I’ve been in a bad place the last few days. Long running issues with the behaviour of my two stepchildren have come to the fore.
They’re not bad kids. Just typically lazy and sometimes rude. Nothing out of the ordinary. The issue is that I’m not their father and I have absolutely no parental control. Any attempts I have made in the past to alter their behaviour, either assertively (good) or aggressively (very bad), has been met with anything from nothing to world war three.
I’ve learnt to simply leave the requests and admonishments to my fiancée, and she too meets with little or no success. So, I find it very difficult to be powerless and merely an observer in my own home. It’s partly due to pride and a desire for an appropriate level of respect and appreciation for both of us, but also that I find the absence of what I perceive as fairness extremely difficult to handle.
So I suggest alternative approaches, strategies, consequences and punishments accordingly. As the intensity and frequency of such teenage ill behaviour increases I become more severe in such suggestions. For example some recent abuses of the food and beverages that we provide led me to suggest, and nearly order from Amazon, fridge locks!
What have I become?
I’m quite easy going, or at least I thought I was. I’ve done many nice things for both of the kids. I love them dearly and really want what’s best for them, and I worry about them when things are tough. I also pay for their keep when their own father has failed to provide a bean for over ten years.
But faced with repeated stress from them I get both depressed and angry. I can barely handle being in the same room sometimes. At least 80% of the arguments myself and my fiancée have are a result of me ranting about just how annoyed I am and how action needs to be taken.
And that has been the last three days. To the point where I thought me and my fiancée would separate. To be precise, that I would leave because I simply couldn’t handle it anymore. I have no right to dictate the management of the stepchildren, and fundamentally my fiancée is committed to her children above all else. Although I would never ask her to favour me over her children I realise now that even asking her to control them in alignment with what I think is reasonable is very unfair and unreasonable.
So it boils down to the fact that I have only once choice – learn to deal with it. Separating isn’t an option. Without her I would be lost.
So, one of my first changes is to abandon my ideal of a clean, tidy and comfortable home. I like to clean the bathroom and do the hoovering at least once a week. Daily I like to aim for clean toilet and sink, clean kitchen tops, clean bathroom and kitchen floors (especially the kitchen which often has food and drink splashes), washing up, recycling in the appropriate bins, clean oven hob, emptied bins and general tidying.
Some of the stress the stepchildren deliver daily includes an ability to alter to varying degrees the harmonious nature of a clean and tidy house. Especially within thirty minutes of finishing for the day!
So, my solution, to avoid resenting their complete lack of positive contribution is to stop doing it. Not completely. I will perform these duties at my leisure and much less frequently. I don’t like it. I will see the spills and the dust and it will be unbearable. I will see the unsorted recycling and wish to process it. The bathroom will be the most challenging as I face the greatest internal struggle when that isn’t clean.
I know I will genuinely suffer with just this one change, but I think it will be much less stressful to admonish myself for not handling a messy home (and in some cases my OCD) than the stepchildren for making the daily life of myself and my fiancée harder. I just need to ensure that my fiancée does not attempt to take up the slack and run herself ragged. I think this new approach will be good for her too.
I do see this change as a lose-lose and I will get over the further loss of self respect. Besides, I don’t have a great deal left to lose anyway. And ultimately that is my problem as no one else is responsible for how I perceive myself.
But it is for a good cause, and such a profoundly important one. I’m hoping to cause significantly fewer arguments with my sweetheart, and in turn a vastly reduced chance that my desire to be the master of my kingdom (as an equal with my fiancée of course), with an appropriate level of respect and appreciation, does not drive us apart. The possibility that it may now be longer before I go either completely bald or completely grey is a bonus.
And in separate developments…
I saw my CMHT case worker yesterday. We discussed the above, to which she was sympathetic. We also discussed my current sleep problems and it was suggested that herbal teas and certain foods may help, as well as a worry diary. I was asked if I have had continuing suicidal ideation and I could only confirm continuing daily occurrence.
We also discussed the DBT therapy that is currently being debated by the CMHT and the private hospital where it is provided. Because there has been such a delay, and also that I really feel comfortable with the CMHT psychiatrist, it has been agreed that we will no longer push the private hospital to provide psychiatric cover for the duration of the course. I’m hoping that I will get the go ahead to book myself onto the course within the next few days – only four weeks to the next intake!
I also had an email this afternoon from my employer. I am to see an occupational health professional on the 30th. Which as far as I understand will mean I will remain on full pay for a further three and a half weeks. This takes a lot of pressure off, but I do need to avoid worrying about what the outcome will be in the meantime.