You've seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel All Alone in Their Marriages, keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show Braxton Family Values. Now it's your turn to sit in her chair...
Dear Dr. Sherry,
My father is very excited because I'm eight months pregnant with his first grandchild, a baby girl. He’s already making plans to babysit and spend time with her. While I appreciate his enthusiasm, my issue is that I don't have a relationship with my stepmother—it doesn't go beyond pleasantries whenever were see each other. My dad cheated on my mom with her and subsequently married her years later when I was a teenager. My mom passed away last year. I know of many paternal relatives who would expect me to see my stepmother as my child's grandmother, but I just don't feel it's right. After all, they always told me to accept her as my own mother even when my own was alive. I don't trust her because she and my dad caused my family so much pain. My dad will always be my dad so I must strive to maintain a relationship with him. I'd prefer my dad to interact with my child in my territory because I don't want a bond to form between my child and his wife. If anyone will be called "grandma" on my side, it will be my maternal aunts. I don't know how to explain this to my dad, and my husband thinks I'm being too strict. If we happen to visit my dad, his wife may interact with the child some, but I'd never want to leave my daughter with both of them because knowing their dynamic, she would provide most of the care and have influence over her. If it's just my dad, it's a different case.
Am I overreacting?
Protective Mother, Cautious Daughter
Why are you holding on to emotional baggage from your teenage years? It is really weighting you down. It is also about to rob your daughter from having two grandparents that will love and care for her. Your daughter will become an innocent pawn in your emotional game of chess. Your daughter will know nothing about your negative feelings until you expose her to them. She needs and will accept love from those that express it. Your issues do not have to become her issues. It is time to grow up and let go of some things, okay?
Unfortunately, you have been hurting and dealing with issues that were not your own. These issues were between your mother and father. Yes, your father's wife has a role in them, but she is not responsible for your parents' martial problems. Nor is she responsible for your father's choice to have an extramarital affair and to leave your mother. Your father is an adult and made his own choices. Rather than being angry with your stepmother, the real anger should be placed on you father. It is always easier for women to blame the other women than to deal with the person who has hurt us the most. It is important that you work through your issues with your father and stepmother. It’s time to have an honest conversation with both of them. It is likely that you fear that if you resolve and fully accept them in your life, you will be betraying your deceased mother. These are the type of issues I would recommend that you work through in psychotherapy with a therapist.
It would be great if you could resolve many of these issues before the baby is born. Your daughter deserves a life filled with as many loved ones in it as possible. While you may think you will be punishing your stepmother by not allowing her to be a part of your daughter's life, you are actually punishing your child too. Unless your stepmother has mistreated you and/or if you believe that she would honestly mistreat your child, there is no reason for her not to have a role in your daughter's life. You have a great opportunity to provide your daughter with a two-parent family and an extended family that loves her. Think twice before you wrap your daughter in your emotional baggage and deny her attention and love from her grandparents. I know you want to protect your daughter but are you sure you know what you’re protecting her from? – Dr. Sherry
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