The 47-year-old reality star — who shares daughters Gia, 19, Gabriella, 16, Milania, 15, and Audriana, 11, with Joe — made the revelation about her kids after getting into a verbal disagreement with Joe, who, at the time, was living in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement while he fought to appeal a judge’s deportation order.
Joe, 49, was calling to wish Teresa a Happy Mother’s Day, but instead began bickering with her over a previous necklace he had given her with her name on it.
According to Joe, the piece of jewelry was similar to the silver one Teresa’s daughters had just gifted her for Mother’s Day. Problem was, Teresa never remembered getting Joe’s gift, and combated his insistence otherwise.
“You didn’t [buy me a necklace with my name on it],” Teresa said. “No. I would remember.”
“Years ago,” Joe said. “You don’t remember anything. I bought you a lot of things. … My wife’s brain is going mush!”
Though Teresa insisted he hadn’t, her girls quickly came to their dad’s defense. “He’s saying he did, so he did,” Milania told her mom. “You don’t remember anything, so you don’t! You have such a bad memory.”
The incident left Teresa feeling hurt. “Today started out, beautiful day with my daughters but Joe always gets the girls to go against me,” she told audiences. “It hurts me tremendously. There should be no sides taken!”
“My kids, they take Joe’s side,” she complained to pal Dolores Catania later. “Here I am busting my ass doing everything and then it’s like, he’s the greatest thing that walked the earth!”
It’s not the first time Teresa has groaned about feeling as if her daughters don’t have her side.
Earlier this season, after two similarly tense phone calls between her and Joe, Teresa expressed her disappointment that her daughters didn’t have her back.
“Normally I wouldn’t talk about Joe in front of the girls but sometimes I do snap at him because he just gets me at that point,” Teresa said in a previous episode.
Later, Gia explained why she might have a little more compassion for her dad, saying that she was well aware of the difficult living conditions he had in the ICE facility.
“Honestly, they’re good at aggravating each other,” Gia told audiences, of her parents. “But when he lashes out, I just wish my mom would keep quiet, just because he’s fighting for his life in there.”
Indeed, Joe’s fight has been difficult on him. The Giuidce patriarch has been living apart from Teresa and his children since he reported to prison for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud in March 2016. He had hoped to go home but was deported, having never obtained American citizenship after moving to the U.S. as a young child.
Two deportation appeals have been denied so far. A third is still pending.
“Am I okay? I’m going on 38 months in this crap!” he said, during a call to Teresa that aired in a November RHONJ episode. “They want to separate us now, we’re married 20 years. We got four kids, alright? They want to destroy four kids. I’m here now and I’m getting deported and that’s all there is to it. It’s over.”
“I don’t see anybody in here walking out. They’re all getting deported,” Joe added. “I’m over it. I’d rather be out and see you while I can than be sitting in this friggin’ junk hole. At this point, I don’t care where the hell I go. … I’m going to fight it out a little while later, and then I’m done. That’s it.”
Since then, Joe has been granted a request to live out his final appeal decision in his native Italy.
He moved there in October, and was visited by his girls and Teresa in November. The girls went back to see their dad over Christmas.
Teresa skipped out on the holiday visit, with PEOPLE announcing exclusively in December that the two had agreed to separate after 20 years of marriage. A source told PEOPLE the pair aren’t divorcing just yet, and are instead remaining focused on their children during their time apart.
Meanwhile, her squabble with Joe aside, Teresa had an emotional Mother’s Day on Wednesday’s RHONJ — even breaking down into tears at one point after reading the card her daughters had penned for her.
” ‘To my spectacular mom … thank you for everything you do,’ ” Teresa said, reading the card before tearing up. ” ‘I’m so grateful for you in that you always fight through hard times. When you weren’t here for Mother’s Day, I felt like you were always right next to me.’ “
“I love this card,” Teresa said. “I love that. You guys are making me ball. You guys are the best!”
“Mother’s Day is a difficult day for me since I lost my mom,” Teresa added. “She was just the most caring, loving mom ever.”
As for her relationship with her own girls, Catania urged Teresa to give it time.
“I know that Teresa’s very hurt right now. I just hope Teresa knows that at the end of the day, these kids are going to show her all the gratitude, love, and respect in the world,” Catania said. “It’s just a rough time for her right now.”
The Real Housewives of New Jersey airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo.