Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Ex Insists Their Son Call OW ‘Mummy’

Hi Chump Lady,

I’m in need of advice. The ex and I have been divorced for a year and a half. Usual story, he cheated with a coworker, denied it, filed for divorce, didn’t see the kids much, married her straight after our divorce, filed for childcare arrangement (we are in the UK), had twins with her — marriage, childcare and kids all happened in a year!

Lots to adjust to for me and the kids. Oh and he was a successful narc — he hid the money and now has a mansion with pool, etc.

Anyway, my question is related to the affair partner’s role as stepmother. My son is joining a new school in September and I’m the one who has done the hard work — the homework, taking him to assessments and the application, etc. He is 5. He was offered a place and we accepted. It’s one of the best schools in the country. We had an induction meeting for parents last week and he brought her. She’s now on the mum’s WhatsApp group and will be at meetings/events/ maybe birthdays.

Ugh. Makes me anxious.

Ex and I are back at mediation next week to sort issues like this out… he’s been asking my son to call her mummy too.

My question is what the hell do I do with someone with no boundaries?! Wasn’t it enough to ruin my marriage? Why are they so awful?

Help!

P.S. My chump friends say let it go… she’s going to be in their lives. I can’t find much information on a stepmother who was an affair partner. Makes me feel more of a chump!

Dr. C

***

Dear Dr. C,

Oh geez. I guess you’re supposed to just accept your obsolescence. He’s swapped out one set of Wife And Children™ for another. Please go sit in the drawer where we keep the old phone chargers.

Look, your five year old knows who mummy is and it’s you. That’s primal. It’s not going to change because some numbskull demands it.

The shit sandwich for your children is that the price of admission to see Dad is tolerate the wifetress and family 2.0. It’s a sucky position for them to be in. Best case scenario, she’s decent to them. Then they come home to you, the Sane Parent. The person who loves them unreservedly. The stable parent who doesn’t swap out families like smoke detector batteries.

Be confident as Sane Parent. She can call herself Queen Sheba of the Desert, doesn’t make it so. Also, it’s interesting that it’s your ex who’s making this request. Pick me dance, everyone! He gets a contact kibble high if you take offense, and bonus kibbles for making OW swear fealty to his other offspring. Who’s at the center of all this baby mama drama? Him.

She just had twins. I’m sure the last thing she wants in this moment is more motherhood. Of course it’s absolutely galling that you’re doing all the Sane Parent work of getting your son into school and they want to swan in for the glory. But that’s how FWs roll. Expect this for EVERYTHING. And just remember — kids know who the show up parent is.

She just won total vulnerability to a FW. It rarely ends well. She probably has leaky tits and an abdomen of silly putty and she’s having to keep his dick tethered. If he says, “Be Mummy to my first family,” she’ll sew the matching pinafores. Her pick me dance game has to be tops.

You, however, are free of that crap. Don’t let them rattle you. Go into that mediation all business-like. Document everything you do. And don’t take the bait on hot-button bullshit like calling OW “Mummy.”

Because a) you don’t control it. What goes on at their house, you can’t police and it will make you sick trying. The court only cares if it rises to the level of endangerment, abuse, or addiction. (And even then… we have some horror stories in these trenches.) Set the bar low, like “my kids come home alive.” I’m serious, this is how I got through 14 years of custody drop-offs. If she thrills to the minutia of kindergarten, let her make the cupcakes. I seriously doubt she can sustain that, or wants to.

And remember: b) “Mummy” is designed to rattle you. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Being horrible to you is foreplay for FWs. It keeps the triangle alive. Refuse to be their hypotenuse. You have a life, they’re not in it. Do not be goaded into a role of Crazy, Bitter Ex Who Can’t Get Over the Wonderfulness of Him. When they make stupid requests and play stupid games, just look at them with benevolent bafflement, tinged with pity.

Maybe hand the OW a breast pad for her leaky tits. It’s hard to be her.

Opening the floor up now for all the CN members who’ve co-parenting with FWs. How did you guys navigate the nonsense?

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • The OW lost interest in my kids when parenting her new baby got harder. I feel bad for my kids that their Dad puts up with them being ignored in favour of “their baby” when they visit so I try to be the sane loving parent when my kids are with me.

    • This about to happen my end, the shine is already off and half-sister arrives next week and OW is horrendously controlling. Sit back and watch it happen and just be there for my child.

  • her punishment is being with your ex. hes trying to annoy you, u can call her mummy, u child knows whose his mum is. unfortunately u will have years, of those two, trying to annoy you. she will be a surface mum, shiny and perfect on the outside, rancid on the inside. you will have to watch her behaviour on your son. she cant keep the pretence of being nice for long. in a while she will ask you to feel sorry for her, and she might want you to babysit the twins!

    • Yes, you’ve recognized the pitfall here when the new glow-y family wants to make a big extended family that includes you. I’ve always suspected it had something to do with image management. Look at me! I’m successful and live in a mansion. And we welcome my ex wife here.
      It kind of reminds me of the Victorian era when poor relatives were welcome at the dinner table as long as they minded their place.

    • Yes Sue! They are both shallow and entitled so will love to use DrC as another appliance. Rotten charactered humans and that will never change. There’s more cheating in store. These fuckwits shouldn’t breed. Let them be. Be the stellar parent and give that child good discernment. That’s the only control you have. Document any issues. Keep a notebook. There will be problems. They should not be forcing your child to do ANYTHING.

      • “There will be problems.”

        Amen to this. At the risk of hijacking this wonderful thread for a just a second, I want to share with CN that I just found out from someone whom x had admired and previously tried to impress that FW has “changed.” This person mentioned that x has been sending him nasty emails. Oh me, oh my. I know I shouldn’t care, but this confirms what CL and CN have been saying all along. These FWs can’t and don’t change. Piss-poor character persists post-divorce. Any fantasies I’ve harbored that he and AP-turned-wife are doing a daily jig to celebrate their happiness have no basis in reality.

        I share this in the spirit of schadenfreude and also to help other chumps who may think that the x has it all while we languish in the drawer with the old phone chargers. I confess that I let myself be in the drawer for a bit, even probably enjoyed the comfort of it, in a weird familiar way. But now I’m very much out of the drawer and living my best life.

        I wish the same for all chumps. ((hugs))

        • “Piss-poor character persists post-divorce. ”

          I just wish every chump could witness this at least once. I was lucky to hear of it early on. I am convinced that any person that can lie and cheat and gaslight for any length of time, just does not change who they are. Some just manage to hide it more than others.

  • My daughter had turned 18 by the time I filed so I blessedly did not have to technically parent with a fuckwit, but FW gleefully wanted her to meet the replacement wife appliance, her slightly younger daughter, and the exact replica replacement pet appliances. (I bet he was kicking and abusing them, too.) It was horrible when he wanted her to go to dinner with him (but not pay a dime for her college) so he could show off. Satisfying when she put up boundaries and told him no and added why not: “You haven’t been there for me like mom was when I needed you. Why would I want to celebrate that?” I’m proud.

    Hugs and strength to you, Dr. C. Keep reading here, derive some power, remember they suck, he’s the same sparkle dick with her he was with you, you have brighter days ahead, and your little ones have the much better parent. Keep going!

    • I also, fortunately, did not have to co-parent with a cheater FW, so no advice to offer on that front. But I am familiar with the family replacement phenomenon. My daughter was grown with a young son when FW left for Massage Parlor Whore (MPW) and her young son. FW was retired, but spent very little time with our grandson, telling our daughter he was too tired or too busy. When daughter found out he was “too tired” and “too busy” because he was coaching MPW’s son’s baseball team, she was hurt and furious. FW married MPW immediately after our divorce was final.

      After the marriage, FW wanted daughter to meet his new wife. He told her he would not be bringing “their son” (FW is not the child’s father) and daughter was not allowed to ask MPW about her line of work. Daughter declined and neither she or my grandson has seen him since. Daughter says if our grandson ever asks to see his grandfather that she will take him to see him. But he’s never asked. How can grandson miss someone he barely new?

      It’s mind-blowing how FW has just swapped out one family for another. New wife appliance, new child appliance, and yes, a new dog appliance. He even bought a house in the VERY SAME neighborhood where we bought our first starter home 30 years ago. Just a couple streets over from where our first home was and certainly no mansion. He’s definitely traded down.

      Another family member told my daughter that FW is trying to bring MPW’s family over from China to live with them in that tiny house. We both laughed. It seems the Karma bus is on the way. But I must be getting closer to Meh, as I really don’t care that much anymore.

      My advice to OP is to hang in there and keep being the same loving, hardworking and sane parent you are. Your child knows who Mummy is, and it isn’t her. But I hope they can figure out something else for your child to call her. I would find that galling too. And keep reading here for support. I’m very thankful for this forum. It helps to know that my situation is not all that unique. It’s pretty amazing to me how similar so many of these fuckwits are.

    • Yea, most of them get it eventually. My young teenager is absolutely learning who is really there for her and who runs off on vacation with his much younger lady friend when times get tough. I’m the one taking her to the doctor and ensuring her school work is done and making sure she has feminine hygiene products, and so on. Yes, she has some fun times with him on their “Disney Dad” trips, but the older she gets the more she understands that her safe and sane place is in my home. I deposit that in the bank and will be happy to enjoy the interest down the road when I have a wonderful relationship with my grown child.

  • If anything untangles the skein, it’s stuff like this. The complete lack of boundaries. Have you claimed the twins as yours? Posted about having new twins? I would definitely not mention it to them at all. If it bugs you , hurts you, disrespects you? Say nothing. Drop the other end of the rope. You are actually a big part of the glue holding them together. As CL said, count your blessings each time child returns home safe.

    • “You are actually a big part of the glue holding them together. ”

      You know I wonder if that is why these FWs want to be “friends” so much. I mean why would you want to be friends with someone you have just removed from your life in favor of bliss. If you are a “friend” then that is power they can use over bliss to keep her in line.

      • Precisely. To be sure, they enjoy making the chumped partner feel like shit and hopefully pick-me-dance and give them their kibbles.

        But they ALSO use the ex to make the NEW PARTNER dance the dance. I know my ex did. He’d compliment me in front of her, so she would go out and get whatever piece of clothing it was that he wanted her to wear. He’d hang out with me to make her upset. He’d invite me over when she was there. He tried to feel me up in once when she was there (I shut that down) and she saw and she ended up crying on the porch. He loved all of that. I’m sure he held me up as some kind of threat or competition. How else to get her to cook my recipes for him, wear my clothes, do her hair like mine? Punish her when she gets out of line? He’d already taken me back once, so there was always that imminent threat. So I’m sure she was pressured to perform and be whatever it was he wanted her to be.

        They love drama, and a triangle is marvelous drama. The ex also makes a very convenient scapegoat, if they can maintain contact. He gets angry at OW and yells? “I got an email from ex wife and she just pissed me off so badly, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t take it out on you.” Etc.

        I stepped out of that messy triangle and their relationship imploded.

    • Hcard, your post made me laugh–claim the twins as hers?? Maybe the original poster should require that the twins call HER ‘Mummy’. Hahahahaha.

      • I LOVE this idea! When you see them make sure to let them know they should call you mummy as well 🤣

    • So very true! FW left his old phone at my house when I kicked him out and AP bought him a new one. I got into it and found months of texts between them and 75% of it was her bitching about me. She had never met me and I had no clue he was cheating. Their mutual hatred of me really was the glue that kept them together.

      To the OP, I would calmly correct your 5 year old when he calls the OW mummy. “Sweetie, did you mean Ms. Sparkle-twat? I am your only mummy and you are my only [son’s name].” I learned that AP’s HATE being called Ms. Anything but can’t do anything about it because it just looks like you’re teaching your child manners. It also reminds them how insignificant they are to you and distances them from any kind of meaningful position.

  • Hands up on this one. They were all over my daughter like a rash presenting themselves as the saviours while Mummy was a little bit unhappy (o mean god knows why my father dies and a week later my partner leaves me only to find out he had been having an affair for about 18 months) but they groomed to the max. I nearly lost my mind. The PowerPoint decks she made about how much she loves step parent, how apparently I was a horrible person. And later she did say will you call me mum and, guess what, even though I thought she was well wrapped up in it she said, I already have a mum. And you know with time the sheen does wear off. Last thing I heard was my daughter told her friend, son of one of my best friends, it’s like my step mum doesn’t want me there.

    Of course it drives you mad, did me. The flaming nerve of these idiots. But they couldn’t keep it up. Just try to remember these people are harmful fools and should be avoided and given a short shrift. I thought I had lost my daughter to them. But it appears not. Keep rocking being a sane mum. Also I know quite a few step parents who themselves vouches for how out of order and boundary crossing this behaviour was and were way for mindful of that parent dynamic when they became step parents so you just have to be psychotic to act like this. End of.

    • Long distance one-hit wonder dedication going out to DuddersGotChumped

      (music by Vanity Fare, lyrics by the meddling stepmother)
      Tune at: https://youtu.be/MUjmSYutW5M

      The jig is up, I won the bum
      I’ve gotta prove I’m my step-daughter’s mum
      Switchin’ the slide, switchin the slide
      Gonna sit her down and make her bleary-eyed

      I got a need for saving face
      I need some PowerPoint to make my case
      Switchin’ the slide, switchin the slide
      Daddy’s very cool, Mommy’s very snide

      Slide, slide, slide, switchin the slide
      Slide, slide, slide, switchin the slide

      Extract the file, it’s safe to see
      The only virus in this scene is me
      Switchin’ the slide, switchin the slide
      It’ll never work, but at least I tried

  • Dr C, I’m in the Uk. My evil stepmother was an OW co-worker. I was about the same age as your little one when she was revealed to the world and me.
    Sending you lots of support. Brace yourself. Unbelievable levels of vitriol, scorn and claims of mental instability were levelled against my poor mother and 40 years they are still at it. Yawn.
    Everything Chump Lady says is true. They need someone to be the wicked witch to validate their trw-wuv and you fit the part. Remove yourself. Don’t play. Expect resistance/nastiness when you stop playing.
    Safety in numbers. I was an only child but had little cousins, which helped. She was foul to all of us.
    Sounds like you’ve got more than one child, that should help.
    Good luck. Stay strong. Rise above it. Document everything. Don’t play their games. Be a rock to your children. Definitely, definitely use a parenting app if you can (could your mediator support this?). Could you get the parenting outline in place asap and then literally just stick to the agreement via the app and have absolutely no contact.
    Be charming and civil when you have to see them at school functions.
    Excise them from your life.
    And remember, its quite possible for your children to truly love their half siblings yet wish to have nothing whatsoever to do with their step-mother. Don’t be surprised by that if it happens and you may find your children saying nothing about any horrors they experience from their step-mother in order to protect their half-siblings.
    I’d take a back seat and watch how things pan out. As Chumplady says, step-mom must be mighty busy. Add your children into the mix and you may find she has too much on her plate and your ex’s requests for time with his children may mysteriously begin to reduce…..
    Keep your sense of humour. These people are awful but textbook.
    You’ll be fine, so will your little ones.
    So sorry you’re going through this.

    • I concur. “ These people are awful but textbook.” They will drop your children when things inevitably get overwhelming, and they will. They have a low tolerance for struggle and being consistent. Because they are shallow idiots.

      • OW was very vocal about how much she LOVED my son. She played mommy, even when I was there. She and FW played up that her two kids were his “new siblings” and that they were going to be a big happy family (“and isn’t it better here? With mommy it’s just her and grandma. You are all alone there.”
        UGH.) She and FW started their affair when my son had just turned 5, so he had known her for almost half his life by the time they went to set up house (we weren’t even divorced yet).

        When she left my FW (one month, one MONTH, after they moved in together), she never gave my son a goodbye. She never responded to any of the messages he sent her. Never offered him an explanation. How hard is it to say “I care about you, but I had to go.”? My kid was 8 years old.

        The sad thing is, he still talks about her and her two kids fondly. I hate OW’s guts for many reasons, but most of all because she hurt my child. Breaking up my family, then breaking up theirs. FW killed himself after she left him, so my kid no longer has his dad (which maybe in the long run is better for him, given what my ex was like, but my son is little and he loved his dad). OW didn’t even send my kid her condolences when FW died. (And I know she knew about it because I told her.) She’s never said word to my son since she left.

        Upshot is, she NEVER cared about my kid. She only cared about herself.

        • Yikes! I am so sorry this happened to your son. He must have been so hurt and confused. 😢😢 hugs to you and your son. Your FW is evil.

        • How confusing and painful this must have been for your son. My grandson met his half-brother just a few times (I doubt even 10), then lost all contact when my ex-DIL abandoned him, but continued to worry about him for years. He was relieved when he learned that his half-bro was safe and living with half-bro’s paternal grandparents.

        • What trauma they leave in their wake. And per usual scorched earth is preferred to keeping children safe. Selfish assholes.

      • The twins are more than likely still infants…wait till they start to walk and get into stuff. OWife will not want another kid around. I’m betting Dr C’s son will go through a discard. She should start to prepare for her son’s sake. Always keep in mind you are not only dealing with selfish cheaters, you are dealing with people that stuck the knife in your back and gave it a twist.

  • My girls where older when the Chlorine Special came along (a respectful week-and-a-half after I said “this stops now” to the Kunty Kibbler), but the same general rule applies, I think . . .

    For as much snark as I give CS here in the safe spaces of CN (and I make no apologies for doing so, he appears to be a pompous douche), the fact of the matter is that my girls have never shown any perceptual stress by his presence in their lives. There are plenty of horror stories out there about step-parents and families and the traumatic situations they can cause. As a parent of children who had this situation thrust upon them through no fault of their own, all I can ask for is for the remainder of their child and teen years to be as stress-free as possible. They have enough to deal with (a) just being teenagers, and (b) dealing with KK.

    They don’t talk about him much when they’re around me — when they do, it’s met with the cool/bummer/wow rotation of responses. And they’re never once referred to him as their stepfather, to me or to anyone else. To Chump Lady’s point, they know who their father is, who puts in the heavy work, who doesn’t get rattled by mentions of the other adults in their lives, and who gives them enough breathing room to manage their own relationships themselves.

    It sucks to high heaven that your ex is inserting himself in this way, making these explicit and implicit demands on a 5-year old; that’s the manipulative shit sandwich that lingers on. The best thing you can do is not add to any stress that your child is undoubtedly feeling as he sorts all of this out. This is a long-game play for you.

  • My best friend (since school) had two “love baby” sisters from her Dad’s new wife and two “love baby” sister’s from her mum’s new husband. Neither parent gave her any attention or priority and then her mum (who she lived with) sent her to live with her Grandparents at 14 because it was all too hard for stepdad.
    Sad thing is, she was wanting and willing to give her loyalty to either parent that just loved her, cared and chose her – niether did, there’s a sad lesson in her story.

  • If you are back in mediation, you could demand a provision be put into your parenting agreement that says something along the lines of “Neither parent will allow or encourage the child to call someone other than the parent the following: Mom, mama, mommy, ma, or similar name; Dad, dada, papa, daddy, or the same.” This is how mine reads. I’m in the US (FL), so I don’t know if this is an acceptable provision in the UK, but it sounds like it’s worth trying for.

  • CL is right. These sickos are using the kids as part of their triangulation game, hoping you’ll take the bait. They need you to be the bad guy to keep the thrill alive.
    They’ll eventually get bored if you don’t play along. You’re going to have to steel yourself for more bullshit and ride it out.

    However, your son gets to choose what he calls her. Don’t make an issue of it, but do tell him it’s okay if he doesn’t wish to call her mum. They’ll squawk about it, but they can’t force him. FW will berate you for allowing it, of course. Be sure to keep all his nasty texts. Don’t discuss things in person unless you are recording him. You need a file on this asshole for potential use as a bargaining chip. If he’s verbally abusive, all the better. You’re playing the long game, and you have staying power. Fuckwits don’t.

    I had to wait things out with my first ex, the boredline personality psycho. He lost interest in using his daughter to stay relevant to me because it didn’t work. Just remember they don’t sincerely love the kids, not even their own twins. They see kids as possessions, and possessions lose their sparkle with time. So they’re unlikely to be motivated to keep up a relationship with your kids if they can’t use it to fuck with you. Plus, raising twins is consuming enough. Schmoopies aren’t made of strong stuff. So your pose is bored, bored, bored. Don’t be part of their psychodrama and stand by while they self destruct.

  • Even when I was still married, I never trusted my children’s father to care for them with any level of appropriate concern. I preferred a babysitter. FW’s tend to be self-absorbed, all about how things look, not concerned with how things actually are.

    My sons were 9 and 12 when I divorced their dad. They endured a series of inappropriate women of various ages. Some expressed an interest in moving into the starring role of “wife and step-mum”. Several years after our divorce, he met and married an Asian woman, probably 15 years or more younger than he was. She needed a green card and a meal ticket. He needed a wife-appliance. She initially thought she would move into the priority role of “mummy” and would preside at holidays for the blended family. She had 2 teenagers, with 2 different fathers. Surprisingly, none of the teens were keen on her vision. Evidently, she worked her ass off to prepare a holiday feast, and no one was impressed. All the males wanted to eat in front of the TV, and her daughter did not want to “help” with the work. From that point forward, they went out to eat on holidays, so a restaurant would do all the work. The rest of his family also had no interest in welcoming her. To be fair, his family had no traditional values and were only concerned with money and status. They never welcomed anyone.

    Just raise your kids according to your values and be the sane parent. The role of “mummy” is not the Hallmark Movie of the Week version of reality. It is a lot of hard work, and most mummy substitutes will not be interested in that level of work and commitment. You cannot control others; you can only control the choices you make. Make choices that are good for you, and your kids. Let the rest go. It’s the only healthy way I know of to parent.

    • “FW’s tend to be self-absorbed, all about how things look, not concerned with how things actually are.”

      So true. I think back to the early years of our marriage when he possibly may have been involved in our marriage. Even then I was never really comfortable leaving him with our son for too long. I think I spackled it in my mind that, well he just has so much going he gets distracted. Reality was likely that my spidey sense was in overdrive that it just wouldn’t be safe.

      Even when our son was older and we started the boating and skiing. I was always present. The first time I let them go out alone with a couple other guys, (I was sick) they got busy yakking and my son had dropped off the skis and was out of sight before fw noticed. He of course blamed the other two guys with him who were the teen aged sons of close friends. And while technically they were assigned the watch duty, it was still the drivers responsibility; and my son was still in the river alone, until they came back for him. (My son was 11 when this happened).

      Of course my son came back and told me about it. FW had the decency to be embarrassed about it, but I doubt it changed him much.

  • The OW who had an arrest record (assaulting an elderly man/felony drug charges, breaking and entering) announced to me she had a granddaughter namely the one I raised with her dad. I shut that shit down by sending all articles to the father as well as her other grandmother. That made it simple enough. And my granddaughter asked if she should call her new stepmother mom. I explained she had one mother. That was a good decision as they divorced a few years later.

    • Fuckers love the pickme dance.
      With a young child I’d say nothing to the FW and only refer to the OW by her first name. For example, “mommy gave me a new toy”. Wow, Sue gave you a toy”.

  • Is it possible for you to ask your 5 year-old to call the OW by her first name when he is home with you? I know that is putting stuff on child that they shouldn’t have to deal with, but I also believe it is important that children learn boundaries…and this could be one of them.

  • My kids were 15, 13, and 10 when ex left me for Schmoopie. The older two never liked her and didn’t get along well. This was, of course, all my fault according to ex and it caused me years of drama. They still don’t like her but are able to hide it much better now. The youngest is the go along to get along type. He has always been able to get along with Schmoopie in a way that isn’t hurtful to me. It’s a gift, I am actually quite proud of his ability to do that. Anyway, I don’t know what he calls her and I don’t care. They all get along ok now and that keeps ex out of my hair. I don’t like drama and I am willing to make a few sacrifices to avoid it. It’s been six years, however. It’s easy to say that now but the thought of them having a relationship of any kind with her was much tougher when it was all going down and still fresh. Time is the best way to heal.

  • My ex had access to my house in case of an emergency with our kids. He did four consecutive things to try and get a rise out of me. Don’t remember the first three, but the fourth was to *write his wedding date to schmoopie* on my kitchen calendar. I laughed when I saw that then waited until a month after they were married. I then told him he had access for *emergencies* only, and if he pulled a stunt like that again, I’d call the police. Very matter of fact and calm, but there were going to be boundaries one way or another. He got very quiet and behaved after that. I was flippin DONE with his bullshit.

    • This! The only way to deal with a relentless bully is to give him relentless consequences…and the quicker and stronger they are, the faster they’ll change their behavior. In a perfect world, we’d all just “let it go” and move on. But when someone is actively harassing you or your kids, you can’t let it go.

      Narcissists only change when it becomes more difficult for them NOT to change. And, while it is true that some narcissists turn into to full sociopaths when given these consequences, so you do have to be careful, many or most of them will eventually back off from their harassment campaigns, if you consistently make their lives difficult enough. This has been my life experience anyways.

      It’s exhausting dealing with these people, and I encourage a full disconnect whenever possible…but having kids with someone often rules out that option.

  • Think on the long run. Twins are very hard specially in the first years- I have twins… ok she might have nannies and family around- i didn’t… but still she wont have time to keep pretending and when her twins activities overlap she will lose interest showing up at your son’s school… sad because his father will probably do the same..
    She will always prioritize her kids over yours and your kids will feel it.. even if they convince your son to call her mum now he will feel disgusted with that later when he is older. Just focus on being the best mum for your kids and ignore them. You will reap the benefits later- your emotional well-being as well as your kids. Be 💪

    • …. but still she wont have time to keep pretending and when her twins activities overlap she will lose interest showing up at your son’s school… sad because his father will probably do the same.

      Unfortunately Dr. C, the cynic in me sees another possible scenario. One wrinkle in your case – son’s school is “one of the best schools in the country.” Most FW and wifestresses are all about image management and external validation. Son’s attendance at a highly prestigious school may be so validating they’ll make an effort. ‘Cause THEY are so speshul. Imagine all the social media posts, all the ego kibble to be gained! And, it’s possible her interest in son’s schooling is motivated by self interest. Son’s achievements provide opportunity for a foothold at the school for her brood. Being a “Mum” at son’s school activities could facilitate buttering up the staff and administration, to smooth the way for her kids. Participating in son’s school (not necessarily son’s education) may be too good an opportunity to pass up. It’s possible the interest may wane while her twins are very little, but once they approach school age I wouldn’t be surprised if wifestress starts showing up with cupcakes.
      Yeah, this scenario sucks. But you can’t control that. Just keep being you. Keep showing up for your son. One can hope that as time passes who FW and wifestress really are will be revealed to folks at the school. That they’ll recognize who the sane parent is. You!

      • Very possible scenario…another one could be Owife being jealous of stepson’s achievements and will choose to ignore/discard stepson. With all the possible scenarios the one thing is the FW’s will more than likely bring heartache to Dr. C’s children.

        • With all the possible scenarios the one thing is the FW’s will more than likely bring heartache to Dr. C’s children.

          Yup. Heartache in one form or another for Dr. C’s children is the common denominator. Stepparent/blended family stuff is difficult enough for biological kids without the added burden of infidelity and having a narc for a Dad and a FW wifestress as step parent. As a child of divorce I can attest to that. But my Mom was always our rock. When my Dad discarded us it was heartbreaking, but I always knew we had her to lean on. She provided the stability. She raised us. And I know who’s responsible for the my siblings and I being who we are today – stand up excellent human beings. If I may say so ;-).

  • Your ex is a vile person. I guarantee those twins were not planned. They are going to take the bloom off the rose of twu wuv. All babies need 24 hour parents. Your ex is now inundated with smelly diapers and a wife who needs a good nights sleep. His wonderfulness is rusting. This crap about calling her mummy is just to keep shit going. Give him nothing to work with.
    If you son is happy to visit it will help him. He needs his father even though the man cannot get past his own narcissism. Eventually things will calm down. You just keep being you. No reaction to your ex. Now is time for gray rocking to start.

  • C,
    When I busted and kicked my XW out, within 2 weeks of that she had my kids calling sparkle dicks kids step brothers. They were 9 & 6 at the time (13 & 10 now) and knew what their mother did from the start. Right or wrong I told them that they are not their siblings. They understood and have not done so since.
    For the school issues my lawyer put in place that sparkle dick cannot be at any of our kids school meetings and can have no contact with the school about my kids. He also can not come to their Dr. appointments. Get stuff put in place. They try and sneak him into these things but I document everything and send to my lawyer so he has everything on file. Pictures and all for proof waiting for holding her in Contempt.
    Just keep being there for the kids as they realize which parent is the sane one. Show up for everything. The XW shows up rarely to the kids events on my time and she often has them skip events on her time. In the past 4 years she has spent zero alone time with them. Sparkle dick is always there as they don’t trust each other. The kids pick up on this stuff as it bothers them that she don’t do anything by herself with them. All my time has been just us 3 and they appreciate it. It’s probably why they have told their mom they don’t want to live with her at all.
    So C just keep being the sane parent. It sucks now but ignore the whole mummy thing. The kids know who mom is and what their dad is.

  • Even though my daughter is not in this situation, I have discussed this issue with my own therapist, formerly our family therapist, and Dr. Kickass Coparent Therapist because I have read about this issue here before. Out of respect for the child and In the interest of successful co-parenting, it is not OK to force children to address step parents as mother, father, or their derivatives. I agree with them.

    Words and titles matter, otherwise this situation would not inspire the feelings it does. No child should be forced to address anyone as ‘Mummy’ who is not their actual mother. There’s a whole dictionary full of alternatives to choose from. If they had an ounce of emotional intelligence and a thimble full of mental
    health, they would have a chat about how OW can never replace Mummy and what to call her. But we’re talking about cheaters, whose actions prove they have neither.

    The smaller the child is, the angrier it makes me. This is about
    indoctrinating this child and taking care of THEIR uncomfortable feelings.

    Yes, I would be bringing this up with the lawyer. And in my case, I’d have the opinions of two excellent therapists for backup.

    • The closest I came to this experience was discovering about a week after DDay that the Craigslist cockroach was using our last name on one of her multiple Facebook pages

      Dr. Kickass CoParent told Traitor X to tell her to remove it as it was inappropriate being our family name, they were not married, and would be damaging. DD was old enough to be on social media, our last name is extremely unusual and our tiny handful of family members are usually the only results in any typed-in search.

      I don’t use Dr. or HRH. I don’t put Esq. after my name because I am not a lawyer. Or PhD. I don’t expect people to call me Your Majesty. I don’t believe people should be addressed inappropriately or by titles and honorifics that are inaccurate. It’s therefore what I am teaching my daughter.

      That being said, I would also support however a child CHOOSES to address a step parent.

      It’s the use of force I object to.

      To demand a child address a cheating accomplice who has become legal step-parent as mother or father is provocative and inflammatory. In the case of a blended family involving an affair accomplice, it is also extremely unwise on the part of the cheaters, who in making such a demand are continuing to poke the lion rather than mitigate the damage they did and foster the peace they would like to enjoy.

      I’ve said here before many times that I am the little boy yelling from the Emperor’s New Clothes, and I am not going to let anything go unless it’s something that can and should be let go of.

      If it doesn’t bother you, there is nothing wrong with you. But if it does, there is also absolutely nothing wrong with you, and you have every right to speak up.

      I don’t believe the burden of keeping the peace should always be on the chump by keeping silent. There are times to stay silent and times to speak up. I think each person has to decide for themselves when that is.

      I can say it’s a daily practice and ongoing learning experience for me. And the reason I have had a great therapist in my life for so many years is for help with the situations that baffle me.

        • The long game I am playing is:

          1) I do not want my daughter to think cheating is ever OK or justified. The end does not justify the means.

          2) I do not want my daughter to tolerate cheating.

          3) I do not want my daughter to be a cheater.

          4) I do not want my daughter to be a side piece.

          I respond to any issues that arise in a manner that supports those objectives.

          I decide on many responses with my outside help because cheating complicates the everliving shit out of everything, from big issues to microscopic. Which is why I suspect adultery made the Top Ten List of Thing Not To Do.

          Cheating is never OK and does not become OK or erased just because the two perpetrators got together, legally or otherwise. In my experience, it’s a wound that requires periodic cleaning and is an ongoing source of new problems if you have children with them.

          Just because you robbed the bank and haven’t been arrested doesn’t mean you’re no longer a criminal.

          The trust between the cheating parent and the child is a critical X factor many people totally disregard.

          My daughter does not trust her dad and that is appropriate. That she should trust the woman he cheated with is even more stunningly ludicrous.

          I despise despise despise that a child is forced to call an untrustworthy person “Mummy.”

          🤬

          I’m chatty today. Sorry.

        • I think this is a valid mindset even if the child isn’t aware of the cheating aspect. It pains my daughter greatly to see her father parent another person’s children in a way he never did with her, all the while holding her to a different standard. She grieves over what she perceives to be a loss…and it is. This is the root of nearly all of her mental health struggles, and now that she’s older and can have a larger decision making role, I support her not wanting to spend much time with that family. She and her dad have a reasonably good time when it’s just the two of them, but she’s ignored, or worse bullied and negged, when the rest of the lot join in. She’s used as a scape goat for all of their parental frustration.

          These people make their own bed. I’ve tried explaining to her dad the effect his actions with these other kids, and with her, have had on her, and he scoffs and hangs up on me and proceeds to berate her for being too sensitive. So be it. He’s pushed her away, and that’s on him.

    • My stepdaughter (age 6) asked me if she could call me ‘mummy’ on recent vacation. I said ‘you already have a lovely mummy’, why don’t you call me ‘my name’ and we can still have special family times. She was fine with that. Not appropriate to pretend to be ‘mum’ when you are not mum.

  • All you have to do is forget about that ‘mummy’ stuff and chuckle about what’s actually happening, from which they need a distraction: difficult times that require actual grown up behavior. Imagine the stress a newborn puts on their relationship. And twins! Double the pleasure.
    I wish my ex and the AP got another baby. My ex didn’t handle pregnancies well with all the hormones. That put a lot of stress on our relationship back then. Which made me work harder to keep her happy.

  • We went through this exact same thing when OW and ex had a child together. They went so far as to tell our children that they should call me by my first name. Ex and I were still legally married when his child with that woman was born because he wouldn’t agree to the divorce with me. My kids (especially the oldest) now resent them for that — for trying to get my kids to call me “Mom First Name” or “First Name.” Now all of my kids only refer to OW by her first name. That was something the kids chose to do. I didn’t tell them to do that or encourage it. We discussed this at home and I told them to do what they felt comfortable doing, that they didn’t need to be pushed into anything.

    • Exactly. The FWs are usually the ones saying “you will call this person mom now.” Or the like. I refused to play the part in the game where I was expected to also say “No, you will absolutely not call her Mom.”

      It suuuuuucked but I let it be. Now, years later, it’s bearing fruit. My teenagers have had real, mature conversations with me about how they appreciate that I never forced them to use Wifetress’s first name when they called her mom. While they love her a lot, I think they’re beginning to realize and process some resentment towards their father for insisting that they call her Mom.

      It’s a long game. Play it with an end goal in mind. But ultimately, be stable, present, and sane for the kids.

    • My son calls his own father by his first name, unless he’s speaking to him directly, when he calls him dad to keep the peace and because he’s such a nice kid. My son did this without any prompting on my part; it actually surprised me the first time he referenced FW by his first name instead of dad. It totally makes sense, though, because “first name” neglected him when he lived with us and then after Dday in favor of his girlfriend. Even when he lived 3 miles away he never took him to school, or attended school events, etc. I always warned FW he’d regret his choices. Maybe he doesn’t regret it bc he’s selfish, but he certainly doesn’t have the relationship he could/should have with his one and only child.

  • I almost didn’t read this one because of the title as this is something I’ve lived through and, yes, it HURT having my kids call the Wifetress mom. I’m still 90% sure it was at FW’s insistence. But the letter writer’s friends and CL are right: this is something you can’t control. This is something, falling as it is, that you have to let go.

    When I learned that my young kiddos, same age as the letter writer’s, had been instructed to call Wifetress “Mom” I lost sleep. I threw up thinking about it. I felt angry. I cried. They’ve taken everything away from me, I thought, why this too? It was a nightmare.

    Then I thought, but wait… what’s the alternative? Move into FW’s house so I can personally police the language and blow a dog whistle everytime the word “Mom” is used? Or correct my babies every single time they use that word for her in my house so that they feel like they have to watch their tongues around me? No matter how I play it, if I put my foot down on this thing I can’t really control (what my kids call her), then I look like a jerk. My kids’ early childhood memories will be filled with instances of me correcting or snapping back at them: “Don’t you dare call her that!”

    It was the shittiest of shit sandwiches to eat but I ate it. I swallowed my tongue *a lot* for a few years. They could call her what they loked but I would use her name. We live in two different towns, so the kids differentiated us by the town names.

    “Mom, [Other Town] mom took us out for ice cream for my birthday.”
    “[Name] got you ice cream when you visited? That was nice. [Then, a trick I learned from other chumps, divert all conversation away from the painful topics like FW and Wifetress, and onto the child.] What flavor did you get?”
    “Cherry.”
    “What? They didn’t have strawberry? I thought that was your favorite.”
    “It is but I thought I’d try something new.”
    “Good idea. You’ve actually reminded me of how good cherry ice cream is too. What did you think of cherry?”
    (Etc etc)

    My kids would come back home and talk about their weekend visits with their Dad and Other Mother. It hurt a lot but I was always used her first name (briefly because talking about her hurt) and then was able to steer the conversation away from who my kids were with and get them to talk more about themselves. “Oh, that’s cool. How did you feel about that? Did you like that movie?” (Or other variations on that theme.) Basically it’s CL’s “Cool, awesome, bummer” dialogue template with a shift onto the child and away from FW/OW while not denying that the FW/OW exist and are a part of my children’s life.

    I had no interest in playing FW’s game where he set me up to look bitter, angry, and unreasonable while the step-mom he set up in my place looked like an angel in comparison. Nope. Not playing that game at all.

    And, if we’re thinking of it as a game, well… it’s been a long game. A lifelong one. FW and Wifetress have been married longer than FW and I were. My children are teenagers now and have spent over a decade calling her [Other Town] mom. They love their father and they love her; she’s been a part of their lives for a long time. I’m glad I swallowed my tongue years ago and just let it be (yes, at my own expense, but still) because I’m in a pretty good position now: the stable, sane parent. And time has scabbed over the pain. It doesn’t hurt to hear my kids call her mom anymore.

    In my other chump support group, years ago, I expressed this pain of having my kids call the OW “mom” and their advice was overwhelmingly “Don’t you dare let that happen” and “Set those boundaries; tell them that she is NOT their mom, only you are” and “I would send FW an email telling him that the kids are not to call her mom and that you will not stand for that.” Etc etc. I was grateful for that support group early on but on this I wholeheartedly disagreed with them. Like I said earlier, reacting that way would make me feel like a harpy and it’s something I *can’t control* short of moving in with FW and Wifetress to make sure they never use to “m word” and to correct my children everytime they say it so that they don’t feel like they can talk to me about things. Ugh, no. I suspect that FW was hoping I’d react in the “don’t you dare call her that” vein. I didn’t because I didn’t have the time or emotional energy for that. And I’m glad I ate that sandwich early on because, darn it, she’s been a part of their life as a mother figure for a long time now and they like her a lot.

    We all have to do what’s best for our own emotional sanity on this stupid, chumpy journey. For me, letting the kids call her mom was the best choice for me because the alternative would have make everything worse, would have made me feel worse, and, I think, FW would have wanted it that way. I thought of it as taking the high road and I took it. It sucked but I’m on the other side now and I’m glad I did it this way. But what’s good for me and my situation might not be good for everyone else. I only offer my story.

    • In the spirit of my conclusion I want to amend my post where I *did* start out by giving advice: “But the letter writer’s friends and CL are right: this is something you can’t control. This is something, falling as it is, that you have to let go.”

      I’d like to correct that. You don’t *have* to let it go and you don’t *have* to do anything I say. I apologize for framing it like that early on; I think I was just swept away by the feeling of advice giving based on my personal experience.

      If you want to take a stand on this and feel it’s the best thing to do then do it. For me, putting my foot down on the whole “OW Mom” fiasco was not a good choice.

  • My only recommendation is to take a step back… breathe… understand that he wants the drama… the less you engage, the easier it becomes… he’ll soon realise you aren’t playing his game and will re-treat. He might re-surface now and again, just to see if you will take the bait.

    He just wants the triangulation between you, OW and him. He thrives off it. Don’t give it him.

    I had an incident that kept occurring. Son would weigh my son every time he went to his house. He would then send me pictures of the weight and tell me that he was gaining weight each time. It didn’t occur that this was doing more harm than good as he was using this to belittle me and my ‘failed’ parenting. He would say that he wanted to contact the school nurse. I would engage. I’d ask him not to do that. It wouldn’t be good for our son’s mental health, which thanks to ex and his pathetic OW, is very low.

    Anyway, I kept engaging when he said he was going to contact the school nurse until it finally registered in my head. He had no intention of contacting the school nurse, he was just getting a buzz off my continued engagement with him. At this stage, we had not been together for 4 years and I was very much, low contact. He knew that the weight was something that would get a reaction from me.

    He messaged me for the final time about his weight, about a year ago. I told him to contact the school nurse if he felt that was the right thing to do. He did not contact the school nurse, or the welfare leader and I have never heard another thing about my son’s weight.

    Ex is married to OW and they now have a 14-month-old. My ex does not have my kids overnight, but they do see him on a regular basis. The kids don’t want to stay over. I never tell them they can’t. My son does not tell his dad anything about him. He says he doesn’t want the drama. My daughter loves her dad though and the OW.

    With the gift of time, I am happier that she is in their lives as they do like OW and she seems to keep everything together. She organises everything for them – meals, days out. If she wasn’t around, their time would be less enjoyable and they’d live off takeaways.

    I have never met her. She does not get involved in my life and I don’t get involved in hers. She very occasionally collects my daughter from after-school club. I think there was an incident once where one of the teachers questioned who she was once and she found that embarrassing. Ex wrote a letter of complaint about the teacher for questioning who she was!

  • Been there, done this already. DD7 has already figured it out so don’t worry about your son being confused. Kids aren’t stupid.

    The one piece of advice I do offer is to make sure the school knows in no uncertain terms that you and YOU ALONE are the legal guardian mother. Give them a copy of your divorce/parenting agreement if needed. I even have a secret pass phrase with DD’s school so the staff knows it’s me on the phone (skankwife has the same married name as I do… gag). It’s my re-assurance that skankwife can’t pretend to be me (and I wouldn’t put it past her or the dumbass ex).

    You got this, Dr. C. Big hugs.

    • This – make it clear to the school, dr. etc that any communications, decisions, etc. are made with the bio parents only. I asked to have the final decision around health/education in my divorce. I’m required to consult with FW, but ultimately it’s my call.

    • Yes, this! We should all be using all of the tools at our disposal. If my ex’s ladyfriends want to play mommy in their home, have at it…but that right does not extend to school, activities, etc. You don’t get to interlope into my child’s life like that…stability and consistency matter. If, the ex’s ladyfriend can show me years of good and consistent decision making when it comes to my kid, then maybe I’d consider letting her have a larger role in this regard. But, we all know that doesn’t happen.

  • I don’t co-parent with my ex’s lady friends. And it’s a lot of work, but here’s my primary strategy.

    First, I fill the space. Meaning, I keep my kids calendar and ensure the parental role at school and activities is filled by me. It’s a lot of work cause I work full time, and neither my ex or his girlfriend do, but I see it as my intrinsic job as the sane parent. This allows me to architect the involvement and also avoid the inevitable letdown when the ex and girlfriend get flakey, which as CL indicates, almost always happens.

    Second, I had certain rules written into my custody agreement, including parental names (as in, the child shall not be forced or coerced into calling anyone mom or dad but her biological mom and dad). I realize these aren’t exactly legally binding rules, but it sets the tone. I did this to avoid confusing my daughter, given her dad’s propensity for parading women in and out of her life. There are lots of other similar rules in there. And the ex agreed to sign the agreement because I offered to give up some of my share of our assets for it…and he’s a greedy guy. It was another shit sandwich, and I ate it.

    Third, if my ex’s lady friend crosses a line, I neutrally remind him in an email with a tacit legal threat: “Dear X, your [lady friend] did [insert stupid boundary crossing thing with my daughter] and that violates our custody agreement and possibly the law as she’s not a legal guardian to our child. It is your responsibility to honor our agreement, signed by you and approved by the court. Please do so, or I’ll proceed to legally enforce it through a court order and pursue any applicable legal charges against your X for parental interference, and will rightfully seek attorneys fees.” Or, if you have an on-call attorney, you can have them send cease-and-desist letters to them both.

    It’s mostly bluster, and I’ve only had to send this exact email once (though I’ve sent lesser versions at other times), but it’s enough to get him to rein her in because he doesn’t want to be bothered by legal action (time, money, etc) that might publicly expose his questionable lifestyle choices. He knows that I have years of terrible texts and emails from him that I’m more than happy to attach to any public court filing that would expose him for who he truly is.

    Warning. If you have an ex who thrives on legal action, then this tactic may not work.

    They trash talk me, obviously, to my daughter and the world. But I don’t care and I don’t trash talk them. They’re not worth my time in that regard. My kid knows who her sane and reliable parent is at this point. She’s reaching an age of clarity and has figured out all on her own, sadly, that her dad is a self serving asshole and his lady friend is an enabler and image sycophant. I’ve perfected the art of CL’s “wow cool bummer” program to avoid badmouthing while also validating her reality and hopefully empowering her to stand up for herself (“yes, your dad’s choice there was a poor one, I agree he was out of line and I totally understand why your feelings are hurt…let’s talk about things you can say to him next time this happens…you deserve to feel safe and loved all the time”). I’ve also organized and paid for thousands of dollars worth of therapy for my daughter where she can speak her truth and get validated by a third party professional. Two of them even confronted her dad over his assholery…which I appreciated because he blows me off when I point out that his behavior is unacceptable.

    I can’t wait until she’s of-age and all of this can end. It’s soul sucking and has aged me beyond repair. This is a shitty marathon that I never signed up for, yet still, I run.

    • This truly an awful, lifelong marathon that we never agreed to. Yet here we are. I am to complete the race with grace, if possible.

      “They trash talk me, obviously, to my daughter and the world. But I don’t care and I don’t trash talk them. They’re not worth my time in that regard.”

      Absolutely, yes, this.

      • I don’t trash talk( well maybe here a little) I do tell the truth when needed. If the truth sounds trashy, that’s not my fault.

  • “Please go sit in the drawer where we keep the old phone chargers.”

    🤣🤣🤣 CL gold!

    But also, so sad because it’s so true. That’s what so many seem to expect of chumps. Accept your new (discarded) status.

  • I have two perspectives on the “blended family” mindfuck blender:
    1. I was “bonus mom” to my FW’s two teen/preteen kids. For the last three (of four) years he and I were together, they had a functioning every-other-weekend visitation with their father solely thanks to me. I did the grocery shopping and the cooking, made sure they had the basic comforts and toiletries at our home, planned activities and road trips etc. Towards the very end (within a month of my planned exit) I did withdraw, and left the Lying Cheating Loser to do all the kid-related work which resulted in the kids sitting around bored all weekend watching their dad play video games. (I stayed gone at work.)
    2. Prior to meeting the Lying Cheating Loser, I was married for 18 years. I left my husband when I discovered his affair with an admin at his work. AP was promoted to official girlfriend the minute I moved out, and did everything she could to ingratiate herself to my three teenage kids. After some pretty gross boundary violations involving my 13-year-old daughter, I wrote to my ex husband and asked him to address it with AP. My daughter later said she wished I hadn’t said anything, as she felt embarrassed and uncomfortable that she had “tattled” to mom and it became a thing among the grownups. AP was nice to my kids albeit clueless.
    My conclusions are in line with CL’s response. Best case scenario for Dr.C is the AP stepmummy is good to her son and compensates for the FW’s parenting shortcomings. It’s galling to have the person partly responsible for breaking up your marriage play supermom to your kid(s), but Dr.C’s friends are right: best to stay above the fray. If son comes home with stories about daddy and stepmummy, use CL’s cool/bummer/wow strategy.
    Sane Parenting is about playing the long game. And our kids see/know/understand more than we think.

    • My kid has expressed the same sentiments in the past when I’ve brought things up to her dad about his behavior or his girlfriend’s behavior…and I certainly pick-and-choose my moments, but early on I pushed the narrative to my daughter that she has the right (and deserves) to be heard and that it’s her right to feel safe and loved, and that I have a duty as her parent to enforce her rights…and that I take that duty seriously because she’s worth it. It’s not been perfect, and has caused a few issues, and I’ve had to be obnoxious to her dad about it at times (as in, when he’s made her feel bad for “tattling” to me, I’ve doubled down and emailed him that I’m aware he chastised our child for informing me about her concerns with his behavior and that this is inappropriate and emotionally abusive and that I’m documenting it as antithetical to our custody agreement and good-faith parenting practices). Essentially, I’m trying to show her how to be brave, bold, and to self preserve…all things that I failed to show her during my marriage to her dad, so I got some catching up to do.

      Like I said, there’ve been issues, but as my daughter grows up I hear her become more assertive with her dad and more comfortable standing up to his bullying and emotional manipulation, which I believe is a life skill that will serve her well. In turn, because she and I have both refused to let him perform his assholery in the dark, he’s had to change…a little. The only way to get a narcissist (or bully) to change is to make it more difficult for them not to. Most importantly, she’s become an expert and recognizing toxic behavior and pushing back against it.

      • NANC, I agree with everything you wrote. I didn’t mean to imply that I regretted addressing AP’s boundary violations by contacting my ex. I don’t. A 13-year-old can’t be expected to set boundaries with an adult – especially one whom they want to please – so it was my duty as a parent to speak up.
        Sane parenting is definitely not a popularity contest.

        • Ain’t that the truth! Having to navigate parenting with a narcissist is truly terrible and I don’t wish it on anyone. Sometimes there are no right answers, just survival.

  • This has hit a nerve with me and rung a horrifying bell

    How can you be so spot on, every, single time CL?

    My ex FW and OW will just not go away, I’m guessing it’s the Kibbles and I should stop trying to wrap my head around it

    In the early days, they would bombard my son with messages and pictures and ‘look how wonderful we are’. New and improved mum mark 2

    They both tried soooo hard. Still keep trying to get a rise. If I pack for our son to go on a trip with them, FW would let himself in with a key and repack the entire thing. Who has that kind of energy? Although I must say it bugs me less and less, I soon shot down the key business

    FW always has a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp around me

    Our son is not allowed any part of me or my taste in their house. He has to change out of the clothes I bought him, into theirs and made a point every week of throwing away an apple I packed in his school bag and replaced it with theirs as mine was ‘rotten and full of bruises’

    Bollocks, is it! Whatevs though, buy your own apples, prove a point and win, well done!

    I don’t know how they can be arsed to still make me their arch enemy and everyone blames us chumps for not moving on! Snorts in derision

    I’ve even had ‘rubbish’ dumped in the past on my bed (in the key phase) which included sentimental mementoes of our marriage. Shoved in a bin bag. Oddly, it has the opposite effect, mehhhh

    Only tonight, I had half of sons things handed to me tonight (by my son who was poorly) sent back from his trip to FW’s car

    ‘You’re not the boss of me’

    OW polices FW like mad, even through our mediation sessions, she rings constantly. Enjoy your prize MF

    • “I’ve even had ‘rubbish’ dumped in the past on my bed”

      What is that? Asshat and HoWorker/Wife put my wedding veil and my “photos” on my pillow when they knew me and my son were visiting my daughter at college. It definitely was all about a reaction but who does that kind of weird shit? It just made me think she’s nutters and it confirmed he’s a FW for allowing such disrespect. I honestly couldn’t have cared less about the wedding veil and I was laughing because I am way hotter than she will ever be, so I’m glad she saw my “photos”.

      They do suck and spend too much energy trying to continue to triangulate.

      • Exactly Ginger, it doesn’t make sense. The veil thing and wedding pictures are super creepy, like Jane Eyre

        Everyone tells us chumps to move on, it’s laughable, when they’re the ones prolonging

        Maybe it’s because you’re hotter, I am too. Do you get the cyberstalking as well?

        Look at the ‘prize’ they both won

  • Ok, I’m feeling super bitchy and petty today, and where better than CL to vent some of the snark. Probs *NOT* what you should do but tempting…… say” sure kiddo, in fact why don’t you call her ‘ Mommy Dearest’.” I’m so effing tired of cheater, Howife ,Swiss friends, and their sparkly self absorbed image management.

    • Yes, my daughter has a similar relationship with her stepmom, where she takes the blame for all their frustrations parenting the stepmom’s two younger biological children. It sucks, and it really just pushes her away…and any conversation with my ex trying to make him aware of what he’s doing is met with anger…so yea, he’s making his own bed and will have to lie in it. One day she’ll be an adult who will choose to see him only once or twice a year, max…and I’m sure he’ll blame me for it.

  • ” ‘ Set the bar low, like “my kids come home alive. ‘ ”

    This is no shit. FW, once freed of the financial horrors I subjected him to before D-day, could not afford to maintain his car. One day during my kids’ visitation with FW I got a call from the eldest. She was at a gas station 200 miles up the road and wanted to know could I please come (in my brand-new car) to pick them up because the FWmobile had burst into flames on the freeway.

    Good times.

  • My dad had a stepmother. I can guarantee you, Dr. C., your son will be be treated like Cinderella (Cinderfella) by OW while the twins will be the belles of the ball. It happened to my dad, and he calls “mom” the wicked witch of the west behind her back.

  • While it is important not to make it more painful for your child who has to spend time with the fuckwit and OW, it is also the sane parent’s role to do most of the parenting usually. At least in my experience. I don’t think it is advisable to teach your child to have poor boundaries and be a people pleaser. To hell with what image OW and FW want to present to the world. I would refer to what the child feels comfortable with. I know that my kids would most likely laugh to the OW’s face if asked to call her mommy, because they know what a mom is and who that is. If the child is ok with it, then it’s probably fine, but maybe discuss it with him and let him talk it out first, without jugement. When faced with ridiculous demands from my ex FW my usual reply is “ask the kids what they think/would like” and that usually shuts things down. My message is: ” if you want to alienate your own kids with your ridiculousness, be my guest, but I’ll have no part in it.” And I think it’s understood. In any case stick to your guns, be the sane parents, don’t take part in the foolishness and things will sort themselves out for the most part IMO.

    • 💯 If I could favorite your comment a zillion times, @FuckThatShit, I would. I’m the same way. My kids are allowed to refer to their stepmom (who was not an AP) whatever respectful way they like. My eldest has her as Mom#2 in his phone. This is a form of Cool, Bummer, Wow that CL has written about. Drop the rope. Don’t fight silly nomenclature battles. The kids know who their mom is, be secure in that always!

  • As.a 6 year old I had 2 step-siblings and had to spend summers with dad and his new family (btw, the new wife was married to my grandfather prior to his death and the step-siblings were previously aunts and uncles; it doesn’t get any more fucked up. My dad married his stepmother). In any case, she told me I could call her mom like the other kids. Sounded easy at the time. I asked my mom if that was ok. She calmly explained that I have one mommy only and to choose something else to call the stepmom fka step grandmother. It made sense even as a child. As an adult I understand the hurt that caused my mom. As a child, I was clueless. Keep your cool mama bear. Your son will remember. Btw, there have been new step-mothers and siblings since then. Dad came and went in my life, no consistency. I love the current set. It’s easier as an adult.

  • Different situation here. My then 10 & 14 year old were told they could no longer call FW “daddy”. He said it was too juvenile. The oldest knew that it was because that’s what OW calls him “daddy” and she was 14!

    Surprisingly, OW has been lovely to me for the most part. Always makes sure the kids have a card or gift for me for Mother’s Day and Christmas.

  • Dear C,

    Just a thought: can you start him on French lessons and teach him to call you “maman” to allay emotional confusion?

    Another thought– and a scary one: she’s got infant twins? Yikes. Believe me when I say that even if she managed to convince ex-FW to get her round-the-clock nannies and to bottle feed (doubt it because…pickme dance), she’ll be fried to a crisp and will have zero patience for an energetic 5 year old– even if the child was her own blood. And that’s only if she was a good person to start with. It’s quite clear she’s a terrible person so twins will basically be what send her all the way over the ledge into hell-tw*t. The twin mom who was a good person to start with might end up screaming into a washcloth in the shower (hello, twin mom here). A shithead might end up abusing children. Someone with a preexisting personality disorder who’s going on four hours of sleep tops for months at a time is a scary prospect. Forget all the “Mummy” nonsense and focus on safety.

    Talk to your lawyer and see if it’s legal and advisable in your region to plant a wire on your child to see how he’s being treated when he’s “over there”– if he’s being banished, neglected, asked to take “medicine” or mistreated in other ways. They make such teeny-tiny recorders now with incredible battery life. They can be sewn into clothing, toys, backpacks, etc. If it’s legal to record third parties without their knowledge and your lawyer green lights it, fuck them if they find the device. And bear in mind that shitheads are paranoid and they might be doing the same to you. Check his gear when he comes back to you.

    Whether or not it’s legal to take third party recordings without consent in your region, I might recommend starting a dialogue with your son now about telling you everything all the time, especially if anyone hurts, scares and bothers him. I call it positive brainwashing because it really does take repeating and repeating these things and couching them in child-friendly ways to get over children’s boggling natural tendencies to keep secrets when bad things are done to them. I did this with my twins when they started school and thank God for it. Even the one with a learning delay who was barely verbal at the time somehow understood what I was saying (repeatedly) and strung together his first full paragraph in order to tell me about a teacher physically abusing him so that I was able to stop it. My tact with the kids was to make the process sound cheerfully conspiratorial and almost magical by talking about the importance of justice– that when someone does something bad and wrong, it’s always the best thing to tell your mother (THE mother, the ONLY mother, which is you) because there’s a cloud of evil and a cloud of good that circles the earth and if you can stop a bad thing from happening. you’ve added to the “cloud of good” that rains down on everyone. I explained that when grownups do bad things, they sometimes try to scare children into silence but that it was a trick and to never fall for it. They could always whisper into my ear what was happening and I would make any bad thing go away. And I did.

    The justice spiel also turned out to be a good idea all on its own because to this day my kids are all social justice warriors, concerned about human rights and the environment. We’ve always bonded over this. My daughter recently said something very moving to this effect. She said that sweetness and kindness are great but those things alone aren’t enough to be a truly good person. She said that feelings about me were that I’m not just all sweetness and kindness because I have a ferocious side to protect my children. In a roundabout way, she said that when she meets other adults, she doesn’t always get that feeling from them– that they have enough fight in them to protect others and that she suspects this is weak and dangerous.

    In a way I felt exonerated for certain parenting choices because protecting kids is a complicated endeavor. You can’t protect them from everything but there are certain unnecessary and scarring traumas that are best circumvented or caught early because these things can make some children intractably aggressive or turn others into chronic victims. It’s not fun to be the one to scare them by introducing them to the idea that other human beings aren’t always nice. But sometimes it’s called for. It worked out so I have no regrets about it.

    • I agree, Twin Mum! Also, wise words about protecting kids from abuse or potential abuse.
      Not sure if you are familiar with the sad case of Emani Moss, but she was made to call her stepmother “mommy”…and the woman murdered her by starving her to death, while the father did nothing.

  • Dr C,
    I have found a good counselor or child psychologist for my child to be the best insulation against the crazy, for several reasons:
    They can be a person it is safe to talk to about either parent.
    They can advise the other parent when something that parent does is harmful (like demand kiddo call stepparent “Mum” or “Dad”). The other parent is more likely to listen to the counselor than the ex.
    If it rises to a level of significant concern and legal intervention is required the counselor may be able to provide expert advice to the court, although I don’t know how that works in the UK.
    It is really surprising what kids will tell counselors that they won’t say to even their most trusted parent. I had no idea mine wanted his parents back together so much.
    It sounds as though at least one of your kids is old enough to engage meaningfully with counseling.

  • My mother’s husband signs their cards to me (Dad). I never lived under his roof as my mother discarded me. They are so delusional and boundary violating. And post FW, they’re really just a meme to me. With re: author, I agree with having it written into the decree. In Texas decrees often contain a child’s bill of rights (the irony). This would fit right amongst those if it’s not already there.

  • “She just had twins. I’m sure the last thing she wants in this moment is more motherhood… She probably has leaky tits and an abdomen of silly putty and she’s having to keep his dick tethered. ”

    Everything CL said was solid gold but this is classic. She hasn’t had a shower in 2 days and he is telling your little one to call her “Mummy”…she may hate it almost as much as you do (lets hope so).

    I sued to pray that the OW in my life would give birth to triplets…you almost got my wish.

  • A five-year-old may not be old enough to push back on the “call me Mummy” nonsense. But wait until Kiddo is 7 or 8 and “you are not my mother” rolls out of her mouth every time it comes up. Even a well-meaning stepparent (me) knows better than to try to elevate herself to the level of the parent. It’s gonna get ugly for the OW.

  • Dear Dr. C,

    I’m adding my comments a day late and didn’t get to read all of the responses but here’s my experience. My son was 9. AP was also a coworker — with 2 sons of her own aged 8 and 10. I was terrified! FW was selling to our 9 year old son that he would “finally have brothers!” And AP had a “real house and a yard!” We only had a townhome and we were being forced out of it in the divorce.

    I was a mess! How could I compete with that?!

    But then my own mom said “I hope they get married. And let them have more kids.” And she smiled.

    And I thought on it. Mom was right. If AP had babies… FW would go nuts. He was probably already going nuts. That covert narc FW needs ALL the attention. And it would be a shit show for AP. Perhaps with 3 boys in the house it was already a shit show? And while she’s tied to the babies and can’t leave the house, who knows where FW is??

    So I let it go. And stayed the sane parent for my son. I was there for him.

    Meanwhile, the cracks started to appear. Son wasn’t getting along with AP’s boys. AP became demanding of son to behave a certain way in her home. She and FW started calling the police on son (by age 11 or 12). The police would call me and tell me to please get full custody — that son was so unhappy there.

    And I took it all back to the attorneys so son could get a choice to go home when he needed. Just for THAT — and FW fought me (to the tune of $20k).

    So all of this, DR. C, is to say hang in there. In the end you will still be mum to your son. Just protect him and hang in there for him. He will need you. You will be the one that matters, no matter what he’s forced to call AP (for now….)

    But AP is in for the worst horror movie carnival ride of her life. Holy shit – she had TWINS with FW? She’s fucked.

  • Chump Lady, all the things you said, so perfect, as usual.
    Dr. C, so true, YOU are the present, sane, consistent, loving parent, the one your child ALWAYS comes HOME to.
    In my case, cheater said OW felt bad about taking him away from our just turned 3 year old, & I am certain she would have felt even worse, if she knew of the first trimester pregnancy growing under my heart.
    Dr. C, stay strong! The best part is that you & your child can have a happy life together, (as fuckwit free as possible with a young child). As your son grows older he will see the truth. ❤️

  • I’m so sorry that happened. CL’s advice is golden though, please, don’t take the bait. These idiots thrive on drama- and he no doubt gets a little buzz from hurting you. With time, it won’t touch you anymore and every time he tries you’ll just be reminded of what a complete waste of space he is.
    My ex and his dingbat OW (aka my son’s new step mother) also had a child in a similar short period of time. It’s not even 3 years from D-Day, but you can already see the sheen has come off. We’ve co-hosted a birthday party (shudder) for my 6 year old and they will regularly attend events at my son’s school. I try to treat it as exposure therapy. Make some good friends at the school that you trust and tell them the real story when it’s appropriate, having support and someone to subtly roll your eyes at across the room is important.

    • Exposure therapy is a great way to put it and it does work over time to learn to deal with them. My ex did his best impression management for the school parents and it kinda worked, but I made my own friends and got over his bullshit.

  • Disgusting, but true: this is foreplay for them. ChumpLady said it—expect this for everything. He won’t change.
    You are free. Focus on building your life, step by step in ways that matter to you. An interesting, comfortable life does not necessitate a mansion.
    Peace and healing to all.💕

  • This is the part that I don’t get. They leave an intact family but cheat because they are ‘unfulfilled’ or ‘unhappy’ or whatever F’ed Up reason they spout. But then, they jump right back into relationship, often marriage, with new babies so what did they gain really?? No freedom, that’s for sure. Double the amount of bills and responsibility because now there are two households and visitation arrangements – which is twice the headache. Just makes no sense. Guess it’s not supposed to make sense to ‘normal’ people.

  • Also, just wanted to say this…I don’t have children (another conversation for another day).

    But if I did, there’s no way in hell that my kid would be calling another woman “Mommy” .
    And if it’s a woman partly responsible for causing pain in my life (as many OW do?) Hell no!

    Dr C…your ex is doing this as a power play, and he is trying to add fuel to the fire.
    It’s like a friend I had who forced her son to call his stepfather “Dad” although 1) the guy is NOT his father; and 2) the man abused her son.
    When the real father (who was a stand-up guy) heard about this “call him daddy” business, he was furious.

    No matter how your ex tries, he can’t change the fact that you are their mom.
    He can’t erase your presence and she can never replace you. You are the real deal…always remember that!

  • My FW’s latest girlfriend has a young son. She refers to FW as this kids dad.

    I could write a book but I’m just going to say he isn’t happy. lol

  • I would talk to your lawyer. This may be attempted parental alienation of your by your ex. Not uncommon for divorce agreements to say that kids can’t call anyone else “Mom” or “Dad” other than their actual parents.

  • >