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Some ideas on mild disengaging?

callmemyname's picture

Hello. I am new here, and have been told I do too much for my SS, and that is why I am feeling the way I am. The best way I can describe it is "burnt out." While I do greatly love my FDH and SS, I feel like sometimes I am losing myself. Upon talking to my mom, she said that after my sister and I were born, she felt as though she was no longer herself, but mine and my sister's mother. And that's it. She told me that while it is important for SS to know I am a safe, dependable place, I don't have to exhaust myself trying to be something I will never be to him, and that's mom. It makes complete sense to me. I am always running in place and trying to please everyone, even though it is never been asked of me.

So, my question is how can I disengage without either of them feeling a sense of abaondonment from me? I don't want to exhaust myself so much on SS that I can't be the best mom possible to my future children.

MrsStepMom's picture

He won't feel abandoned if you don't make dinner a few nights a week. Your DH should be doing the majority of taking care of his son anyway, it isn't your job.

TwoOfUs's picture

I was where you are about 7 or 8 years ago. I jumped in with my DH and his THREE children and went crazy. Cooking elaborate meals, packing lunches, cleaning before and after visitation, making beds, taking kids out to do fun things...etc. 

It did wear me out and I started to feel incredibly resentful and to dread the visitation weekends. I didn't like the person I was becoming. 

For me, it started slowly. I love to I still cooked. But I quit cleaning up after dinner while DH and his kids went to snuggle and watch a movie together, for instance. I quit "making plates" for everyone. The first time I did this, we had only one SD over. I made my plate and DH's plate, like I normally do, and came to the table. 

DH: "What about SD??!!!"

Me: "Are her hands broken?"

SD got up and made her own plate (she was like...14 btw. Not a toddler.) 

Then DH kicked in and really started making his kids clean up after themselves, pack their own lunches, set the table, help with clen up after dinner, etc. 

It helped a lot. I still didn't love visitation weekends...but they became more tolerable. 


tog redux's picture

He's not your child. Why do you feel obligated to be his parent? Let DH take care of parenting tasks.  

sunshinex's picture

Why would a kid feel abandoned by someone who isn't their parent or even related to them for that matter?

I get what you're worried about, I do, but you need to remember you're dad's wife - you're not his mom. Consider all the things you do for your stepson an extra/more than he'd have without you. You're an EXTRA person in his life. An EXTRA adult to do things for him/love him. That is enough. I promise you. It's enough. 


Siemprematahari's picture

Do you feel it's abandonment because your partner is not stepping up and doing what he has to do for his son? So you feel you obligated and do it all voluntarily??? If so, this could be why you are feeling burned out and running ragged. You have to STOP doing all of it and allow your FDH to parent and take care of his responsibilities.

callmemyname's picture

Recently, my FDH has really stepped upa nd been a great dad. He came from a family where discipline was all physical and he resented his parents for that. I, on the other hand, was spoken to like an adult from a very young age. My parents would sit me odwn, tell/ask me what I had done wrong, and then help me mentally decide what I would do next time if put in the same situation. I have never spanked SS4, because 1)I don't think it's my place and 2)He had a hitting problem and I think that if he hits, and you spank him to punish him, it just defeats the purpose. NOW, I do agree with a little bop on the bottom to get their attention, 100%. I don't disagree with parents who spank, I disagree with spanking to HURT a child, or teach them a lesson rather than just verbalizing solutions. I'm not a "snowflake" or whatever they call it. I just think that kids should be disciplined as adults, because I believe I turned out more responsible that my peers and have better problem solving skills because my parents equiped me with them. Not tooting my own horn, jsut trying to give insight to my thoughts.

I try to do this with SS. When he is in trouble, he starts crying/sreaming and runs upstairs. Typically, I let him go for a few moments, and follow him. He is usually trying to be as far from me as possible, but I sit him down and tell him to breathe. Once he gets calmed down, I ask him to describe to me what happened. I try my best to see things from his perspecitve as well. 4 is a tough age, he's in school now and is expected to be responsible but also isn't allowed to make many decisions on his own, so I understand his frustrations. ANYWAY... What I'm trying to say is that my FDH was not taught these things. We have been working through these things together and we are both learning as we go. I jumped right in and tried to help him become the best dad he can be. Grooming him into a man like my dad. Had he had better parents who tried more rather than allowing him to be a heathen and then spanking him for it, but not teaching him what was the right choice, I think he would have been mature enough to leave their crappy relationship and not be tricked by her "I'm going to kill myself if you leave me" jabs and then stayed long enough for her to get off BC and get pregnant to try to keep him around. He has admitted so many times that he wishes he had my parents as role models sooner in life, and that shows me that I'm doing something right in trying to get us to follow in their footsteps.

But, that being said, I sometimes feel like "why am I trying so hard? this kid isn't even mine?" I suppose I'm grooming him for our future children. He has grown into a man that I cannot wait to make the father of my children one day!

GoingWicked's picture

I just started in areas I felt unappreciated in.  Like taking her out, DH had zero consequences for her misbehavior and rudeness towards me and others around her when I took her out in public.  Then to top it off, she would insult whatever we did together.   Next, she was continually allowed to insult my cooking, so I stopped cooking on nights she was here.  That lasted for about a year,  now she says something nice about my cooking or nothing at all.  I also don’t tell her what or how much to eat.  I serve everyone but her, she serves herself since DH allows her to toss her food.

 I stopped greeting her, when she was allowed to ignore me.  I stopped initiating conversations with her, because when I do she tells lies or brags, and it’s constant, like she has nothing better to talk about.  I stopped buying her gifts for birthday/Christmas one year because she decided to tell everyone but me thank you one Christmas.  I stopped making her do chores when DH wouldn’t enforce, now I just toss or hide her stuff if she leaves it out.  She does her own laundry, and DH makes sure she cleans her room.  

I don't take SD anywhere unless asked nicely, I don’t attend boring school functions.  I don’t see her homework, teachers or her grades. 

I do continue to babysit, purchase her junk food and clothes, because junk food keeps her quiet and happy (which helps with the babysitting, even though now she’s old enough to stay at home alone), and DH would spend way too much money clothes shopping.

Hmm, that’s all I can think of, DH is usually pretty appreciative, even if she isn’t, when I do anything for her anymore.  He doesn’t like the disengagement, but he understands.  Bottom line he is the only reason I do stuff for her at all, to help him out.  Step parenting, to me, is like helping out with a BFF’s spoiled kid.  Don’t really like the kid, but I love my BFF, so I suck it up, keep the kid happy until the parents get home, and let the parents deal with the consequences of their poor parenting choices.

Cover1W's picture

Like many here I jumped in to help with everything without understanding the situation or consequences. Within 1.5 years I was here on this board and got SUPER great advice.  I chose to disengage slowly, not all at one time because I freaking had to teach DH through experience and he could only do one thing at a time.  He's still not great about it, but I let go of a lot.  This is kind of the order of what I remember:

* The very first thing I disengaged from was making plans for us (meaning me, DH and SDs). I was burned and was out $ several times and nope, done with that. I still don't plan much of anything, it's all on DH. I'll help him now and then but events/outings are up to him.

* Then I stopped helping with the hygiene issues (mostly with OSD - YSD still literally asked for help or tried doing things on her own so I stayed a little more engaged there). Kid goes into screaming fits about basics at age 10...not my problem.

* No more school lunch help by age 10.  No more special shopping for special skid only lunch items.

* NO cooking special meals. One meal cooked, that's it.

* NO cleaning up after SDs - at ages 8 and 10 they are old enough to clean up anything.  Anything left out in shared space after 24 hrs is gone.

* I continued to help with laundry, but 1) everyone had a laundry basket - if dirty things weren't in there, they didn't get washed 2) new house, taught everyone how to use new washer/dryer and posted instructions in cabinets - from then on SDs do their own (OSD never did her own!)

* Stopped giving rides / pickups to SDs with no prior notice.  I don't arrange things or have a say in arrangements, then I'm not responsible for pickups / drop offs.  Adults can figure this out.

* Demanded DH pay at least 50% of groceries when SDs with us. I no longer cover most groceries unless it's only DH and I. I do NOT buy special expensive food for SDs.

* Vacations with SDs DH must plan it and pay for them. I will help if we visit my family (not happened in a long time) but he tends to spend more $ on vacas and I refuse to plan for a family vacation without help.  I'll pay for some things if I feel like it, but overall DH covers it.

etc., etc., etc.

sunshinex's picture

If it helps, start by taking up a hobby you can get yourself out of the house with. Going to the gym, taking art classes, whatever it is, do it and dedicate a few days a week to it. That gives you a super easy out that no one can deny. Make dinner? Sorry, I'm running to XYZ. Drop the kid off? Nope, I've got XYZ. If anyone complains, ask why it's a problem for you to have something that helps you feel better. Everyone deserves their own "thing" that they dedicate their time/attention to now and then. Nobody can make you feel bad for that.