Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend’s Kids Get On My Nerves”

I’ve been with my boyfriend now for four years and I love being with him; we get a long very well, especially considering our 20-year age difference. My problem lies in the fact that he has two children (12 and 9) who I love as if they were my own. They are living with us for the summer and MAN are they getting on my nerves. I feel like I have no space, all my stuff is moved around, no food is ever in the fridge and worst of all, all they want to do is play with me! I mean it’s great that they love me and accept me in their lives and all but I’m starting to resent them. Usually, I spend most of my time trying to make them happy, but now that they are here all the time I want to scream. Also, it puts a strain on my relationship with my boyfriend because he’s so easy-going with them that I feel like the bad guy all the time. My biggest dilemma with this situation is I thought I had always wanted a baby of my own, especially after meeting them. But now my boyfriend keeps bringing up the fact that maybe I’m not the right person to have kids if I complain about them. I’m so torn! I have even considered breaking up with him — despite thinking I’d marry him — just because of the this kid issue. I feel like I just can’t trust myself! — Parent Trap

When it comes to child-rearing, you don’t have the advantage of 12 years of parenting experience under your belt like your boyfriend does. He’s forgetting the learning curve he likely endured when he first became a parent. He’s forgetting what a shock it is to the system to go from being child-free to having kids under your roof all the time. He should have better prepared you for what your life was going to be like this summer. When people become full-time parents, it’s usually to one small baby whose needs are quite different than two kids aged 9 and 12. As a parent, you gradually work up to meeting the demands kids that age have. You didn’t have that advantage and it’s unfair of your boyfriend to say your frustration in meeting those sudden demands — demands you were likely unprepared for — means you aren’t “the right person to have kids.” Furthermore, it’s entirely possible that you aren’t at the age yet where you’re ready to make the kinds of sacrifices one has to make to be a parent. Just because you aren’t ready for parenthood doesn’t mean you aren’t the right kind of person to EVER have kids. Is your boyfriend forgetting when he was your age he still had 8 more child-free years to focus solely on himself?

All this doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed, though. You’re in the middle of a big transition — one that could prove a positive outcome if you’re committed to making it work. What you and your boyfriend desperately need right now is private couple time at least once a week so you could stay connected and maintain your bond. You also need to set some boundaries with the kids — and you need him backing you up. Set aside some time to talk with your boyfriend about what’s bothering you — how you feel you have no space, your stuff is always moved around, there’s never any food in the fridge, etc. — and work together to set up some ground rules for everyone so your space and personal time is better respected. Finally, understand that parenting isn’t easy. Even with the help of your boyfriend, you have your hands full. If it’s too much for you to handle or it’s more than you bargained for, be honest with yourself. Is it worth it to stay with your boyfriend? There’s no shame in taking care of you and making sure you aren’t in over your head.

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