I’ve known my stepchildren for over half their lives, yet I get reminded of my lack of belonging continuously throughout the year. Mother’s Day is often a day that solidifies a stepmother’s dark feelings of unimportance in her blended family. It can be a firm reminder we don’t count. So, if we share in co-parenting, where do we fit in? Should we be honored on this day…without asking?
The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines a mother as:
- A woman who gives birth to a child.
- A woman whose egg unites with a sperm, producing an embryo.
- A woman who adopts a child.
- A woman who raises a child. Bingo!
So, dear partner, if your child lives in our home and we prepare their meals, drive them to activities, help with homework, attend doctor’s appointments, share life experiences, love them, etc. then we are raising these children to some extent and fit the definition of a mother. For some, we are thought of only as the woman who married you. We have no parenting rights if our relationship were to dissolve. It can, at times, feel like we are not recognised or valued for our contribution. Please understand we make a positive difference!
Here are some things stepmoms struggle with each Mother’s Day:
- Why some stepmoms feel they have to lower their expectations on Mother’s Day.
- Why sometimes the celebration can feel like it’s out of obligation and not always sincere.
- Why some stepmoms really want to be recognized.
- How partners can help stepmoms celebrate.
Lowering Our Expectations on Mother’s Day
I recently got hit with a realization about how ‘invisible’ I am to my stepchildren. My stepdaughter who lives with us over 78% of the time got off the phone with her mother and told me they had discussed Mother’s Day and what they were going to do. Then, she asked me what my biological children were doing for me. She didn’t have a clue that maybe she should do something for me, so I have learned to expect nothing from my stepchildren. They just don’t get it! By setting my expectations to null, I shelter myself from the pain.
Stepmoms understand that they aren’t the ‘real mothers’ of their stepchildren but we do contribute to their upbringing. Some of us are very involved stepparents, others less involved. Not having a biological or legal connection doesn’t mean we aren’t parents and that we should have to lower our expectations of being recognised and celebrated.
Partners need to be responsible in making sure children recognize their stepparents. We shouldn’t have to dread the upcoming Mother’s Day when the social media reminders start, knowing we probably won’t be acknowledged. Stepmoms should expect to be recognized on Mother’s Day without feeling guilty or having to ask.
Don’t Celebrate Mother’s Day out of Obligation
The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made. Back in 2014, the stepchildren and my husband took me out to lunch the week prior to Mother’s Day telling me this was my celebration where I was promised a Pandora bracelet. I was pretty stoked and looked forward to picking out a beautiful trinket loaded down with charms of my travels. I was deeply touched by my surprise celebration. What I got when we got home was…’we didn’t know what to get you and felt obligated as you mentioned Mother’s Day. We’ll get you the bracelet if you really expect it.’ I was extremely hurt. I didn’t realize they didn’t know how to celebrate Mother’s Day with me. We were a new blended family just finding our way and my husband didn’t know how to acknowledge me.
Don’t feel the need to fake a celebration that is full of insincerity. Ask us what we want or just buy us a card. Stepmoms have feelings and can get hurt deeply, even if we don’t verbally express it. We stepped into a family, often oblivious to all the drama and stress that came with this new role. Some recognition of the challenges that come with stepparenting can go a long way to healing some of the hurts.
Stepmoms understand that they aren’t the ‘real mothers’ of their stepchildren but we do contribute to their upbringing.linda black
Deep Down, We Really Want to Be Recognized
As stepmoms, we experience behavior that reminds us we are not ‘real parents’. It can be very painful. Our stepchildren may not even understand they are exhibiting this behavior, as they are dealing with their own issues of a broken family and are used to seeing their two parents as the only parents that matter.
We need our partners to recognize what role we play in our blended family, how valuable we are as a stable female role model in the lives of the children. We need our partners to remind the children to show some appreciation. This is not something children often do unprompted or without guidance. Some recognition and celebration on Mother’s Day(even if we tell you it’s not a big deal) is a great way for us to be recognised for the role we play in our blended family.
We Don’t Want to Take the Day Away from Their Mother
As a stepmom, I don’t want to take Mother’s Day away from my stepchildren’s mother. I just want to feel like my contributions matter. Some stepmoms like to help their stepchildren celebrate their mother with a card or picking out a small gift, others may not. Either way, it is not our responsibility to make sure our stepchildren honor us on Mother’s Day. This is the responsibility of our partners when the relationship is new or the children are younger. As the children are older, ideally we will earn this recognition over the years as we build a relationship with them. You may need to go through a few tough Mother’s Days for your blended family to get the hang of it.
How Can You Help Us Celebrate Mother’s Day?
Don’t wait for the day to come and go and then decide to celebrate after we are crying and complaining. Instead, plan ahead! Check the visitation schedule and set a date to help us celebrate our role. It doesn’t even have to be Mother’s Day if the children are usually with their mom’s that day. Stepmother’s Day is the following Sunday. Put the date on our calendar ahead of time so we can set our expectations to match that date. Talk with your children prior to Mother’s Day and explain how it’s important they celebrate this day with both their mother and stepmom. Remember, it’s not about the gift or fancy dinner; it is about the sincere recognition that we matter. Stepmoms deserve a Mother’s Day!