Top Concern of Women with Stepchildren/Stepmonster Giveaway: How Much and How Long to Spend on his Kids
As I’ve been giving a few talks over the last weeks and reading your comments and emails, I’m getting a sense of what’s keeping you up nights.
You’ve told me, It’s the economy, Stupid. Thanks, I get it now. Stepfamilies (you may chafe against that term because the idea of you being a “family” of any type just doesn’t seem to honestly or accurately describe the reality on the ground when it comes to finances) and couples in a remarriage/repartnership with children are subject to all the economic pressure the entire country is feeling –and then some. And that’s because casting your lot with someone with kids, particularly a guy with kids, costs (men are just statistically more likely to be paying child support than are women, and anecdotally it’s clear that divorced men with kids often allow themselves to be guilted into going above and beyond their financial obligation, often way past the expiration date of a kid’s needs–35 and dad’s paying the rent, anyone?– to “prove” they’re good fathers).
Let’s say what people often don’t like saying, and what many of our well-meaning friends don’t think we should even feel, let alone mention, shall we? Particularly when economic times are tough, it can stink to have to foot the bill for kids or all too often adult kids not your own. Especially when those kids, young adult and adult children of your partner do not treat you particularly well. It can really stick in your craw, and you’re telling me that it does.
“Who am I, Wonderwoman?” one of you wrote, describing working two jobs to help your husband with his child support payments, most of which did not in all likelihood go toward child support once they reached his ex’s house. No, you’re not Wonderwoman. You’re normal, and that’s why you resent it. I’d stop if I were you, since you asked. I’d also start a conversation about separate finances. Another of you asked, “Why do I so resent that we are paying for my 28 year-old stepson’s rent?” Um, because your husband is a pushover who is teaching his son that Dad (and his wife) Will Take Care Of It, Son, No Need to Grow Up. Who wouldn’t resent having a partner who parented so incompetently and guiltily? If it’s going on at 28, who can tell what 38 may bring? Again, I’d think about a bank account of one’s own.
For others, the national economic crunch is affecting your housing situation. Since I live in New York City, land of negative square footage, I’m on the front lines of this one. Recently I gave a talk at which two different women in attendance shared their own architectural challenges. One was living in a small one-bedroom apartment–with her husband and two stepkids. I won’t go into the reasons or the details in order to protect her privacy. But I think we would all be hard-pressed to imagine anything worse for a marriage.
Another woman lived in a tiny two bedroom apartment–one bedroom of which was cordoned off as a kind of shrine to the man’s young adult child away at college. It seems the husband felt that his 21-year-old daughter required an inviolable, sacrosanct room of her own even though she doesn’t live there, and in spite of it being impractical and costly in every way. IN MANHATTAN. That left the woman’s young son sleeping with her and her husband in their room–for three years. The woman hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in all that time–it’s hard to sleep with a toddler alternately kicking and clinging to you all night long, take it from me. When she complained about it, her husband’s solution was that she should sleep on a mattress in the kitchen. So his daughter who had lived in another state for three years, and does not even spend summers with them, could still have “her room.”
This is a smart, savvy and utterly competent woman. But when it comes to asserting ourselves in one’s step”family,” it seems, many of us forget that it’s necessary and healthy to advocate for our own interests. In fact, we forget ourselves entirely. We cave out of fear of seeming, of being accused of being, wicked and unfair.
And then, weeks or months or years later comes the tidal wave of resentment. Or the insomnia, or the hair loss, or the health problems our doctors tell us are stress-related. As summer approaches–and brings with it younger stepkids on vacation and older stepkids on break from college–it is imperative to get your financial philosophy in order. Get a therapist involved if it would help. Then have the tough conversations about what you are and are not willing to shell out, about how to structure or restructure your finances–including your wills, insurance policies, and estate planning –so that everyone’s best interests and desires, including yours, are represented. Because from what you’re all telling me, it will save you a lot of aggravation down the road to have these arguments and negotiations now. Your partnership is very likely worth it. I’m rooting for you. Tell me how it goes.
And let me know here and now: HOW DO YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND OR PARTNER HANDLE FINANCES? MERGED? PARTIALLY MERGED? COMPLETELY SEPARATE? WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND WHY? I’ll randomly select one respondent to receive a free copy of my book, Stepmonster
*details in anecdotes have been altered to protect the identity of the subjects who tell me their stories
Tags: blended family, divorce, divorce with children, family, finances in marriage, finances in stepfamily, recession, remarriage with children, stepfamilies and recession, stepmonster, stepmother, stepmother advice, stepmother support, wednesday martin