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Co-parenting... alone?

MisplacedMom's picture
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So I've been lurking and trying to find a similar situation in the forums with no luck.  Quick background... DH and I have SS12 and two bio kids 5 and 6.  I have been in the picture since SS was 2 years old.  From ages 2 until this past year there was no official agreement between DH and BM.  BM controlled when DH would be a part of SS's life, and would often keep him away for months at a time (living in same town, refused to return phone calls, making false CPS reports, the whole nine yards).  This situation went on for years until 2015 when DH accepted a job out of state.  BM agreed that SS would be able to come visit, but once we left refused to return phone calls or let SS travel.  I am not naive in seeing DH should have legally fought for his rights at any point in those 8 years.  I brought it up several times, but DH elected to continue to deal with BM on his own.   After 3 years we moved back into the same town as BM.  BM finally filed for "official" child support, and we were able to get a custody agreement on record as well.  Per new agreement we have SS 50% of the time (week on/week off).  At that point BM was also on board because SS was "out of control" and she was wanting our help to "fix" him after years of having zero rules/responsibilities at her house.

  Things went well for the first couple months.   However since the summer DH has had to travel for work.  We knew this was going happen and as DH works long hours even when he is home it was not a huge change for me and BioKids in how the house is run.  The original plan was for me to continue with the 50% custody agreement to keep SS on routine, and atleast have structure/rules half the time.  BM is on board with this, as SS was starting to make some progress.  He passed sixth grade by the skin of his teeth and with the school's knowledge that we were working with him.

  This school year has been awful.  SS is difficult at best if he is not allowed to sit in front of a computer/TV all day.  He will escalate any redirection into a full blown power struggle, drags the younger kids into the drama, and at this point I refuse to take him places because of his attitude/behavior.  To save my sanity both DH and BM agreed that to shorter weeks with me when DH is out of town. 

I feel I am pretty well equipped to manage behavior in general as I have a social services degree, and have worked with troubled kids in a residential setting.  So I know the basics. However I cannot manage him AND my two children when I am alone.  Were we in a different setting I would have other adults to help divide forces when necessary.  But at this point with SS I feel like it is not a positive situation for him, myself, or bio kids when he is here and there is a behavior that needs to be addressed. 

DH is staying out of town and working for 12+ hours a day.  This will not go one for forever, but will last atleast a few more months.  The school has given up on BM supporting them and is now contactng me or DH directly to deal with behaviors.  I'm just not sure what to do anymore.  I am no longer effective in managing the behaviors, DH is busy in the provider role.  I feel like if I totally disengage I'm letting DH down, as we have always agreed on more traditional home roles (he does all the providing, I do all the "domestics").   I am on board with holding down the household, but I am at my wits end with SS.   I'm to the point I am dreading our days with SS.  DH is aware, but is only able to back me up so much over the phone.  Quitting his job is not an option.

- FWIW I also believe that ther is still hope for SS, but BM continues to make excuses for his behaviors and "parents" with blinders on.  And honestly I don't believe that she has the tools/ability to really buckle down with him.  Though she wants to see a change, I don't know that she will ever be able to recognize how here own behaviors contribute. -

I really do want to help this kid, but I'm concerned about the mental toll its taking on me and the impact it has on biokids.  Any advice is appreciated.

 

fakemommy's picture

If it helps, 7th grade is the absolute worst year. Middle school is hard in general, but 7th grade is the pits.

MisplacedMom's picture

The school has been very accommodating in working with him thus far.  However we are 3 months in and have already dealt with a 5 day suspension, is (at this point) not allowed in the general classrooms (efforts have been made and chances given to avoid this), and most recently stealing/lying.  If he makes through 7th grade I will be amazed, however I also said the same about 6th. Unknw

 

ESMOD's picture

This is a tough time.. but if I am reading this right.. you and your DH agreed you would be a SAHM and run the home.. while he went to work?  and.. the agreement did, include holding "his" end of the custody arrangement?

It sounds like his EX and your DH have made some efforts to minimize the time that the boy is there... I think that dad needs to take a more active role in his son's life.. even if it is via skype or phone...

There is no reason why his dad can't be more involved (I am assuming he is not in the desert on deployment).. calls daily.. to see if the kid is on track and to remind him that he has standards.. may help.

Then there is also the tactic of "if it doesn't hurt ME.. then don't poke the bear"..so maybe it's 1 hr of required homework time at the kitchen table with zero tv/music.. that is a non-negotiable.. after that? he can retire to his room to be a screen zombie.  

Perhaps the kid need some counseling as well?

MisplacedMom's picture

That is exactly what we agreed on, which is why I feel the need to hold to my end of the deal.  I am home and homeschooling the biokids, and we travel to see DH once a month.  I took SS once, but was not able to manage his behaviors and outbursts in the car, and so have not volunteered to do it again.   As far as daily contact, currently DH is on 2nd shift and so even I only get to talk to him in a short afternoon window.  BM won't answer phone calls from DH when SS is there, but pushing for it when he is here would be helpful.  DH does get a short break in the evenings we could aim for.

I've gone with that don't poke the bear tactic lately.  However even requiring a short amount of anything turns into an all out power struggle.  In the sit at the table scenario for example, he will have a tantrum at the table,  if ignored he will generally escalate until his behavior becomes too disruptive to allow him to remain in the common area.  Most recently he stole from a kid at school and then lied to me (and the school) about where it came from.  So I'm torn between addressing this behavior (he will escalate to a full blown power struggle if I do) and just saying f*** it. 

With DH gone and BM not on board my understanding is that legally I can not just take him to counseling.  BM has taken him in the past but was not consistent with it before stopping (they suggested his biggest issue is lack of accountability).

ESMOD's picture

since the situation is somewhat temporary.. I might suggest to your DH that visitation without him present is not an option.  If you can't manage the kid for a drive to see his own father?... that is unacceptable.

Perhaps your SO needs to be the one to try to come home once a month vs everyone travel to him?  I can sympathize with the DH away thing.. my DH works away from home most of the year.. fortunately the skids are adults now.

MisplacedMom's picture

Honestly, this is what I want, but feel like I agreed to hold down this end so that he could take care of us in other regards.  Unfortunately DH doesn't have enough time to make the trip home on his limited off time.  The amount of hours he is putting in right now borders on insanity, but it won't be this way forever.  I feel like DH is sacraficing a lot and doing everything he can to provide, so I need woman up (if that makes sense).

advice.only2's picture

You have no reason to apologize or feel like a failure in any way. The two people who created the child have failed and they have a long road ahead of them to rectify the situation.

Also middle school is the worst age possible! It's an ugly age on all levels. My BD is 13 and in 8th grade, for the last two years I went between wanting to hug away her hurts to selling her to the gypsies!

tog redux's picture

Does your SS have a therapist? Has he had a psychiatric evaluation? If he's having trouble in all areas of his life (both homes and school), then BM's crap parenting is not likely the ONLY problem (though it doesn't help). He's likely got some other mental health issues.  I would insist on that happening.

I personally would not do what you're doing and be the primary caregiver for a difficult stepkid when DH is away. You agreed to that with YOUR kids, but not with his kid. 

MisplacedMom's picture

Evaluations in the past have been: 1st: He has ADHD here's a pill to make your troubles go away.  2nd: He needs structure and rules.  3rd: He needs structure and rules.  So nothing beyond the expected ADHD diagnosis, but my understanding with ADHD is that enviroment plays a big part even with medication.  The medication was stopped because of negative side effects not long after it was started.  I agree 100% that consistent mental health treatment could be helpful, but feel helpless in my legal ability to seek that for him.  And when is not here, any suggestions they make are not followed through.

Personally I am wrestling with cutting my role, and feeling that I agreed this so DH could do what he needed to do to provide for us.  That I need to put on my big girl britches and deal.

tog redux's picture

I think you agreed to your own kids, but not this SS. 

Sounds to me that this is more than ADHD, given his outbursts and his 5-day suspension. Medication might be helpful for the school problems, but it won't help much at home as it's not taken then (except on weekends). It's worth getting another opinion, this is only going to get worse with puberty. 

MisplacedMom's picture

I do not disagree.  But not sure I can legally seek another eval, and DH isn't available at the moment.

tog redux's picture

No, you can't - but at my clinic, for example, if DH signed the registration paperwork and consents, etc, we would see the kid with just the stepmother who cares for him regularly.  But if BM is going to make a stink and try to pull him out of treatment, etc, then don't bother. 

MisplacedMom's picture

That is good to know!  I don't think she would try to pull him out... just won't contribute to getting him there or following through with suggestions.

tog redux's picture

I can't say it's true everywhere; we are an urban clinic with a variety of custody arrangements walking through our door. But if we had proof that DH worked out of town, had joint custody and he signed all the paperwork, we'd see the kid. Call ahead and find out.

Harry's picture

Is out of town.  You are not his parent. He not visiting you.He causing trouble.  Tell DH , SS can only come over if he home to father him.  Let him stay with BM.  You are not playing happy family for DH 

ndc's picture

I agree with this. What is being accomplished with regard to parenting time if the parent isn't there - at all?  It sounds like you're doing a favor for BM, who can't handle him full time, more than for your DH. Since you are no longer able to keep his behavior in check, is he really any better off in your house than hers? "Deal" or not, I'd let DH know this is not working and he needs to make other arrangements. If it were me, I'd offer to put my kids in school and get a job rather than live in that situation.

MisplacedMom's picture

So very unexpectedly DH just agreed that maybe SS should not be here when he is not in town.  While I am releived I still feel super guilty about not being able to follow-through for DH.  I also feel like I've "given up" on DS, technically my burden or not, at the end of the day he is a struggling kid that needs someone to step-up for him.

MisplacedMom's picture

The more I think about it, there more I think he may have expecting me to reply with "No it's fine, I'll deal with it" instead of "I think thats a good idea".

MisplacedMom's picture

I've researched it. Apparently it's a pretty shady industry that isn't all it appears on the surface.

ExcellenceToolkit's picture

No you shouldn't be responsible for parenting their child. BM needs to step it up. SS should not be coming over to your house when his dad isn't there. What's the point of custody/visitation when there is no bioparent to visit. Tell DH and BM due to his behavioral problems SS is no longer allowed to stay over when DH is out of town period. 

Siemprematahari's picture

I feel like DH is sacrificing a lot and doing everything he can to provide, so I need woman up (if that makes sense).

^^^^^^^^^^^Do not allow this to guilt you into caring for a child that you have no control over. Your H and BM need to feel guilty that they are not physically there to handle their child. Yes you agreed to care for him during his absence but it's not working out and you shouldn't be held responsible. Not only is your H sacrificing to provide for you and yours but he's sacrificing quality time with son too.

I really do want to help this kid, but I'm concerned about the mental toll its taking on me and the impact it has on biokids.  Any advice is appreciated.

^^^^^^^^Anytime your mental well being is being impact this is a clear sign to stop and not engage in it anymore. If you get sick what good will you be to your other kids?