Dear Dharma,

I am dealing with my ex’s wife who barreled into my daughter’s life about 5 years ago and has broken all the sacred rules with regards to step-parenting.

She has spoken badly about me in front of my daughter… she has referred to me as “Loonie”.  She has insulted my daughter’s haircuts, told her I don’t care about her education, buys my daughter shorts that are much too short and much too tight and has even joined the school PAC.

Dad just sits by and says nothing.

My daughter is a bright young girl who can see through all of this and just awaits the day that she is old enough (she’s now 11) to stop going over when her dad is busy at work.

My issue is that even though I know I have no reason to question the love of my daughter…THIS WOMAN IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!  So now I’m beginning to think there is something wrong with me…or my outlook.

I must say, I feel better after writing this but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks much,


Dear Mom,

What a frustrating situation to be in. Of course, without knowing you, I can’t say there’s nothing wrong with you, but your outlook seems to be quite on point here…

I think there are a few things you can do here.  They might not go a long way in changing anything, but you never know.  And you would likely feel better for trying, right?

As much as you think it’s pointless, can you try talking to your ex and his wife together?  I know, I can see you rolling your eyes at me, thinking either, “I already have!” or “It wouldn’t do any good!”  But hear me out.

Obviously there’s a lot of tension in these relationships, and your annoyance towards step-mom adds to it.  And I hear you, she’s done a lot of annoying and undermining things…

But what if we changed tactics?  What if we disarmed them with something completely unexpected?

What if you thanked her for taking interest in your daughter’s life?

“Suzy Stepmom, I really want to thank you for caring so much about Sally.  We all know that a lot step parents genuinely don’t give a damn and don’t get involved unless they have to, so again, thank you so much.”

I’m guessing that both stepmom and your ex are going to be so shocked and surprised at this “warm” gesture that they won’t see the punch coming.

Which is… “I know we don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I’m sure we can agree that speaking badly of each other directly to Sally creates a lot of confusion and upset for her, so I’m going to ask that you stop doing that immediately.  It’s mean spirited and grossly unfair to put Sally in that position, right?”  Smile… Smile…

They may deny they’ve ever said anything, they may try to defend – just wave it off and reiterate the sentiment with a, “Let’s just agree that the best thing for Sally is a positive environment, okay?  And again, thanks for everything!”

In regards to her joining the PAC, that’s a bit… much.  Hopefully you are on the committee too… If not, sign up.  Don’t let her be in a position where she has input you don’t know about.

Otherwise, continue to have faith in the relationship you have with your daughter, keep the lines of communication open, and practice what you preach by not speaking poorly of her dad and his wife.

Hope this helps, and write in any time you think Dharma can be of help.



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1 Comment

  • Cautiously optimistic says:

    For me PAC is a lot of work ! If she wants to do it let her do it ! In my experience the PAC doesn’t even interact much with the students they are more on the “back end ” of things. She might not even see your daughter ! Other than that I think Dharma’s advise is good but it might be tough to get through it. Carful you can start with the basic talk and end it up in a big discussion. Emotions can betray you and the real feelings can always come up.

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