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New to this and at my wits end, advice welcome.

JSB_84_UK's picture


I'm a 37 year old relatively new step father and even newer Bio Dad to an 11 month old boy.

The short version of this whole thing is that I met my partner in late 2019 and she never hid the fact that she had children from me. Very quickly I found myself taking on a father figure role for the children as their biological father has consistently proven himself not to be fit for the task.

My partner also never hid the fact that both children are autistic. Within a few short months, my partner had fallen pregant, this was not an accident but a choice that neither of us regret.

Fast forward to now and we've got an 11 month old baby, a house, a mortgage and for the most part we get on... What I have reached my limit with is the difficulties the SC's biodad constantly presents. I can no longer cope with the constant talk at the dinner table about his life and what he is up to. I can't continue to listen to "funny" stories that involve both children being left unattended while on holiday and all the lies and broken promises that constantly get ignored or brushed under the carpet.

It's also incredibly difficult to adjust to parenting in general, but even more so given that both children have the autism diagnosis.

I'm finding myself angry a lot of the time, frustrated that I can't enjoy being a new Dad as much as I would like to. I suppose I always knew it wasn't going to be easy but I'm just at a point now where the kids are testing boundaries, at nearly 10 and 12 (Boy, 10 - Girl, 12).

I've been looking into "disengaging" as the constant needs of the two step children and the ever changing goal posts of autism are creating a real rift between me and my partner.

Not that it matters but  before being on the scene, neither child was capable of maintaining any sort of personal hygene, household chores were none existent and there were very few boundaries in place. The younger of the two (boy) couldn't read or eat using a knife and fork, he couldn't use the bathroom on his own and was still having his mother sit outide the toilet with the door open. All of this has changed and both children are functioning reasonably well. I've been told that this is large part due to me but a soon as I show any signs of frustration at either child not being able to master the most basic of functions, I'm painted to be some sort of monster.

Their father contributes next to nothing financially which has meant that I've felt obliged to pay for their school uniforms, treats, Christmas gifts and birthdays as well as the general running of a household. I guess writing it all out I find myself sounding ungrateful for what I've gained, it isn't that really... I just feel masively unappreciated or respected in a house that I made possible for all of us. I'm told by my partner that she wants me to parent but when I do the discipline I'm "too harsh" or inconsiderate of their disability. The truth is, I've spent countless hours learning about autism as best I can and how to cope with autistic children but we've reached a point now where I simply have no energy and very little left to give.

Can anyone in similar circumstances offer any advice?

Thanks, this wasn't the short version after all.

DHsfamilyfromhell's picture

I see you are from the U.K. same as me. 

You are entitled to claim DLA for each child. You may be entitled to carers allowance.  Many children have an EHCP for school, and if the school say you don’t need one parents can apply themselves. 

Im sorry you are findings things difficult - take time to think things through for now. That’s the only advice I have for now. - You both need regular breaks throughout the day if you are in this for the long haul because it can be extremely challenging. 

Learn some of the early signs of autism in the chance that your child may have it. 

It can be quite challenging listening about ‘the other parent’ maybe someone else can advise you on that? 

(I have 2 children with autism)

tog redux's picture

So, it sounds like your partner is a weak parent who didn't really set any limits until you arrived. Similarly, has she not gone to court to get child support from the father? What is the custody arrangement? I'm not sure you should feel "grateful" for having to be the only real parent in the home.  Other than the kids talking about him, what other issues does he present? From what you've written, it's your partner who is the real issue in your home, in terms of her lack of parenting skills.

DHsfamilyfromhell's picture

Hi Tog - absolutely agree with all your comments. The problem with chid maintenance in the U.K. is that unless a couple were married maintenance isn’t generally enforceable through the courts (it goes through a separate service and yes it’s complete madness as some people get away with not paying)- however I believe it is possible to go to court for maintenance for children with additional needs even if a couple weren’t married....

tog redux's picture

Thanks - that seems like a silly system, why should unmarried fathers not have to pay?

JSB_84_UK's picture

I wouldn't go as far as saying she is a weak parent. Things have changed since I came along for sure...

Wth regards to DLA, only one of the children qualifies despite them both having a diagnosis. Neither child requires an EHCP either. My feelings on it are although both children have autism, their needs aren't so severe that they pack social awareness or a full understanding of where the lines are. This is where their mother and I disagree.

Hygiene and cleaning around the house was non-existent before, neither child has respect for their own belongings nevermind mine. Before we moved onto the house we had a big talk about respecting the house and they consistently "forget" rules or say they didn't realise despite having been told things many times. Their Mum then quickly reminds me that they are autistic and I should go easy. Sometimes I agree, others I don't.

tog redux's picture

Well - I don't mean to offend you about your partner, but everything you are saying points to her not being a strong parent who can teach her children the skills they need. Autism (especially level one) is not an excuse for not learning basic life skills. 

justmakingthebest's picture

I agree with Tog on learning basic life skills.

It isn't easy, we have to remind my SS ALL.THE. TIME. It gets old. It gets frustrating. It never stops, but he does KNOW how to do things. He just won't. That is part of the disorder though and you have to take it for what it is. Just know that at 21 I still have to fuss to get him to take a shower, to brush, to put dishes away. I have to walk up to his room with him and inspect his drawers to make sure only his clothes are going in them. I have to be on top of him like he is 7-8 most of the time even though he is 21. 

JSB_84_UK's picture

How long have you been a step parent to your 21 year old?

I don't know that either of my step kids will be that dependant by that age because they are (and I appreciate this isn't a popular term withinn the autism community)  "high functioning".

The boys' needs are definitely more demanding physically but the older girls' issues are more around social cues. This feeds into the issues around talking about her biodad all the time. It's so hard to keep biting my tongue when I feel like yelling "YOUR DAD HAS CONSISTENTLY PROVEN HIMSELF TO BE A PIECE OF SHIT THAT MAKES YOU CRY ALL THE TIME!"

But then I'd be even worse than him.

I saw a forum post where somebody talked about how harsh things he was going to say would be but he had to be honest and I sort of feel the same.

Some of the things I say under my breath or when nobody is around... I'm not proud of but it's like I'm venting to myself. I think if their condition were more obvious, I would perhaps be more tolerant but I can't help the thoughts I have sometimes.

Thoughts along the lines of "Jeez, you are both so f***ing dumb!"

I'm not proud of it.

Winterglow's picture

Then do it super nanny style, draw up a list of house rules and post them in appropriate places, rules for the bathroom on the bathroom door, rules for the kitchen on the fridge. Give them no excuse. Being autistic is not a reason not to follow rules. I would have thought that rules and regularity would be reassuring for them, as opposed to little or no structure. 

JSB_84_UK's picture

That's a good idea. The older one has rules in her room and on the fridge that are expected of her but rarely follows them with very little in the way of consequences from their Mum.

JSB_84_UK's picture

I don't necessarily feel like the only parent just that we have very different ideas of what parenting is. I am almost ashamed to say it but sometimes it really does feel like they are helpless at times. Can't complete the simplest of tasks without a step by step guide and that does get incredibly frustrating when I just want to enjoy time with my biological son.

I am working from home and apart from a "gentle reminder" from their Mum there just isn't an respect for the fact that I'm working especially during the school holidays. I know there are loads of people that feel the same about WFH.

I suppose it could be argued that we rushed in but very quickly I just couldn't help but feel I needed to help. The last house they were in was such a mess, so much stuff was broken and needed repairing and the work just never seemed to end from there.

Their Mum has made no secret about being disorganized and messy but everyone has their limits on what is acceptable and what isn't. In fairness to her, she has upped her game but that is totally dependent on her mood.

justmakingthebest's picture

I understand your frustrations. I have an autistic 21 yr old SS that will likely always live with us. It is overwhelming at times. 

I am curious about what your SO does when the kids go on their "daddy" tangents. Does she redirect the conversation? Join in? Ignore them? 

As for the dead beat dad, if she hasn't taken him for child support, she is just as bad as him. They made those 2 kids and they are responsible for their care. Not you. 

As a step parent, we don't have financial obligation to our step kids. We do it our of kindness. However if you are being taken advantage of due to the weak parenting around you, you can stop. Just say no. It is ok to draw a line on how much you give to children you didn't father. 

JSB_84_UK's picture

Sometimes when they go off on the tangents, she will try to redirect but sometimes she doesn't and things end up carrying on. Admittedly, I find it very difficult to hide my frustrations. I've been told I have "loud facial expressions".

My (perhaps unrealistic) expectation is that we can just say "right, we don't need to talk about the daily goings on with your Dad" but even that is often met with protests because nothing should be taboo according to their Mum. I agree to am extent but I don't want my biological son growing up constantly hearing about this other man who he has nothing to do with.

As for money, during the beginning of the pandemic, he refused to pay anything then eventually she made it mandatory that he paid but the amount per child is crazy... £200 a month. Working it out for the amount of days, it equates to about £3.50 a day that the government has decided they're worth. It's because of this that I end up covering uniforms, days out, presents etc.

Their Dad has also refused to talk to me even though I'm raising his kids and gone as far as telling them that adults don't do that. Which is nonsense.

I've been told before that if I'm not going 50/50 financially then I can't be a 50/50 parent which I understand but sometimes I can't help thinking "hang on, I pay 50/50 on the bills (all the bills when she was on maternity leave)".

I'm not perfect or the most patient man but I try my best.


justmakingthebest's picture

There is nothing wrong with saying "We don't need to talk about your dad right now"- Learning social cues are important to development too and if they aren't picking up your facial expressions then they need to be told in other ways. Trust me, this is another battle that will never end. Starwars fan fiction is the conversation that never ends in my house- SS doesn't get social cues, sarcasm or even me walking away as a clue to stop. At 21 he will follow me to the bathroom door and try to talk to me through it about some stupid thing he read and is excited about. - My point is, sometimes you have to tell people to stop and move on to a different topic. It is a life skill. 

The other thing about being a step parent is that you aren't 50/50. You don't have rights, you don't have anything other than what your SO allows. I think stepdad's fall for this hard because so many BM's have primary custody. Those kids are your SO's responsibility, not yours. 

When we first set up our finances we based it on bedrooms. My 2 live with us most of the time (dad has visitation), he had visitation with his 2. We had a 4 bedroom home. I paid the equivalent of 2.5 bedrooms and he paid 1.5. We split the rest the same way for expenses. (If the rent was $1,000- I paid $625, he paid 375). Things have changed in the last almost 7 years and now that SS21 lives with us full time we are closer to 50/50. 

For your home, you should be paying 1.5 (you and 1/2 of your joint child) to her 3.5 (her, the 2 skids, 1/2 joint child). If she can't afford that, she needs to seek better employment and more child support because the children obviously cost more than $200 a month to raise. 

Don't get sucked into the this equal parenting responsibility with no real rights BS. That isn't how the real world works! If you are in this "50/50" then you get "50/50 parenting" too. You get to make calls on discipline, on extra curriculars, medical decisions, schedules, and everything else.