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

 



Dear Amy
Missing Dad
Dear Amy,

I'm 14, and I really need help with my stepmom. My story is a bit complicated but I hope you can help me.

I have two older sisters, and we've never been close with my mom. She always used to curse and pick out fights with us over silly things. Not to be mean ((I still love her with all her negatives) but she is a truly horrible person! On the other side, my dad is the complete opposite. He is very sweet, caring, kind, and we're really close with him.

My older sister (who was really like my mom) was getting married and my other sister and dad were always at work. So we met our nice neighbor who had a daughter and with time, my dad and her got married. She moved in with us, and my other sister got married too. My oldest sister rented a house next to our apartment so she could take extra care for me.

My stepmom became a step-monster. She used to keep telling my dad every wrong thing that I did and sometimes she would make up wrong things. She never cooks, helps around the house, or even cleans up after herself; if she ever does, she reminds us of that every single day. She also made our apartment look like a street on the inside. She made it dirty, and she used to break the furniture and say that it was an accident. It's gotten to the point where I can not invite any of my friends over because my once-luxury apartment turned into a garbage dump.

What is bothering me the most is that my dad is drifting away from me. He used to spend time with me, but now not so much. We used to be okay financially, but now not so much and all he does now is spend time with her. My dad knows about all the things she does everyday, but every time I confront him about it, he would either change the subject or ignore me. I want us to be close again, but that just seems impossible! Please help me and tell me what to do to get my dad back.

Faithfully yours,

Hoping for change
Dear Hoping for Change,

I'm so sorry you're in this situation. It's always difficult blending a new family together, and even harder when not everyone gets along. It's easy to feel isolated in this situation, and I understand how hard that is. When my dad got remarried, I struggled a lot with feeling like we weren't close anymore – there was now another person taking his attention. Over the years I've discovered things that I wish I'd known back then, things that can hopefully help your situation.

From what you said, it seems like you and your dad used to be really close. That's a wonderful thing, and it's important that you don't forget the relationship that you had. You mention that talking hasn't helped, but I really do think you need to spend some one on one time with your dad and let him know how you're feeling. Make a date together – go somewhere and do something that you both enjoy. It can be anything – going out to lunch, bowling, just walking around town and people watching...anything. You'll get a chance to spend some alone time with your dad, and it also creates a space where you can talk to him, away from the house and your stepmom. I'm not sure to what extend you've talked to him in the past, but it's time to try again. He's your dad, and regardless of how he's been acting, he loves you, and deserves to know that you're unhappy. I know how hard it can be to talk candidly about how you feel, especially because it's partly about him, but trust me that it's worth it. I am someone who struggles a great deal with confrontation – I usually feel anxious and a little sick before talking about difficult and personal things with someone I care about, but it's never not been worth it. So I urge you to talk with your dad. Let him know that you miss spending time with him, and you feel like he's created a new life and routine that doesn't include you. Chances are, he doesn't realize he's been neglecting you. Try and remember that your dad has been going through big changes too. He was used to his routine with just him, you and your sisters, and now that's changed. And while he's not handling it in the best possible way, he's not consciously trying to pull away from you. A reminder from you that you're still here, and miss the relationship that you two once shared, will help him realize he needs to change things.

I think it should also be said that your dad needs to know how you feel about your stepmom. But tread carefully here. Whatever the current situation is between her and your dad, remember that she's his wife, and he cares about her. It won't do anything but hurt him if you bash her to him. Instead, try your best to stay calm. Let him know that it's frustrating and hurtful how she treats you. I know you said that you've talked to him about this before, but he needs to understand that nothing has changed, and you can remind him of that. The second part to this is talking with your stepmom. I don't mean that you need to have a long, heart to heart conversation with her – this is not the right time for that. But I do think it might help if she heard straight from you that you're struggling with how things are around the house. Like with your dad, try and stay calm. If you are angry, she's going to react angrily. But if you're calm and honest, she'll be much more receptive to what you're saying. You say that she doesn't take care of the house, and as a teenager, I understand how frustrating that is, especially if you feel you can't have friends over because of it. And part of this requires you to be a very big person. Something I would try is making a conscious effort to keep your things out of the main house space. I know this doesn't seem fair, but if you're things aren't contributing to the mess, it might help your stepmom to see that it isn't dirty or messy because of you.

I think it would be really good for you to get out of the house as much as possible. Are there any sports or clubs you could join at school? Of course, only if you'd actually enjoy them. If not, think about other things you enjoy doing. Spending the afternoon reading in the park, doing homework at the library, people watching from a coffee shop or bench in town...these are just some ideas, but think about what interests you. The more time you spend out of the house doing things you enjoy is less time for there to be conflict at home. Do you have a friend you could make a standing date with once or more a week to do homework at their house or something similar? It seems like you're feeling really isolated at home, and that's really difficult. When I was your age, my older sister was a few years above me, and was a very difficult person to live with. She fought with all sets of our parents constantly, and took out her anger on me too. I didn't feel like I had anyone to turn to, since my parents were busy dealing with my sister. It helped me a lot once I started spending more time with a couple good friends, and I think it would help you too.

How do you feel about therapy? I myself am a huge advocate. It's been a really good thing for me, and has benefitted me in more ways than I can say. But I understand that it's not something that is a good fit for everyone, so I honestly want to know if it's something you'd be open to. It's a great outlet to be able to share what's going on with you, without the worry that your upsetting someone by sharing – the counselor isn't part of your personal life, and is objective. They can offer some good ideas and advice, and help you to work through things. If it is something you'd be open to, let me know. I understand that therapy can be difficult to manage financially, but there are other ways of going about it – school counselors, for one. Just something to think about.

I really hope some of this helps you. You deserve to be happy, and I truly want that for you. Please let me know if you have any further questions, or want to talk about something else. I'm always here if you want to write.

Amy

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