Weekend Dads and Stepfathers
We have the brave hero out there on the battlefield and then out of no-where comes that fatal javelin that noone could foresee. The blind spot inflicts a mortal wound. Freud coined the term: the Oedipus complex and his disciples developed the theory of the Electra complex, both based on Greek mythology.
At his birth it was prophesised that Oedipus, the young princeling of Thebes, would one day kill his father, the King. The King ordered the infant to be put to death, but he was secretly placed in foster care. As a young man he returned to Thebes, but on the way he met and killed a man, not knowing it was his father the King.
Oedipus became King of Thebes and unwittingly married the Queen widow, his mother. When he realised this he poked out his own eyes and travelled as a beggar. Freud used this Greek mythology to refer to the Oedipal developmental phase of 4 to 6 years, when boys subconsciously fall in love with the mother and compete with the father.
The flipside is called the Electra complex, when girls subconsciously fall in love with their fathers and compete with their mothers. The grand King of the Achaians, who waged the war against the Trojans, was called Agamemnon.
He sacrificed his youngest daughter Iphigenia to secure favourable winds for the Greek fleet to cross the sea to Troy. Agamemnon’s wife, Clytaemnestra never forgave him. Upon his triumphant return 10 years later to Mycenae, Clytaemnestra killed him. His remaining daughter Electra had waited patiently for her beloved father to return and when her mother killed her father, she mourned him and eventually plotted with her brother Orestes and killed her mother.
If I can single out one obstacle that causes major disputes and even break-ups of second marriages, then it would be THE CHILDREN. Both men and women have total blind spots concerning their children. This is a very difficult and sensitive, and contentious issue to discuss. However, there are solutions and it helps when parents can at least acknowledge that their children are their Achilles’ heel.
Some fathers tend to be of the opinion that since they only see their children on weekends or holidays, the children are exempt from discipline or good manners during these times. The fathers don’t want to spoil this short time with arguments or unpleasantness, so they “let bygones” slip by.
This results in the stepmother having to cope with undisciplined, lazy, disrespectful children. To some fathers it is fine if the children lie on the couch all weekend watching television, or play on their tablets or cell phones, if they never clean up after themselves and these fathers expect their wives to cater, clean up and bite the bullet. Fathers already feel like anti-heroes for abandoning their families and they are often blinded by a sense of guilt. They compensate by turning a blind eye and spoiling their own children rotten.
A second wife was despondent with her husband’s children just lying about all weekend, messing in the house, glued to their cell phones and generally getting on her nerves. I suggested that every child should get a chance to organise a family activity for Saturdays. This could be a picnic at the dam, visiting an expo, going fishing, visiting a food or flea market, a museum, volunteering at a welfare organisation, organising a treasure hunt, cleaning up a river, washing dogs at the SPCA, participating in a fun run, or attending a sports function, etc. It need not be an expensive excursion and they can take a packed lunch.
The children can google activities or search newspapers for events. This gets them active and out of the house and there is family interaction. Saturday evenings they can watch television till 10pm and then retire to bed to allow the parents to watch television or better yet, the parents retire to their bedroom, undisturbed by 10pm. Sunday morning the kids and Dad make brunch. The wife can sleep late. (Because she prepared the Saturday lunches.) They all eat together, the kids clean up as much as they can and by 2pm it’s time for the Dad to drive the kids home to their Mom who lives in another town. The wife then restores her home to normal and she has me-time. She can relax in a bubble bath for an hour. Dad comes home by 7pm and his wife is happy to see him and smiles as he enters the door.
This arrangement worked perfectly. It provided time out of the house, family time, father and children bonding time and it gave her space on her own and with her husband. The children looked forward to the activities and weekends at Dad’s became cool. After a few months, she realised she actually liked the children.
On the other hand, since the children are mostly allocated to the mother, the men often find themselves in the roles of stepfathers. Often subconsciously, or sometimes overtly, they miss their own children not living with them and resent their wives’ children occupying that space.
They resent paying for another man’s children, especially if they are taken for granted. They also sometimes resent sharing her time and attention with the children. These same fathers may sometimes completely ignore the wife when his children arrive.
A couple arrive home after a night out. Her son left the lights on and she makes a comment about him being inconsiderate again.
“Yes,” adds the husband, “and he left his plate in the lounge.” “You never moan when your kids leave their dirty dishes all over the place,” she snaps.
This is a typical example of blind spotting. She is allowed to criticise her kid, but the moment he does, all hell breaks loose and he has double standards regarding his children.
Parents have different discipline and rearing systems. It can be very confusing for children to switch from one system to another. In their mother’s house they are allowed to take anything from the fridge at anytime, at the Dad’s house, they have to ask the stepmother’s permission. At their mother’s home they have to do chores to earn pocket money, at their Dad’s home they have no chores, and he gives them money when they ask.
In Mom’s house both Mom and stepdad contribute to birthday presents, in Dad’s house he buys gifts for his kids and stepmom buys gifts for her kids, which leads to one set of children having very expensive cell phones and the others have cheapies. The father feels it is his right to spoil his children, and the stepchildren’s own father can buy them expensive cell phones.
The children’s own father feels he is already paying maintenance and they don’t need expensive cell phones. The mother’s heart is breaking because her children are feeling neglected. It’s just not fair.
Even more confusing are different sets of rules for children in the same house. The wife’s children, who live with the stepfather, have a curfew and chores during the week, but when his children come over for the weekend, they can watch television till late and they have no curfew or chores.
Also the stay-in children have to make space for the weekend children in their bedrooms, and the weekend children feel like alien invaders in their father’s house, because they don’t have their own beds and cupboard space. Complicated.
I have designed a discipline system that could work for all in both homes. It provides consistency and everybody knows what is expected of them. It works better if both homes implement the same system for all the children. Some parents absolutely refuse to co-operate with the other parent, insisting they know what is best for their children. If every parent knew what was best for their children all the time, why are there so many children in therapy?
Read more about: Discipline Plan For Children