After a divorce, keeping both parents present in their children’s lives takes effort.
But what if a new spouse doesn’t want the ex in the picture? Or—as in this case—doesn’t want the ex to have pictures.
A teen turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for feedback after a conflict with his stepmother over photos of his father in his mother’s home.
“AITA for telling my stepmom she’s pathetic and doesn’t get to boss my mom around?”
The original poster (OP) explained:
“My parents divorced when I (15, male) was 5 and my sister was 3. For a while during and post divorce, my dad was trying really hard to win my mom back.”
“I remember he would use my sister’s and my upset about the divorce. He doesn’t really seem to care about my sister or me either.”
“Like he used my being upset about the divorce and encouraged me to tell mom repeatedly when I was younger and he’d encourage me to beg her to get back together with him. He’d discuss this stuff during their swap times and looking back he was a huge d*ck.”
“He’d also lie and say my sister ate way less than she did because she was so upset. My sister would eat way less for a couple of days after a swap but he was acting like she was starved.”
“I can see now how sh*tty he acted. For me it was hard to go from our family being together to two separate homes and families.”
“For my sister, the upheaval was hard for her. She really couldn’t get used to bouncing from home to home.”
“I know mom brought the issue with my dad to court back in the day and while he was told to knock it off and sent to some kind of counseling, custody wasn’t changed.”
“Throughout all of that mom did her best to shield us and even though she must have hated my dad’s guts for all the stunts he pulled, she kept some photos of him and our family from before up in our house.”
“My sister and I felt reassured seeing them. Even though my sister didn’t remember those times, I think it made her feel a little more okay with how confusing it was, but dad only made it worse.”
“Dad gave up on them getting back together eventually and he insisted that everything we had at his house be from him and not mom and we could not have photos of mom in his home.”
“I was 8 when he met my stepmom.”
“I’m not sure how soon she found out that mom still had photos up of before but it became a huge deal for her and she told my mom she was not allowed photos of ‘her man’ in mom’s house.”
“My mom remarried when I was 10. We have a few photos of my stepdad’s ex-wife at home and some from when he was married to her and my stepsiblings were young.”
“This is especially important to them because their mom is terminally ill with a condition that made her unable to take care of them (I think it’s something to do with her brain). There are still photos of dad at mom’s too.”
“I’m less into it now that I feel worse about what dad did. But my sister still feels comforted by them and mom always says he is still our dad/our family and she wants it to be as much our home as it is everyone else’s who lives there.”
“The wall where these photos are is where mom takes a lot of our back to school photos. My stepmom found out they were still up and went nuts on my mom a few months ago.”
“She told mom she had to do what she says, etc… It was insane.”
“My mom told her to mind her business and if she stays out of her home she doesn’t have to see or worry about them.”
“My stepmom went on a rant about mom a few days ago and she was like how dare your mom not do what I tell her and take the photos of my husband down.”
“I told my stepmom she’s pathetic for being so bothered that mom was a good enough mom to accept photos of dad for our sake and that she doesn’t get to boss my mom around.”
“I also told her to leave my mom alone because none of this had anything to do with her. She told me I did not get to speak to her that way.”
“I told her if she thinks she’s earning my respect with her sh*t then she’s even more pathetic than I thought.”
“It’s been a rough few days. My dad and stepmom both say I was beyond disrespectful.”
The OP summed up their predicament.
“I told my stepmom she’s pathetic (twice) and she doesn’t get to boss my mom around or tell her what to do. I also talked about her not having my respect…”
“I was pretty angry and I didn’t really talk to her the way I would my mom or sorta my dad (lost a lot of respect for him as I got older).”
“Maybe I was being a bratty teen a** when I talked to her because it wasn’t like I said anything respectfully.”
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors overwhelmingly ruled the OP was not the a**hole (NTA).
“Something tells me your dad is…not the nicest person in the world, based on your post. Your mom clearly isn’t interested in winning him back and just wanted to give you and your sister some comfort when you were younger.”
“Just like having photos of your mom’s husband’s ex-wife makes your stepsiblings feel better, especially given that their mom is terminal.”
“Your mom sounds like a very secure and kind person who just wants the best for her bio and step kids. Your stepmother on the other hand…NTA.” ~ PrscheWdow
“It was also ‘beyond disrespectful’ for your stepmother to speak badly to you about your mother. That’s a line I would never have allowed my partner to cross. Ever. NTA.” ~ skillz7930
“NTA—what they mean by ‘disrespectful’ is that instead of passively obeying them, you stood up for what you know is right. Good for you.”
“Might consider having a one on one conversation with your dad about this and let him know if he hopes to maintain a relationship with you after you turn 18, he needs to get stepmom off your back.” ~ who_knows2023
“NTA. Also you can make it clear the photos of ‘my dad are MINE and MY SISTER’S’.”
“‘We are his children and we have the right to have the photos we want in our house’.”
“And really talk to your mom and make sure that woman (stepmother) doesn’t set foot in your house again.” ~ Single-Advantage-164
“You were truthful, pragmatic and thoughtful.”
“Your stepmonster needs to grow up, and your dad needs to remember that he still has a legal and moral obligation to care for, and care about his children.”
“Your mom is a stand-up gal, a real hero! And you’re NTA.” ~ Flimsy-Wolverine-663
“NTA respect is earned, and your stepmum bad mouthing your mum in front of you is showing you the height of disrespect.” ~ plantlady1-618
However one person thought everyone—except OP’s mom—sucked (ESH).
“Sorry, but ESH, except your mother.”
“I get being bothered by your stepmom’s behavior (it’s juvenile), but you could have expressed your thoughts on the matter without name calling (calling her pathetic).”
“Just because you feel that way doesn’t mean you have to verbalize it.”
“Same goes for your stepmom. She’s definitely the worst behaved of all of you, but I think you could have done without the name calling.” ~ Extreme_Emphasis8478
And one person thought only the OP was the a**hole (YTA) because at 15, he should be seen—not heard.
“YTA. It’s not your place to comment on adult relationships to adults. You over stepped and we’re out of line. I agree your stepmom is pathetic and need to grow up with her insecure behavior.”
“But at 15, it’s not your place to comment or call her pathetic. You absolutely have the right to have your opinion.”
“You absolutely can express your frustration to your mom and dad, but the way you handled it was wrong. If I was your dad I would pull you aside and we would have a talk.”
“I can’t have you disrespect my wife. I would also talk to her about how she is handling the situation and she needs to be respectful of our blended family.”?
“I would not have that conversation in front of you as that is a conversation between me and my wife.”
“I will tell you this there is far more going on than you know. Your parents won’t tell you nor should they.”
“From an adult perspective we have feelings too and many times we don’t know how to handle them in the best way. Just love your parents and realize they are doing the best they can.”
“As long as they love you, you are good. Just forgive them for making mistakes and not being perfect.”
“Children are supposed to keep their mouth shut. They are not equals.”
“But hey I was raised a certain way. I agree the stepmom was 100% wrong, but there is a right way to address it.”
“It’s not the child’s business. The dad doesn’t need his child’s approval or oversight when addressing it.”
“What would I look like addressing an issue about something my wife did in front of a child. That’s a private convo between adults.”
“My wife and I never embarrass each other in front of our kids. If one of us are wrong we address it in private with each other and not in front of the kids.”
“If warranted, we make apologies to the kids later taking responsibility. Sometimes it’s needed sometimes not.”
“An expectation of parents always doing the right thing is dumb. We are all just winging it as we go.”
“There is no definitive handbook addressing every situation. Human behavior is just too complex.” ~ Reddit
But their comments were downvoted and disputed by their fellow Redditors.
“The stepmother started it with her comments. If she doesn’t want OP to make any comments then maybe she needs to not talk sh*t about OP’s mom to OP.”
“Is OP just supposed to sit there silent while stepmom rants about his mother to his face? It doesn’t sound like the father is about to stop the stepmother, so OP laid it out. NTA.” ~ lady_k_77
“You’re ignoring the fact that the stepmother MADE IT OP’S BUSINESS by ranting TO OP. So it absolutely was OPs business that they had every right to comment on.”
“I’m truly sorry that someone raised you to believe that you have to sit silently while any adult insults your mother, and to believe that children are not ‘equal’.”
“That’s so gross and toxic and it can’t have been a healthy or pleasant way for you to grow up.” ~ No-Carob4909
While OP was less than tactful in his approach, it was the stepmother who created the confrontation.
Maybe she and Dad should be reminded of an important rule of human discourse:
“Don’t start none, won’t be none.”