Did you know that Stepmother’s Day is on the Sunday following Mother’s Day? If not, you’re not alone.
It’s not an official holiday. You might find one or two Stepmother’s Day cards at a random Hallmark store. And I heard that Walmart sells a “#1 stepmom shirt.” But other than that, it’s a day that will likely come and go without notice by most of society.
Some stepmoms couldn’t care less about Mother’s Day. They don’t feel like “mom” and have no desire to be celebrated as such.
But others dread the day. Will they be acknowledged for “mothering” their stepchildren? Will their husbands even think to celebrate them? And if not, what does that mean about their value as a stepmom?
About the kids…
Depending on your situation, the kids might not feel right celebrating you on Mother’s day. Even if they hold you in the highest regard, they may feel like they’re betraying mom if they celebrate you on her day.
I would tell you not to take it personally, but you probably will anyways. So let your family know about Stepmother’s Day, it’s a great way for the kids to be able to celebrate you without the guilt.
About the Men…
If you’re looking for acknowledgment, whether it be on Mother’s Day or Stepmother’s Day, you’re probably going to have to ask for it.
If you find yourself thinking “he should know…” then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and setting him up for failure.
Men are not mind readers and they don’t take hints. Which means your fantasy of a surprise celebration in your honor most likely won’t happen unless you’ve told him you’d like a surprise celebration on this day and at this time.
I know that doesn’t sound romantic, but if you look at it like he really does want to make you happy, he just needs to know how – well that’s pretty darn romantic. So do everyone a favor and set your husband up for success.
All he really wants is to make you happy, so help him accomplish that and the whole family wins.
What does this day mean to you? Are you letting your worth as a woman and a stepmom be determined by the level of acknowledgment from your family? If so, I urge you to think twice. Find your value in yourself, in who you are as a person.
There are a million reasons that your family might not think to celebrate you (that’s why I suggest you remind them), but it has nothing to do with you. You’re a valuable member of your family and you’re loved.
Your footprint is evident in the new man your husband has become since meeting you and the positive light you’ve added to your stepchild’s life.
Whether you receive a card or not, those facts remain the same. As does the love your family has for you.
Happy Step/Mother’s Day, stepmoms!
© 2012 Jenna Korf All Rights Reserved
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We often talk about stepmoms overdoing it and needing to step back from all their responsibilities; needing to take a break from taking care of everything and everyone.
But sometimes it’s not the stepchildren they need to back off from.
Sometimes it’s the ex-wife.
Stepmoms usually start out innocently communicating with mom around things like schedules and logistics. If that goes well, she starts thinking “Great, mom is receptive to me. She’s accepting of me.”
She then takes mom’s receptiveness as an invitation to move into position and start taking the reigns around other aspects of co-parenting.
She also starts to think she can heal the relationship between her husband and his ex. Oops…
What starts out with good intentions on the stepmom’s part, often turns into an ugly power struggle or war between mom and stepmom.
Before she knows it, she’s crossed a boundary she couldn’t see and mom is up in arms accusing her of overstepping and trying to take over. (Cue the barrage of nasty text messages from mom)
The stepmom is often an easy scapegoat. We’re the new kid on the block (even if we’ve been around for years). And it’s so much easier to point the finger at someone else and tell them what they’re doing wrong, than trying to see how their presence could benefit the family and wanting to find solutions.
Stepmoms, when you start getting frustrated about this, remember these four words: YOU CAN’T FIX IT.
It was broken long before you showed up. And as much as you might love your husband and want to make things better for him, you can only do that in your household. When it comes to his ex, it’s HIS job to handle her.
There are some moms who do communicate better with their child’s stepmom and choose to deal with her rather than her ex. For those of you who can make that work, I commend you!
But for all the others…
Your husband has a choice. He either chooses to lay down some ground rules with her or he chooses to continue letting the dynamic be as it is.
Either way it’s his choice.
So what do you get for “getting out of the way”? You get to improve your marriage. What your husband wants is to feel supported by you. By letting him deal with his ex and NOT harassing him about his decisions, or hers, you allow the space to simply support him.
And you get to go about your business focusing on all the things that bring you joy, knowing that whatever stress she brings, you’re more protected from it than you would be if you were right in the line of fire.
This will be a challenge for those of you who define yourselves as control freaks. You might feel like bursting at the seam every time something happens, but eventually you learn to enjoy not having the pressure of needing to know every gory detail of the interaction.
And you might need to fake it ’till you make it. Put notes around the house reminding you to bite your tongue.
Your husband is a big boy, let him handle things in his own way (which I guarantee will be different than the way YOU would handle them).
If it’s something that affects you, then have that conversation with him. Otherwise, learn to let go.
You’re making room for more peace in your life and at the same time showing your husband “ I trust you, I believe in you.” And more than anything, that’s what our husbands want to feel from us.
So stepmoms, do your best to remove yourself from fights that aren’t yours.
Your marriage will thank you for it!
© 2012 Jenna Korf All Rights Reserved
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It’s not just a myth that in a stepfamily the marriage needs to be the number one priority. It’s what has been proven to work hundreds of times over. Otherwise, there ends up being a second divorce, or just two miserable people tolerating each other.
Either way, it sucks for you and it sucks for the kids.
The couple is the pillar of the family unit, holding the family together. But when the children’s wants are made to be more important than the adult’s needs, chaos ensues.
Kids need structure in order to feel safe. As Ben Garber says in his book Keeping Kids Out of the Middle, think of the marriage as their safety net; something they can rely on.
Be prepared. They’re going to test that net to see how far they can stretch it. They need to know it will stretch without breaking. They need to know they can count on it to be there, to catch them when they fall.
Here are 5 practices that will help ensure you’re making your marriage the priority!
1. Explain the new “structure” of the family to the kids.
The kids are often in pain from divorce and the loss of their family, resulting in misplaced anger (usually aimed at the stepmom). It’s up to the biological father to listen to his children, empathize with them about their pain, but remind them that the new structure of the family includes the stepmom.
Let them know they’re loved and find out what needs of theirs are possibly not being met.
Make sure to have some alone time with them at every visit. And talk to them about possible solutions for what’s ailing them.
2. Stepmoms, your spouse must defend you to the kids.
The children will take their cues from dad, so he needs to be your biggest advocate. He needs to let them know that he loves you and that although they don’t have to love you, or even like you, they must behave in a respectful manner to you, as his wife.
Referring to you as his wife, as opposed to their stepmom, may be less threatening and easier for the kids to digest.
3. Be affectionate in front of the kids.
It’s healthy to hold hands, give a peck on the cheek, etc… If the previous marriage was volatile, this might be the first time they’ve ever witnessed love and affection between two healthy adults.
This is your opportunity to model a loving relationship so they have a better chance of experiencing one for themselves in the future.
And give yourselves some alone time! Do your best to create a date night (or at least a date hour). The adults in a marriage need to experience each other without the children around. It’s important to keep up the “R-rated” aspect of your relationship, so you continue to see each other as more than “parents.”
4. The couple should never undermine each other in front of the children.
Stepmoms, if your partner doesn’t agrees with something you’ve done or said to the kids, he needs to support you in front of the kids and then discuss it behind closed doors.
Otherwise, the child may see the stepparent as insignificant, and feel a sense of power over the family. He may believe he’s found a way to drive a wedge between the couple, thinking this might be his opportunity to get his parents back together. And he may think he can dictate how the family runs.
I don’t actually need to describe the hell it would be to have a child running the household, do I??
As Foster Cline recommends from the book Parenting teens with love and logic, “A good relationship between child and stepparent is healthy and worth striving for. But when disputes arise, the birth parent must unequivocally back up the stepparent as an authority in the home.”
And stepmoms, you’re not off the hook here. This rule goes both ways.
5. The child won’t respect the stepparent if the biological parent doesn’t insist on it.
By “respect” I’m referring to listening to the stepparent when she’s directing the child, not insulting or badmouthing the stepparent; showing basic manners.
If this isn’t occurring, the biological parent needs to step in. It can’t come from the stepparent, because the child most likely does not feel any loyalty or responsibility to the stepparent.
The results of a child not respecting a stepparent can be enough to damage the marriage. A stepmom may feel powerless in her own home. She will come to dread the children’s visits.
She will feel she is cooking, cleaning, nurturing this child, only to be completely disrespected. If this goes on for too long, the stepmom ends up feeling used and abused, instead of loved and supported.
She will also be angry with her husband for not protecting her or listening to her needs. She may feel so beaten down that she doesn’t think it’s worth it to stay in the marriage.
After all, the marriage is the reason she’s here!
As you can see, the dad holds a lot of responsibility for keeping the stepfamily intact. That’a pretty big burden and it’s a difficult job. But with his wife’s support he can succeed. And with her husband’s support, the stepmom will know that her marriage is strong. She will know that her efforts are worthwhile and her emotional cup will be filled.
And the whole family will benefit!
© 2012 Jenna Korf All Rights Reserved
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