It’s unlikely that any little girls grow up dreaming of being a stepmother. A mother yes, but not a stepmother. Whether it’s due to children’s fairy tales that portray stepmothers as ‘wicked’, or whether it’s simply the result of children’s conflicted feelings when their family unit breaks down, as family roles go, being a stepmother is nobody’s first choice.
However, the reality is that step-families are the most prevalent type of family now in the US. Fifty per cent of first marriages end in divorce, and of those, 70 per cent will remarry. There are therefore many millions of women around the world who are stepmothers, and for many of them, Mother’s Day can be a painful time.
“Becoming a stepmother can be a scary process because you are stepping into a previously formed family and trying to find your place in that family,” says Dr. Tasha Ebanks Garcia, a psychologist who works with children and families.
A stepmother who lives with her husband’s children from a previous relationship, even if only some of the time, will inevitably end up cooking, cleaning, playing with and caring for the children in the same way that a mother would, even though they are not her own blood relatives. She takes on the parenting responsibilities, and yet, when Mother’s Day comes around, stepmothers are often overlooked.
Stepmothers have no defined position on Mother’s Day, and in spite of the active parenting they do, it is not they who are being celebrated on this day.
In reality, while they in no way wish to usurp the children’s biological mother’s place, most stepmothers would love some small form of acknowledgement or appreciation for what they do – from their husbands as much as from their stepchildren.
So, fathers and children who live in blended families, don’t forget about the ‘other mother’ in your lives this year. This doesn’t mean you have to prefer her to your biological mother. Mother’s Day is about giving thanks and stopping to appreciate all that mothers do for their families, so wouldn’t it be fair to acknowledge stepmothers as well?
A card, some flowers, a meal out or a gift – even the smallest of gestures will go a long way toward making many stepmothers feel accepted and cared for by their stepchildren.
In the US some people choose to celebrate Stepmother’s Day the Sunday after Mother’s Day. It was originally an idea proposed by a young girl in Pennsylvania, Lizzie Capuzzi, who wanted to set aside a day specifically to honour her stepmother. As she was committed to spending Mother’s Day with her biological mother and stepfather, she chose to celebrate her stepmother the following Sunday.
So if you are a child who, like Lizzie, has both a stepmother and a biological mother, take a few moments to consider that perhaps you are lucky to have two wonderful women you can count on, rather than just one. And be sure to make both of them know they are appreciated this Mother’s Day.