Sun | Oct 21, 2018

New children giving me hell

Published:Wednesday | November 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Q: Two years ago, I got married to this gentleman after his wife died. I met him as a widow and we got married within a year of his former wife's death. He has two teenage daughters and they are giving me hell. I am in my late 40s and do not have any children of my own. Furthermore, my husband does not want any more children and it might be both difficult and risky to conceive at my age.

I realise now that one of the reasons he married me was to care for his two daughters. He could not manage them. I am involved in their lives. I try to teach them to cook and bake but they are not interested, so it ends up that I do all the cooking, baking and washing. One day each week someone does the cleaning, ironing and dusting, but the girls will not tidy their rooms. I even attend their PTA meetings and they are not doing well in school anymore.

In addition, the girls are disrespectful. They will see me talking to their father and they say good morning to him and nothing to me. They will also butt into our conversation. They make frequent comparisons between their mother and me, which are not flattering. They remind me constantly that I am not their mother. Their father does not want me to discipline them.

Finally, my husband makes references to his wife and when I think he is talking about me it is really about his first wife. The children know this and will even laugh. I love my husband but my step-children are giving me hell. What should I do?

A: Perhaps you are trying too hard to make your step-children into model teenagers. Some teenagers do not enjoy domestic chores. Nevertheless, since you do not have weekly domestic help, they will have to share in the responsibilities. In addition, your husband needs to help by being involved in household management, and both of you should jointly establish guidelines about the assignment of chores.

It is possible that your husband was not passionately in love with you, but wanted a mother figure for his daughters. Hopefully, he will grow to love you and the daughters will appreciate you.

You need to reassure the children that you are not trying to replace their mother. In fact, you should not be uncomfortable to call her name or when they call her name. It is possible that the girls did not get over the death of their mom before you came into their lives and it is no wonder their schoolwork performance is deteriorating. It appears that not even your husband has got over the death of his first wife and perhaps they needed more time before this new relationship.

Your husband needs to be more responsible in rebuking his daughters when they fail to acknowledge your presence and interrupt your conversation. He needs to put a stop to this. He must allow you to share in the disciplining of the girls.

Additionally, you are ambivalent concerning not having a child.

It would be good for you, the children and your husband to get counselling.