Author Topic: Step parenting and the difficult ex  (Read 1327 times)

Trying

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Step parenting and the difficult ex
« on: March 24, 2017, 07:54:08 AM »
Sorry this is long and rambling...

Finance moved in in November and we have his 2 sons (6 &7 ) parttime.  It took us a while to convince their mom to let us have them overnight 2 days during the week (she used to pick them up at bedtime because H leaves too early in the morning to get them to the before school program).  He has always had them overnight on the weekends and I have been a part of that since November.  She is very difficult to deal with and I know that most of her ridiculous complaints are really because she doesn't like them spending time with me.  They are very happy well adjusted boys and I have 3 boys of my own so it's not my first rodeo.

My biggest issue is learning to take a back seat in the parenting of these awesome little boys.  H would love me to fill the mommy role but they have a mommy.  I feel like I'm supposed to play more of a supporting role and have to let some things slide that she allows.  They do understand that there are some different house rules at Daddy's house than at Mommy's.

I've been doing the mom thing for almost 21 years so how do I best navigate the step mom thing?  I'm sensitive to how it must feel for her kids to have another woman being such a big part of their lives and hearing about things we do together but she is looking for things to complain about.  She emailed him that she knew it was a mistake to have me get them off to school because 6 year old didn't like the snack I packed and was starving.  The snack I packed was leftover in his lunch box that she packed the day before and I gave him the exact unhealthy lunch she packs him every day.

I know I need to let all of her complaints roll of my shoulders because I can see how happy the boys are.  When she moans and complains about life as a single mom I want to scream that her 2 kids have 3 loving and involved parents while I had been raising 3 completely alone without 2 evenings and every other weekend free.  He volunteers in their class, does all soccer practices and games (she never goes to a game), he goes to parent teacher conferences and does homework with them.  Yes she does a lot on her own on the days she has them but it's not every day.

Thanks for letting me vent.  I would love any words of wisdom from other step parents!
You will forever be my always.

MrsDan

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2017, 10:10:46 AM »
Oooo let me pull up a chair and have a cup of coffee and I can talk all about how BF's ex is irrational and loves to find things to complain about, and how I have been hard core only-parenting for five years and she acts like some kind of hero for being a single parent. I also understand the complication of the fact that his DD has a mom, and my DD doesn't have a dad, and all that. I realize that's probably not very helpful to you but can relate, even if my situation is newer and we are not cohabitating yet. Also, she has no particular issues with me, but only because it's unclear if she actually knows about me. My sense is she does not, because I feel like she'd probably make a big stink about her daughter spending time with me. Even though I've been what BF describes as "next-level" parenting for three more years than her, and I have an excellent job and she can barely hold one down. She feeds their DD garbage and a ton of juice, neglects her doctor's visits, and yet she scolds him for what their DD eats and a ton of other stuff as well. I know that if we ever move in together I will need to deal with her directly, and that basically means I'm in for it. But he's worth it, so it is what it is. Anyway, I get your frustration!
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tybec

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2017, 11:06:45 AM »
Ditto to you both.  Not even in the same town yet, but I know it is coming.  My NG's ex is narcissistic, likely, a control freak, an expert on children since she is a vice principal of an elementary school.  Oldest child is in therapy, 3rd time with 3rd therapist mind you, and she still brings up stuff from the past 3 years in sessions. 

I would have told my friends to run from this guy yet I fell for him!  I am concerned about how to manage it all.  I am 25 yr. experienced child and adolescent therapist.  She is not going to open her arms to me as a person in her children's lives.

NG went to capital 2 weeks ago for house bill to change custody law as they are from 1970s.  Traditional visitation and control set though joint custody.  Was shared parenting in other state until she moved them and school factored in. Research is wide out there for father's involvement when safe and shared parenting.  I was not for it 10 yrs. ago, as I did the divorce workshops the courts used to require.  But change. And now rearing a son without a father for 5 years, I know the importance of 2 parents if possible 

Can't wait to see what i will encounter.  Her hometown, her rich country club folks that bought her a brand new house when she moved back.  I am concerned and we are not even in the same home, yet.  Why we are not getting married soon.....

Forgottenwife

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2017, 12:03:22 PM »
Thanks for being a step parent! I had two great ones that were there all through my parents fighting and bickering, which literally lasted more than a decade. It was ridiculous. I love my step parents and came to appreciate them when I was an adult, with all of the drama between my parents, I wouldn't have blamed either of them for bailing. So glad you can be there for these kids - you have my sympathy that you have to deal with crazy.

No real advice - just THANKS! From a grown step kid
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 11:47:03 AM by Forgottenwife »

Trying

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2017, 12:28:16 PM »
Thank you Forgottenwife, I'm a step kid myself!  My step dad really was my dad because my real father was a no good alcoholic and my step mom was wonderful and kept things stable when we had to spend time with him.

typec and MrsDan I hope when you get to the point of cohabiting things go a little easier for you.

She has kept on with the emails today saying that I am lying about packing lunch for her son.  She feeds him nothing but junk and jelly sandwiches and against my own judgement I packed him a jelly sandwich on white bread because that's what he's used to.  I threw in some grapes because he eats them up like crazy at our house.  She asked H to check with her about what to feed them from now on.  Ha!  We feed them all the time and have been working hard to get youngest to try some healthy food.  The older one is a great eater and will try anything but the youngest lives on pizza bagels, jelly sandwiches and breakfast sausage.  H has tried to talk to her about his eating habits and her answer is she doesn't want him to be hungry or unhappy and she knows what's best. Meanwhile he is overweight.

I wish it didn't bother me so much that she creates this drama.  I also wish she would take me up on my many offers to,talk directly with her.
You will forever be my always.

Forgottenwife

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2017, 02:23:43 PM »
She asked H to check with her about what to feed them from now on.

Wow - I can't help but chuckle a little and I'm sorry because I know this is drama and a real PITA for you, but really? A grown up expecting a parent to call her and check what the kids are eating? She sounds weirdly controlling. That's the thing about divorce, you don't get to control your ex-spouse anymore, he (and you) get to feed the kid whatever you want when he's with you. And really, its not like you are giving him booze and pretzels, jeez! 'Call me to check on what you feed him?' The things people worry about. Like you, I've raised kids, and I was smart enough to know when they went to their Aunt's or to a sleepover, they may get a different snack then we have at home. That is life! And it can be a wonderful experience or you can make yourself crazy that someone didn't give your kid the correct jelly and white bread ratio with a side of grapes. So weird.

It would bother me too, she sounds like she has the maturity of a middle schooler. Guess it'd be too much for her to just be grateful someone gave her kid lunch. Vent away, we can always listen. 

MrsDan

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2017, 03:08:42 PM »
She asked H to check with her about what to feed them from now on.

Wow - I can't help but chuckle a little and I'm sorry because I know this is drama and a real PITA for you, but really? A grown up expecting a parent to call her and check what the kids are eating? She sounds weirdly controlling. That's the thing about divorce, you don't get to control your ex-spouse anymore, he (and you) get to feed the kid whatever you want when he's with you. And really, its not like you are giving him booze and pretzels, jeez! 'Call me to check on what you feed him?' The things people worry about. Like you, I've raised kids, and I was smart enough to know when they went to their Aunt's or to a sleepover, they may get a different snack then we have at home. That is life! And it can be a wonderful experience or you can make yourself crazy that someone didn't give your kid the correct jelly and white bread ratio with a side of grapes. So weird.

It would bother me too, she sounds like she has the maturity of a middle schooler. Guess it'd be too much for her to just be grateful someone gave her kid lunch. Vent away, we can always listen.

It IS laughable but this sounds exactly like my BF's ex.
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arneal

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2017, 12:52:08 PM »
Hey there, Trying:

Being a stepparent is never easy. The first husband had three daughters, three moms before me (yep, didn't know it when we got together). I didn't have much contact with them because I think those women realized how abusive he was and just stayed away. LH finalized his divorce during our connection and we got married. His daughter came to like me but it was an adjustment; the people he dated before me tried to be her friend instead of a parent-role. I wasn't having that. I treated her like I would expect someone to treat my son. Granted, I wasn't as strict with her as I was with him because I knew her mom wasn't; she and her mom were friends more than anything. Her mom would try and get in between her dad and I, but it didn't work because he wanted different for his daughter. The ex has been alone since they broke up (26 years ago); she doesn't want a partner, lover, and friend -- she wants an open wallet. About 15 years ago, she took him to court because he was struggling to pay support; he had been very sick and had recently gotten his retirement due to disability. When we were in court, she told the judge that she didn't believe he was sick. I wanted to jump over there and pound her. The judge did too because the case was tossed. After LH died, she wanted to be all friendly with me. It's such a weird balancing act but the thing to remember is that you are trying to be there for your guy and his children, not his ex. Have a conversation with him about his expectations and keep on doing what you are doing. Stay strong!
Andree'

Seek peace, and pursue it - Psalm 34:14b

tybec

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2017, 07:20:16 AM »
Have no experience in this area.  But, the few friends I have that are stepparents that I think are wonderful, you don't know they are stepparents.  Granted, the other parent is away or not involved much, then.  That won't be the case for me and NG.   I know it can be a fantastic thing.

My NG has had control things with ex since the beginning.  She left him and wants to erase him, it seems.  He followed to her to be in the state of his kids, town versus being 5 hours away, and he is now a "crazy man" to do that.  She used to complain he didn't do things with the kids but let them be on devices.  So, he started taking them outside to play and hikes, and then she said the clothes she sent were being ruined, so now she doesn't send any.  She took the boys out of all sports as NG was coaching or attending all practices and games, so much more contact.  She said they were over scheduled and her dad would teach them golf at the country club.  This year, she put the oldest in a performance club, so rehearsals often, 3 performances in a weekend, so no time for anything else.  Yeah, that kind of control and irrational thoughts/behaviors.  >:(

« Last Edit: March 26, 2017, 07:36:02 AM by tybec »

arneal

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2017, 03:53:13 PM »
Your story is, unfortunately, not uncommon tybec :( There are more ex's who don't know what they want than those who actually move on with their lives. Many narcissists ...
Andree'

Seek peace, and pursue it - Psalm 34:14b

Captains wife

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2017, 07:09:38 PM »
That would make me crazy...I'm not sure it's worth responding as it sounds as though she is jealous and wouldn't be reasonable. But if she continues in this manner it could interfere in your relationship down the road - you may need to have a gentle discussion with your NG about it if it gets worse. Maybe you two could discuss how best to handle it, esp if she won't talk to you directly.  I'm dating a divorced dad with a really difficult ex but we aren't cohabitating so I've only experienced these types of behaviour on the periphery. And already I'm getting irritated by it- can't imagine what she might be like if I was in a step mother like role. So sending lots of sympathy your way- it's frustrating. And my NG has it very easy.....since it's just my son and I and we are in a good place now. I would be honored and happy to take on a step mother role but I'm not sure I'm cut out for being part of a parenting triangle with someone who is completely unreasonable and just creating toxic energy.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2017, 07:15:06 PM by Captains wife »

Bunny

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #11 on: March 28, 2017, 09:15:06 PM »
reading this thread makes me very grateful my bf is childless. I do, however, have some experience dealing with toxic, negative people and I've found maintaining an upbeat positive demeanor No Matter What can be very helpful. They feed off of negativity and conflict so you have to go against that very strong instinct inside and not give them what they want, though their attitude is infuriating and Begs for it. You must instead starve them of the conflict they crave. Apologize sincerely for any misunderstandings and maintain a positive can-do attitude about the future. This does Not mean become a walking mat. No- boundaries must be maintained firmly, and as compassionately as possible.

It helps if you can find a way to turn off your brain and choose a persona to slip into so you take what they say less personally. Truly, we all know it really has nothing to do with ourselves, they are just taking out their frustrations with life on those closest at hand. For one's own sanity, it's best to find a place of peaceful detachment. Otherwise, that toxicity can creep into the relationship with your partner- which would make the ex very happy indeed.

Full disclosure: in widowhood, I've found this attitude more difficult to maintain and have usually just opted for removing those people from my life. I'm sorry this is not an option for you.
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Trying

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #12 on: March 29, 2017, 08:24:25 AM »
Bunny I love your attitude of not feeding into someone's negativity and need for conflict.  Unfortunately she does all of her negative communicating through texts and emails and the very few times we have been face to face she is pleasant.  Last night she sent over 2 slices of white bread with the crust cut off and a single serving jar of jelly for the complicated jelly sandwich she thinks I can't handle.  I guess if she needs to think that she is the only person who can give her children the right lunch then I should just let her keep believing that.  The three meals a day we feed them every weekend don't seem to concern her a bit.

My main priority is not letting her craziness come between us, we are creating a nice blended family unit here and that's what is important and he and I agree we will never undermine her in front of the kids no matter how much she tries create conflicts.
You will forever be my always.

Wheelerswife

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #13 on: March 29, 2017, 08:31:35 AM »
  Last night she sent over 2 slices of white bread with the crust cut off and a single serving jar of jelly for the complicated jelly sandwich she thinks I can't handle. 

Old colleague of mine...this really cracked me up! 

Maureen
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trying2breathe

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Re: Step parenting and the difficult ex
« Reply #14 on: March 29, 2017, 08:51:50 AM »
Trying   Love the responses here - it's great that you and your fiancĂ© realize his ex's craziness for what it is, and not let it come between you.  I'd make it a source of humor, out of earshot of the kids.  "Guess what she did today .... ?"  :D
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