I'm looking for people to connect with who understand stepparenting. I need a place to vent.
I've been a stepmother for 15 years. The thing is, I've not been a real stepmother in the way that most of you have been. When I met my husband, he'd not seen his children since the divorce 18 months previous. He and his ex-wife grew up in the same state, though soon after they married, her parents moved about 400 miles away. My husband was in the military so they moved all over the place during their marriage. It was no surprise that she moved to the state where her parents lived after the divorce considering they didn't have any real roots anywhere.
I am going to make a long, sordid tale short by saying that my stepchildren lived far away with an unstable mother who did everything in her power to not just keep the children physically away from their father, but as we've always suspected and are learning now, also did her best at trying to make the children hate him too. Visitations were far and few in between. We would go years not hearing a peep, then an out-of-the-blue phone call asking for money. My husband got custody at one point but it was overturned for jurisdiction.
When I say the ex-wife was (is) unstable, I mean in every way possible. My stepchildren moved 3-5 times every year and switched schools about as often. They weren't allowed much social interaction with other kids. At one point, she told my dss that his father was dead. Another time, she had the kids convinced that he wanted to kidnap them. Even when we knew where she lived and pressed the courts for visitation, visits were troubling because she'd call the kids and tell them things like, "I forgot what your face looks like" or remind them that dad was going to kidnap them or tell them that their dad was a big ole' meanie because he refused to drive them home for a day in the middle of a two-week summer visitation so that she could take them to a local carnival.
Fast forward to recent times. My dss is 20 and dsd is 18. They had a few visitations during their late teens, like once a year. We were in slightly more regular contact with them by this point because they were old enough to get jobs and pay for their own cell phones. Service was always on-and-off, and they still moved pretty regularly, but somehow we made the visitations happen.
I don't know the entire story, but it would seem that my stepson left home at 18. He graduated high school, joined the national guard, and found that he couldn't live with his mother, who constantly demanded money for basic things like utilities, rent, and food. He was really upset at one point because she'd begged him for money to keep the power on, he handed it over (a huge amount to a kid that age) and she went shopping with it--power was turned off.
Dss called us last summer and asked if he could come stay with us for a while. He'd went for his two weeks for the guard and everything fell apart; he'd been roommating with his girlfriend's cousin, but she broke up with him when he did his NG duty so he kicked dss out. His car broke down, and while the movie theater he worked at held his job for him, he returned to greatly diminished hours, like less than ten a week. He'd moved in with his grandmother to get back on his feet but she threw all his stuff on the lawn one day and told him to get out. His mom didn't want him back. So we made the trip and transported him here where made him a deal: you stay rent-free, but you go to college. He got a job right away, managed to get a car, and starts college tomorrow (yay!) He has a long-term vocation goal and he's motivated.
In October, dss told us that dsd was pregnant and that she'd moved out of her mom's house with the guy. He told us then that the guy was no good. It was made clear to dsd that she wasn't welcome to go home to "mooch" from mom so knowing how endlessly silly teenage girls are toward love relationships, I urged dh to call her and offer the same deal we'd given dss. The last thing we wanted was for her to feel stuck with some guy who, apparently is a professional job-starter (You all know the type; hundreds of thousands can't find work, but this guy manages to land a new job every other month, only to quit or call in too much to keep it.)
She called on Friday. We're traveling once again in a week or two to pick her up. She's due in April.
Let me tell you about my home. We live in an 800 square foot house and my husband and I have two children together. The main floor of our house has three small bedrooms, which we had divded years ago for the kids: the girls got the largest bedroom, while the boys each had one of the smaller rooms. The basement is partially finished so dh and I have a bedroom and a separate living room space.
We're rearranging the house to shift both the boys into a single small room, move our daughter into the other smaller room, so that dsd can have the bigger room for her and baby.
It's been about six months with dss and it's weird and complicated on a personal level for me. This stepparenting thing is much easier when the kid is 7 and wields to adults, biologically related or not. It's like I have a strange, grown man in my house. He's a slob. I've never insisted that my house be in pristine clean order, but I've gone to great lengths to teach my own kids how to be respectful. When you come home and throw your backpack on the loveseat and throw your coat, hat, and gloves all over the couch, you're putting others in the position to have to choose between not using the furniture or picking up after you. My youngest child is 13 and we're all pretty good about taking care of our own things here, but now all of a sudden I'm dealing with milk left in glasses long enough to turn solid, or left with the choice to either take the grown man's clothing from the washer, put into the dryer, and take care of or not use my own washer and dryer for days while he gets around to it.
It's stupid: I ask dss to do things and he just doesn't. I have to ask my husband to talk to him about these things. Even then, it takes multiple attempts. The thought of moving dd into the bedroom he's been occupying makes me feel sick to my stomach. I peeked in there the other day to realize that the bed is still made exactly the way I set it up six months ago when I prepared the room for him. He's thrown bags of clothing and whatever all over it, there's just one small spot where he actually sleeps. But this means the bedspread has been slept on for six months without a wash. The pillowcases haven't been changed. He spent an entire day in his room supposedly cleaning before we had a cable guy scheduled to come hook his TV up, but I about died of embarassment when I showed the cable guy to his room and flung open the door. The cable guy laughed and said he'd seen worse but I doubt it. It was so bad that when he attempted to find the previous cable box in there, he required help because it was buried underneath so many piles of things that even though he knew where it was from the wire leading to it, he didn't want to disturb the trash heap piled on top.
All this time, I've resigned myself to the idea that his room = his mess, and so long as I can close his bedroom door, I can live with things. He's already 20 and even though he's just starting college, he is motivated to get his own place and start his adult life. Since he's been here, he's already been engaged (and broken up) with one girl. He's in a serious quest to move on. So I've come to think of this as temporary, maybe he'll be out in a year, two at the most. Now, I'll be throwing him in with my son who, besides kicking off his socks at the end of his bed when he goes to sleep at night, really isn't very messy, so it'll be a new level of stress.
I'm so afraid of more of the same from dsd. Not to mention the stress of having a baby in the house. We started our family on the young side. I'm 38, dh is 39. We just got to the point within our adult lives where our own children are old enough to mind themselves so we can spend an occasional evening out. I don't know how it'll work with a baby. We'll want her to go to school, but I assume we'll be babysitters when she's in class, or when she studies. Same if she works. I'm worried we'll be saddled with this baby and it's not like we have wide open schedules here. My husband holds a demanding position at work and is in a master's degree program at the same time. I work part-time and go to college full-time. We'll be young grandparents, but our energy isn't infinite. Plus, much like dss, living here will give her more social freedom than she's ever had. We spent a few hours with her when we picked up dss last summer and when we explained that dd didn't make the long car ride because she gets sick and stayed with a friend for the weekend, dsd looked a little sad and mentioned that she'd never had a sleepover and that she was barely allowed to spend time with her friends. She never had a childhood best friend. It would appear timing-wise that as soon as she turned 18, mom let up a bit, so she went out almost immediately and got pregnant. I'm not blaming her pregnancy on her mother, mind you, but I do think that her social development was even more stunted than my dss', and that without any social skills at all she had no idea what she was getting into and with whom.
When I first got with dh, both he and the in-laws told me dirty house stories from the ex that were disgusting. SIL once told me that during a scheduled visit, dss as a toddler had found a petrified hot dog on the kitchen floor and was teething on it. Dh's uncle told me that he'd stopped in uninvited once and asked to be put up for the night and that the ex-wife spent three hours scrubbing out their apartment's second bathroom, where she was throwing the kids' outgrown clothing into the tub and the cat was using the tub as a kitty litter box. I'm pretty much convinced that had this woman not moved so often, she would have easily turned into someone who could be featured in some TLC documentary. I'd always gotten the impression from our few visitations that my stepkids thought I was overburdening or maybe even harrassing them about cleaning up after themselves, because from the world of filth they grew up in (void of any social relationships and visits to friends' houses to compare it to) I'm just uncessarily making everyone clean. In some small way I can relate to the way they felt because I remember going to certain relative's house when I was a kid who seemed to live in a world of eggshells, petrified of making their house dirty. I don't live like that. I just expect that if you explode a bowl of spaghettios in the microwave that you wipe it down and that if you take a bowl of ice cream to your room to snack on while you do your homework that it makes its way to the sink within a day.
It's to the point where I can almost understand his grandmother booting him out.
I know my anger is probably misplaced, but every day I grow more upset with the ex-wife. Why did she fight so hard to keep the kids all to herself to just abandon them once they legally turned into adults? Why shelter them from forming relationships with other family members and friends just to throw them out into the big bad world? A good parent helps their children learn how to form healthy relationships with others. I feel like this would be so much easier for everyone involved if we'd had regular vistations and contact with these kids; at this point, there's no real reason that they should feel like strangers in my house. Things are about to get doubly weird and complicated as the ex-wife has plans to move in with a brother who lives about an hour away. She and her youngest will be imposing on their family so I wonder, will she have the gall to expect to come into my home to visit with her children? Her grandbaby? Because dh and I won't have it, but how do you explain that to adult children?
Thanks for letting me vent.