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

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
I Don't Think I Can Do It

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My husband has two sons, 29 and 32, who live in California. We live in Alaska. We go to visit the boys for a few weeks each winter, and it's always a disaster.

Last year, my husband's ex-wife was at his son's house when we arrived from the airport, because, according to our daughter-in-law, "Grandma comes over to swim with the kids every Friday!" It's a two-day ordeal for us to get there one time a year, and "Grandma" can't take one single Friday off???

Things like this happen all the time while we're there. Neither of his sons can be bothered to take a day off work to do things with us and the kids, and neither of their wives will adjust the kids' overloaded schedules to let us have some fun with them. My poor husband doesn't even know his grandchildren anymore, and they're very shy and quiet around us.

So, after last year's trip, I said "no more." I'm not spending lots of money and all my vacation time to go visit people who clearly aren't interested in seeing us. And I refuse to watch my husband be abused and neglected by his sons. Especially when he's the first one they call when one of them need advice or a "loan." I've had it.

Well, it's winter again, and my husband is starting to press me about scheduling our annual visit to see his boys. And he's making me feel like the bad guy for not wanting to go (apparently he forgot all about last years' debacle).

I don't think I can do it. I don't feel I should have to. Haven't I tried hard enough?

Signed,

Angry in Anchorage

Dear Angry,

You have tried hard. So has your husband. And you both must keep at it for the sake of his sons and his grandchildren. Here's why: no matter how they treat their father, your stepsons need access to their dad's experience, wisdom, and love. And your grandchildren need to know both of you, since you are an important part of their family.

It is a parent's job to pursue a relationship with their children, not the other way around. Your husband is doing the right thing to go visit every year, no matter what. It is a stepparent's job to support her mate in this effort, no matter how difficult, unpleasant, expensive, or time consuming.

That said, it is not your job to be miserable, and it is not your husband's job to visit and be ignored. So here are a few thoughts about what each of you might try to make this year's visit better for everyone.

1) Plan ahead. Your husband might have a conversation with each of his sons that goes something like this: "Mary and I are planning our trip down, and we want to be sure that we schedule it at a time when we can see you, your wife, and the kids. I know you all have busy lives, but spending time with you and the children is important to both of us, and that's why we work so hard to make this trip each year."

He needs to be soft on the people (his sons) but tough on the issue (time with his sons and his grandchildren). He might want to start this conversation on the phone and continue it over email, not relenting until he has an agreement to, say, a day of golf with each of his boys and and firm plans for a couple of outings with his grandchildren.

2) Make it nice for yourself. Spending time with young adult stepchildren can be stressful under the best of circumstances. Take some time off for yourself. Stay at the hotel and read for a day. Go shopping for an afternoon and meet up with the family for dinner. Treat yourself to a manicure or a have your hair done. This is, after all, your vacation too. You should not feel as though you have no option but to return home feeling depleted and compromised.

3) Take a lovers' getaway. Rent a car, take a day or two while you're in California, and drive the 101 with your man. Walk barefoot along the beach together. Enjoy a long, sexy lunch at a roadside seafood joint. Stay at a romantic B&B on the coast. Tell the kids you'll see them tomorrow. Or the next day.

A great marriage and a happy Dad are two of the best gifts you can give your stepsons. Oh sure, they might be shocked, they might even complain to your husband about it. But they'll respect the priority you two place on your marriage.

And imagine their reaction when your husband calls this year and says, "Mary and I are planning a trip to Carmel and want to be sure we have time to see you and the kids, so let's work that out now before I book the reservations."

If your husband quits now, he'll never know his grandchildren, and he'll have you to blame.

Don't be a quitter and don't be a victim. Hang in there, love your man, and keep in mind that his sons are at the busiest, most fatiguing time of their lives--big jobs, little kids, mortgages, commitments, and expectations. Without adding to their burden, find ways to stay involved in their lives. Over time your patience will be rewarded and things will get easier. And for now at least, you'll return home feeling loved and refreshed.

Stay strong,

ESM
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