Dear Annie: When I married my husband, I suddenly became a full-time stepmother to his three young children, all under age five.
Their mother would pop up when it was convenient for her. She rarely called on their birthdays and often left them waiting for scheduled visits. I raised those children, and they called me “Mommy.”
Now, after 10 years, the mother has returned and plans to stick around. This woman is irresponsible, immature and impossible to reason with. There have been many problems, including drug use around the kids. They are afraid to upset her for fear she will abandon them again. I understand their worries. She has threatened on more than one occasion to walk out on them if they tell their father about her drug use. She leaves them alone for hours or brings them around people the kids do not feel comfortable with.
She tells the kids that my husband kept her from seeing them all those years, which is patently untrue. He has gone out of his way to make sure they have some sort of relationship. I truly try my best to stay out of the middle even though I don’t feel she behaves in the best interests of the children. She says I’m “just the stepmom” and should keep my mouth shut. Are my opinions irrelevant? She has violated every court order as if she is above the law. She also has no problem involving the kids in this mess and seems to have won them over by playing the victim. How should I deal with this problem that won’t go away? — Irrelevant Mommy
Dear Mommy: Those children desperately want their mother’s love and will eventually realize that it comes with strings attached. Until then, let your husband handle all problems so you don’t become the target of her manipulations. Keep a record of any damaging behaviour, missed visits, drug use, etc., which your husband should report to his attorney. If the children have not had counselling, please consider it. And give them extra doses of affection, attention and stability. They need you to be their rock.
Dear Annie: I have three sisters. I’m the “odd man out” because I neither smoke nor drink to excess as they do. Several times, they have made plans to do something as a family and not invited me. Recently, when my sister from out of state visited, I wasn’t told. I feel left out and unwanted.
Since my parents divorced 10 years ago, we’ve drifted apart. I am the only one who maintains contact with my father (a difficult man), and I suspect they believe I “spy” for him. I do not, although sometimes he tells me information about them that I didn’t know. We all are on Facebook, but I seldom get to check because of work, family and household obligations.
I’m in a quandary as to whether to confront them, and if so, how? — Texas
Dear Texas: A confrontation implies belligerence. It’s OK to tell your siblings, nicely, that you feel hurt when you are excluded from family events and would like to be notified when someone is in town. But you should also do your part by making a greater effort to stay in touch, either via Facebook, email or phone.