I’ve been with my husband for seven years. He has three daughters with whom I’ve been involved since they were young. I love them.
Their mother’s been very difficult to get along with, for both my husband, and myself but I’ve taken that in stride.
However, lately I’ve felt conflicted about my involvement in these now-teenage girls' lives. They no longer rely much on me as a parental figure and I’m okay with that.
They usually stay with us one day weekly and every weekend. Their mother will only drive them over or get them, occasionally. Our relationship with her has gone downhill in recent years.
Their father drinks (not excessively) every night, so refuses to drive after a drink (I agree).
This has left the pick-up and drop-off responsibility to me. If I don't do it, their mother refuses to allow them to come over.
Now one child wants to spend both weekend nights out with her friends – which means more driving.
I even drive her friends around because their parents can't or won't. If I say no because I’m tired, not well, or just want a break, I’m made to feel guilty by the kids and my husband, too.
During a recent huge argument, I told my husband he and/or his ex should take over driving the kids around.
Now the kids don't come over unless I get them, my husband’s upset because he doesn't get to see them as much, the ex is upset because she’s stuck with them more often, the poor kids are caught in the middle, and are miserable. Yet I’m seen as the bad guy.
I feel so used, abused, and hurt by everyone involved.
Their mother lives not that far away. She also has a husband who’s only picked up the kids twice over the years.
Am I right in expecting the parents to take some responsibility? I don't want to alienate the kids.
Fed Up and Confused
These children have been lucky to have you in their lives, for your caring and your generosity of heart and effort.
Their parents have been playing out a selfish power struggle for years, without concerns for its impact on the children because they’ve had you to pick up the shortfall.
Your husband has made his drinking more important than his children - it suggests his daily “not excessive” intake may still be defined as alcoholism. At the least, it’s stubborn and manipulative.
Pathetically, these parents are wasting precious time. Teens will soon not want to switch houses at all, or will drive themselves where they please. There’s only a window of a few years to stay connected.
Talk to the kids and explain that you love them and want to see them, but sometimes can’t do the driving, when others can. Say that you’ll do it at other times, but you’re not just a taxi service. If you go get them, they need to spend some time with you and their father in return.
Tell your husband that, through choosing drinking, he’s wasting time with them, feeding the power struggle with his ex, using you, and it’s affecting all of those relationships. Don’t be afraid to speak up, he needs you.
Your feelings are valid. You can’t accept being treated this way. Once you stand up for yourself, you’ll mind the driving less and also not feel guilty when you can’t do it. A real taxi-service can also be used.
I feel that large birthday parties for kids, where parents’ friends and distant family are invited and expected to give gifts, are over the top.
Do I always have to attend, and give a gift?
We only invite immediate family for our children’s birthdays, and we give our kids a small gift.
I recently attended two children's parties. At one, the parent photographed the child with each present and the child was instructed to hug the giver.
I gave a small cash token in a homemade card, and wasn’t thanked.
At another party, with 40 people in a hall, the child opened tons of presents atop a table. I gave a beautiful homemade card, and no money. I wasn’t invited again. Your suggestions?
The Party Grinch
You’re entitled to your principles, as others are to their choices. Don’t attend unhappily and critically. Instead, send a homemade card and sincere good wishes to the child and family, instead.
Tip of the day:
A stepparent can be a great help, but shouldn’t be the fall guy for the parents’ battles.