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Evil Stepmom


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


Dear Evil Stepmom
If you want to like them better, expect less

Dear ESM,

I have three young adult stepkids; two in college and one who's 25 and on his own. I buy them great gifts, send them cards (always with a check) for their birthdays, call them, include them in things, and I get no thanks at all in return. Not only that, but do you think they acknowledge my birthday, our anniversary, or do anything nice for me? No way. How do I get a little gratitude or recognition for all my effort?


From a stepmom who gets No Thanks

Dear No Thanks,

The easiest way to stop being disappointed by your stepchildren is to stop expecting anything from them. Do you send them cards and buy them gifts to gain their gratitude? If so, join a community service organization instead--at least you'll get invited to "Volunteer Appreciation Day" once a year. Stepparenting is a thankless job, even when "the kids" are all grown up. Stop doing things for them that require a response if you're getting your feelings hurt. Or, better yet, call, write or give a gift just because you know it's the right thing to do for your long-term relationship with them.

Young adults have busy, challenging, and often dramatic lives--friends, jobs, school, love--which take up their time and their band-width. Their favorite Aunt doesn't expect a "thank you" for the birthday gift she sent, and you shouldn't either. If you can't put a note or a gift out there without being thanked, don't set yourself up for disappointment--this will only make you distant, edgy, and bitter over time. Do what you can without expectation, and let the rest go for now.

As to your stepchildren acknowledging your birthday, anniversary, etc.--forget about it. It's an absolute delight if they do, but the fact is that these will probably never be important days to them, so let your husband, your family, and your friends celebrate your special days, but don't put that expectation on your stepchildren.

Here's a confession for you: I'm 44 years old, and my parents have both been remarried for over twenty years. Still, I don't know my stepmother's or stepfather's birthday, I don't know either of my parents' wedding anniversaries (to their present spouses), and I have only ever once sent my stepmother a card--when her mother died. I don't dislike my stepparents, but I never felt that it was my job to join the ranks of people who celebrate their personal milestones. Most stepkids--especially adult stepkids--don't. I was out of the house when those marriages happened, and, while I enjoy both of my stepparents, I don't feel obligated to treat them like my parents.

Hang in there, lower your expectations, and only do what you can without upsetting yourself. You never know: over time, it might change. But don't plan on it, you'll only be disappointed.

Stay strong~ ESM
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