Especially since so many Gen X and Millennial moms grew up learning unhealthy relationships with food (thanks, the 80s and 90s!), raising kids without eating issues can be one of the hardest parts of modern parenting. But while it’s often a struggle, sometimes knowing how to make the right choice is more obvious than others.
Recently, a stepmom ended up doubting her parenting skills after her stepdaughter’s mom began raging over a bungled birthday party. Long story short: stepmom encouraged her 5-year-old stepdaughter to “make a healthier choice” than cake and now people think she’s fat-shaming the kid.
She hopped on Reddit’s ever-popular “Am I The A—hole?” forum in an attempt to defend her parenting.
Here’s how it all went down. The 34-year-old stepmom has two kids, 10 and 8, as well as a stepdaughter “Gwen” who just had a birthday and turned 6. She explains that while she, her boys, and her husband are all “healthful” and “active,” Gwen is not being raised that way.
“Gwen is only here two weekends a month, and her mother has the exact opposite attitude [of our family],” she writes. “In all honesty that woman’s blood type is probably ketchup. Similarly, Gwen is about 20lb heavier than a 5 year old girl is supposed to be.”
She goes on to explain that in the little time that Gwen is with the family, she tries to instill her eating and exercise habits on the girl.
“It makes me sad for this child and her health so when we get her I try to teach Gwen about healthy eating and moving around,” she writes. “We have the boys play with her so she’s getting active, and we make a distinction between foods that are healthy and ones that aren’t. When I see one of the kids reaching for a ‘treat’ food in the pantry I’ll ask ‘would you like to make a healthier choice?’ And Gwen is really getting it, she’s always going for better choices now and is also asking for fruit at home which is really good.”
Now we get to the sticky situation: Gwen’s fifth birthday party.
“Gwen’s birthday ended up falling on one of her weekends with us, and while we were talking about what kind of cake to have, I asked Gwen about the healthier choice,” she admitted. “My reasoning is unfortunately she’s still getting all that garbage at home, and it’s just not good for a growing girl. She agreed and we decided to have some low fat ice cream so she can still have a sweet treat. It’s a brand Gwen loves and asks for every time she’s here, so she was happy with it.”
Well, that was all fine until mom found out.
“Her mom called us furious,” she explains. “She said then when Gwen got home and she asked about her birthday with us and her cake, Gwen started crying because she really did want cake but didn’t want to ‘make a bad choice.’ She accused me of fat shaming her and her daughter and that I owe her a cake and a big apology.”
Stepmom tried to defend herself.
“I’m just looking out for the health of a child in my care, but I never said Gwen couldn’t have cake and she could have had one if she said she wanted one. I suggested sticking to ice cream because I care,” she concluded.
So, what did Reddit think of how all of this went down?
Basically the stepmom is an a—hole who is on the road to giving her kids a ton of food issues.
“She’s 5. Give the child goddamn cake on her birthday and then go for a family walk after,” said the comment with the most up-votes. “Also FYI, the good choice/ bad choice talk is just going to give her body image issues for the rest of her life.”
“My friend can’t have sugar or wheat so you know what I did for her birthday? Googled how to make a cake she could eat because everyone deserves to have cake on their birthday,” another wrote.
Many feared that this kind of food talk could lead to an eating disorder down the road.
“YTA. She’s six. It was her birthday. You should’ve made her a cake. And furthermore, you’re setting her up for a restrictive eating disorder by policing all her food choices.”
“Just based on OP’s attitude here, I’m worried this little girl is going to develop an ED by her pre-teens,” one wrote. “I can absolutely understand why the Mom was furious. Dad needs to step up and set some hard boundaries with his wife.”
“This question, ‘would you like to make a healthier choice,’ carries so much shaming it makes me feel horrible for the child,” another wrote.
Others opined that the stepmom herself has issues to work on that she’s projecting onto a 5-year-old kid.
“She has a very unhealthy relationship with food and her body,” one wrote. “You used guilt and shame to refuse her cake on her birthday. Her description of her and her mother sucks. I am so sad for Gwen.”
Finally someone added that even beyond all of the food issues, stepmom was being manipulative.
“It was her birthday. Asking her ‘would you like to make a healthier choice’ is manipulative,” one person wrote. “You’re telling her she’s wrong and choosing what YOU want to make YOU happy.”
Welp, the jury wasn’t out long on this one. Kids deserve cake on their birthday, not manipulation, shame, and lots of logs to throw on the eating disorder fire. If you think your stepkid’s parent isn’t making great dietary choices for their family, take it up with an adult, not the kid.