Sex & Relationships

Should I keep my daughter away from my evil stepmother?

Our new Sex & Relationships columnist Claudia Dey answers your questions.

mother and daughter arguing

Photo, Getty Images.


My father is married to a woman who has been nothing but mean to me since they met 12 years ago. This behaviour escalated recently with the birth of my daughter, but my father still turns a blind eye. I am so hurt and tired of it all that I’m tempted to say enough is enough, but what does this mean for my daughter?

Dear Cinderella,

First, this is not a time for rash action. I understand your sense of mistreatment has grown into a fierce resentment; you need it to end now. You’re a mother. With your daughter in your arms, everything is clear; you want only goodness for her and around her. And yet, estrangement isn’t the answer.

My experience is that cutting off ties is as violent as it sounds; no one benefits from being apart. It makes for hollowness and yearning — not what a sleep-deprived mother in a stained nursing bra needs. You must protect and nurture your daughter’s relationship with your father, however fraught.

Set up visits on terms that suit you. Bring reinforcements — a comrade’s presence is always bolstering. Keep it short. Be as politic as a diplomat. Put on your best Buster Keaton. Do expect your stepmother to make comments that diminish you. Do expect your father to let them stand. And do challenge yourself to focus only on your daughter and the magic that occurs between her and your father.

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