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To Stepmoms on Mother's Day

Dear Stepmom, First of all, I want to say thank you. Thank you for stepping into a completely ambiguous role and doing your best to make it work.

I know that Mother’s Day can bring a tidal wave of emotions. You may have a great relationship with your stepchildren and if so, that’s wonderful! I know that closeness came with a lot of intentional work and patience. You may have a lukewarm relationship with your stepkids. Everyone is cordial, but sometimes it feels like a relief when you get a break from each other because walking on eggshells can be exhausting. You and your stepkids may simply tolerate each other’s existence because you both love this man in your life, their dad, in different ways. You will never be close and “it is what it is” but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt sometimes. Whatever the “warmth level” of your relationship, you deserve to have your feelings acknowledged. Maybe the kids give you a card and a gift, maybe they only do that for their birth mom and it hurts because you do “mom” things yet you never hear a word of gratitude. Either way, I want you to feel seen as we approach Mother’s Day. Having watched two women I care deeply about work through the highs and lows of being a stepmom, I know this day can be hard. Just like you, they have tried to be supportive and given their all to figure out how to do this undefined role “right.”

Well, there is no “one right way” to be a stepmom. Each stepfamily is different. Heck, even each stepchild is different, some more willing than others to let you in. Birth moms also have a varying level of willingness to let you in as more than just “his wife.” So, how do you handle Mother’s Day? Whatever way you need to to get through the day.

If his kids celebrate it with you, then enjoy the day.

If, instead, his kids give you a card on “Stepmom’s Day” that’s great too.

If you will be ignored like all the previous Mother’s Days, then set yourself up for a good day by planning something for yourself. Get together with some friends, go for a hike, or do whatever you’d like to rest and recharge for the week ahead. Meanwhile, give yourself credit for being a supportive spouse in a challenging family dynamic and doing the best you can in a role that has no instruction manual. A note to the husbands, please make sure to express your appreciation for all your wife has taken on as a stepmom. She took on a role that has no clear definition and is full of pre-judgment and possibly animosity from others in your circle. For the stepchildren out there…whether you are 10 or 55, take a minute to think of just one nice thing your stepmom has done for you and thank her for that. Maybe she always buys your favorite chips, she made you chicken soup when you were sick, or she drove you to the practice field or dance class every Wednesday through the season. If you can’t think of anything, think harder, it may be that she always made sure there were groceries in the pantry…that counts too. If nothing else, she brought happiness to your dad’s life. That in itself should be worthy of a quick note of thanks. Stepmom, even though some might say, “You knew what you were getting into,” as a parenting and stepfamily coach, I will argue that there is NO WAY you possibly could have known. So, thank you for being brave, for loving your spouse through the challenges of being a blended family, and most of all, for being there to put bandaids on scraped knees and hosting a birthday party for a kid who doesn’t particularly make you feel loved. You are strong. You are courageous. You are appreciated. Have a wonderful day no matter how you do it!

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