Mother’s Day day isn’t always smooth. It’s even rockier for stepfamilies. Biological moms rock the boat when feeling envy over stepmothers’ share of the children’s affection, or feeling threatened by the presence of another woman in their children’s lives. Meanwhile, stepmoms feel jilted out of their just desserts when something called “Mother’s Day” is primarily about someone other than them, despite their maternal role in their new family.
The bitter pill is that Mother’s Day is primarily about mothers. If both the bio and step moms in your family can share the day, then bravo: there’s no need to read the rest of this. For the rest of us, here’s a guide to being sensitive and understanding during a surprisingly tense holiday for stepfamilies.
This is your day. This is your day to be acknowledged for your role. This is your day to celebrate the relationship between you and your children.
You didn’t count on your children having a stepmom. You’re threatened by her kindness, her nurturing attitude, and your children’s feelings for her. Come to terms with her existence by understanding she’s not in competition with you. Parents are irreplaceable; you’re your children’s only biological mother. Regardless of their connection with her, they need their bond with you. She serves a different role.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is permission to like, and even love, their stepmother. They will love, appreciate, and respect you for giving them freedom of choice.
Stepmothers feel unappreciated. Your husband, your stepchildren, and their biological mother take you for granted. They fail to appreciate all of the work that goes into accommodating their schedules, dropping them off, picking them up, and filling their bellies.
Mother’s day isn’t the time to fix it. Set aside a day—perhaps Sep. 16th, Stepfamily Day—where they can celebrate your place in their hearts.
Your stepchildren need to see you honor their relationship with their mother. Let their mother have her day with them, and don’t take it personally that Mother’s day isn’t your day. The children are confused enough by Hallmark and the media telling them what their perfect family day is supposed to look like, as it is.
Children feel anxious trying to decide how to behave on Mother’s Day. They know their mother is expecting to feel like she is the one and only mother figure. If they like and love their stepmother, they want to acknowledge her too. They don’t want to hurt bio-mom’s feelings, so they ‘freeze,’ trying to figure out how to cause the least damage for themselves and the two mother figures in their lives.
Parents need to provide a warm and safe emotional environment for the children so they can express their thoughts and feelings, trusting that they are heard and that they matter. Consider the children’s wishes when deciding how to celebrate Mother’s Day.
Remarried dads walk a tight rope as Mother’s Day approaches. On one hand, they know they need to allow the day to be bio-mom’s day. On the other, they are aware of their wife’s distress and need to acknowledge her importance in the family. They feel that no matter what they are going to say or do, they will be responsible for someone’s disappointment.
Discussing the day in advance with their wife is very helpful. Set aside time to discuss the matter. Hear each other’s thoughts and feelings. Acknowledging your differences, and reaching compromise will make the day a source of celebration, instead of frustration.
In an ideal world, mothers and stepmothers would both be honored, pampered and loved on Mother’s Day, each equally accepting of and grateful for each other’s contribution to the children’s well being. This world is far from perfect. Be realistic, stop stepping on each other’s toes, and remember the children are best served by having biological and step parents treat each other congenially.