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RL1989's picture

Hello all, first post here so apologies if it's not quite in the right place. My gf has two kids, boy 13 and girl 14. They're decent kids and have accepted me as part of their lives, but in common with a lot of posters on this site, I have some issues. I'm not a parent myself so have very little experience save my own childhood in a relatively stable family environment, and in contrast, my girlfriend has raised her two without the involvement of their biological father. They are generally polite, courteous and thoughtful,


They are constantly spoon-fed by their mother, who cleans up after them at every step of the way. Dishes are left in the sink, glasses left on the table, lights left on, homework not done, notes excusing them from various school lessons they don't like. I cannot reconcile this with my own childhood. I was far from perfect, but I'm certain at the age of 13 and 14 I was ironing my own school shirts, and was expected to wash up what dishes and crockery I'd used. When I've discussed this with my gf she said that she's always done it, and really doesn't mind. Well I do, she has enough to worry about in life, and I feel it's not unreasonable to expect them to at least help with mess they've created, even if more general contribution is beyond reach. I'm not trying to turn them into house robots, but really feel they're being let to get away with doing precious little. When they are asked, they are prone to sulking, and have learned to follow up a successfully completed task with a request for food. Their mothers guilt at asking for the entirely reasonable usually results in the provision of extra food. Which brings me onto the title of this rant. The whole of their family seems to have food issues. As much as I like them, they're all enormous and it's not hard to see why. With the exception of my girlfriend, they simply have no restraint, and it pains me to see the child members of the family constantly stuffed with junk food on request, and sometimes at the insistence of the parents. Go somewhere for an afternoon and it has a cafe? Lose £40. Coffee shop? Do not pass go without a caramel latte each. Walk in the woods? Don't leave without a packet each of those disgusting fridge raider things which smell like they've been eaten already. 

As I type, at 1:25pm, there's a roast chicken dinner in the oven, all good stuff with loads of veg etc, but after a breakfast of eggy bread at 10, instant noodles were consumed at 12. "Can I have pudding(!)". "No". Fast forward 30 seconds and sweets are given out. After my gf ran through about 4 different options, the child finally arrived at a conclusion. At 1pm, I go to the kitchen to get something and gf is dispensing Pringles into a bowl. I can guarantee that the daughter will bolt down the roast dinner like it's her last meal on earth, and sit there hiccuping and demanding seconds well before me and my girlfriend have finished our first helping. 

As much as I love the kids, the food thing is so difficult to deal with, the boy has energy for Britain and runs/cycles the calories off but the girl is to put it nicely, sedentary. She also refuses to be in family pictures on days out, suggesting massive body confidence issues. 

I love my gf to the moon and back, and realise that as a new member of the team of 11 months or so, I neither have nor want an equal say in their upbringing, but any attempts at suggesting a different way of looking at things is politely explained away ("I've always done it". "It's nice that they eat so well, I don't know where they put it"* I've got a suggestion as to where a lot of it goes).

As for trying to suggest they take a greater degree of responsibility for their own lives, it's just done by my girlfriend, sometimes behind my back, and explained away. "oh, it's only a couple of bowls and plates, I'll just do it". I simply have too much respect for their mum than to see her skivvying round after a 13 and 14 year old. If I'm being unreasonable I'm more than willing to hear it and wind my neck in. If I'm not, I'd welcome any advice on how to cope. Obviously her kids are her first priority which they should be, but I don't know how I fit in. I simply can't sit there like a doormat and not have my opinions, they just seem to not get taken on board. That is fine but I will need to adjust my mindset and I don't know how I can. To those who made it to the end of this post, well done, I'll buy you a strong coffee sometime.


SeeYouNever's picture

I'll take that coffee!

This is one of those things that is so impossible to deal with as a step. Food and health issues are so touchy and I think the best thing to do is to demonstrate good choices and encourage them int he family. Be active and at the store try to talk them towards other options. Rice cakes if they need something crunchy, fresh fruit... Some people if they have junk food snack in the house they will eat them, so it's best not to buy them in the first place.

It sounds like you are active with them hiking. Maybe try to gradually up the intensity and talk about burning off the energy.

Cover1W's picture

If you read my blogs you'll see I have had/have two SDs with insanity inducing food issues and a Disney dad that doesn't believe in chores or instilling personal responsibility in his kids. YSD16 (the only one left) who is here about every other weekend now, never has to clean up her dishes. She may do so with her dinner things sometimes, if DH and I are both cleaning up, but her breakfast and lunch things will just be left in the sink.

I've had multiple talks and given DH multiple suggestions about how she needs to learn to live with others, respect other's need for space/clean areas to cook, in preparation for roommates, etc. Nothing ever changed and never will. She's bluntly a bad house guest, and I suspect will always be, just like her older sister.

What I did was disengage from it. I don't buy any special food, just the basics. All other food is 100% on DH. I don't suggest anything or ask YSD to clean up (unless I really need the space myself or she has actually left things unsorted that I need). DH cleans up after herost of the time and that's on him. It took a lot of time to be able to ignore it but it does get easier with practice.

I was not raised this way at all either so it baffles me that parents think that kids learning to be responsible is bad. It's everywhere! Even my neice to some extent. But just learn to back off, and have some discussion with your SO about what your future looks like, no kids living with you? Downsizing? Moving to another location? My DH is on board with our plans for all this and no kids are involved.

JRI's picture

I'm sensitive to the over-feeding issue so I empathize with you.  My parents were raised during the Depression and it affected how they dealt with food.  They couldn't stand waste so we all had to "clean up our plates", which is, imo, obesity training.  My sister's obesity lead to her early death and I know where she learned to over-eat.

I doubt if your GF is going to change, she probably sees herself as amply providing for her kids without understanding the dangers of obesity (that's how my parents felt).  About all you can do is model good food choices.  I feel especially bad for the girl.  It shouldnt be like this in these enligjtened times but realistically, life is tougher for a fat woman.  I saw it up close with my sister.

ESMOD's picture

With the food/weight issues.. I think you need to be mute on those.  I am assuming that she takes her children to a general practitioner/family doctor on a regular basis and that Dr should be the one to give them the "healthy weight.. healthy diet" speech.  All you can do is insist that meals in your home are of the more healthy variety.. and encourage activity "as a family".

Where I think you might get more traction is with the expectation for her kids to start becoming more self sufficient.  Sure.. she has always done these things.. but they are getting into the teen years.. she won't always be there to clean a dish.. wash their clothes for work the next day when they are 32.  So.. she will be doing them a FAVOR by teaching them how to care for clothing.. to wash dishes.. how to prepare simple and nutritious meals.. she can even start teaching them to do things like make their favorite caramel latte at home... 

My MIL used to coddle her grandkids (who lived with her for a time when their dad worked out of the country).. and I actually told her that she would be doing them an enormous favor to teach them to cook and clean like she did .. to pass on those family recipes etc.. 

You don't have to cater to and clean up after a 14 yo the same way you do after a 4 yo.. what she has always done may not be age appropriate for them any longer.. they are becoming independent humans who would thrive given more responsibility I'm guessing.. (or at least get with the program.. lol)

RL1989's picture

Bad news is it's cost me a lot in coffees, but the good news is there's a lot of things here to ponder. Thank you all for reading and for your replies.

Shieldmaiden's picture

Could you try a new "budget" for impulse food-buying? Tell your spouse that you want to save money by taking out a set amount of cash each week for impulse food buying. This means food that was not on the grocery list, but demanded after the grocery buying trip. Take out the cash, and once its gone, its gone. 

This way its about money, not food. When she says that she doesn't want her little boo boo's to starve between meals - just remind her to make them some healthy snacks like cheese, apples, or vegies. These will be on the grocery list so no extra money. Would that work?

RL1989's picture

Thank you all for your advice, it's appreciated. Here's another one for your reading "pleasure". 

The kids both did well at school, so as a treat (and as they'd been eating sensibly for the past while) I decided I'd get us all to a Chinese takeaway. Mainly because I wanted one. My girlfriend's instruction to her son was to have a shower before the food arrives. It was due to take about an hour which even for him must be enough time to get in the bathroom, steal my shower gel, do goodness-knows-what in there and get himself relatively clean. 

Needless to say he f*cks about for nearly an hour, and just as his mum tells him a second time to get in the shower, the food turns up. Son saunters into the dining room laughing about how it's lucky he didn't get in the shower. I take exception to this and tell him if it were up to me that he'd be in the shower while his food gets colder. Also needless to say, his mum takes a different view saying she wouldn't "make them wait for their dinner". Lucky for them as they're positively wasting away as it is, having not eaten anything for four long hours.  This then caused my girlfriend to go full "picture no sound" until I issue a grovelling apology against my better judgement for hurting her feelings and casting aspersions on her parenting.

I am now going to read up on disengagement and see if this is an option, as clearly my views are unwelcome, unpopular and seemingly completely unnecessary.

As they say on Mumsnet, am I being the ar$ehole? If I am, tell me, I can take it. 


p.s. The lad has been doing a paper-round for the last week, has only let the papershop man down once, and only twice been taken round it in the car. Fair play....

Cover1W's picture

Yes, disengage 100%!  You do not buy or help with food for them at all. If you want it, then you get it for yourself. No questions. When I've done this I just let my DH know that I'll be having dinner alone as I want something specific. If he moans about it (and he has!) then I tell him he can either go online and pick something out for himself and YSD and pay for it or reimburse me on the spot. OR nothing.

And you should NOT have apologized at all. My DH was great at telling SDs to do X by Y time and nothing was/is done. Then, "Oh, don't worry about it!" FFS so they never have any consequences because "poor kids!" So I just ignore it. If he stank, then remove yourself from the table and when she asks why, state it simply and without malice. Plain and simple facts.

One week of a paper route and he's already missed a day? And 2x been driven? That's not exactly a stellar start!

Rags's picture

In fact, I would have thrown his share away for not showering and told him to go scrounge in the pantry if he was hungry.

Your DW is raising her failed family genetic to be a life long POS if I was going to bet on this Skid's outcome.