Please contact Evil Stepmom at ESM@evilstepmom.org with your questions or ideas about stepfamily living with 17-30 year olds.

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
Missing My Dad

Okay, I'm not a stepmom but I'm a stepdaughter. I'm 14 years old and I have a stepmom who really gets under my skin. Ever since my dad got married three years ago he like forgot about me and it makes me feel sad. I got on Facebook one day and saw he changed his Facebook profile picture and cover picture from me to him. 


The witch had three children, and he treats them more like his child than me. My brother already has nothing to do with him and I don't want to be like that. 
My stepmom tries to change me. I'm not your ordinary girl, I like my t-shirts not dress shirts. She tells me to wear dress shirts and I'm like no it's my body not yours so shut up. 
I want them to divorce but I can't get them to. Talking won't help it will just create drama but please tell me what I can do ASAP thanks!

Thank you for your letter.

I think the most important thing you need to keep in mind in your situation is that none of this is your fault, and you haven’t done anything wrong. Actually, no one is to blame, but that doesn’t mean all this hasn’t been tough on you. I can guess from my own experience that it has.

When you’re parents aren’t together and someone else is in the picture, it can be really hard and weird in lots of big and small ways. Your Dad’s Facebook picture is a great example.

I don’t think your Dad understands your sensitivity about the FB picture. You may want to give him the benefit of the doubt, or ask him what he was thinking when he changed it. I suspect he’s just really happy about his new marriage and wanted to not exclude anyone important to him like his wife or stepkids or your brother. My guess is he didn’t do it to hurt you.


It’s natural for you to be sensitive to the changes in your Dad’s life. A new wife, three new stepkids, and a whole lot of new responsibilities have probably meant that he has less time for you. I’m sure you miss him. I missed my Dad a lot the first several years he was with my stepmother.

I’ve summarized my thinking about a few of the big areas where I think you can reduce some of the tension you’re feeling. While you can’t control anyone else, you can control yourself, and hopefully I can help. Here we go:


1) The first thing I would do if I were you is figure out how to get some time alone with your Dad on a regular basis. You may have to steer your relationship with your Dad, and that’s not all about your stepmom. Most dads (divorced or not) have a hard time when their daughters are about your age. They understand sons, but daughters are mysterious and different, and fathers are often bewildered by their female children.
I’m sure your Dad wants to know you and be an important part of your life. How can you help him do that?


Think about activities you could do alone with your Dad—hiking, camping, walking, gardening, working on a car or building project, sports, bowling—ANYTHING that you two can DO together will give you something to focus on other than the tension between you.
I’m not saying you need to have a conversation with your dad about his life and your place in it. You just need to spend some time with him doing things you both like.

You need to figure out how to carve out time from both of your busy lives to have a relationship.
Let your Dad know that you want to focus on being close to him right now, and that you’re committed to working on your relationship with your stepmom and stepsiblings over the years to come (if you are).
Though you are not in a competition with your stepsiblings for your father’s time and attention, the reality is that your Dad has three more children to spend time with now. Maybe these kids are glad to have a man around the house, and glad to see their mom happy. Maybe they welcome his parenting. Being needed and wanted by the children in your life can feel very good.

Try to keep in mind that your Dad still needs to be needed.
Try not to make it too hard for your Dad to be with you. Pay attention to how you treat him. It’s okay not to like everything he does; you are a teenager, after all. But try to remember that he is your only Dad, that he loves you and cares about what’s best for you (even when he’s a little clueless), and that you need him in your life. You just need to figure out—together—how to do that in a way you can both live with.
You have very good instincts about keeping the drama down, as you mentioned in your letter to me. Drama never helps anything.

2) I’d urge you to try to see things from your stepmother’s perspective if you can. That doesn’t mean you overlook the things you don’t like about her, just try to look at your family from where she stands.


This is a woman who has married a man with a family from a previous marriage. She has a family from a previous marriage. Now they are trying to combine their two lives, parent the five kids they have between them, and hopefully build a marriage that will be a source of happiness and support for the next 30 or 40 years. (Remember: You’re trying to imagine HER perspective here).


So you might imagine that a woman in this position would want to keep her new partner focused on her needs and the needs of her children (I am guessing that her kids are younger than you and your brother). You might also imagine that she would naturally want her mate to rush his older children to adulthood so that he could spend more time and energy on her kids. This isn’t fun for you to hear, I’m sure, but it’s not evil. It’s biological.

Just like a pizza only has so many slices, your Dad only has so many hours and so much energy every day. If you look at it this way, you can understand how a woman with children of her own would see her mate’s kids as competition for resources. His wife wants to be sure that her kids get what they need first. That’s her job as their parent.
As your parent, it’s your Dad’s job to look out for you and your brother first, before his wife’s kids. This puts him in a difficult place where he probably feels torn a lot of the time. Your Dad will need to figure out how to be a good dad to his children while taking on someone else’s children. This is not your challenge, it’s his. But you can help. Which brings us to things you can do.

3) Whatever you have to do to keep your patience and sense of humor, do it (as long as it’s GOOD for you). Run, exercise, sing, bite your tongue, study, pray, meditate, babysit, play an instrument, act, work… anything that helps you prevent yourself from saying and doing things that add tension to your family system will be good for you, and good for your family. You’ve done a great job holding the drama down so far—keep up the good work.


[Note: Getting a boyfriend/drug habit/pregnant are not on the list of things that will dial down family drama OR be good for you—take care of your precious self FIRST!!]


While it shouldn’t be your job to keep your family calm, you already understand that you can do a lot to contribute to a less anxious, more flexible family just by not stirring stuff up.
One of the best things you can do is work really hard on yourself. Do the best job you can do in school every day, in every class. Get involved—whether it’s sports, student government, band, or helping out in the office or library—the more good things you have to keep you busy the less time you’ll have to think about your stepmother’s efforts to shape you into her idea of a young woman.

As soon as you’re old enough, get a job. Work is great—it gives you freedom, money, responsibility, skills, and exposure to all different kinds of people. It helps you learn to communicate better, cooperate better, and manage your time and your schoolwork better. Best of all, it helps you avoid too much time with people you don’t want to spend a lot of time with, if you know what I mean.


Finally, a HUGELY courageous thing you could do is try to connect with your stepmom in some small ways. Could you help her with the younger kids once in a while? Could you stand to take her on a 15-20 minute virtual shopping trip to show her the kinds of clothes you like? Take her to different sites on the internet and tell her why clothes like this make you feel your best when you’re out there in the world (without putting her style choices down, because we’re all different, right?).


I didn’t get along with my stepmom and I never had the courage to try anything like this, but I wish I had.


I’m not saying that any one move will fix everything and make her the stepmom you dream about, or that she won’t still be a witch once in a while (I am, and my stepkids are GREAT!). But if you show a little sincere effort over time, without giving up or getting bothered by her reactions—just keep being the most decent person you can be toward your father’s wife—you may come to dislike her less. Which will make you feel less tense and negative, which will be good for you and for your whole family.

You having a grudge about her, no matter how warranted it is, is only going to waste YOUR life. It’s not going to affect hers at all. She’s not likely to change for you or anyone else. And your Dad is not likely to get divorced for you, either. So it’s up to you to figure out how live compatibly alongside your stepmother as two women who love your Dad very much and want him to be happy and live long.


Remember, you don’t have to love her, just to get along with her enough to be able to spend time with your family without unnecessary tension or disruption. In my experience, a combination of these factors will help you:


-Managing your contact with your stepfamily thoughtfully (more time alone with Dad + activities + studies + job = less time with stepmom).


-Lightening up on the blame with your Dad and stepmom (trying to understand what they’re each up against + being less critical + experimenting with letting them get to know you and your tastes in new and different ways = more positive feelings).


-Getting yourself on a path that’s interesting, absorbing, and energizing to you (well-rounded activities and experiences + better grades = more life opportunities).


Learning how to relax a little and accept your Dad and stepmom and their human imperfections will help everyone a lot. You deserve a life that’s exciting, one that keeps you learning and growing—NOT a life of drowning in drama!
This is REALLY hard stuff, and you are smart to ask for some help and support. It’s completely natural to feel all the things you do. It’s what you DO about your thoughts and feelings that matters.


Feel free to write to me any time. I’m always here.

Stay strong ~ Kimberly 

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