You are here

I'm there. Disengaging from today onwards

RL1989's picture

Hello all

Me again, with the two "step" kids, 14f and 13m. Having followed the thread of disengagement with interest, I can no longer put it off in relation to my own situation. As Max Bygraves used to say, "I wanna tell you a story". 

Weekday morning earlier than this week. and I can hear by the tone of his voice that the boy is talking to his mum like she's something he'd stepped in. I lent an ear in case it got out of hand, and it turns out that on the morning he needs it, he's misplaced a German textbook for school. He gets more and more worked up, being rude to his mum as she starts scouring his pit to look for the errant book. Recently I suggested (more fool me) that he gets his stuff ready the night before, so if his mum needs to wipe his behind for him, she has time and energy to do it. Clearly this has fallen on deaf ears.

"Can you give me a note, otherwise my German teacher will shout at me and tell me "It's not good enough". I muttered under my breath that the woman may well have a point. I did successfully manage to leave this one alone though; I thought "Disengage", time to leave it. I've taken to this recently as everything I say in relation to the children is ill-received, and I end up having to apologise and grovel, knowing she'll back her kids every time (I get this, I completely understand it). Although part of me feels she should listen to a bit of reason from someone on the "outside" rather than dismiss it as heresy against the cult of the Child. 

Fast forward one whole day. A day. And he's at it again. He's been out the previous evening, plastered his school shoes in mud, and is starting to kick off about not having them to go to school in with minutes to go until he has to leave. I tune out for a bit, but go out into the hallway to see his mum (my girlfriend, who I think the world of), on her knees scraping mud off the shoes with surface wipes. Before I can stop myself I turn the other way shaking my head. Unfortunately, my gf, probably looking for (and finding) some sort of implied criticism corners me a few minutes later. "What's the matter?" she asks. "Nothing", I say. But she persists, and I ask her why she's been asked to clean mud off his shoes with minutes to go. She immediately and aggressively retorts that she wasn't asked, she offered. I then asked why she offered, reasoning that a 13 year old is well capable of cleaning mud off his own shoes. This was where the stuff hit the fan. 

"Everything I do for the kids is wrong. See you later". Off she goes and I slope off to the car to go to work feeling about 1" tall.

Later, I get a text message saying she feels like I'm judging her, and it makes her feel like a sh*t mum. I responded that everything I say in relation to the kids seems to be automatically wrong, so it cuts both ways. She also said she doesn't understand why I judge her parenting when I regularly compliment the kids on how well behaved they are. 

She misses the point entirely here, I don't blame the kids at all, I just resent that she coddles them and doesn't give them any responsibility, or any situation where they're likely to learn. All they will learn from this is that they can get away with doing f**k-all, then lashing out at their mum, who will do it for a quiet life, and then kiss and make up with them aftewards. Attitudes move on, possibly for the better in some ways, but if I'd have talked to my parents like they talk to her, I would have hit the opposite wall and bounced right off it. 

I know what people will say, disengage, disengage, disengage. However I couldn't help myself in this instance, and really regret my inability to keep my mouth shut. I have no resentment towards the children, I don't mind that they must come first, but I really, really would like to come second once in a while. 

Someone on here once said to me that a significant other's children should be their number one responsibility, but not always their top priority. I cleverly worked this into something I could put to her and she looked horrified. I stopped short of suggesting the second part of that truism, being that while the children are her top responsibility, our relationship should maybe be her priority, as this would have meant that, having dug the hole I'm in, I'd have been actively shovelling the dirt right back in over myself. 

Anyway, I'm onto a loser here as even my own mum reckons I was out of order. Maybe I am.

Not a good week to try to quit smoking..... Have a great day all.

AlmostGone834's picture

I don't think you were out of order. The truth is, misplacing books and dirty shoes happen to all kids. Life and natural consequences (an angry teacher, being late, having to clean the shoes you made dirty etc) teach children to be more careful next time. Your wife is depriving her children the opportunity to learn from their mistakes so they are doomed to repeat them. There's nothing you can do about it so let her clean the shoes, scramble to find the book... and don't feel sorry for her. She is choosing this path.

As someone who routinely has trouble keeping her mouth shut, I understand 100% how hard it is not to make a comment or roll an eye. I've also found it never ends well for me haha. Disengagement is often two steps forward and one step back but we'll get there eventually. 

Merry's picture

My own child was the most disorganized human on the planet. As she got older, I started to let natural consequences take their course. At 13, should would have been responsible for packing up all her school items and making sure she had appropriate clothes (including shoes) to wear. So, in your case, she would have either found the German book or suffered the consequences from her teacher. And she would have either cleaned her own shoes or worn them caked in mud.

I was not a perfect Mom by any means, but I sure wasn't her servant.

We don't let our kids fail enough, so they don't learn how to handle difficulty or how to bounce back or how to solve a problem. Is Momma going to go to uni with the kids to make sure their path is smooth? To their jobs to make sure the boss isn't "mean"?

CLove's picture

Concrete examples really help as explaining the "kids dont always come first".

1. If a kid wants chinese and you want pizza, who wins?

2. If a kid is hungry, and theres only enough for the kids, who gets to eat?

3. If a kid is sick on date night or needs a trip to the dr, do you cancel date night?

4. If a kid needs help finding book in room, and you need nooky, who wins?

I have found that there are a lot of folks who dont know the difference between responsibility and priority.

You may need to define them, before presenting the whole "we do not revolve our entire existence around the children, the children are satellites to our united family unit, and they highly benefit from this structured balance of two people creating a solid steady solar system for these sattellites who will hopefully spin off and create their OWN solar systems.

SD16 Power Sulk, she is coddled to the point of NO chores while at our house. Shes like a permanent guest. She will rifle through the fridge, and then eat and leave dishes in sink where I have just cleaned and scoured. I am disengaged (unless it affects me), and I have to seriously bite my tongue hard when things like grades, attendance and chores-for-money come up. And that freaking $800 new iphone. 

Like last night. Yesterday I get an email from high scool where SD PS is a junior (getting ok grades except for 2 ds which I dont mention) that notified me she was marked absent from basically the same class she has been marked absent from for 17 different days. I get home, more concerned about the raging floods than SD' s blatant truancies, and hes on the phone from getting a message. Mentions it, with an offhand "Ill need to ask her about this..." As we then launch into discussion about bills to be paid...etc. I casually ask about what happened with absence (I know I know!) with a quip "so did SD16 power sulk ditch again?"

His response "oh she said she went to the bathroom and must not have been added to roster because of that".

Right. This is the class that she is getting D in, and has the most absences in. And somehow she has a box of noodles from a fast food place. I call it she ditched and went to this fast food place for noodles. Bathroom my patooty. This is after he recieved not one but TWO chronic truancy letters from principal stating they will not reinstate her interdistrict transfer and will report Husband to the DA office (who knows if they will follow up, probably not...)

oof! That came back to bite me later. Argument started over dishes. I was accused of yelling at skid about cleaning up after herself (I did not, I mentioned that if she is going to have late-night nosh, please clean BOTH dishes and PANS before she goes to bed the night of...) I was accused of being mean because I also didnt let him get away with dishes sitting in the sink (as I told him I would after I put away all dishes, washed all dishes, pans and stemware and scrubbed the sink.

I walk away and ignore and do my own thing. 

RL1989's picture

Thanks, this is all really good stuff. The examples are especially useful. I'll do almost anything to help these kids, especially when they're in need, but I draw the line at stuff they should have their own responsibility for. Not letting them fail enough is also really powerful, knowing the difference between helping, supporting or aiding, and wrapping them in cotton wool and making them unfit for the big bad world. Thanks again all.

The_Upgrade's picture

Without consequences, there is no lesson. I was sick of dragging my 4 year old out of bed to go to class. One day I decided I'll let her sleep in. Came to wake her up at 9am and she kept on telling me she wasn't ready. Still lazing and playing in bed. Well she was finally ready at 11am and I told her the class runs 10-12. By the time we get there all the children would be lining up outside to be picked up. She was devastated. And made my job a lot easier in the mornings afterwards when she realised if she didn't move, she was going to stay put for the entire day. "Hurry up or we'll be late" means absolutely nothing if you don't let them be late.

(side note: it was holidays that day so there was no class, she just didn't know it hehehehe. And yes, she does get enough sleep. She's just really bad at transitions) 

reedle2021's picture

You are not in the wrong regarding this situation.  Your GF needs to start setting expectations with associated consequences for her kids.  They should be doing more for themselves.  They are not toddlers.  Your GF's coddling and fixing things for them may very well keep them from learning anything about life and enable them to continue to be overly dependent on her - even when they are adults.  My ex husband would refuse to let his son suffer the consequences of any bad choice he made.  The end result?  This kid was 21 when I left and an utter failure to launch - wouldn't work, wouldn't do his own laundry, wouldn't pick up after himself, nothing.  I think it was 90% my ex husband's coddling of his son and 10% his son is just lazy.  In the end, I left the situation. 

As far as how to deal with GF, I have no advice.  In my situation, my ex simply refused any input regarding his son.  And any small effort I made to offer advice to my ex about his son was met with the silent treatment and then hours of him berating me about what an awful person I was.  And I only offered advice when he was complaining to me about something his son was/wasn't doing.  I ended up disengaging before I left the situation.

Tread lightly but don't be a doormat.  And think about what you want for the future, because it may involve adult offspring who refuse to launch and aren't being pushed in that direction by the parent. 

Please keep us posted!  Smile

Harry's picture

Unfortunately you are not going to change GF.  You will never make her see what she is doing.  You are going to be stuck with a man child living with you

Rags's picture

the falacy and the problem.

No, kids do not come first.  The partners and their relationship are the priority. Always.

Kids are the top responsibility, not the top priority.

Anything else is a spiraling crash to relationship failure.


I would suggest this scripted comment.  'I do not understand why a 13yo would not be held accountable for getting his own shoes muddy and cleaning them. If he does not avoid the mud and does not clean his shoes, he can wear muddy shoes to school.' Modify the basic statement with any new situation.

Though, based on what you have shared on this emotionally incestuous mommy/son relationship, I would pull the plug and get on with your life.  This mom will never move past being a kid coddling shell of a partner to whoever makes the mistake of joining her kid coddling life.

Just my thoughts of course.

Quit letting them gut you. You should not be sulking off to work every day. She can't and more importantly won't fix it. The fix is you moving on and putting them in your life's read view mirror.

Take care of  you.

Russell1981's picture

This stuff needs to be figured out before you say I Do.

My wife and I had discussions about how we would parent the Skids prior to being married. I would not discipline the Skids but act in a supportive role for her (she is a disciplinarian). I always had her back. If I disagreed with something she did we would handle it behind closed doors. For the most part, I never raised my voice or delivered a grounding to them. 

As we had our own children the role shifted to me being the primary disciplinarian. She could actually use the line, "Wait until your dad gets home" and it meant something. My Skids noticed the difference in my role as opposed to the more passive stepdad. 

With that said I would have never attempted to get involved in any situation while I was dating their mother. Only when I married their mother did we elevate our relationship above my SDs and eventually my Bio Kids. 

My wife and I have had our share of fights, but this is one we never had and it was because we knew where each other stood and what was expected before we married. Even now, the girls have gone their separate ways and some relationships are estranged. We don't blame each other and although we were sad initially we moved on quickly and are really enjoying this new season of our life.

She needs to know your expectations and you need to know hers. If they don't match then moving on would be the best for both of you.

Good Luck

Steppedout22's picture

I am living a similar existence now with my husband and his kids. Their mother doesn't hold them accountable for anything, give them any responsibility or parent in any real way and she has them most of the time. My husband is in a bad position because of her lack of parenting when they come over every other weekend because we're stuck with the mess she has created and it is impossible to undo in a weekend. He balks at my insistence that they need to be encouraged to be more responsible, independent and knowledgeable about how the world works instead of being allowed to do whatever they want, as they do at BM's house. He doesn't want to address these issues because he just wants to enjoy his time with them without negativity, even though they are growing up to be entitled brats who don't do anything for themselves. It gets real old when you're the only one who seems to notice these issues and who is willing to try to challenge these children in any way (god forbid). I totally understand where you're at and you are correct in your observations of the children and their mother. If kids never learn to do anything for themselves, then how functional will the be as adults? Not very!

Rags's picture

of behavior and standards of performance in the home from the moment they arrive until the moment they return to the home of the shallow and polluted end of their gene pool.

There is no reason why their time in your home cannot be positive and DH cannot have a positive relationship with his kids when they are visiting him/you. How positive it is, is up to them and dependent on their behavioral and performance choices.

Our home was the home with standards of performance and standards of behavior for SS. It was also the home with involved parents, active family relationships, etc...

There were not rules, standards, or care when he was in SpermLand on SpermClan visitation.

SS is now 30, he asked me to adopt him when he was 22. We made that happen. He is extremely close to his mom and I. He has little relationship and little contact with them.

IMHO, there is no reason why the quality parent in a COD situation cannot have a positive relationship while establishing and enforcing standards of behaviro and standards of performance for their children regardless what the shit side of the blended equation may pull.

Notthedoormat's picture

When a situation is occurring.  If you want to talk to her about it later when tensions are less and express that you hate to see her stressed and maybe even taken advantage of, that might be a better approach.  Take her a favorite beverage and tell her what you've observed.  She may need time to swallow that her child is growing up and can do for himself.  In fact, as others have said, he needs to be managing his muddy shoes himself.  

I have dealt with my own kids telling me at bedtime they need x washed for the next day.  I respond with the fact that I'm going to bed, not taking care of whatever because I've worked all and and deserve some rest, too. They'll live. 

Same with lost homework or whatever...they will have to keep up with their things or face the consequences.  

Other than that,  my advice is don't get involved in it. Hopefully she'll see it herself and address it, but it may take a while.

Littleheart's picture

Oh man a lot of this resonates with my situation. So there's a lot of coddling and not having these kids be reasonable for themselves and their behavior. 
my partner also says he feels like I am judging him and his parenting when I say anything about his sons inability to be independent and take care of things himself. Which yes I am because you're doing a crappy job! 

Rags's picture

"So you are saying......!" was a big strain during the early years of our marriage.

That your DH "feels" he is being judged is bullshit.  Rip his "feels" out at their roots and direct him to listen to exactly what you are saying and not what he "feels" you are saying.

We went through this before fee fees became some broadly socially (il)legitimized movement.  So, our alignment was over words and not "feels".

When we would be in a "discussion" and she would respond to something I said with "So you are saying.... !". I would reset the discusion with "That never entered my mind nor did those words ever come out of my mouth. What I said was XYZ & LMNOP. Nothing more. Listen to exactly what I said. That is what I meant."

Not conducive to decompressing tension, but it got us to focus on the topic of discussion and it got her back on my message. If I had questions, I asked, I did not initiate gaining additional understanding of her perspective with an accusitory rewording.

What your DH feels about the situation is due to his clarity of his own failures, not anything that you are making him feel any particular way.  No one can make someone feel anything. They choose to feel.  Do not let him deflect with his fee fees. Make him focus on the actual message.

I would if I were  you.

"I am not judging  your parening. I am stating the fact that your kid is currently not held accountable for being independent and providing self care appropriate for a kid his age. If your parenting is at fault, that is on you and that is a fact, not a feeling. Fix it!"


Lather, rinse, repeat.

While my goal is not to hurt anyone's fee fees, my give a shit about their fee fees is zero. I care about their actions.  This while socially broad artificial elevation of the importance of feelings is sub optimizing to performance in life, and guts the opportunity for life quality and happiness in life..... IMHO of course.

"I don't feeeeeeeellllll happy!" 

Cray 2

Then make a choice to feel differently.

Is my basic philosophy on most things.