Other parents suck

Your stepdaughter was thrilled a month ago about moving to Colorado next summer. This morning, she says it will be too hard on her. Too stressful. She's already overwhelmed by traveling so much. Your stepdaughter suggests moving to Reno instead “so we can be a real family again” which is funny, because she sure hated being 'a real family' when we all lived in the same city before. Hated it for 5 solid years. When you tell her the flight is only an hour longer, and drive time to the airport is the same, she ignores you. Repeats herself like she’s memorized a speech. Like she’s a robot.

And it's the funniest coincidence-- her mom wants you to move to Reno too, and she also thinks it's too much traveling for her daughter! It's almost as if they've been talking about it a lot in the past month, almost as if her mother has changed your stepdaughter's mind about the whole thing. But surely not. Surely she'd be supportive of you leaving the city she herself said was an inappropriate place to raise your stepdaughter.

But not if she doesn't like the new custody arrangement. Not if she misses her daughter too much in the long summers. Not if she's complaining that it's not fair you get all the holiday weekends-- forgetting that she has 9+ months with your stepdaughter while you don’t even have three. That’s not included in her definition of ‘fair.’

Apparently she would rather return both households to a life of constant conflict with her daughter smack in the middle. It’s only been a year, and she already wants out of the custody schedule she requested. Even though it was her idea to move in the first place. Even though her daughter’s present ‘really stressful’ traveling schedule is a result of her actions, her insistence that this would be best for everyone, her refusing to stop at anything, including the destruction of your family, to get her way.

No, no. These things don’t count. All that matters now is that you are the bad parents if you are the ones who move now, because it will suddenly be your fault that the daughter travels twice a month. It’s convenient in this case to forget she’s already been doing it for a year.

And then we have the other parent.

The other parent is also sabotaging your move to Colorado. He is taking his daughter aside and calling her repeatedly telling her she doesn’t have to move, she can stay with him, he’ll fix up her room, like you’re some kind of a monster who is tearing her from him against her will. Like he hasn't had six years living in the same city with her to fix up that room, to be active and involved. To meet her teachers or attend her conferences or pick her up from school. To even pretend to be a father, even a fake father like that fish that’s packaged as imitation crab.

The other parent owes over $14,000 in child support arrears. Which used to not matter, because you used to think money was less important than his presence in your daughter’s life, that you’d trade every penny of child support if only he’d start giving a shit about his kid. Only now that you’ve been around the block a few times, you’ve realized that she’d be better off with the cash, because being around him stresses her out so much that she has tummyaches for days and days leading up to her weekends with him.

Luckily he cancels a lot, so she only sees him maybe once a month. Except then you're kind of stuck, because if she's disappointed you say 'Oh honey, your dad loves you, he just has a crazy work schedule' to comfort her but you feel like it's a lie and you wonder if he really does love her and even if he does, is it a good idea to tell her that because you don't want her thinking this is love, this constant disappointment, this emotional unavailability and being let down as more predictable than coming through.  

So if he’s not going to maintain a supportive presence physically, it’d be nice if contribute financially. Or at least at least chip in for even a portion of the $400+ in medical bills she racked up due to those stomach problems last year. Except he never did. And yet your daughter came home today and announced that Daddy and his girlfriend just bought a new house! And it’s big! And Mama, oh my god, has the awesomest pool.

No, no. Again, these things don’t matter. Those child support payments are seriously crippling him financially. He’ll tell you all about it the next time he calls. And if he’s not active and involved-- well, that’s your fault too. You’re obstructing the relationship, poisoning your daughter against him. Not him, not the guy who cancels 3 out of every 4 weekends. It’s nothing to do with his actions. No, you are the bad parent who is taking his daughter away and preventing them from having a decent relationship.

Ridiculous? God, yes. But you cannot make this stuff up. For one thing, it’s totally unrealistic; no one would ever believe you. They especially wouldn’t believe that these things happened on the same day.

So here is the number one rule of blended families. Are you listening? Because this is the answer that will make your life bearable:

You. Are always. Wrong.

Your house is the bad house, and the other house is the good house. Whatever you do, it makes you a bad parent. Even if it is the exact same thing the other parent did a year or two ago, such as accepting an outstanding job offer in a city that will be much better for your child and your family. Even then, you will be a bad parent and, frankly, a bad person because you actually do not care about your child and you are not doing what is best for her. In fact, your actions are irreparably damaging to her. Because-- and this is key-- what is actually best for her is not what you think is best. It is whatever the other parent thinks is best.

Now. With that knowledge, and under these conditions, go forth and parent. Maintain integrity. Follow your gut. Do what you think is right for yourself, your children, the family you’re trying so hard to make together. Go ahead. Try it. Just try it. I dare you.


  1. Such a tough situation. Take the high road. Always take the high road. And be strong!

  2. @Kate and Russ Thanks Kate. That's our plan so far too. :)

  3. They do suck Maarit. :( But you are right, follow your gut, follow your bliss, and your children will recognize it and be happy too. xo

  4. @Julianna Thanks, Julie. :) That's what we hope.