Moms teach kids almost everything they know about hygiene, right? Dads are the ones that teach them fun outside stuff? Moms teach manners, cleanliness, things like that, right?
A lot of stepfamilies find that that's not how things go at all. I think that couples fall into roles when they're together, but once separated and fully divorced, they start seeing holes in what they thought was typical upbringing. My husband assumed his kids learned all kinds of things from his stay-at-home ex-wife. Like learning to read. Learning how to get along together. Learning how to clean their rooms.
During the divorce, things were just rough. He just wanted to see his kids. He just wanted time with them. Then things start to fall into normal life, court fights and visits happen, structures are set. Then people start dating, introducing people into their lives... And the stepmom either doesn't care or sees lots of things kids are not learning.
This is where stepmoms become a threat, definitely. Moms are threatened by a stepmom telling their kids things like "you need to change your underwear" and asking why they still don't brush their teeth everyday. Kids are mad that a stepmom or "dad's house" tells them things like they need to wear belts so that their butt cracks don't show to the entire world anytime they go everywhere. They are mad and make glaring faces, as if to say, "how dare you tell me to not show my ass to the universe at-large!" If you tell them things about allergies and medicines, they might tell you, "That's not what my mom told me," even though you already know that their mom has never had any allergies but both you and your husband have lived with allergies your entire lives. The list goes on and on.
As a stepmom, you wonder what the heck a mom is like that doesn't have her children shower, doesn't tell them to change their underwear, doesn't teach them to brush their teeth everyday. Oh the hatred we have seen from these two girls when we've told them they need to shower. It's years later, and the hatred towards us plus the glares may have diminished, but the holes have not gone away. There are still somewhat to very disturbing things we learn these two growing girls, on the breach of teenage years, still haven't taken into daily actions, hygiene, or plain consideration.
At times I've figured that my oldest stepdaughter would just at some point be embarrassed and change her habits after friends told her her breath TRULY stinks or there's a funny smell whenever she is around. But, it's been a long time, and I guess not. I often can smell her from feet away and have to mouth to my husband "showers!!" in which we then find out they haven't showered for 3 days. Very typical for suburbia? No...
The older one still just lies about what she knows to do everyday. If you tell her to do something, she usually yells back or tiredly says, "I know!".... And then the toilet isn't flushed and you definitely didn't hear the sink turn on... The younger one says, "No, mom never talks about it."
We know their mom doesn't handle much, much at all. Like, she's working now, so that means we know that she's going to miss a lot of stuff. Her husband is bedridden and sick continuously...So we're not really sure who's taking care of them most of the time. We know they live in fear of their mom's dislike, so they act in order to avoid her wrath. Works most of the time for the important things, it seems, but they also just lie a lot to get out of things. And we can't imagine her husband doing much to stop her wrath considering he himself attacked his ex wife multiple times and was forced to take parenting classes.
But the courts don't care. We've heard lots of other stepparents and part-time parents say the same things about their kids- Wondering what they're learning about basic things, seeing holes in their kids' upbringing, wondering if they have ever been told about belts. This is one thing agencies and news stations don't talk about in their stats about divorced kids- How many don't shower? How many aren't learning anything about life? How many are ignored? Maybe we can use the latchkey stats to determine hygiene standards and values not taught? Quite a jump if you ask any researcher.
These seem like important to small things, depending on the person. Courts literally couldn't care less if you tell them your kids are gross and you're not sure that they really have a parent. It seems more like if the mom is alive and breathing, then they must be in good hands. Harsh to say, but anyone who's been through this knows I am speaking almost literally.
So if we follow courts, it's ok. I need to not worry about it. Their mom wants them to smell, so be it. But...I don't want them to smell. I don't want to see my stepkids' butts in public. I want to save them from embarrassment and let them know. And, I don't want people saying anything about the kids being on my husbands' time and a stepmom's, so that's why they're falling apart. So, we have to tell them about how to take care of themselves, I have to remind them that they can get bacteria buildups if they don't shower, and sometimes I have to deal with the faces they give me if I tell them they're rather smelly (though my husband has mostly taken over this direct duty).
But in the end, we're only with them 25%. We're not the "real" parents.