I’m a stepmom, which means that I’m a mom, but I’m not. To clarify, I do all the things for a child that a mother does. I make pancakes on Saturday mornings. I buy school supplies. I drive them to kung fu. I wash loads and loads of their dirty clothes. I sing to them on every birthday. I’m there with them every day, celebrating their accomplishments or soothing away their sorrows; but, I’ll never quite be “mom.”
At first, it hurt to feel unrecognized or unappreciated in the face of all the love and sacrifices I have made for them in the seven years I’ve been in their lives. I don’t resent the fact that their mother receives the official recognition and praise for the things she does. She is, after all, their mother, and her role in their lives is priceless and timeless. I understand that she will always be the number one female figure in their lives. But it was hard not to crave just a slice of that adoration!
Mother’s Day can feel eerily quiet and forgotten to a stepmom. The greeting card industry has caught up with the times to recognize the contribution of stepmothers by offering a small selection of cards for the holiday. But the day is generally reserved for the women who gave birth to the children who honor them. Everyone knows that we should demonstrate love and praise to our mothers on the second Sunday of May each year, but how much thought is given to those bonus moms who do so much?
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My early expectations of Mother’s Day as a stepmom were unrealistic. My fantasy images included breakfast in bed prepared by four smiling and appreciative kids, complete with handmade cards and maybe some flowers. When the moment of truth arrived with no mention of the occasion, I can’t deny that it hurt.
What I came to realize is that it’s okay if that particular date on the calendar is reserved for their mom. I appreciate that my husband recognizes what I do for his children. but I can’t put unfair obligations on them, as children, to remember the holiday or to extend the meaning of the holiday over to me. I don’t want them to feel that honoring me, on that day, would be somehow disrespectful to their mother or make them feel pressured to express themselves in a way that doesn’t feel right to them.
I love it whenever they think to say or do something for me for Mother’s Day, but I have come to accept that it’s okay if they don’t, and I won’t be heartbroken or take it as a sign of how they feel about me if the day slips by unnoticed. Last year, my stepdaughter surprised me with some beautiful paper tulips that she made into a card for me! I was touched that she was compelled to include me. I understand that it may or may not happen again this year, and I won’t let it ruin my day.
Stepmoms are adept at taking the breadcrumbs of love and appreciation that are sprinkled throughout the year and making them last. In a way, every day has the potential to become Mother’s Day!
One afternoon, my youngest stepson stopped along his way home from school and picked a beautiful flower for me. It wasn’t on Mother’s Day, but he made my day.
Last week, when my oldest stepson sent me a funny meme that reminded him of our time together, my heart was warmed that he was thinking of me hundreds of miles away from home. It wasn’t on Mother’s Day, but it might as well have been.
No hug, encouraging word, or act of daily care is ever truly lost or completely unnoticed. It may feel like it, but it’s not.
When my second oldest stepson comes specifically to me to ask for advice or to share information because he knows I’m the best one to help him or to appreciate what he wants to say, that’s Mother’s Day for a stepmom.
The gifts of love and never-ending support that stepmoms offer to their families are not always greeted by the fanfare that may be offered to a mother; however, those efforts seep into the hearts of their stepchildren one drop at a time. No hug, encouraging word, or act of daily care is ever truly lost or completely unnoticed. It may feel like it, but it’s not.
Please, stepmoms, try not to be crushed or offended if Mother’s Day is not a red-letter day for you! Stepfamilies are extra complicated. The children have more to consider about the implications of sharing their love between more than one maternal figure. I think they should be encouraged to demonstrate thanks to anyone who plays a larger role in their lives. But if your moment to be targeted for special attention doesn’t fall on this specific day, it’s alright!
Stepmoms, just in case no one else tells you how amazing you are this Mother’s Day, let me be the first to tell you that you are a special breed of incredible women with large and caring hearts who deserve a round of applause for opening your homes and your hearts to your partner’s children! Have a beautiful Mother’s Day – everyday!