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?

Maryland

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 tellme@washpost.com.

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