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

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
Combined 18th Birthday Party, or Separate Parties?

Dear Evil Stepmom,


I have been a stepmother to a beautiful, talented, loving stepdaughter for a little over a year now. She turns 18 in a few weeks.


Last year, because her mother's deck and yard were torn up, we had her family birthday party at our home with all family invited. This year, I contacted her mother about how she wished to handle my stepdaughter's birthday party -- jointly or separately, meaning the bio parents and their families and me and my family (bio mom does not have a significant other) or bio mom and her family have a party and bio dad, me, my sons and our families have a second party. I had strongly urged against the latter to my stepdaughter's dad because I felt she should have both her parents at her birthday party.


When I got word back from bio mom about the party plans, it was that all would be included except my extended family--my mother, brothers and their families.  She said her house was not big enough so that I should do something separate with them. 

I have tried for about 48 hours but I cannot seem to shake the sting of this and I do not know where to go with it. Of course, I have run every option over in my mind and have determined to say/do nothing to change it but cannot seem to let go of my anger and hurt. 



Any words of advice for laying this hurt to rest would be gratefully appreciated. I feel myself erecting a wall of protection against my stepdaughter and, even, my husband. Thank you. 


Signed,

Hurt

Hello, Hurt.

The first 5-10 years are super important in a stepfamily, because new boundaries and patterns are being formed, while old ones are being dissolved.

It is WONDERFUL that your stepdaughter is good with you and to you. I can’t tell you how much this will help over the years. A mature, thoughtful stepchild willing to cut you some slack will be a real gift to your marriage and your family (I speak from personal experience). So don't lose site of the fact that you are starting out from a great position.

Though you didn't say, I’m guessing that your husband and his ex-wife have been doing things together “for the kids” since the divorce. That’s great for as long as it works, but when a new mate comes on the scene, it usually stops working. I won’t get into the arguments for and against these flashbacks to the former family. I think they’re confusing to children and they prevent everyone from moving on, but every family has it's own way of doing things.

No matter what you decide to do about birthdays, divorce is about starting two new families. And early in your new marriage is a perfect time complete that process. Your husband has you and your family now. It makes sense that you and he would plan a party for his daughter, which would include his family and his in-laws (your family) if they like your daughter and she likes them. I don't think an ex-wife should ever continue to be responsible for pulling her husband’s former family together. It is your husband’s job to bring his children together with his family, not his ex-wife’s job. He can include her if he--and you--want, but she should not be coordinating or hosting his family functions.

I understand that you’re hurt right now, but please don’t take it out on your stepdaughter or your husband. I’m guessing that his former wife is unconsciously trying to limit the amount of change you bring to the system, and cutting your family out dials the YOU factor way down.

You stepdaughter knows her parents aren’t married any longer. Her mother and father don’t have to do things together in order for her to feel loved. They do need to communicate and put their heads together on her behalf from time to time, but they do not need to be together on days of special meaning. Mom, Dad, stepparents, in-laws, and kids each deserve to enjoy their new families without the other parent/former partner watching.

Consider asking your stepdaughter to help you plan a party that would be fun and different from the other one she’s having. Maybe she’d like to invite some friends—she may surprise you. Young adults love it when their divorced parents can work things out on their own, and they love having multiple celebrations—especially if it’ll cause less drama.

I know I didn’t take a very deep dive here, but I wanted to get back to you quickly with a new point of view you might try on for size. I’m glad to keep chatting with you about this; please feel free to write any time.

Stay strong ~Kimberly

(AKA: Evil Stepmom) 

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