Remember when you were a little girl and you’d take your mom to Mother’s Day brunch? Remember painstakingly creating a card with your handprint and misspelled, scrawled words? Remember suffering over the stove trying to scramble eggs and flip pancakes to present the perfect breakfast in bed to your mom?
Me too. And I remember thinking, Someday this will be me.
Growing up I kept a scrapbook of sorts. It was called “School Days” and it had a page for each grade. Along with a place to glue that year’s school picture there were questions to answer:
My name is
I am ___ years old
My teacher’s name is
My favorite subjects are
My best friend is
And, my favorite, When I grow up I want to be ___________________.
I still have that little book. Sometimes I flip thorough it. Some things are disturbing – my handwriting hasn’t gotten much better since 3rd grade –but mostly …it’s really cute. You can imagine how things change year to year. Someone who was my very very very very best friend (I added all the verys in crayon) in 2nd grade was not even listed as an “other friends” by 3rd grade. My favorite subject never stayed the same and of course, the hobbies and interests changed radically from year to year. But one thing stayed the same all through grade school – the When I Grow Up I Want to Be line.
It always said “A mommy”
Sometimes I added other things – a ballerina, a doctor, a famous horseback rider – but always I listed “A mommy” as the thing I most wanted to be when I grow up.
Fast forward …
I’ve had 5 miscarriages and (due to my cancer diagnosis) a failed adoption
Some things don’t work out the way we think.
Painful. Disappointing. Crushing. Those are understatements.
At the same time …AT THE SAME TIME … I have to acknowledge the unbelievable joy that my stepdaughter has brought into my life. I cannot describe adequately the love I feel for her. I cannot put into words what goes on inside my chest when she runs across the room to me or when she reaches for my hand or when she snuggles in my lap. And every day of the year I’m grateful to her father and to her mother for bringing her into the world. Every day I am grateful. Every day I am happy. Every day I am okay.
And then comes Mother’s Day.
I can’t lie to you. Mother’s Day is a toughie.
I have a cousin who is also a Stepmom – she’s awesome and she gets it and once she told me that a friend of hers who also carries the Stepmom title refuses to go to church on Mother’s Day – know why? Because they always ask the Mothers to stand … and she doesn’t know what to do.
Another Stepmom friend tells me her stepdaughter bounds into the kitchen on Mother’s Day mornings and says “Happy … Day” to her. Carefully leaving out any reference to her as her mother.
And still another friend confides that she feels abandoned on this day when her phone stays silent and there is no one to take her to brunch – after all, they are busy taking their real mom to breakfast.
If you aren’t a Stepmom, I’m sorry but you really don’t understand. And that’s okay because this post isn’t for you. This post is for those of us who live it, who get it, who will awaken Sunday morning with a little bit of dread, a little bit of pain and a lot of choices. I’ve blundered Mother’s Day in the past. I’ve had some downright awful ones. But I’ve had some really great ones too and I’ve learned a few things in my short tenure as a Stepmom.
Here they are …
JENNE’S SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR STEPMOTHERS ON MOTHER’S DAY
Focus on your stepchild, not on you.
Well, here is a big life lesson. If you want to feel better, about anything, quit thinking about how badly you have it. Instead, focus on what you do have – you have a stepchild. You have an enormous opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life. You have a chance to reinforce in that child what is good and pure about them. Focus on them. Not on you. Here's an idea - give your stepkid a card. A "thanks for giving me a chance to be a mom" card. You might have to make one yourself, this isn't a big money-maker for Hallmark.
Do something nice for your stepchild’s mother.
This one is easy for me. The Kid has a great mom and we all get along famously. But even if we didn’t I think Mother’s Day would be a great time to let her know i’m grateful. It doesn’t have to be much - a card, a call, maybe some flowers. Even the smallest of gestures will be noticed by your stepchild and will communicate a powerful message.
Take cues from your stepchild but don’t assume.
I used to introduce The Kid to people as my daughter. I did this because I didn’t want her to think I thought less of her. When she was seven I actually thought to ask her, Do you want me to introduce you as my daughter or step-daughter? I was shocked when she answered, Step-daughter! I was a little hurt but I asked her why. And she said this, Because being a step-kid is really cool! Well, there you go. If your stepchild acknowledges the day – go with it. But if they don’t, don’t assume it is because they have something against you. They’re kids. It might not have dawned on them to include you. After all, they still haven’t figured out where the laundry basket is.
Look at how much you’ve grown since this kid came into your life. Yes, I know it is hard sometimes and yes I know you get taken for granted and yes, it WOULD be nice if someone would notice but really, you don’t have it so bad. And if it weren’t for that kid (or kids) you’d still be the same flakey 30-something you were all those years ago.
Don’t expect your husband to buy you a gift, a card or even acknowledge the day for you.
He might. And if he does – good for him, I’m really proud of him. But he might not. And that’s nothing against you. And it doesn't mean he doesn't appreciate you. It’s just that he’s not used to thinking of you this way and really, come to think of it, you aren’t his mother … right? You are his wife. So give him a break. After all, he still hasn’t figured out where the laundry basket is.
And finally, if you do go to church and they do ask mothers to stand, go ahead and stand proudly. You deserve to. You wipe the snotty noses and drive the minivans and stock the fridge full of chocolate milk and do every other thing a mother does. And being a mother is so much more than pushing a baby out your hoo-ha … it’s the everything that comes after. And you do that. You do it so well.
Happy Mother’s Day – to you.