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

 



Dear Amy
I Can Do No Right

Dear Amy,

Can you please help me? I don't know what to do. I'll be 17 in May, so pretty close. My dad and stepmom married when I was seven years old and they've been together since I was two. When I was 12 I moved with my mother about 400 miles away from my dad and stepmom because I couldn't handle my stepmom anymore. She was over controlling and would lie to my dad about me. I knew she hated me, and I hated her, but I told them I wanted to move because my sister (whom I never got to see due to her living in New Mexico with her now deceased father and step mom) was living with our mom for the first time. Then things happened and long story short my mother was not the person I thought she was and I had to move back with my dad and stepmom. I haven't been allowed to talk to my mom in nearly four years. For the majority of the time my stepmom was cool and it seemed like she was a new person, we got along and everything was great. We got into some fights but that's how it goes. But recently things have gotten bad.

In February I got into my first car wreck- it was my fault and now my stepmom has to drive me everywhere. To school, from school, to my votech, from my votech to my work, and my boyfriend usually picks me up from work. I know it's stressful and I feel bad- but for the time being there is nothing I can do about it until my dads decides on what we can do. But that doesn't mean she needs to treat me the way she does. She's always been a little biased towards her children- she treats them like angels and me, not so much. She is always calling me ungrateful and other worse condescending names. She's always sure to remind me that so has no trust for me because a couple years ago my boyfriend I had sex and she found out- she took my phone and my freedom and it's been two years since I've had either. I have to play with her nine year old daughter and five year old son everyday when I'm not busy- even if I have my boyfriend or friends over. I haven't had friends over in a very long time just because of this. Me and my boyfriend try to stay away from house because of both my stepmom and my half-siblings. Don't get me wrong, I love my brother and sister to death- I would take a bullet for both of them. But I'm 17 and I like my alone time. I think every teen does?

I'm a good sister and daughter- I don't do drugs, I don't sneak around behind their backs, I don't party, I don't drink, I have straight A's, I'm in NHS and NTHS, I do what I'm told, I have a job and make decent money. But I mess up once and it's WW 3. But nothing I do right gets accounted for. She loves to point out my flaws and make me feel bad, everyday. I love being at school and work because I'm not with her and anytime I even think about my house or her car my heart sinks and I literately cry because I dread it so much. I've talked to my dad about this multiple times in the past and it helped, but only when he's around. Which is about an hour a day. Then it makes it ten times worse when he's not there. I feel like this whole long letter does not justify how much pain she causes me but I'm worried I am wasting your time. I know I only have a year until I'm 18 and I can leave, but that is not comforting. That makes it worse, a year is like a millennium around her. Please tell me what to do to not make her so mean to me? Why does she hate me?

Thank you for your time,

Can't Deal Much Longer

Dear Can't Deal Much Longer,

I am sorry it's taken me a little while to get back to you. I've thought about your letter a often, and a lot of it really resonates with me...I can definitely relate. First, please remember that none of this is your fault – it sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders, and it's not fair that your stepmom is treating you this way. Stepfamily dynamics can be tricky, but know that you are not alone in what you're going through.

Being a teenager is hard. Add in a stepmom and step/half siblings and things can get even harder. It sounds like you're feeling like there is a lack of privacy, and I understand how hard that is. When I was 16, my stepmom read my journal, and that's how my parents found out that I had smoked pot. I was a good teenager – I never skipped school, got good grades, had good friends, etc. But when they found out that I had experimented, their trust for me went out the window. It sounds like you're experiencing something similar. It's understandable that a parent would feel protective when it comes to their child having sex, but it should be something they talk with you about, not make you feel bad about. It's frustrating to feel like your stepmom (and dad/mom) are only seeing one side of you, and if it's something they don't like, it feels like their judging you based off that one thing. That's not fair. But as a parent, it's also their job to worry about you and look out for you. However, the lines get blurry when it comes to stepparents. Since your stepmom has been in your life for so long, it's natural that she would take on a more parental role. However, it doesn't give her the right to treat you badly, and it's NEVER okay for her to call you names. I'm saying all of this because I know from experience how isolating this can feel, but it's important to remember that you're not alone.

You mentioned that you've talked to your dad in the past about some of these issues, and that's great. But, I think it's time to talk with him again. You've probably changed a lot over the last few years and have some new things to say. Make a date with your dad, just the two of you. Make a plan to do something together – get lunch, walk through the park, hang out at a bookstore – anything that you both enjoy doing. It's good if you find something that is an activity, so that there isn't pressure to talk nonstop...but make sure there IS some time to talk (ie, going to the movies isn't a good plan). Tell him how you're feeling about your home life, that it's frustrating to feel like you don't have any freedom, and that your voice isn't being heard. Your dad loves you, and deserves to know that you're unhappy.

In discussing your stepmom, try not to get angry and bash her. Remember that your dad loves this woman, and the calmer you can stay while discussing your problems with her, the more receptive your dad will be. He'll also feel respected, which will mean a lot to him. Be honest with him, but try and remember that he's probably feeling a bit stuck in the middle between you and your stepmom. You said that he isn't home a lot, which makes this even harder. He's probably missing a lot of the interactions between the two of you, and so he doesn't have firsthand knowledge of what is going on. Part of why it's important to talk with him is because he should know how deeply this is affecting you.

I also think it would be really good for you and your dad to spend some more one on one time together. It sounds like he doesn't have much free time, but this should be a priority. Talk to him about this. Let him know that you miss him, and it would be great to spend more time with him. This will be really helpful to you in making you feel more connected and less alone in the family. Talk to him and see if you can carve out a weekly time to do something together. Even just an hour or so will help strengthen your relationship.

When I was 15, I stopped moving back and forth between my parents houses and lived with my mom and stepdad full time. I did this for numerous reasons, but what came from it was the amazing. Because I had to actually schedule time to spend with my dad, it became more special. I was more open towards him, and felt more comfortable talking with him about the things I struggled with in terms of my stepmom and living with them. I had a pretty terrible relationship with my stepmom for most of my life growing up, but years later, I now have a very close relationship with her. The first step is being open and talking , and the rest falls into place with a little nudging. But this all takes time, and as frustrating as it is, remember that it's probably not going to change overnight. But, I promise, it's worth it.

Have you tried talking to your stepmom about things? If not, I urge you to try. It doesn't have to be a heart to heart talk, but it might be good to get some things out in the open. It would be good for her to hear how it feels for you when she puts you down and doesn't treat you nicely. Let her know how you feel, and tell her you're frustrated because you don't know what to do. Like with your dad, try and do this as calmly as possible. She'll only get angry if you come at her angrily, and nothing will get solved. In doing this, know that things might not change. You might get these things off your chest, and she doesn't say anything in return. And while it would be great if she really listened and responded, the important part is that you will have done what you can. You'll have taken the first step, and there's something to be said for that. Even just knowing that you tried will make you feel a little better.

It sounds like maybe you do this already, but I think it would be really good for you to stay out of the house as much as possible. Are there any clubs at school that you'd have an interest in joining? Sports? If so, think about joining one. If not, there are other options. Spend a few hours after school at the library, go running or walking at a park, sit at a coffee shop and people watch - think about things that you enjoy doing, and find a way to do them. You'll have less time to spend at home, and you'll be doing something that will make you happy, which is what is most important.

Remember that through all this, your main focus should be you. It's not selfish, it's what you deserve. You deserve to be happy, and that means you need to do what you can to help make that happen. I understand that you can't just snap your fingers and be happy – I struggle with happiness each day, and I know how hard it is. But I've learned that by focusing on myself, and less on the people and things in my life that aren't good, it helps a lot.

I know that a year feels like forever, and that's frustrating. But I know that you can do it. Try some of these things out, and see how you feel. Try and make a conscious effort to focus on the things in your life you do enjoy...after a while, you won't have to make the effort, it'll happen naturally. I've worked at this for a long time, and it can be tiring and frustrating, but the outcome is worth it. Remember that things won't always be this way, and always remember that you're not alone. Talk with your dad, but also talk with your friends. Connect with people you trust, and it'll make you feel stronger.

If you'd like to write again, or have a particular issue you want help with, please feel free to write. I want the best for you; you deserve it.

I'm always here,

Amy

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