If there's one holiday that stepmoms would rather not celebrate, it's Mother's Day. It's often a difficult day for stepmoms because it's a reminder of the time and energy we invest in our stepchildren's lives with little or no reward. And if our stepchildren do try to show their appreciation, it can be an awkward and insincere effort, prodded by their father.
So what's a stepmom to do? Do we create expectations of what our stepchildren should do for us? Do we allow the biological mom to get all the attention for the day? Do we insist that honor be bestowed upon us?
If you play an active role as a stepmom, you deserve some recognition for your efforts. That doesn't mean you'll get it from your stepchildren. Some children feel it dishonors their mom to show appreciation to their step mom on Mother's Day, particularly if their mom invalidates or competes with the stepmom's role. However, there's nothing wrong with asking your spouse to honor and acknowledge you for your ongoing efforts with his children.
I've learned to enjoy Mother's Day with no expectations from my stepchildren. If they offer me a gift or choose to honor me in some way, I'm thrilled. But even if they don't, I remind myself it's a privilege to take part in shaping another child's life and I affirm myself for what I offer. I know my husband appreciates the role I play and we will celebrate the day together.
Some step children love to recognize their stepmom on this special day and will make a sincere effort to let you know how much you mean to them. A host of variables play into how a stepchild reacts on Mother's Day. The length of the marriage, the age of your stepchildren, the biological mom's behavior, and the environment in your home contribute to your stepchild's behavior. If your stepchildren honor you, embrace the offering. But if they choose not to, don't take it personally.
Here are a few suggestions to help you enjoy the day, regardless of what your stepchildren do. Pick one or two, or construct one of your own, to create a day that will leave you feeling special for the valuable role you offer your stepfamily.
1. Spend Saturday night at a Bed and Breakfast and wake up Sunday morning to a scrumptious breakfast prepared for you. Reconnect with your spouse as you reminiscence and celebrate the good things happening in your stepfamily.
2. Find another step mom who's having a difficult time and spend the afternoon with her. Encourage her efforts and talk through her challenges. Laugh together and affirm one another. Find positive ways to offer your support on an ongoing basis.
3. Abandon your house and spend the day outdoors on a nearby bike path or hiking trail. Absorb the beauty of nature while you count the blessings in your life. Set goals with your spouse that will help you become more connected to your stepfamily such as regular game nights, stepmom-step daughter shopping dates, or movie nights as a family.
4. Attend your favorite church or place of worship wearing a beautiful corsage, signifying the important role you play as a stepmom. Take pride in participating in your stepchildren's lives as an additional parent.
5. Give yourself the gift of relaxation with a good book, time at the movies or a day at the spa with a girlfriend. Eat at your favorite restaurant and tell your family you'll be taking the day off from chores. Pamper yourself in whatever way feels special to you.
Mother's Day doesn't have to be a difficult day for stepmoms. If you create expectations of how you want your stepchildren to honor you, it will result in disappointment. But if you choose to create your own special day, you'll make memories that leave you feeling blessed to be a stepmom. So go ahead – plan your celebration! You deserve it!
Gayla Grace has been a stepmom for 18 years to a stepson and stepdaughter. She loves to encourage other stepmoms on their journey through her website and blog at www.stepparentingwithgrace.com.