I published an article last year about the expectations and ensuing disappointments that stepmothers often experience on Mother's Day. With the holiday quickly approaching, it's worth reminding ourselves of the realities of this "Hallmark Holiday." If you read it last year, I hope it's a welcome re-read. If you're reading it for the first time, I hope it helps you get through the day.
A wise friend once said, “The sure way to be disappointed is to have expectations.” Truer words have never been uttered. People, especially children, are not mind readers. They do not automatically know what you want and if you assume they do, and then they don’t come through . . . boom! Instant disappointment.
As Mother’s Day quickly approaches, we are once again reminded that it is often a day of disappointment for stepmothers. Intellectually, they know they are not the mother, but as Laura Petherbridge wrote, “ . . .many stepmoms feel as though they have all of the pain, frustrations, financial strain, and difficulty of being a parent, but none of the rewards or joy.” Others are more realistic. “Of course it's important to feel acknowledged and appreciated. But as much as I love my stepkids and think of them as my own, I am not their mom. And on Mother's Day, I think the focus rightly belongs on the woman who is”, says Lylah M. Alphonse in her article on Yahoo! Shine. Not every stepmother is so gracious.
One stepmom tells of how, as a teenage stepchild, she was feeling generous one year and sent her stepmother a card on Mother’s Day. Her father called and said, “You made [your stepmom] so incredibly happy with that card and it meant so much to me, too.” Well, now she’d done it. She couldn’t ever NOT send a card again or she would not only disappoint her stepmother, but more importantly, she would disappoint her dad. So every year for the past 32 years, this woman has sent a card whether she really wants to or not. And why not? It takes little effort and makes everyone happy. Even her, though some years more than others.
One reason for lack of recognition from stepchildren might have nothing to do with their feelings for their stepmother. Unfortunately, many children are not raised to recognize special occasions or maybe they are just selfish kids. They may not even realize it’s Mother’s Day at all and their biological mother may be experiencing equal, if not more, disappointment. Not that that makes us feel any better, though, right?
Of course it would be wonderful if the fathers would recognize their wives’ stepmotherly contributions, but again, that means expectations which could lead to what? That's right -- disappointment.
So, what’s the solution? Curb you expectations as much as possible and guess what! There is actually a Stepmother’s Day! It’s the Sunday following Mother’s Day which this year falls on May 18th. The problem is that most people don’t know about it. So, tell your husbands (I just did), tell your stepkids and take comfort in knowing that there’s a day just for you. And if no one is thoughtful enough to celebrate you, then celebrate yourself. You know you deserve it. And last but not least, the wisest words that Stepfamily Foundation President and Founder, Jeannette Lofas repeats often, “Guard your sense of humor . . .” and have Happy Stepmother’s Day!