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I need to vent.

I am at my wits end. Here are the cliff notes – I am 3 months pregnant with DE conceived twins, trying to finish my Ph.D (I defend in April), nursing my 12 year old dog who has cancer and raising my 8 year old step-daughter by myself. Oh yes, and don’t forget the financial difficulties, because IVF and custody lawyers aren’t cheap.

I’ve talked about my step-daughter before, and her mother. As a quick recap, I’ve known A since she was 4, and she’s almost 9 now. Her father and I married when she was 6 and we’ve had her weekends, holidays and most of the summer ever since then. Her mother has been mentally declining for the last several years which culminated in us being given emergency custody and then full-custody last November. Since then her mother has checked herself into a mental hospital and is now living in a step-house sober-living facility. There will shortly be a warrant issued for her arrest, because in Dec she tried to burn down her fathers home (A’s grandfather) with him inside. She did several hundred thousand dollars worth of damage.

First, I knew when I married my husband that he had a child. I thought that was a bonus – instant family. Oh, the naiveté! I was fully committed to our schedule of weekends, holidays and summers, and to being a step-mother. When it became clear that her mother was unfit and dangerous I agreed that we should try to get full custody. Not because that was what I wanted, but because I thought that was what was best for the child. And let me be clear, after the first custody hearing in Sept. I admitted to my husband that I believed the best possible outcome would be that the unfit mother would see the error of her ways and correct her behavior. I hoped A would continue to stay with her but be in a better and safer situation. I admitted that I had secretly hoped we wouldn’t get custody. He agreed with me. We didn’t get custody (turns out it was because we didn’t file a “move away” form).

When we found out in Nov about the craziness (evictions, moving in with men her mother meet days before, not attending school, drunk driving, drug overdoses, etc) I absolutely agreed we needed to get her out of the situation. I was relieved when the judge gave us custody. I care about A, she’s a good kid and I want her to be safe and happy.

But, when I agreed to full custody what I was agreeing to was 75% time. The arrangement we used to have, only reversed. We would have her during the week and her mother would have her weekends, holidays and summers. We would get a break. I would have time for myself, and time with my husband. But her mother has been declared an unfit parent, and was awarded 4 hours of supervised visitation every other weekend, which she has not exercised. So we have her all the time – 365 24/7.

AND, my husbands new job (his dream job, the one he got which meant I had to sacrifice MY dream job) requires him to travel. And, it requires him to travel much MUCH more than he stated it would when he took it (I was concerned, so we discussed it). And by travel a lot, what I’m saying is that in the last 3 weeks he’s been home 4 nights. Which means that I’m basically a single parent to A. I did not sign up for this. I am ashamed to say this, but I am angry and resentful of her. All of the tender feelings and easy laughs and happy snuggles are gone. I do my best to not show it (we go to the zoo, get our nails done, I take her to cheerleading and play dates blah blah blah) but I have come to dislike her – or more accurately, I am so frustrated and disillusioned by the situation that it bleeds over into how I feel about her.

She is a good kid, but she is not an easy child. Constant whining, temper tantrums if she doesn’t get her way, acting out. She absolutely can not play by herself and most of the neighborhood kids won’t play with her anymore because she’s so bossy and demanding. She doesn’t exhibit age appropriate behaviors (this has been a struggle for a long time). A lot of my home time is consumed with struggles of trying to get her to use a fork to eat (forget about using a knife), wash and brush her own hair, get herself dressed and undressed, do her homework…all to the constant whine of “My mom always did my homework… My mommy brushes my hair… My mommy used to dress me.” and my personal favorite “My mommy says I don’t have to do anything because I’m a little angel” (Did I mention that she’s almost 9?). I understand that a lot of this is a reaction to her circumstances and the things she’s been through, but a lot of it is just plain old bad parenting. She was never taught to use a fork and knife. She was never expected to dress herself. Mostly, she’s just plain old spoiled rotten. And while I am more than willing to help, what has happened is that I have become the only person who is parenting her because my husband is very little help, even when he is around. He’s afraid to parent her. He doesn’t know HOW to parent her. As soon as she pushed back he gives in. He is still so consumed with guilt over the divorce, her mother, and who knows what that he allows her to walk all over him. We’ve had endless discussions about boundaries and setting rules and how he needs to back me up but ultimately, he doesn’t. To make matters worse I’ve asked him over and over to send A to her grandparents every other weekend (she wants to go and they want her to come) so that I can have a break, so that we can spend some time together but he says “No, I miss her and want to see her.” Of course, he’s usually only around for part of one day, and then I have her for the rest of the time.

It got to the point on Thursday that I called him and told him that if things didn’t change I was going to move back home with my parents after my defense, and finish out my pregnancy there. He reluctantly agreed to send her to his parents next weekend, and for one weekend in March. But 2 weekends away do not a bad situation change. It’s a start, but I’m doubtful. (Have I mentioned that he and I have not had a single night alone since the end of Sept despite multiple unfulfilled promises of babysitters and date nights?)

I recognize that many of these things are the result of the circumstances and aren’t anyone’s fault. And the worst part is that I don’t see any acceptable way out of the situation. Her mother is likely going to prison – for a really long time. So it looks like we (I) have her, 24/7 365, indefinitely. My husband can’t/won’t leave his job, and he has to travel. All the time. Which means soon it’s going to be me, A and 2 infants – alone. All the time. This is not what I want. This is not a situation that I am willing to maintain.

I understand how terrible this all sounds. I understand that it makes me sounds like a bad and selfish person. As my mother told me before I divorced my first husband “Marriage isn’t about love, it’s about commitment. You made your bed, now lie in it.” Maybe I did. I knew he had baggage – an ex and a child. I knew it would be difficult. But I didn’t expect this. I dread going home every day and find any excuse that I can to stay at the office late, or get out of the house (when that’s an option). I lock myself in my closet or in the storage shed just to get a few moments of peace. As soon as my husband gets home from a trip I find any excuse to leave. I know I’m not being as good a parent and role model to her as I used to be, as I could be. To be honest, it is taking everything I have to just exist in the situation right now. The idea that it will go on indefinitely, with no respite, feels untenable and utterly unsustainable. And I don’t see any way out.