I need some advice about a sticky family problem. I’m in my 40’s, married with children, and my father’s new wife (my mom passed away about ten years ago) is quite a bit younger than him. My stepmother (it creeps me out just to say that, so I’ll call her “Amelia”) and I have cordial relations, but she definitely is not “family” to me the way my dad, my two brothers, and my sister are. Now that my dad is getting older, Amelia has taken over responsibility for some of their household tasks, which my siblings and I mostly appreciate. My siblings and I are annoyed, though, that she routinely answers my dad’s cell phone and responds to texts addressed to him, so we have no way of communicating with him without going through her. They also have a joint email address. Since Amelia sometimes seems kind of resentful, I am not exactly eager to communicate with her. Just recently, I wanted to talk to my father about something, but thinking of Amelia reading the text or answering the phone was enough of a barrier that I did not do it. I feel cut off from my father yet reluctant to just ask her to butt out. Any recommendations?
Stuck With a Buttinsky
You new stepmother sounds like the kind of person who would be cool under fire. When she faces a threat, she grabs it by the throat, wrestles it to the ground, and then dares it to get up. Not the kind of person you want to cross, but perhaps someone you want on your side.
As such, I’m betting that she has a job with responsibility and authority and that your father is retired—am I right? Furthermore, if Amelia holds down a job and still manages to have “taken over responsibility for some of their household tasks,” she must be efficient but also busy—very busy. In addition, she sounds as if she is used to being in charge and doesn’t mind if she steps on some underlings’ (your and your siblings’) toes. Could that insensitivity or disregard be part of why you say she “creeps me out”?
If you were to confront Amelia about blocking access to your father, I suspect that she would bristle at being left out of the mix. Given Amelia’s authoritative personality and the protective role she serves for your father, you can set up some new arrangements that will give you personal access to him without setting off any familial IEDs.