“Like mother, like daughter” she said in response to my daughter reporting I took her to a doctor to inspect a dime-sized black spot on her thigh that after a week was not resolving.  When my distressed daughter relayed this to me, I asked for the context.  “I don’t know mom!  Why does she ever talk about you?”  Without context to guide my reaction, I was left flailing to understand.

“Like mother, like daughter” are the words I want to hear about my daughters in relation to me.  I still beam with pride when someone says it in reference to my mom and me.

Instead it felt like it was wielded against my youngest like a weapon.

Truthfully, I don’t know what the comment meant.  I tried to guess.   Does she think I take my daughter to the doctor a lot?  Does she think I go to the doctor a lot? Wait. This wasn’t about me.  The damage to my daughter had been done.  That invisible line between households had once again been highlighted and underscored. 

I was not the first mom to face the ridicule of a stepmom.  I would be lying if I said she was never the subject of mine.  The relationships between the OGs (short for originals in teen slang) and stepparents is usually one defined by the tight rope each parent walks on. Both the mother and the stepmother (or father and stepfather) are trying to co-parent without any real knowledge of the other.  We do not know how each other were raised, what our parenting preferences are, or even what is happening in each other’s lives. How do we allow grace and the benefit of the doubt in the absence of any relationship?

I sent a text to their dad stating that he should remind his wife that she should keep her opinions of and about me private.  My daughter received an apology from her stepmom and my phone remained silent.

I wish I were big enough to have been satisfied by that.  But I am imperfectly human.  What I wanted was an acknowledgment by their dad and his wife that they understand how damaging it is when our children feel like they have to pick sides between our houses, and when they feel that their step-mom doesn’t like their mother who they love.  I have had to hold my tongue many a time and force the reminder on myself.  I know it is tempting.  I know it is hard.

When I have faced disappointments in the past about my co-parenting relationship I have reached for perspective.  I remind myself that everyone (me included) has bad moments and has words escape from their mouths before they can catch them.  I remind myself in the big picture of parenting – this is nothing.  This is nothing compared to COVID, remote learning, not seeing their grandparents.  There are so many bigger things I need to parent my daughters through right now and I know the beauty of children and teenagers is that this might even be a blip in their world of fast-paced social media snaps.  It would be forgotten as fast as the words were uttered.

Having perspective and grace takes a lot of practice and really good best friends who share your shock of the statement and then help you move on.  Having perspective and grace is what I want my daughters to learn – to learn from me – so that people can then say about them “like mother, like daughter.”

Angela Dunne

CategoryDoing Divorce