Husband says that I am a mean SM — The Bump
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Husband says that I am a mean SM

DH and I just had a huge fight over SD!  Here is the background:  SD is in junior high and lives the majority of the time with BM.  We get her one weekend a month, holidays, and summer.  She is a very sweet kid, that I have seen grow up since she was 4.  Still, I have expressed to my husband that he really needs to step up and work with her when she is with us.  She has extremely poor hygiene habits and is, in my opinion, very immature for her age.  Instead of correcting her and being stern, my husband tells me that I am a bad SM and sulks with her when she gets in trouble.  Here are some of the issues that I see (keep in mind, she is in middle school): 

I still have to tell her to shower, brush her hair, put on deodorant, and brush her teeth every time she is with us.  If I do not make her, she will not.  She complains everytime I tell her.  Last time she was with us - she actually stomped off when and pouted when I told her that she needed to brush her hair.  She has had lice in the past, and has come to our home with ringworm multiple times from her mother not making her bathe.  She is dirty every time we pick her up. 

She does not flush the toilet - does not matter what is in it...  To top it off, she does not find the need for toilet paper.  Couple months ago, she ran out of toilet paper in her bathroom.  She decided to use a sanitary napkin to wipe with (she went #2) and then left the smeared napkin exposed and in the trash.  When I spoke to her about it, I informed her that it was very unsanitary and yes, gross to leave things out like that.  Also told her that the method was not very clean, as it does not wipe as well.  My husband informed me that I was over-reacting and that it was actually very resourceful of her.  He also claims that it was his fault for not making sure the bathroom was properly stocked.  My response was that she is old enough to stock the bathroom herself if she is running low, and if she did happen to run out, she should have waited for someone to bring her more.  After the family discussion, I walked upstairs to find SD in bathroom , going #2, with no toilet paper AGAIN!

She also scribbled on our shower curtain this year with marker.  I informed her that she would need to pay for the curtain from her allowance, and that she should not draw on anything but paper.  Husband actually went as far to make up an excuse for her when I questioned why she drew on the shower curtain.  Found last night that she decided to write (not in big letters-husband made sure to point out that it wasn't a big deal because they are smaller) on her closet door in permanent marker.  Husband says...not a big deal.  I am mean.

So here is the question - am I over-reacting and expecting too much?  Is it normal for a middle school student not to know these things?  I am just so frustrated and tired of having to defend myself to DH!  I am also seriously worried for SD and how she is going to be perceived and treated if she does not learn these things!

Re: Husband says that I am a mean SM

  • First of all, that is gross!  I would expect a middle school aged kid to know basic hygiene habits.  I know some middle school kids don't really care about brushing their hair or taking a shower but the other stuff needs to stop.  I would pick your battles.  Unless SD flat out smells from not taking a shower leave it alone.  OR if she doesn't want to brush her hair.  The bathroom situation is a whole different story!  I also think your DH needs to start acting like a parent and not be sulking with SD everytime you tell her to do something...not OK.
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  • You're not expecting too much. You have a husband problem and a kid problem IMO.

    A child of that age who behaves like that needs to be evaluated by a professional. My 7-year-old knows better than to do any of those things described. 

    Since your time with her is really limited, I have no idea what you might be able to accomplish. But if her parents aren't consulting a pedi as well as getting a referral to a developmental psychologist, they're doing their child a HUGE disservice.  

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  • You sound like you are raising 2 children. Your husband sounds like a 12 yr old. Honest to God, I think if my H acted like that, it would be a deal breaker for me. You need a come to Jesus talk with him. Like, yesterday. It does sound like he doesn't care bc he is only w her a handful of times a yr. he doesn't want her visits to be negative. BUT, I think these issues go beyond what I would be willing to overlook. 
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  • It sounds like the problem here is your husband.

    I don't believe that you are expecting too much.  I would be livid if any of my children, bio or step, drew on my walls or furniture.  That is so completely unacceptable.  

    Unfortunately it sounds like your DH has placed himself in between sd and you.  He is parenting from a place of guilt and that doesn't do you or his daughter any favors.  I would arrange a date with him to discuss parenting your step daughter.  I would phrase it, "the present situation is not working for any of us.  SD must be unhappy because she is acting out and her hygiene is not that of a happy and healthy young woman.  I understand that you feel badly as you don't get to see her very often and you don't want to spend the time that you do have giving her trouble.". And then you can tell him what you feel is unacceptable behavior and any suggestions you have for punishments or ways you can help prevent any problems in the future.

    I wish you luck because this is hard.  Ultimately it's your husband who holds the key in this situation.   

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  • I am going to have to disagree with most of the PPs.

    I have a daughter in middle school that does some of the same things your SD does. Particularly, we had to put in place a schedule for bathing so that she would abide by that as well as we have to remind her to brush her hair, check for toilet paper before she goes to the bathroom, ect. She complains every time as well but we always explain why she needs to do something and that we are only trying to help her and it is not for our benefit that we ask her to do these things. I think your SD needs to be evaluated. My DD has hygiene issues because of Aspergers but there can be many underlying issues causing these behaviors. I agree that a typical middle schooler should be expected to behave differently. I also have my 19 year old nephew living with me that has issues and is a senior in high school. We just had to have the hygiene talk with him again last night because even though we also placed him on a shower schedule. He has not been following the schedule. We had to remind him that other people can smell him when he doesn't shower regularly. He doesn't write on our stuff but he writes/draws on his arms & hands in permanent marker all the time.

    I do think your DH is not helping the situation but I think there is far more going on here. Your SD does need help in these areas and its your job as parents to her to get to the root of the issue AND help her learn in the process.


  • Normally I would tell you to pick your battles, but when it is a matter of hygiene...  I think you have the right to live in an environment where you don't have to worry about contracting ringworm.

    I agree with Krissy, it's time to have a "coming to Jesus talk" with DH.  Tell him you understand that he doesn't get to spend a lot of time with her and that he doesn't want to spend the whole time arguing.  Tell him that you also understand though, that kids are cruel and if she doesn't learn to start taking care of herself she is going to find herself the brunt of a lot of unneccessary teasing and torment.  Tell him you're willing to come up with solutions with him and SD (if she doeosn't like to brush her hair, maybe it's time to consider a shorter cut?  If she has a hard time remembering to check for TP maybe you can stock some extra under the bathroom sink?)  Maybe he just needs to see you trying to be proactive to not feel like you're picking on SD?

    I also agree with having her assessed by a doctor and having said doctor explain to her WHY it's important to shower and wipe after going to the bathroom, etc...

    For me, this would be a deal breaker.  If my H didn't value hygiene enough to make sure our kids were clean... I'd really have to question whether or not I wanted to live with him.

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  • I agree with PPs, you have a husband problem.

    It sounds to me like he is feel guilty for not being with her full-time and decides to make up for it by letting her do whatever she wants.  Leaving sanitary napkins with defecation exposed and writing in permanent marker on ANYTHING is completely unacceptable. 

    Even if your husband disagrees with you, when you say something to SD, he should back you up and you can discuss it later privately.

    I have this problem with DH when I make SS read.  One of the reasons we won custody is because he was sooooo behind in school.  And he is doing really well in school now because I enforce all homework and reading.  I tell SS he needs to read and DH goes "uhhhhhh, whyyy?"  I want to punch him in the mouth.  We spend thousands of dollars fighting in court for this do right by him!

    You need to have some boundaries and talk to your husband about what is acceptable and what is not in your home.  Remember, not teaching her these things now is only doing her a disservice when she grows up.  Life lessons are taught at home by parents so that your children can grow up and survive in the world.  He is NOT parenting her, and it is not helping her in any way.

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    First of all, I do not think you are over-reacting.  I feel sad for your SD - - she is living like an animal.  So gross.  I also agree 100% that you have an H problem. 

    That being said, when you say "her shower curtain," and "her closet door" - is it a bathroom that only she uses?  If my dd did that (and nobody saw the shower but her) I would let her live with the drawing.  If she wanted it nicer, she could go out and buy a new curtain with her allowance.  Ditto the door - - some day she'll get tired of the marker and she can paint over it.  If she wants to poop in there and never flush (and its only her bathroom), I'd let her live with the stink. 

    If it is a communal bathroom, I would make her clean it and put her in charge of stocking it, and would make her buy the new curtain with her own money.

    I would also not buy DD any new things if she doesn't know how to respect things in the house.  That includes clothes and anything non-academic related.

    As far as hygeine, I would ask your H why he thinks so little of his daughter that he has zero standards for her, because really having standards (that a child can achieve) is a huge part of love and parenting.  Does he really want his daughter to be dirty, smelly and gross?  If he is fine with it, then I would step back and let her look as disgusting as she wants and not interfere with that, but I would lose a lot of respect for my H (it could be a deal-breaker, b/c I think being a good father is a huge part of being a man if the man chooses to have children), and would definately not in 10 million years have another child with him.


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  • Lurked from another board....but your DH sounds really immature.  sounds like he is trying to be the "cool" parent since he doesnt have her full time.  SD sounds gross....i would be saying the same things to Dh as you are.
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  • I do not think you are over reacting at all.  It sounds like your husband is probably aware of the issues, but is being overly protective because he may feel that you are hurting his daughters feelings?  Or it could be that he just really doesn't get it.  But what you are asking of SD is totally fair and reasonable.


  • You have a DH and a BM problem. You're not mean. You just have standards that most normal people have.

    I'd tell DH this. "I have simple, normal. basic standards and I refuse to lower them just because you are too lazy to raise yours or expect them of your daughter." 


  • image+j+k+:

    I'd tell DH this. "I have simple, normal. basic standards and I refuse to lower them just because you are too lazy to raise yours or expect them of your daughter." 



  • image+j+k+:

    I'd tell DH this. "I have simple, normal. basic standards and I refuse to lower them just because you are too lazy to raise yours or expect them of your daughter." 



    Just an FYI - when did these problems start?  Could it be that SD is suffering from depression?  Lack of interest in keeping clean is a symptom (although it could also be just laziness and passive agressiveness).

  • I agree with most PPs about the hygiene things. It is a huge issue. You may have to remind her to a take a shower at this age and make sure she brushed her teeth simply because these are things that kids that age put off just like bedtime, but it still is expected and necessary. I don't think you are overreacting at all.

    However, I must point out that live prefer clean hair over dirty hair. Lice has nothing to do with being clean or not. It means simply that she was exposed to it, probably at school. I had it many times during middle school, and I never had a problem with hygiene.

  • Thanks for all the comments, guys!  I honestly do not think there is wrong on SD's part other than being raised by her BM who apparently thinks it is more important to be a friend and not care about education and hygeine otherwies.  SD is very unmotivated like her mother.  I have had talks with DH in the past (especially about a year ago when we were thinking about starting our own family together) and he admitted that he lets a lot of things slide, as he does not want to ruin his short time with SD.  I have made the same points that as her parent he is responsible for her well-being, to include health, hygeine, education, manners, etc.  SD is smart and much more should be expected from her.  He blames BM, but I feel that he is just as responsible for not enforcing these habits when she is with us, and also never saying anything to BM.

    The whole situation just seems even more stressful and intensified now that I am pregnant and we are expecting our first child together in June.  I feel overwhelmed already.

    Ambrvan, SD was very little and not yet in school or really around other children when she had lice.  I believe the cause of hers was due more to her lack of bathing/hygeine.

  • imageRdavid84:

    Ambrvan, SD was very little and not yet in school or really around other children when she had lice.  I believe the cause of hers was due more to her lack of bathing/hygeine.

    You obviously know nothing about lice.  Lice prefer clean hair to dirty.  The only way to get lice is through contact with another person (or their coats / scarves / hats, seat cushions, stuffed animals) - not by being dirty.  The only link between poor hygiene and lice is getting RE-infested if you do not clean the home properly after you have been infested, but then again, you could take a bath 2x a day every day and still get lice if the source has not been cleaned.

    I used to arrange the "lice talks" for the PTA!

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