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Am I wrong for thinking she shouldn't put her kids first all the time?

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  • Am I wrong for thinking she shouldn't put her kids first all the time?

    I'm divorced with 5 kids -- teens to early 20's. I've been dating this divorced woman with sole custody of 2 boys, ages 11 and 13. Because of distance and work schedules, we only see each other 1-2 times a week.. maybe a little more in the summer. However, the boys are very demanding and she does not say "no" to them. I see this is a problem right away and it irritates me because I know how to discipline my kids but she's on a totally different page. It affects me the most when she cancels our plans because the boys want to do something so she agrees to drive them or stay home with them or whatever they want. For example, last Saturday, she's telling me about so much going on in her town that day/evening. She said to me earlier in the day, "when you come over tonight, we can take a walk downtown to the street festival and leave the boys home as long as we're back before dark." So I thought that was a great idea for some alone time. When I got to her house, we immediately got in her car to pick up her younger son from the park -- argued with him for 10 minutes to get in the car (because she can't just put her foot down and get him in the car without 'bargaining') Then we had to drive his friend home, then we had to take the 13 year old to meet his friends at a carnival -- he complained the whole time that he wanted to go 1/2 hour earlier etc... we drop him off, go home and cook dinner. Then it was almost time to pick up the 13 year old from the carnival...we wait for him for 20 minutes because he keeps texting and saying he's going on one more ride...she refuses to get him and drag him to the car... so then he finally comes and complains again that he wanted to stay later.. so anyway, the whole night turned into 2 solid hours of driving the kids around and NOT going downtown like I thought we planned.

    So when i talked to her about this later on, she at first said, "well I didn't know it was definite plans. I mentioned it and you said okay. But it's not like we said it's definite." Well, I thought when she says what we're going to do when I come over, and I agree, that means it's a plan. THEN she said, "It's not like you're their father, of course they are going to take precedence and if they want to see their friends, I'm not going to say 'no' just because we had plans." She's saying that since I'm only dating her, she has an obligation to ALWAYS put them first ahead of me. I tried to explain that she can put HERSELF first and let the kids learn that MOM has a personal life and can do something for herself once in a while (like go on a quick date). I told her that we average 2 quick dates a month so that leaves 28 other days the kids can get their way and see their friends or whatever.

    My question is, where DO I fit in in a relationship where the woman has kids of her own? It's natural to put your children first but to what extent? Are there exceptions or boundaries or SOMEPLACE where I can expect maybe my feelings or plans are taken into consideration and the kids can be told 'no'!? I feel there is, but how do I explain this to her without sounding like one of her whining kids complaining I want her to do something for me (like keep the plans we made)?

    Thanks for your input.

  • #2
    I don't see this as a problem of putting the kids before you per se.
    It's a problem of her not being able to have clear boundaries with her children.
    Yes, she's a mother. But she's forgotten that she's also a daughter, friend, partner, sister, ... She's just mom.
    I understand your frustration. You seem to realise that it's not only okay to say no to your children, it's also an important lesson for them as they grow up.

    Life won't always say yes to them. They should learn early on that they can't always get what they want.
    If her parenting style is so completely different from yours, this will keep coming up as a problem.

    I don't think you shouldn't date a woman with children.
    I think you need to date one who will raise her children in a way that fits more with your parenting style.
    You can't control the waves, but you can learn to surf


    • #3
      jimsim , In this case, yes, her kids do come first BECAUSE they're younger than your 5 kids who are teens to early 20s. I'm a mother and there is a huge difference between 11 to 13 and teens to early 20s. Teens to early 20s are already quite independent whereas at 11 to 13 they still demand quite a bit of a mother's time not to mention they're minors and don't drive yet either. You need to be patient and wait for her sons to reach your 5 kids' ages OR as Ayla mentioned, date a woman without children because a childless woman will have a heck of a lot more time than a busy mother of underage children. You're a father. You should remember how hectic it was at ages 11 to 13. It is a very busy time. I'm a mother so I know all too well. I can empathize with your girlfriend.
      "If you bungle raising your children, whatever else you do well in life doesn't matter very much."


      • #4
        I think it was rude of her to invite you for a specific evening together and then allow her children to demand her time and patience. She knew she had this date with you, I'm assuming, in the morning? She should have made arrangements with her children for specific times that she would not be available to them.

        I also believe that this is not going to work out for you. Find someone with no children, or someone with children whose parenting style matches yours.
        "What lips my lips have kissed and where and why I have forgotten." ~Edna St. Vincent Millay


        • #5
          I honestly think she's using her kids as an excuse for her poor organization and rather laid back parenting style. When she says she's putting them first, I think she's really just not making much of an effort to delineate the time she spends devoting herself to her kids verse the time she spends devoting herself to the relationship you share. Whether or not she likes to hear it, relationships require work and effort from both people. If she blows off a date with you to cater to her kids every once in a while, it's probably not a huge deal. Kids can require a lot from their parents, including that they sacrifice a little bit of their personal time for them. However, if it's like you're always on the back burner and she's consistently at the beck and call of her kids... Then I think the relationship is kind of unbalanced.

          Granted, I'm not saying she's wrong for doing things for her kids and "putting them first," but if she wants to have a happy relationship with you then she might need to do a better job managing and balancing the time she spends with you and with her kids. Honestly, if it's making you unhappy and you feel like she isn't putting enough into the relationship it's something you guys should talk about. Try to lay down some rules and say you would like to spend x amount of days a month or whatever spending time with just one another without the kids. Make sure that how much time you spend together though is something you both agree on and are happy with.


          • #6
            Thanks for all of your input and opinions chanelle I understand what you are saying about having young kids. But I do remember when mine were 11 and 13 and younger and my then-wife and I had date nights and we didn't waiver because the kids came up with something they wanted after we had made plans. They accepted 'no' as the answer and we told them we'd gladly accommodate them at another time. They knew their boundaries because we set the boundaries. I think the issue here is that she sets no boundaries with the kids. When I explained this to her, she said, "well, you're not my husband. It's different if we were married and you were there father." I don't see why it should matter if their mother wants to go out with a husband, boyfriend, sister or friend -- she can easily tell the kids that she has plans but refuses to do that, with me. She could AT LEAST call and let me know she's changing plans that way I can decide if I want to come over and shuttle the kids around or let her sit home alone so that maybe she'll get the hint that I'm not going to keep letting her cancel our plans as soon as the kids whine about doing something else. Like I told her, we go out MAYBE 2 nights a month, so the kids can get their way the other 28 days. I see nothing unfair or selfish about that.

            Witch thank you for your response also. You are right, she does not delineate the time she spends devoting herself to the kids versus the time she devotes herself to the relationship -- she told me last week, "It doesn't matter to me if we go out alone or if we drive the kids to whatever we want to do, I'm still with you and enjoy that time with you." That's nice to hear, and makes her sound like a saint, but adults DO need some alone time and adults DO need to know how to keep plans they made without making their partner feel like he can't count on her following through with plans because the kids' desires are more important. It's not healthy for the relationship OR the kids to not let the kids know there are boundaries and that mom can say 'no' to them once in a while.

            SarahLancaster and Ayla --- I think you are both right This is a fundamental problem with how she views adult relationships as well as how she caters to the kids no matter what they want or demand. Even if I do get her to agree a couple times a month to not put off our plans if the kids suddenly want to see their friends, I'm not sure that in the long-term I can trust things getting better. If the kids never hear "no" now, they are going to present a lot more, bigger challenges as teenagers and I'm not sure I want to be around when these problems come up because of her lack of discipline. The outright refuse to do things she says. That same night, when she told the 13 year old to go to bed at 11:00 -- he said, " I'll think about it", walked away and was up for another 2 hours! It gets me aggravated to see her treated like this and for her to accept it, especially when I know how much worse it will be when he's 17 and driving and just decides to not come home or answer her calls. I'm sure we won't be going out on Saturday nights when she has no idea where her son is or what he's doing or when he's coming home. I can give her a chance to learn to parent. There's not consequences for her now, she keeps kicking the can of consequences down the road to deal with later.. but if she cancels plans, I can cancel seeing her that night. If she lets the kids tell her when they are goiing to bed, I can get up and leave and tell her that I'm not going to sit there while she lets her kids walk all over her. Maybe then she will decide to have a backbone with the kids OR decide she'd rather give up the relationship iinstead of setting normal boundaries for the kids.


            • #7
              Jim, good luck with that, but I guarantee you that she isn't going to suddenly learn parenting skills.

              The kids have gotten away with showing disrespect to her for a long time, and I doubt seriously whether she will
              a) want to start exercising control over them or
              b) be able to rein them in even if she wanted to.

              I think you're setting yourself up for a world of hurt if you continue this relationship with her. No amount of walking out when she shows bad skills (in my opinion) is going to change the status quo. She's just going to resent you, because, after all, you're not their father, as she has so plainly told you.
              Last edited by SarahLancaster; June 14th, 2018, 03:52 PM.
              "What lips my lips have kissed and where and why I have forgotten." ~Edna St. Vincent Millay


              • #8
                You have much more parenting experience than she does and, from the sound of it, were more successful.

                The bottom line is you have no say in how she parents her children UNLESS SHE ASKS for your thoughts and implements your ideas, thereby indicating that she WANTS to be a better parent.

                If she doesn't want to be a better parent and you can't be content with how she parents, the relationship is, in the long run, DOOMED, so don't waste your time. The point of dating is to see whether you are compatible. You didn't say how long you've been dating, but obviously in the MAJOR part of your lives you're not.

                If you don't want to break it off, then just back off and tell her to call you when she's available. Meanwhile, you can start looking for other options.

                Good luck


                • #9
                  This is strange. Why are you dating someone with whom you have so little time to spend with and who treats you badly? I don't think the problem is with her at all. It's with you and your decision to continue seeing her. Don't continue to make excuses for her and think carefully about what makes you happy. Go from there. People can do whatever they like and they don't owe you anything especially not at this early stage. It's your responsibility to date the right person for you.


                  • #10
                    jimsim You're going to have to somehow coordinate your dating life with her somehow or take lower priority in her life. I don't know if she gets help from her ex regarding caring for their children but usually the majority of responsibilities falls on a single mother. (This is even true for married mothers, too but not always.) Either accept that she's not willing to change for you or date a woman without children and baggage so your dating life will be easier and more convenient.
                    "If you bungle raising your children, whatever else you do well in life doesn't matter very much."


                    • #11
                      Thanks for all your advice -- you all make sense: she is set in her ways, she won't start trying to discipline all of a sudden and she's not going to start telling the kids 'no' if she has other plans with me or anyone else. And I'm not willing to just keep going to see her and babysit every weekend -- she won't get a sitter so she can visit me because the kids don't WANT a sitter! I feel like, if I'm there and we can't go out on a date because the kids don't want a sitter, then I'M the babysitter! Sometimes her brothers kids spend the night with them while her brother goes away for the weekend with his wife and we have a houseful of pre-teen boys to watch. If I ask why she can't let her brother watch her kids once in a while, she says her son doesn't want to spend the night there!

                      But you are all right and you made me realize that she won't change, what I'm asking for is not unreasonable at all and there are plenty of women out there who may balance a social life and home life a little better than this. At the very least, there are women who are considerate and won't cancel plans without notice just to cater to entitled, spoiled kids who were never taught the word 'no.'

                      Wish me luck, I'm going to talk to her this weekend. I'm sure she'll twist it and say that I am hypocritical not wanting to date a woman with children when I have 5 children of my own. But that's not it at all.


                      • #12
                        jimsim Good luck with your talk with her this weekend! Be prepared for her gaslighting your conversations with her. It's nothing I haven't experienced before (gaslighting, that is).
                        "If you bungle raising your children, whatever else you do well in life doesn't matter very much."


                        • #13
                          Good luck, Jim. I'd stay neutral and not have any walls built up just yet or assume what she's going to say. The relationship seems to be hurting you and I think that's what you need to face. I hope you find someone special with a better head on her shoulders.


                          • #14
                            Jim, her accusation of your being hypocritical could be easily overturned. You're not saying that you don't want to date a woman with children. You're saying that you don't want to date a woman who has no control over her children and allows them to show disrespect to her. Tell her you would date a woman with 6 children if the children were disciplined and well mannered, and the woman understood the need for a romantic partner to have alone time with her.
                            "What lips my lips have kissed and where and why I have forgotten." ~Edna St. Vincent Millay


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SarahLancaster View Post
                              Jim, her accusation of your being hypocritical could be easily overturned. You're not saying that you don't want to date a woman with children. You're saying that you don't want to date a woman who has no control over her children and allows them to show disrespect to her. Tell her you would date a woman with 6 children if the children were disciplined and well mannered, and the woman understood the need for a romantic partner to have alone time with her.
                              You are absolutely right! I know she knows I love kids and it IS true I don't care how many kids someone I date has -- but I'm not going to watch them continuously disrespect her. I've told her before that it hurts to see the way they talk to her and see her let them get away with it. She has no backbone. Last night, on the phone, she told me that she was feeling bad and thinking she might have been too harsh because she told the boys they can't go to the park tomorrow because one was "getting a little fresh talking to me and then the other one started." That's all I know of what they did wrong but I can just imagine what really went on. So she was already feeling guilty that she punished them and I can bet 110% they will be at the park today and she'll be groveling for them to not be mad at her or pouting because she attempted to take something away! I can't stand that kind of parenting and now it affects me when she cancels plans or refuses to make plans to do anything but sit at home because the kids don't want her leaving them with a babysitter.

                              I did try to explain to her last night that a child who disrespects his mother will not show respect for ANYONE and that's not going to help them in life whether it be with a boss, co-workers, or a girlfriend. I told her she was right to try to take something away as a consequence because respect for a parent is the basis for all other behavior and the one thing that needs to be taught first. She listened but I'm sure it makes no difference to her.
                              Last edited by jimsim; June 15th, 2018, 12:15 PM.