Mother’s Day here in Canada is just around the corner – Sunday, May 13th. This holiday can bring up a range of emotions for stepmothers, and probably, some uncertainty for their partners. Everyone handles this situation differently, and as we all know, what works for one family does not work for another. But it is important that you are not left feeling disappointed, confused, or upset, so for that reason, let’s talk about Mother’s Day and what you can do to feel supported and loved.
What Does It Mean To You?
Some stepmothers would like to be celebrated on Mother’s Day, like all the other Moms in this world. Some stepmothers are also biological Moms, and so may be celebrated regardless. Some don’t care about the holiday particularly, and aren’t looking for that recognition, or don’t have the kind of relationship with their stepkids that would make them expect to be acknowledged. Some would rather celebrate Stepmother’s Day (more on that later!). You need to be honest with yourself about your expectations, and what this holiday means to you. That way you can be clear with your partner, cause let’s face it, no one is a mind reader.
For me personally, I didn’t care about Mother’s Day before having my daughter. I had been in the stepkids’ lives for a few years at that point, and never expected a gift or anything from them. Not because we didn’t have a good relationship – we always have – but it just didn’t feel like something I needed. Basically the day my daughter was born, my perspective on that changed. I went through labour!!! I deserve a day!!! In all seriousness, mothering is not about birth or biology. Some stepmothers are more involved in their stepchildren’s lives than the biological mother ever was. I know some incredible women who have taken on primary parenting roles for their stepchildren and I bow down to them… it cannot be easy. For those women, for ANY woman who takes on a parenting role for children who are not hers, tokens of appreciation, love, and gratitude are the minimum they deserve.
Transparency and Expectations
One of the greatest lessons learned since meeting my husband, has been to be open and transparent about my expectations. While my fairy tale imagination would love it if he instinctually knew exactly what I wanted at any given moment, I recognize this is totally unrealistic. As an example, he wouldn’t blink if I overlooked Father’s Day. Doesn’t mean a thing to him. So naturally, and because I had never mentioned it when my parenting role was limited to stepmothering, he didn’t think it was necessary to acknowledge it last year when I was a new and exhausted Mom to a 4 month-old. Wrong. However, I had failed to mention this, and so while I was very upset, I understood why he was so confused at my sulky silent treatment.
No one is a mind reader. Just because you would do something for someone else, it doesn’t mean they share the same value system. We owe it to our partners to be open and honest about what we want and need in our relationship. Of course it doesn’t feel quite as “romantic” to tell your hubby: “Next week is Mother’s Day. I would really appreciate you acknowledging this with the kids in some way. It’s important to me”. But it’s important that you are clear with your expectations. Trust me, it’s better than waiting around all day for whatever it is you think they have planned, only to realize that in fact, it’s just another Sunday.
What About Her?
So be honest about what you want/need/expect, and communicate this to your partner. Pretty easy, right?
Are you supposed to remind the kids to make her something? Are you supposed to remind hubby to remind the kids? Are you supposed to think about this stuff at all??? Well again, that all depends on you. You should NEVER feel obligated to remind the kids or your husband about these things if it doesn’t feel right for you. He’s an adult. If you want to help the kids make something for her, great! But in no way are you expected to do this, or should you feel like it’s your responsibility. In the beginning of my time as a stepmom, I would mention it to my husband: Did they get her a Christmas gift? Did they do anything for Mother’s Day?... Not anymore. Typically they make things in school, and to be quite honest, I don’t feel like it’s my job to initiate the gift-giving. It IS up to me to communicate my needs to him, but not to project my needs onto her.
While it’s not a new holiday, Stepmother’s Day has received a recent revival of attention in the past few years. Typically, this holiday is celebrated the Sunday after Mother’s Day, so this year it is May 20th. I think in a way it’s a shame that all women who mother, in whatever capacity, don’t celebrate on the same day, but I’m glad at least there is some recognition that stepmother’s deserve thanks. So again, if you are hoping to be celebrated on that day, it doesn’t hurt to say, “Hey honey. Did you know that May 20th is Stepmother’s Day? How nice that there is a day to recognize our contributions to the family! It would be nice to do something special that day”. Be clear about what you want and need. It doesn’t take away the romance, it takes away potential disappointment. And whenever you choose to celebrate, or however you choose to spend that day, I hope you know you are loved.