Thursday, October 3, 2013

True Confessions of a Step Mom: Disneyland Dad Edition

Disneyland Dads. We all know the type. Be honest. We all probably roll our eyes and judge this type.

With these dads, the weekend is all about junk food, late nights, amusement parks and rough housing. Discipline? That's for the full time parent. The burden of making sure homework is done, rooms are cleaned and balanced meals are served lies with the Mom. The custodial parent. 

And its the Dad's right to provide the fun because he only has his kids two weekends a month. Right?

We all know this isn't a healthy environment to provide your kids with. We all know that children need structure to be successful. And all weekend McDonald's binges? Not cutting it.

When I met my husband the only times he had his daughter were for the purpose of celebrating the holidays and the occasional infrequent visit. He never filed for custody and they were never married so this is what he settled for. Because he was afraid of a big scene in court. Because he was afraid of the games. Because the situation was originally amicable and he got to see his daughter on a regular basis without a court order. By the time I entered the picture regular visits had turned in to 2-3 times A YEAR. Then went to one time in 2011. 

So time he spent with his daughter? There was presents galore. There was junk food. There was very few rules. Her visits weren't just like Christmas- they were Christmas.

And when we went from this to two Saturdays a month it was natural for the Disneyland Dad syndrome to continue. Our sixteen hours a month were spent going to movies, the park, McDonald's, etc. And the word no? Admittedly, was seldom used. 

Finally the court order allowed us a more consistent routine with his daughter. We had a week night and every other weekend. My fear? That the Disneyland Dad syndrome would reign on. 

Thankfully my husband wants the very best for his daughter. And early on he was able to see that she needed us to provide structure for her while she is in our care. That means homework and reading must happen at our house. Picking up after yourself is the expectation. Fast food and restaurants are reserved for special occasions (except for Sonic Happy Hour. That's our little secret. Shhh...). He talks to her about her grades, disciplines her when she is disrespectful and volunteers at her school. 

And yet things are different than they would be if she were in our household on a regular basis. How could they not be? Your traditional family might eat out twice a month. If we do it one time each weekend we have her- is that wrong? Your traditional family has the entire month of December to celebrate Christmas. We have two weekends, a few weeknights (which are spent doing homework, reading and having dinner) and one day. Naturally this means the two weekends we have are full of parties, lights, festivals, visits to Santa and on and on. 

And on Tuesdays? When she has a temper tantrum over having to read? Yes, we correct her behavior. But when her mom is coming in two hours and we won't see her until the following Tuesday? The conversation is tempered with that in mind.

I know her Mom thinks we are the worst. She hears that we went somewhere or we bought her something or we don't have a certain rule in our house and the judgement is passed. My husband is the Disneyland Dad. He is spoiling her to receive her love and affection. He is overcompensating. He is trying too hard. But still she repeatedly refuses to allow additional parenting time. My husband sends requests to add time. He asks for extra days, extra hours even, during school breaks. He reminds her that she agreed they would work together to add more time at our house. Just to be rejected. To be told their daughter isn't ready for more time. To be told that she will be at her step grandparent's home during the day even though my husband is home and would love to spend time with her. 

How is this attitude fair? Not to be allowed additional time to parent and develop routine but to be judged for trying to make the best of the limited time he does have? 

Stepmoms- how do you help your husband to find the balance between enjoying your children and creating structure for them? Biomoms- do you find that your kids come home from their dad's house "spoiled"? 

I'd love to hear any and all opinions on this topic.


  1. I have three boys, my husband has 2 kids, and together we have one. I share my 3 with my ex, and his two. . with 2 different moms. Fun times, (grin). We have a very open working schedule with the boys. If he is in town, he gets them. . .and for 8 weeks in the Summer. I have never refused his time. I see my ex over indulge the boys, they come home from trips/movies/restaurants/amusment parks to my routine house. I have accepted it as what he can do with them. He travels a lot so OF COURSE he wants to have fun and make memories during his time. Then during a month in the summer we have his 2 out here. It is such a headache just convincing the moms of the travel dates. Then I get bombarded with phone calls and texts, which leaves me feeling like a sitter. We never get more time with either. It is always a fight for any kind of ground. As the bio mom to my 3, I am very generous with my ex and his time with the kids. I don't understand the kick back we get from his 2 exes. They prefer the kids to see my husband's parents. My husband, who is your typical nice guy, (pretty passive) tries not to fight all the battles.. I think this could all be easier. I would hope.

  2. Oh my. You have your hands full woman! Thanks for the insight. I'm glad to hear you are so flexible with your ex and wish the other bio moms in your life would be more cooperative!

  3. Bio mom here, I'm on the other end of your situation here and I can agree that my son comes back with all kinds of spoiled and rude behavior. It was as if everything my partner and I had worked so hard on for him to be a well behaved and polite child was flushed down the toilet by the time he came back. It would take three days for my boy to get back in the swing of things and detox from what ever craziness went down at his dad's, which also happened to be grandma and grandpa's house.

    At first the visits were more frequent and like your husband, the visits became less frequent. I would say it's been about a year or so since the last visit, phone call and even skype session.

    As the custodial party and bio mom, it frustrates and angers me to no end that I am here working hard to make sure my son grows up to be a decent human being and not some psychopath or criminal, having talks with his teachers, principals, homework, making sure he stays healthy, the works! I'm involved 24/7 and with this technology and social media age, to see his "dad"(at this point with the lack of contact and interaction he's more of a DNA contributor than a parent) he likes to pretend he cares and blasts how he misses his son. The times he did have my son with him, he was very much the Disneyland dad, and of cores all his facebook friends see this and in roll the "oh you're such a good dad!" REALLY? Try again. How about you fly out to see your son instead of flying out to a different city for fun? Why move farther from your son when you can move closer to your son and just for fun, actually spend time with him because you miss him? I don't understand. I guess my situation is more complicated, there are no court orders or restrictions really... so he literally can see my son when ever but chooses not to and plays the victim card. So I am done with the reminders, he knows my door is open for him to visit, all I ask is a call in advance so I can plan accordingly. But like I said, it's been a year or so since the last contact. I guess it doesn't get better for everyone.

    1. My heart breaks for all the kids who are in the same situation your son is in. How someone can have access to their child and not take it astounds me. My husband currently has every Tuesday and alternate weekends and still aches for more time. As do I and i'm not biologically connected to her. I have a nephew who currently lives with his Dad four days a week and his mom for three. Mom is very unstructured and when my nephew comes home it takes a couple of days to adjust to rules again. So I can see how the lack of structure really can have an impact. At our house there are rules! But still its hard to find a balance! Custody situations are hard. Hang in there. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with the hardest job of all... The single Mama. :)

  4. OK, another point of view here from a recovering Disneyland Dad. Some background first - I have 2 kids to 2 differernt Mums, now remaried to a mostly understanding devoted wife. We usually have both kids every second weekend at the same time, but also have 2 weeknights in between with each child (but different nights). Even though I admit I was a Disneyland Dad for many years, I have always made sure I helped out with homework, prepared healthy meals, attended school and sports events, enforced routine bedtimes, etc, etc.
    But in between those things I guess my gulit led me to indulge them in fun things as well. They didnt have to be expensive or outlandish events, but I felt that I needed to spend every minute we had doing something together. I didnt realise this was at detriment to my relationship to my new gf and now wife. I also couldnt see reason as to why she didnt want to do the same!

    Why I say 'recovering' is because I do tend to slip back into this Disney Dad mindset from time to time. And it seems to happen mostly on Sundays. I struggle with the fact that its the end of the weekend, before the kids go back to their mothers, and that it is not for another 2 weeks we will get to spend quality (ie. fun) time together.
    Yes, I do still see them for 2 weeknights in between but these weeknights comprise of getting dropped over at 6pm, then we have dinner, homework, then showers, storytime and then bed (total 2 hours tops). Next morning its a rushed breakfast, ready for school, then car trip. I know its very important father-child time here (the most normal time we have together), but the DisneyDad part just wants that funtime - and that same part thinks that they want this too!

    So Sundays seem to be this struggle with me trying to keep up the good parenting side (ie. keeping up with discipline when required) but balanced with the Disney Dad side. This has often led to major disagreements between my wife and I as she has some very strong opinions on how the kids behaviour should be. Where I may let a few things slip by, she will call them on it (or expect me to). If we are doing a fun activity, I do tend to let these things slip alot more often - as I dont want to bring the mood down with scolding and/or punishment.

    Do know if there are any other dads out there with a similar dilema?
    Perhaps other step-mums can relate to this with their husbands.

  5. As a new step mom to a beautiful almost four year old, I have been living so many of these stories. He and the ex broke up even before their daughter was born, and I have been in her life since she was about 1 1/2. Making this all she has known. I have almost the exact opposite situation, she has no rules at moms, it's a free for all, and mom treats her like a best friend, and has had numerous boyfriends in and out. She is a caring mom, but a lot of it seems to be show as well. Here it is a more stable lifestyle and she has rules, and wouldn't even try to act like she does at moms. But she is very controlling and manipulative about the time with her daughter or the time we have with her. She had it in the agreement that it is up to when the child is comfortable to start doing over nights, and we have had a few here and there. Prolly only 10 total! But she plays her daughter by telling her mommy will miss you too much, and I'll have nothing to do if you stay at dads, or she will tell us she wants to stay but mommy will be mad. It is very sad and frustrating. All the while I have a very passive husband and he doesn't want to make anything hard on his daughter (which is a good dad in that part of things to make it easy on her). We will ask for certain times to take her for special things that aren't our weekends for birthday parties or something, or his mom will ask to take her to lunch or for an afternoon and her mom will not answer for hours and hours, so doesn't directly say no, but won't let it happen. Things have gotten better since we were married 6 months ago, as she talks to me often and is much more pleasant, but a lot of it is fake. It has helped that we have known each other since high school as well (small town problems :-)) but she is still very manipulative to their daughter and definitely preys on the fact that my husband has a hard time saying no to things, or won't ever put up a fight! It can be very trying! I love your blog btw I relate to it so much!

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