Living Columns & Blogs

Carolyn Hax: Young stepmom who volunteers at school isolated by snarky moms

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: I married someone older, and now I am a stay-at-home stepmother to his two daughters, 13 and 11. (I’m 26.) Because he and his ex-wife are so busy with their careers, there’s ample space for me to volunteer at their schools and be involved in their social lives.

When interacting with other moms, I get a lot of, “You look too young to be their mom!” and when I explain I’m the stepmom, I immediately get stonewalled.

I get why this would be annoying or threatening or whatever to mothers in their 40s. Perhaps they even see my existence as a sign their own husbands will leave them for younger women (not what happened in my case). But I am really feeling isolated now. I have even gotten a few snarky versions of, “We assumed you would not want to hang out with old ladies.”

How can I make these other moms feel more comfortable with me?


DEAR MARYLAND: The friendship of snarky, judgy people doesn’t sound worth your trouble. Plus, trying to win their approval sounds about as promising as any other effort to be liked – as in, not very, but with high risk of undermining the self-worth of the person trying.

I do want to help you make this situation better – I just don’t think launching a “Like me!” offensive makes as much sense as just waiting this out: Soon enough, people will get used to seeing you around. Just be warm, be helpful, keep volunteering and be guileless in response to snark. E.g.:

They: “We assumed you would not want to hang out with old ladies.”

You: “(shrug) I always welcome new friends.”

Besides that, keep doing what you’re doing in supporting the girls. That’s not only best for them, but also helpful to your cause.

Email Carolyn at