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Is this a red flag or is it just my fears?

Fede's picture

Hi everyone. This is the first time I reach for help on the internet.

We've been married for two years after living together for three. I have two kids from my first marriage (15 and 11 YO) that came to live with us about 16 months ago. We lived in a two-bedroom apartment for 10 months and now we moved to a bigger 3 bedrooms, two-floor house.

Living in the apartment during the lockdowns was difficult, to say the least. My kids and SO do get along most of the time, showing they care about everyone else and the house. The problem is that some of my kid's behaviors are hard for her to stand by (closing the bread bag, putting the milk back on the fridge, doing the dishes, cleaning their bedrooms, etc.) I do agree that we can ALL do better on some of them, including us. In the time that they have been with us, we have had various degrees of success, some of them no longer an issue, others persist and new ones appear. Another big issue is the school. And they DO have study problems. The reality is that I'm also working things out, I have been a "weekend" dad for so long so I'm also figuring out.

Our dynamic usually goes from her having a build-up of things that goes off in a rant against me after some detonator and can get mean. I'm not sure how much value should I give to her words said at those moments. And I might take them under the worst light possible, but I'm worried some could be red flags: she has asked me to send the kids with her mom more than a few times, thinks I'm too soft as a parent, and as she has to accept the kids, I have to accept she will vent her frustration on me; that she's angry about spending "all her patient on my kids" instead of one of our own (that we plan on having). Overall, she says is not the kids or their behavior but what having them around makes her feel. That she feels old and doesn't like the responsibility. Hates that is a fact that I have kids and the baggage that comes with it and she's doing it all because of how much she loves me.

I try to get to a middle ground on the issues and listen to her complaints. I understand that her position is really hard and some things that for me are not big issues she might feel different. I know I tend to go defensive and my communication skill is not the best. I have been working on it. We went to counseling, tried to do "family meetings" and having group activities, have mi kids going to their mom or my parents on weekends and holidays so we have our time as a couple.

I know she loves me a lot and really wants this to work. I don't want to be unfair to her and end the relationship. I do like the idea of what we could build together, but now it seems soo hard. And the thought of bringing a new baby to the mix brings a lot of other concerns about how is going to affect the already stressed family dynamic.

The reality is that right now I do have other pressing issues, had to take a second job (and a small side gig) as I work in hospitality so with the pandemic my income fell by 75% at least. And I also want to keep on working on my kids. So, living with my SO and having to bear on the issues sometimes feel more than I can handle... Or is it some more patient and work really going to make a difference? Right now I really don't see the situation has improved.


The_Upgrade's picture

How often are these issues occurring? Closing the bread bag, putting the milk back in the fridge, doing the dishes, cleaning their bedrooms? I would be livid if that happened every single time. Once every few months forgetting to put the milk back isn't a dealbreaker. We all have brainfades. Not much excuse for forgetting to clean their dishes or rooms though. That's where their bio parent is supposed to step up and enforce those rules.

I understand you're working two jobs to pay the bills on top with working things out with your kids but if your SO were to call the relationship off due to the kids behaviour, what would happen? Who would look after them while you were working? 

Fede's picture

Hi, thanks for the reply! I'm really drowning, but I hope is on a glass of water and I'm just tired.

The issues I put as an example, we have been working on them with different success. So some things stoped or improved, but others still happen now and then. With bread and milk, it was often the first 2-3 months, but now I might found them once or twice a month, and I tell them to reinforce. Dishes we tried different rules over time, and what we have been doing this year is washing right after lunch and at night in pairs; so it looks something like one day is me and my son, next day me and my daughter, usually two days a week they pair, Friday they go lunch with their mom so one week I do the breakfast plates and cups, next week they leave everything clean. It's not perfect, and there have been days it failed. But most weeks it works. My wife is usually not around at lunch but fills in for me or one of the kids every now and then.

Cleaning their bedrooms, my son, the oldest, now has a well-organized and clean room all the time. On the contrary, my youngest daughter does has issues still. She cleans her room but during the week clothes start appearing on furniture and floor. Every two weeks or so I have to warn her she won't take her phone on the weekend if the room is not organized and that makes the trick, but it's not a solution, as I want her to appreciate the importance of having the room clean not only working on fear/punishment/reward. So with her, it hasn't improved as I would love to, but we're working on it. Washing their clothes is the other way around, with my daughter complying with her days, but I do have to ask my son every time.

And like these, there are other many small things that appear or reappear, or new things will pop up. And I won't do a big yelling and grounding when they happen, it's not me. I will have a family meeting and let them know and work on systems to make it better. I understand the other way around will have faster results. And I'm also improving my ways of being a dad. And I'm hands-on, in my mind as a way to lead by showing. So if I want them to learn to clean their rooms, I will be there doing with them until they learn that value and why we do it.  This is my perspective, I think there are facts that prove we're doing better, but I'm always afraid is biased and reality might be a lot worse.

Also, I don't think my SO complaints are wrong, or that she's doing a problem out of nothing. These are real and she has all the right to feel upset for anything it upsets her. I know she won't look at them with the love of a biological parent. I respect her and try to work things out, balance them and find a middle ground of how I like to handle and how she thinks it should be handled.

I'm conscious that's hard to receive complaints about your kids and my personality won't make it easier for her. I'm grateful she makes me notice some things that I might have not to look into. But the regular fighting is taking a toll. And maybe is not a fight about any particular issue, but those bring upfront what our life makes her feel and I don't know what else to do about that.

JRI's picture

This is a tough situation for you both.  You are a dad going from the sometimes fun "visitstion" status to the dark reality of the kids living with you.  Your wife is doing the same but without the love bond that parents have.  You ask if its a red flag or your fears.  I dont think its either, its reality.

One thing that has probably helped is moving to a bigger place, that's good.  Question: Did you and your wife discuss the move-in?  The kids don't sound like they are bad kids, just the usual thoughtlessness.  You say youre working on them.  Youll have to keep doing that faithfully.

Your wife is dealing with 2 kids that aren't hers.  The house isn't being kept to her standards.  Her DH is busier now that he's taken on more work. She probably feels overwhelmed and somewhat betrayed.  That's how I felt in a similar situation except that I had 2 kids of my own who were adding to the stress so it felt more even.

You say she vents to you.  So would I.  Are you guys still going to counseling?  What did the counselor say?  Part of this will involve her accepting a new view of her life that includes the kids.  But you will have to continue to bring the kids up to speed and realize that the responsibility for them is yours alone.

It's so hard, I know, I had 3 move in with us.  It is life changing.  Good luck.


Fede's picture

Thanks for your words and suggestions.

Your right that she feels a lot of weight on her too. The way the situation makes her feel, the feeling of being also responsible with the kids, and the kids coming with whatever they come is difficult. And the society label of stepmom is hard here.

We did talk about having the kids. I was always honest, since dating, that I would like to have the kids living with me. And we talked before moving in with the kids. But, one thing is to know, another was to live through. She did felt betrayed by the situation and feels like an outsider. I try to follow advice on books and articles, so we had family fun activities like movie time, and also family meetings for home issues.

I understand the responsibility of having the kids here and yeah, I have to be on the receiving end. But is hard, and harder than before because of all the things said at the time. And I feel is not a complaint, but a hard session of being blamed for many things that happen in our lives. They are my kids, but we both signed for this so she should also own part of the problem in my opinion. Whish I could be stronger or less sensitive.

Unfortunately, we stopped going to counseling. We went for 5 months or a bit less but my SO felt frustrated that we were not going anywhere and didn't want to get back. She's a bit anxious and gets frustrated when things don't seem to work. I did a couple of more solo sessions and proposed to try with other counselors but it seems unlikely she will accept going.

I know she's a great person and loves me a lot. We will keep on trying.

ndc's picture

Are you putting off having a baby your wife wants because of the skids? If so, her resentment is only going to grow, especially if that was the plan prior to your kids moving in.  That would have been a dealbreaker for me. 

Fede's picture

No, we didn't put off having a baby due to this situation.

We do need fertility treatment to have a baby. We were planning to go for it by July 2020 but then came covid and we both been hit economically, so we don't have the cash around. We talked about taking a loan once the situation improves. She did tell me if the kids weren't here the situation would be better and we could already have a kid. But is not true. We could be better overall, but is the pandemics that put it of. I feel she's putting the blame and the entire situation on me when it should be a weight shared between us. She cries and tells me she wants a baby. I tell her me too!

We could even have already the baby, but she got cold feet two years ago when we started the fertility studies in 2019.

Harry's picture

Why is she not taking the kids?  Your wife did not sign up for the kids to be there 24/7 when BM is doing nothing. 
You must stop making your wife the babysitter.  You are not going to have that Happy Family with her, 

Its up to you you to make BM take the kids on the weekend. Or find other child care so you and your wife have alone time. Go away on the weekend alone, date nights  out yo dinner alone. Ect  OR you will be by yourself with the kids and finding care for your kids with out your DW

Fede's picture

My kids BM is moving across the country. She lost her job here, and that's when we decided with my SO that it would be better for them to be with us. Since then, the BM is still coming regularly and the kids go whenever there's an opening. But, even if she was around, I was always clear that I was aiming to have them living with me.

monkeyseedo's picture

A cautionary warning,I'd say the majoriy of women once they get pregnant w/their own will further resent the kids, to the point it could destroy your marriage or your kids will end up cross country w/your ex.