It’s Sunday morning — Mother’s Day.
You wake up hoping your husband is going to kiss you, give you flowers and a card and wish you Happy Mother’s Day. Maybe he’ll even bring you coffee in bed!
Your stepkids have made cards for their mom and are excited to be spending the day with her. That same Mother’s Day they give you … ?
The day continues just as any normal Sunday would: You run errands, do a few chores and maybe watch something on TV. No one connects the dots between you and Mother’s Day. You eventually go up to your room, sit on the floor and sob as if there is no tomorrow.
For many stepmoms, Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days of the year because of the lack of acknowledgement and recognition for contributions they provide all year long. The same feelings of disregard toward stepmoms’ involvement apply during graduations and weddings.
In fact, a client once asked me what she should do after her stepson requested that she not attend his graduation ceremony. He was concerned that his mom would make a scene. My client was both angry at the request and sad that her stepson had been put in a situation to ask her not to attend.
Another stepmom shared that, during her stepdaughter’s wedding reception, she was asked to sit at the back of the room with other guests — while the bride’s mom and stepdad sat at the honors, or head, table. She was so upset that her initial thought was to turn around and leave.
These women were devastated by the way their stepkids treated them. They were heart¬broken and angry. Instead of being recognized for the contributions they had made to their stepkids’ lives, they were basically being asked not to join the party.
It’s hard to know what to do in situations like those and, as a stepmom, it’s natural to feel hurt when your efforts are ignored. After all:
- You’ve chauffeured your stepkids to their various activities
- You’ve cooked them some of their favorite meals
- You’ve stayed up and nursed them while they were sick
- You’ve cleaned up after them and have even done their laundry
- You’ve probably rearranged your schedule to accommodate theirs
- And you’ve done a whole lot more they may or may not be aware of
At times when you’re neither seen nor heard, you feel invisible. And that hurts big time. Internally, we understand that we’re not our stepkids’ biological parents and yet we still want to be acknowledged — like biological parents are. This may be even truer if you’ve been in your stepchild’s life since he or she was little.
Logic tells you not to make a big deal out of it. To just let it go. Yet, your heart is broken. You want to shout out “I’m hurt! Can’t you at least acknowledge what I’ve done so far?” Your emotions are running high during the very moments which should be joyous for you.
Well, here are a few things you can do to ease the pain of feeling invisible at milestone moments in your stepfamily life:
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS. Don’t pretend your feelings are not there or that you don’t care. Those unexpressed emotions will pop up at some point later in your relationship and create a huge argument — or, at a minimum, resentment. Think of this as an untreated infection. If you don’t clean the wound up and simply put a Band-Aid over it, it will continue to fester and grow.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS. OK, so your husband didn’t wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Tell him how that felt. My first Mother’s Day was spent stewing at my now husband and then crying until he asked me what was wrong. My response was “Nothing!” (Typical.) This only confused him more until I shared how I truly felt about not being acknowledged on Mother’s Day. His response was, “But you’re not my mother!” That was a shocker for me. Our views on Mother’s Day were totally different. Do not assume that others share the same definition or perspective of events as you do. Instead, seek clarity.
ASK FOR WHAT YOU WANT. It’s one thing to share your thoughts, but you must also ask for what you want in very specific terms. After all, these are two entirely different things. If being at your stepson’s graduation ceremony is really important to you, say so. Do not make others guess. Explain why it is that you want to attend the ceremony. Whatever the milestone is, talk about what it means to each of you. Identify ways you can reach a compromise or brainstorm to discover other ways you can celebrate as a stepfamily.
CONSIDER YOUR MOTIVES. There are moments in life which are celebrated at one-time events, like weddings (at least, we hope so) and we all want to be there for them. But milestone moments can be difficult times for stepkids who are trying to please everyone involved: Where do I have my parents sit? Together or on opposite sides of the room? Will they behave or are they going to make a scene?
As a stepmom, it is natural that you also want to be acknowledged for your part in raising this person into adulthood. But this is no time to compete with your stepkids’ biological mom or to prove that you have a place in the family. Assess your motives and make sure that your request to attend an event is based on integrity. And never insist. That’s your ego talking!
If all else fails? One of the surest ways to make any occasion happier is by spending time and energy doing something nice and/or special for yourself — or as a stepfamily — rather than fixating on one moment in time, one day of your life or one single event. There are lots of ways to honor the people and moments which matter to us.
Choose the ones which are most likely to make everyone feel special. First and foremost? Yourself. And, for what it’s worth, I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day!
This article first appeared in the 2014 May edition of Stepmom Magazine
Claudette Chenevert works with stepmoms struggling to create a cohesive family. As a Master Stepfamily coach, she provides education, support and tools enabling families to achieve their goals within a specific time frame, often surpassing expectations. She helps you find what works best in your situation so that you will be able to create the kind of family you truly want. For more information about her programs and services, go to http://www.stepmomcoach.com