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Surreal Family Life of Divorce and Remarriage

ArtMessBetty's picture

I got to thinking about this earlier this week and I wanted to share. I am 39f and my husband is 48m. We are in our second year of marriage. He has been married twice previously and has two adult sons (18 and 20) with his first and one son (14) with his second. I was married once before and have two daughters (8 and 10) with my ex-husband. 

My girls live with us full-time, and visit their father three weekends of the month. My current husband is raising my daughters. I say this because their biological father picks them up and drops them off when it is his time and that is it. He is uninvolved completely in the day-to-day happenings of their life. He is more like a babysitter than anything and is out of sight, out of mind. They rarely even mention him. My current husband fortunately has embraced them as if they are his own. The surreal part of it all is that he acts like more of a bonded father with my girls than he demonstrates with his own kids. Here is what I mean by this.

With his boys, all three of them, he was always a weekend father. So he has always been and continues to be in the role of a big playmate, a companion, someone who has fun with them and sends them home. Just like my ex-husband is with our biological daughters. 

My ex-husband lives with a woman with two young daughters. And he behaves with her children in a fatherly way that when I have seen him that is very different than with my girls. It is the same dynamic. Those girls only see their dad every other weekend. He is in that role with those girls, while my ex-husband is raising them. 

My husband's 14 year old son comes over every weekend. He I feel sure has undiagnosed aspergers... unable to socially interact and speaks only to his father when he is here unless he has to speak to me, not even a hello or goodbye, has little to no friends, obsesses over video games and plays them 24/7, has to have all of DH's attention when he is here like DH has to sit next to him on the couch for hours uninterrupted playing video games with him, and he has very poor personal hygiene (doesn't wear deodorant) and smells horrible, which I think is part of the reason they are always claiming that he is bullied. It has always drained me, but DH takes it in stride because it is basically what he does every weekend. It was interesting this week because the BM had gone on holiday with her new husband for a week and he had to shuffle between our home and his home with her where someone was staying to keep him and finally, I saw DH become drained by his presence and his need for constant attention. It was really surreal, yet again.... my girls and DH and I were like the family that was established in our routine, and him being here because he can't or won't interact with us in a typical family way was something that seemed to interrupt what has become our life. Like my own daughters that aren't biologically his seem to be more bonded to him in a parent/child way than his own son. Even to the point that the boy was stinking to high heaven with B.O. tonight and I pulled DH aside and said he smells really bad, could he put on some deodorant? To which DH shrugged and said, it's not my problem. I am taking him back home in an hour...whereas if that had been my 10 year old, he would have had me address it immediately. 

It's just weird. And in the surreal cycle again... the boy is being raised in his mother's home with her new husband, who is playing the day to day role of parenting him in a way that my own DH doesn't.

It is just such a weird cycle, and so interesting what makes a family. It isn't biology necessarily, it seems more to be about choice and the circumstances one seems to end up in. 

Just wanted to reflect on this. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

This is a reality that many mothers don't have to live in: having to choose if you want to cut yourself off from the pain of not seeing your kids regularly and being a part of their day-to-day lives.

Being the non-custodial parent isn't easy emotionally. It's not just not seeing your kids. It's being reminded that you can't take your kids to doctor's appointments or have access to their school work or sign them up for sports without that magical piece of paper that says you have the right to do it. You get judged for not being around (even if you want to be around more and the ex and courts make it nearly impossible). You get trash-talked for only paying child support (in spite of having to keep a house, clothes, food, toys, etc in your own home that accomodates kids). You rarely get consulted about actual parenting decisions - you just get informed that things are happening.

I can't blame NCPs for taking a back seat when that's the parenting and family environment they have to work within. I also can't blame them when they take their parenting energy and devote it to their stepkids. This is especially true of stepfathers where the bar is so incredibly low for what they have to do be considered a "good" stepfather. Of course you're more likely to be better bonded to kids who you don't have a responsibility toward whether they become productive members of society, don't have to discipline them, get praised for having the slightest interest in their stepkids, and are encouraged to do bonding activities to make the kids comfortable.

I'm not disparaging anyone in a step or blended family saying this. It's heartbreaking. What is seen on the surface as a "happy blended family" is usually fueled by hurt and damage on the backside.

tog redux's picture

Yes, this. OP - if you want your ex to have more of a role in their lives, have you offered him 50/50 custody? He obviously cares about them or he wouldn't take them 3 weekends a month. Do you welcome his involvement in day-to-day stuff with the kids?

Men like this often want to be involved, but don't think they can be so they let the mother take over primary parenting and just become a weekend dad. NCPs get relegated to this role, that's why 50/50 is so important for kids.

strugglingSM's picture

Well said, lieutenant. In my experience, DH put in an effort to be more of a day-to-day parent, but BM made it impossible (e.g. if he called SSs during the week, she would accuse him of "disrupting her time", she would withhold extra time and then criticize him for "not caring about" his children if he didn't take extra time when she wanted him to (i.e. when she needed a babysitter), she would not share school info, etc). SSs have been told not to share things about their home life with DH, so we don't even ask any more because even innocent questions devolve into conflict from the one SS who thinks we are just out to get BM. It's a weird situation for sure because we don't really know what goes on at their home, so we only know what happens with them when they are with us, four days a month. 

DH and I recently had a child of our own and he confided in me that he feels like he'll actually be able to be a parent now, because he feels that BM took that away from him by marginalizing him so much in the lives of his children. It makes me sad for him, but his kids are also missing out because they don't really know DH, either. Could he put in more effort, sure, but no one should have to put up with abuse in order to see their children...and abuse is the price lots of HCBMs want to extract in order for the NC Dad to have more connection with his children...and even when putting up with the abuse, they only have the connection HCBM wants them to have.

The kicker here is that DH was the primary caregiver for a lot of his marriage to BM. She's not someone who really enjoys being a mother, but she insisted on having full custody and complete control in the divorce and DH didn't have a lawyer and just wanted it to be over, so he's EOWE dad who is more of a babysitter or fun uncle because BM replaced him almost immediately with her DH. When I met SSs nearly six years ago, one of them said something about "my mom and dad" and he was referring to BM's SO (they weren't even married at the time), not DH. I remember being a little shocked by the whole thing.

CastleJ's picture

This! We go through all of this. DH and BM were never married and BM tricked DH into getting her pregnant by getting off birth control without telling him. She immediately broke up with him when she found out she was pregnant. She has abused him verbally and emotionally via email and text. Always demanded significant amounts of $$ and CS. She did not allow parenting time for SS' first two years while sorting out the custody order. All she does is complain about how DH doesnt care about SS, never is involved in his life, etc, yet she never notified him of appointments, sports, or anything. When we asked for information, she would provide vague updates without names or locations or dates. When DH attempted to contact the school for information, BM went off and contacted the school, telling them no information is to be shared. 

DH went to mediation for years trying to settle an arrangement, but she would make her demands and threaten him if he didn't comply. DH didnt even have overnights until SS was 5 and she blamed it on SS being too young and not being comfortable around DH. When SS turned 5, BM moved him out of state to move in with her girlfriend. Now he calls them both "Mom" and "my parents" and can barely acknowledge DH. DH still calls twice a week to talk to him but its clear that we mean very little compared to BM and her GF and SS does not view DH as a parent or an authority figure. 

Now we see SS 6 weeks per year. We took BM to court last year for increased visitation and daycare/medical decision making, since BM wouldnt let us seek medical attention or sign him up for daycare during our visitation. She expected DH to take 4 weeks of PTO (he only gets 2 weeks) to watch SS during his parenting time, otherwise "SS doesn't need to go to visitation if DH isn't home to be with him". BM told the judge that SS is enrolled in sports year round so increased visitation won't work and the judge agreed. But you better believe during sports season, BM is pulling SS out of sports for vacations and all kinds of stuff, but he can't miss sports to see his Dad. 

DH is over it, he is drained emotionally and financially and he is done fighting with this HCBM. We plan to have our own children next year and DH is so excited to have autonomy to parent and actually be involved. He is a great Dad if only SS and BM could see that. 

Rags's picture

Regardless of how infrequently a kid is in the home of the NCP that parent has the responsibilith to hold that kid to standards of decorum, behavior, and performance.

So many prior failed family breeder parents think that the best way to go is to let their poor little COD spawn run amok.or treat a new spouse, StepSibs, or new BioSibs disrespecffully.  A visiting or resident Skid should be treated with the same respect as any other residen tof the home, and should have to behave and treat everyone else in the home respectfully.


Rags's picture

Regardless of how infrequently a kid is in the home of the NCP that parent has the responsibilith to hold that kid to standards of decorum, behavior, and performance.

So many prior failed family breeder parents think that the best way to go is to let their poor little COD spawn run amok.or treat a new spouse, StepSibs, or new BioSibs disrespecffully.  A visiting or resident Skid should be treated with the same respect as any other residen tof the home, and should have to behave and treat everyone else in the home respectfully.

I have no BPs so I suppose it may be clear to me since my view is not clouded by procreative influences.  I am fortunate that my incredible bride could keep clear focus, or at least mostly clear focus, on her responsibilities to raise her/our son to responsible and viable adulthood rather than dedicating her parenting and marital efforts to assuaging some backwarding focused guilt over the circumstances of his birth and her youthful mistake in a boy friend.