Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: What do you do when family wedding drama is creating tension? Have your own question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
My stepsister is pissed that I’m not coming to her wedding this fall. It’s a no-kids wedding, which is fine, but it’s out of state and I have 3 little kids. I’m not comfortable using a sitter we don’t know (nor being in a separate state from kids when they aren’t with family) not to mention the cost for care of 3 kids for multiple days would be through the roof. I explained this to my dad and he said it was “perfectly reasonable” and he understood. But my stepmom has since sent me several rude texts, one of them asked me if I was “just jealous of Vanessa because her dad is paying for a big, fancy wedding.” Another one blasted me because “many of your family members have not RSVP’d and we assume you set the tone for their unwillingness to travel.” WTF. I haven’t discussed this with anyone other than her and my father, so that is seriously misguided. And my dad doesn’t know about these texts from her because I don’t want to stir up drama. I mean, I REALLY don’t want to go now! But I also don’t want to look jealous or be blamed for other people not going! I am terrified it will cause a rift with my dad, to be honest. What do I do here?
Congratulations, first of all, on not being petty. I commend you on your self-restraint, because it has to be hard not to go smooth-the-fuck-off on your stepmom for even insinuating such things.
I know it can be hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes, but look at the big picture here: the only people whose opinions really matter in this situation are you, your dad, and your stepsister. And from the sound of things, it seems like your dad is already on board with your “perfectly reasonable” reasons for missing the wedding.
That leaves your stepsister. Have you explained to her your reasons why, or are you just assuming that she knows? If she doesn’t have kids herself (which sounds likely given her no-kids wedding), she may not even begin to grasp how hard it is to travel with little kids, how nerve-wracking it can be to leave them with someone you don’t even know, how much of a financial blow hiring a babysitter can be. A gentle explanation of all these things — maybe in a letter so she can read them again in case she misses something the first time – would be ideal, along with a heartfelt regret that you have to miss her special day. Maybe surprise her with something she really wants from her bridal registry to soften the blow; after all, it’s gotta be cheaper than travel costs and childcare. All you can do is make yourself clear, and what she chooses to do with that information is beyond your control.
As for your stepmom, just ignore her. Trying to reiterate your reasons will only stir things up, and you have no reason to justify anything to her. Besides, I can practically guarantee that whatever she’s saying to you, she’s venting about to your dad, too. By you not saying anything to him about it, he’ll see who the dramatic and petty party truly is. And since he sees your missing the wedding as reasonable, he’s likely already defending you to her anyway.
Are you acting like a brat and refusing to attend your stepsister’s wedding because you’re jealous? No? Okay then.
Are you sending messages to all your other family members encouraging them not to go either? No? Okay then.
As novelist Paulo Coelho famously put it, “Don’t waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.” You know the truth. Your dad knows the truth. And as long as your stepsister knows the impetus behind your absence, there’s no reason you need to be worried.
If people talk, they’re wrong — but even if they do, no one will remember it in a couple weeks anyhow.