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.

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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.

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.