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

 



Dear Amy
Left Out of New Family

Dear Amy,

My biological mother died of cancer a few days after I turned two. My father worked abroad for eight and a half years bringing my brother and I with him. In these years, we had house help taking care of us. My father was busy providing for us, so most of the time it was just my brother and I, but he always kept the weekends for us which I truly appreciated. Since I was his only daughter, I know it must have been hard raising me. There was no one teaching me how to dress, no one who taught me how to be a lady growing up, so he usually asked for help from his sisters and my mother's sister.

We moved back to our hometown seven years ago. (I am now fifteen and my brother is sixteen.) It was normal at first, my family and I had this system. My father would always be available for me to talk to and hangout with, it was all nice.

Three years ago, my father met a new woman on a blind date. A year after dating, my father proposed to her and they got married. They also conceived a child, and there is one more on the way. I am frustrated, angry and disappointed because this stepfamily is pushing me away. I feel left out in the family reunions, I feel alone whenever my parents go to new things together, especially with the new kid.

It feels like they are building this whole life without me, and I don't like it one bit. My dad and I don't spend quality time anymore and he treats me like I'm a burden to him now. My stepmother is enforcing all these new stupid rules which make me feel like I live in prison.

I don't know what to do, I don't know how to handle this situation, and I just don't like where I am right now.

Please help me.

Left Out

Dear Left Out,

Stepfamily dynamics can be hard to navigate, especially when a family has had their own system or routine for so long. I think it's important for some routines to stay the same if they work for everybody, as it helps maintain some consistency – something everybody needs. That being said, it's also important that a stepfamily form new routines and traditions. The new family member needs to feel incorporated into the family, and by adding new systems and routines, it will help the entire family to feel closer and more connected.

It sounds like you're feeling that your stepfamily has created a whole new routine that you're not a part of. This can feel really isolating, and I'm sorry. It's hard to feel like an outsider in your own family – and you shouldn't have to feel that way. I think the first step is to talk to your dad about how you feel. Make a date with him to do something together, just the two of you. Go to lunch, go bowling, walk in the park – anything that you both enjoy. It's good if the activity you choose is something that allows for some talking time, without putting the pressure on having to talk the whole time. Talk to him. Let him know how it makes you feel when the family excludes you from activities or events. Let him know that it feels like there isn't room for you in his new life, and that you miss the closeness that you two used to have. I know that it might be hard to be honest with him and tell him how you feel – I myself have an incredibly hard time bringing up difficult things with people I care about. But remember, it's always worth it. Your dad loves you and cares about your well-being. He deserves to know how you're feeling, and he does want you to be happy. The second part: try and remember that your dad is going through some major changes to his life as well. He has a partner for the first time in many years, and young children again. His routine has changed as well. He's trying to find the balance of his old life and new one, and that's very hard to do. It seems like he's gotten a little lost, and is prioritizing the new aspects of his life over his complete life. What I mean is that he's gotten swept up in his new wife and new children, and has forgotten the importance of the what he had before. So while he's not handling his situation perfectly (he should never push you or your brother away), try and remember this is all new to him too. This is why it's important to talk with him. You need him to know how you're feeling, and he needs to hear it. It will help you both.

Do you get along with your stepmom? Since you didn't mention anything specifically bad in your letter, I'm assuming that your relationship isn't terrible. I think that you should talk to her as well. Let her know that you want to be a part of the family and feel included. Don't do this angrily, but try and stay calm. The calmer you are, the more receptive she'll be to what you're saying. Like your dad, try and remember that she's adjusting to a new life too. She married a man who already had children, and that can be a big challenge. She probably felt left out a lot at the beginning, and is trying to change that by creating new routines and activities that include her. That being said, it is not okay for her to do this without you. You're a part of the family, and she needs to respect the important role that you play. Likewise, she needs to respect the closeness that you and your dad shared before her arrival. While it's not just her fault that things changed, she should have supported you and your dads relationship. So talk to her. Don't blame her, but be honest in telling her how you feel. I learned this the hard way – I should have talked to my stepmom as a teenager and told her how I felt, but instead I kept it inside and let it become anger. Things didn't get better until I finally talked to her years later, and I realized all that anger and frustration could have been avoided.

I think it would be helpful for you to get out of the house a bit. If home is where you're feeling left out and isolated, it would be good to minimize the time spent there, at least until things change. What are your interests? Join a school sport or club, spend time reading and exploring the library, jog or walk through the park, or make a standing homework date with a friend. Choose something you enjoy that will make you happy, and do it whenever you can. Spending more time with good friends is always good, especially if you're feeling lonely at home. Anything you can do to stay busy while enjoying what you're doing is great for you, and will really benefit you. The goal here is for you to be happy, and that should be your first priority. Don't be afraid to focus on yourself.

You mentioned that you found a nonfiction book that dealt with some similar situations to the one your in. I am an avid reader, and a huge fan of nonfiction books. I have read countless books over the years dealing with issues I am close to and relate to. I think that's great that you found one, and there are many more out there. It can feel really validating to know that you're not alone in feeling this way – and trust me, you're not alone. You wondered about whether or not your dad should be prioritizing you and your brother, or his new wife and their child. The answer isn't black and white. He should be working to find a balance – he shouldn't put priority on one or the other. This goes with what I said before about you and your dad.

I hope some of this helps. As I said before, remember that your dad loves you and wants you to be happy, even if he isn't doing his best right now. Talk to him and your stepmom, and hopefully you guys can come up with some ways to change the situation together. Please feel free to write me with any further questions, or if you just need someone to talk to. I want you to be happy, and you truly deserve to be.

I'm always here.

Amy
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