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Homework Headache

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Stepbomb: How quickly we went from sleeping in, sunshine and sunscreen to backpacks, lunch sacks and homework!


The school year has begun, and as the girls excitedly rushed off to school, giggling with their friends about their new outfits, I smiled on the outside. But on the inside, my head began to pound. I felt another headache coming on.

Last night, I received an e-mail from the ex. Under no uncertain terms were my husband and I to keep any original homework that the girls brought home from school.

This isn't the first time the ex has made this demand.

It began last school year, when the girls started coming to our home every day after school because the ex was at work. In order to make sure the ex saw all of the girls' schoolwork, I'd photocopy everything and give the ex some copies and some originals. In turn, I kept some copies and some originals. But more often than not, I'd give the ex most of the originals.

When she first saw photocopies in their folders, the ex called my husband and said that she was their mother and her home was their primary home, so she deserved all original schoolwork. My husband argued that as their father, he was also entitled to some of the originals to frame or use as keepsakes. They couldn't agree, so we continued giving her some copies and some originals, and we didn't hear from her about it again. But in the back of my mind, I wondered if this was about more than originals vs. copies. Could it be that she was really upset that I was home with them after school?

So when we received the e-mail last night, my husband called his ex to try to come to a compromise. Still not able to agree, they were at a standstill yet again.

As I pop another Advil, praying that someday we will come to peace with the ex, I wonder what we should do this year. Do we give her all of the homework, to avoid conflict? Because she's the mother, is it rightfully hers? Or does my husband keep what he feels is rightfully his?

next: Should Moms Be BFFs with Their Kids?
26 comments so far | Post a comment now
Gail Cooke August 19, 2010, 7:03 AM

I think the ex is just being a hag. I say go on with what you’re doing. It seems to be more than fair considering the circumstances.

Anonymous August 19, 2010, 7:59 AM

If mom’s house is where they primarily live, and she’s the one who cares the most about their overall education (obviously dad doesn’t, or he’d be the one making photocopies of their homework, not you), she should get the original copies. I don’t think she’s being a hag, I think she’s being a mom.

I mean, is dad there everyday after school to go over their homework with them? Or is he shirking homework duties onto stepmom and just giving things a cursory glance?

MartiniMama August 19, 2010, 8:12 AM

I assume you are the one watching them after school because their father (your husband) is at work, and that their mother is as well. I think the biological mom is more upset that her girls are spending time with you alone than anything. This has nothing to do with homework - original or copied.

Your husband is their father. He has as much right to them as their mother. It’s too bad that they can’t come to some agreement. It really sounds like the mom is threatened by you, and that she is afraid of losing her daughters’ love.

Could you all arrange for some extended-family counseling? This problem needs to be resolved. The only people really being hurt here are the kids.

If the mother REALLY cared about them, she would stop this ridiculous nonsense over “original” or “copied” homework. Regardless of if it is the original or copied, you are not preventing her from seeing the homework the girls do. You all need to get the root issue resolved.

Leah August 19, 2010, 8:36 AM

So far as keeping originals I have to ask why are YOU (stepmother) the one to determine which originals she gets and which is just a copy? I think once again you have over-stepped your boudaries. The husband and ex-wife - MOTHER & FATHER should together examine the originals and decide who gets what. Stepmother does not need to be part of this decision making process.

Also agree w/anonymous. Clearly stepmom, not dad, is the one who instituted this system and started making copies. If prior to this the originals always went to the mom then dad just didn’t really care about getting any and stepmom should just take a step back. She is the girls’ father’s wife NOT their mom. It’s great to show interest but honestly, she must KNOW this would cause issues.

Stacie August 19, 2010, 8:39 AM

Agreed, MartiniMama. It seems that there are some deeper jealousy issues here. I worry about how all this tension is affecting the kids.

Jennifer August 19, 2010, 9:51 AM

Its homework - these are not the things you will be looking back on in 20 years. But you might be looking back and wishing you had all made more of an effort to get along and keep the pettiness out of it.

Personally I’d let the kids decide what they want to do with their homework assignments. If they want it displayed on the wall then let them ask for it to be displayed and decide where. If one of the parents/stepparents was of particular assistance with the assignment in question then maybe the child would like to give it to that parent to display. Maybe they really don’t care to have their spelling tests and math quizzes posted all over the place.

McKiver August 19, 2010, 12:25 PM

Well, since the kids get to decide who plans their birthday parties, and whose clothes they love to wear more, and which parent gets to keep their homework assignments, why not have them drive themselves to school and draw up a custody agreement, too?

If, however, the adults (and I use the term very loosely) want to set a good example for these kids, it would make more sense for MOM and DAD to solely communicate with each other. Mom has no need to email Stepbomb, ever. All communication should go through dad.

But the deal swings both ways— it should be dad communicating with teachers, disciplining, doing homework, shopping for all clothes and planning parties. He’s the dad, you don’t delegate all that stuff to someone else and expect no consequences. The consequences of his not being the one to do all the homework or care about what clothes his girls wear on their backs is an enraged mom, right or wrong.

IneRo52908 August 19, 2010, 3:01 PM

I don’t agree with whoever said it’s no big deal, it’s just homework, it’s nothing mom’s going to remember 20 years from now.

The girls’ mom obviously wants to be involved in their schooling and sit down and help with the homework herself. Instead, she’s working and the dad’s gone and a stepmother’s doing it in their place… and, on top of things, cherry picking and choosing what homework gets sent home and what doesn’t.

It’s hard enough to be involved and stay on top of your kids’ homework without worrying if stepmom forgot to photocopy something, didn’t copy front as well as back, or if the kids left the copies at dad’s house.

The easy solution to all of this is let the primary custodial parent (in this case, mom) have all originals of the homework, as is her right.

If dad’s sitting down and doing homework with these girls each and every night, then HE (not stepmom) needs to be responsible for making photocopies of the homework and sending the originals to the custodial mother.

Chrissy August 19, 2010, 11:30 PM

Anonymous,Leah & IneRo52908 -
I agree with what you wrote.
I would also like to add, that I for one would LOVE to hear the mom’s side of these things.
I wonder how different she describes them and you.
One day Stepmom, I hope you have kids of your own. Maybe then you can gain some perpective.

Anonymous August 20, 2010, 5:08 PM

I am 100% on Mom’s side here. How absolutely awful to have to go to work while some other woman takes care of your children. If Dad can support you staying home, why not her, the kids’ mother?

The fight over who gets the original homework is silly, but your husband seems to be just as immature here. If he had half a brain he would have agreed to let her have all the original homework papers to make up for the fact that you (a stranger he picked) are now taking care of her kids.

You’ve been holding back the most important facts here. You are staying home with her kids. It’s time to end that situation. Either one of their parents stays home with the kids or you hire a babysitter that both parents like. Of course she sued for full custody. Every single thing you did (going to parent-teacher meetings, going to soccer games, buying the kids clothes, lending clothes, arranging birthday parties) comes across as much worse if you are also taking over care for her kids.

She should have custody of the kids. Your husband comes across as a real oaf who didn’t do much to care for his kids and then thinks he can get a new wife to do the job for him instead of the kids’ mom.

What should you do? Get out of the middle. Stop taking care of your husband’s kids. Let him and his ex work out who will care for the kids after school, but you do something else. In the meantime, the homework is not your problem. Believe it or not, this would be much better for everyone involved, not just you. The kids won’t have mom upset all the time. Dad will stop fighting their mom. There will be fewer public scenes. Why did you think you would be better than a babysitter for a few hours a day after school? I’m a big fan of parents taking care of their kids if they can, but you were a stranger. If you really care about the kids, help mom stay home with them. Otherwise, a few hours of child care would have to be better than what you’ve been doing to them.

You and your husband put the kids into an awful situation when you decided to have you be the ones taking care of them. You two completely set them up to be pulled between their parents. It’s time to let go of being their mom.

NotJustMe August 20, 2010, 7:02 PM

Ditto on what Anonymous says.

danielle August 21, 2010, 1:42 PM

why is everyone so quick to assume the “real”mother is so wonderful? she is obviously a very jealous person that has nothing better to do than gripe about the smallest things. If the father of these children has moved on and is providing a good life for his children and the “stepmom”cares enough about the kids to be a parent in their lives the real mother should be thankful they have one more responsible adult to love and care for them. The father and stepmom are a family now and make decisions about their children together. A stepmom should not be left out of the loop just because the real mom can’t move on.

NinaGordon August 21, 2010, 2:56 PM

As a mom, I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than to have to work to support what’s left of my family, and when I entrust my children to their father he farms them out to his new wife rather than take care of them himself.

I don’t think the mother is bitter at all, I think that she needs to have full custody. If the dad has so much spare cash around that his new wife can say home with the kids, that money should be going to the mother so SHE can stay home with them after school.

The person who said the ex-wife should “just move on…” Well, I’d have trouble moving on to if my former partner kept lobbing his responsibility for our kids onto someone who so obviously wanted to replace me and override my decisions as a parent. I guess I’m just a mother with biological children I love, though.

whiterose August 22, 2010, 9:43 AM

I am disgusted at ‘Stepbomb’s’ post and in fact even her choice of ‘nickname’. How derogatory to refer to ‘the ex’. I presume your husband’s ex-wife now has to work as she has found her household income either reduced from two salaries to one or, in fact to none at all? How lucky that you don’t have to work and can be at home for the ‘not your’ children that you dare to make decisions about. Why would you presume you have a right to make a decision about their homework - whether it should be copied or not - or whether you MIGHT allow their mother to have some originals? That is a decision between their father & mother - not you! I see you haven’t replied to any of the posts, which, to be fair are mostly very critical of you. This is a site for mother’s. If you had a valid post, fair enough, but I think even your choice of name ‘Stepbomb’ says it all.

Bekey August 23, 2010, 9:34 PM

If I’m remembering correctly here, the ex got remarried before the dad. Sooo… if she does not want the stepmom taking care of her kids she either needs to pay a babysitter that she chooses to watch them at her house or she needs to be a stay at home mom. If she is not capable of doing either of these for financial reasons she needs to accept the help graciously. I’m assuming they have agreed at some point that it would be stupid for the dad to pay a babysitter when he is probably paying child support already and the mom is the one that needs the sitter so it makes sense to do it this free way. Also the reason why dad is not ‘taking care of’ his kids mother is because she’s just that. His childrens mother. No longer his wife, for whatever reason. He is now taking care of his wife and his daughters and the people who have said he obviously doesn’t care enough to do all this stuff do not have enough information to draw that conclusion. She never said I do it because my husbands too lazy or he doesn’t care. As far as I can understand the mother is nuts and the only reason she has primary custody is because she’s their mother and not deemed to be an unfit parent. We haven’t heard anything to indicate that the dad is a crappy parent, just didn’t win custody because he’s not the mom. Also sounds like mom needs a reality check, even if dad doesn’t want the homework now or is at work or too tired after a long day to do this stuff does not mean that he wont be glad to have it later or that he’s not entitled to some of it. I think people should give him a break, too. He’s just a man.

MiniVan Mom August 25, 2010, 6:56 PM

Seriously? What is wrong with you people? Why the HELL should Dad pay for Mom to stay home?

Child support is for the CHILDREN. It sounds like y’all would rather a babysitter come in than have the Stepmom watch them. That makes no sense-why shouldn’t someone who cares about them watch them after school?

And why are we calling Dad a deadbeat because he, God Forbid, works? Like I’ve said before, stepmom can’t win. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. I hope if my husband and I ever get divorced that he remarries someone that actually cares for my kids this much. I hope I’ll be adult enough to put my insecurities aside and just be happy that she loves them Clearly that’s too much to ask of many of you.

Fofi580 August 26, 2010, 10:14 AM

Why should dad pay for mom to stay home instead of his new wife? Because she’s the mom, and kids deserve to be with their parents if they are both still alive.

Just because you divorce doesn’t mean you get to fob your duties off onto someone else (in this case your new wife) and hide under the guise of “Oh, I’m working.” It’s not damned if you do, damned if you don’t… It’s step up, be a man and if you’re so concerned for your kids’ welfare ensure that they get to be with their mom.

Not the woman you’re trying to replace them with while you’re off not being with them yourself.

If dad stays home and does homework every night with the kids then, fine. He can choose what homework goes back to mom as long as they both get copies.

Stepmom doing the homework every night while dad occasionally takes a glance, and picking out herself what she deigns OK to go home to mom, is insulting and not her place. It’s dad’s.

Todd August 31, 2010, 12:15 PM

Wow. Again I am just blown away about the hatred spewed by people against the father. He should pay for the ex to stay home?
As someone who’s been through a divorce with a child, I can tell you that, legally, it doesn’t work that way. The court decides who pays what and how much. The mother doesn’t just get to take dad’s excess cash and make it her own. Dad is allowed to make a new life for himself. Maybe he has to pay child support (and/or alimony), maybe he doesn’t. But whatever their agreement is, he shouldn’t just fork over money to support his ex so she can stay home.
He has a responsibility to both his children and his wife. They are his family. If their arrangement is that she stays home while he works, then that’s their business, not his ex-wife’s. She should never have agreed that the kids would come to her ex-husband’s house if the extra time with their stepmom is a problem for her.
Gain some perspective, people.

REALMOM September 9, 2010, 10:03 AM

give her all of the homework you wicked woman. Why can’t you just have your own kids, goodness, let it go already. They are not your kids. This is why stepmoms get a bad rap. Stay in your place wifey. Not mommy!

Anonymous September 21, 2010, 9:01 AM

I don’t think it’s hatred or anger to say that if the dad wants to support someone to stay home with his kids, it should be his ex. I know the courts don’t require a man to support his ex staying home with the kids, but I think maybe they should. One of the things researcher Judith Wallerstein found about the effects of divorce on kids is that a lot of kids had to adjust to mom going back to work and school just when they needed her attention the most. We don’t know if that applies to this family, though.
The more important point is that it is legitimate for a mom to not want a stepmother to take over after-school child care. That is replacing the mom in a way that a paid babysitter doesn’t and a few hours of a paid babysitter or after-school care is not that terrible. I think stepbomb meant well, but she and her husband set up a huge conflict when she did this. The conflict is so bad for the kids that they would definitely be better off in some kind of after-school care.

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