Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Stepmom Involvement Conundrum

As documented in a number of stepmom books and articles, Stepmoms often take on all of the appointment scheduling and completion of tasks that a mom normally would. This is a phenomenon in itself, but unfortunately realized by most of us. We're honestly not sure why no one else schedules dentist, doctor, and hair appointments...among other things.

In my case, we have a trivial amount of weekly custody, yet schedule  and do the majority of the necessary "maintenance", hygiene, and medical appointments. Sometimes they all get pushed to the summer, when we have more time. Other times, we have only every other Friday and the random Monday holidays for scheduling direly late appointments for required things like school-district-mandated shots. We also frequent weekend clinics.

Why doesn't Mom do them? There's a number of theories. Each family has their own. Yet even in cases of a very functional, involved mom, this still is likely to be the case. Reasons vary from busy-ness, work schedules, other kids, their own health issues, lack of insurance (or claim of), "not enough money" (even though there's plenty child support somehow making up for the lack of a dad's presence and involvement), doesn't like insurance-approved doctors, laziness, disapproval of traditional medicines, and "I was going to take them" or "I'm going to take them." (That last one includes elusive or even phantom appointment dates and times, which upon a simple phone calls, verifies that the doctor's office hasn't heard from Mom in months to years.)

Many stepmom sources of advice advise that you don't make the necessary appointments and let the kids and their actual parents deal with the outcome. Don't stress yourself out, and let the parents or kids come to their own conclusion that they failed the kid's hygienic and medical needs.

But many of us are smarter than that. If we do that, then we know that our husband will end up footing the bill for the eventual high amount of recovery and repair work down the line, even if the child is an adult. Because we know Mom won't pay for it, and the adult child probably won't be able to for years (not in this economy anyways- I couldn't for a number of different things that came up in college and beyond), and the court will likely mandate that the father pay for any extraordinary need despite the mom's responsibility to care for the kids in her time with the already-given child support.

So, although I continue to hope that these appointments will magically happen without my involvement, I still make the phone calls, find out about doctor availability, and book them. I've tried a few different strategies, such as:
1) Coerce husband to make it happen.
Outcome? .... Yeah, well, you know. Decline to state.
2) Husband tells (asks nicely) ex to do it, noting how poorly the child is doing or how long overdue the typical, short check-up is.
Outcome? "Of course I'm going to do it. I have it scheduled for [way too long past due]. How dare you insinuate I don't take care of my children."
Success rate? Usually appointments are canceled, so about 15%.
3) Make the appointment on Mom's time. Tell husband to notify her of appointment and let her know she can change it if necessary.
Outcome? That actually can work, with a lot of huffing, puffing and fire. So its not a tactic used very often, though a little amusing.
Success Rate: Only attempted once or twice, but very effective.
4) Make the appointments, take them myself, or make husband take them.
Success Rate?: Works. Totally works every time.
Outcome?: About 40% also receive a huffing and puffing email response of "I was planning to take them." We consider "planning to take them" a year after the due date null and void, and ignore such emails.
5) The strategy I really don't recommend: I asked that some things be included in the last court custody mandate (through my husband). Those suggestions were laughed at, because "Of course Mom will take care of these things."....

Let me know if you have another strategy that works for you! Maybe a carrot approach that includes the child support payment be picked up at the dentist's office, at the time of a pre-arranged appointment? That sounds ingenious!

1 comment:

  1. We have 68% custody (basically he lives and goes to school with us, spends wkends and 1 wknight sleepover with her) and I do all the scheduling and signing up etc..She's taken him to the doctor on her own twice (both times she "rushed him to the hospital" over a scratch or something because she was "very concerned"..and twice she took him to an appt I scheduled on her own time. Once because she just Had to have him that day, so we said Fine go ahead..oh btw, he has a doc appt =)

    Definitely a lot of huffing and puffing haha,
    the other time she was trying to involve herself more, so asked we give her the appt time/date so she could attend (so I made it inconvenient since i know her schedule. amusing for me.)

    Other than that I've tried the other tactics (except bringing it up in court, and it's pointless. I'll just do it myself *shrugs*