If there is one day of the year that can trigger either elation or sadness for a stepmom itís Motherís Day. One of the reasons Motherís Day can evoke so much emotion is because many stepmoms feel as though they have all of the pain, frustrations, financial strain, and difficulty of being a parent, but none of the rewards or joy. Stepmoms often feel ďoutside the family circleĒ and this holiday may be a reminder that sheís an outcast. As one stepmom put it, ďI have all the grief of parenting, but none of the pleasures associated with being a mom.Ē
Personally I do not expect my stepsons to honor me on Motherís Day because Iím not their mom. They have a mom and she should receive their attention. They call and along with my step grandkids they wish a, ďHappy Motherís DayĒ but I donít expect fanfare or gifts. On the other hand I do expect my husband to do something special as a gesture of gratitude for the 24 years Iíve spent working toward building a bridge with his kids. The day isnít about the relationship with my stepsons, itís about my husband honoring me for the effort and tears Iíve experienced a stepmom.
One stepmom shares similar thoughts, ďFor years Iíve tried to explain to my spouse that Motherís Day was a day for him to show me how much he appreciated me being a good stepmother to his daughter. It took a few years but he finally got it.Ē Another stepmom quips, ďMy husband has tried some goofy stuff for Motherís Day. One year he bought a bouquet of flowers and had the kids split them, half for his former wife and half for me. The hurtful part is that I remember when we were dating; he would take the kids shopping for extravagant gifts for his ex, but itís the Dollar Store for meóitís not pretty.Ē
One wise and thoughtful dad recently contacted me for advice on how to honor his wife as a stepmom on Motherís Day. I responded ďI suggest spending the day just the two of you. Treat her like a queen, lavish her with something that you know she really likes. For most women itís not the amount of money you spend but rather the effort her husband puts into the day. Remember to tell her that you recognize her role as a stepmom is not easy, and that you appreciate how hard she works.
Donít force your child to do something special for your wife on Motherís Day. He may feel it is dishonoring his mother to show appreciation to his stepmom. This situation depends entirely upon how your former wife reacts to your wife.
Donít focus on your child and what he can do for your wife, but rather treat her to a special day that shows your appreciation.Ē
For some stepmoms Motherís Day is a wonderful experience. One woman shares, ďMy first Mother's Day his girls took me out for breakfast and they gave me a beautiful card with sweet, tender words. It brought tears to my eyes and I started to cry and then the youngest, age 14, also started crying. By recognizing my deep feelings on Mother's Day, his kids made me feel very special.Ē
Itís not uncommon for one stepchild to honor and enjoy having a stepmom, but a sibling hates the idea. This is due to the fact that all stepfamilies are formed out of some type of grief and loss. There are numerous factors which influence how a child will respond to a stepmom.A few of the most common include: the manner in which the family dynamic changed, how long dad waited before he remarried, the age or gender of the children, whether the children feel they have lost dad to his new family, and the relationship between the biological mom and the stepmom.
For the churchgoing stepmom there is one specific moment on Motherís Day that can be the worst. Itís that awkward moment in the service when all moms stand and receive recognition. Hear one stepmomís lament, ďOur church specifically requests that only biological mothers come forward for prayer. Many people in my church push me to go up front, assuring that I am a mom. However as a stepmom it still feels uncomfortable and makes me sad.Ē
Ron Deal, my co-author of The Smart Stepmom, encourages church leaders to acknowledge stepmothers on Motherís Day. ďJust use the word stepmom,Ē Ron shares, ďand you validate her as an important caregiver in her home and remind her stepchildren that they should give her thanks for what she does.Ē We find that once enlightened many pastors are willing to acknowledge stepmothers on Motherís Day.
Whether itís a good or bad day itís wise for a stepmom to keep in mind that itís only one day of the year. Focus on the things you are grateful for, lower your expectations, ask God to give you ďthe mind of Christ,Ē and then let go of the rest.
Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with workshops on relationships, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When ďI DoĒ Becomes ďI DonítĒóPractical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, and a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series.Her newest bookThe Smart Stepmom: Practical Steps to Help You Thrive, co-authored with Ron Deal, is available nationwide and through FamilyLife.com. Her website is www.Laurapetherbridge.com.
EXCELLENT advice to the husbands - that it's a day for them to show their appreciation for the hard work you do as a step-mother.
It takes the pressure off the kids in any awkward situations yet frees them to make their own contribution depending on their comfort level.
#2: by carol on 05.05.2009 @ 03:04pm CDT
Nice Advice. This will be my 5th mothers day as a step mom and I don't have any biological children of my own. Last mothers day was the worst as my own mom had passed away the fall before. It was a terrible day as my husband took the kids and went to visit HIS mom and left me home alone, grieving. I made the best of the day threw the tears, and got boquets of flowers and went and visited elderly women from my church who either don't have any children, or their children are living out of the area. It helped me with my pain and helped to relieve my grief and sadness of being alone.
Sorry, but I have to disagree with the advice to husbands. Mother's Day is a day to appreciate their mothers - not their wives! I know that sounds petty, but really - I'm not my husband's mother!
We try to include everyone on Mother's Day: my mother, my mother-in-law, my former mother-in-law, my husband's ex-wife, her mother, etc. My kids always make a card for me AND for their stepmom. It comes down to being inclusive and loving towards everyone who is part of your life.
#4: by Toni on 05.06.2009 @ 12:11pm CDT
Susan - I disagree with your comment... Mother's Day is for all who provide the nuturing love and support of a mother figure.
While I am not my husband's mother... she passed away long before we met... I do help fill that role along with his Step Mother who he did not recognize until I pointed out how hurtful it was to be ignored... she is the only Grandmother his children have ever known. So like you said... it's about being inclusive... it's the exclusion that is hurtful!
Lastly, the entire dynamics are forever altered by divorce or death... being sensitive and loving are the only ways to be successful in the new family dynamic.
#5: by Cynthia Kelly on 05.12.2009 @ 11:04am CDT
Motherís Day May 10, 2009
by Cynthia Kelly
I am a step mom to two girls ages 15 & 12 years old. I do not have my own children. My husband always has our girls get me a card and generally flowers or plant or piece of jewelry to show appreciation towards my efforts. I am very involved in their lives and he feels I am a better Mom to his girls then the actual biological mom. The older girl is cool and distant and probably wouldnít acknowledge this day towards me if my husband didnít insist. The younger girl is very warm and appreciative towards me and we really have a Mother-Daughter relationship. My husband will generally get me a card and flowers as well. This is a big deal! All women who are either biological mothers, step mothers or adopted mothers need to be appreciated and recognized on this very special day. There are no perfect families and certainly thereís no perfect way to celebrate this day. But I feel all mothers need to be recognized for their efforts. My heart of thanks goes out to Ron Deal, who encourages church leaders to be inclusive to ALL FAMILY MEMBERS. I also sent my stepmother in law a card and we are scheduling a lunch to recognize her day. I feel we need to extend this to all Dads and Step Dads as well in the month of June. I feel any person that has a positive relationship with your children who you consider to be a good role model should be recognized for their efforts. Dear Brotherís and Sisterís in Christ, letís try to get away from the technicalities in life and just LOVE ONE ANOTHER!!!!!!
#6: by Lisa on 05.12.2009 @ 01:02pm CDT
I have to agree with those that believe that all mothers/nurturers should be recognized. I do not have any of my own children. I do, however, volunteer with boy scouts/girl scouts etc...and tutor my niece and nephew free of charge 3-4 days a week. Their mother works. Also, I have a stepson who lives with us full time. He is disrespectful, always seems angry, and virtually ignores me. I have to deal with him full time. His bio mother lives in another state and is a parent when it is convenient. Whether or not my stepson wants to thank me for getting up everyday and treating him with as much kindness as I can muster doesn't matter. I do the things his bio mother should/would be doing if he lived with her but with one difference, I don't get ANY recognition.
I do these things because I love my husband and I want to create as much as possible a home life for all of us. It is important for me to be acknowledged for my daily efforts. I think when you become the person who always seems to be standing in the gap, it is important to be recognized. (the bio mom is off living her life w/o the daily issues effecting her life)
#7: by Stacy on 05.17.2009 @ 03:51pm CDT
your article was nice - it was exactly what I needed to hear. It let me know that I am not the only one that feels like I do all the work of the mom but get none of the "credit". I have a wonderful son of my own who lavishes me all day on mother's day. My husband does a wonderful job of making me feel so loved and special that day too. I also have two wonderful step-children (age 16 & 14) who spend every mother's day with their mother - as they should. Every year, when they return home, I wonder if they will remember me too. I don't expect gifts at all, simply a Happy Mother's Day makes my day. It is hard, and can be a day of very mixed emotions. See, my step children rarely see their mother (by her choice), so their father and I are the ones raising them. I often feel as though I do all of the grunt work and she gets all the credit since she is their "real" mom. I just hope that one day they will recoginize how much I love them and all that do for them because of that.
#8: by M James on 05.22.2009 @ 05:09pm CDT
Thank you so much. I am the Step Mom to four beautiful young ladies who have accepted me with open arms. Which, I know is amazing since the girls were 16, 14, 11 and 8 when we married. This is my first marriage (at the young age of 46) and I think folks thought I was crazy! I read this article and some of the Step Mom comments and have been in tears as I read. I believe the Lord put me not only in my husbands life but also these four young ladies. Is it difficult at times... absolutely but my prayer is that the reward will outweigh that in the days and years to come!
#9: by Jennifer Askew on 06.01.2009 @ 12:49pm CDT
Loved the article and I agree 100%. I am NOT their mother (which I remind them, their mother and father about all the time).
I was very lucky to receive a nice rose and sweet card from my stepson, I hug from one of my step-daughters and nothing from the other but you no what? That is ok - I expected nothing.
My husband on the other hand - spoiled me as always - he is very sensitive that I have spent a lot of time and effort in to getting his kids raised and he is the first to thank me everyday not just on Mother's Day.
Even his ex-wife calls me their other mom - we have a good relationship and that helps to make it all much easier.
#10: by Jennifer Hoyle on 06.01.2009 @ 02:37pm CDT
This article is wonderful, and it completely reflects my heart; thank you so for letting a gal know she isn't alone! I just celebrated my first mothers day with my new husband (I am 36 and have never been married before), as my stepson spent it with his bio mom, rightfully so. I begged my husband not to make my stepson celebrate me, and my husband reluctantly agreed. If the day comes when my stepson chooses to honor me with a Mother's Day gift or an expression of words, I wish it to come from his heart and not from obligation. Meanwhile, my husband spoiled me rotten to show me his appreciation, and it was genuine, certainly not obligation.
In buying Mother's Day cards, I was choosing one for my husband's Step Mom and my husband asked why I was getting one for her. I asked why we wouldn't, as she is the mother we spent the most time with, and we greatly appreciate her, and she IS our Step Mom. He looked at me a bit guiltily as realization dawned, and happily helped find her the perfect card.
#11: by Krista Francis on 06.01.2009 @ 03:45pm CDT
It's obvious that Mother's Day has different meaning to different people--and that's fine! We don't have to agree. The main thing, I think, is to think about it and to be really clear in your own mind what Mother's Day means to you and what your own expectations are. Doing so and then talking with your spouse ahead of time will help you be less blindsided, hurt and disappointed on the big day. This works for birthdays, holidays and other special events too.
One more note--husbands, while you're figuring out what to do for your wife, please consider nudging her biological children to recognize the day. After several years of hurt because my son kept forgetting, I had to come out and tell me husband that's what I needed him to do.
#12: by Jo on 06.01.2009 @ 04:26pm CDT
My husband has two daughters--13 and 16--and I have no children.
Mother's Day has been so hard for me that I have told him (and my mom) to not include me in anything about Mother's Day (no cards, gifts, etc). I even avoid going to my church on Mother's Day for just the reason mentioned above: Others want you to step forward and be recognized, which is not appropriate in front of step children who don't see you in that light.
Though my husband and parents have tried to acknowledge my role in the past through cards and gifts, their gestures only bring more pain about not being a bio parent. It's just better for me to avoid it all together...
#13: by Lou on 06.01.2009 @ 09:25pm CDT
That is great that so many of your husbands acknowledged your taking care of his children through the years. Mine does not recognize me on that day except just to tell me that he appreciates all I do. He does that often, though, all throughout the year.
I don't expect the kids to acknowledge me because I'm not their bio mom.
I just think it would be nice it he reminded them of all I do for them and they should respect me and sometime say Thank you.
I love doing for them. One day they will realize.
#14: by Kate McLaren on 06.01.2009 @ 10:02pm CDT
I agree with #8, My 3 stepsons honored, and spoke to me directly, over our 1st annual Mother's Eve bonfire. They totally appreciate me, and wanted to create a special time with my husband to show me. Pink and white marshmellows included!
I have a step mom, who is only 5 years older than me. This experience has prompted me to appreciate her role a lot more.
My prayer is for God to use me as a catalyst for this family that I've married in to.
Despite the ratty bio mom.
I'm being pruned by God, at times it hurts and is SO uncomfortable,. but all for His glory
#15: by Tami Johnson on 06.02.2009 @ 12:39pm CDT
I was very touched when I read this article. I showed it to my husband who has 2 girls, ages 24 and 20. we have been married 8 years, and I have no children of my own. it really struck a nerve with me, because while it is VERY Meaningful to be remebered with even a word by my stepgirls, it means even more for me to be thanked by my husband. he was So relieved as I read it. he said he always feel awkward, and did not know what to do for me, if anything, or what to say. I am so glad to have that resolved! oh-and by the way, this year my girls both called and got me a card, wow that was an unexpected blessing!! hang in there to all stepmoms-GOd sees what you to as you are an example of Christ!!!
#16: by Cindy on 06.03.2009 @ 11:21am CDT
I agree with so many others who have commented - this is a wonderful article, and very much appreciated! We stepmoms often don't have a voice for our feelings, especially the conflict between "doing the right thing" and feeling hurt or angry.
The very existence of Mother's Day - and if/how it's celebrated with the stepmom, and how she's treated on that day - is one of the touchiest subjects we face. In my experience, no one (husbands, stepkids, families, friends, community) is quite sure how to handle it. But that doesn't mean the stepmom should be ignored!
I feel strongly that it's important to acknowledge a stepmom on Mother's Day. Whether it's a card, a gift, special time together, or just a hug & kiss and a sincere wish of "Happy Mother's Day," it's the one day a year when the beneficiaries of her efforts (stepkids, husbands, and other family members) should openly show their gratitude for all that she does.
I have maintained through my 7 years as a stepmom that being a "mother" does NOT only mean giving birth to a child. Far more importantly, it means RAISING that child. Think about it: it takes only 9 months to give birth to a child, and for too many, "motherhood" stops there. But it takes years (and hard work, pain, joy, etc.) to raise a child - no matter WHO did the birthing. Raising = mothering.
Although my marriage has certainly had its challenges, one thing for which I'm grateful is that my husband has always acknowledged me on Mother's Day - and has had my stepkids (ages 15 and 13) do so too. Unfortunately, their enthusiasm about this is not what used to be. They used to be happy and genuine about it; now, not so much. (It hasn't helped that their bio mom has gradually swung from being supportive and cooperative to adversarial - and she's made her "position" very clear to the kids, who act accordingly to ensure her approval.)
My husband and I both come from families of divorce, and 3 out of 4 of our bio parents have remarried. Even though these marriages took place when we were adults - and thus our stepparents did not raise us - we both still acknowledge our stepparents on Mother's Day and Father's Day, along with our bio parents. As others have said, it's all about inclusion. Exclusion only serves to hurt someone - why do that to a family member?
I have two adult bio-daughters who are currently globetrotting. One lives in Vail, Co, the other in Lagos, Portugal. I have 3 adult step kids and 1 teenage step kid.
My daughters sent cards and called. My step kids went above and beyond. My husband's ex-wife's mother acknowledged me on mother's day with a beautiful card and plant. My youngest step daughter gave me a beautiful card. My youngest step son, who is 17, was taken shopping by his GRANDMOTHER and instead of buying something for his mother, she had him get me something instead. The card made me cry happy tears...this kid takes a lot of time and energy (my husband is custodial). My oldest step daughter made me a collage of black and white photos in an 8x10 frame of my six skids/kids. On the frame, it says "Bonus Mom"
I had no expectations for Mother's Day. It was more important for me to honor my mom and my step mom and my husband's ex-wife's mom (who we went out to dinner with)
On my blog, I challenged step moms and bio-moms to a dare - and an idea was born, "The Mother's Day Dare Project."
The dare was simple - for step moms to send their step kids mom a Mother's Day card and for moms whose kids had a step mom, for the mom to send the step mom a Mother's Day card.
For an idea that was born short of 3 weeks before Mother's Day, the results were awesome. Even my own results turned out far better than I expected.
You can check out the Dare for 2009 at http://thestepmomstoolbox.com/essays/the-mothers-day-dare/
And be on the look out in January 2010 for a wider launch of The Mother's Day Dare Project.
If you're a step mom - you are a MOM. Whether you are CP or NCP. Whether you have kids of your own or not. Step is simply an adjective that describes mom...while I'm at it, Step needs to be changed to BONUS!
Feel free to check out http://thestepmomstoolbox.com for a full range of tips, tools, and advice for Step Moms!
#18: by Alisa on 05.20.2010 @ 02:48pm CDT
I can't wait to experience ANY of the things that were in this article and the comments. I'm pretty angry that me and my husband are generally treated like personal slaves!! Hearing some of the wonderful things that step children (and the fathers) have done for their step mothers just makes me want to cry.
I don't know if that will ever be the case for me. I was just told last week that I am a bad step mother because I will not pick up after my grown step children.
#19: by Cindy on 05.22.2010 @ 01:44am CDT
Alisa, I understand how you feel. I'm the Cindy who posted on 6-3-2009 above. Those nice examples of stepkids spontaneously showing love and consideration for their stepmothers is so removed from reality for me now, I can't even comprehend it.
For me, Mother's Day this year was drastically different than it's ever been. In fact, it was horrible. I got no cards, no gifts, not even a verbal wish of "Happy Mother's Day" from my HUSBAND - much less the stepkids.
My situation is horribly dysfunctional now, and both my husband and his ex-wife are allowing and encouraging it. The past 8 months have been hell. I've been called a "bad stepmother" so many times I've lost count. Alisa, you're not alone.
I urge you to read Gayla Grace's article, and the comment by Toni, here:
Hopefully reading this will shed some light on our struggle, and bring you some comfort. It did both for me.
#20: by Libby on 04.26.2012 @ 05:32pm CDT
This has been a painful holiday for me for the past 4 years. I married a widower. Plus, my biological children have to decided to live with their dad in a neighboring city and stay in the same schools. I definitely feel an outcast throughout the year when the family shares many memories about their mother and reminisce. I try to participate, but eventually I just don't feel a part of things. For a few years, the youngest stepdaughter wouldn't sign the card their dad was trying to get them to give me. Instead, she would put her mother's memorial service program on the outside of her door. (Obviously, she still grieves deeply for her mom.) The older teenager and I have a strained relationship. She signs a card out of duty, but it is clear that she does not want any part of my role in the family as stepparent. My husband put high expectations on me as their stepmom and has shared his disappointment in me for not being what he hoped I would be. He doesn't say it much, but Mother's Day is a definite reminder of how I feel I have failed. Then, my own boys are not in my house as a primary home. I am not raising them as I had always thought I would raise my children.
Last year I gave the girls a card that stated what I believe their mom would have wished for them at this time in their teenage lives. They seemed to appreciate the gesture.
I would like to do something of the same this year where the focus is off of me, but on the memory of their mother. I also give a note to my own boys to tell them how much I appreciate them and the direction they are taking in their own lives.
Overall though, I just grin and bear the holiday and give a sigh of relief when it has gone.
#21: by Karen on 04.28.2012 @ 01:01am CDT
What is considered proper protocol for handling mother's day when biological father, who lives at quite a distance from you (I'm 51, and he and his new bride are in their late 70's & early 80's) remarries? I've just met her once, so I have yet to form a relationship; however, I do want to make her feel welcomed and appreciated for bringing joy into my father's life. Should I send a card that is fairly generic... Should it specifically state stepmother, and is a gift over the top in this scenario? Any suggestions are sincerely appreciated.
#22: by JB on 01.10.2013 @ 03:01pm CST
Adult stepkid's are the worst...they expect a full course meal on every holiday for them and their family of 7 or 8 and never once say thank you or give a card of appreciation on Mother's Day or any other Holiday..this year I have decided enough is enough and putting a note in the mail to them saying our kitchen is closed your dad and I are going out and celebrate the day together enjoy yours however you wish to spend it.
Add your Comment*
*Comments are moderated so your comment may not appear immediately.
"Smart Stepfamilies is the most highly practical program I know for helping couples who are dealing with the common struggles of stepparenting. The church desperately needs to offer hope to this large segment of our society. Ron and Nan Deal are available to help you with the process. Ron is an excellent presenter and his book The Smart Stepfamily is the most helpful book I know on this topic. I highly recommend them and their ministry."
Dr. Gary D. Chapman
Author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology
Smart Stepfamilies in cooperation with FamilyLife 5800 Ranch Drive Little Rock, AR 72223 P: 1-800-358-6329 Contact Us