I've suddenly got three teens. Help me!
October 1, 2008 10:12 AM   Subscribe

I started dating someone pretty seriously at the beginning of the summer. Due to his former wife's emotional instability, his three children (a 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old twin sons) are living with us in my small two-bedroom apartment. I always wanted to have kids, but this is rather sudden! I'm lost and stumbling. Please offer any advice you think relevant.

A few more details. I'm in my late 30s, divorced, no kids, two small dogs, used to live a really quiet life eating organic food, taking belly dance classes and knitting. I know there's a high potential I'm being used, but don't know how to extricate myself from this situation in good conscience. Plus, I genuinely feel for these kids; they deserve so much more than they've gotten from life.

He's in his early 40s. Neither of us has much money; in fact, until his court date next week, he is still paying child support (being held in escrow until court date). He works from noon to 9 p.m., so I'm with the kids from 6:30 or so until he gets in around 9:15. The kids go to bed around 9:30 because school starts so early. After the court date he plans to rent another apartment in the same complex; the apartment above mine, in fact. As it is also 2 bedrooms (no 3 bedrooms are available), the 16-year-old will probably stay with me. Except for the additional room and a bit more money, I don't anticipate anything changing.

Since he isn't home in the evenings, I'm the one cooking, doing homework, trying to get chores done, caring for his puppy (did I mention the puppy?), and so on. I've had to give up all my after-work and evening activities, including what little physical exercise I get, because there simply isn't time or money.

I need all kinds of advice, from recipes that feed five healthy appetites to communication strategies for tweens to how to cope with a 16-year-old pining for her 19-year-old high-school-dropout boyfriend of two years, all bearing in mind that I'm not their mother. I don't know how much authority it's appropriate for me to have, how to stop the chaos on school nights, how to get the boys to do their homework, how to evaluate my relationship with my boyfriend independent of the kids, or where to turn for good information. (Google brings back far too many results.)

It's been almost six weeks, and I'm so strung out I don't even know how to formulate my question except to ask for any and all advice and/or resources.
posted by Jaie to Human Relations (73 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
3 kids, 2 adults and 3 dogs in a 2 bedroom apartment ? It's not impossible, but I can certainly understand you feeling overwhelmed.

I think you already have the sense of how this could end up, I think you need to reduce the complications significantly and participate caring for the kids (if this is what you want to do) with more distance and have a place to retreat to. I don't know that them moving above you and the oldest child staying with you will give you that distance to think about things without still being caught up in them.
posted by iamabot at 10:22 AM on October 1, 2008

THe only piece of advice I can give you is that these kids need parenting not friends. I would attempt to be their mother when it comes to HW, dating, rules, curfew, etc.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:22 AM on October 1, 2008

I know it must seem to you like he's doing all he can to make this work, but if he was, you wouldn't be in a situation where you had to ask all these questions.

This could wind up being a really great story about how a family wound up pulling together amidst the chaos of improbable situations, but there's a snag: without a long-term sense of commitment or understanding between you, there is no foundation for this beautiful outcome to be built on. Nearly every serious crisis that arises (and they will arise) will wind up fundamentally undermining your trust and and faith in this newcomer to your life. This probably wouldn't be the case if you had a history together to draw from.

As for right now, you are already in crisis mode, and it fascinates and alarms me that all your questions are about what YOU should be doing. I'm pretty sure you are going to get more advice here as to what HE should be doing, instead. It's really nice that you're willing to take on so much, for the time being at least. But until you have a clear idea about the future of your relationship -- besides him living above you (how symbolic) -- then you have to find a way to help him and his children take care of themselves WITHOUT actually taking care of them yourself.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 10:27 AM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Holy God--you're not kidding. You do have something to unravel there, don't you?

The first problem here is your relationship with this guy, which has several red flags.

1. You haven't been seeing him very long, yet he's moved into your apartment with three kids. This is a sign of immaturity, impulsiveness, and a lack of concern for the kids' well being. (Responsible ex-husbands protect their kids from getting attached to new love interests early on.)

2. As you note, it appears you are being used. There are plenty of signs of this, from his relying on you as a babysitter to the fact that you are for some reason inheriting a sixteen year old. And a puppy, for god's sake.

3. It is Not A Good Sign that he's moving in above you. Why wouldn't he? You're basically functioning as relationship Costco. He can get everything from you, from sex to day care. Grown up, well adjusted people do not treat their significant others as one-stop shopping.

In short, you're being taken advantage of, and you recognize it, but clearly would like to help the kids. You can't do that by staying with this guy, because it will end badly, and badly in a way that will probably involve you never seeing those kids again, particularly the 16 year old, who sounds like she could use a friend.

If you cut this relationship early and firmly, you stand a chance of being a friend to the kids and even a friend to the man and a positive influence in their lives. But in order to do this they need to move out of your apartment, he needs to not move into your apartment complex (it is freaky and irresponsible to get an apartment where there's not enough room for all the kids), and stop relying on you for child care.

I will tell you that on this writing alone, the guy sounds like a turd. It's very inappropriate for kids of that age to be all stuck together in a tiny apartment with Dad's girlfriend. I can't imagine what series of events led his life to spiral into this place where he does such a terribly, terribly poor job of taking care of his children. Maybe he has no relatives in town. Maybe he's alcoholic. Maybe his ex-wife is a total nut job and ruined his life and job prospects by telling everyone he eats puppies for breakfast. It's unclear. What is clear is that he's in terrible shape and he needs to get the hell out of your apartment.

Also, you sound like a really nice person who doesn't deserve this. You might remind yourself that telling him to get his life in order is a kindness, not a cruelty.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 10:33 AM on October 1, 2008 [30 favorites]

Where the hell is there bio mother in all of this? If the father has all of the kids 24/7 shouldn't she be paying him? Also I would suggest that you find time to have your own time/place/thing you do just for yourself. It is not selfish but emotionally healthy. Make a rule where no one bothers you for a half an hour after you get home from work. This will allow you to cool down/unwind from everything and be able to focus. Lastly I would suggest making things as structured as possible. Do not let Chaos take over. An idea how to tie everything up and get a little exercise would be when you get home, everything is set aside and all dogs, kids and you go for a nice walk. This way all the dogs get a walk, you get time to talk to the kids, and you can get some exercise to boot. I hope this helps a little.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:33 AM on October 1, 2008

Communication with children (young humans) aged 12-16? The key word that comes to mind is respect. Don't force them to do things, eat things, try things that they're not comfortable with. Don't let them take you and the things you're doing for them for granted.

This is way easier said than done but you need them on your side and the only way to accomplish this is via mutual respect.
posted by philip-random at 10:38 AM on October 1, 2008

Please offer any advice you think relevant.

1. Try to persuade him to get a 3 bedroom apartment for himself and his kids. The 16 year old girl shouldn't be sharing a bedroom with her brothers. Or sleeping on the couch. Or whatever.

2. RUN! Run far away from this.
posted by All.star at 10:40 AM on October 1, 2008 [9 favorites]

Well, to answer one of your sub-questions: A great, cheap, meal is chili. Pretty much any chili recipe will be cheap (you'd have to buy a few spices to go with it, but they last for a while), and feed a bunch. Bonus is it's healthy, hearty, and delicious! And if you make super-extras, the kids can re-heat leftovers at school, or bring it in a thermos. Chili can take a few hours to cook, but you can usually leave it be during that time, as long as you have a timer set.

Another of my favourite cheap-but-filling meals is stir fry of any kind. Get the cheapest meat you can find, a bunch of veggies, chop them all up, cook them in a wok or big frying pan with some kind of sauce (home made or store bought), and serve with rice (pretty much cheapest, easiest to cook, food item there is), and voila! delicious. Also works for leftovers.

I wish you, and the kids, all the best of luck, this really looks like a massive pickle you're in, and I hope you get it resolved soon.
posted by Planet F at 10:42 AM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Help the 16 year old find a job. This solves several problems, and gets her out of the apartment and into something closer to her peer group.

Get the twins into extracurricular sports. Way better for them than being in the apartment.

Seriously consider getting the pets adopted by someone else. The cost alone is a big problem, but also, kids are a higher priority than pets.

Encourage the kids to make their own meals, especially the twins. Start off by having them make macaroni and cheese and hamburger helper type stuff under close supervision. Children of divorced parents need self sufficiency more than anybody.
posted by ewkpates at 10:50 AM on October 1, 2008 [8 favorites]

It might help you to think of them as your niece and nephews. You are close, but not quite mom. Since you are responsible for their day to day care, then you have authority for that. If you have a conflict with the children over that, then have your boyfriend back you up. If you boyfriend has a problem with that, tell him you can't be responsible for something you have not authority for.

Two websites you might want to take a look at is Flylady and Hillbilly Housewife. They both have a Christian overtone. Flylady is good for learning how to set up routines to keep your house in order. Hillbilly housewife has cheap recipes, and they can give you ideas for what you want to cook.

I would suggest that you do a menu planner for the week. You likely know everyone's tastes (at least somewhat), so try to give everyone a favorite meal every week or two. There are many menu planners out there, but basically, you write down what dinners (and other meals if that is relevant to you) for each day. Then you can make a shopping list. Then each night as you cook dinner, you can prep the next night's diner- say pull the chicken out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost.

And about the chaos each night: make an agreement with the kids. You give them 15 minutes; they give you 15 minutes. For example, they can play video games for 15 minutes if they do their homework for 15 minutes. They can watch tv after they pick up their room/area for 15 minutes. Often, their "chore" won't even take 15 minutes, but if it takes longer, tell them they can stop. After 15 minutes of play, then they can finish up their chore/homework.

I agree with philip-random: it is all about respect. One other aspect of this is to never bitch about their mom to their face. You don't have to sugar coat anything she does, but she is their mother, and she is a part of them. To insult that is to insult them.

I wish you luck!
posted by Monday at 10:57 AM on October 1, 2008

Request for clarification: When did he move in with you, and when he did, was it just him?

I can't parse why he doesn't have his own place to live with his kids, unless he moved in with you (quickly!!), then brought the kids in.

Please tell me he didn't move out of his own place straight into yours WITH the kids at the same time.
posted by tristeza at 11:01 AM on October 1, 2008


This is way too much, too soon.

If you want to be nice, wait until his court date next week, but he shouldnt be using you like this.

Also tell the 16 year old to dump her loser boyfriend, but honestly it sounds like she is going to end up like him anyways so its probably better not to get involved.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:07 AM on October 1, 2008

One other thing, and if I'm reading too much between the lines I apologize:

I'm disturbed by his treatment of his daughter. I'm guessing she's the one that's currently getting the couch, right? And she's the one he doesn't have room for in the new place? And she's the one with the dropout 19 year old boyfriend she's pining for?

This suggests a pattern, coupled with his treatment of you, of Dad undervaluing women, and his daughter receiving the message that women are in general less valuable, interesting, and worthy than men.

You would be doing a further kindness by setting an example for her of a woman who demands to be treated as a full human being.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:08 AM on October 1, 2008 [10 favorites]

This might not apply to you, but because of the "I've always wanted kids" line I figure I might as well throw it in: those 12 and 16 year olds? Don't treat them like children.

The 16 year old is legal in most of the world for most adult activities already, but I mean this even with the 12 year olds: Treat them all like adults. Talk to them like adults. Expect them to be polite and responsible and mature like adults. Everything.

Don't talk down to them or treat them like they're too young to understand. Don't use goofy childish language or take on that kindergarden tone: "Jaie's going to go to the su-per-mar-ket now... do you understand?"

Because really, them hating you or deciding you're a moron won't help anyone.
posted by rokusan at 11:11 AM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

He gets in at 9:15 and the kids go to bed at 9:30??

He should be trying to change his hours or get another job. One that allows him to be home to take care of his kids, so that you have some time to knit or do yoga or belly dance - all of the things you have every right to do. You, my dear, are a saint.

I don't know how much authority it's appropriate for me to have, how to stop the chaos on school nights, how to get the boys to do their homework

These are things that should be uppermost in your bf's mind. The kids are his responsibility and he should be aware of the goings-on. Believe me, he already knows that there's chaos, that the boys don't want to do homework, etc. And he just leaves you to take care of it all. Blowing my mind, this is.

There is absolutely no reason under the sun that a 16 year old cannot make dinner once in a while.

I know there's a high potential I'm being used

Ya think? Your bf may have deep feelings for you, but you should both still be firmly entrenched in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, not the taken for granted phase.
posted by iconomy at 11:11 AM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Why can't Dad help out? He can cook in the mornings before he goes to work. Do cleaning around the apartment. Do a load of laundry. Take the dogs for a walk. Things like that. If he's imposing on your life to that degree, he can definately pitch in. If he is already I apologize, but from your question it sounds like you're doing everything, and there isn't any reason he can't help. Laundry gets done just as well at 10 am as 10 pm.
posted by sandraregina at 11:12 AM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Also, you didn't ask but many are answering anyway: wow this is a lot for him to expect from you. Have you considered just saying "This is way too much, too fast for me." to see how he feels?
posted by rokusan at 11:13 AM on October 1, 2008

@ tristeza - He kind of drifted into living with me; there really wasn't any formal date, but it was just him and the puppy at the time. Then about the time school started the twins came, and his daughter has been here three weeks.

The biological mother, BTW, has told each child at different times, "Pack your things and leave, I'm through being your mother." That's the words the kids tell me she used; I realized they may not be entirely accurate, but their departure from her house was extremely sudden - the boys were told to leave after their first day of school for the year, their sister sometime in the second week of school. We don't know what's going on with Mom, but it doesn't sound good.
posted by Jaie at 11:18 AM on October 1, 2008

I just read some of your weblog. Yeah, you are definitely getting used. I understand your compassion, but you are the girlfriend of not-that-long. None of this is your problem and really doesn't become your problem until you are married or somehow legally bound to this guy. As much as you want to help the kids, it doesn't help them to see/participate in (the tv situation, the cell phone) someone being taken advantage of and to learn that this is how you deal with problems.

Figure out some way to put some distance between you and this family. You don't have to break up with the guy necessarily (although I wouldn't say it's the worst idea...), but your finances/belongings/life should not be tied so closely with the issues of these people.
posted by stefnet at 11:23 AM on October 1, 2008

So, did he "drift" out of his lease or something? This guy sounds sketch - you've only been dating for a few months, for god's sake! Run. You're a good, caring person.
posted by tristeza at 11:26 AM on October 1, 2008

I was going to spout off a bunch of stuff about self respect and being taken advantage of....but I honestly don't know what you could have done in this situation. He was already there, the mom is obviously a nutter, and what else could they do? I get it.


Please, please, please set some time limits and boundaries on this situation. Get your boyfriend to commit to a move out date and be sure that he sticks to it. Stop paying his bills (I read your blog, and he needs to be able to afford his own phone, etc.) What you are doing is admirable, but to do it beyond the time that it needs to be done is not. You are going to need to push this guy - he's got no motivation to get out otherwise - and stick to it!!!!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:28 AM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

1. Try to persuade him to get a 3 bedroom apartment for himself and his kids.

Insist that he rent a place with room for him and all three of his children, while you keep your own place. That will solve a lot of your problems right there, and you can help out only as much as you want to. Don't agree to provide after school care for the kids. The 16-year-old can do that (and the father should definitely pay her for doing so).
posted by orange swan at 11:34 AM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Why can't Dad help out? He can cook in the mornings before he goes to work. Do cleaning around the apartment. Do a load of laundry. Take the dogs for a walk. Things like that. If he's imposing on your life to that degree, he can definately pitch in. If he is already I apologize, but from your question it sounds like you're doing everything, and there isn't any reason he can't help. Laundry gets done just as well at 10 am as 10 pm.

This. What exactly is he doing from 7am to noon and why is it more important than caring for his pets and doing housework?

Also, practically speaking, for meal-planning it might help your sanity to acquire several sturdy casserole recipes (I’m thinking Campbell’s cream of whatever plus chicken, noodles, and veggies topped with French fried onions type recipes, but you could also do lasagne or mac & cheese) as well as a repetitive schedule (chili Monday, spaghetti Tuesday, etc.). That way, if you want to get the kids involved, you can teach them a single recipe and have them make it a bunch of times, rather having them experiment every time they try to help in the kitchen.

I'm not saying that this is a healthy or sustainable situation long term, but in the short term: he should help with chores in the morning and you can ease your own burden by simplifying meals and getting the kids to help with them.

(Oh, also? When he moves to the unit above yours, is he still going to expect you to take care of the kids and his puppy? Because that still seems pretty miserable in terms of your having personal time for knitting and whatnot.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:34 AM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

After the court date he plans to rent another apartment in the same complex; the apartment above mine, in fact. As it is also 2 bedrooms (no 3 bedrooms are available)

...thus he needs to find another complex in which to rent an apartment. It looks like helping him get rid of that bad idea -- renting a too-small apartment, using you, making terrible choices re. his daughter -- should be a priority.

There are ways in which this could be a nice guy in a bad situation, but what you've described is a bum. He's homeless, he's a crappy father, he's a user of a boyfriend.

Have you attempted to contact the mother yourself? Are there grandparents in the picture? Aunts, uncles? Dad isn't really able to parent these kids given his housing situation, and stability would be a nice thing for the kids, but not from Dad's new girlfriend.

Assemble-it-yourself meals of pizza and tacos and the like are good for families...
posted by kmennie at 11:41 AM on October 1, 2008

Oh your blog is very depressing. I am sorry you are putting yourself out there like this with a high likelihood of you getting hurt emotionally and financially.

You really need to get him to stick to his plans of getting them to move. Set deadlines and be extremely firm.

Good luck and Godspeed.
posted by mmascolino at 11:43 AM on October 1, 2008

Well, for a start, he and his entire family move out within a month after the court date, no exceptions, and they establish their own household without relying on any sort of subsidy from you. Then you figure out where your relationship with him is going.

In the meantime. You get your cell phone back & the kids start pulling their weight. No TV until their homework is done and the kitchen is clean, no exceptions. They don't have to like you, but they are damn well going to respect you.
posted by Good Brain at 11:46 AM on October 1, 2008

1. At 12 and 16, kids can do their own laundry. This is a chore that doesn't impact you, so leaving them to deal with it on their own is fine. Your boyfriend can also do his own, and yours, if you trust him.
2. At 12 and 16, kids can help set up dinner. They don't help prepare -- and preparing includes cleaning up all the pots and pans, everything but the dishes they eat on -- they don't get to eat dinner. Have bread and peanut butter available instead.

Do you have a crockpot kind of thing? Why isn't your boyfriend making food in that in the morning to be ready at night? Why doesn't he prepare a few meals in the morning and on the weekends for the entire week?

I've also read a bit of your blog. They can use the internet in the library. You can tell your boyfriend to suck it up and watch tv in your own bedroom. Do not hand the kids your phone after work. Tell them they can no longer use it, and keep it with you. You need a phone, sorry, they need to work something out for themselves. Conveniently your boyfriend will have all that money held in escrow as of next week, and you need to speak to him about paying you back for the cell phone bills and the puppy (unless you intend to keep it yourself) and whatever all else. Some of these issues might be solved when that money frees up -- even if he won't pay you back for part or all of the expenses you incurred (in which case, he's definitely a jerk), you will suddenly no longer be paying for his cell phone, or his kids' text messages or clothing, etc.

He has a daughter and two sons. He needs three bedrooms. I'm fairly sure there are other apartment complexes in your city, and he needs to move to one of those instead.

I agree that you didn't have many choices until now, but this court date will settle things one way or the other, and you need to grab the chance and use it.
posted by jeather at 11:52 AM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know how much authority it's appropriate for me to have

Your house, your rules.

Really, there´s a lot more going on, but I think if you can wrap your head around that you have the best possible attitude.

Your house, your rules means you decide who can live in your house and what behavior is acceptable. This applies to both adults and children who are visiting or living there. This should mean that people with a job need to contribute financially, and people who don´t have a job need to do chores (including learning new skills like cooking) as well as not being disruptive to your household.

If you are hearing ¨You´re not my mom, and you can´t tell me what to do!¨, it´s time to explain that yes, you are not mom, and you have no legal obligation to provide food and a place to live as you have been doing.

You need to set some boundaries that these other people living in your house need to stick to if they are going to keep living there, with the consequence that if they don´t or can´t stick to them they will not be able to live there anymore.
posted by yohko at 11:59 AM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Read your blog. OMG.

Tell your boyfriend to find his own place. Try to keep in contact with L. (16-year-old) because it sounds like you're a positive influence in her life.

This is out of control. Stop paying for things. Get rid of the puppy ASAP.
posted by k8t at 12:10 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would look into

1. Transferring his name onto the lease and transferring yours off.

2. Moving yourself out.

You are being badly used.

And no, you cannot keep an unrelated 16-year old in your home. That is inappropriate.

The thing about you and the kids in this situation--you are not doing them any favors by staying around. They need time ALONE, with their father, to rebuild a life with him.

Best of luck, cancel the cable, and 12 year olds do NOT need access to a cell phone.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:16 PM on October 1, 2008

Oh, and please let them make sandwiches for dinner. Including him. And don't do their laundry.

Another place for good advice is Indiebrides, their forum (Kvetch) has a lot of really smart women with a lot of insight about the complex nature of relationships. It's not just for brides.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:21 PM on October 1, 2008

You forgot to mention that the twins have hampsters too that they aren't taking care of.
posted by k8t at 12:24 PM on October 1, 2008

I'm disturbed by his treatment of his daughter. I'm guessing she's the one that's currently getting the couch, right? And she's the one he doesn't have room for in the new place? And she's the one with the dropout 19 year old boyfriend she's pining for?

This suggests a pattern ... of Dad undervaluing women, and his daughter receiving the message that women are in general less valuable, interesting, and worthy than men.

Um, what? OP made no mention a couch, much less who's sleeping on it. The new 2-bedroom apartment completely sucks, but given the situation it makes some sense to place the girl in the OP's apartment. And I just plain have no clue how the girl pining for her boyfriend says anything about the father's attitude towards women.

The BF's behavior is completely unacceptable, but your conclusion that he believes "women are in general less valuable, interesting, and worthy than men" is unfounded and unfair. Does the bio mom telling the boys to "Pack your things and leave, I'm through being your mother." mean she hates men too?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:38 PM on October 1, 2008

He needs to get his own place, and it needs to be big enough for all of his kids. It's not your job to provide for his family. Later on in the relationship, it might be appropriate for you to take over some of that, but not now. DO NOT stay in this relationship out of a feeling of obligation toward the kids. It's an understandable impulse, but it's not healthy for any of you. Set some boundaries, and if he can't handle them, get out.
posted by EarBucket at 12:41 PM on October 1, 2008

Please go easy on the "DTMFA" stuff. It appears that the OP basically likes this guy and wants the present chaotic situation to work out for the better.

Where is the blog (mentioned above)? I don't see it on the OP's profile. I see a web page, but it's just random notes on stuff, no narrative about the living situation.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:48 PM on October 1, 2008

We don't know what's going on with Mom, but it doesn't sound good.

No matter what kind of psycho hosebeast the kids' mom turns out to be, the court will not look kindly on dad's choosing an apartment that does not have room for all of his children. This borders on neglect and it will come back to bite him on the ass, custody-wise. He needs a 3-bedroom, or he needs to be the one sleeping on the couch. You know, like a responsible, loving parent would do.

Oh, and I was doing my own laundry at 10. Mom posted instructions on the wall above the machines.
posted by shiny blue object at 12:54 PM on October 1, 2008

Ok, then. I have never responded to one of these sorts of threads before. But I went and read the first two posts of your blog.

And it's really scary. I know how things can sneak up on you and one day you wake up and go, "How did this all happen?" But as an outsider, your posts read like a person who is being held hostage. Not purposely, not with evil foresight on anyones' part...but that doesn't matter. What matters is it reads like you are being pushed out of your own life, while at the same time under the control of your own caring nature.

And it is obvious that your resent your boyfriend. How is that a good foundation to any relationship? I understand that he is going through a lot right now, but it doesn't sound like he is working at all on making this as easy on you as possible.

So I'm going to do something else that I never thought I would do, and say DTMFA.

Unless you want to be a supporting character in your own life.
posted by Windigo at 1:00 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

just read a bit of your blog. are you fucking serious?? you're "not allowed" to have this or to do that? and yet you're the one paying the bills?? OMG, please dump this user of a bf! this is not something that you should have to be dealing with 3-4 months into a relationship. if he cared about you at all, he would never have put you in this position but instead, would have tried to figure out what he would be doing to take care of the kids regardless of whether there was a gf in the picture or not. and the fact that he is choosing to move into a 2BR apartment b/c it's in your complex when he should have been looking elsewheres for a 3BR place makes it really clear to me that he was doing so with the assumption that you would in fact be helping him out. which, like i said, should be creating a life for him and his kids independent of any new significant other in his life.

get out of this. get out get out get out!!
posted by violetk at 1:01 PM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

Um, now that I've found the blog ... why, why, why aren't they camped with his hale, hearty and LOCAL parents, instead of with you?! Get them out.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:12 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

For recipes:
A crockpot is definitely your friend. You can get one fairly cheap at Target/Wal*Mart, or even cheaper at a secondhand store.
Both of those can give you some ideas. I would suggest frugal living blogs in general, but I don't think you have the spare time...

For communication:
I would try respecting them as much as possible, respecting them as people (mini-adults). I would list the things that need to get done around the house - laundry, cleaning, meal prep (chopping veggies, etc) and ask them to choose a task that they can do to help out.
The 16 year old - she probably needs someone to listen about her boyfriend more than she needs advice or guidance. If you have any G-rated personal experience to relate with her, go with that. Reassure and listen.

Your bf needs to tackle that one. Even if he's not home in the evenings, he needs to be clear with them that they need to get it done. Make him do it.

Chaos in the evenings:
Honestly, that's a ton of people and pets in a small space. I am a little stumped here. Keep them as busy and happy as you can.

Evaluating your relationship:
I don't think it's possible until he moves (with all of the kids), which should be asap after the court date. He needs a place big enough for all of the kids - it's not fair to the 16 y.o. or you to consider leaving her with you right now. You can still talk to her, help her, be a great influence, but I don't see it being smart for him to just leave her with you. Then you can relax and assess this whole situation.

Un-requested commentary:
I wish you didn't have to put up with all of this crap, but it's awesome that you care. Just try to remember that we can't fix all situations for all people.
posted by KAS at 1:14 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know it will be hardest in the situation to do anything because of the kids. But in the long term, it will not help them to have a new mom who is depressed, basically used by their dad, and looking for a way to get out. This is not a good situation for anyone involved, but you need to do what is best for you. Don't drown in this with him, even for the kids. You can try to help the kids out after getting out of the relationship, but that is the first step. You're being buried by this.
posted by shinynewnick at 1:16 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

p.s. leave for work a few minutes early in the morning (half hour?) and go sit somewhere and relax, by yourself. Read the paper or a magazine or just chill. Get his but up to take care of the kids.
posted by KAS at 1:18 PM on October 1, 2008

I understand that maybe there are legitimate reasons they may be in this situation, that he may be a hard-worker caught in weird circumstances, that this is all very unexpected and precisely as you'd most like it to appear.

My instincts, however, are finely honed after numerous disastrous experiences in trusting people and trying to help them out and/or somehow ending up neck deep in a taxing relationship I'd never intended to be in. Fortunately, I've occasionally learned from my mistakes and now see where I went wrong in most of those cases and can hopefully provide some support to those who are as lost as I used to be.

The most basic fact here: No matter what his circumstances are, you're setting yourself up for a lot of turmoil.

If you're okay with that, if you're ready to potentially lose track of your own goals and life for a few years and maybe be broke and/or in debt on the other end, then here's what you need to know:

1) Write up an agreement for who is responsible for what between you and him - this means monetarily, discipline, housekeeping, timing, everything. If he doesn't get that apartment and ends up staying in yours, you'll need to figure out whether or not to put him on the lease and utilities. Pros: he would be a responsible party for any debt incurred and you'd have a paper trail of his commitment to take his share of responsibility; Cons: he could turn off utilities without your input or otherwise make changes that could make your life miserable; if they're on the lease and any of your belongings go missing, insurance won't cover it and you'll have a hard time getting it reported as a crime. You'll just need to be sure he's not that type of guy and that all of the kids are trustworthy. If you're not absolutely positive, then don't put them on anything that ties your property and responsibilities to them.

2) After the above is determined, you should both have a sit-down with the kids to work out who will be doing what chore-wise & what the household hours are - when everyone's expected to be out for school/work, when dinner time is, when quiet time starts, etc. If a physical calendar is involved, more the better. If they aren't used to being on a schedule, this might be difficult at first, but framing it as the best way to keep things calm with so many beings in such a small space should help you get through any objections.

3) Let some other person you trust in on all of this. Make sure they have a key to your apartment. Also, if you don't already have renter's insurance, get some.

4) Give him a time limit on how long the apartment can hold everyone and how long you can have the young lady with you. Make sure you compare this to what your lease allows. Doing otherwise...well, it's up to you, but it's almost sure to drag on past the point of what's sane or healthy for you.

5) Have you considered having a background check run on at least him? I'd highly recommend it.

6) Food: make sure the kids know to help with cooking so you're not overwhelmed. Have him do some of the cooking earlier in the day or on the weekends so that he's also part of taking care of his kids and not overwhelming you. Be attentive to prescribed portion sizes for their age/physical condition/activity level and do what you can to make sure they get enough without having too much. Use resources like this or this or this to find ideas for stretching meals without stretching your dollar.

7) If he balks at any of the communication/help aspects, that's another red flag to add to the pile you've already got going. You should take that as a sign that this isn't going to work out in your favour. If the kids balk and he's unwilling to help them understand how important it is to tread lightly on such a kind person going so far out of their way to be helpful, another red flag.

8) Do encourage the young lady to get a part-time job, if she feels she can handle the stress on top of school and this completely random new living situation.

9) Encourage (insist, actually) that your partner work with community resources (food benefit, counseling, housing, etc.) both to lighten his load, get help from the system, and reduce the impact on you.

If, at any point, any of these new housemates seem violent, untrustworthy, or otherwise potentially harmful, do not waste any time in contacting the cops and CPS. It may seem cruel and it may seem overkill, but the alternatives are even worse.
posted by batmonkey at 1:21 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've read your blog.

You often write of fears of turning into a harridan. I note you refer to yourself as that whenever you stand up for what you believe is right, when you tell the boys to do something or wonder what "He" is up to.

Stop that. You are not a harridan, nothing you have done deserves such a moniker. It is OK to stand up for what you believe in. In every instance where you've written about what you should/could have done, your first instincts were correct.

You are being imposed upon well beyond the bounds of normalcy. It is a testament to your patience and resilience that you've lasted this long without going barking mad. Going forward, however, this has got to stop. You must stand behind your first instincts, stand firm behind your words and take control of your home and your life. If you want this man and these children to be your family, you must be strong enough to do this before the tiny threads of resentment I see floating in your words knit themselves into an impossible to solve knot.

He's put a lot of his problems at your feet to solve. He needs to man up and solve them on his own. I'm with the posters above who have said to give him a firm deadline to move out, taking the kids and the dog and the rodents along with. By firm deadline, I mean pick a date now. Not pick a date to discuss picking a date.

Your relationship with this man simply cannot flourish in this soil, the way things are.
posted by jamaro at 1:26 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

"not allowed"
That phrase on your blog set off huge blaring klaxons. I was once in a relationship with a lovely man - sweet, kind, doing the best he could, etc. etc. Somehow, the passive aggressive crept in. Would I be so kind as to _____? I could really help out if I did ______. I need some help with ____; I work so hard, you know?

All those things I did "to be kind" and help out snowballed into rules and responsibilities until I felt like a non-citizen in my own home. Not saying this is happening here, but do tread carefully. Good luck. I totally agree that he needs to move out and you need your life back.
posted by pointystick at 1:46 PM on October 1, 2008

Checked the blog. You already know your question and the answer, and are just looking for confirmation. You are being a single mother to someone else's kids. Four of them. Count 'em.

DTbloodsuckingMFA already. Talk to his kids separately, if you worry about the emotional impact on them, to explain that it's not their fault, it's just the situation. Give him a week or so to get out. They can all stay with his parents.

Me, I'd keep the puppy.
posted by dilettante at 1:47 PM on October 1, 2008

This is not your problem.

I'm going to say it again, louder: THIS IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM.

Listen, I understand that sometimes relationships become something more overnight. This is not one of those cases. This is someone taking advantage only because you are not saying "no". You have no obligation to this person.

I am not going to coach you on how to parent teens or cook or get them to do homework.

Cancel cable. Padlock your cell phone. Stop taking the dog to the vet, or have him apply for Care Credit - EVERY vet in the world offers some kind of payment plan.

You have to stop.
posted by micawber at 1:47 PM on October 1, 2008

OMFG. Seriously. I've read your posting and your blog and see not one, not one, not one positive thing about this situation. And the crazy is that you see it. You know it. I mean the following statement with kindness, not the harshness it's going to appear to contain: I guaran-damn-tee ya, this will not end well, no matter how much you give (and it will end because your situation's un-health is seeping from the screen as I type). Because lookatcha now: you're giving, giving, giving all - and I mean all - and it's not enough. Your return? Nothing. Oh, and disrespect - somewhat normal for tweens and all - but OMG from their father? Your supposed boyfriend? Oh dear. There are so many tangents to this, along the lines of role models, parenting, financial responsibility...and your concern is what to make them for dinner?! Again, and I mean this with respect, your priorities are way skewed (which I blame fully on these people, so no offense intended). The have skillfully blindsided you and jacked up your priorities in a mighty, mighty way. This is unhealthy. Vibrantly. Radiantly. Deeply.

Look, extrication is not going to be easy, so first off, accepting that is your first big task. You on some level know it's not going to be easy. Jesus, you've done more than your fair share and you know this. And if he gives you any shit at all about your not being a team player, it's merely his guilt showing. Or his controlling nature. Either one is bad bad. So as soon as he starts with the "but I just need one more week" or whatever road he is gonna go down (because surely he will go down a road with this), just ignore it and focus on your end goal. So what needs to come out of your mouth is: "You need to leave by X date" - and X date needs to be soon, regardless of court date or whatever. This is a grown man who opted to procreate and that means he gets to take care of them. Insert toughlove here. He's done a good job of making you think this is your responsibility. This is called manipulation. And when he overstays the date you give him (also likely), call the sheriff's department. I'm not kidding. This will not stop until YOU MAKE IT STOP. HE IS NOT RESPECTING YOU WHATSOEVER. And you're not a bitch for making it stop, you're self-respecting.

I think this is beyond an issue of "what do I do right now" but more along the lines of "what do I do forever" with this man. Is this fer reals the lifestyle you want?! Because this will not ever change, no matter if he lives above you, farther away from you, with you, etc. He will fully expect that you pitch in for what are ultimately his responsibilities and life choices. Tangentially, he will fully expect that you discard your responsibilities and life choices to cater to his. Not a recipe for a successful relationship whatsoever. So in terms of your query about analyzing your relationship with him, you don't need the house to clear for you to do so right now because you have all the info you need right in front of you:
legal troubles, irresponsibility, questionable parenting, troubled kids, overly dependent, steamrolling over your needs. What more is there to analyze?

Apparently there is something about this person that makes you care for him and his children and as others have stated above, it is to be commended that you care about these people and want to help them. But your kindness is being manipulated in a very severe manner and you are fooling yourself if you think this will stop after the court date or after they move out (and you're keeping one child with you?! What? There are so many legal and psychological angles to that I don't even know where to begin with that one. Do the Nancy R on that: just say no.). The pattern has been set. You sound like a very kind and giving person, exactly the type of person a manipulative, irresponsible person seeks.

Quite honestly, that's who he is, regardless of how wonderful you might find him, or whatever endearing qualities he may have. And I don't know him: he may be very sweet and loving, but in conjunction with that, he's irresponsible and manipulative. Accept that he's all of those things rolled together and they are inseparable.

I know other posters above have said to lay off the DTMFA, but really...I think on some level that's what you want (and need) to hear. It's ok not to want to continue with this situation, you're not a bad or unkind person for not being able to manage this. It's the opposite: your kind nature is such that you don't want to cause hurt in a situation where there's already been a great deal of hurt. HIS RESPONSIBILITIES ARE NOT YOURS. You are full blown enabling this to happen, at this point. You're unhappiness is currently based on your own doing, so invert it: give yourself your happiness and space back again. This is fully within your power. It will be difficult and you'll feel like a real asshole for doing so, but these people are best helped by your removing them from your household and in turn, not permitting them to steamroll you.

I am so sorry this is happening in your life. Please take good care of yourself and do what's right FOR YOU. And feel no guilt about this whatsoever, alright?
posted by December at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

@dilettante: Yes, that puppy is mine!
posted by Jaie at 2:08 PM on October 1, 2008

"This is my house."

You need to learn to say that. You need to say it. Regularly. To them. You pay the rent, you get to say what happens. They are your guests, that's it.

"That is my TV."
"That is my phone."
"This is food that I paid for."
"This is money that I earn."

Get used to it.

Usually, I don't like the idea of people who live as a family partitioning everything up by who owns what, where the specific money came from that bought dinner, etc. But this is different. This isn't your family, if for no other reason that there just hasn't been time for this to be your family. Instead, these are people you acknowledge are taking advantage of you. So, get used to the idea of taking ownership of your own property. Get used to the idea that you have no responsibility for making them happy, or even for feeding, clothing, and sheltering them. (From your blog, it's clear that the kids have grandparents living very close by! Why aren't all of them staying there? Or with Aunt Z, despite her weirdness? Why are you the obvious choice?)

This is a bad situation for everyone, especially the children. Having them live with you isn't helping them have a stable, comprehensible life. I agree with everyone that they need to move out. Until then, you need to make it clear to them them that you have rights to the contents of your apartment and your wallet. Oh, and you need to make the same thing clear to yourself.
posted by Ms. Saint at 2:19 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Stand up for yourself, if you want, but for god's sake stand up for the kids first of all.
posted by dhartung at 2:30 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I read through your blog, after so many made mention of how clearly you'd written of the situation there.

Having picked my jaw up off the floor, I have only one word for you:


With more elaboration:
As quickly and safely as you can extricate yourself from this situation (say, moving out one day while everyone else is at school/work), do so.

I wish you all of the strength and fortitude you'll need to get through this, and hope mightily that you've a local support network that you can lean on if necessary.
posted by batmonkey at 2:40 PM on October 1, 2008

I want to give you a hug -- my god, could you use one.

I sympathize completely with why you've made the choices you have here. In the world of always being broke, good friends learn to help each other out to extraordinary lengths. If your boyfriend was actually being such a friend to you and was working as hard as you are and truly appreciating you, I'd say you had a hell of a road to get down, but that you at least had a chance. That's just not the case here.

I know how difficult it is to contemplate ending a situation like this when there are children involved. Do not dwell on guilty feelings, because what you are trying to accomplish is impossible. You need to get back to a basic level of your own stability -- both financial and emotional -- because you are not drowning at the moment, but you are poised at the edge. Once you go down, everyone else goes down anyway. And who is going to rescue you?

Every other adult in this situation who actually has an obligation to these children has either almost completely deferred their responsibilities or washed their hands outright. That is a terrible thing. I imagine how much you hurt for those children -- it's just a heartbreaker, especially for that oldest girl who needs so much right now and seems determined to rush headlong into disaster.

However, you cannot single-handedly rescue everyone. Either the adults in their family will step up or they won't -- you have absolutely no control over that. Your boyfriend has other family and presumably friends to call on. You haven't been in a relationship long enough, nor has he treated you well enough, to continue to ask such an enormous sacrifice of you. Please take all the advice people have given you about ending this, and ending this soon.
posted by melissa may at 2:45 PM on October 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

I started reading the first entry of your blog and got to the part where he got a dog without asking his parents and so you moved it in, breaking your lease, and somehow ended up moving him in as well . . . what is he, eight? Please, listen to everyone upthread and get out of this situation. It can only be toxic for you. You'll find other people to help you do laundry and walk the puppies, promise.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:34 PM on October 1, 2008

If it's not too late, I think your BF should get an apartment in a different complex, not right above you. There are plenty of apartments in the Big City where you live (and where I live too). If you decide to stay in a relationship with him, having some physical distance will force him to learn to cope on his own a bit more than he's doing now. It has to be a huge adjustment for him to go from non-custodial to 24/7 dad, but you seem to be shouldering a disproportionate amount of the burden.

Also, if all he can find is a 2 BR apartment, he should give the children the bedrooms and he should be the one to sleep on the couch. That might ensure that he doesn't give up looking for a 3 BR.

I would not bring the daughter into your apartment as a resident, unless you also want to wake up to have the 19yo boyfriend in your living room permanently as well.

United Family Services in our Big City might be able to provide some guidance and/or resources for either you or your BF. And what on earth does your therapist say about all this?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:37 PM on October 1, 2008

For communicating with the kids, I'd recommend reading the book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk
posted by winston at 8:20 PM on October 1, 2008

I agree with everyone who's saying that you can't help the kids without helping yourself by DTMFA. But in the meantime, two things are leaping out at me about frugal skills:

1. Food: stop buying mixes and pre-made combos (so expensive!), do buy more staples, and learn to make meat last. None of this pot roast stuff - you want stir fries, chili, spaghetti sauce, lasagna, stew ... spread the meat out as components of other dishes, don't make it the centerpiece. And, as much as you can (I don't know what supplies you have), make large quantities and refrigerate for later. The queen of this is my mother, who makes stuff like pork rillette in large pots maybe two or three times a year; it's good on bread traditionally and rice if you are a weird half-Asian kid like me, and I'm only just coming to the end of a batch she made when she came to visit me in March. Good times, good times.

Staples: rice, lentils, eggs (baked eggs are REALLY easy - the twins can make them for themselves - and great for using up leftovers), any kind of pasta, you name it. So easy to experiment with. My current favorite probably works out to, what, $4.00 for five people? I'm guesstimating up for the incidentals like olive oil and assuming at least a couple of folks have seconds.

2. On other purchases, stop buying like you have money. Don't buy books when you can go to the library, or at least go to the used bookstore. Don't buy a knitting magazine when you can, again, go to the library and borrow them, or look free patterns and articles up online (I'm guessing you know knitty.com, and there are tons of other places) and print them out for a small fee. Don't get take-out unless you really are out somewhere and need to eat, and it's worth seeing whether there are articles or forums online about local good, cheap places for food. Do go ahead and cancel the cable. So on and so forth. Really, speaking as a semi-broke graduate student, there are a lot of habits you have that you can easily break and have the same material quality of life with minimal extra effort - it's a matter of planning.

Also, I'm with those who say you might need to seriously consider giving the puppy up for adoption. The bf clearly isn't taking his responsibility as owner, you're not allowed to have a third dog on the lease, and some of your posts suggest that the poor pup's not doing so well (barking a lot, doggy acting out, etc). By the by, if the hamgerbils have tails, they are gerbils. If they don't, they are hamsters. Hamsters, uh, are not social creatures - perhaps you should have O and U research their pets' care as a home project, sometime. But it's not your responsibility, I hasten to add. I feel bad for the little guys, but you have enough on your plate.
posted by bettafish at 10:10 PM on October 1, 2008

Hon, I read your blog from start to finish. You really need to get out of this situation, as others have mentioned.

Been there. I once had five stepkids. That's FIVE, and a brand new baby, at the time, in a 2-bedroom, and thankfully, 2-bath, apartment. I don't want to go into details here, but I really hope you MeMail me, if you have the time and inclination.

Also, I have to publicly agree with a lot of the other folks here. Go on a spending embargo. Pay the basic rent and the bills and put the rest of your money in a (new, if necessary) savings account. Please tell me you didn't put this man on your bank accounts or anything. If yes, NEW ACCOUNT WITHOUT HIS NAME is mandatory. Yes, kids have to eat. But even a few months of really basic, non-exciting food won't hurt them much. Rice and lentils is a reasonable meal. Really, and its tasty, too. If they don't want to eat what is served and when? Too bad. So sorry. Are they eating any meals at school? Do they understand that wasted food means no food later?

I understand you're wanting to help the teenage girl with what's going on. Talk to her instead of throwing money at clothes and haircuts. Teach her how to earn and wisely spend her own money. A part-time job for her sounds great. If she's going to be babysitting her brothers until whatever time an adult gets home, she should be paid a reasonable amount, as long as it gets done. "I dunno, they're out playing hide and seek." is NOT a reasonable answer if you're paying her to do a job. And believe me, you'd pay a non-family member a LOT more than her.

Other than child support, where is the SO's money going, exactly? Apparently not for bills or for his children's basic needs, from what's been posted here and what's in your blog. Was he paying rent to his parents when he was living with them? In most places in the US, child support is based on income, so he should be able to pay for, well, more than he seems to be.

I also agree that he should use local services (food bank, clothing bank, food stamps, etc... they ARE there) to help offset these costs.

On an unrelated note, if you want to do that teenage girl a huge favor, talk to her about Planned Parenthood, birth control, and managing her own biology. Drive her to an appointment, if she sets one up. What she doesn't need is thinking that getting knocked up and then hopefully married is her way out of a bad situation.

You are very kind! Please don't think I'm lecturing you. I'm really not.

I understand if you're being the best pseudo-mom-ish person you can be for these kids, but you aren't doing them, or yourself, any favors in the long run, if the dad can't step up somehow. You are also being taken advantage of in a lot of ways. When this happens, unfortunately, it tends to not get better for anyone, especially the children.

Lastly, I've been a single parent. I've had to rely on friends and family for help, but I was the one busting my ass, and I was the one setting time limits for leaving when we absolutely HAD to stay with other people. Also, I was the one doing all the house chores, as my kids weren't old enough, and we sure didn't have the luxury of pets.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:42 AM on October 2, 2008 [4 favorites]

Also, if you're short on cash, here's a couple of emergency menus. You can add to these as you get more money, or buy extras if you already have some of the staples mentioned in the menus.

$45 emergency menu for 4-6
$70 menu for 4-6

To add to what lilywing13 said, rice is a fine meal. I had rice - just rice - for dinner tonight. I got one of those Lipton packages of chicken-broccoli flavored rice, and added extra rice to it. Her idea of rice and lentils would be even better. A few plain or bland meals won't kill the kids.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:55 AM on October 2, 2008

What struck me about your blog (you are a great writer btw, very engaging) was all your swallowed anger. Which is totally justified, you feel put-upon and used because you are being put-upon and used. But does he know that you are angry? You mentioned missing your dance classes but not complaining - him not realising you have made a sacrifice, and him not enforcing the chore of cleaning up the kitchen but you clean it up before he comes home so he doesn't know the twins haven't done it. Yes, he should be thoughtful and proactively ask how things are going for you and asking the children if they have done their chores but maybe he is so completely clueless he assumes everything is okey-dokey until told otherwise. It sounds like you are building up to having a huge argument with lots of petty details thrown in when a calm, rational discussion focused on the main issues would accomplish more.

Has he been a single parent before, with the sole responsibility for keeping them in a routine? Because he doesn't seem to have the basic knowledge about raising children you get from just doing it (you've pretty much picked it up in a six week crash course - although a 9.30 bed-time for 12 year olds that get up so early is absurdly late). If he hasn't done it before then he can't appreciate all you have done because he has no comprehension of the enormity of it. If you see yourself in his life long-term then you are damaging that prospect by taking on this pseudo-mom role. His children don't need you, they need him and you are getting in their way. It would be better for all of them to move back with his family (yes, the puppy has to go - to a GOOD home that can take proper care of it). You aren't family, you are just a temporary situation and those children need stability. Then you can work on building a relationship with the children and and adult relationship with the father.

God, good luck. I see how all these little kindnesses just suddenly snowballed into this chaos but it is obvious that if this continues you guys are going to break up (probably from him, ironically) and the children will have to move suddenly AGAIN. At a minimum, you have to tell him to take everyone out for the entire weekend. They leave Friday night as soon as he comes home from work and they don't come back until 9.30 pm Sunday (including puppy). You need to space and time to think. Keep some of your own money for the weekend too. If he isn't willing to do this for you then I think you should be able to draw your conclusions about your relationship.
posted by saucysault at 4:53 AM on October 2, 2008

Um, what? OP made no mention a couch, much less who's sleeping on it. The new 2-bedroom apartment completely sucks, but given the situation it makes some sense to place the girl in the OP's apartment. And I just plain have no clue how the girl pining for her boyfriend says anything about the father's attitude towards women.

I apologized for the possibility of my reading too much into it in the first line of the post--it's purely speculative and I'd rather be wrong than right.

I do disagree that it "makes sense" to put the girl in the OPs apartment. In my opinion, that says something about the priority he places on his daughter's feelings, and I wonder why that might be, and in what other ways those feelings might appear. I have a hard time imagining her not being hurt by this.

And like I said, I could be wrong and I hope I'm wrong in my reading of this.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:55 AM on October 2, 2008

And you very well could be right, A Terrible Llama. But your speculation appears to me to be based on something other than what's known in this case and I don't think it's very helpful to demonize the guy for things we don't know. There's plenty known about him to cover that.

As to the apartment, four bedrooms seems sufficient for a couple and 3 kids. With the twins, the fourth bedroom could even be set up as den or something. I don't see why anybody should be on the couch, or why you are assuming the girl would feel put out by the taking a bedroom in the OP's (original) apartment. Maybe the she'd prefer the quiet there over the noise of the boys, and she does seem to have built a relationship with the OP. I said "makes some sense" not that it "makes sense" ... perhaps "possibly makes sense" would have been a more accurate description of what I meant.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 6:45 AM on October 2, 2008

and hosted from uranus: It says in the blog that the girl is sleeping on the couch in the living room, the twins have one bedroom and the OP and boyfriend have the other bedroom. I am not sure where you get the math of an extra bedroom that would be a den. She is proposing two seperate two bedroom apartments, one with the father in one bedroom and two sons in the other bedroom, and apartment with her bedroom and the boyfriend's daughter in the second bedroom. Which means the OP and boyfriend will never get to sleep together or spend significant time alone (because it is illegal to leave twin boys alone in an apartment overnight and just plain stupid to leave an immature sixteen year old girl alone either).

The girl really needs a good role model, and sorry to say Jaie, but a woman that moves her boyfriend and entire family into her apartment a month or two after starting to date is not demonstrating how to set boundries in an healthy adult relationship. If the 16 year old were to start dating another boyfriend like her current one (or broke and homeless like her father) she could move in with him immediately and the father or the OP would have no moral authority to dissaude her.

Jaie, you started dating a single man with few family responsibilities but now the situation has changed and for his family's sake you should fade out while he sorts the situation out in the best interest of the children.
posted by saucysault at 7:18 AM on October 2, 2008

My math comes from the third to last paragraph in the first Sept 30 entry.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 7:38 AM on October 2, 2008

Stand up for yourself, if you want, but for god's sake stand up for the kids first of all.

I disagree with this. Stand up for yourself first. The kids are his problem, and as others have said, you aren't doing even the kids any favors letting yourself get walked all over for the "sake of the childrend."

Also, the rule of thumb is to not do for others what they can do for themselves. Your bf can do a lot of this stuff for himself. The kids can do a lot of their things for themselves (I'm talking about chores.) Do NOT cover for them "to keep the peace." Eventually it will eat you alive.

If you can stand it, let the chips fall where they may. (If you can't stand it... that's worth thinking about, too.)

Am I really the first person to think the OP could do with a quick read through of Beattie's Co-Dependent No More?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2008

To put it another way: Put your own oxygen mask on first.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:20 AM on October 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Am I really the first person to think the OP could do with a quick read through of Beattie's Co-Dependent No More?

I will heartily second your recommendation. There's a difference between being a caring person and tumbling into co-dependence. The OP seems to be heading down that slide.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:22 AM on October 2, 2008

Codependency came to mind for me, too. Unfortunately--and please don't take this the wrong way, OP--there is a lot of romanticizing of this situation that is going on and it strikes me as unhealthy and unfortunate.

It's all very dramatic and interesting, suddenly having three children and shouldering the responsibility for them and for the world.

Living that kind of drama can be addictive. Enabling a complete failure can make one seem very competent in contrast. Convincing yourself that people need you is a great way to bypass the difficult road to self-esteem.

I am somewhat certain that's what's going on. There's also the good chance that the OP has been quite handily conned by a manipulative man and his manipulative children.

Or a little bit of both.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:30 AM on October 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Oh--and if you don't think children can be manipulative, think again. Children in neglectful homes learn early on that you have to take what you need and want, in whatever way you can get it.

In fact, "my mom doesn't love me/feed me/play with me" is a pretty classic kid manipulation tactic, so take that with a grain of salt.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:39 AM on October 2, 2008

A friend who is big into BDSM wants me to post this for him--

If there is a D&S component to this relationship, it is abusive. Get out.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:40 AM on October 2, 2008

A friend who is big into BDSM wants me to post this for him--

If there is a D&S component to this relationship, it is abusive. Get out.

Actually, I wondered about the capitalization of the word 'He' in the blog and thought the same thing, but figured maybe it was explained elsewhere and I missed it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:22 AM on October 2, 2008

Hi Jaie --

So, maybe I'm being pollyanna, but I'm going to be the only person who doesn't say DTMFA. Instead, I'm going to acknowledge that you're going to be living this life for at least the next month, and so I'm going to try to give you some advice on how to get through that time. What you do after that is up to you, but how he responds if you follow the advice I give below might be a clue as to whether this situation is actually a hot codependent mess or if He's just a guy who is trying to do the right thing in a bad and unexpected situation.

The feeling you're having of being taken advantage of is pretty common when you go from being independent and being able to do what you want to being responsible for all these other people. Foster parents (which is what you are basically being here) sometimes report the same kind of feelings, although obviously for them they're able to see that those feelings are not really appropriate to the situation. I strongly commend you for wanting to do what is right for these kids. Even if they're only there for a short time, you have a chance to be a stable, positive influence on their lives. If you can, please take the time to read some foster parenting websites ... these are children whose lives have been completely disrupted, and in many ways the advice that is out there for foster parents who take in teens is going to be very on-point for you.

1) Tonight, after the kids are in bed and He gets home, sit down with him and lay things out -- that you're overwhelmed, that you and He stumbled into this relationship and living situation, and that in order to make the best of it you and He are going to need to be on the same page. Eventually you're going to have to talk about money, but right now you're going to talk about rules and boundaries. Spend an hour or so with him brainstorming what's bugging you about your current situation THAT IS QUICKLY FIXABLE, and what the solutions to those problems might be. Make up a chore list for the kids, and a list of firm rules -- including, perhaps, rules about the TV, phone, respect for each other, homework, grades, bedtimes -- all of it.

There is a great parenting website called AskMoxie, and she has this suggestion that you only have three basic rules in any house: Is it safe? Is it respectful? Is it kind? If any action doesn't meet ALL THREE of these criteria then you don't do it. This might be a basis for the rules in your own house ... for instance, the TV thing could be a failure of "respectful".

Kids -- all kids -- like structure even if as teens they might not seem to appreciate it. Having set chores will give the kids structure and also a sense that they are participants in the running of the household. Something that also worked well in my husband's family (four kids) was that everyone sat down together on Sundays and went over their plans for the week, determined who would be doing what chores, and each kid (yes, even at 12) was responsible for planning (within a budget) and cooking dinner for one night each week. This may not be something you want to get into right away, but the idea of "help cook dinner" might be a great chore. Certainly more traditional chores: laundry, cleaning, dishes, after dinner clean-up should be on the list.

More than this, though, there need to be household rules about boundaries. Boundaries between you and He. Boundaries between the kids and you (in particular, the cell phone thing. She's 16. If she wants a cell phone she needs to get a job and pay for one). Boundaries about travel. Boundaries about the dog.

Step two in this process is for all five of you to sit down around a table on Sunday night and talk about what's going on. The father needs -- NEEDS -- to be the primary one who presents this. He needs to start out by saying something like "I know we've all been through a lot. Its been a hard few weeks and Jaie has been kind enough to take us all in while we work to figure out what our lives are going to look like going forward. Since its clear that we're going to be all living together for at least a few more weeks, Jaie and I have decided that we need to take some steps to make things a little more orderly around here. "

Then he needs to present the rules. HE needs to do it. Not you. He can take questions and make clarifications, but should stand firm.

The rules (and a chore chart) will be posted somewhere in your home where everyone can see it and be held accountable. (You too, by the way. Rules apply as much to adults as they do to kids.)

I see in your blog that you've tried some version of this before. And that's fine. But you need to do it again. He needs to make clear that because they are living in your house that he is giving you permission to enforce the rules whenever you are absent. That you speak for him.

And then you need to stick to that.

Step three is that he needs to have conversations with the kids that are pretty honest about what's going on with the custody. If they're not going to be able to have contact for mom for a while, he needs to tell them that. At no time should he say anything bad about the mom, but he shouldn't try to give them false hopes either. If what you say is true, and the mom basically kicked them out, you might also encourage him to think about some counseling services for the kids. (The court or school should be able to help with this.)

Four is finances. He's working. I know a bunch of his money is going into the child support escrow and probably also a bunch into attorney's fees, but if he has anything at all left over at the end of the month he needs to be paying what he can. At a minimum, you and he need to sit down together and make a budget for your household including rent, utilities, gas, medical, groceries, whatever ... so that you both know what this is costing and you both know how much each of you is contributing. Maybe turning the cable off is a good decision. I would actually suggest converting (without numbers) the budget into a pie chart that you can share with the kids .. this is how much of our income goes to rent, to groceries, to heat and lights, to cable, to internet. This can help them understand if you need to turn the cable off, or why you can't get internet. (I'm not suggesting here that you actually tell these kids what you make. But it can be useful for them to understand what PERCENTAGE of your pay goes to pay for what. I suspect these kids haven't had much experience with money management.)

Also, if you can afford it, I would suggest that you give the kids an allowance each week IF THEY DO THEIR CHORES. Others here might disagree, however.

Step Five/other: 8:15 is too late for dinner for kids. You need to adjust your work schedule so that you're home by 5 or 530 and that dinner is on the table by 630 pm at the latest. Then either homework or chores or some family activity (board games?) after dinner, and bedtime by 8pm for the boys. Your current work schedule is leaving these kids unsupervised ("ah, nobody cares about me anyhow" from their point of view) for a big chunk of the day. You need to get the boys into some kind of after-school program (which might also help with the homework issues) from which you pick them up when you get out of work (or could His parents maybe take care of them from the time school gets out until you collect them -- maybe even have supper there?), and I honestly think the 16 year old needs to get a job.

I say this as a big proponent of free-range parenting. However, in this case, what these kids need most in their life right now is structure and the sense that someone cares about them -- about where they are, about their well-being, about them as people -- all the time, and making the effort to make sure they are supervised is going to go a long way towards doing that.

There are other veggies in the world besides corn. Asking the kids to go shopping with you and/or help plan the meals can help with that. You can all learn together.

You don't need to let all that HFCS and junk into your house, btw. Its cheaper to buy ingredients and cook them -- a lot like your former life, really.

Last and most important: As a parent -- any parent -- its really difficult to find time for yourself and your interests. This is true if you have a newborn or suddenly become a step/foster parent to three teens. You and He need to figure out a way for you to do the things you enjoy. Time for yourself. At least time to be alone and think. And be. As part of your weekly schedule. Maybe ask his parents to take the kids on the night that you have dance class. This is an important sanity-saving measure for any parent, but especially so for you.

Finally: Its clear from your blog how much you care for these kids -- how compassionate and kind you are with them and how much you care about their well being. Your instincts on what needs to happen (rules, chores, supervision) are dead on ... where you seem to have trouble is in the implementation. I would encourage you to start thinking of these children as your foster kids for the time they're with you (in your home). If you and He can implement in such a way that there is more structure in your life, then it will probably be ok. If he can't or won't emotionally support you, then you'll know what to do at that time.

Whatever happens, though, you've been put in a position to make a big impact on these kids lives. Even if the relationship doesn't work out, if you do things right they'll either think of you as that wonderful woman who helped at a bad time. Don't be afraid to "parent' them. They need it.
posted by anastasiav at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2008 [7 favorites]

*sigh* I hope he's giving you REALLY good orgasms, because otherwise I don't see what's good about this guy.

For the record- not just for the OP, but for everybody: if a guy you're dating wants to move in really damn fast? and suddenly you end up doing all the work in the house? and/or he needs a green card, or he comes with a bunch of other needs that take over your life? HE'S NOT A GOOD GUY. Seriously, I have three friends who married these guys who moved in this fast and they did not end up happy. The ones who have kids with them are still married to them, miserably, doing all the work and feeling trapped.

What will happen if you leave this guy? He'll find another sucker (sorry) just like you to date, move into her house in a few weeks with all the kids, and restart the cycle all over again. Because that's what parasites do: find new hosts. If you leave him, he'll *gasp* have to feed himself for a few weeks, then live off someone else. You won't be damaging him to leave.

What will happen to the kids? Well, they are screwed regardless because their parents are shits, I'm sorry to say. You have no power in the situation because they're not yours and you haven't married this dickweasel yet (please don't). I hate to say it, but you can't do anything about them. It is not your responsibility, and there's nothing you can do for an ex's kids.

And you need to break up with this guy. I know it's not feasible for you to move out and disappear while they are all gone for the day, but really, that'd be your best option here. They are all entrenched now and it will be hard for you to get them all out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:29 PM on October 2, 2008

« Older Books and Movies Documenting Complex Organizations...   |   How sell a healthy lifestyle to my sedentary... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.