The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
How do I tell my wife she’s an awful mother?
When I met my wife she already had a seven-year-old son from a previous relationship. They’d separated when the boy was one and had well-established childcare arrangements, so I didn’t see much of him when we were courting. Now I wonder if we’d have got married at all if I’d known what her son was like.
It took just a few weeks to realise that I didn’t like what I was seeing. My stepson has no boundaries. And I do mean none. Everything is an endless placatory discussion, from coaxing him to eat breakfast to going for a walk. My wife has no concept of discipline or being firm.
Shortly after we moved in together, we collected him from a party and the birthday boy’s mum quietly told us there had been a couple of incidents.
My stepson had a spitting and hitting tantrum when he hadn’t won a game. He’d then demanded to blow the birthday candles out. Told no, he’d slammed his hand down on the cake and ruined it. I expected my wife to apologise and get my stepson to apologise with a punishment to follow. Instead she said, “He’s very sensitive,” and suggested that both boys apologise. The other parents were clearly horrified at this feeble approach and couldn’t get us out fast enough. We got into the car and my wife started talking in a weird third person: “Now darling, you’ve made Mummy sad. Can you go and say sorry please? For Mummy?”
Cue spectacular screaming tantrum, fists flailing, feet pounding the back of her seat – and her response. “Now, now darling. Be nice. Let’s go to the pictures and get something lovely to eat.”
Instead, I drove straight home. He pounded up to his room and slammed the door, still roaring. My wife instantly turned on me, furious that I’d cancelled a treat. I agreed it wasn’t my place to discipline him but neither would I reward that sort of behaviour.
“He’s very sensitive. That boy upset him and a treat would have helped,” she claimed and nothing I said made a difference.
Shortly after that, lockdown happened, confining the three of us to the house together. In that time he’s called her fat, ugly and stupid in front of me and refused to do anything he doesn’t feel like doing, from schoolwork to going to bed. “Now, now darling, be nice to Mummy,” is a constant refrain that changes nothing.
He behaves with me now, but only because I stopped playing football last time he was rude to me. I told him off, and my wife said, “He’s just a baby,” so I said, “OK – babies don’t play football,” and got on with something else. He’d apologised within 10 minutes and we played the next day.
Now she keeps talking about us having a baby of our own. I won’t, if it’s going to be like this. Life with her son is an exhausting, divisive struggle and it’s only going to get worse. She can’t control a seven-year-old, so God knows what he’ll be like in another couple of years. I’ve never had to raise a child myself but I don’t think he should be insulting and disobedient.
I hate to admit this, but I’m losing respect for her. He’s just thrown his dinner on the floor because he wants something else and every time he stops screaming I hear :“Darling, darling. Listen to Mummy, darling, listen.”
Would it really kill her to put her foot down and say: “Do as you’re told” – and actually make him?
Life with her son is an exhausting, divisive struggle and it’s only going to get worse