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Bra Talk: When a Stepdaughter Confides in a Stepmom ....

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Stepbomb: At this point, I can only assume that my stepdaughter values my opinion. Why else would she ask me about buying her first bra -- and not once, but two times?

The first time she came to me, I was admittedly very gun-shy about having the discussion. I was completely caught off guard. But more than that, I was worried about what would happen if her mom found out I'd even been asked about it. So I kept my answer short and simple. I suggested that she speak to her mom about it, and said that if her mom felt it was time for her to get a bra, it would be her mom who should take her on that special shopping trip.

I felt bad that I didn't give her much attention, as I know this subject is tremendously important and these are the types of conversations that are going to continually come up. And I know my stepdaughter trusts me. (We have a tight bond.) But I also respect the fact that I am not her mother and therefore must step aside in matters like this. Still, how do you explain that to a child who's looking up at you, clearly confused as to why you don't have anything to say about the subject? 

The second time she brought it up was when she put on a T-shirt. She was sure that people could see that she needed a bra. And honestly, I agreed. But I didn't say that. I just told her that if it would make her feel more comfortable, she should put a tank top on underneath. And she did that. Then I asked her if she'd spoken to her mom. And she said yes, that her mom had told her that she should wait at least a year. I told her to reapproach her mother with her concerns, and then I spoke to my husband. 

My husband and his daughter have a very good relationship, and she speaks openly and honestly to him about many things. But I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out why she came to me instead of him: We're both female; it was nothing more. So he followed up with her and told her that it's her body and if she feels she needs a bra, then she should have one. He suggested she talk to her mom again and said that if her mom was still against it, he would take her to buy one. And then she asked him if I would take her instead. 

So my question is, what do you do when your stepdaughter wants to confide in you? When she's far too young to understand the dynamic between a stepmother and a mother? When she's just looking for guidance from people she loves and trusts? How do you handle it properly with the stepdaughter while still respecting her mother?

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57 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous September 16, 2010, 6:44 PM

Um, the daughter knows what she’s doing here. She wants a bra and her mother thinks she should wait. So she went to you to get you on her side. If it had been something less personal, she would probably have gone to her dad. She’s old enough to know that you can talk to her dad and get him on her side.

What really needs to happen here is for mom and dad to get along better and discuss how to bring up their kids. They need to come to agreement and present a united front.

Yes, if I were the mom, I would be furious. It’s not about whether or not you talk to the kid about bras, but why are you getting involved in a disagreement between her and her kid, on the kid’s side? Why is dad telling her not to worry, he’ll go against what mom thinks for her? I’d have a fight with my husband if he did that, and we like each other.

I don’t know what started the problem, but at this point, it’s way bigger than you, the step-mom. Mom and dad need to go to counseling to learn how to co-parent.

Carol Wyatt September 16, 2010, 7:05 PM

It sounds like you are doing the right thing. But Mom and Dad need to work this out. I’m sure the daughter feels supported by you, and that is important. But, try not to get in between the parents. I live with similar situations and I just try to support the kids, but respect the parents’ decisions. I don’t always agree with the decisions, but I help my kids find ways to live with the things they may not like….Which, after all, is the way real life is. Plus the daughter needs to work these things out with her Mom on her own. If you get in between them, their relationship will suffer and you will be blamed for that.
Your idea of wearing a tank top underneath is a good suggestion. Maybe being a sounding board is the best solution right now.

jaclyn September 16, 2010, 8:29 PM

I do believe your stepdaughter is trying to play both sets of parents against each other. I also agree that your husband should speak to his ex-wife to try to come to a mutual agreement about this situation. If the daughter is a large B or C cup and really needs a bra and the mother is still refuses to consent, then you and your husband can both go together with your stepdaughter to purchase it. Your husband can drive and sit on the other end of the store, since I’m sure he doesn’t want to be involved and your stepdaughter doesn’t want him to be involved. But you do need him there since he should take whatever criticism the mom will have over this situation. But I wouldn’t take her to buy a bra without the mom’s consent if it is possible for her to get away with not wearing one. If she is still an A cup, I’d drop the issue and wait until the mom is ready to consent to a bra.

If she were my daughter, I would let her get a training bra whenever she wanted one even if she didn’t really need it, but in this situation you know the mom is crazy (since anyone who starts a fight over xeroxed homework is missing a few screws) and you need to pick your battles with her.

N September 16, 2010, 8:41 PM

yeah your step daughter is trying to play you all against each other to get what she wants, don’t fall for it. keep telling her to go to her parents

mommyX4 September 16, 2010, 9:48 PM

I have 3 step-daughters and I think she is manipulating your relationship to get what she wants. Continue to redirect her to her mom so she can work this out with her. Its great that you have a great relationship with the child but you don’t want to create an unneccessary problem with her mom. Unfortunately, I learned this through experience!

Anonymous September 16, 2010, 10:13 PM

Even if this poor girl wants a bra her mom shouldn’t be telling her no. She may be playing both sides but she is growing and maturning and its an embarrassing and awkard time in her life and someone needs to stand up for her. It’s not like she is playing the parents to go to a party. In this situation the child really is the one hurting and it shows how screwed up of a situation this is. i agree with whoever said maybe the parents need to go to counseling to learn how to co parent and eventually the spouses should be added into that mix too so all can get along. Good job handling this situation, I know that probably wasn’t easy.

LokerMa September 16, 2010, 10:46 PM

Agreed. The girl is playing all adults to get what she wants. Stepbomb needs to back waay up. Otherwise, this is what it spirals into:

“But dad, I neeeed makeup! Everyone else is wearing it!”
“Well, if your mom is unreasonable and doesn’t agree I guess your stepmom can take you. It’s embarrassing for me and I’m just a man.”

“But dad, I neeeeed to learn to drive a car! Everyone else is!”
“Well, if you mom is unreasonable and doesn’t agree to driving lessons I guess stepmom can teach you.”

“But dad, I neeeed condoms!”
“Well, if your mom is unreasonable and doesn’t agree I guess stepmom can take you to buy them because it’s so embarrassing for me and I’m just a man.”

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Melissa September 17, 2010, 3:08 AM

I think you have to be careful and tread pretty lightly, which you’re doing. If your husband talks to his ex and it comes down to him getting a bra for your stepdaughter, I’d say since she’s asking for you to take her - take her. She’s obviously more comfortable with the idea of you in a fitting room with her. It may not come down to that anyhow or in all things.

For the record: for me, it was the other way around, my father’s wife got angry when my MOTHER got me a bra - she threw it away and refused to get me another until almost a year later, when HER daughter needed it.

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Janna September 17, 2010, 8:55 AM

I’m really surprised by these comments. I read, then re-read, the entire article and my take was that this child was becoming uncomfortable enough with her body to ask for a bra several times.

The stepmother is right to be concerned about stepping on the mom’s toes, but seriously, why not just get the child a bra that she feels she needs?!?!?!?

And I do *NOT* agree that this is anything like scamming your way into getting makeup, a car, or condoms. This is a BRA, for heaven’s sake.

YMay September 17, 2010, 8:58 AM

I would be beyond furious if another woman stepped all over my guidelines for my daughter and stole a milestone out from under us… Buying a bra isn’t just buying a bra, it’s journeying into womanhood and there’s no turning back from that.

I’d also be highly suspect if my former husband was such a pushover that he let my pre-teen daughter manipulate him like this girl is doing. Especially this early into adolescence. Be a dad, not a BFF.

Anonymous September 17, 2010, 9:15 AM

Anyone who thinks that buying a girl her first bra is no big thing is about as delusional and apathetic as this dad seems.

He’s going to send his new wife out to do it, against mom’s wishes, just because princess wants it that way? Really?

Whatever happened to parenting? Mom seems to be doing it, setting limits and sticking to them (even though dad is more than happy to steamroll over them to make his daughter like him and side with him).

Enjoy the rest of the teen years, because if the child is manipulating the adults this early and dad is already folding like a house of cards, it’s just going to turn into more of a battle.

Anonymous September 17, 2010, 9:35 AM

@Janna - Some people think girls need bras earlier than others do. I would give a girl one if she really wanted it, but I can imagine perfectly good parents who would want their daughters to wait. It’s frustrating if you care about a kid and you think their parent is doing it wrong, but sometimes that’s just life. It’s like your nieces or your best friend’s kids - you can tell the mom if you think she’s making a mistake, but whether or not she listens to you is up to her. And if she is mad at you, saying something will just make things worse.

Mommawan September 17, 2010, 9:46 AM

Why do Stepbomb and dad want to rush these girls to grow up so bad? Telling them there’s no Easter Bunny, buying bras, dressing them in Ambercrombie and Fitch? Do they want little shopping friends and confidants rather than kids that need to be raised? Less effort on their part or something? I just don’t get it. Mom wants them to grow up in their own time, dad is urgently shoving them towards adulthood with stepmom’s help.

REALMOM September 17, 2010, 9:47 AM

Stepbomb, i’m really not feeling you, but all you have to do is let SD know that her mom and dad is going to handle it. She’s the child here and what the parents say goes. If her mom has her own reasons as to why she shouldn’t wear a bra then her feelings should be respected. You should take a break from being cool stepmom and let mom and dad do their job.

XXXX September 17, 2010, 10:26 AM

UM is not an answer

RDGL September 17, 2010, 10:50 AM

WOW - so harsh folks!!! I am a mother and a step mother, my step-daughter is only 4 but I see this exact battle in our future. I think that stepbomb did the right thing. Direct the question to her mother and then speak to your husband, if that doesn’t go anywhere then buy her a “sports bra” it doesn’t have the same “first bra” milestone as the actual first bra, but will still allow this little girl the coverage and comfort she not only wants, but seemingly needs. Just because you are a biological mother does not mean that you know best. I would be upset if someone bought my daughter her first bra without my knowledge or consent, but I like to think I am grown-up enough to realize that my ego is not what is important here, it is my daughter or step-daughter’s best interests.

SportyPepper September 17, 2010, 11:04 AM

A sports bra is still a bra, any way you cut it.

Mom says no bra, then no bra until mom takes her to get one.

If dad wants to go against mom’s wishes get her a bra, he needs to talk to mom and get it himself. Him. Not cool stepmom who thinks everything mom does is stupid.

India September 17, 2010, 11:06 AM

Are u people serious? She’s asking for a bra! Not a pony, not to go to a concert a bra! She’s obviously already developing and enough for even the stepmom to notice it as well, are u aware of how cruel kids can be over something like this? Why should she wait another year when she’s already self conscious about it,that’s not going to stop her from developing just bc the mom thinks she’s not old enough. Really who cares what the mom thinks go buy her a bra! As someone that was a Dcup by 8th grade I completely understand this, how would you feel if u had to go braless and show the world ur goods? I’m sure quite embarassed even if ur just an A cup

Anonymous September 17, 2010, 11:17 AM

honestly, if the kid truly needs a bra i would tell my husband to tell her mother that she can either take or you will. its not about feelings its about the child, and puberty is a hard time. there is no need for this humiliation!

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