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Compromise key to evolving family life

A constantly changing family shape bothers a father-to-be.

QUESTION:

I have a new relationship with a woman and have taken on a two-year-old daughter. Her biological father has not been in the picture for 18 months, and has not been offering any support.

The father’s mother is still very much involved, calling two or three times a day, visiting and coming to stay when I’m away working. Am I wrong to feel it’s too much and needs some boundaries?

I have nothing against her, I treat her well and support my stepdaughter seeing her, but I don’t see her as part of my family. They are from a different ethnic background, so we have language issues adding to the problem.

My fiancée wants me to get to know her better. We are expecting our first child together and she believes my stepdaughter’s grandmother should be a grandmother to the baby as they are sisters. This feels a bit much, is that me being selfish?

ANSWER:

The role of extended family varies greatly both within and across cultures.

It is important for a couple to respect each other’s views, needs and preferences. It is also important that they be willing to compromise.

Try to be open to widening your view of family. The shape of families constantly changes as new relationships form.

In-laws and ex-in-laws can provide valuable care and support. Your fiancée may enjoy the visits for this reason.

It would be inappropriate for you to attempt to impose boundaries.

It is suggested you talk to your fiancée about the number of visits and phone calls and explore how best to manage this. Weekday evening times and/or all or part of weekends could be set aside for you and your partner and children to spend time together as a smaller family group.

Your feelings about her becoming a grandmother to your child are understandable. Perhaps she could be an “aunty” or caring elder and the term “Grandma” reserved for the biological grandmother.

Communication and compromise is the key.

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