Maintaining separate households and thinking outside of the box ….

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I have one of the oddest, most unconventional lives of anyone I know, I think.  That is the reason for the name of my blog, The Husbandless Housewife.  I live in a house with my three boys and my stepdaughter.  My widowed fiance lives across town with two of his other children (He has an adult daughter who doesn’t live with him as well).  He goes to work and I stay at home (in my house) with his daughter mostly.  Most likely, this will not change for a long time.

How did we get here?  I was working for a large hospital system full time and coming home each day after ten hours a day to start over again at home with the boys and our nightly routines.  I was exhausted, I couldn’t keep up with my housework, we were eating out a whole lot and I couldn’t keep up with the boys activities either.  He was struggling to keep his house and children afloat as well with constantly rotating caregivers. About a year and a half ago, an opportunity to work from home (making more money) fell into my lap.  I hopped right on it.  I was able to work from home, didn’t have to commute for two hours a day anymore, and I could care for Star as well.  I was ecstatic.  It was actually one of the best and most exciting times in my life.  Just six months later, the company I was working for from home closed it’s doors.  I no longer had a job at all.  I really, really, really did not want to go back to the office.  I really enjoyed the clean, organized house, having time to cook every day, having time to know exactly what was going on with the boys and giving Star the full time care she deserves.  We definitely did throw ideas around about working part time and moving in together, which personally I think would have been relationship suicide for us at the time.  So we moved stuff around, I’m able to have Star with me here full time, he doesn’t have to pay caregivers anymore and I found a part time gig in the mornings when everyone is at school.  I help a woman (who I now consider a close friend) with quadriplegia.  Again, I was seriously thinking outside of the box on this one too as I have never done caregiving and knew nothing about quadriplegia.  I’ve actually come to love it though.  It has been extremely humbling and enlightening for me.  It also ensures that I get my butt up and ready every morning, which I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Here we are again, as we have just found out that the company that he works for is now going under.  He has been there for ten years.  I have complete faith that he will land something right away, but he will probably be taking a hefty cut in pay and work a lot of twelve hour days starting out.  That means we don’t know if we will still be able to financially support two households and he will need more help again with his kids.  We have been having more proactive conversations lately about how to live with all of the kids under the same roof and boundaries which makes the idea of living together a little more attractive, but I’m still scared out of my mind to take that step.

 

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Parenting my special needs stepchild ….

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As a stepparent, we have all had somebody at some point tell us, “When you married him, you married his children.”  We usually stay quiet and nod politely because we know that it is too much of a hassle to try to explain to somebody who doesn’t understand that no, I didn’t marry his children, I married him.  I did, however, promise to try to be the best stepparent I can be to his kids.  I, however, am promising to “marry” one of his children along with him.  His daughter Star is sixteen and has special needs.  She is non-verbal, she cannot hear and is delayed.  She will never be independent enough to live on her own or even do daily tasks such as cook her own food.  She will be with us until we die.  She will always need not just a caregiver, but a parent.

In the beginning of the relationship, naturally, I did not take care of her, he did, along with family members and various babysitters.  I was just getting to know her.  She did not immediately take to me, she didn’t know who the heck I was.  She didn’t understand why the person who had always taken care of her (her mother) was no longer here and why all of these other people suddenly were.  When she wasn’t following her dad’s every move, she was angry and throwing things around the house in almost daily tantrums.  She refused to sleep unless someone slept in the room with her with the lights off.  She had caregivers coming to her home and though the intention was good, doing everything for her (including spoon feeding) and further impairing her.  Dad didn’t know how to care for a teenage girl with special needs, her mom had always done it.  Her siblings didn’t know what to do so they would just lock themselves up in their rooms and try to ignore it all.

I attended a meeting with her teacher in the beginning of that year.  Her teacher was disappointed at how much progress she had lost.  She wanted to be spoon fed at school (she knows how to feed herself), she was usually quite tired and lethargic as she would stay up fighting with her dad a lot of nights.  The meeting really gave me a lot of insight as far as what this child was really capable of but was not really being allowed to do due to circumstances.

As time passed, she became comfortable with me and started spending a lot more time with me in public and at my house on her own.  I started testing the waters with her and learned that she could do most things all on her own.  She EATS, brushes her teeth, brushes her hair, washes herself in the shower, plays independently and with others and sleeps in her own bed in her own room.  She had no behavior problems when we were alone together (minus dad).  However, as soon as dad showed up, her problems would come right back.  She would get aggressive as soon as he arrived to my house and would go right back to her old ways at his house.  It was like being half way through reading a book and having to start all over again from the first chapter every time.  She knew that he would allow her to act however she liked and there were no consequences.  So I started giving her consequences (taking the tablet away and time outs) and slowly, she started to change.

When I began working from home, I also began taking Star on full time.  She has her own room at my house and is with me full time.  She spends the night at dad’s house twice a week with no problems.  I actually feel lucky because with how overcompensating he can be with the kids, he listened to me when I explained that I needed the full capacity of being able to care for her.  If he was undermining me with her care, I wouldn’t do it and I wouldn’t stay in a relationship with him.  I need her to be as independent as she possibly can, I need her to know appropriate behavior, I don’t want to have to deal with a thirty five year old her throwing stuff around the house during a fit all because she was never taught any better.  I’m also lucky that she’s receptive, I know that all children are different and that’s not the case all of the time.

I know that I am not her “real” mom, she has one who unfortunately can’t be here with her any longer.  But I do love her as my child and consider myself lucky to be able to be the mom that is able to be here with her to love her and teach her (when she’s not teaching me).

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Marrying a widower….Everyone loves a martyr….

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Gabe and I got engaged recently in December and have set a date for this coming October to be married.  We’re not having a huge reception, it will probably include about a hundred people.  We didn’t want to have anything too expensive or too large as we have a lot of responsibilities with our kids but we feel that we would like to do a little more than taking a trip to city hall.

We were talking today and he mentioned that he still has not announced the date to his mom.  He is worried that she is going to be less than thrilled about us spending the money on the reception and what people will think.  He has tried to talk to her previously about eventually selling his house and moving on and though it’s nothing personal, she wasn’t the biggest fan as she’s not someone who likes change.  A couple of months ago, his aunt asked his mom where his girlfriend was as she thought that I lived with them and his mom told her, “Oh no, she doesn’t live here, she’s like his friend who helps him a lot.”  What?  He did tell her immediately that that was not true and he planned on getting married soon.  Again, it’s nothing personal, I know that she likes me and we get along great.  The thing is though, she would like to live in denial and see her son as the poor widower raising up three motherless children without another interest in the world.  She would also like everyone else to believe this as well.  I think it’s partly cultural and partly generational.  In her generation, when your spouse dies, you don’t move on.  You can recall fond memories of them for the rest of your days and everyone will see you as a respectable widow(er).  In his case, it’s even more admirable as he can be a respectable widower who supported his children and raised them all single handed.  Needless to say, she is not the only one with this thought process.

During the wake of a death, there is always literally dozens (or more) people promising their everlasting love and help (whatever I can do) to the survivor(s).  As the weeks and months pass, most of these people have dropped off from the face of the earth.  THEY move on.  As in his case as well, he had tons of help from family and in-laws in the beginning with his household and children.  Over time, the help dwindled and he had to look to babysitters and housekeepers for help.  For the most part, we have found, when you need this type of full time help, it’s almost impossible to find someone who’s reliable.  So who is left to help?  Yeah, that would be me.  I find the hypocrisy fascinating, all of these people who would love for this young widower to just stick it out and be respectable and alone, however, they are more than happy for his partner to take on the kids and the things that they no longer have time for, as THEY have moved on.

In the end, he can either be everyone’s favorite martyr or HE can move on and be happy.

 

Living apart together and dating single parents….When you’re dating ‘Super Dad’….

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Have you ever saw a single dad doting on his adorable children, loudly exclaiming, “My kids are my world!” and thought to yourself, “Wow, how cute, what a great dad, I would love to marry a guy like that”?  A lot of us have.  But what is it actually like to be in a relationship with Mr. My-kids-are-my-world guy?  Let me tell you.

At first, you see it just like everyone else does, it’s adorable and endearing and sunshine and rainbows.  You want to join in on making those children happy, you send them cookies, you buy them toys and overlook any misbehavior as the kids just being kids and dad just being a single dad.  It’s all good.  They are a little “shy” at first, but they’ll come around and grow to love you, you tell yourself.

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Time passes and you start to notice a few things.  It wasn’t very cute when one of the kids threw themselves to the floor in a tantrum and super dad passed it off as said child ‘was just tired’.  But you stay quiet, it’s not your place.  You also start to realize that maybe the kids aren’t very “shy”, they just don’t really like you taking up their dad’s time or space.

Soon enough, you start looking at the big picture.  Every time you come by super dad’s house, his bedroom now has tons of kids’ items scattered around as they change in there (despite having their own rooms and being old enough to dress themselves) and if you’re lucky, sometimes there’s even a kid sleeping in his bed when you arrive.  Short departures where the kids are left with a sitter are met with tears on the kids’ part and complete guilt on dad’s part.  When one of the children’s tablet’s batteries run out, you are expected to offer them your phone.  When you refuse, you are just mean.  If a phone call from one of the children is not immediately answered, expect ten more immediately after until dad picks up.  Don’t even think about having a private conversation with super dad if the children are within the vicinity, they will immediately feel ‘bored’ and dad will do anything that he can to make sure that he can provide proper entertainment.  Dad still thinks all of this makes him look like an adorable super dad, yet when you realize that he’s not just a ‘doting dad’ but he’s pacifying instead of parenting, it’s not so cute anymore.   You begin to resent super dad.

So what do you do?  It depends.  It depends on if super dad is open to change and or suggestions or not.  If he is not, just run.  Don’t look back.  Let me repeat myself, run.  If he is open to change and suggestions, if you choose to stick it out, do not expect change overnight.  It’s not going to happen and it will be hundreds of discussions and times that you will be fed up before you see significant change with a single dad who is used to guilt parenting instead of engaging in the ugly part of parenting.  In our case, it has been over three years and we are still not all the way there yet.  We have come a long way but we are still nowhere near the point to where it would be ideal to try to combine parenting styles and a living situation.  It has been a slow, uphill battle.  I’m in a relationship with a young widower who, even prior to losing his wife, was the ‘hero’ parent, he was not the disciplinarian.  His kids also lost their mother so he tried to make them as happy as he possibly could.  Understandable, yes.  Okay for the long term?  No.  If my super dad wants to be in a relationship with me, he must parent his children and put enough room aside for our relationship as well.

Dating a widower and birthdays….

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I was talking to Gabe earlier today and he mentioned that his mom’s birthday is coming up soon.  “You’re going this year”, he said.  “We’ll see, I really don’t want the drama and the awkwardness to taint your mom’s day”, I replied.  I like his mom, A LOT.  She’s a really nice person and I am so grateful for her love and support.  His mom is not the problem.  The problem is the backlash that will ensue from his daughter Nicole.  When she’s unhappy she can be very difficult, silent and or combative.  Sharing a meal with her at a table is torture for everyone when she’s like this.  Nobody knows what to say.  If something is said to her, you can count on a fight.  Who wants to do this for his mom’s birthday?  Not me.  So last year, I sent my birthday wishes along with him and did not go.  I know his mom feels bad, yet I know that she’s also grateful for the lack of drama.  So then he says, “Enough is enough, if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to go.”  I have a real problem with a granddaughter not attending a grandmother’s birthday but where does it end?  I don’t know the answer to that yet.

This got me thinking about all of the birthdays and events that I have either opted out of or have been extremely sorry that I did attend.  Actually, I didn’t even realize that this was a theme until I started writing about it, so it’s definitely something that we need to think about.

There was the year that his late wife would have turned forty (She had been gone for quite some time). We had already been together for about a year and a half when his in laws planned a huge bash and then asked if they could have the party at his house.  What could he say?   If he said no, he would have looked like a heartless jerk, even if he was dating someone else.  So they had the party, it looked like a blast on social media (kidding), and I stayed home a bit disgruntled about it but I got it.

The following year, he planned a huge party for his daughter Star’s fifteenth birthday.  Her mom had always said that she would make sure that she had this party for her because she shouldn’t have to miss out on it just because she has special needs.  I agreed.  He wasn’t planning on throwing the party any longer and I told him he should respect her mom’s wishes and follow through.  So he announced it and we started planning.  All of a sudden, people he had not heard from in months started popping up, wanting to take Star to buy a dress and make the cake.  All of a sudden, his mother in law announces that If I’m attending, she will not be attending her own granddaughter’s birthday party as it was what her daughter really wanted and should be there.  Again, I got it, I understood.  BUT….I was heartbroken.  I had done the planning, I was invested in this party and more importantly, invested in Star.  I parent her, I bathe her, I make sure she behaves, I taught her to sleep in her own bed again, I love her like my own child and I couldn’t wait to see her look so beautiful in her dress.  I have made a lifetime commitment to this child.  So yet again, I didn’t go.  I was very hurt and very angry but she should have her family with her on her birthday, especially her moms’ mom.

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Star on her big day

This past year, Star’s sixteenth birthday fell on a school day.  We let her take the day off and her to Downtown Disney, just the two of us, since parties are expensive, it was a weekday and everyone was in school and at work.  We took her to Build A Bear with a gift card she had been given the previous year and to lunch at Rainforest Cafe.  She loved it.  So he posts pictures on social media and immediately received a nastygram text from his sister in law saying she felt left out and why was he intentionally leaving her out of the kids’ lives.  Wait, what?  First, she forgot that it was her birthday until she saw the picture and second, taking the girl to lunch and Build A Bear was not a big deal.  I told him to think about his response before he responded because it’s not worth it to respond with hostility.  He did that, she was embarrassed and apologized.  I feel like part of it was a defense mechanism on her part due to feeling bad about forgetting in the first place.  Later on that evening, his mother in law called to wish her a happy birthday, she had forgotten as well.

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Star’s 16th birthday at Downtown Disney

This past year, his eight year old son Aiden had a birthday party at his house.  It was a smaller party so I did attend, though weary due to his other sister in law whom I had never met was visiting from out of state.  A half hour in and I regretted it.  His other sister in law along with his brother in law did come over to say hello politely as I sat with his mom and Star at a table.  The rest of the night consisted of the men all sitting together in a group and the women, with tight lipped smiles, looking over and gossiping like middle schoolers all evening.  I could tell that his poor mom was embarrassed for me and felt obligated to keep me company as I was not invited to sit with the gossip crew.  I don’t blame them for not inviting me, they wouldn’t have had anyone to talk about had I sat with them.

Anyone else who sees a theme here?  So my dilemma is, when is enough enough and how do we deal with it?  I still don’t know the answer.  There has got to be a happy medium where I’m not treated like a man stealing hussy and they are not being alienated due to bad behavior.  It’s extremely hard to explain this to people who feel they have the right to disregard others and their feelings due to their own grief and anger.

Living apart together and parenting apart together (Sort of)

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For us, the main reason for living apart and maintaining our own households is a difference in parenting styles and working on ourselves and our own households before combining them.  The alternative, of course, would be to just jump right into it and pray that everything works out for the best.

From the very beginning of our relationship, it has been clear that Gabe and I disagree on A LOT of issues regarding parenting and how a household should be run.  He is a lot more detailed than I am on some things.  He bases a lot of what he focuses on on what he believes others’ perceptions of him will be.  His focuses differ greatly from mine.  He will run around bleaching toilets and cleaning kids rooms before someone arrives (his house smells wonderful, by the way), yet he will not notice whether his kids have said hello to his guests or being unkind to the children guests.  I have known this man to change his bedspread in fear that people may notice that he always has the same one on his bed every time they visit.  I, on the other hand, will graze over my house quickly, pick it up so it’s neat (not necessarily bleached), threaten to ground the kids until their room is clean (enough) and give them a ten minute talk about how they are to greet everyone, be polite and include the children who are visiting.  He focuses more on being presentable and making sure everyone knows that dad has his stuff together, I focus more on guests feeling comfortable and having a good time.  If only it was easy enough to combine these qualities into one household.

We have two different experiences and two separate points of views.  I have been a single mom for about ten years.  I have had to force the boys to be independent when need be to a certain extent and to improvise.  Sometimes, there was no other choice and it has forced me to not count on perfection.  They need to make their own cereal, they need to get themselves dressed, they need to entertain themselves as well.  Over the years, I have not had the time luxury to do all of the little things for them that they can do themselves and I’m most definitely not their personal clown who has something to entertain them with every time they are bored.  They understand these things and they are still happy and well adjusted.  The best part is, when I do have the time to do something special or out of the ordinary for them, they appreciate it and they know that they are loved. Yet still, I have lots of room for improvement, I do try to focus more on smaller things and being a bit more detailed, it just makes life easier sometimes.  He, on the other hand is a widowed father.  His wife did all of the parenting when she was alive and he was the provider and the ‘hero’.  People don’t change overnight.   Understandably, to try to somehow compensate for the kids’ loss, he overcompensated with them by trying to become the perfect dad and caregiver.  To add to this, he is a people pleaser, he loves to make people happy and he loves being a hero to his kids.  The kids, again understandably, have become accustomed to being catered to and not being accountable for their own responsibilities and behavior.  He focused so much on the short term (cleaning the kids’ rooms for them, keeping them happy by not giving them consequences when they were rude or downright mean to him) that now, in the long term, he is slowly trying to undo these things and well, it’s hard.

Over the years, we have gone back and forth with each other about ways that we feel the other should change and also things that we would like to change about ourselves in order to become better partners and parents.  I am so grateful that we have been able to do this in separate homes rather than in a shared household where we would be making unnecessary and unfair comparisons out of frustration and anger.  We have been able to implement the changes with our own kids and households on our own, without the other parent having to be blamed or labeled the bad guy responsible for these changes in order to make life together not just bearable, but happy eventually.  It’s an ongoing process and I do believe that one day, we will get there.

 

Blended families living together apart (LAT) and maintaining separate households …..Part Two

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I had a free day today but had SO much to do and catch up with.  So instead of writing a whole lot, I did some reading and came across this article about a blended family living apart together (LAT).  This woman spoke as if she were me, literally, and we are now besties, though she doesn’t know it.   Here’s the link:

https://www.pressreader.com/uk/daily-mail/20161010/

ALL of it stuck out to me but this was the BIG one:  “Relationships that work can be fluid in this way.  We don’t have to all stick to societal norms.”   Amen Sista.

Dating a widower….His friends and their wives…

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One of the biggest challenges that I have personally faced while dating a widower is his social circle, particularly his friends’ wives.  I have found a couple of diamonds in all of that dirt whom I just love and have an actual friendship with, but they are few and far between.

I knew things were going to be ugly a few years ago when Gabe got a phone call from his buddy Jude.  This was a half hour prior to me needing to drop Star and his son Aiden off to his sister in law.  Yay.  Jude:  “Hey man, the girls seem to think that you and Jenna were having an affair while your wife was still alive, you’re gonna have to do something to let them know that that’s not true.”  Wait, what?  Why couldn’t Jude just tell his gossipy wife to stop spreading rumors when he knew himself that this wasn’t true?  And so, it started.  The gossip.  I drop the kids off with his sister in law thirty minutes later and she’s understandably short with me as she now thinks that i was having an affair with her sister’s husband.  Awesome.  I did not and do not have a relationship with her to have a discussion with her to try to diffuse rumors.  And I shouldn’t have to do that anyways, it’s not my job.  It’s his.  They are his friends, his people.

For me at least, going into this situation, I feel that a lot of these women and even some of the men felt that it was my obligation to prove myself to them and to make them like me, their logic being that they have “been around longer”.  I disagree.  My only obligation is to be my usual nice self, be courteous and understanding and that’s it.  Just because I’m in a relationship with their friend, does not mean that I now need their approval or to go out of my way to make them my friends as well.  I think that a lot of the time, from reading and from my own situation, the people in the widower’s life completely forget that this new woman has her own family, her own established friends/ social circle, her own life and a lot of times, her own children.  For me personally, it would be nice if they liked me and we could all get along but . I wasn’t set out to make new friends.  In fact, how would they know any of this?  They never asked.  They never thought past themselves.  I have heard this saying and it rings true so many times:  Grief can be very selfish.

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There have been many incidents since that day, that I tried to see past.  Most of them centered around one person in particular, Jude’s wife Julie.  Julie is known as the Queen Gossiper and I suspect she thinks that she is the Queen Bee.  There have been many parties where I was not invited to sit with the women and sat quietly with his daughter Star while they would just stare and whisper among themselves, like a bunch of tenth graders.  There have also been several more ridiculous rumors crafted, my personal favorite being that my oldest son is really Gabe and my love child.  This one made me giggle.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how they choose to treat me or what ridiculous rumors they make up.  I don’t associate with Julie nor allow her on any social media of mine.  The sad part is only that by doing these things, it has really distanced Gabe and Jude a great deal.  By not wanting their social circle to change, they did end up changing it as Gabe is not a huge part of it as he once was.  He feels that he has to be careful of what he says and does now around people who he once felt comfortable.  He turns down some events now to avoid a shark tank.

It’s funny how things can change, he has another friend couple, Charlie and Mary, who have been nothing but supportive.  He was already close to Charlie but usually only got together socially within the group.  He now seeks them out as these are some of the only people whom he feels completely comfortable around.  Death and grief change so many things and so many relationships.  It can make some people become more compassionate and it can make some people become monsters.

Dating and marrying a widower with children…my stepdaughter hates me and this is what I’m doing about it….

evilstepmother.jpgMy stepdaughter (soon to be) hates me because I am not her mom.  She hates me because I’m a constant reminder that her mom’s not there and not coming back.  She also hates change because it’s another reminder that things around her are still happening, even though her mom is gone.  Nicole is fourteen years old and her mom passed away when she was ten.  I don’t blame her.  I would hate me too.

Here is what I am doing about it:  nothing.  There is nothing that I can do about it.  I’m sure that in another life, we would have really liked each other, say, if I was a friend’s mom or something.  But I’m not, I’m her dad’s partner.  In the beginning, I tried to conversate with her, buy her cute things that girls like, I tried to win her over.  I believed naively that I could win her over, she would grow to like or even love me and all would be great in our world.  I didn’t know any better.  I was met with no response, screaming at me in public, staring at me through a window the whole time I was there and trying to throw me out of the house (oh yes, she has done that too), all while dad stood there looking like a deer in the headlights.  I refused to go back over until he was able to manage her behavior.  She doesn’t have to like me, she just can’t be disrespectful to me. So he took care of it.  She no longer does these things.  Actually, she doesn’t do anything at all.  She just stays in her room and doesn’t talk to me or anyone else really.  I feel sorry for her.

I think as women, a lot of us are people pleasers.  We automatically feel that if someone doesn’t like us, it’s personal and we can fix it by being our fantastic selves.  There’s that woman in the office who constantly rolls her eyes at you because you look a lot like the woman her husband left her for, or the rude cashier who doesn’t  like you after seeing you for a total of five seconds because your voice sounds just like her ex best friend who she now hates.  I would rather spend my time nourishing the relationships that I have with the people who have actually gotten to know me and appreciate me, life is far too short.  We have to accept that sometimes, the more you try, the more they despise you.  They have chosen not to like you.  And that’s okay.  I have spent a lot of time in the past reading blogs and comments from both widower’s wives and daughters of widowers.  The wives were so appalled that the daughters, (who are all grown up now) still hate them when they could not understand why, they eventually hated the daughters as well.  Yet, they would still give anything to reconcile with the daughters, if only the daughter would see the err of her ways and try to be grateful for all that the stepmother had tried to do for her.  From reading the daughters’ comments,  they still felt the very same way they had when they were children.  They didn’t WANT the stepmother to do anything for them, most of them commented that she had always tried too hard and they took this as the stepmother trying to replace their mother.  The daughters wanted the dad to be on his own and avoid moving on but if he couldn’t, they did not want to be bothered with the stepmother.  They already felt that the dad was betraying their mom, they were not going to (in their minds) betray her by actually liking the wife as well.

I have had some very well meaning, yet naive, friends make these comments to me:

“I have always wanted to be a stepmom!  She would LOVE me if I were her stepmom!”        Ummm….why?  It’s not very much fun.  Yeah…..no she wouldn’t.

“If I were you, I would make sure to go to her room and say hi and start a conversation every single time I went over.”                                                                                                              Yes, because I have never thought about doing that…..Too bad when you knock, she acts like she doesn’t hear the door.

“What you need to do, is go over there every single night, cook dinner, and act like you own that house.  She’ll HAVE to come around!”                                                                               That’s a great idea!  Because I don’t have my own house to take care of and I would just love to act like a squatter at my man’s house.  I’m sure she’ll just LOVE me after that! 

I do hope that things change, and that some day she ‘just comes around’, but I’m not holding my breath for it.  Sometimes, people never do come around and that’s okay.  I can accept that and I can also accept that I can’t fix something that I didn’t break.

Are ‘Red-Carpet’ kids ruining your marriage?

I sent this article to Gabe last week and I found it absolutely fantastic.  One of the best parts about it were the comments and all of the readers who were offended by it and did the classic defense phrase, “Just don’t have kids then if you can’t put them first!”  Wait, so I should treat my kid like royalty and turn him into a selfish jerk who thinks he’s the center of everyone’s world or just not procreate?  I love it.  Here’s the article:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2413638/Child-proof-marriage-Dont-let-red-carpet-kids-ruin-relationship.html

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You see, I AM that parent that the defensive reader is telling not to have kids to.  I don’t think it’s best that I put them first at all times and make them feel that they are the center of the universe and we should all just stop what we are doing while they interrupt us so that they can tell us how they absolutely need that new wrestler or whatever.  Screw what we were in the middle of, right?  Nope.  My friend who I haven’t seen in a billion years who is visiting from out of state will surely understand that she is being put on hold while telling me about her infertility struggles so that my kid can complain that he doesn’t like his food, right?  I feel like some parents really don’t understand that by putting their kid first at all times and everyone else on hold, and essentially, on their kids’ schedule, they are being rude themselves.

So, being the great partner that I am, I went ahead and read this article, point by point to him.  FYI, these are all situations that he and I have discussed before.  Herrrrrreeee we go…..

  • The couples’ free time was being all consumed with the kids and their social lives.  i.e.  skipping dinner together because we can NEVER say no to one of the kids activities or events, that would make us look like bad parents, right?
  • The couples’ relationship coming in last on the priority list due to the childrens’ demands.  i.e. Can’t go out to dinner together without the kids because the kids will throw a fit about being left behind with a sitter.
  • Not sleeping together because the kids have gotten into the habit of sleeping in the parents’ bed, so it’s just easier to sleep in another room than to put up a fight and end things badly with the little angels.

The reasons for allowing these things include:

  • It makes things easier in the short term.  (Better than having a full on fight before bedtime)
  • Guilt parenting.  Divorced, widowed, married but can’t buy your kid enough stuff.  Kids can sniff this stuff out.
  • Wanting to be liked, losing your kids’ friendship.  I don’t know why but I have pissed my kids off so many times but magically, they still like me.

Lastly, here is how the psychologist says to, “Roll up the red carpet and take back your marriage”:

1.  Put your children last. Prioritizing your partner over your children is good for your marriage and your kids. Of course, there will be exceptions – if the children are ill, or their first day at school and so on, but otherwise make sure you and your partner go out for dinner together, send the kids to bed early, do things the two of you love to do together. A happy marriage makes happy children.

2. Be a ‘good enough’ parent. Accept you’re not perfect, that every parent makes mistakes and it’s not the end of the world if you send your child to school in a hastily cobbled-together costume for the school play.

3. Recognize Your Needs. I have met many mothers and fathers who, after years of downgrading their own needs, felt ‘entitled to do something for myself for once’ – and had an affair. Always putting your children first can cause resentment to rebound in extraordinary acts of selfishness. Have a good think about what YOU want and need in your relationship and family life – and make sure you get it.

4. Talk. Make sure you talk through your problems – don’t silently hope they’ll go away. Problems fester if you don’t get them out in the open.

5. Put a lock on your bedroom door. You wouldn’t barge into a teenager’s bedroom unannounced, so don’t let your children do it to you. Give yourself some privacy as a couple – they can always shout ‘Fire!’ if they’re in trouble.

6.  Greet your partner first when he or she walks through the door – not your children. It shows how important they are to you.

7.  Don’t let your children interrupt when you are talking to each other.

8. Make unilateral decisions about your children. Parent as a team and don’t compete for popularity with your children.

9. Prioritize sex. Intimacy keeps a relationship alive. Send the children to the grandparents for the night. It’s important.

10. Make the children responsible for tasks around the house, so there’s more time for you to be partners rather than servants.