Dear Chump Lady,
I am 15 months into this crappy situation now, have just wrangled myself a good settlement that my soon-to-be-ex’s stepfather had to pay (cheater has no money, how original), and am moving to my new property on Monday.
My cheating ex is still with the low-rent staff member he left me for. She is 15 years younger than my ex, and 10 years younger than me. She has a 6 year old daughter.
My question is this — how do I best respond to her giving my kids gifts, like all the time? We have two girls, 9 and 13. They don’t seem to particularly like her, but they are a bit scared of their dad, so are polite and friendly with her, (which they should be anyway as far as politeness goes).
Every time my STBX husband’s got the kids, they come back home wearing her castoffs. Jackets, beanies etc. She’s a midget (13 year old is taller), and seems to enjoy sending them back wearing her cheap clothes or bearing some other gift she has given them.
First, the girls don’t need her clothes. I feel like it is some back-handed way of telling me I’m not looking after them. I don’t know how to deal with it. We went to Hawaii last week, she gave them a dollar to spend that she had lying around. (I know, big deal).
Why does she feel the need to infiltrate our lives after blowing it up? I’m sure she’s just trying to look good to the kids…impression management. But, how do I deal with it? I don’t want her crap in my house. Do I tell the kids to leave it there and get called bitter? Do I wear her beanies myself? Giftwrap it all for Christmas and do a care package for her child? Please help with any suggestions! I’m pretty much no contact. I haven’t met her since he left, and he’s making sure it stays that way!
I suppose you can’t delouse your children. If only there was some approved process for re-entry. I’m struck with the image of plunging livestock in pesticides to remove ticks.
Alas, your choices essentially suck. It’s a real pickle of a dilemma. You could:
1.) Talk to your children. Do they want these gifts? Do they thrill to secondhand Chicos? Or are they meekly going along to keep the peace? (“Oh thanks, chartreuse. My favorite.”) Ask them and listen. If no, remind them of their agency. It’s okay to offer a polite no thank you. But if they say yes to the stray dollar or ugly jacket, don’t flip out. Their life is hard enough right now navigating all the emotional landmines of divorce. Let them have the crappy baubles.
Downside? You eat the shit sandwich OW and your ex keep serving.
2.) Talk to your ex. “Hey, I pack enough clothes. Please return the children with the clothes they brought. Thanks!”
Downside? We’re imagining we’re dealing with a responsible adult who cares about your feelings and his children, when in fact we’re dealing with a man-child who just abandoned you all for a fuckbuddy and stuck his stepdad with the bill.
He’ll get right on that reasonable request just after he finishes washing the the unicorns.
3.) Talk to the OW. “Hey, we’re good on clothes here. I found a dollar that I think belongs to you.”
Downside? HAHAHhahaaha. Kibbles. Centrality. She got to you. You’ve reinforced the narrative that you’re an oversensitive bitch who deserved to be left and she’s the Generous Sainted One Who Truly Appreciates Him. How everyone suffers under your tyranny! The Mean Mommy Who Won’t Let Them Have Gifts.
Better to go grey rock, me thinks.
4.) Talk to no one and eat the shit sandwich.
Downside? Your head might explode.
Or you can talk to us. We get it. We’ve worn the hair shirt of coparenting with a home wrecker. I know you’re galled at her impression management. “Oh hey, sorry for helping to break up your family. Here’s a buck!” To do what with? Buy a therapist?
Just whatever you do, don’t retaliate against her innocent 6 year old. (“Oh hi, I’ve have a box of itchy mohair sweaters I thought your daughter might enjoy. No tag backs!”) She has enough strife in her life, given the dim bulb she has for a mother. I’m sure she’s not thrilled living the blended family Schmoopie Happy Ever After either. The last thing she needs is a box of castoffs.
All I can offer you is the camaraderie of the chumped. You don’t control what freaks call you. Bitter left the barn a long time ago. Did you expect child support? Bitter. Did you accommodate his last three rescheduling requests and he refuses to consider yours? Bitter. See how that works?
Trust me, you’ll get used to bitter. Pretty soon the bitters will just ricochet off your unflappability and with any luck will take his eye out.
Just remember what the OW “won” here — a cheater with no money. All she’s got to cling to is her impression management. If she judges your parenting? Fine. Let her. You don’t control that.
I feel like it is some back-handed way of telling me I’m not looking after them. I don’t know how to deal with it. We went to Hawaii last week, she gave them a dollar to spend that she had lying around.
Uh dude? They have to rely on relatives to pay their divorce settlement. YOU WENT TO HAWAII. YOU WIN. She got the turd. YOU WENT TO HAWAII. YOU WIN.
She thinks you don’t look after your children? Okay, sure, whatever. Take another long sip of that rum drink with the pretty umbrella.
Do your children do their own laundry? A lot of socks go missing in the dryer. (My theory is they are raptured to Jesus.) Perhaps those beanies could have an appointment with God.
Mom, have you seen my bedazzled tam-o-shanter?
Mom blinks innocently.
Hang in there, Katie. Remember you won. The OW’s image management is as transparent as her thin polyester blouses. Ignore. Rock on with your mightiness, and your kids will do the same.