I'm doing the "right" thing but I feel trapped and resentful.
February 12, 2014 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I am watching my stepson's daughter every other weekend and I don't want to anymore.

I work full time and have 2 kids, 7 and 15. I have also been watching my 25-yr-old stepson's ("Tom") 4-year-old-daughter ("Allie") for over a year now and don't see an end to that for the foreseeable future.

My stepson and his wife are divorcing. She lives in another state and Allie has probably seen her mom for a total of about 6 months over the last 3 years. He took a job that requires him to work weekends. I did offer to help watch Allie; it was kind of a general offer, but somehow it has turned into 10 hours a day, every other Saturday and Sunday and every Friday afternoon.

Watching her is stressful. My kids were always good at entertaining themselves but she isn't. She and my 7-yr-old fight like cats and dogs. over everything. I keep thinking that will change, but it hasn't. I think he is jealous of her. She tells on him constantly for everything (he touched my hair, he left the light on, he is looking at my doll.) If I walk out of the room she follows me. If I take a shower she wants to sit in the bathroom. If I sit down she wants to sit in my lap or as close as she can. She wants or needs something from me about every 15 minutes. I realize all of this is her needing attention and a lot of this is normal 4-yr-old behavior. I know some of this is about not having her mom around and I try to give her attention, but it is exhausting.

My stepson's grandmother watches Allie the weekends I don't. I don't know what other options he has if I don't do it. Money is tight for him. My husband (who works himself most weekends) says I should just say no, that it is Tom's responsibility to take care of his daughter, but I feel that if I am available to watch her, it is wrong to just say no, I don't want to. It would probably also cause bad feelings. I think I'm probably also resentful because we have been dealing with Tom's problems for years (bad grades, bullying other kids, stealing, cheating at school, expelled from school, drugs, arrests, money problems, kicked out of the army, etc.) and this seems like me just having to pick up the pieces from another "bad" decision - having a child that he is not ready to take care of completely on his own. That said, he has been doing well the past 2 years.

I feel terrible even complaining about a sweet, practically motherless little girl. Aren't families supposed to help each other? But I just don't want to give up half of weekends for the next several years.
posted by cherrybounce to Human Relations (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What are you looking for? Are you looking for ways to feel less upset about the situation? Alternative resources for Tom? A sanity check about your feelings? Answers will be much more helpful if we know tangibly what you're looking for.

Off the top of my head, though - what is your relationship with his grandmother? Is it easier for her? Harder? Have you tried talking together about your experiences?
posted by corb at 9:08 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Does the mother care what's going on here at all? Can she pitch in for babysitting money even if she isn't willing to be much of a mother? Can her parents or relatives pitch in at all?

If they're divorcing -- will he get custody and child support?
posted by shivohum at 9:08 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I feel that if I am available to watch her, it is wrong to just say no, I don't want to

I don't think you really believe that - if you did, you wouldn't be asking the question.

It's obvious here that resentment is building up inside you and that you want to just put an end to this right now. You can do that - I'd actually say there's nothing wrong with it - but I don't think you want to do that. If you wanted to do that, again, you wouldn't be asking this question.

Try a simple thing - be unavailable for one weekend. Plan it in advance - tell Tom now that you won't be available on Friday, 28 February. Don't give a reason - you don't need one, and he absolutely has time to plan an alternate person for watching Allie. One day isn't much, is it? I can only think of the following outcomes:
  1. Most likely, nothing happens. Tom works out alternate arrangements, you have a wonderful Friday by yourself. Repeat the exercise, but this time, make the date be one week out. Repeat the exercise until you are watching Allie at a rate that is comfortable for you (even never).
  2. Less likely, Tom's not able to find an alternative. This is a warning sign that regardless of what you can do, Tom can't make his living arrangements work. At this point, it doesn't matter what you do, because Tom's not raising his kid - you are. You now have a different problem, but at least a more clear problem to solve. Further, some of your guilt about your own availability should be diminished, as the problem is not you, it's him.
  3. Less likely, Tom decides you are a horrible person. This indicates Tom is selfish and that nothing will please him. Again, at that point, it doesn't matter what you do and you might as well just stop helping him at all because if a tiny inconvenience makes him think you're in the wrong, you might as well just go all out and give him a major inconvenience.

posted by saeculorum at 9:09 AM on February 12, 2014 [68 favorites]

Rather than saying "no, never", can you just tell him that it is too much and too difficult for you and that you can only watch her x number of days a month and no more Fridays.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:13 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Offer three hours each day, two weekends a month,and make it clear that there will be days when you might not be available, and Tom should always have back-up.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:13 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wait, can you guys help him pay for a babysitter? You can even have the babysitter in your house. In other words you can find a responsible 12 or 13 year old and pay them $8 an hour to keep the 4 year old out of your hair. What about your 15 year old, would he or she be interested in a part time job doing this for cash or trade? (i.e., you could trade certain privileges like a later curfew or use of the car for a certain number of hours of work.)
posted by cairdeas at 9:20 AM on February 12, 2014 [18 favorites]

10 hours is a really long day, especially two days in a row with a Friday before! I can absolutely understand how this would be burning you out. Would it be easier for you to do it if it were only one day a weekend (instead of the whole thing) or half days? Also, in most states there is aid available for low income households to pay for day care. Do some research and see what you come up with.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:21 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

It sounds like part of the problem is that you don't see an end in sight. It also sounds like you need a break. Look, you work fulltime, run a household, and have two other minor children (and a husband) that want your attention. Simply being at home does not make you "available to watch her". You're allowed to want time for yourself.

I agree with the "I'm not available for x specific weekend" plan, but I think after that you need to have a talk with your husband, and then with Tom, about phasing out the babysitting, or choosing an end date. Maybe you just need to take a break for three months, and then you can resume watching her.

I think it would be a kindness to both Tom and certainly your granddaughter to try to make it sometime after the divorce is final (assuming they are making forward momentum on that front).

If you and your husband come to the conclusion that you don't want to stop watching her, maybe it's time to add some diversions to her weekend days, like soccer or an art class. Something where you are not responsible for entertaining her for the entire day. You might get your son into those activities too for good measure.

Don't feel guilty for needing some time to yourself. As they say, in parenting and airplane crashes, put your own oxygen mask on first.
posted by vignettist at 9:23 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

You have been wonderful to take care of this little girl when you have two young children to deal with already! Many times, people fall into this, "Well, they already have kids so it is no big deal to just add one" thinking. Which is not fair, not true, and what your stepson is doing here. He is taking advantage of you.

Start with telling Tom that it will just not be possible for you to continue watching Allie every other weekend. You can offer alternatives, IF you want to, when you do this, like, "We can manage every Friday only," or "We can take Allie for a few hours on Sunday," but be sure you are 100% clear and do not promise more than you now know you can handle. If Tom asks why, lean on Miss Manners' invaluable, "I'm sorry, it just won't be possible (any longer)." You do NOT need to explain or excuse this.

Note I put WE up there, for a reason. How is your spouse helping with Allie? Am I right in that this is his son's (your stepson's) daughter? He needs to step up! He should 100% back everything you say or do here at the very least. In fact, he should probably be the one telling Tom that watching Allie has become too much of a strain on you, your marriage, and your own children together.

If it is in your power to help financially and the two of you want to do that, you can offer that aid at the same time you talk to Tom, but again, be specific: "We will only be able to watch Allie on Fridays from now on. We love you both, and know that might put you in a bind, so we want to pitch in on daycare for her for the first couple months. We looked over our budget and decided we can afford to set X aside for that."

You are not a terrible person! You are just someone who has reached her limits, and that's okay. Tom is an adult and a parent and you have to think about the welfare of your own kids at home as well as your own.
posted by misha at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Another thing I wonder is if you're having difficulty setting boundaries with the "sweet, motherless child" yourself. It is not appropriate for her to follow you to the bathroom. You say, "No, that can't happen." Four years old is old enough that you can put on a cartoon or something while you shower. If the kids are squabbling with each other, as long as they're not actually hurting each other, that's also not really your problem - that's what kids who are close in age do. Kids seven years apart from each other are different, but three years? That's prime fighting age, right there. If she's tattling too much, say, "Thank you, but I really don't need you to do that." You can hold this ground!

I disagree that you'll be able to do the "It's not possible" without offering an explanation, though, and think you're probably right in that it will cause family disharmony - especially if Tom is trying to put his life back together.
posted by corb at 9:27 AM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

I was coming in to post what stoneweaver said, that he might be eligible for state support for childcare. If he's having trouble finding a childcare provider for weekends, one good place to ask is at your local hospital -- the nurses will often have a couple of home daycares they use that are willing to work weird hours. I'm sure this varies by state, but I believe in most places home daycares can go through the certification process to be providers of subsidized daycare.
posted by gerstle at 9:28 AM on February 12, 2014

I like cairdeas's suggestion of hiring a babysitter to watch her while you have a weekend to yourself/your kids/your husband. I think that is what would make you feel the best and like you haven't left a "motherless child" out in the cold.

This is, of course, assuming you can afford it and are willing to give this gift.
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:33 AM on February 12, 2014

What are you looking for? Are you looking for ways to feel less upset about the situation? Alternative resources for Tom? A sanity check about your feelings? Answers will be much more helpful if we know tangibly what you're looking for.

That is a good question. A sanity check for my feelings sounds right. I am struggling with wondering if I'm just being selfish.
posted by cherrybounce at 9:39 AM on February 12, 2014

It is not wrong of you to feel pressured and unhappy about this situation. It really isn't. You're basically acting as daycare for your granddaughter in addition to working full time yourself. That's a lot of additional demands to be putting on you.

My retired parents recently moved into the in-law suite in my brother and sister-in-law's house in order to be near their granddaughter and even they don't provide 10 hour days of full-time childcare for her. My mother made it clear that she was not moving in to be the nanny and that they would need to have regular daycare or nanny arrangements for the baby and she would provide supplemental care. So she watches her granddaughter for a few hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays and occasionally in the evenings if the parents want to have dinner together, but she doesn't do anywhere near 10 hour days, rigidly scheduled. And this is someone who has no other job or children to take care of. It is not wrong of my mother to set her boundaries for what she's okay with and it's not wrong for you to do the same.

There is no wrong in you wanting to set boundaries on this and change your agreement. It would be wrong of you to up and say 'that's it, I quit, I'm not doing this anymore starting right now', but you can approach your stepson and say that it isn't working, tell him what you can manage -- maybe you could do Friday nights, but not weekends, for example, with the caveat that sometimes, you will need to take Friday nights off to travel with your kids or attend special events -- and offer a reasonable deadline for him to work out some other arrangements. You could even help him find those other arrangements -- research info on home daycares or centers with weekend availability, find out if he's eligible for any programs that would help, etc.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:39 AM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Per your update - it is perfectly normal and reasonable for you to feel overwhelmed. You expected watching your granddaughter would be less stressful, and it has turned out to be very stressful for you. It's not selfish to have those feelings - though, as jacquilynne says, it might not be the greatest for you to, with no notice, cut off the babysitting.

One possibility - could you help him find a job where he doesn't work weekends?
posted by corb at 9:43 AM on February 12, 2014

I don't understand why your husband isn't also involved. It sounds like you have all three kids every weekend. Also, could you put the 4yo in some activities and split up childcare duties? Is your husband taking on a fair share of shopping, activity planning and childcare? I don't get that from what you have written.

Your kids may never have squabbled, but they are 8 years apart and it sounds like perhaps they weren't going through a divorce and change in childcare and so on. This is likely why the 4 and 15yo are not squabbling. Kids closer in age may squabble and you may need to do more to keep them apart. Playdates and activities may help. If you got the 4yo into some activities, you might be able to send her off somewhere for 1 morning or afternoon a month, in exchange for hosting another child. (Depends on how they play together.)

Find out about childcare subsidy. Perhaps you could have a sitter come look after the girl in your own home. Bonus points if you can find one who will also do some light housekeeping, like tidying up the kitchen and making a simple lunch or fetching something from the grocery store on the way back from swimming.

Could you hire your 15yo to help? Can the 15yo take one or both kids to some activities? Also, can you put your 7yo in charge of making lunch on Saturday and the 15yo in charge of dinner? A 7yo should be able to help make sandwiches. A 15yo should be able to take on a more sophisticated meal. Have the 4yo help to clear the table.

I would be careful about punishing your stepson for being an involved dad who went out and got a job so that he could support his daughter. While it sounds like he has been through a lot of troubles, all those things sound traumatic for all of you and it sounds like maybe he is finally making some healthy choices.

But don't be afraid to set some boundaries. You need to stay healthy and be able to take care of yourself and everyone else. I think finding some reprieve would help.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:44 AM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, I assume your stepson must have 1-2 days off during the week - he should be running errands for you and helping around your house. He could take his daughter with him to get groceries or do some cleaning or home maintenance for you.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:46 AM on February 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would spend some introspective time thinking about what you can reasonably take on with respect to this child without losing your marbles, then sit down and talk with Tom about what that is and work with him to come up with a phase out plan. Cold turkey wouldn't be fair considering you made the offer, but it is fair to say I care about this girl, but after doing this for a while it's too much and other arrangements need to be made long term. I feel for the girl. She clearly needs the stability and female influence you are currently offering in her life. I'm sorry it can't be her mother. But I understand why it can't be you.
posted by cecic at 9:59 AM on February 12, 2014

Oof… well, it’s a lot, and even bio parents who’ve benefitted from the bonding effects of oxytocin during a kid’s infanthood struggle when their kids are demanding… No, you’re not a horrible person for wanting a break and having a hard time, given the commitment you’ve been making so far.

I feel for all you guys, though. I’m picturing Tom tired from his job and trying to make good; maybe he’s not as emotionally available or skilled as would be ideal, and his daughter faces that at home. No mom around, the grandmother so far inconsistent… I’m imagining the little one following you in the bathroom... sounds like she sees you as someone (maybe the only presence?) who’s got her back, if only because you’re consistently there (nb: this is not a guilt trip, yikes!). And other than go to you for backup, she doesn’t know what to do about conflicts with your boy, who can’t make sense of this girl who wants his mom around all the time and isn’t even his sister and needs attention just as much. And you feeling – quite naturally! – overwhelmed and challenged by all this. I don’t think carrying on as usual is a good idea for anyone here.

In addition to some of the suggestions above, though, I’m wondering if Tom’s daughter might benefit from learning some emotional regulation and self-soothing techniques; maybe, it might help smooth whatever time you do wind up spending with her. I am not suggesting you should be the person to teach that stuff, but maybe Tom could do with hearing something like, “I think Girl needs some help feeling safe and handling strong feelings”. Maybe there are resources that can help him with that. I don’t know what those would be, since she’s too young for school. But some people are just good at knowing and teaching those things; maybe the right teenaged babysitter would have a feel for it.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:09 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

You're not being selfish. Tom is.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 10:10 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

We had a very similar situation that created stress in our home for a long time. Ultimately, we had to put our own kids first (similar situation in that the kids we were watching didn't get along with ours).

Keep the script very simple: "I'm happy that I've been able to help you so far, but I'm sorry to say that I just can't do it any more."

You are not being selfish.
posted by jbickers at 10:16 AM on February 12, 2014 [12 favorites]

You have my permission to not watch your Step Grand-daughter. Tom can find alternate day care for her.

It would be nice if you could say, "Tom, while I was happy to help out at first, as Allie is getting older, it's becoming harder and harder for me to watch her on the weekends. Please make alternative plans for her care starting with date."

The. End.

No excuses, no guilt. You've done enough.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:40 AM on February 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

I don't think you're being selfish - I have a 4-year-old and she is exhausting in some ways - she doesn't stop talking, she tells me every single thing her brother does, she follows me everywhere, etc. Her friends are like it too. It's pretty normal.

That said, though, it can be hard to deal with that, especially if you are not the child's primary caregiver. Ten hours a day on Saturday AND Sunday and Friday afternoon - that is a lot, and a lot to ask of someone, especially if they are not being paid. I think it's OK to say to your stepson that you can't do it anymore, or you can do it less, or whatever. I would try to make it sound like it's just not working for your family and not make him feel like it's his daughter that is the problem.

(If you do decide to keep watching her, feel free to MeMail me for ideas for stuff for her to do at your house; I am full of strategies on keeping 4-year-olds occupied).
posted by sutel at 10:45 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I hear what you're saying and yeah, you do need a break from any childrearing at times.

But, and without any sense of guilt-tripping here, there's an innocent party, that little girl, who has a mom that, based on her absence, is unable or unwilling to care and be there for her. There's a young dad that has his own issues and, from your post, may be working on maturing and taking care of himself so he can take care of his daughter at some future point. Or maybe not.

What is certain is that there's this little girl who needs love, attention, guidelines, direction, etc. She needs parenting and she's not getting it. And while it's hard work and you didn't ask for this, the consequences of not helping out, I think, are worse for her.

It takes a village and right now, you're the villager that's stepping up.

Talk to Tom about how he needs to step up here. Tell him what you want him to do and what his daughter needs from him. Whether it's to get another job with better hours, spend more time with Allie, seek out childcare funds from the state, etc. Break it down for him and help him get there.

I don't know what else to say. I think the idea of stating you can't help anymore can set this kid on a bad path. Biological kid or not, who wants to see that?

Sometimes it is all on us. Sometimes we have to sacrifice. I don't think it's something you can walk away from, so I would put my efforts on creating a situation where this girl can develop properly, and set goals for Tom to be the primary caregiver.

No easy solutions.
posted by vivzan at 10:48 AM on February 12, 2014 [15 favorites]

So many questions here. (You don't have to answer them to us, but for you to think about.)

- What's the deal with mom? Is she unsuitable as a caregiver? Can she provide some financial support if she can't actually parent?
- What community services are you currently accessing? If she's 4, and Dad is low-income, is there head start or a similar pre-K program in your community that this young lady could attend during the week (including Fridays)?
- Is family court involved at all in the divorce? Is there a social worker who could help Tom (as a low-income single parent) tap into additional resources? (I'm particularly thinking, here, of a play therapy or other similar resource for the child, who clearly is dealing with a lot in her life.)
- Is there a YMCA or similar near you that offers a preschool or children's programs? Often the Y and similar organizations will provide scholarship funds to help families like Tom's. They might also offer scholarship access to weekend activities that could provide her with enrichment and more time out of your home.
- Where is your 15 year old in all of this? If you feel like this is a "family" responsibility then perhaps your child could help with his/her cousin during the weekends.
- On your "off" weekends, what are you doing to take care of yourself?

My gut feeling is that there are perhaps a lot of community resources here that are not being tapped, that you could actually access fairly easily with Tom being a low-income single father.

My heart goes out to your whole family. I know you are doing the best you can in a hard situation. I do sort of agree with the poster above who says "you are the villager who is stepping up". I think the best solution here is not that you say "I can't do this any more" but rather frame it to Tom as "We won't always be here. I want to help you find resources for Allie that will be enriching and good for HER." And then move forward.
posted by anastasiav at 10:50 AM on February 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

You are absolutely okay in saying that you just can't watch her anymore. You very very kind in offering in the first place, but an offer isn't a perpetual obligation. If your son is a dick about it after you tell him, then he didn't truly appreciate what you did for him up until this point and it's a shame, but it's not on you.

Tell him that you can give him maybe one or two more Saturdays and/or Fridays to give him enough time to figure out other arrangements and then be firm about other times going forward.

Plenty of people figure child care out. He'll be one of them.
posted by inturnaround at 11:18 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you feel too guilty about feeling selfish, yourself, then you completely have my permission to take your kids' perspective into account, too. They deserve to have your attention on weekends more than half-time.

Your husband is behind you, which is crucial. He could be guilting you into doing it for Stepson, but even he is saying, only do what you can. Make sure your husband knows the plan and will back you up when you tell Stepson no. Then tell him "in a month, I will only be able to watch your daughter (x hours per week, month, whatever), so let's figure out a new "schedule" or you will need to make alternate plans".
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:48 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

No, you are not "available". You already have a full time (parenting) job. You are working two jobs now.

Tom probably doesn't realise or care how much work this is. (The kids practically entertain themselves! Three is not much different to two! And other such nonsense.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:43 PM on February 12, 2014

Talk with Tom about when it will end. If he's "doing well," he should be open to such a conversation.
posted by htid at 2:27 PM on February 12, 2014

Tom is an adult. This is his problem, not yours. You don't have to solve his problems for him anymore, and if you continue to solve them by taking care of his daughter, helping him find alternate arrangements, paying for the daughter's care, etc. etc. it literally will. never. end.

Even his dad is behind you. It's time to cut the cord. I like the suggestions to give him a date beyond which this regular care will no longer be available, end of story. You've done more than enough and it's not "selfish" to finally say "no" to an adult to whom you've been giving and giving for years.
posted by ceiba at 3:48 PM on February 12, 2014

This little girl needs you! But it sounds like it's too much right now. Put some limits on the babysitting, or shift some of the burden onto your husband if you can, but please, please don't cut her out entirely.
posted by yarly at 5:34 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the responses. I think I am going to tell my stepson that I can watch her through the summer, but at the start of next school year I can only do Friday's and one day on the weekend or only one weekend a month. That should give him more than enough time to figure out something.

He makes $35,000 a year, which is too much to qualify for much in the way of aid, but I know that after rent, utilities, car payment, groceries, etc. he really doesn't have much left. I will look into the local Y. Maybe I could find a place to bring her and my 7 year old together.

Alllie's mom is in the army, stationed out of state. She has never paid any money for Allie's support, but now that they are actually in court, she will probably have to.

My 15 year old helps occasionally (like watching the little ones so I can go to the grocery alone) but she has her own activities and I don't feel it is her responsibility either.

My husband works most every Saturday and some Sundays unfortunately. (We own our own business so you work when you have to.)

I think watching her is the right thing to do for HER. But I need to do it a little less for ME. Thanks to everyone.
posted by cherrybounce at 6:21 PM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Allie's mom is in the Army? This potentially opens up a whole new set of resources for her. I know Ft. Polk isn't near New Orleans, but you or Tom could contact Army Community Services to see what might be available for Allie and how to establish her eligibility. You can also check Military OneSource for info.

Obviously Tom will want to work with his attorney on how this interacts with the divorce proceedings, but he might want to start on this page called "Rights and Benefits of Divorced Spouses in the Military." It says, "Each of the military services has policies requiring service members to support family members upon separation in the absence of an agreement or court order" so this might be something Tom's attorney can request in the near term. It sounds like this is a temporary measure though.
posted by scarnato at 6:55 PM on February 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

You are in a weird step-grandmum place with the responsibility of parenting a child but without the status of a parent. She's not your kid but she's not a visitor or a babysitting job either. You should talk with your husband about giving you more help parenting in general too - just working weekends and leaving you to make major decisions is pretty much him sidestepping the issue. If he can't be there on weekends, he should step in during the week to handle evenings so that you get a consistent solid break from parenting 2-3 children.

But most of all, you need to clarify with your stepson who you are to his kid. You are pretty much the other grandmother providing significant care to her. Are you allowed to discipline her? Time outs and setting boundaries? Do you get told how her week went and have a shelf or corner in your house that is Allie's with her toys and changes of clothes etc, so she has some permanancy and you can plan to include her? Do you and Tom have a schedule with the other grandparent for who gets what weekends, and so on? Treat this as not an occasional thing but a planned and steady event with boundaries so that Allie has structure in what is a chaotic and stressful life for her.

I would also suggest setting up a transitional time for Allie when she arrives at your house. Give your other kids a special treat (cartoons for 30 minutes and popcorn!) so you and Allie get 30 minutes to snuggle up and read books and she can tell you about her week, and you can tell her what the plan is for that day. Consider upping physical contact with her - at four, words mean less than hugs and being carried. Consider giving her a special "Allie-hug" where you swing her up and hug her or something so that she has a way to ask for and receive affirmations of affection. Get some games or toys your kids love that they can play with on Allie-days so they see her as a positive presence too. Could days with Allie be days you go to the park or days they get to pick a movie to watch together?

Does she have her own toys at your place or is she always having to share/borrow from your kids? Is her artwork on your fridge and her photographs? The more you make a place for her, the easier it will be for her AND you. You'll start looking forward to her coming over, she'll be easier to parent and your kids will see her as a part of the family, just not someone who lives with them all the time.

It's incredibly stressful the position you've been put in and your gut is I think saying that you want to do right by Allie and your family, but recognising that right now, Allie is not being allowed to be truly part of your family (your husband really has to step up - he is her grandfather, whether he's annoyed at his son or not) and you have a kid you love but are being prevented from actually helping because you don't have a clear role.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:47 PM on February 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

The only thing I want to add is that to you, this little girl is your step son's kid but in her eyes you are her Grandmother. That is an important role and I am sure she is using her connection and time with you to fill the whole her mom has left. I think you should try to remove the "step" part of the relationship when making your decisions, whatever they are.
posted by saradarlin at 12:02 AM on February 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

There's not much in this world that hurts worse than being such a young child and knowing that really there's no one who seriously, deeply cares for you. Acting out is her way of fighting to stay in the circle. I know you know this, but what our minds know and what our hearts feel are often two different things. I hope you can somehow convince your heart that she's a somewhat lost little child who needs someone to care and you've been given the opportunity to help.

I admire your son for trying as hard as he is to be a good provider for his daughter, even though he hasn't the background to make a lot of money and has to struggle to make ends meet - which includes relying on his mother/stepmother for a lot of child care. You can be sure that he's aware of your annoyance with the number of hours you're having to put in to take care of his child, but he has no idea what he can do to stretch himself any thinner. I give him a lot of points because I know of several young men - and women - who have small children and do nothing except complain about what a pain in the neck they are, taking up all their time and money so they can't party or play like they want to - and of these, I know only one who's working at all, but he's about to get fired again. (A young mother of an 11-month-old told me today that her baby is "skinny" because "he has a high metabolism" - she didn't say why he and his clothes were dirty, though).

I appreciate the fact that you're trying to raise your own children and work at the same time - believe me, I do - and I think it's high time your husband got more involved than he is with Allie's care. What I don't think will be productive at all is for you to just tell Tim that as of a certain date you can no longer take care of Allie except here and there, etc.

There are three adults here and between you you need to figure out some way to parent this little kid, who didn't ask to be born and is completely dependent on adults for many years yet to come. She will be in kindergarten or pre-school before too long and maybe that will help a little.

If you can't give her time without resenting it, perhaps you and your husband could pay for child care for Tim, hopefully with a grandmotherly type of babysitter where she can get some one-on-one love rather than a big, busy day-care center full of people who come and go.

I hope you can figure out something that works for all.
posted by aryma at 11:23 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wait, the mom is in the Army?

Call her commander, and let her commander know she is failing to support her legal dependent. I promise you, there will be child support coming in so fast it will make your head spin. Military members are legally required to financially support their dependents regardless of the status of the divorce. In fact, since they're still technically married, Allie's mom is also supposed to be financially supporting Tim.
posted by corb at 10:19 AM on February 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

« Older Wedding Travel   |   Trying to get in touch with a former army... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.