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

 



Dear Amy
It Happened to My Sisters and Now It's Happening to Me

Dear Amy,

I have been having a lot of problems with my stepmom, and when I saw this website I decided to ask for help. I'm 13 and my dad and stepmom have been married for 5 years. My stepmom started off all nice; she would buy me an my sisters things (I have two sisters and one stepsister) and would take us places.

When my oldest sister was 18, she stopped going to college. She got into college because she worked her butt off to get scholarships; my dad and step mom didn't pay a penny. My sister came back home while she looked for a new college that was closer to home and closer to her job. My stepmom wouldn't let her stay more than three months and made my sister feel like crap all the time, saying how her daughter was never this irresponsible and lazy. It was awful how she treated her, but my dad was oblivious. After my stepmom threw my sister onto the streets, my sister met a guy and they got engaged. My sister didn't want anyone at the wedding because they just wanted a small intimate thing between the two of them. My stepmom made it a big deal and told my dad how disrespectful she was to not have anyone at the wedding. My dad believed her, and long story short my dad and sister haven't talked in thee years.

My middle sister is now 18. Last year, she got her first car. My mom have her 1,000 dollars and my dad gave her 1,000 dollars and got a car for a good deal. My sister payed 700 dollars. My stepmom started being horrible to my sister, saying how she had to pay them back the 1,000 dollars for the car and how she had to give them money for the insurance they payed (they payed for two months of insurance). Eventually my sister got tired of her making her life hell for not paying them fast enough (she was 17 and had a job at subway, I don't know how much money she was expected to give), and she moved in with my mom who started helping her pay for her insurance every month. The car was still in my dad and stepmom's name because they wouldn't just put it in her name. So on the day that they put the car in her name, my stepmom called my sister a little whore who didn't deserve my dad's money. So as you can imagine, my sister doesn't talk to them anymore. I know it's not like the money was a huge deal because I found out that my stepmom recently bought herself a 2,000 diamond bracelet.

My dad is really depressed now because my sisters won't talk to him. Now my stepmom is starting to be mean to me all the time and making my life awful. I want my family back together and I want her out of my life. I can't keep seeing my dad depressed all the time. I know the only reason she is with my dad is so she can have money (we aren't rich but my dad has a steady income). I hate her and I want her gone. I don't want to go live with my mom because I don't want to leave my dad with the witch. Please help me get rid of my stepmom. I need to protect my family at all costs. Thank you!

Signed,

Frustrated

Dear Hurt & Frustrated,

I'm so sorry you're stuck in this situation. I'm sure it must be really hard, especially now that your two sisters have both left home. That can feel really isolating, and I'm glad you decided to ask for help.

Your family has been experiencing some big changes over the last few years. Kids leaving home affects every member of the family, and each person reacts and deals with it differently. From what you said in your letter, it sounds like your stepmom was great towards you and your sisters when you were all younger, but that changed drastically when each of your sisters left home. It's important to remember that big life events such as leaving home for the first time are are big stressors, and not just for the person leaving. It sounds to me like your stepmom didn't like the fact that your sisters no longer were fully dependent on your dad and her. Loss of control can be hard to accept, and it sounds like your stepmom hasn't handled it very well.

When I was 19, I had to move back in with my mom and stepdad. I had been living on my own for two years, and it was really hard to adjust my life. I didn't have my own living space anymore – I couldn't just have the TV on whenever I wanted, or leave dirty dishes in the kitchen because I didn't feel like cleaning them immediately. That loss of control was hard for me to deal with, and even harder to accept. I didn't know where I stood – I was technically an adult, free to make my own choices, but there were restrictions to that freedom. Finally I had a talk with my mom about how I was feeling, and she told me what she expected of my while I was living at home. That really helped to clarify things, and made it easier for me to accept my situation.

Your stepmom isn't right in how she acted, but try to remember that she's going through big changes too.

You have the benefit of seeing how it went for your two sisters, even though it didn't go well. You can make adjustments to change how it will be for you as you get older and move towards independence. I urge you to talk with your dad about your situation. Let him know how you feel about what happened with your sisters, and tell him you don't want it to be the same for you. Opening the lines of communication before there is serious conflict will help you both to be able to deal with future conflict in a clearer and calmer way. I also think it would be good for you to spend some one on one time with your dad. Make a plan to do something, just the two of you. Go to a movie, out to eat, to the park – anything that gives you time away from the house, where your stepmom can't interfere. While I think it's important that you share how you feel with your dad, it's also good to simply do something together. You don't have to talk the whole time, and actively doing something together will help you feel more bonded to one another.

Something I see going on in your situation that goes hand in hand with independence is the issue of money. It seems like both your sisters had conflict with your stepmom in part because of financial ties. This shouldn't have been something they had to deal with. The area where I see the problem is between your dad and stepmom. It seems that they're not on the same page, and that creates a problem. If they combine their money, they need to come up with an agreement about what they're willing to spend on the kids. That way they will be on the same page when it comes to helping the kids out, and there shouldn't be any surprises. If they keep their finances separate, there are a few things you can do to not end up in your sister's situation.

Make a plan with your dad. If he is giving you money for a car, or for college, or anything else, make sure his expectations are clear. Ask if you're expected to pay him back. If you are, make a plan with him about how much at a time, and when. Make sure you're both in agreement and clear about it. Ask if there are any other expectations, such as: you can have the money/car/etc., but only if you maintain a certain GPA in school, hold a part-time job, or pay your own insurance. Again, make sure you are both in agreement. This way, if your stepmom does react negatively to you getting resources from your dad, it will be between her and him. You shouldn't be in the middle of how your dad and stepmom deal with their finances.

The second thing you can do is to not accept things like cars, money for college, etc. from your dad. This will eliminate all possibilities for your stepmom to be upset about things concerning money. However, I realize that as a young adult, there are things in life that you need help from your dad with. Whatever you choose, just make sure both parties are clear on everything.

There is a lot going on at home that you're having to deal with, and you shouldn't have to carry that weight. You said that you don't want to live with your mom because you don't want to leave your dad with your stepmom, but I think that's something that you should think about. I understand you wanting to protect your dad; that's natural, and shows how strong and loving you are. But your primary responsibility is yourself, and your focus should be on you. Your dad is capable of handling his situation – I don't mean that he couldn't use any help, and it's wonderful that you want to help him. But you need to be in a happy and healthy environment, and your dad should want that for you. By living with your mom and distancing yourself from conflict at your dad's house, it could actually become easier to have a closer relationship with him. You could make a date with him once or twice a week to spend time together. The key here is to do it away from his house. This goes back to how important one on one time with your dad is, and I want you to know that you can absolutely have that even if you're not living with him.

When I was 14, I made the choice to live with my mom and stepdad full-time. I had always split my time between my mom's house and dad's house, but I wasn't happy with my situation at my dad's. It wasn't an easy choice to make; I was incredibly scared of hurting my dad by not living with him. But it was ultimately the best choice for me, and I ended up having a closer relationship with my dad and stepmom because I wasn't living under their roof. It made the time we spent together more special, and the conflict died down a lot.

I understand that this might not be something you're ready to do right now, and you might need to think about it. However, I still think that getting out of the house as much as possible will be a good thing for you. So while you're living at your dad and stepmom's house, think about things that you love to do. Joining a club at school, or a sports team, reading at the library, hanging out at the park – these are all good things that will get you out of the house and keep your mind focused elsewhere.

You sound like a smart and caring person, and I want you to be happy.

I'm always here.

- Amy

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