It truly is heartbreaking. I also wish I could do more. My SS eats pizza and pasta everyday at his moms because she doesn't want the aggravation of encouraging him to eat healthy. Guess who deals with the aftermath of such stupid decisions ? Me and my DH. It's frustrating. I'm in the process of letting it go and focusing my energy on providing all the love and structure when he is with us. Good luck !! 

Rags's picture

The disparity between a Skid's two homes and two families can be hard on them.. and on the decent side of the blended family equation.  The toxic side tends to be the source of the crap so I do not give a crap about them, in any way, other than when Karma smacked them it upset my son (SS).

We chose to deal with it aggressively and with the facts.  He had to comply with our standards of behavior and performance regardless of what was in play in the other side of the equation.   

Their "CS takes food out of your younger (sib's) mouths.", "It isn't fair that  you have nice things and they don't.", etc, etc, etc.... crap could not go uncountered, so.... we countered with the facts and when SS would ask we would answer with the facts and the truth.  "That is just not true. Here is the truth........ XYZ and LMNOP, Fact 1, fact 2, ......"

The_colorKatie's picture

I really do appreciate everyone's opinion, since the advise I've received is something I've been feeling deep down. Stepping down, taking space (all valid). Though I'm disappointed that so many people still see co-parenting as such a black and white approach. "He's not your child", "coparenting doesn't involve you." Wrong, and wrong (if you need clarification, you can look at my earlier responses.) I gave enough detail to eloborate on my frustrations, but I guess not enough for people to understand our background, family dynamic, etc. It's not a one size fits all situation, but I still appreciate the feedback. We tend to relate to others based on our history, and everyone's history is different. 

2Tired4Drama's picture

Maybe it is wisdom.

You are new here and relatively new to the stepkid situation. There are many members on here who have been doing this for decades. 

One area you seem to be challenged with is the multiple times people have told you this is not your son. You disagree and feel biological parenting roles are "archaic" and not "black and white." The fundamental human connection is between children and their mother. The mother-child bond is the strongest. Always. 

Consider this an area where you need education and an honest assessment of your own role. Is it possible your stepson is conflicted because you have stepped into the role as his mother?  He has a mother, it's not you. When others have pointed this out you become very defensive. As a social worker, and mother yourself, surely you understand the strong biological bonds between mother and child.

If your biological child's stepmother essentially pointed out all your problems/mistakes as a mother, what would YOUR response to her be? (Imagine BM telling you, "I wanted to point out some issues with you. I think you are spending too much time focusing on other people's parenting and you are ignoring your own child's needs. As a mother, shouldn't you be making your own biological kid your priority?" 

I am glad that you are seeing a therapist and hope you further explore these issues during therapy. Please be honest with what your thoughts are about your relationship with this child. Maybe print off this thread and your defensive responses to others. I think it will be enlightenting for your therapist.  And you. 




The_colorKatie's picture

I'm not entirely new to this scenario. I've had a blended family in the past, one from a previous marriage (though that's another story all in itself), and I was also part of a blended family when the biological father of my child started dating and I was a single mom at the time. In my experience, I've seen stereotypical ones where the lines are drawn and roles rigid, and I've seen very fluid ones, where communication is open and people are transparent. I don't think it's soley about education, but also about experience. I wouldn't say "defensive" is the right term, since not everyone has to agree on an issue, and when a person vocalizes their oppinion (as long as it's polite) I wouldn't throw it into that catagory. I take pride in my parenting techniques and I tend to my children with equal amounts of love and attention. It's difficult for sure, but if I can handle two, then I would hope mom could handle one on her own time. If mom were to approach me with her concerns I would be more than happy to talk, but that's just my personality and I understand it's not everyone's style. I appreciate the advice.