The disappearing step-mom
Granted, this may seem dramatic, but I regain my mental stability; my relationship with my kids restores and my husband has his happy-wife back. Every second weekend, when his kids come over, I move out.
I was becoming my ‘ugly-self’ and following the route to depression I had been down before in my previous marriage. Aah, make that all previous relationships. I am the bad person, the one who cannot love enough. In my first marriage, my wonderful husband and brilliant father suffered from depression, ADD, non-performance in the work place and a marijuana self-medication habit. Not feeling as though I had the right to get angry and disappointed, I swallowed that anger, got depressed and went to hospital. Year after year. Until self-preservation made me get out. And blessedly I found a stunning partner who thinks my oddities are hilarious and my scattered brain is brilliant. So we got married.
He moved in 18 months ago and I made every effort to blend our families. His kids came over when my boys were there for the weekend, I booked us holidays all around the country as a big happy family, and we put in place alone-time so as adults we could spend one-on-one time with each child. Predictably, I gravitated to his exuberant and affectionate daughter. Not so much to his highly anxious, socially awkward son. But no mind, I was sure the relationship would improve as he matured.
But it went south. The shy 10-year-old boy turned into what I see as weak and spoiled 12-year-old tweenie. The very opposite of me and everything I fear and loath. What I plan is met with criticism and complaint. This large boy is scared of dogs, scared of bees, scared of people, scared of life. He doesn’t want to meet the cousins, he doesn’t want to go for a family walk, he wants the first and biggest helping at dinner, he wants the first turn of every game and he wants a different holiday house at the sea next time, not the forest. He tells my five-year old and eight year old to look up ‘sex’ online. Just some teenage stuff I tell myself as I explain anal sex to my little one. However his emotional level is that of a seven-year old and his IQ is apparently through the roof. So his parents change his school, take him off Ritalin and continue to treat him with kid gloves. And my dislike and anger grows. But I say nothing – this is my partner’s child.
My first step is to protect my boys, so I change the weekends around, which means we have each set of children on different weekends. There goes the romantic period for my husband and I, but I can’t justify overlapping the weekends when I feel my boys are getting exposed too early to behaviour I cannot control. I re-connect with my boys, the house becomes quieter and I am no longer barking orders to kids every second weekend. On my weekends with my boys, electronic time is limited, eating is reasonably healthy, and bed-time is early. On weekends with his kids over, electronic time is all the time; staying in bed all morning is OK, the kids diet is up to their Dad and they to stay up to 10pm. And the 12-year-old boy can stay safe with his nose in the iPad all day. This is my husband’s and his ex-wife’s parenting style, not something for me to burden myself with or put in energy to change.
I tried a few weekends to set ‘my rules for my house’ but in reality my husband and his kids don’t see the need to change and only comply because I start looking stressed out. And why should they? My husband and I are in our 40s, little of our parenting style overlaps when it comes to the other person’s kids, and to re-map co-parenting – which also needs to deal with a behaviorally challenged boy in the house – is madness. My husband gets protective, with an existing plan in place with his ex-wife; I shut up, close down and disengage. This is not my child; I have limited rights; the 12-year-old has parents who love and care for him and are doing their best. I actively start resenting him and become stuck in my heart, unable to fake a feeling I don’t feel, with no more energy or wish to help. And I become self-loathing of my reaction and behaviour as the adult in this situation acting like a fellow-petulant child.
And so to stop the downward spiral which will lead me to reject my husband with his kids, I propose a solution. I need to get out-of-the-way of him and his children and let them be. I need to remove myself from the situation which makes me feel trapped and like the bitch from hell. So every second weekend, I create my separate life, which historically I have thoroughly enjoyed. I spend time with my girlfriends, with myself, catch up on work and get my nails done. I sleep out – spare bedrooms and lovely hotels. I recharge. I arrive home on Sunday morning for a breakfast out with my husband and spend an afternoon at home while his kids play electronics in the TV room. He hires a cleaner for the weekend so the place looks clean enough when I get home.
This blended family is un-blending for now. This is not ideal, but then life is not ideal and I am not ideal. My mental and emotional state stabilises, I am a different but full-on mom to by boys, and the biggest and only stressor between my husband and I is removed.