My fiancée and I are totally in love, and her two girls (three and four) are well-fed, bathed and are at the doctor's office every time they are ill.
The issue is the attention that they are paid when I am in the house. When I'm at home lying in bed or otherwise relaxing, their mother ignores them completely - both literally and figuratively. She will close the bedroom door and leave the girls to do as they will in the common areas of the house, devoting all of her attention to me.
It's not that I don't love the attention - I do - it's just that I feel for these two small children, as they have to come knocking at our bedroom door if something needs their mom's attention. Their knocks are met with an exasperated sigh from my fiancée, who deals with the situation quickly and returns to fawning all over me.
I love her, but isn't this detrimental to their psychological well-being? She had them both at a young age, and her ex was cold and their marriage loveless. Please advise.
Even a dog that got food and baths but no love would be neurotic.
You are right to be concerned about your fiancée's behaviour toward her children. These kids are so young that they need supervision. Being a good mother does not mean hovering and showing her children at all times that nothing else in the world matters to her but focusing on them - just the opposite.
However, if you found out a babysitter went in the other room and closed the door behind her on a three-year-old and four-year-old, you'd fire that person immediately.
Good for you for feeling queasy about all the attention she focuses on you at the expense of her children. She may indeed regret having them so young and may be feeling she lost her own youth to them. That's something she needs to face and address, which she can't do by literally trying to shut them out of her awareness.
If you are to continue this relationship and step in as a stepfather, now is the time for you to establish some rules that will help this family function. You two are entitled to time alone, so that means hiring a babysitter.
When you're all together, and the girls are awake, that means being responsible for them, and I hope engaging them. They have already had a tough start in life. You could set this family in another, healthier direction, but only if you are willing to speak up and then act.
* Emily Yoffe is an advice columnist, using the name Prudence. Please send your questions for publication to [email protected] Questions may be edited.