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Thread: Co-Parenting Isn't Working

  1. #1
    Akfranklin2014
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    Co-Parenting Isn't Working

    I am a stepmom to my husband's two kids, a boy and a girl, 4 and 8 respectively. They each have a different mom. He and I have been married a little over a year and together about three years. I'll start by saying we've never had any issues with my stepson's mother. In fact his baseball coach recently commented about how amicable our relationship was and his mother responded "There's no point in fighting. The only person hurt from that is the child." All the issues we've had have been with my SD's mother.

    About a year into our relationship is when we found out he was her father. He knew she existed, but was told he wasn't her father and didn't believe that he was until they took the DNA test when she filed for child support. From the first day the results came back there's been problems. First, my SD's mother and her grandmother didn't want either of us to see the child. But he insisted, saying he wanted to be involved. Then she told him she didn't want me around while he was getting to know their daughter. He disagreed, telling her we should both get to know her at the same time so there wouldn't be any awkwardness when she came for visits. She finally agreed. Fast forward through the first year or so as she was getting to know the new family members she'd gained and it was a bit rough to start with, especially with a custody agreement not yet in place.

    There is now an agreement in place and my SD is 4. Every time they meet for him to pick her up or drop her off it seems her mother has something different to yell at him about. At first I used to go with him, but once I noticed it caused more drama I decided not to go anymore to cut down on the drama (didn't really work though). The only times I do go is when it's absolutely necessary (like right after work when my office is closed). It's rare at best.

    On our wedding anniversary this year, it was our weekend with my SD and it was Sunday so time to take her back to her mom. We had dinner reservations shortly after so it only made sense for me to go with him. She had asked him shortly before if he could keep her until the next day. He said no because his mother, who is retired and is usually our babysitter when we're both at work, had an auction to work and couldn't keep her. When she arrived at our normal meeting spot to pick her up and saw he was dressed up to go out, she got angry. "So you can't keep our daughter until tomorrow because you're going out to celebrate an unsuccessful marriage?" I stayed in the car and didn't say anything, which is what I usually do. I've gotten out a few times to speak, but most of the time I don't because she's usually yelling at him about something. So we left and we're headed to the restaurant when she calls to chew him out because my SD told her that we had white chocolate covered pretzels and didn't give my SD any. She proceeded to chew at me then too, saying "Whatever my daughter asks for when she's with you you are to give it to her." I responded, probably in a way I shouldn't have, telling her she doesn't buy my groceries or pay the bills and can't say what goes on in my house. She completely ruined the evening, which is what I'm sure she was going for. My SD never even asked for any of the pretzels at our house and we were getting ready to eat dinner that night.

    This isn't the only incident. It's always something. One time she brought a live kitten with her, saying my SD wanted to bring it with her to Daddy's, saying that the mediator said the drop offs and pick ups might be easier for the child if she brings something with her . The mediator meant a toy or stuff animal or something. We all know she didn't mean a live animal. This time my husband put his foot down. He refuses to take the kitten with us and she takes it back home, but not before saying "I'm going to write this down and take it back to the judge that you refused to let her take it."

    Another time, before he and I got married, I'd entered a photography contest to win a photography package for our wedding. To enter we had to tell our story to the photographer and she would post them with our picture for people to vote on. My SD's mother saw this and flipped out, saying I said that my SD belonging her my husband ruined our lives. I did not say that, what I did say was that it turned out world upside down, which it did. Whose world wouldn't be changed finding out they or their significant or have a two year daughter. This was included in the story because it was after we found out that he proposed to me. She also constantly bringing up the Facebook post, saying I never wanted her around and that ruined our lives.

    Today was his time to have her during the week. She called him and told him the child was crying and screaming saying she was scared to go to Daddy's because I was mean. She told him she was going to call social services and have me investigated to see what I'd done to her daughter. She said she was going to take him back to court and have the judge put into their paperwork that I cant be around when she is visiting. Once she arrived to drop her off, she told him that I better not come with him to drop her off on Friday because she and her mother were both going to hit me.

    I've done nothing at all to my SD. I treat her like she's my own. I do not physically discipline her because that's not my place. I will ground her or send her to her room when it's warranted. Once my husband left with her, he asked her about what happened and she said it was because I wouldn't let her play blocks or play with her brother. The incident she's talking about was Thanksgiving weekend. It was Sunday evening and we were getting ready to leave the house to take her back to her mother. She already had on her coat and shoes. Her brother was playing his 2DS and wanted to play alone. She asked to play with him and I told her he's playing my himself right now. She then asked if she could play with her blocks. This isn't normally a problem but we were just getting ready to leave the house to take her back home so I said no.

    I should also note that her mother and grandmother never say no to her, and they've told my husband they will never say no to her and will always give her what she wants. If they make something for dinner that she doesn't like, she just tells them what she wants and they go get it, whether it's fast food or cookies or cake or candy. They have no bedtime for her and she pretty much rules their house. My husband and I have rules at our house and try our best to give her some disciple so she won't be out of control later. But every time she goes back home and then comes back we have to start l over again because they let her do and have whatever she wants.

    I can't really say anything because I'm just the stepparent. I have no rights when it comes to my SD and her mom purposely leaves me out of everything, saying only she and her father need to know what's going on. I feel differently. I feel like I do need to know what's going on in the event my husband has to work when she's with us or if anything were to happen. I'm in no way trying to replace her and I would never try. I'm just lost about what to do because this is all so stressful. My husband has talked about going to email and text only contact, no phone calls unless it's a child is being rushed to the hospital kind of emergency. He's also considered a using a facility that monitors drop offs and pick up. The person dropping off would take her there 15 minutes before they meet, then leave (and this would be mandatory. The person monitoring would keep the child occupied until the person picking up arrived. This costs $35 per drop off and he really doesn't want to go that route.

    Anyone have any suggestions for me, him, or both? Neither of us really know what to do anymore.

  2. #2
    j.man
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    y SD's mother saw this and flipped out, saying I said that my SD belonging her my husband ruined our lives. I did not say that, what I did say was that it turned out world upside down, which it did.
    Lady, what the hell? Why would you air that out regardless? Don't publicly comment on your husband's daughter, especially in such a way.

    And leave it to your husband to discipline her (that includes groundings and barring her from playing blocks... which, why can't she if another kid is playing video games?). If he's not around enough to police his child, that's an issue you should understandably raise with him.

    I think you're overstepping and overstepping big time. By all means, discuss boundaries with your husband, but I'd immediately stop acting on whatever instincts you've got going on.

  3. #3
    Akfranklin2014
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    Quote Originally Posted by j.man [Register to see the link]
    Lady, what the hell? Why would you air that out regardless? Don't publicly comment on your husband's daughter, especially in such a way.

    And leave it to your husband to discipline her (that includes groundings and barring her from playing blocks... which, why can't she if another kid is playing video games?). If he's not around enough to police his child, that's an issue you should understandably raise with him.

    I think you're overstepping and overstepping big time. By all means, discuss boundaries with your husband, but I'd immediately stop acting on whatever instincts you've got going on.

    Wow...first, I have to know if you were able to read the entire post as I only see part of it what I write, at least from the app anyway. Second, what do you mean by in such a way? It was never meant negative and my husband even read it before I submitted it. I also did not realize the photographer wouldn't edit it before posting it. I thought it was a submission to her and she would edit it before it was posted.

    Third, we were literally getting ready to walk out of the door to take her back to her mother when she asked to play with the blocks. You're telling me you would take out the blocks and let her play when you're leaving the house? They're big blocks, not ones that can be taken with us in the car. And he is around enough, he's usually with us every time we have them. But if he's at work on a Saturday and I'm with the kids I'm not going to let them do whatever they want. I have been given permission by him to discipline them both like that.

    I'd like to understand why you think I'm overstepping. I'm not supposed to be able to take away a toy or have her follow my directions when she's with us? A stepparent is not allowed to say anything towards their stepchild? They're supposed to just let them do whatever they want? If he's the only one who disciplines them at all it will show them I'm not allowed to say anything to them and they'll run all over me when he's not here.

  4. #4
    luminousone
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    That poor little girl. Having no limits and such an angry mother is really going to harm her psychologically. Have you talked with your husband about trying for sole custody? It has to come from him. But it is so concerning what is happening to that child.

  5. #5
    Akfranklin2014
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    Quote Originally Posted by luminousone [Register to see the link]
    That poor little girl. Having no limits and such an angry mother is really going to harm her psychologically. Have you talked with your husband about trying for sole custody? It has to come from him. But it is so concerning what is happening to that child.
    We haven't talked about sole custody. Neither of us would ever want to take her away from her mother. We have talked about trying to find a way to make her see reason, though. We just haven't come up with anything yet. Trying for sole custody may be the wake up she needs though. Or maybe having a judge order parenting classes, and not just for her, but all of us. I'm not above going to parenting classes. I have no kids of my own so I'm only going by what I've seen from my parents and other adults in my life. I know enough to know what is absolutely wrong to do and I would never put my hands on any child. If a child is to be spanked that their mom and dad's choice, not mine. But I do expect to be able to not only enforce discipline put in place by her father, but to give it out as well if it is needed. My husband and I actually talked about that before we got married and he agrees with me. He's told them both that whatever one of us says goes and the other one will not change the answer.

    Do you think I'm overstepping? If I am it's simply because I don't see it. It's not intentional by any means.

  6. #6
    Andrina
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    If another meeting can be arranged with a mediator, I highly suggest that to bring up the egregious issue of yelling and anger, especially when it's done in front of the child. It's abusive. And recommending the parenting class for all involved might get the woman to realize what she's doing to her daughter. If that doesn't work, paying the money for a drop off person is the least you all could do to stop subjecting the child to the angry exchange that happens each time a visit happens.

  7. #7
    journeynow
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akfranklin2014 [Register to see the link]
    her mom purposely leaves me out of everything, saying only she and her father need to know what's going on. I feel differently. I feel like I do need to know what's going on in the event my husband has to work when she's with us or if anything were to happen.
    Your husband can clue you in to what you need to know, just like he'd clue any care giver who he leaves his child with. You are a third party. You care about the child and care for her at times, but ultimately she is his responsibility, his child. Yes, you can have have house rules, just like a daycare or school or friends' have rules. Is she 4, or 8? I can't picture "grounding" a 4 year old. Taking away a toy, or giving her a time-out, yes, but grounding? I would not make this a battle with her mom, or complain about how she or the grandmother run their homes. You probably can't know the full picture, currently or from the past that lead to the situation between your husband and her mother.

    I know this puts you in a tough position, but maybe it would help if you don't think of yourself as a step-mother, but as a care-giver. I feel for the child.

  8. #8
    Akfranklin2014
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    Quote Originally Posted by journeynow [Register to see the link]
    Your husband can clue you in to what you need to know, just like he'd clue any care giver who he leaves his child with. You are a third party. You care about the child and care for her at times, but ultimately she is his responsibility, his child. Yes, you can have have house rules, just like a daycare or school or friends' have rules. Is she 4, or 8? I can't picture "grounding" a 4 year old. Taking away a toy, or giving her a time-out, yes, but grounding? I would not make this a battle with her mom, or complain about how she or the grandmother run their homes. You probably can't know the full picture, currently or from the past that lead to the situation between your husband and her mother.

    I know this puts you in a tough position, but maybe it would help if you don't think of yourself as a step-mother, but as a care-giver. I feel for the child.
    I see this differently. Yes, he can clue me in on what's going on, but me hearing it straight from her ensures nothing is misconstrued or related incorrectly. For example if she's given medicine by a dr and the dosage is different than normal, or there's special instructions, is it not better to hear it directly from the person who was at the appointment with her rather than being relayed? What is he tells me it's a certain about of teaspoons but was really supposed to be less? Then she could blame me for over medicating her and I don't want anything like that to happen. I say all this because my husband has been known to get things confused before, he has done so with his son and I've had to contact his mother to make sure it's right.

    Yes, she is 4, and when she does things she knows are wrong she gets grounded. My husband and I discussed discipline for both of them and we both agree this is appropriate and is discipline that I can both implement and enforce. It's not just me complaining about how they run their home. My husband, his parents, and even his 8 year old realizes that she's not getting any discipline there. The battle has already been started by her mother. How are we supposed to ignore how she does things in her home when what she does completely undermines what we're doing and we have to start over every time she comes to our home? I understand having differences in the way we discipline. But my husband and I both agree that having no discipline is detrimental not just to her, but to her relationships with all of us, including her mother and grandmother.

    I usually stay out of their conversations and I do not go with him to pick her up or drop her off anymore. I realized it creates even more drama when I'm there.

    I feel like I'm being told that I can't discipline her and if I can't then I may as well not be there at all. I will not help my husband raise a child I'm not allowed to discipline. That only shows the child they can do whatever they want when it comes to me and creates unruly and eventually out of control children.

    Also, how do would I not see myself as a stepmother when that's what I am? Even a caregiver is able to discipline a child when they need to.

  9. #9
    Liraele
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    It doesn't sound like the daughter is the problem, but that the mother is struggling with the fact that there are new people in her daughter's life and she wants to control those interactions...which she can't do.

    I agree with Andrina, if you can have a conversation with the mediator and tell them what you've been experiencing, that may be helpful. It sounds like mom needs to have someone talk to her about what she's doing to her kid, as ultimately that's who is suffering.

    Co-parenting is hard. It really is, and it's difficult for people to understand if they've never done it. Every relationship is different, too, which means what has worked for some people may not work for you guys.

    Ultimately, as someone who has been in similar shoes, my .02 is that the best thing you can do is have a conversation with your husband to make sure you guys are on the same page with how you want things handled in your household...and then make sure you are providing consistency for your daughter when she is with the two of you. In the end, that is what is going to be most reflected in her behavior, and she'll notice it as she gets older. Mom is like a roller-coaster - angry/sweet as she considers it useful for her own means. That wreaks havoc on the kiddos mental well-being and behavior. If you guys are steady, consistent, calm... things will balance out. You're still in an adjustment period, and she's young. Make sure you're getting the support YOU need to be a calm and steady influence.

  10. #10
    Akfranklin2014
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liraele [Register to see the link]
    It doesn't sound like the daughter is the problem, but that the mother is struggling with the fact that there are new people in her daughter's life and she wants to control those interactions...which she can't do.

    I agree with Andrina, if you can have a conversation with the mediator and tell them what you've been experiencing, that may be helpful. It sounds like mom needs to have someone talk to her about what she's doing to her kid, as ultimately that's who is suffering.

    Co-parenting is hard. It really is, and it's difficult for people to understand if they've never done it. Every relationship is different, too, which means what has worked for some people may not work for you guys.

    Ultimately, as someone who has been in similar shoes, my .02 is that the best thing you can do is have a conversation with your husband to make sure you guys are on the same page with how you want things handled in your household...and then make sure you are providing consistency for your daughter when she is with the two of you. In the end, that is what is going to be most reflected in her behavior, and she'll notice it as she gets older. Mom is like a roller-coaster - angry/sweet as she considers it useful for her own means. That wreaks havoc on the kiddos mental well-being and behavior. If you guys are steady, consistent, calm... things will balance out. You're still in an adjustment period, and she's young. Make sure you're getting the support YOU need to be a calm and steady influence.
    Thank you for this. My husband and I discussed almost everything like this before we got married. It was something we both wanted to make sure we were on the same page about, whether it is the kids we have now or when we have our own kids. When he disciplines, I am behind him 100% and do not go against it. When I discipline he is behind me 100% and doesn't go against it. My stepson found that out quick one day when he asked a question and it was something we'd already talked about and said no to. I said no once again and he said to me "I wasn't talking to you, I was talking to my dad." I didn't have to say a word. My husband took over and made it clear to him that he's not to talk like that to me or anyone else and that when I answer him, it will be the same answer he would give him. He hasn't done anything like that since. So I'm lucky to have his support in that.

    I have this posted in another community forum as well, and someone there mentioned to me that she sounds like she is all talk and no action. From what I've seen that's the case. My husband absolutely believes this is the case, which is why he doesn't usually react. I do get angry sometimes when he doesn't, especially when she's attacking me, but I guess I need to realize he's right. I try to stay away from her as much as possible and rarely ever go with him now unless it's necessary. I've tried to communicate with her, tried to talk to her, gave her my number so she could text me whenever I was with her daughter without my husband. None of that worked.

    As much as I would hate for it to happen, we're most likely going to go to written contact only and either exchanging at the police station or having no contact when we do exchange. That will cost all of us, but it will be worth it if it cuts down on this drama. I know it won't ever end completely.

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