Ahhh Mother’s Day. The day for remembering our moms and basking in the love of our children we so proudly get to mother. The day of cards, flowers, and handcrafted masterpieces. The day of respect, help, love, joy, and beauty.
Unless you’re a stepmom. I received a message the other day that stopped me in my tracks and made me decide to write this.
“Please post something about the dreaded, awkward Mother’s Day that’s approaching.”
Please know if you’re new here, I have been in therapy and dedicated to this blog and my personal growth journey for a long time. And Mother’s Day is still an awkward day for me on some level. That is not because I’m selfish, it’s because I’m not. I do enjoy my Little Bear making a day about me. He loves and cherishes me and is thankful for me, I know that. He puts his heart and soul into his gifts for me. He talks about Mother’s Day with his father for weeks leading up to it, to make sure that the day is not forgotten for me. He makes me promise not to look in his backpack as it gets closer to the big day so I don’t spoil the surprise he is crafting. I have learned to accept this love of his and to know that he truly cares deeply for me and our relationship is our own.
But the reason I still find this awkward is not because of my feelings, but because of his. Our story is different than many. I’m not sharing Mother’s Day with the woman who created him. When she chose to stop being an active part of his life, I still continued to encourage him to try to be an active part in hers. I asked if he wanted to call her, and during holidays, especially Mother’s Day, I asked if he’d like to call her or send her a card. After a long enough time where she was minimally responsive, these holidays came and went. I can count the times she’s called in the past few years on one hand. Each and every time he refuses to talk to her, but we continue to give him the choice.
I am confident that we are doing all we can on our end to remain neutral in their relationship. I am confident I am giving him the tools to do as he pleases without feeling any pressure. I am confident because I had to grow enough to do this (it took some intense work). That’s how I know it’s real.
I try very hard not to project feelings I do or might have about the situation onto him. He may go all day long without thinking about her. She may never even enter his mind. She may be a thing of the past to him – someone he distantly loves, but no longer gives him the time of day, so he has moved on. But for me, I’m sensitive to this part in his story.
The point in all this is that my story should serve as proof that children can love and honor two mothers on this day. An involved and loving stepmother is just as entitled to a nice Mother’s Day as a biological mother, in my opinion. The day doesn’t just have to be reserved for the person who created the child. The trouble comes in when grown women put their agendas, feelings, and wishes above that of the child’s. It often stems from jealousy, and it truly does create this horribly awkward dynamic for the day. It can leave everyone feeling tense and uncomfortable and puts the child in the middle.
Mother’s Day is a perfect example of what blended families can be about, and often sheds light on the not so pretty as well. A child shouldn’t feel like they have to choose who is a “better” mother, who is “more” mother, etc. I want my Bear to always know that his biological mother loves him, and SHE DOES as best she knows how. You can fight me that “loving” is showing, and “loving” is doing. Before I did all the work I did on emotional stability and dysfunctional families, I would agree with you. But now, I do not. She only has a certain capacity to show love, to do acts of responsibility and to better herself at this time. That should never suggest she doesn’t love him or doesn’t care about him. As of right now, she has not chosen to fill the role appropriately, and I have. But understand that doesn’t make one “more” or “better” mother and he should be able to love us both. I realize this may sound unacceptable, but I assure you, if you can’t grasp that concept, it’s because you’re not there yet in your growth journey.
I am not jealous of her, but I once was. I am not mad at her, but I once was. I am not afraid he will disown me one day to run back to her, but I once was. The difference? I am now completely confident in my relationship with him, which has nothing to do with her. That has allowed me to remain neutral at all times to their relationship, and realize it has nothing to do with me. The reason so many people battle in their blended family is because they don’t know their role, and they believe these relationships are all supposed to overlap. But that’s simply not true. My relationship with Bear has nothing to do with his relationship with his bio mother, and vice versa. We get into trouble when we believe one is better or more and what is happening between THEM is hurting US. It’s all a common myth.
It can be VERY TRUE, and I’ve lived it, that one party is trying to do damage to your relationship, in order to better theirs. But I promise you that doesn’t work in the longrun. As hard as it is to stay focused on your relationship when you feel someone running after you burning the beauty you’re so desperately trying to plant behind you, you must know that one day, the kids will turn around and watch them doing it. They will see it for themselves.
It was always hard for me to accept any of these truths. It was hard because they all seemed impossible. Mom was winning! At every turn! Take the high road???! Let it shake out??? That is crazy! SHe is undoing everything I’ve created! No matter what I do, it’s never enough! The courts are all on her team! No one is listening to me!
First, if you are that miserable…it’s time to look inside. That’s an order….take it directly from me….because I lived it. Second, if it’s that bad, it’s time to reevaluate your relationships. If you believe no matter what you do, the kids still favor mom and treat you like trash, the only one who can change that is you. But I believe that is not the majority of situations. In EVERY situation, you have a hand in the outcome. You can do something differently. You can make changes.
You’d be SHOCKED at how different things become when the kids know you truly are the bigger person, you truly aren’t out to damage their relationship with their mom, you truly are okay with them feeling any way they wish. Kids KNOW. Once his chid therapist said to me, fake it til you make it. And all that faking did was make me more miserable. I had to do the work to become GENUINELY okay with my relationship with him and GENUINELY okay with his relationship with his bio mother. I am not suggesting you don’t protect these kids. If they are in a situation like mine was, get them out of it, but don’t do MORE damage by telling them they can’t love a part of them. There ARE ways to handle this maturely and responsibly.
If you are hurting this Mother’s Day, it’s a great time to examine some pieces of yourself and your situation. But I will ALWAYS encourage you to be the bigger person and keep working until you get to the point where you understand that their relationship has nothing to do with your relationship. When that day comes all will be different.
If you feel jealous about the gifts, look inside at why. If you feel sad that they want to spend time with their mom and not you, don’t feel slighted. If you feel you deserved more today, uncover what it was you were expecting. If the kids prefer you over mom for this day, don’t gloat, stay humble, it just means they have found a real bond with you.
If you’re like me, you’ve gone through many “my” days where you wish the kids would JUST ONCE let you have your day. My birthday, a recent promotion, etc. There have been many times where I thought I deserved a day that I could enjoy without whining, drama, or Bear taking away the shine that was meant for me. And rightfully so, on those days.
Mother’s Day is not your day -this goes for bios and steps alike. It’s not a day for you to be admired, for you to be thanked, for you to be doted upon. It’s not a day for you to set expectations, and it’s not a day for you to be validated. If you’re having a let down this Mother’s Day, it’s because you’re looking at it all wrong.
It can be a pressure filled day for kids. They don’t want to disappoint anyone and they want to love everyone equally. If they feel pulled toward spending the day a certain way, don’t make it worse by pulling another way. This is a good opportunity to shine light on the puller, the one applying pressure. Don’t be that person. It’s hard enough for the kids to live without having to feel bad about who matters to them. The perfect family model would allow kids to love everyone who loves them, and all the adults would be secure enough in themselves to let that happen. But since that’s not generally the case, work toward making that your goal – just yourself. If the other party wants to make Mother’s Day messy, there’s nothing you can do about it. But you don’t have to make it messy too.
I sympathize with those feeling like they want more. You want more recognition. You want more validation. You want more love. You’re giving it all and you just want some flicker of hope that it’s worth it. The truth is, there are no guarantees with stepparenting, but there are odds. The odds are always in your favor when you remove expectations and let the kids love and honor in any way they feel appropriate.
I leave you with this. The day should be about celebrating the role, in any way it’s taken shape. It should be about celebrating the kids. It will look different for every family. But if one person is desperately trying to make the day “their day only” and pressure the kids, that’s an insecurity issue. Don’t let it be yours.