Stepmothers & Mother’s Day: Trials & Tribulations

Stepmothers & Mother’s Day: Trials & Tribulations

Mother’s Day is an opportunity for everyone show appreciation for all things mothers. Whilst it is a happy event for many, for others, including stepmothers, it can be a day that stirs up emotions and can ultimately be a difficult occasion.

For many stepmothers being ignored or overlooked by their stepchildren on Mother’s Day can feel like a punch to the gut. More so, if they have been in the picture for a long time, significantly contribute to their care and upbringing or do not have children of their own. Whilst your head knows that it is probably not personal, your heart can still experience the sting of being overlooked on an occasion heavily marketed and advertised as being a special day for “all” types of mothers.

So, what are the reasons your stepchild might ignore or overlook you on Mother’s Day?

  1. THEIR FOCUS IS ELSEWHERE. If your stepchild does not acknowledge or celebrate you on Mother’s Day, it may just be because they are focused on celebrating their mum, with whom they will most likely be spending most, if not all, of the actual day. Their failure to acknowledge all you do for them on a day set aside for giving thanks to mother’s could actually just be an innocent omission, with no spiteful or malevolent intent. Depending on their age they may also not have actually made the connection between your role as a stepmother (and all the mothering-type things you may do for them) and Mother’s Day. They may view you as “Dad’s wife/partner” and, without appropriate adult guidance or prompting, may not even have thought about including you in their show of appreciation and thanks
  2. THE PROTECTIVE FACTOR. Following a parental separation some children can become their mother’s champions and reject a stepmother on Mother’s Day, (or on any other day for that matter), for reasons which are not entirely their own. These children have somehow drawn the conclusion that liking or celebrating your role in their life, may cause their Mum sadness or hurt. In this scenario, their efforts to protect their mum from any emotional pain translate to their overlooking you on Mother’s Day.
  3. LOYALTY BINDS. It may be just too emotionally hard for your stepchildren to reach out to both a stepmother and their mother on Mother’s Day. This is particularly relevant for children who have been exposed to parental conflict, parental insecurities or adult issues relating to their parents’ marriage and separation. In unfortunate situations where there is an element of competition in the mother and stepmother’s attitudes to one another, children may have received a message that they are not allowed to show their stepmother any positive affection on their mother’s special day. Little Joey and Matilda might therefore worry that to show their stepmother any type of thanks would be seen as them being disloyal to their mother.
  4. DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS. Adults and children can have different perspectives about what is going on in their worlds. They can be in the same situation and experience and react to things very differently. Relationships and Mother’s Day are no exception. There may well be a positive vibe and warmth displayed in your day-to-day interactions with your stepchildren. However, it could be that they perceive this relationship to be less significant than you do. As a result, they may not consider celebrating or acknowledging you on Mother’s Day as being necessary or needed.
  5. LACK OF SUPPORT. Generally speaking, society doesn’t make celebrating stepmothers easy. It’s only been in recent years that you could find a Hallmark card appropriate for a stepmother on Mother’s Day. Even now, depending on where you live, suitable cards can be few or far between. Your stepchild may have looked for a card to give you and just couldn’t find one with an appropriate message. Or, how about those special Mother’s Day mementos kids bring home from school? It is not always possible of encouraged for a child make two gifts or cards at preschool or school – one for their mother and one for their stepmother. Children will also more than likely need their father’s help and encouragement to buy or make a card, bake a cake or determine an appropriate gift to bestow on their stepmother. If their father is not proactive in this department it might not happen. Sometimes a lack of gift or acknowledgement is about nothing more than a lack of support and resources.

So, as a stepmother, what can you do?

  1. THINK AHEAD. Talk to your partner about how you feel and your concerns and expectations for this specific day. Plan ahead to ensure that your partner knows what, if anything, they can do to support both you and their children over the Mother’s Day weekend.  If need be, take the time to explain to your partner that on Mother’s Day it would be great if they can show you how much they appreciate what you do for them and their children. Remember no one is a mind reader, partner’s included.
  2. DISENGAGE FROM ANY POWER PLAY. Don’t let your feelings about Mother’s Day put your stepchildren in a difficult or compromised position. “Give” Mother’s Day to your stepchildren to celebrate with their mother. Let them, and yourself, off the hook and let go of any expectations that they have to do something to recognise you (and all that you might do for them) on this particular day. After all, it is one day out of the year and it represents only that which we assign to it. It is not a test of your stepchildren love or appreciation.
  3. CELEBRATE IN YOUR OWN WAY. Make a conscious choice to use Mother’s Day to celebrate and pamper yourself in whatever way feels special to you. Tell your partner what you would like to do that day. Use it as an opportunity to develop special traditions for your stepfamily in relation to your role as a stepmother. Use the child-free time to connect with your partner and strengthen your step-couple relationship. You choose.
  4. ALLOCATE ANOTHER DATE AND TIME. Find another day for you and your stepchildren to celebrate what it is you that you do for them and your family. It may be the anniversary of the first day that you met them or any other day of the year for that matter. Make it fun, make unique and make it yours.
  5. HELP YOUR STEPCHILDREN CELEBRATE THEIR MUM. Let your stepchildren know that you are 100% okay that they want to celebrate their Mum and that you actually want and expect them to do so. If necessary, ask them if they need any help and then firmly direct their father to take the lead in helping them out.
  6. ALLOCATE RESPONSIBILITY. If your stepchildren want to do something special for you on Mother’s Day, it’s your partner’s role to help in purchasing and picking out gifts or planning something special. Just as your partner should be the one to help the children purchase a gift for their mother or speak with the teacher/school if his child is worried about only making one Mother’s Day craft gifts or cards instead of two.
  7. DON’T DO ANYTHING. If Mother’s Day is not something that holds much meaning for you then that is okay too. Rest assured that choosing to celebrate or not celebrate Mother’s Day as a stepmother does not in any way, shape or determine stepfamily or relationship success.
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