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advice on a 3year old

melodyerose's picture

My roommate has a 3 year old little girl. He is a single dad. About 2 months ago the BM broke-up with her boyfriend and moved 3 hours away. Since she left she has only seen her daughter for an 8 day visit and that was a month ago. There are always excuses why she can't see her daughter and several broken promises of "mommy will see you soon". Phone calls are sporadic. Her mom is not exactly the model parent. With her departure I have been helping to take care of my roommates daughter. We have gotten quite close. We were close before her mom left but we are closer now. Im not involved with my roommate so im technically not a stepparent. But i have several questions. Any advice would be great.
How do I explain to her that I am not mommy? We've tried the you only have one mommy and one daddy and remind her to call me by my first name. But that only works so long cause if I take her out or take her to preschool other people refer to me as "Mommy". So she hears other people especially other children refer to me as her mommy.
Last night she was on a rare call to her mom and her mom told her that she loved her. Well my roommates daughter became upset and told her mom "No you don't! You can't say that! You don't love me!" I have never heard her dad tell her anything like that and I haven't told her anything like that. How do I handle that? Cause she likes to come and sit and talk to me. (Very smart little girl and very articulate) I remind her that mommy loves her but she is adamit that mom doesn't.
Her dad is doing a good job dealing with the stresses that the mom has created with her departure. But I can see some of the frustration he's going through. Also, his daughter is in a "no dad, I dont want you to help me, I want Shannon to help me" She is my little shadow. He tells her to do something and then looks at me as if to confirm she supposed to do it. I know part of it is the age but I am worried about him getting mad at me when she's in her stubborn mood. Cause a few times when she's done it he's thrown his hands in the air and walked away saying whatever.
Again any advise would be great. thanks

melodyerose's picture

As far as the leaving part that's an unfair assumption. Even if I was involved with the dad I could still leave. So remove that from the equation.
But wouldn't putting distance between me and his daughter also hurt her? Her dad does have the control. If he's home he's in total control. When he's not home it's still his rules, i just enforce them. She is afterall his daughter. Where I do things is when out in public taking her to the bathroom, when a family bathroom is not avaliable to him.
I understand that part of what's going on with her is she want's a mommy. And with the sudden departure of her mom it's tough on her, very tough. She is close to her dad. I am not her mom and I know that. She is constinently reminded that daddy's in charge.
I've tried just going in my room while her dad's here or going to store and to be honest it's heartbreaking to hear her crying looking for me. And there are times when her dad will knock on my door and ask if she can come in with me because she is so upset.
And the times when she does get stubborn about me helping her and her dad walks way saying whatever, i am just standing there going "What do I do?"
In the last 2 months her mom left and her grandma and grandpa moved (grandma's job moved them to Bay area). So again wouldn't distance be almost cruel towards her?

Bojangles's picture

I think there may be a lot of risky factors here, it can be very seductive and charming to be wanted and needed so desperately by a charming articulate little girl, but it really is playing with fire to in any way allow her to position you as a substitute for the Mommy she misses so desperately. I know you're trying not to encourage her to do that, but if you are loving and kind to her and spend a lot of time with her, and do lots of the 'mommy' jobs like taking her to school and to the bathroom,, then your actions will speak louder than your words.

If I were you I would work on positioning your relationship with her as a 'special friend', and try to set limits on the time you spend with her, perhaps doing particular activities with her on particular days, and outside of that time spend more time out and about so she can't insist on spending more time with you. Try to avoid the daily mommy chores like school etc, the Dad should be dealing with that. Hopefully this should get her attachment to you under control. I know that sounds harsh but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and it will be much harder for her if she becomes more and more attached to you, and then you or her Dad move, or her Mommy resurfaces, or you get a boyfriend and aren't so available. The longer you leave it the more distressed she will be, and it will also be harder for you if and when her Mommy does re-engage, or your flatmate gets a new partner, and this little girl transfers her affections elsewhere.

lifeisshort's picture

I'm interested as to why this child is left with you when your roommate is out? Why is his child not in childcare or being taken care of my someone else instead of being left with you? Is there some sort of agreement between the two of you that you will be a de facto babysitter or caregiver?

It sounds like your roommate is letting this situation play out because he's getting what he needs out of it - someone to take care of, pay attention to his child and take the load off of him. In those situations where she wants you instead of her dad, I think the dad should use distraction techniques to take control of the situation and take the focus off of you. He "throws his hands in the air" not because he's frustrated but because he doesn't know what to do and he doesn't want to TRY anything new to change the situation. He's getting what he wants - someone to take the load off of him! If I were in a situation like this, I'd have to put some boundaries in place so that it's very clear that the roommate is the PARENT, not you, that you are not the de facto babysitter, that he is to be fully responsible for his child and not expect you to take care of her, unless he 1). asks you, or 2). you offer.

I think you've both let it get to this place - you out of the goodness of your heart, him out of convenience and a lack of boundaries.

I hope you guys can figure this one out. Best to you!

melodyerose's picture

Part of why I've been watching her is due I just got laid off a few weeks ago. So I am watching her while he works to cut back on childcare for him and cut my share of rent while I am looking for work. He doesn't just go out and leave her with me. I only watch her while he's working and he is taking classes 2 nights a week. But when he gets home she is still my little shadow. He's a landscaper so his hours aren't a 9 to 5 type of thing. And we have discussed when I find another job other arrangements will have to be made cause I do work a 9 to 5 type of job.

melodyerose's picture

I've been reading what people have said. And im doing alot of thinking.
A quick brief background on me. I used be a stepparent. I was married for 3 years. I left him for good reason. I regret leaving his son. We were close. I asked to be able to send b-day cards etc. not phone calls but cards. I was told no. A year ago my ex found me and called me. He gave his son my cell phone number. Well, he sent texts messages to me, he's 15 now he was 6 when i left. He said I ruined his childhood and his life when I left. It really hurt to read that. I know he was saying it based on what he's been told all these years. I wish I could tell him the truth but he wasn't going to hear it. I reminded his dad however of why I left!!
When I read what people are saying, it makes me think about that and I am afraid of that same thing happening again. Im not in a position to move out. Like I said we have an arrangement regarding childcare to reduce my share of rent.
I don't want to feel like Im turning my back on her. She's had her mom leave and her grandparents move (grandma's job moved them to bay area). I don't want her to feel like I'm turning my back on her. She's been through alot these last couple months.
I'm not going anywhere anytime in the near future. I've even be asked to move with them when the lease is up. A little add-on I've only lived here 3 months. Her attachment to me happened quickly.