Mother’s Day in the UK always falls during Lent, which is several months before the Mother’s day I grew up with in the US. Mother’s day is also known as Mothering Sunday and was historically about returning to an individual’s mother church/home community for a Sunday. It now has evolved into a day to celebrate moms (or mums) with gifts and cards. I find that Mother’s Day can feel very emotionally charged for me, leaving me feeling left out because I am a stepmom.
Tips for more easily handling Mother’s Day as a stepmom:
- Remind yourself how you do care for your stepchildren even if you are not their biological mother (write a list if it helps!)
- Tell your partner, as calmly as possible, if the day is upsetting to you. Discuss with him/her if there is a way to somehow make you feel more included in the day. For example: Could your stepchildren write or make you a card for being a stepmom? It’s easier to do this in advance so your partner doesn’t feel put on the spot on the day.
- If the day does upset you, acknowledge it and don’t blame yourself. Think of what might make you feel better. Consider doing something for yourself like going for a run or getting your nails done.
- Can you think of something fun to do with your stepchildren on the day that makes you feel more a part of the family? A game, a movie? It doesn’t have to be complicated the goal would be to allow you to connect with your stepchildren.
- Be empathetic to how your stepkids or partner might be feeling about the day. They might not like the day anymore than you do.
I don’t think Chris relishes any day that involves arranging gifts for his ex-wife. Regardless of how this activity makes him feel, it’s still important for the children to remember to celebrate their mom and her contribution to their lives on days like today. When they were younger, Chris did all the arranging of such gifts but now that the boys are older he has them participate. He or I suggest a few weeks in advance that they think about a gift to buy and they get involved in the selection/buying process either online or in the store.
This is my third Mother’s Day in the UK since becoming a stepmom. The run up to it with the advertisements and displays of cards feels like I am encountering blinking neon signs everywhere reminding me ‘YOU ARE NOT AN ACTUAL MOTHER.’ On days when I am feeling more anxious or emotional, I tend to interpret things this way. On other days, I am able to remind myself that even if I am not their biological mother I do play the role of a ‘mother-like’ figure. My stepsons live with us almost every Friday evening to Monday morning. During this time, I prepare meals, pop popcorn for movies, and play games with them. This weekend: I cooked dinner, played Trivial Pursuit, listened to music and read with my elder stepson and helped him plan a strategy to improve his Spanish grades.
On Saturday (yesterday), I was writing a post about how to foster a calm perspective of the stepmom role on a day like Mother’s Day. The post wasn’t going very well. Even when I remind myself of how much I love, support and care for my stepsons; I sometimes feel weighed down with the knowledge that no matter how much I do I will never be their mom. This is something that I work continually to come to terms with; It is not easy but I think of it as a process and on the whole I see my progress. As I was struggling to write, the door burst open and my younger stepson carried in flowers singing me ‘Happy Birthday.’ (He thought it was a good joke, since he knows my birthday isn’t for several months.) Chris explained that when they were picking a gift for their mom they had a conversation about people who cared for them in their life and they talked about me. As a result, the younger one decided he wanted to get me some flowers to ‘thank me for caring for them.’ I understand my elder stepson was fairly silent during this process but ensured the flowers did arrive with some of the water left in the vase. This moment was so incredibly touching to me. (The picture of the flowers are at the top of this post.)
In the past, Chris and I have discussed having the boys get me something on Mother’s Day to acknowledge my role. He knows that the day can be emotional for me. Do cards for stepmoms on Mother’s Day exist? I’ve never bothered to look so I don’t really know. He even thought he might have them do something for me on U.S. Mother’s day. Previously, these ideas seemed impossible to enact because of concern for how it would make the boys feel. Until recently, even my use of the title ‘stepmom’ caused angst for my elder stepson. Both of my stepsons are incredibly loyal to their mom: they are wary of her being disparaged and they certainly don’t want her to be replaced. (I try very hard to not be negative about her in front of them, as does Chris, and I try to make it clear I am not trying to replace her but that I do care for them). My appearance in their lives solidified, especially for the elder one, that their parents were not getting back together. I think this was a devastating revelation for them and as such it has take time for them to be comfortable with me having a role in their lives.
Getting flowers this weekend shows that we are continuing to evolve as a stepfamily ‘unit’ and that I am important to both Chris and the boys. This makes me feel incredibly happy.
Now, I have to go quiz some Spanish vocab.