I’m not sure where I stand on the Mother’s Day holiday. Some years it passes by without incident or injury, while others I am surprised to find myself a hot mess the week of and the week after! I sat down to write this post with my head full of lofty ideas and supermom encouragement, but I was left with exactly what I think all of us stepmoms need this time of the year: permission to be human, and Jesus standing by to bridge the gap.
First of all, Mother’s Day is just awkward. People don’t know what to do with stepmoms, even the people that care about us the most! Case in point: I have been silently bitter about the fact that my brother always gets my Mom and Gram a Mother’s Day gift every year, but nothing for me (going on 10 years). As you well know, it’s not about the gift – it felt like I “didn’t count” as a mom! I (finally) brought it up to him a few months ago during a heated conversation, and you know what his response was? “Brothers are supposed to buy their sisters a gift on Mother’s Day?!” It turns out it had nothing to do with being a stepmom.
As hard as it is to accept, our husbands and especially our stepkids may not know how to deal. Even without parental alienation present, kids can genuinely feel like they are being disloyal to their mom if they celebrate their stepmom. It’s not true (there’s plenty of love to go around!) but it’s the reality. This can be especially difficult for custodial or 50/50 stepmoms, who are a primary caretaker and actively engaged in their stepkids’ lives but get little to no recognition on such a special day!
Set clear expectations. My husband and I made a promise to each other before we got married: no hints! I know from experience that it feels selfish to say, “I would like flowers and a card” – but it can be freeing! It keeps bitterness at bay and gives your husband the opportunity to meet them. Now, I have a disclaimer: some of your needs or wants may not be met. I would love to spend the day with my stepkiddos, but that’s just not possible – and I can’t hold my husband responsible for it. Over the years, relationships change and grow stronger and even have setbacks. We have celebrated Mother’s Day as a stepfamily the weekend before or after a few times, but just like other holidays, the day suddenly became less important. These days, I treasure the heartfelt cards from my stepson and stepdaughter more than anything. Give your husband the opportunity to meet you where you are, and you might be surprised at what it does for your heart.
Give your Church a break. Many congregations don’t have an active blended family ministry, and aren’t equipped to minister to (or handle the backlash for) highlighting the role of stepparents. It used to drive me mad that the Pastor would list off moms, grandmas, aunts, etc. at the Mother’s Day service but leave out stepmoms! But then I realized that we don’t have to be THE mom to be A mom. Will you join me in standing up with the other moms this year? Not simply for recognition, or to make a statement – but to agree with what the Father says about you? I believe you have been called to this time and place in your family.
Take care of yourself. You should do this all year long, but stepmom self-care can be key to navigating what may be a difficult weekend. My home always seems especially quiet on Mother’s Day weekend. I encourage you to redirect your energy – and thoughts! – onto something that feeds you. Take advantage of the kid-free zone to have a chick-flick marathon or craft to your heart’s content. Maybe you and your husband could plan a date day or mini vacay?
Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. – 3 John 1:2
Most of all, I encourage you to stop dwelling on what you aren’t, and dwell in who God is. Get still with Him and remind yourself who He created you to be. Being a stepmom may feel like a thankless job in this world, but can you see how you fit into God’s perfect plan? When He called you, the Creator of the Universe gave you a front-row seat and a starring role in your family’s redemption story…and a Hero who will walk with you every step of the way.