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To visit my stepmother...or not

stepper47's picture

I am posting from a different perspective tonight. and hoping to get some advice. I have a stepmother who has been in My life almost 30 years, since I was 12.  She is a challenging person, very opinionated and quick to assume the worst about people. She did try her best with me, but I always found her intimidating.   I got pregnant at 21 with my son, and she was very angry about it.  When he was born, she did a 180 and loved him, but it was more of a distant kind of love.  We had a falling out when my son was about 5 because I told my dad i was hurt that they did not show more interest in my son.  We eventually got back on ok terms but there is distance.  They rarely called or asked us over, or still showed much interest in my boy, and I stopped putting in much effort with them.  I was a single mom, and my son was pretty much my life.  After DH and I got married, we started having them over for Christmas dinner, never on the holiday because they worked swing shifts as in was growing up so we were used to celebrating on a different day.  Some years that was just about the only time we saw them.  The Christmas before last, DH and I were having some issues, our kids had a lot of activities going on, and time got away from me.  I sent my dad a message the week before Christmas and let him know that, and that we wanted to get together in January if that was ok.   It was not ok apparently, bc my SM called DH the next morning, going off about me and what a selfish person I was.  He told her she needed to take it up with me.  She said she was done with me and that she would drop the kids'gifts off at his work the next day. When she came, she stood in his parking lot and cried about how he needed to watch his back because I am not a nice person, along with some other nasty things.  He actually cried telling me about it bc he did not want to be in that position.  She and I have had our ups and downs, but for the most part, I have got along with her.  I have never done anything to intentionally hurt her, but now from a step Mom point of view I can see how she may have taken some things.  I know the role is not easy.  But I feel like she crossed a line by going to my husband not once, but twice, and saying bad things about me.  If she had said them to me I could get past it, but this felt like she was trying to hurt my marriage.  We have not spoken about it, but we have seen each other a couple times since then at family gatherings and been cordial.  Now my dad is inviting my family over for a cookout.  I do not feel comfortable going.  DH doesn't either but thinks we should go for my dad.  I am really struggling with what to do.  I love my dad, and i do love her, but I don't trust her.  I have a hard time feeling ok about hanging out with someone I don't trust, but is it better to just go rather than create more conflict?

stepper47's picture

It's ok, that happened over a year ago but I am sitting up thinking about it instead of sleeping because I am annoyed.  :)   It literally was crazy, I still have no explanation for her to do that other than she has some serious resentment towards me built up.  My DH definitely handled it well, but I am still so angry that she dragged him into it.  Over a postponed dinner invitation! I probably should have confronted her then and cleared the air, but we had other crisises happening at the time and I didn't have the energy.    It seems like she and my dad want to go on like nothing happened.  I don't think I can, but it feels like punishing my dad for her actions if we don't go. I am not trying to punish anybody, just don't want to invite someone like that back into my life

still learning's picture

"it feels like punishing my dad for her actions.."

You do realize that your father is complicit and just as guilty in all of this right?  He sent his wife, your SM to "deal with you".  They both felt snubbed by the delayed holiday dinner and she was just the messenger.  Your husband is upset that he was put in the middle of all this drama, imagine how SM has felt all these years being in the same position.  


marblefawn's picture

I understand if you are just done with her. Sometimes we just hit our limit with people.

However, you said, "but now from a step Mom point of view I can see how she may have taken some things.  I know the role is not easy."

So...It sounds as if you may have new territory in common with your SM than you did before (apparently, you became a stepmom since then?). It also sounds as if hindsight makes her point of view easier for you to understand. This could be a new start for you if you take the opportunity.

Calling your husband was not cool on her part. But hasn't your best friend done something bad that you forgave because she was your best friend? Or your sister? Or your dad? We forgive these people because we love them. Maybe you don't love SM, but you do love your dad and if you want to have your dad, you have to take SM too.

Maybe I'm just feeling all kumbaya because those kids were saved from that cave in Thailand, but I think you ought to go. Life is short. If you can get past what she did, do it. Maybe she's had to get past a few things her skids have done over the years. They say forgiveness is...I don't know -- something we should strive for. If your dad dies tomorrow, you don't want to have any regrets.



ldvilen's picture

I'm always amazed when I read stuff like this, "When he was born, she did a 180 and loved him, but it was more of a distant kind of love," instinuating that SMs are somehow not showing a true love or a lesser love.  SMs are told all the time to step-back and not get involved.  Most have to try their hardest to do this.  It takes a lot of effort to control your love for a child and not get too involved.  Yet, this is what we are always told.  I see this attitude as another sign of SMs can't win.  We have to be close, but not too close; we have to love, but not too much and in the right way; SMs have to show interest in SKs lives, but not too much. . .   Get what I'm saying: A SM can never win. 

I know having a SM is hard, but so few even try to see things from a SM's perspective.  I'm sure all of those years you thought you were working hard to keep a relationship going, she did too.  You have to realize that your dad and SM have a life, a marriage outside of what has gone on in your world.  I know a lot of SKs see dad and SM's relationship only from their own perspective and how it affected them personally.  Thus, they see dad as dad and rarely see dad as a husband to his wife/ SM.  So, many decisions that SMs get blamed for, are actually decisions that husband and wife made, or even just husband/ dad made.

Can you forgive her and move on?  She probably had to do that way more times than you realize in reference to your situation.  She could even be resentful that for years you have never invited them to an actual holiday.  But, of course, you have a "legit." excuse for that.  SM sees the hurt and pain up close in her husband; you do not.  You see him as teflon dad.  His wife knows how these excuses really affect him.  You probably don't even think about how your excuses affect him.  You just assume he is OK with them and she is not.  I'm sure your dad sounds OK with any excuses on the phone, but maybe he is really not.  Maybe as soon as he got off the phone, he put his head in his hands and gave a big sigh and said, "It happened again!?"  Granted, no one knows, but you are not around to see any of this.  SM/ his wife is, and maybe that is why she over-reacted.  Maybe she has a "legit." excuse too?  Just putting that out there.

2Tired4Drama's picture

Bottom line is that you have seen your SM on a couple of occasions since the disagreement and you both managed to be cordial.   Do the same thing at the cookout.    

Totally agree with idvilen 110%. ^^^^^

SMs are damned if they do, damned if they don't.  Sounds like yours is in the same position.  Like many, she probably just reached her limit.   You made mistakes and she's made mistakes.  Let them go.   Ruminating about it more than a year later is not helpful at this point.  While your DH was unwittingly and unfortunately dragged in by SM, you need to keep him out of it from now on as best you can.   It's your father and his wife - you should decide what your relationship with them should be.  I'm sure whatever you decide, your DH will go along with it.   

From now on, plan to go to events that they invite you to and just be cordial with her.  I'm sure she will do the same with you.  In the future, I would also make an effort to make it known well in advance what your plans are for the holidays.  Switching what has been "tradition" for them at a week out is probably what set her off.   Put yourself in their position - they probably spent a lot of time, energy and money on thinking about you and your family for the holiday.  Then, a week out it appears you don't have time for them and want to shunt them off until the holiday season is essentially over.   

You haven't mentioned how your own mom fits into the holiday scenario.  If it appears to your SM and your dad that he is shoved to last place grandparent, this may also be a point of friction.  

We are in a similar position here.  My SD and her husband have chosen BM and also her DH's family to be at the forefront.  As a couple, they invite BM and his family (and even his buddy's parents!) over frequently.   We were at their wedding and sat with a couple who were parents of one of DH's buddies.  They told us about a big, wonderful party they had been invited to at SD/DH's house.  Naturally, BM was there.  No invite was extended to my SO, however.  Just imagine how my SO felt when he heard that - these strangers had been welcomed into his grown daughter's life more than he was.  

SD completely ignores my SO and his side of the family - for no good reason other than BM told her that side of her family wasn't important.   As a grown woman, she should have seen through that crap by now.  She professes to love her dad but rarely calls him and checks in with him.  She will let it go months without a peep, until he breaks down (once again) and touches base with her.  

It is extremely hurtful to my SO's elderly mother (GM) and the rest of the aunts, uncles and cousins that SD has nothing to do with her father's side of the family.  They are kind people who have done absolutely nothing to deserve this treatment by SD.  My SO had a heart-to-heart with her many years ago and told her how hurt they all were by her lack of interest - especially her grandmother.  She said she would try to do better.   She hasn't.

To be honest, if I had a moment alone with her DH I would be very tempted to tell him what SD's actions (and his, by default) have been on her father and his family.  It is very hard to stay silent when you see people you love and care about be hurt by someone, especially when it goes on for years.   

Go to the cookout.  If you don't want to break your father's heart you will do this for him.  

disrestep's picture

My DH and I have adult skids, who expect us to somehow magically become thrilled to the moon, every time they have a baby. Yet, those same adult skids were and continue to be very disrespectful of our marriage. When DH and I got engaged, married and celebrated any life events, these adult skids could not of been any ruder. So, why is it on earth adult skids cannot understand that it works both ways? Oh sure, let us do cartwheels just because you had a child, when you cannot even appreciate our marriage or other milestones in life?

You are hurt because they did not show more interest in your son. What did you expect them to do? Your son is pretty much your life. Why should he be your father's and his wife's life? They have a life.

Let's see, your SM crossed a line going to your DH with issues about your family relationship; but it is okay for you to go to your SM's husband with issues about your family relationship? See, it works both ways, does it not?

It seems you do not have anything nice to say about your SM. So, why do you want to go to the cookout? Don't go if you are not comfortable going. Why do you want to create more conflict? You clearly don't like this woman, and it sounds she does not care for you. Again, works both ways. You and your DH are not comfortable going and I would guess your father and his wife don't want to deal with any drama either.

Your SM may not be a nice person. So, don't associate with her if she is that mean to you. I don't understand why someone would call your DH to call you selfish just because you invited them to a holiday gathering.

good luck 

amyburemt's picture

Maybe it's time for a heart to heart with your sm. Did you treat her well when you were growing up? Did BM treat her well or was there any alienation that happened on her end? There may be things that happened that you never were privy to. Maybe she is operating out of hurt for some reason. 

queensway's picture

It took me a long time to come to the place in my life that I am right now. I to have a SM. Never really had strong feelings of love for her but she married my Father and that is all that mattered. This is how I live my life now. I let things go about the past. As I read your blog you remind me of myself in my 30's. I live for the day. I do my best everyday. I don't care with my family who did what or who didn't to what anymore. It feels wonderful to live this way. Even with my skids I try my very best to stay disengaged and enjoy only the good things. And to h3ll with the rest. I always remember if someone has a problem with me that is their problem not mine. If I were you I would go for a short while and keep things light. Smile and talk about things that are fun. When you are there live in the moment. But most of all go there with zero expectations. You have the power to change what you want. Good luck!

stepper47's picture

I asked for opinions and I certainly got them Smile That is what I wanted, this has given me different ways to think about this, so thank you all.  In an effort to take away the hateful stepdaughter perception, let me say that I am now 41 with 2 Skids of my own, married 6 years.  I definitely see from both sides of the table now, and I am not holding on to the past or that they haven't been involved.  I mentioned that here to try to give a background that we have not been close. I have never been super close with my dad, he would get me once or twice a month and I always felt like I needed to be perfect over there.  SM inherited an only child, insecure, emotional 12 year old.  She did try, but by her confession she doesn't care for kids and I don't think she really knew what to do with me.  I don't remember treating her badly, I would just get emotional sometimes which I am sure was challenging.  As I got older and into my own things, I went over less, and they never really reached out. I got pregnant at 21, and they sat me down and tried to get me to have an abortion. That is what I mean by 180 in loving my son-from wanting me not to have him, when he was born she seemed smitten. It had nothing to do with het being my SM.  I was glad for that, I hoped my baby would help us be closer, and I was hoping my dad would be his male role model.  I would take him over pretty often and they always seemed glad to see him.  When he was 5, I started having problems with endometriosis, and did not get out much.  I noticed during that time they never reached out to see him, and that bothered me.  I brought it up to my dad, thinking maybe he didn't realize and we could talk it out, and he yelled at me.  She called a few days later to say I was a spoiled brat.   None of us handled that well, but we moved on.  It has always been in the back of my mind that their reaction was mean, which reinforced that i felt like I needed to be perfect.  I thought we were at an ok place until the Christmas incident.  Over the last 12 years, I have invited them to things, sometimes the come and sometimes not, and vice versa.  In my mind, I was doing what they wanted, giving them space and not trying to force them to be involved.  They may see it as me withholding and putting them last, that is entirely possible.  I have never directly treated either of them badly, but may have inadvertently done so by making them feel excluded.  I have always been closer to my mom's side of the family, my grandparents always hosted holidays and that is where I go.  My dad's holidays were always around their work schedule, so i have always asssumed the date wasn't important.  My mom never bad mouthed my dad and SM in front of me, but they would say things about her.   Being in a blended family now, I can look back and see that nobody was right or wrong, we all just did the best we could in a divorce situation. I have no animosity toward my SM or my dad, as I matured I realized that not everyone wants to be involved parents or grandparents and that is ok. I also know that my SM has issues from her past that cause her to react the way she does, it is true she has a negative mind that sees the worst in people, and it has caused her to lose several relationships.  I can easily forgive anxiety and being upset, if she had called me I would have done my best to make it right.   What I am hung up about is that she said things to my husband to plant seeds that I am not a good person.  It was two separate days and conversations, so it was intentional and not just because she was feeling hurt.  I can honestly say I have never had someone try to intentionally hurt me before, and I would imagine I would want to keep my distance no matter who it was.  I had sent a Christmas card with an apology in it with my DH the day we knew she was bringing the kids' gifts ($20 and a calendar, they do not put a lot of investment into the holiday, so I know that's not why they were upset), and she never responded to that.  Instead she unfriended me on FB.  So while I get the emotions that may be behind her reaction, that doesn't excuse that she was downright mean.  This cookout would just be us and our kids, and that just feels a little too close for me.  If there were more people I would go, no problem.  I just don't want to invite closeness when I don't trust that she wouldn't try to hurt me again.  I would rather stay where it is comfortable, distant and cordial. However,  I am feeling like I need to bite the bullet and go.  It is true that forgiveness and letting gonna something to strive for and I do owe them to give it a chance

marblefawn's picture

I can tell you're thinking really hard about this and trying to do the right thing. No matter how your dad and SM react when you see them, you'll know you did the right thing to patch it up. Sometimes knowing you did all you could is worth the risk. Good luck.