Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms wrote in, Cathryn replied​.
Cathryn's Mailbox
A- I love my partner, but I also wish his daughter didn't exist! (8/11)

A-About ready to throw in the towel! (4/12)

A-About to become a stepparent and am terrified!(5/12)

A-Are you in the mood for Stepmom's Pep Talk-read this! (3/15)

A-Clarifying Mission Statement for SMOMS. (11/11)

A-Do I love my stepson? Sometimes I don't know.(8/12)

A-Don't know where I went wrong. Please help me!(6/12)

A-Ever Feel Like Leaving? (5/11)

A-Feeling like invisible parent to stepson- help! (12/13)

A-Feeling like the enemy in my own house. Yes I have a teen stepdaughter.(5/15)

A-From BB: Self-awareness can hurt...why is that? (10/12)

A-Holiday traditions? Some ideas from sister SMOMS. (11/113)

A-How can I find the right balance & boundaries? (4/12)

A-How do I deal with all the hurt and anger? (1/12)

A-How to let go of the single life versus being stepmom?(8/15)

A-How to step back in after stepping out? (8/12)

A-I need some better coping skills and I'm open to new ideas.(7/16)

A-Invested so much love, time, energy & $$...seems it's never enough. (2/16)

A-It's too much work- I need help from my partner & Family!(7/12)

A-Not a step mom yet but need some guidance (7/12)

A-Right now, I HATE being a Stepmom!!! (10/13)

A-Self-Pity-an emotional numbing,energy draining tactic-find a new option. (7/15)

A-What about the rage! I "Lost it" last night. Help! (10/11)

A-What are reasonable expectations? (3/11)

A-When to call it quits? What to do? (3/12)

A-Why am I so jealous? What about my irrational fears? 7/15)

A-Why don't I matter in this stepfamily? (12/11)

B-Dealing with SD at my young age (7/15)

B-Feeling resentment towards my stepson and can't connect with him.(2/16)

B-How can I handle my stepdaughter(8) who loves negative attention? (8/12)

B-How do I deal with a bio-mom who doesn't want to get along with me? (9/13)

B-How do I handle my feelings when my stepchild stops saying I love you? (4/16)

B-How do I help her understand chores/rules don't mean that I don’t love her?(1/12)

B-How to help my stepson, when his mom encourages him to lie to us? (10/11)

B-How to make the transition between homes easier for stepkids?(12/17)

B-I am frustrated with my stepkids 99% of the! (5/14)

B-I feel left out and invisible with grown SDs (4/12)

B-I have issues with my teenage stepdaughter and the car...Ugh! (4/12)

B-I have two stepkids I can't control.(9/11)

B-I want a better relationship w/ teen stepson. (6/12)

B-I want a Closer relationship w/ stepdaughter (5/12)

B-I'm at the end of my tether... Stepchildren don't seem to like me. (12/11)

B-It feels like my 5-year old stepson throws his mom in my face! Help! (10/11)

B-Just jealous or maybe time to leave? (6/11)

B-My 3 yr old stepson seems to be crying all the time!(9/12)

B-My husband stays at his mothers when he has his daughter for the night. (10/12)

B-My stepdaughter chooses her bio-mom for school play-it upsets me. (6/11)

B-My stepkids don't recognize how much their dad does for them. (6/11)

B-Struggling w/ a jealous stepdaughter (3/12)

B-What to do about disrespectful 20 yr/old stepson? (4/11)

B-When your stepkids are away on Christmas Day. (12/12)

B-Why do things my stepkids say bother me so much? (11/11)

B-Why does my stepson idolize his bio-mom? (4/12)

B-Why does my stepson's rudeness bother me so much? (12/11)

C-Bio-mom assaulted me & told stepkids it was the other way around. (8/11)

C-Bio-mom back & I'm hurt by her impact-what can I do? (8/11)

C-Bio-mom doesn't want her kids, then does-what's going on? (8/11)

C-Bio-mom doesn't want me present at any of my skids school events.(8/15)

C-Bio-mom is badmouthing me to my stepson & he tells me and my kids.(6/16)

C-Bio-mom used me, I drew a line, she’s angry--now what? (9/11)

C-How to accept bio-mom's "bad" choices? (6/11)

C-How to deal when bio-mom returns into the picture. (1/16)

C-How to handle bio-mom who keeps asking for more $$$? (9/12)

C-No matter what I do, bio-mom still hostile. I feel hopeless and scared.(3/17)

C-What to do when bio-mom turns my stepdaughter against me? (9/16)

C-When bio-mom sends stuff from life w/your partner-what to do? (5/11)

D-How do I cope w/DH's need for perfect family? I'm more realistic. (4/12)

D-Husband still has divorce guilt and his kids are in their 30’s--ugh! (10/14)

D-I think the problem is my partner. Why is he fighting my efforts?(6/15)

D-My partner doesn't understand why my feelings are hurt. (7/11)

D-My partner feels divorce guilt so lets his ex interrupt outlives (6/18)

D-My partner w/3 bio-kids is not trying to bond w/ my 2 kids.(8/11)

D-Partner sets no Boundaries for SD20-what to do? (8/11)

E-A bio-mom worried about her daughter's new Stepmom. Will we help? (2/12)

E-Bio-mom is online stalking and has issues w/ pictures of stepkids. (6/12)

E-Dealing w/ Deceased Bio Mom's Extended Family (5/12)

E-Dealing w/ unkind stepkids, ex-wife, MIL costing me my relationship? (2/12)

E-Help w/situation that dad, biomom & stepkids all agree on but not me! (3/11)

E-How do I change my attitude towards my new inherited family? (4/12)

E-How do I stop SD from lying to me, DH, BM, and BM's boyfriend? (8/12)

E-How to deal with a lying stepdaughter, her bio-mom & ex-stepmom? (1/12)

E-I feel jealous of my partner's ex & unheard by my partner. (10/11)

E-I want my bed back! (5/11)

E-Jealous of sister-in-law and my stepkids. What can I do? (8/12)

E-My partner found out he has a daughter-I feel terrible (10/12)

E-Stubborn partner and sexually active teenage SS (8/12)

E-Transitions and Coparenting Struggles (3/16)

E-Trouble coping w/BF's newborn and his ex-spouse. (7/12)

E-What boundaries do I need to set with husband and stepdaughter? (11/11)

E-When BM causes drama, how to preserve my relationship w/ stepkids?(6/12)

B-I feel left out and invisible with grown SDs (4/12)
Hi Cathryn,

There are a few things that have been bothering me lately. I don’t know if they’re going to make sense to you but i hope they do...?

First a bit of background:

Been w/DH 10 yrs.
2 sd's 20 & 23
1 bio-daughter 13 from my 1st marriage

It’s been a rough 10 years.
Tough age for sds and problems s w/their mom through the years.
No communication at all w/their mom

1 - I feel like I’m not included when my sd's & DH I should always leave the room or something?  SD23 lives with us, but SD20 doesn’t - she visits quite a bit (she used to live w/us). 

I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
I’m so sick of it; of all the uncomfortable feelings.....after 10 years shouldn’t they go away?  (CBD: I’m assuming you mean should the uncomfortable feelings go away. do you mean shouldn’t the SDs go away? DO let me know if I need to be corrected.-Thanks)

I’ve told my DH before about this too and he tells me I don’t have to leave the room or anything but I just feel tension...sometimes when sds are there. What to do?  

2 - My DH will go out w/sd's once in awhile and it makes me mad sometimes. I don’t want to be. It’s not a jealousy issue....I think it’s because when the kids were younger we used to all go out as a family and now that his kids are older we don’t. When my daughter and I go out my DH usually doesn’t go either. Again, I guess I don’t feel included. What to do?

3 - Also I feel like my sd's don’t care about me; like I’m married to their dad and I just live in the house...probably because we don’t all spend time together as a family. We’re starting to try to do dinner once a month as a family. We just started last month. 

Maybe I just need broader shoulders. Maybe it’s all in my head and no one else feels this way?  I was hoping you’d have some insight?  

Thank you for taking the time to read this!! Its so hard to talk to anyone who's not in a similar situation about stuff like this...they don’t seem to get it...What do you think?



Hello Helen,

I’m so glad you wrote to me. It’s such a lonely feeling and I certainly can understand why you’re uncomfortable. I made up the title of your letter, since you left that part blank and I hope I summarized it accurately. If not, let me know and I’ll revise it, OK?

First of all, even if you’re the only stepmom feeling as you do, it’s important to honor those feelings so let’s give them some attention and see if there’s something we can learn from what you’re feeling. You see I believe that our feelings are trying to get our attention for a reason, for something we need to know that will help us feel better. Karla McLaren wrote a super book called “The Language of Emotions” if you’re interested in more about this theory.

Secondly, would you consider yourself a shy person or do you normally feel relaxed around having people over and are just nervous when your SD’s are around? Has it always been this way or has something happened (overtly or un-discussed) that led you to notice you felt this way. Did you ever feel happy and comfortable around them?

Also, girls have a sort of innate talent for letting people know how they feel, without saying a word. Many feel that they have power when they ignore, however subtly, others. So another question to ask yourself would be, do I think they’re doing this to give me the cold shoulder, or do I just not know what to say while they with us? Do you find they are open to chatting with you or keep their comments one-liners to avoid seeming openly rude?

Does it make any difference in how you feel around your SD’s when your daughter is around, or any other person is with you?

I ask these questions because while society makes a big deal about the “gift of gab” and being highly social, some of us are just not all that comfortable, except around 1-2 people. Some people can talk about anything, anytime with anyone instantly (extroverts) and others can’t find the words when they need them, get drained when around people they are uncomfortable with and/or want to think about things before they speak out loud (introverts). This difference is called being an extrovert or being an introvert. Society has made introverts feel that there’s something wrong with them for not being all extroverted. This is such a sad but real issues. If this applies to you we can talk more about it.

If you feel that you may be an introvert, please check out the many excellent books just out about this. Let me know and I’ll get the exact titles of the ones I’ve studied for you.

I bring this up so you can learn about it and cut yourself a ton of slack for feeling uncomfortable AND so you can learn some ways to feel better about being around them if this applies to you.

IF, these feelings are unique to being with your SD’s, let’s take a different tact and talk about some other things…

The monthly family dinner sounds like a great idea. Rituals like that are usually well-received and enjoyed for years and years with families. The more you can create with a flare of fun, the better.

What about adding a few other family things, such as each month there’s a birthday among the 5 of you, the birthday person gets to choose the menu and the other 4 have to wait on them hand and foot for the entire 2 hours of dinner & Dessert? Something fun and something that gives each of you equal celebrity status when it’s your turn. If there are 2 birthdays in the same month, give them the choice to share the evening or split it into two different dinners. These can be the family dinners of another night, your choice.

Starting slow, yet with some space for giving varied people personal attention could be fun, especially if your DH is willing to play waiter (complete with towel over his arm, etc.)

If you could change one thing about your connection with them, what would it be?

Are they doing something to make you feel they don’t like you or is it the absence of them actively seeking a connection with you that makes you feel un-liked. I use that word, instead of dislike, because I can’t tell if you’re feeling they have bad feelings about you or no feelings about you. Apathy is a painful form of rejection and if that’s what you’re feeling we want to talk more about that. What would you say?

While I’m not sure you if you want to invest any more energy into your relationship with them, let me offer a few more ideas and you can sift and sort what makes most sense to you.

Have you tried anything lately to create “girls” night/day for the 4? maybe once a once? Do the SD’s show affection for or have connection with your Daughter?

Have you asked the girls if there’s anything, any activity they would like to share with you about how to have a closer friendship-now that they’re young women?

Have you given up on a connection and are now looking just to feel relaxed in your own home whenever they’re around?

I don’t know know if you’re feeling exhausted from trying and being rejected, or fed up at their lack of reaching out to you or the disappointment of hoping your discomfort would go away in time and it still hasn’t? Tell me more about your feelings and whatever you think the cause of them is (there can be many).

You mentioned your DH is happy to have you hang around, that’s good. Is he willing to actively help you feel more comfortable? If he is, I bet we could come up with a few ways he can facilitate that-let me know about that to, in your reply. I bet you didn’t think I was going to ask more questions than you did, huh? Smile

Could you be grieving the loss of the “Happy Family Fantasy” about how you hoped it could be, would be one day? This was a big thing for me and this kind of grief can tap into any and all childhood feelings that haven’t been processed yet.

When you feel angry watching them go out, while you and your daughter go your separate way, does it make you feel left out of something that they’re sharing and you’re missing? Does it remind you of whatever in your childhood situation?

I ask this question because so so many of the deeply painful feelings that come up for stepmoms are so impactful because they are not just creating difficult feelings in the present moment, but it’s like the present moment feelings somehow line up, like the tumblers in a lock to open up a flood of old feelings that really need to flow but don’t necessarily make sense to us at first. Not always, but looking for this backlog of feelings can give us more info about the source of your discomfort.

Any chance that when you’re with them, what you feel is the 10 years of difficulty so it’s hard to see them “objectively”? If there even is such a thing. I mean, I’m wondering if you ever got the thanks, the appreciation, enough acknowledgment or any of the joys that you deserved in exchanged for all the effort, time, money, etc you’ve spent being there for them physically, logistically, mentally and emotionally over the last 10 years. It sounds like you’ve been through a heck of a lot. Could you be emotionally depleted and in need of some serious rejuvenation that you may not be getting or never got?

Could it be that you’re ready to find other interests, other than being stepmom, and that you’ve been trying so hard, you’ve not had a chance to consider other areas of interest? Hobbies? clubs? stuff that will nourish you and give you more to talk about with your DH and SDs? What do you think?

If your Faerie Godmother showed up in front of you right now and granted you 3 wishes, what would they be?

If you will reply to me with the answers to all these questions, we can work together and come up with a plan to help you feel better, ideally good, around your SD’s.

If you copy this, paste it into a new email and then reply after each question, that would be a good may to make sure I match up the right answers with each question.

It’s been a long road for you and it sounds like you’re ready for some relief and some changes. I know from my own experience that sometimes we need energy and TLC before we’re able to even see, much less make any changes. I hope you’ll consider asking sister SMOMS on the board for some of their suggestions so you’ll know that you’re definitely not alone in your feelings.

Ladies, if you want to pass along any ideas now or after we know more about what Helen, just pass them onto me.

I look forward to hearing from you, when and if you wish to proceed. Please take good care and decide to honor yourself in as many ways as you can.

Best Wishes and a cyber hug, Cathryn
Cathryn's Mailbox
Stepmoms on a Mission®
PO Box 7, Medford NJ 08055