Kids and the other woman
My ex and I have been divorced for 3+ years. We have three kids, aged 9, 7, and 5. I am remarried and very happy and secure in my new marriage. My ex recently starting dating the 22-year-old babysitter. He is 42. She spends more time with the kids than he does. He works 50+ hours a week and she's a bartender. She buys them whatever they want, takes them everywhere, and let's them play with iPads and iPods (I despise these things).
I just don't know how to deal with this. It is not jealousy over him...it's a little jealousy over my kids. I feel like they would rather be there than with me. I know that I will always be their mother but I can't deal with this. This babysitter is also my best friend's step-sister. My best friend can't see why it upsets me. I know this relationship will not last. My children will be heartbroken when they split. Can you please give me some advice?
I can understand you're upset. It must feel like this girl is buying their affections, to take them away from you.
While there may well be an element of this, it is also likely that she is merely doing what comes natural to her: treating the kids in the way she would have loved as a child. "When I was that age, this is what would have made me happy. I love X, I love his kids, and I want them to be happy when they're with me."
Your situation is very common. Please read a letter I wrote to a couple who were far worse off than you are. It worked for them. The advice will work for you.
You should explain to your kids, in language right for the age of each, that as long as they stay honest, decent and well behaved, they have your permission to do whatever this young woman allows them to do. But there are different rules at home, and you have good reasons for these rules. If she allows them to use iPads and iPods, then they can use them -- there. They don't have those things at home, because... and set out two or three clear, logical reasons (not just that you hate these things). For example, kids need physical activity, they can have more fun with active rather than sitting-around passive play, it's bad for their eyes. Research the topic so you can speak with authority.
Also, make an extra effort to give them enjoyment while with you. Organize activities YOU approve of that'll give them fun. Also, involve your new husband in this. Have him organize times when he takes one or more of them to something special. It need not cost much, but should be the child's choice.
You expect your ex's relationship to end. It could. If it does and the kids are heartbroken, then you will be there for them. Genuinely share their pain, and tell them that their sorrow shows them to be good, loving people. You may even be able to organize occasional contact between the kids and the girl, provided of course she wants to meet them.
Strangely, if you take this attitude of generosity, compassion and empathy, it will also improve your life. Give it a go.
This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com