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Control or Children's Happiness?

PlumHalo's picture

My husband and I have been struggling to co-parent with his ex wife and her husband for some time now. We have tried counciling and mediation and although they might have helped for a bit we always end up right where we started. Unable to communicate without fighting.
We have twin girls (10yo) between us. And they have a son (6yo). Most of our issues root from the same place. Control. Our most recent issue has been bath time.
The girls have been going on a schedule where they take baths on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Being that every Tuesday and every other Thursday and Sunday they are on our 4night/2 week schedule. We have brought up the issue in counceling that we find it unfair and rediculous that we are required to provide the girls with their weekly baths strictly on our limited time with them. But we were told by their mom that it could not possibly be moved because "this is how it has always been done and this is the only way it works" to which we find utterly false and dramatic.
We have conceded to the Tuesday night baths but after going through mediation the girl's pick up time (originally 8pm) has been set back a half hour to accommodate their 8pm bed time at their mom's. So we have not been requiring baths on our Thursday nights every other week.
This has not been brought up until we were having another discussion about extracurricular activities.
We live 40 min from the girls mom and a half hour from their school. We don't have any issues with this situation but it has been a major issue to their mom. We decided to sign them up for an activity located close to where we live. The girls participate in several activities close to their mom and school that occur on both of our times and we always try to make it work for the girls sake. In counceling we asked if they would be agreeable to doing activities close to us if the girls showed interest and they agreed. We have tried to discuss the activity with their mom in the past as it's something both girls are interested in but this was the first true discussion. It has been drug out for many days and finally after the girls not having a bath on our Thursday she has pinned the issue on us for being neglectful irresponsible parents and bc of our actions she will not allow the girls to participate in this activity which occurs on some of her primary custody days. We have expressed to her that we will provide any and all transportation for them and even sacrifice our custody time in exchange for the time of the activity but we will not require the girls to bathe on those Thursdays at our house and she is overstepping her bounds by requiring that of us. And in counceling she was told she cannot control what happens on our time (this not being the only thing she was trying to control prior to counceling) . Yet she continues to threaten the girls happiness over petty issues such as this. It is absolutely heartbreaking to know that this women cannot possibly find it in herself to adjust her bath schedule. She has to have control so badly that she will watch her children suffer. My question is how do we protect these girls from heartbreak without letting their mom control our lives? It's keeping both me and my husband up at night. And I just want what is best for those girls. But we cannot cave to this, if we do we open the gates for her to control more aspects of our lives.

I should include that this issue was not the one that brought us to mediation/counceling in the first place it just happens to be the one we are struggling with atm. 

Gimlet's picture

Edit: Additional detail below that changes my thoughts - other members will have better advice so editing out.

PlumHalo's picture

The problem itself isn't so much giving them baths. We have no problem doing it. And would never prevent them from doing it. It's more that she is telling us what to do on our time. They are at our house from 4:30-7:30 on those Thursday nights, we have 3 hours to spend time with them, feed them, take them to other activities, and attempt to have a normal life before they are picked up again. In the past she has tried to tell us how to parent on our time and we are trying to put our foot down by saying if this is a problem to you, adjust your schedule at your home so that it isn't. Just as the councellor told her to do. I also agree they are getting to an age that they can control when they bathe themselves/will have to be bathed more frequently. I just don't understand why is has to be a game changer for her. 

Gimlet's picture

Thank you for the additional detail.

Other members will have more experience and better advice, so I will leave that to them.  This sounds like a tough situation and I am sorry you're dealing with it.

Rumplestiltskin's picture

So you get them 3 hours on Thursdays and she wants you to have them bathe at your house during those 3 hours? That does sound ridiculous. Can't she have them bathe when they get back to her house?

PlumHalo's picture

After last night's blow up she stated that they will have to get up early to bathe and that the 7:30 pickup does not accommodate for them to take baths when they get back home. We have them overnight on Tuesdays and let the girls choose when they want to bathe (in the morning or night). We make both options work in our house without early wake-up (usually around 6:30) and still get to school with plenty of time when we live 20 minutes further away from the school then they do at their mom's. I know not every house operates the same but if it's such an issue then change something you have power over. 

OKtoStep's picture

The way I see it is that there is already a chunk of your time taken out to accommodate the bedtime routine, which should include bathing. At 10 they are old enough for a quick shower and do not always need a prolonged bath based playtime. 
Three hours is for bonding and activities, not playing nanny so that BM gets handing scrubbed and fed children. 

Winterglow's picture

Do you realize that she just admitted that she isn't capable of taking care of her own kids? Maybe it's time to offer to take over if she can't manage (lay it on thick). After all, if she can't master getting the kids clean by the time they're 10... 

ndc's picture

So if I understand correctly, you did counseling with them, the counselor agreed with you, and nothing changed? I'm assuming the schedule is court ordered, so she can't change it (legally, at least) just because you're not giving baths on the schedule she desires.  If so, I'd ignore her and not worry about her bath schedule.  As the main custodial parent, she has the vast majority of the time and therefore the greatest flexibility to make adjustments in the bath schedule.  The children will not be harmed by missing a bath or changing their bath schedule.  This is BM being ridiculous, inflexible and controlling.  Is she very rigid in other areas as well?  Perhaps it's something in her personality (as opposed to a desire to make you miserable)? Not that it matters - the result is the same for you - but knowing her motives might be useful.  FWIW, my skids do not have a bath schedule.  We bathe them when they're dirty or when it's convenient.  I have no idea when they bathe on BM's time.  It's not relevant to us. 

PlumHalo's picture

In counceling it was almost comical to watch it unwind. The whole thing was her idea to do. First day in the councelor called her a helicopter parent and sat and argued with her on the fact that she has no say when it comes to things that happen in our house. Her main concern is safety. She is a flat our helicopter parent. Where we are more laid back at our house. Subjects she wanted us to change we're things like when to put them to bed on our time, wearing a life jacket at all times on a boat, when she caught a picture online of one of them without one on. No context to tell her we were in 3 ft of water and anchored but she took it upon herself to lecture us. Or she caught wind the girls were home alone for a 10 minute span when we ran to my parents house a quarter mile away and the girls had one of our phones and knowledge of how to get ahold of us. She hears bits of information and would just tear us apart about it. I'll admit my husband can be a little forgetful so there would be days the girls would come back with a sunburn bc he had forgotten to reapply lotion or we gave one of the girls an allergy pill bc her allergies were flaring up so bad she couldn't see through her puffy eyes, but bc it wasn't a children's pill she would be in an absolute panic.

I grasped a lot of her concerns but most of the time there were things we couldn't even think to prevent before we knew it we were getting page long texts telling us how irresponsible and terrible we are. It came to a point where we just stopped responding. We couldn't fit her mold. And so her solution was to take us to counceling and have the councelor take us to the cleaners. When the result was the opposite. And now here we are 6 months post counceling and she's going back to her same old ruitine. She doesn't care what anyone tells her. She's going to continue to tell us how to parent. And hurting her kids in the process. It just sucks that we can't protect them from it. I'm just glad we took them to mediation and got 2 overnights added to our schedule. That 2 nights she can't take from us. Can't hold over our heads. Yea we have to pay more in child support and they get the early pickups on nights we don't have them overnight but it's a win for us. All we can do is control our time and not react to her. We are going to try to make the activity work on our schedule. They will miss important dates but at least they get to try it out and see if they love it. As they get older they will have more say in there own lives. And all we can do is support them. 

Survivingstephell's picture

She needs to be told that parallel parenting will now begin and what happens in your house is up to DH and what happens in her house is up to her.  Boundaries people.  Put them in place and stop listening to her.  
Or you could give her a schedule for HER house and tell her she can't have sex when the skids are there and she must cook this for dinner at a certain time and then schedule her craps too.  See how ridiculous this all is????  Take back control in your house, DH can tell his ex to pound bricks   

Harry's picture

And your time and fun time.  You should stop listening to BM.   You do what you want with SK.  DO NOT let BM control what you want to do and how you spend your visitation time.

advice.only2's picture

Sorry that's just gross to me only bathing three days out of the week, especially if they are doing sports and stuff. Personally I would tell Mommy Dearest to stuff a wire coat hanger in her mouth.
I don't know why your DH even entertains her antics...that's why she's able to be so controlling and manipulative, because he entertains her sh@t.

PlumHalo's picture

Up until I came into the picture that's how things were run. He lived close by, worked third shift, could really only have them overnight on the weekends, she was called as babysitter whenever he had conflicts, and they worked on her schedule. Now I've come into the picture and she treats it as if I have just ruined her life. When we moved she litteraly told him it would ruin her son's life and we were just doing it to spite her. Give me a break. We moved bc we had an affordable option elsewhere and that was where I worked. It had nothing to do with her. He's no longer on third shift, we have legally gained more overnights and we don't do as she commands anymore. Unfortunately the girls are the ones paying for it by having to endure her temper tantrums. I think we have just decided to take the higher road here and reduce our responses and communication to things that are pertinent to the girls. Need to know information. And we will attempt to make the activity work on our time. It will suck but all we can do is try, and be happy our time can relationships with them can't be ruined by her. 

tog redux's picture

Well, this is a new one, a BM trying to force the NCP to give the kids baths so she doesn't need to.

At 10 years old, they should be able to take 10 minute showers every day/every other day or so and be done with it. Why this big thing about "giving them baths", they aren't toddlers.

I'd ignore and do what seems best to you. If she's the custodial parent and you have them for 3 hours, she needs to make them take showers in the morning or when they get home from your visits. At 10, they don't need to go to bed at 8 pm either.

PlumHalo's picture

Agreed. 8pm isn't even their bedtime here. That was another thing she tried to enforce. When we put them to bed. It's getting to a point where she just needs to be ignored. We don't fit this stupid mold she has set for her family. And can't cope with us denying her setting rules in our house. Give me a break. The whole argument is hilarious. To think that giving a 10 year old a bath is such a breaking point to her is just bizzare. Why does she care so much?? Its way less stressful to change her schedule then to tell us what to do on ours and just hope we obey? We are done taking orders. The girls follow our rules. We will deal with them not being able to go to the activity on her time. She won't prevent us from doing it on our time. 

tog redux's picture

Yes, just ignore. No judge is going to order you guys to "give them baths", whatever that means with a 10-year-old, when you have them 3 hours and BM has them for 21. If she brings it up, your DH can return with the fact that she's neglecting their hygiene by not having them take showers on the days she has them.

It's just a typical high conflict BM control tactic.

Rags's picture

You protect them by giving them the facts.  BM gets zero say over how you spend the girls' time in your home.  Put baths on BM's; time.  She is the CP.  It makes more sense for her to deal with the baths.  Do not adjust the drop off time.  Half an hour will not have any impact on 10yos regarding bed time.  8PM is BM's chosen bed time and that should not be allowed to interfere in DH's time with his daughthers.  Drop them off at 8.  BM can deal with her anal retentive bullshit regarding bed times and her manipulative control issues.

You protect the girls by being confident assertive parents, you give them the facts, and you direct them to discuss any questions that they have about what goes on at BM's with BM and discuss anything regarding their time in your home with you and their dad.

Do not be the martyrs to BM's manipulative toxic bullshit.   Far too many in blended family marriages naively avoid confronting toxic bullshit from the opposition out of the inaccurate perspective that it is best for the  children.  Confront her crap and demonstrate to the kids that BM gets no say in what goes on when they are with you.

Lather............... rinse.................... repeat.

Start to season them with the facts. When BM oversteps, tell them that BM is overstepping and the CO does not allow her to do that.  As they get older, give them more and more factual details that tighten the boudaries around BM and give the girls the ability to protect themselves from their BM;s manipulative bullshit.

Good luck.


Wicked stepmo.'s picture

I am currently dealing with two teenage SKs who are going through complete emotional turmoil because if a HCBM and a father who spent thier entire lives protecting them and covering up for BMs bad behavior. 

Now that they are older one believes BM is the good one and BD is the one who is really the bad parent who doesn't love or care about her. She believes everything that ever upset her when she was younger was not BMs fault but SOs fault. 

The other is an emotional trainwreck suffering from severe depression because she is finally seeing how her BM really is and is fighting to deny her reality and holds on to BMs lies in hopes they are true. 

This is because SO never let them see the truth when they were younger. If BM blocked him from taking them somewhere or doing an activity with them. He lied and made up excuses so they wouldn't be upset with BM or disappointed. 

BM is controlling because she is a narc not because she is a helicopter parent. She doesn't really care about SKs or Thier welfare. She only cares about the control. OSD is easily controlled by her so she favors her. YSD is a spitfire and  will fight back. So BM punishes her by withholding her love and attention. 

I never once lied to DS or cushioned him from the type of person his BD really is. BD would make DS all sorts of false promises that I knew where lies. But I said nothing and let DS find out for himself without a word from me. BD would tell him lies about me. If DS asked I never bad-mouthed his father I only reminded him of things that really happened that he remembers. 

Like BD saying I broke up our family and it's my fault for everything BD is going through. I reminded DS of how all we did was fight and argue and that we just didn't get along and no one was happy. Now that we are not together we don't fight and argue anymore. 

DS is the same age as SDs and he loves his father but has set realistically low expectations with him and takes what he says with a grain of salt. DS knows the type of person his father is and accepts him for who he is. He figured this all out in his own. DS has also learned in his own how to deal with exH in his own way that makes their relationship work. 

He handles exH better than I ever could. 

monkeyseedo's picture

I'm a huge fan of co-parenting in general because it's best for the kids. The kids don't get away with lies or manipulations because parents can be adults and communicate and parent together.  That said, it never works with a high conflict parent (NCP or CP) in the mix, and in this case your BM is high conflict and controlling.  You will have to move to parallel parenting.

A lot of times BM's can co-parent just FINE until another woman comes along....this is because the dad was mostly happy to jump hoops and do whatever ridiculous demand BM gave, so she ran the show.  Once another parent comes in and challenges or questions or wants her DH to listen to her and not BM, Bm's will then switch to HC and then comes the need to parallel.  Dad his rules, BM has hers.

I find it odd you gained more time and they thought it ok to increase CS.  Makes zero sense.  Honestly, I would drop the extra-curricular on your Thursdays, seems to me the kids do enough already.  Parents get so obsessive about filling every min of kids lives with activities and different things, they have no time to be a kid, decompress or just spend boring family time.  They learn they have to be entertained and catered to every moment at the expense of the adults.   I would stick with just ONE activity per season per kid-and take one season off.  This will allow for less drama with the BM, less drama and business for the kids and everyone will be happier. 

I absolutely disagree with 'fact showing' the kids at this age.  It's alienation, don't let anyone spin it to you differently.  Kids don't need to see a court order or be told what the other parent is doing wrong.  There may be a time and place for that when older, but not at their ages.  One can combat an outright lie, or be truthful if asked about something or be truthful if a parent is failing to ever see their kid w/out making up excuses...but there is a fine line.