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Unexpected full time step parent- having trouble coping

noodle's picture

My husband and I have been married for just under two years (together for 5 years). His daughter is now 7- I have known her since she was two. Before we were dating, he found out that he had a daughter (then 18 months old), through a letter requesting child support. The woman had not contacted him following their one night tryst in college. Upon proof of paternity, my husband began paying support and requested visitation. The BM would often decide the day of, that he could not pick up his daughter, or make it difficult for him to contact her. This situation continued until the BM was arrested for assaulting her husband with a car seat in front of the children, and my husband was unable to figure out who had his daughter. He filed for partial custody and was given three days/week visitation.

Things seemed to stabilize for a while, though she was always a bit off. She would say she wanted a divorce from her husband, and the next thing we hear she's pregnant again (she has a total of other 4 children with her husband). We knew things weren't great at their home, but we didn't realize the extent of it. Six months ago, we were contacted by her husband. He said he had an audio tape that we needed to hear. On the tape, the BM supposedly is dragging my SD by the hair (there is a great deal of screaming and crying). The BM then goes on to say how she should have "gotten rid" of her daughter 7 years ago. She told her husband to "call her father and get her out of here, I'm going to hurt her". Upon hearing the tape, we called child protective services. We were told they could not do anything without physical evidence of abuse. We contacted a lawyer and filed for emergency custody. The motion was granted, and we have had full custody for the past 6 months. Pending the mother's pyschological evaluation, the arrangement may go to shared if she is deemed "fit".

Though this whole process, I have been very supportive. We have my SD in weekly therapy sessions to work through the abuse and self esteem issues (there seems to be more of the verbal/emotional abuse, with less physical). The bulk of the child care has fallen on me because my husband works evenings. I currently work full time, am in graduate school, and am very active in the community. Having my SD full this has been a really big adjustment, and I feel like I am having trouble maintaining my commitments with work, school and volunteering. I'm at a point where I'm not sure how to find balance. I feel guilty because my husband is under a lot of stress given the situation and with his own job. I feel like no one can really relate to my situation... and I'm looking for a little guidance. My husband and I had always thought that there may come a time for his daughter to live with us, but we never expected it to happen under these circumstances- this soon.

morgan_minx80's picture

This is quite natural. All of a sudden you have full custody of your sd with no time to prepare for it. Can you get anymore support from your dh. The bulk of the childcare should not be down to you. Your dh needs to spend time with his daughter also. You have effectivley taken on the role of mother to your sd. This is not your job. Your dh should be taking on the role of father and you being a sm.

20-20 Hindsight's picture

Just wanted to say kudos to you for your efforts. I, too, had skids dropped in my lap full-time, and it ain't easy. In fact, I'm not even sure we'll make it. Again, kudos to you for all your understanding and support in your new role as SM. I hope your DH lets you know how much it means to him.

Tranquility's picture

Yep. I was just thinking of that recently. Well, go slow, do what you can. Sounds like it might only be a temporary matter. Then again, our skids decided to live with us and it would not be fair to them or my hubby to send them back to their disfunctional maternal home, so I make the best of it. You need a sitter of some sort, maybe the BM can pay CS to cover that so you can take care of some business/school?

sometimesmomof123kids's picture

This is just my opinion so please no one attack me if you disagree...

Does your DH have a mom or other family member who could pitch in until a permanent solution could be found? If she is a sweet child, it shouldn't be too horrible to take care of her by yourself some of the time...if she is a terror, I can see why you wouldn't want to. If it becomes Full time, your DH probably needs to find a new job so he can be the primary caretaker as the custodial parent. Unless a kid is truly unappreciative, I don't blame them or think disengagement is the right thing...however, you don't need to be thrust into a full time situation that you can't handle for more than a short period without some options.

Insta-Ma's picture

I think I can relate. We gained full custody of SS10 a few months ago after it was revealed his BM had once again inflicted more trauma on our son (this was not her first offense...). Sounds like we had a similar experience with child protective services. They were absolutely useless despite multiple reports from his pediatrician, school principal and the police. The only way we were able to have any luck with keeping him safe was with a good lawyer through probate/family court.

DBF and I have really had to come at this from a team approach. We both have careers and priorities outside of the home as most parents do. It's kinda been like a relay race trying to make sure our SS has at least one of us there.

Also make sure you take time for yourself. Don't overdo it. This is a stressful situation and you'll need time to defuse and keep yourself well. Your SD (and DH) need you right now for support and it's hard to be supportive if you're sick.

That being said I'm definitely not an expert and I'm currently coping with our change in domestic dynamics. If you ever need an ear or sounding board please feel free to message me.