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A wedge in my marriage
HI, I am step mum to 2 wonderful kids who live with my husband and I on a full time basis. The kids' mother is really starting to hurt me. Just tonight she decided that while the kids are with her only their father is to have contact with them!
They are spending the school holidays with her and apparently my husband and I talking to the kids was taking away "family time". We were calling to say hi and see how things were going and because Little Miss had her phone on speaker we had to speak loudly. Her mother was listening in and I am now being accused of yelling and raising my voice. But hubby was doing the same!
I got so angry all I wanted to do was drive over and get the kids.
She left the kids in our care at the beginning of 2016 because she couldn't look after them. She was supposed to see them every second weekend but doesn't. Now she is threatening to keep them and not let them come home. She didn't have the ability to help the kids with their school work, she didn't send them to school on a regular basis and now that they are living with us they have improved immensely academically and are going to school everyday. I don't want to see them go backwards.
I feel as though my hands are tied because I am not their birth mother, only a step mother. I get so angry when she tries to drive a wedge between me and my husband and I am scared that she really is doing that. I try so hard to forget about it all but when it comes to her my first instinct is to fight, not fly.
Has anyone ever had to deal with this before and how did you cope?
I want to be the best mother I can be to these two kids but I don't know if I can anymore. Sometimes I wonder if they would be better off if I was just to leave.
Thanks for listening (reading) and thanks in advance for any advice.
Dear Mumma Ree
Hello and welcome to Beyond Blue. If you leave your husband then I think the stability in the children's lives will also vanish. Have you and your husband made a formal arrangement with the mother about who sees the children and when? I think it would be best for all of you to have this formally settled. That way there can be no sudden decisions or changes of mind about when the children are with each parent and no threats about taking them away.
I suggest you talk to someone from the Family Court or try the Women's Legal Service in your state. You can also try Legal Aid. All these are free services for at least one consultation. Just ask about access rights and what you need to do to give the children the best life which includes regular schooling. If you have had the primary care of these children for the past 18 months and can demonstrate how much more settled they have become and how their school work has improved you can demonstrate you and the children's father are the best people to care for them.
This will save you and your husband lots of anxiety once the 'rules' have been set out. How is the mother driving a wedge between you and your husband? Do you make joint decisions on important matters such as the care of the children? He may also be nervous about no contact with his children. I would suggest you do not contact the children when they are with their mother. It's bound to upset her and I think I would be put out in a similar situation. Let dad make any necessary contact. I know you are anxious when they are away but you are giving mom the opportunity to make comments about you.
I know it sounds hard but you really need to stand back when the children are with their mom. It's hard but these situations are always hard and you need to take care you do not appear to step in on any situation. This is where dad needs to take the lead.
I hope this has been helpful to you. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Mumma Ree, I have not been through what you are but from what you have posted, it will NOT be better if you just left. You are providing a good and safe environment for those kids and you should be proud of that.
In these situations, i believe you need to concentrate on the controllables, that is control the controllables. When they are in your care, you will continue to the best you can for them - controlling the controllable.
You cannot control what their birth mother says or does. That is entirely up to her and i believe that the kids will learn who does what for them and who is nurturing them better. You keep treating them like you do, they will naturally gravititate towards you.
Although this situation is far from ideal, remember that you have a lifetime with these kids in front of you and i gather that they are quite young, if this is the case, as I said above, they will learn who is who and who does what and you will have decades in front of you enjoying their loved company because they will remember how good you where to them when they were young.
You busband has equal say in this so a united front is essential and very powerful. When on the phone, it is crucial that you stay nice and calm. Even if she is yelling or making threats, remain calm. Take the moral high ground and be satisfied within yourself that you are doing the right thing and acting like a mature adult.
It will pay dividends down the track.
Dear Mumma Ree~
I guess you are in a pretty difficult situation, something quite common now with the number of families that have broken up and people finding new partners.
Frankly I think the brunt of this should fall on your husband, basically because his first allegiance should be to you and the kids, and not to his ex. It really is his job to ensure that you feel loved and secure, not apprehensive because someone he used to be with is on the scene.
When marriages break up there is most often bad feeling, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, so the chances are his ex is going to be hostile and may want to make trouble. Add to that the fact she was unable to look after them last year. Now she says she wants them full-time, depriving them of their father - and you.
If it was me - and I know it is not - I think I would have a pretty thorough discussion with your husband and set out your fears and frustrations and see if the two of you can set them to rest. Then go on to decide what long-term plans the pair of you can use to deal with his ex.
You sound as if you are the best mother to the kids right now, with a deep care for their welfare. Love and stability is as good as it gets.
I do hope you will post again and say more.
Thanks for your advice. While the kids are still away at birth mum's for the holidays I have continued to "stay away". All I would like to do is send a quick text to them saying "Hi. Hope you are having a good time. Miss you." but I don't want to rock the boat. I even found myself leaving the house when hubby was on the phone to them so that it wasn't a problem.
So far, there have been no more threats to keep them but having said that she is making it difficult for hubby to pick them up at the pre-arranged time. This happens every time they see her. She tries to make things difficult for hubby (by having to drive an hour each way to drop them to her with the promise of her dropping them home and then changing her mind once they are there) and it just upsets us both and we end up arguing.
it sounds really bad. Do the ex and your husband already have a formal agreement/arangement with the CSA? If not nows the time to make one. The CSA could help with the following:
The way I found is best to talk it over with husband, and the ex in a mitigation meeting with a legal aid worker there in the room. There, you all make and sign an agreed upon contract to allow time with each other and the kids - separately and together. Keep it clear, simple, easy for all to agree on. Be amicable, try not to make it a fight. She may, so be prepared! Emotions tend to get in the way, try to stay calm and think things over - lay out what you'd like. Easier said than done!
I'm a bit of a purportrator in a similar story here. If i'd given some more or just let go of the emotional hurt and anger, not lashed out at my ex or got his family involved, I might not be on BB, things may have been better...or they could have been worse! Honestly, I'm glad I have 100% care and don't have to speak with my daughters father - it made things complicated and emotional. But I know that if he was to ever want to see her, I'd do what I could to ensure my daughter knows her father. I know you want that for the kids too! They need to know their mum and no one should stand in the way of either parent looking after them.
I truly hope you all can make a good agreement, together and make it great for the kids.
My advice here is to ignore her threats, obviously she's getting emotional and angry (probably more at herself for not being there for them, than really at you.) Lashing out at someone is a sign she's not in a good space atm. I'm glad you are giving her time and hopefully, she'll come to her senses and return the kids.
If your husband has legal custody, she Must return them by law. You have the law on your side should anything else happen. I truly hope everything goes ok.
Keep talking, let us know how it all goes. So glad you are there for them x