Thank You Notes To The Stepmom

by admin on February 20, 2014

I came across this story in the online UK Daily Mail last week and it really intrigued me.

The author of the article is author Anna Pasternak (descendent of the great Boris, for anyone interested). If you don’t want to read it, the upshot is the difficulties in developing a relationship with step-children, specifically, her husband’s daughters from his first marriage. His acceptance of fairly infantile behaviour and his attitude towards them as if they were some kind of fairy princesses, is my reading of it. Along with their casting her as the evil step-mother who broke up their parents’ marriage (which may or may not have been the case).

Now, leaving aside the fact that she seems like a truly appalling woman, the aspect of the story that interested me most was to do with Thank You notes. As we all know from our e-hell handbook, you should always write a thank you note after a visit. Hand on my heart, though, I don’t. I much prefer to give my thanks in person with a gift to my host(ess) – wine, food, a potted plant or a gift specifically from my region of the country. Maybe that’s a cultural thing. I don’t think Australians really do the Thank You note business – maybe it seems a bit pretentious or stuffy to most people. You say ‘Thank You’ in person and leave it at that. But I digress.

Ms Pasternak writes of her rage at his daughters never writing her a Thank You note after a visit. I’d be interested in other e-hellion’s views on this. Is it at all reasonable to ask children (admittedly in their late teens / early twenties) to write their step-mother a Thank You note after a visit to their own father’s house? Shouldn’t they be welcomed as members of the family rather than guests?

I wouldn’t dream of accepting or expecting a Thank You note from a close family member for any kind of visit. I’m more than happy with a kiss on the cheek, a hug and a ‘Thanks for having us’, although a little something in the way of a loaded dishwasher (e.g. when my sister and her horde come for dinner), or a small gift from relatives / friends staying for several days never goes astray.

What do others think? 0128-14

I’m with you.   When family stays for a visit, I’m more than happy with hugs, “I love yous”, help with dishes and making the bed.   Expecting a written thank you note would be quite legalistic.   With that kind of draconian formality, no wonder her stepdaughters aren’t fuzzy warm about her.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

JeanLouiseFinch February 20, 2014 at 9:23 pm

After I read this, I thought, wow, it’s a good thing her husband is a psychotherapist, because this babe is in serious need of treatment. She sounds like an awful person, mainly because of her own issues or circumstances she brought about herself (i.e, the timing for when she and her husband met.) I feel sorry for all of the daughters, her daughter included. His daughters are relegated to being his dirty little secret, and her daughter ends up with this bossy witch for a mom.


Anonymouse February 20, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Wow. This woman could be my stepmother’s British twin. I doubt she holds her own daughter to the same standards as her stepdaughters– mine never did.

A thank you note for family visits? Not in a million years!


msdani313 February 20, 2014 at 10:02 pm

When my father first got married it did become a little awkward. Before my step-mom moved it I would come over without calling, eat food without asking and rearrange the place at my whim. That is the type of relationship I have with my father still. And while I will now call before I come over I would think my stepmother was nuts for asking for a thank you note. While my father’s house has become my stepmother’s house as well she recognizes that I was there before her.

This stepmonster is not going to make the relationship with her step daughters any better if she continues in this manner. And she is either going to end up with a divorce or a resentful husband who no longer has contact with his daughters!


Jess February 20, 2014 at 11:13 pm

As a fellow Australian, I too am utterly confused by this woman’s demands for thank you notes for visiting, let alone the parental home. I don’t think I have ever, or will ever see this done. Nor do I see it necessary in anyway. We’re pretty laid back and any sane, normal person would be happy with any of the above suggestions; stacking the dishwasher, verbal thanks etc etc.

I’m going to have to quote one of the classics (The Castle) …tell her she’s dreaming!


Anonymous February 21, 2014 at 12:14 am

Remember how many people E-Hell has advised not to put up with rude or toxic behaviour from family members, just because they’re “faaaaamily?” Well, this article is a really, really extreme inversion of that. The woman in the article is trying to use “formal etiquette” rules to alienate her stepdaughters, she slams them for not following “formal etiquette” by asking permission to get food, and writing thank-you notes after staying in their father’s house, and then she basically says that they shouldn’t be exempt from these rules just because they’re “faaaaamily” to her new partner…….because, of course, she and her unreasonable demands are more important.


MichelleP February 21, 2014 at 1:10 am

The Daily Mail is like the Onion; it’s satire. I’m calling shenanigans on this one, and if it is true, Lord help that family.


PandaHatBear April 28, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I wish it was satire. UnfortunTely this is a real newspaper and there are plenty of people who read it seriously.


Margo February 21, 2014 at 5:46 am

I haven’t read the article as I am not prepared to touch the Daily Mail or it’s website with a 10 foot pole. I would take anything which appears there with several handfuls of salt!

That said, from an etiquette perspective, I agree with admin and the previous posters.
No, you don;t send, or expect thank you notes from children visiting their own parent’s home.
It isn’t unreasonable for a child to take snacks out of the fridge / make themselves drinks / generally behave as though they are at home when they are, y’know, at home (even if they don’t live full time with Dad, it’s still one of their homes) It would not be unreasonable for a parent or step parent to put specific things off limits (e.g. “Don’t take the cold chicken out of the ridge, it’s for a meal I’m planing for this evening” or “don’t open carton of cream, it’s to go with a dessert I need to take to work tomorrow”) but it doesn’t appear that that is what she is talking about.

I also can’t help feeling that anyone willing to attack their own step-children in a national newspaper has lost any right to critisize anyone’s manners or etiquette… talk about motes and beams!


Vermin8 February 21, 2014 at 8:05 am

I have 2 perspectives: I am a daughter whose father left to marry another woman. I am also a stepmother to 2 young adults (male & female – they were teens when I met their dad – who had been divorced for years at that time).
Stepmothers get little to no sympathy. If there is tension in the house it is generally Stepmom’s fault. We had a lot of issues with my stepdaughter and some with my stepson (but not as much and he lived with us). I won’t say I was blameless I won’t say it was all my fault either. A lot of the problem is a new blend in households – a new person has their own habits and mixing with an existing family is bound to cause issues. Our problems were centered around money – my husband like to spend freely on the kids. He had told me initially that it was his money and I shouldn’t complain as long as it didn’t effect my money. Then when we purchased his dream home to be our retirement home – last minute he doesn’t have all of his half of the down payment so I had to come up with it in a few days. After that it was “on” when it came to expeditures – I foresaw myself going through all of the savings I had before we married while he was indulging his kids.
That said, I could not identify with the stepmom in the article. First of all, why do people think that if you break up a family to create another, there should be no bad feelings on the part of those who were left (and kids are “left” just as much as the spouses unless they move out with the departing parent)? Do you know what it’s like to be a teenager and your parent is having an affair and preparing to move? Having to deal with the other parent’s depression and anger? And the worst thing – realizing you can’t depend on the parent – they put their personal life over YOU (and Ms. Pasternak even talks about this as if it’s not wrong) – trust is completely destroyed. And you’re surprised when there are issues?
And I’ll reiterate what others have said – there is nothing wrong with a stepkid getting something out of the fridge. If there is something that’s off limits let them know. And a thank you note for a visit? Sounds like stepmom wants to reiterate “this is my home, not yours.” Shameful, truly shameful.


PHW February 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm

When I read the article, I could barely make it all the way through. This woman is horrible, putting her husband’s children as second to herself and her child. Clearly she has an amas of insecurities if she is jealous of the time her husband spends with his “other” family. Kudos for the husband that he continues to contact and spend time with his children, despite the step-mother’s diaapproval. I, like a few other commentors on here, am a step-child. My mother and my father are divorced and both remarried (my mother is on her third marriage after the devastating loss of my step-father to cancer 4 years, after 25 years together). I can’t imagine if my step-mother took issue with me taking food from the fridge while I was visiting or expecting a thank you note because she was “made to go above and beyond for my visit” over that of “a regular guest”. I hope for the Dad’s sake that he maintains a good relationship with his children and they do the same. Unfortunately in my my case, step-monster has made me feel generally unwelcome. That, and the distance my father lives away, has greatly affected our relationship. I’m lucky if I see him once every 3 years.


Lori February 21, 2014 at 4:32 pm

I read the story from the website (not just the synopsis of the OP). I took away that the ‘wicked stepmom’ realized she was being unreasonable and she and her husband worked on their relationship which made her not be so “draconian” with her stepdaughters.


Dear! March 6, 2014 at 3:14 am

I, too, read the story.

This woman sounds vile, but at the end of the article, she only admits that she was being unreasonable, by opening disliking and resenting his kids. She sounds like she is admitting that she got to a point where she tolerates his children instead of actively and openly despising and discouraging his relationship with them. She says that she stopped resenting them, but didn’t say that she was welcoming of them. She also notes that her husband admitted his “mistakes” which makes me feel that she is trying to validate her beliefs. She did write an article basically calling his ex a dirty pig, and his kids spoilt and an inconvenience to her new life that she wished would go away……for all to see, no less.

I suspect she still expects thank you notes and feels offended if his his daughter helps herself to something from the fridge.

I would feel genuinely hurt and further alienated by this woman’s article, and the father smiling gleefully in the photos would make me feel like he cosigns her vile article. She mentions that she has only met one of her husband’s children. I suspect that this article will ensure that she will not be meeting the other two any time soon.

I am from the Bahamas, and we also don’t give thank you notes. (Except maybe in a professional setting, but even then, rarely.) We thank people in person, and are “huggers.” If a close family member, was vexed that I didn’t leave a thank you note, despite a thank you in person, I think I would get offended.

AND, the fridge thing…..this is this man’s flesh and blood. He is her dad. It’s just food. Get over it!

I won’t lie. This story made me mad, though I don’t know why.


Neptune February 22, 2014 at 5:18 am

I certainly agree about the thank you notes. About raiding the fridge-I do get this one. As kids we had to ask & weren’t allowed to just help ourselves to whatever, whenever we wanted. So maybe that’s true for her as well?


Angeldrac February 22, 2014 at 7:00 am

I met a most wonderful stepmother, once, who had 4 wonderful, adult stepdaughters, and 2 very young biological sons. She told me that, when she married, she and her husband agreed that at ANYTIME it was needed, the stepdaughters were welcome to live with them and call their house home. Her understanding of her role as a stepmother was that her husband’s children would be a priority and he needed to be a father to the girls in every capacity he could.
Step-parenting is a hard job – but for this woman to have been so totally accepting, happy and welcoming of her role as stepmother was a joy to witness.
The stepmother in the article, however, seems to have NO idea whatsoever as to the her role, or, indeed, even her husband’s role as a father. I shake my head in disgust.


cicero February 23, 2014 at 5:26 am

a thank you note for staying in her father’s home? that’s a bit OTT.


Rebecca February 25, 2014 at 2:56 am

A thank you note for staying with their father, that’s crazy. A verbal thanks to the step-mom (and the dad!) for the wonderful time, the meals, etc., is plenty.


Goldie February 25, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Have to ask. Since the one child who does visit is still a minor, could it be that her visits are actually court-mandated visitations that are part of her parents’ divorce agreement? If so, then it makes the stepmom’s demand for thank-you notes even more bizarre. Thank you note for what? The daughter *has* to visit there.

I do like how she’s also in denial of how she and her husband met, and how people (especially his children) perceive it.


JennySunshine February 28, 2014 at 7:31 pm

I feel bad for kids who have step-parents who make them feel like second class citizens.

I have an awesome step-mom. She and dad would thank us kids for visiting them, and she would always load us up with fresh baked goods to take home. If I sent a thank you card she would appreciate it, but she definitely would not have demanded it.

My late mother’s family considered my step-mom as one of their own. She would spend time with my aunts and my dad and step-mom always went to family parties and reunions. She moved out of state after my dad passed, but she still called my paternal grandmother every day and keeps in touch with family.


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