Part 2 (of 3) – The Stepdaughter’s View of StepMom

“Once upon a time I had a devoted dad

Then he got remarried and I got really sad

He started spending less and less time with me

I blame it on my stepmom

But dad says that is jealousy

He told me not to worry and never to doubt

That he will always love me and to wipe those wrong thoughts out”. – Julia, age 13

Many agree that while jealousy does permeate the heads and hearts of some stepmoms and stepdaughters, it isn’t something that is readily addressed. While it may not be talked about, it is having an impact on many young girls who are aching for their father’s attention and blaming what they perceive as a lack of it onto their stepmom.

This is the second installment of this three part series on jealousy between stepmoms and stepdaughters. Last month, we heard from the stepmoms and how they view the jealousy tango with their stepdaughters. This month, the stepdaughters take a step into the spotlight and share their hearts regarding the jealousy that many feel towards their stepmother. Interestingly enough these young women are jealous of their stepmoms for one of the same reasons stepmoms are jealous of them. Next month, the focus will be on the impact jealousy has on the stepmother’s relationship with her partner and offer practical solutions for a peaceful heart and home.

Jealousy is all the fun you think they had. - Erica Jong

Feeling Pushed A side

I surveyed stepmoms and stepdaughters across the country to delve deeper into the potential jealousy they have for one another. In part one of this three part series, we heard how some stepmoms feel like an outsider and are jealous of the close relationship that their partner has with his daughter(s). On the flip side, some stepdaughters reported that they felt  “set aside” once the stepmom was in the picture. Most admitted pushing harder to be physically in their dad’s life the more they felt threatened by their stepmom’s presence.

Here are some of the responses I received:

I feel like my dad cares more about my stepmom than he does about me. My dad only turns the air conditioning on when she says its hot in the house but never when I beg him. He only takes us out to eat when she can go. I feel like whatever she wants, she gets and that I’m chop liver. I hate it. Plus he wants me to bond with her and I don’t want to spend time alone with her. I don’t get why I should have to have a shopping day with her but never alone time with my dad. He is who I want to spend alone time with.” - Monica, age 12.

My dad and I were just fine until she moved in. I like things the way they were. Now the house looks like her and not like me and my dad. My dad used to let me decorate the house. She has totally redecorated it. Sometimes I put stuff back the way it should be.”  - Annie, 15

As stepmoms, we can often get caught in the cycle of focusing on the trials and tribulations that we go through in our role. Heaven knows, we have our share of struggles. Sometimes, looking at the same situation through the eyes and life of our stepdaughter in the same situation can offer both insight and compassion.

Concerning Annie’s situation above, her stepmom probably was decorating the house with a pure heart to make the place homey and to add her own touch. Her stepdaughter, however, viewed her acts of kindness in a negative way perceiving that she had not only taken over her job as “woman of the house” but redone all the things Annie had done with her dad. This can cause the stepmom to feel unappreciated and the stepdaughter to feel like parts of her are being replaced in her father’s eyes.

Two stepdaughters shared this from their hearst;

I only get to see my dad two weekends a month. That’s six days. I don’t want to have to share him with someone else. I don’t want to have to check schedules with someone else. I just want my dad.” - Erica, age 14

“I text my dad every weekend I’m not with him to ask him to take me places even if I don’t really want to go just to make sure he still will. I know my stepmom doesn’t like it but I really don’t care. He’s my dad.” – Kate, age 16

The Influence of a Stepmother

Some of the situations and sources of frustration that stepdaughters shared with me signify they are jealous of the power and influence their father has given their stepmom in the home.  This is a perception that was shared by a few of the respondents:

Every Friday on the way to pick up me and my brother, my dad would pick up a pizza for dinner. We would go back to his place, eat pizza, watch a movie and camp out in the living room. Now Judy says pizza isn’t healthy every weekend and that dad and her have to sleep in their bedroom. In my mind, she is changing the best parts of seeing my dad and he just goes along with it. I feel like he is letting her make all the rules I hate it.” – Cindy, age 9

I like my stepmom but my dad lets her choose everything. Why does she get to pick the restaurant, the movie, and where we go on vacation? Before my dad got remarried, he let my sisters and I decide what to do. Now we don’t get that anymore. I want to feel important again.” - Michelle, age 15

This last quote is very telling. The father trusts his wife to make choices and obviously values her opinion which is a very healthy component of a positive relationship. However, those choices used to belong to his three girls. Because their decision making power has been shifted to their stepmother, they are jealous of her “power” over dad and grieving their perceived loss of influence in his life.

Another area that was a hot topic was how some stepdaughters were bitter towards their stepmom for changing the family menu. One stepdaughter said this:

“My mom makes us eat healthy and I liked visiting dad and eating pizza and junk food. When dad got remarried, Julie started cooking dinner and insisted on no pizza and no junk food. My dad makes us eat healthy now. I liked eating at dad’s before he married Julie. Whatever she wants, we get. Not fair.” - Amber, 12

Physical Proximity

Some girls shared that they are uncomfortable with how much their dad and their stepmom show physical affection. One stepdaughter wishes it was her mom that her father was so in love with while another misses sitting with her dad during movies.

She’s always hugging and kissing my dad. Yuck! I don’t like seeing someone kissing my dad unless its my mom. Its embarrassing. Before her, my dad would take me fishing, to Wendy’s, or out for ice cream. We did just fine without her. Now I have to share my dad and I hate it. Sometimes, if I get her mad, she stays in her room all day while I’m over. I kinda like it cause I get my dad all to myself.” - Angela, age 14

I ask my stepmom to make me popcorn or get me a drink when we watch a family movie so I can get her away from my dad. When she gets up from the couch I take her place. I think it makes her mad because sometimes she doesn’t finish the movie but then I get my dad all to me.” - Alyssa, age 11

One stepdaughter shared with me that she has no memories of her mother and father spending family time with her. She is jealous of what her stepfamily does and wishes her dad could have done those things with she and her mom.

What Mom Says Means A Lot

Our culture does enough to pit ex-wife against stepmother but the reality is that what moms say to their children about their father’s new partner greatly influences both their perception of their stepmom and their ability to have a positive relationship with her.

One stepdaughter confided in me that her mom told her that the reason she doesn’t see her dad much is because he would rather spend time with his new family. This girl is blaming her stepmom for the limited time she gets with her dad and stepfamily based on what her mother has told her. Her mother’s words may or may not be the truth but her stepmom has become a target of blame based on them.

Non Jealous Stepdaughters

Just as there were some stepmoms who reported feeling no jealousy towards their stepdaughters, there were some girls who reported a healthy, positive and non-jealous relationship with their stepmom. Two things these girls had in common were that they felt they got to spend quality time with their father and that their mother was accepting of their stepmom.

I like my stepmom. She’s cool. When I come over, she is really nice but I  usually don’t see her the whole time because my dad and I usually do something. I’m on swim team and my dad takes me to practice and then we go out to lunch and run errands just me and him. I love that time.” – Ella, age 12

“My dad is happy since he married my stepmom. She takes care of my dad and I like that.” - Anne, age 8

Common Threads

Overall, these stepdaughters care about their father and their stepfamily. Any jealously they feel towards their stepmom seems to be related to how much time their stepmom spends with their father, how much time they get to spend alone with their dad, their mother’s relationship with their stepmom and whether they feel they have lost influence in their father’s life to their stepmom.

What’s important to note is the role that perception plays in all of this. As if you didn’t know that being a stepmom was a complicated endeavor, the complexities of jealousy some stepdaughters feel towards their stepmom is often based on how they perceive their stepmom and her actions.

Often times the stepdaughter’s perceptions of their stepmother’s actions may not be in line with the true motivations and heart of the stepmom.  This disconnect can be a breeding ground for jealousy.

Dealing With Stepdaughter Jealousy

Don’t take it personally – I know it’s the common mantra that all stepmoms hear and it’s because it is so true. You can’t take the jealousy personally. Stepdaughters tend to be jealous of the role you play in their father’s life rather than you personally. They are jealous of the time their father spends with you and how close you are with their father. For girls who are older, it may be hard to accept that you are intimate with their dad. Girls don’t like thinking of their father doing that “sort of thing.”

Look at your role through your stepdaughter’s eyes – You’ve heard the old adage “is that glass half empty or half full?” It’s purpose is to demonstrate that any situation may be seen in different ways depending on each person’s point of view. Nearly every stepfamily situation can be viewed differently depending on whose eyes and life experience you look at it through. When it comes to jealousy between stepmoms and stepdaughters, depending on whose lens you choose to view the relationship with dad, a different picture can be painted.

Understand that hurting people hurt others – while we know that all stepfamilies are formed out of loss, we also sometimes forget that it takes children much longer to grieve the loss of their parents relationship. While adults can heal and move forward, children often harbor the fantasy that their parents will one day get back together. When stepdaughters are angry towards and/or jealous of their stepmother they may purposely act out towards them.

A stepchild acting out towards their stepmother is not acceptable but often the behavior can be an indicator of a much deeper pain within the child. Pay attention to patterns and  approach the situation gently with their father.

Next month, we’ll address how stepmoms can use their stepdaughter’s perceptions to understand and lessen the jealousy they feel. Practical tools and tips will be shared to bring peace to the stepmom’s relationship with her partner including how to approach him if you feel your stepdaughter has a deeper than “normal” hurt and jealousy towards you.

Names of the girls who have participated in this survey and the names of their stepmothers have been changed to protect the innocent.

My article originally appeared in the October, 2011 issue of StepMom Magazine

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Your thoughts? Did any of the quotes from the stepdaughters resonate with you? Do your stepdaughters struggle with jealously?

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