I am 42 years old and have raised two children, ages 25 & 21. I have two grandchildren and another one on the way. I am on my third marriage and raising two stepchildren, ages 6 & 7. Recently, their biological mother called and said she would pick them up for the summer and never showed up. They are mad at her and taking it out on me. My husband works the night shift and I work mornings, so when he leaves for work I am left to do all the feeding, disciplining, homework checks, doctorsí appointments, etc. by myself. Their mother has not seen them since Christmas and never calls anymore. She pays nothing for their support.
I hate my job but work at it because we don't want to pay a babysitter. I feel used and resentful. I try to talk to my husband about this but he gets real defensive and says they are not bad kids. They are for me and getting worse! I know they need love and nurturing but I am getting fed up with all the responsibility and feel I am at an age to enjoy my life instead of dealing with children all the time. I feel guilty about this.
Their mother recently told my sister she gave us the kids to break up our marriage. I feel like a single mother again instead of a marriage partner. I feel like I am in jail and I hate it. I can't take them anywhere because they show off and embarrass me. All my friend's kids are grown up and gone from home, so I don't feel comfortable taking them there when there is nothing for them to do. They get into everybody's stuff and I am not happy!
What should I do? I do love my husband, thank God, and he is very good to me. We do try and spend quality time together, when they are not causing havoc. How can I overcome the resentment of all this responsibility?
You cannot escape the trap you find yourself in until you recognize that your husband - however much you may love him - is part of that trap; and that you are, also. You say that you don't want to pay for baby-sitting, but perhaps you should get a job yourself and use the money for just that purpose. Also, has your husband pursued his ex for support? Have you reported her to the authorities for abandoning and neglecting her children? Have you looked into the insurance available to you for family counseling or for other resources for counseling, such as a local university or a church related counseling service?
People will use guilt to keep you from making things change. They will point out that these children are innocent victims, which may well be true even if they aren't always so innocent in the way they treat you as a person. However, that is like saying guns don't kill people, people do. It's true but it doesn't mean the loaded guns should be left ignored and unprotected. Insist that your husband recognize your needs or suggest that he and the kids move out. After a few days of playing daddy, he may get the idea that you're serious. In the long run, your forcing the issue will make the kids better off. So, tell the guilt mongers that you know that taking care of yourself is the prerequisite for helping those two young ones.
Kenneth A. Weene, Ph.D.
This question was answered by Kenneth A. Weene. Ken Weene is a graduate of The Institute For Advance Psychological Studies at Adelphi University is a licensed psychologist practicing on Long Island, New York. His orientation is holistic and eclectic. In addition to a variety of contributions to the professional literature, Dr. Weene has published a number of poems. Before entering private practice, he directed Children, Adolescent, and Family Services for The Counseling Service of The Long Island Council of Churches. Ken's central belief is that life is a gift to be experienced, enjoyed, and celebrated. He knows that this is sometimes difficult in the face of physical, emotional, and other forms of distress and sees his goal as helping people to find their inner peace and joy in the face of stress and anguish.