How Should I Handle My Step-Mama Drama?

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Life is complicated. Thank goodness there are experts to help us untangle some of the vexing issues that, well, vex us on a daily basis. The Mouthy Housewives are here on BlogHerMOMS to help, three times a week. Email your pressing issues and questions to stacy.morrison@blogher.com to be answered in exclusive posts on Fridays. Today, we share the newest Mouthy wisdom on offer.—Stacy

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Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I am the proud (step)mom of a lovely 4-year-old little lady, with whom I share an incredibly close bond. I have been wearing my “mommy” shoes since her (single) father and she moved into my home when she was a 9-month-old baby. Her biological mother suffers from behavioral and mental illnesses that cause extreme outbursts and instability and at the time was not at all interested in being present in her daughter’s life.

Recently, however, her Biological Mother has been seeking help and has been trying to step back into the picture. Although this should be a great thing—the more love, the better!—Biological Mom has decided that it’s her right to assume full responsibility and rights of my daughter… err, stepdaughter. She has never to this day sent anything in terms of child support or even clothes, gifts, etc with the exception of a few holiday and birthday cards and toys from Biological Mom’s parents with Biological Mom’s name signed on them.

My girl’s father is a fantastic dad who didn’t have his own biological parents growing up and is thrilled that Bio Mom wants involvement and refuses to ask anything from her in return for parental rights. Problem is, we are expecting a baby this winter and are tight on cash and could really use the help. It’s not my place to ask her (we don’t speak, usually) but I am starting to get really worried about our little family’s future. Bio Mom lives multiple states away and is pressuring for full custody (my husband says definitely not, but he’s leaning) and the news of a new child in the family is sure to set off past issues with Bio Mom. This is supposed to be such a happy time for us yet all I feel is STRESS STRESS STRESS!

HELP!

Step-Mommy Dearest

little girl holding mom's hand

___________________________

Dear Step-Mommy Dearest,

Okay, this is heavy. What I'm hearing is that you are worried about protecting your family while also trying to be practical about your finances. (All while you're pregnant! Yikes.) These are both valid concerns, but I don't think they should be handled simultaneously. Whether you lose your daughter has a lot to do with things that are beyond your control, but you can work on improving the situation with communication. But it must be said: getting this woman to pay child support is best handled in a courtroom, not your living room.

SO!

The reality is that you don't really have the power to dictate what happens here. What you CAN do, however, are these three things:

1. First, communicate with your husband. I'm hoping that, at this point, you've already spoken with him to let him know how you feel. If not, make that priority number one, and don't mince your words. (I mean, maybe don't say "bitch be crazy" or anything like that, because that would be insensitive.)

2. You also have the power to establish a positive relationship with this woman. I realize it hasn't yet been done, and there's an awkward I've-been-mothering-your-daughter-for-the-past-four-years-what-have-you-been-up-to? issue, but for the sake of this little girl, you should bridge that gap. All parents, "step" or otherwise, should make the effort to be on the same page.

3. Lastly, I might watch too much Dateline or something, but I feel like it would be wise to procure a lawyer for you and your husband. I'm feeling like the if-you-give-us-money-we'll-share-custody thing is not the best approach here, and a lawyer can help you see exactly why. (As can watching Dateline.) And if you want to get REALLY crazy, go ahead and hire a private investigator as well! (Okay, that's totally the Dateline speaking.)

(And in between all those to-do items, please remember to breathe.)

We're pulling for you!

Kristine, TMH

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