Parenting Stepchildren/Step parent role

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Hi Mr. Olson,

I became a step mother officially 3 years ago when I married my husband. His two sons are now 11 and 9 and in general I have a very good relationship with the boys. My husband and I also have a 2 year old son together and are expecting our second child together in about 2 weeks. We share custody with the boys mother which is split 50-50 so we have the boys half the week and she has them the other half.

A few months ago I decided to take a break from my career to stay home with my toddler and plan on being a stay at home parent for at least the next 4-5 years with some per diem work at times. This also means I have more responsibility with my step sons, I take care of them everyday after school now, even on the days that are their mothers days as she works until about 6 and then will pick them up from me. My husband is very pleased with this arrangement as he feels it is important for the boys to have a stable safe environment to come home to everyday and I agree and feel happy that I can provide this. I take care of them for all vacations, snow days, sick days and whatever other things come up during the week.

The problem I have is that because of my new role I feel that I am really the most "hands on" parent in a lot of ways. I am the one who has to make sure they do their homework, do their after  school chores, and monitor them in their free few hours of the day. They are good kids whom I love but they are also at ages where they are constantly testing the boundaries and I struggle with the discipline aspect of things. To sum it up- I often feel that I am the "mean" parent because I have to enforce all the rules and when their bio parents get home from work it is all fun and games.

The biggest thing I am frustrated about and would like your opinion on is regarding my step son's 10th birthday party. We all agreed upon a date that would work for both families, then without consulting us in any way the boys mother just sent out an evite to a group of my step sons friends inviting them to a party at my house after school this week.

I was a little taken aback that we hadn't discussed whether the location should be at my husband and my house but none the less decided to let it go as I really am happy to have the kids here. Unfortunatly, my husband learned a few days ago he has to be out of town for work so he will not be able to attend the party, which he feels quite badly about. Again, I am ok with this, there isn't anything to do about it and I am certain that between myself and the boys mother we can handle the party.

My parents were also planning to come help with set up and clean up and watching my son so I can help with the party. Well, last night the boys mother essentially told me that she doesn't want me doing anything for the party. She is very passive aggressive and said that since I am "so pregnant" I should "just relax" and not do anything and she invited some of her friends (whom I don't know) to also come to my house to help with the party instead of me. When I mentioned my parents were planning to be there to help, she completely declined their offer as well, saying that she would be all set with just her friends helping.

I am really upset because I feel like she is taking all control away from me in my own house. My idea was that we would work together and host the party together but clearly she doesn't want this. What makes me angry is that I don't think she has the right to do this in my house. If she wanted total control of the day and for me to truly "relax" and do nothing, than she should have planned it at her house or at a different location.

I know this is a party for her son, I respect that she is his mother and this is why I didn't balk when she planned the whole thing without asking me. However I don't see how she can host this party and completely push me and my parents to the side lines in my own house. What makes it worse is that the house we live in used to be the house she shared with my husband so I  feel  she thinks she has the right because she once lived here. She has no problem loading me with responsibility when it is convenient for her (taking care of the boys when she works, driving them to practice and doctors appts. etc) but when it comes to something fun and important like the party she totally marginalizes me.

I guess I just want to know if you think I am being reasonable to be upset about this situation and if so how I should handle it. Sorry for the lengthy explanation.

Hannah

Answer
Hannah... you sound like a great mom and stepmom.  This may come as a "after the fact" ... the party may have already happened, but in your home your set the rules and guidelines.  The step mom must clear with you first before organizing anything in your home.  She was WAY out of bounds on this incident.

I do think it is important to keep the communication and cooperation on a positive level.

Perhaps she was just wanting to take the burden off of you because of the closeness of the birth.  Also consider that your emotions state at the time.   

Having said that, because you do seem to have a working relationship with her, you can tell her that your were happy to host the party in your home and thank her for allowing you to share in your stepsons birthday.  That you appreciated not having added responsibility for planning the party due to your pregnancy.  And that you would like to set some guidelines for future joint events to ensure a positive event for everyone.

Keep the conversation positive and focused on what is best for the children, and maintains respect for each other.

An example might be that both families work together, but whoever hosts the party sets the guidelines on what happens within their house.

The key is long term cooperation that provides a loving environment for the children and respect for each other.  

Parenting Stepchildren

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Rick Olson

Expertise

As a stepparent of 4 children and a family coach, I can answer questions about the issues that arise in step-parenting including discipline,blended families, boundaries and guidelines.

Experience

I have 18 years as a stepfather, and over three years as a family coach focusing on unifying, strengthening and empowering families.

Publications
My wife and I have written 2 books on Family FUSE Your Family - Family: Unify Strengthen Empower! and Raising Families

Education/Credentials
BA(Recreation Administration) Grad Studies in Urban and Regional Planning and Design Certified as a LifeSuccess Consultant/Coach

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