Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms wrote in, Cathryn replied​.
Cathryn's Mailbox
2 Youngsters I can't control.

3 yr old SS crying all the time!

A bio-mom worried about new stepmom in her daughter's life- can we help?

About ready to throw in the towel!

About to become a step parent and am terrified!

Bio mom badmouthing me to my stepson & he repeats to me & my kids.

Bio-mom back & I'm hurt by her impact-what can I do?

Bio-mom doesn't want me present at any of my skids school events.

Bio-mom is online stalking & has issues w/ pictures of skids.

Bio-mom physically assaulted me & telling skids it was the other way around?

Bio-mom used me, I drew a line, she’s angry--now what?

BM doesn't want her kids, then does-what's going on?

Clarifying Mission Statement for SMOMS-revised

Dealing w/ bio-mom who doesn't want to get along with me?

Dealing w/ Deceased Bio Mom's Extended Family

Dealing with SD at my young age

DH finds out he has a daughter-I feel terrible

DH sets no Boundaries for SD20-what to do?

DH w/3 bio-kids not trying to bond w/ my 2 bio kids.

Do I love my ss? I don't know.

Does the BB help or hurt with issues?

Don't know where I went wrong

Ever Feel Like Leaving?

FDH feels guilty about leaving BM & allows her to excessively call/text/email him.

Feeling like invisible parent to stepson- help!

Feeling like the enemy in my own house: Teen SD

Feeling resentment towards my SS & can't connect

From BB- A Ritual for you & your beloved

From BB: Self-awareness can hurt...why is that?

Help w/situation that dad, biomom & skid all agree on but I don’t feel is best

Holiday traditions? Some ideas from sister SMOMS

How can I find the right balance & Boundaries?

How can I handle my SD8 who loves negative attention?

How do I cope w/DH's need for perfect family when I'm more realistic about it?

How do I deal with a lying SD, her bio-mom & the ex-step mom?

How do I deal with all the hurt and anger?

How do I help her understand that chores and rules don't mean that I don’t love her?

How do I stop SD from lying to me, DH, BM, and BM's boyfriend?

How to accept bio-mom's "bad" choices?

How to deal w/ unkind skids, ex-wife, MIL costing me my relationship?

how to deal w/SD choosing bio-mom for school play?

How to handle bio-mom who keeps asking for more $$$?

How to handle it when skids away Christmas Day?

How to help ss, when BM encourages him to lie?

How to help when bio-mom returns

How to let go of the single life I thought I saw going to live versus being SMOM?

How to make transition easier for skids?

how to step back in after stepping out?

Husband still feels guilty, his kids in their 30’s

I am frustrated with my skids 99% of the!

I feel jealous of DH's ex & unheard by DH-Help!

I feel left out & sort of invisible w/ grown SD’s

I really love my FDH, but really wish his daughter didn't exist?

I want a better relationship w/ teen stepson

I want a Closer relationship w/ stepdaughter

I want my bed back

I would like to know how to change my attitude towards my new inherited family

I'm at the end of my tether... Stepchildren don't seem to like me.

If you're in the mood for SMOMS Pep Talk-read this!

Invested so much love, time, energy & $$...seems it's never enough

It's too much work- I need help from DH & Family!

Jealous of sister-in-law & Skids-what can I do?

Just jealous or maybe time to leave?

Local support stepmom groups???

My DH doesn't understand why my feelings are hurt

My husband stays at his mothers when he has his daughter for the night.

Need better coping skills to do so…

No matter what I do, bio-mom still hostile. I feel hopeless & scared

Not a step mom yet but need some guidance

Open for your Questions in March 2015

Right now, I HATE being a Stepmom!!!

Self-Pity-it's an emotional numbing,energy draining tactic

Someone to talk to when things come up or whenever?

SS5 keeps throwing his BM in my face! Help!

Struggling w/ a jealous stepdaughter

Stubborn DH and sexually active teenage SS

teenage step daughter & car...Ugh!

the problem is my partner...why is he fighting my efforts?

Transitions and Coparenting Struggles

Trouble coping w/BF's newborn & ex.

Venting Guidelines- A Requested approach

What are reasonable expectations?

What are these letters?

What boundaries do I need to set with husband and sd?

What can we do about the rage! I "Lost it" last night. Help!

What to do about disrespectful 20 yr/old SS

What to do when Bio mom starts turning step daughter against me?

what to do when step child stops saying I love you?

When bio-mom sends stuff from life w/your DH?

When BM causes drama, how to prevent that impacting my relationship w/ the skids?

When to call it quits? What to do?

When winning more important to bio-mom than getting along

Why do things Skid's say bother me so & what to do?-Updated!

Why does it bother me that my skids don't recognize how much their father does for th

Why does my ss's rudeness bother me so?

Why does my stepson Idolize his bio-mom????

Why don't I matter in the family?

Why so jealous? What about irrational fears?

Do I love my ss? I don't know.
Hi Cathryn,

I’ve been with my fiancé for seven years, we’re getting married next year. My ss is 13 now and it seems as he gets older things get worse between us. I never feel included with him, every time he talks (before or after every sentence) he says dad directing it to him like I do not exist. When we go places together he is right next to his dad taking every step and movement his dad does even if it means he is pushing me out of the way to be next to his dad.

I do care for him and I want him to be this perfect kid. It seems that I am the only one that enforces discipline on him so it seems like I’m the bad guy. When I was growing up I didn't have all the gooshy love cuddling stuff so I don't do it with my ss. My fiancé now says that we would have a perfect relationship if his son wasn’t there because that is all we ever fight about and I don't know what to do.

He says I don't show his son any love but that's the only love I know is guidance and discipline. He and his sister don't seem to realize that other people show love differently but maybe I don't love him...I don't know how to tell.

It sometimes seems his son does things deliberately just to leave me out of things. It really hurts me to where sometimes my temper gets the best of me and I start yelling. My ss will always choose to go with his dad all the time to where if he doesn't he sits at the window watching for him to come home. It really irritates me and cannot stand it.

When he was younger things were different. He would say I love you to me and hug me and wanted to be around me even though it felt awkward to me because i'm not use to that. So my question is... how do I know I love my stepson?


Hello, As I read your letter I can see that there are many things going on in your family. What if you decided that it didn’t matter whether or not you love your stepson? What if you looked at how you two treat each other and let the feelings show themselves more naturally? Could you try that?

It is very wise to be aware of how your own upbringing is impacting your ability to see and react to things with your own stepkids. It is also understandable that to be ignored, disregarded and treated as invisible would be upsetting to any of us. This kind of behavior is something that can be worked on from two angles, yours and your fiancé's.

Have you read the various articles on the site about ways of interacting with our stepkids? Given his age, it makes sense that he may feel awkward around you while he (and his hormones) are waking up. I know that can feel a bit creepy but it is something to look into-in case there is anything to this...meaning, that he may feel awkward around you if he has or had any kind of crush on you when he was younger. I’m no expert in child psychology so you may want to get some advice from others about this. My point is that if he is pulling away, behaving differently than he used to, what if you suggested new ways for you two to interact, that felt more comfortable for him? Playing checker or chess? Cycling? doing work in the garden, volunteering for a cause? What can you, your fiancé and your ss do together than is new and may give all of you a “clean slate” when interacting?

His age brings about some unpredictable behaviors.
sure do wish that your fiancé would be a bit more supportive of you.
Does he know how you feel? Can you ask him to help you out in varying situations, so that he can come to your aid, instead of feeling criticized? Guys can be super sensitive when they are feeling guilty and/or between a rock and a hard place (caught between their kids and their lovers).

The book about teens may be helpful for that aspect of your relationship and it will give your fiance all kinds of healthy, practical suggestions and insights that will give him more confidence in dealing with his son. The book is called, “Get out of my life, but first could you take me and Cheryl to the mall?” By Anthony Wolf. if you are interested.

Back to your question, if you can find a way to treat him with respect and with kindness whenever you interact with him, even when he’s not acting as friendly towards you as you’d like, you can feel good about how you are impacting him. You will be modeling kindness and if you can do this and feel good about your role, perhaps you will not feel angry or hurt or irritated with him...and he will feel this shift in you. It may help you both feel more relaxed and if you can not take anything that he does as a personal, intentional attempt to hurt you, then perhaps you and your fiancé will not have as many arguments.

The fact that you have been in his life more so long, makes me wonder what else may be going on. Influence from his mother? is only one example.

Because of the upbringing that you had, if you wanted to invest some time and energy in helping yourself become more healed and aware of how your childhood impacted you, this is always a good thing! You’ve done a good job becoming aware of how and when your background impacts your present moment….this is a great start! If you could work with someone who could help you become aware of how you were wounded as a child (we all were in varying ways) like not having such lovey-dovey expressions and more discipline, this new awareness will give you greater access to your feelings. It could be that your ss’s moodiness and need for his Dad’s is triggering feelings you had but buried out of the need to survive your childhood.

Maybe you could sort of start over with basic kindness and ask him (and his Dad) if you 3 could find a way to treat each other like friends. Decide to have your fiancé handle the responsibility for discipline and you try being yourself with no extra responsibilities. Did you read my post “his Kids: His Call”?

I can understand why this situation is upsetting for you. Please consider the books and some professional support so you can find new ways to improve your self-care, meeting your needs and your feelings in new ways that feel better.

Sincerely, Cathryn

Part 2
Dear Stepmom,

The following letter was written to me FOR YOU from a bio-mom who has been wanting to help other women (who are in the role of stepmoms) but she is NOT a stepmom. She asked me to post this for you.

The name she uses is "Becky" and this is for you. I've not read it yet but wanted to post it in hopes that it will be helpful. She's written to me enough that I am trusting it is offered with the best of intentions. Cathryn

It sounds like she and the dad grew up in very different cultures, which isn't unusual in America. If I had to guess, her background is English, Scottish, German, or Polish, or some mix of these, and that her fiance's background is something different. These cultures can come off terribly cold-fish to outsiders.

If that's the case, therapy with a culturally sensitive therapist (not always easy to find) can be quite helpful. In the end, the fiance will have to decide whether he can live with this acceptingly and lovingly, because this is simply who she is (and who she'll be if they have a child together). These things can be (and should be) explained to the son, too, in terms he can understand. Chances are he already has some inkling about that, but it'd be nice for him to know it's not that she's just mean, or something. In the meantime, it would be helpful if she had a hard look at the relativity of her own attitudes toward discipline. So long as the child is well-cared-for, reasonably polite by most people's standards, and reasonably responsible by most people's standards, that's pretty much a slam-dunk for a 13-year-old boy. She may need to relax her own attitudes about what constitutes acceptable behavior, and recognize that she's marrying into a pre-existing family with standards different from her own. If that's a serious problem for her, this may not be the marriage for her, first because they speak to deep and irreconcilable differences that go beyond childrearing, and second because the boy and his mother will remain in their lives forever.

As far as his recent behavior goes: It sounds to me totally normal for a 13-year-old boy. Adolescents are often barely human, and I think she's finding that battle-choosing is important. His dad does need to step up and correct his son's manners, because what he's modeling is how to treat a wife. And if he lets the boy treat her like she's invisible, that's not okay: it says to him that he should treat his own girlfriends and wife or wives the same way. It may be totally unintentional on the boy's part -- they're often just oblivious. But the dad needs to take that behavior in hand.

I don't agree with the intimation that the boy has a secret lech on for the stepmom, or that he's somehow being poisoned against her by the mom. While those aren't impossible, I think it's best to look first for obvious and less dramatic explanations, and the most obvious is: he's a 13-year-old-boy who wants his dad's attention.

The heartbreaking part is her uncertainty over whether she loves him. It sounds to me like she's feeling very ground-down and uncertain in the relationship. The future SIL needs to stay out of it, for one thing. But whether or not she loves is not something anyone else can or should try to determine. If the reality is that she doesn't *like* the boy, then that's something else, particularly if the boy lives with them part of the time. It's damaging to children to have to live with adults who dislike them; they can sense it, you know. But the first thing she needs is to get out of being ganged up on by the dad & SIL, know that she's done nothing wrong, and get clear in her own heart about her feelings.

Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055