Saturday, May 7, 2005

“But, She’s Not My Mother.”

It’s a phrase that can make any stepmother cringe... especially when applied to Mother’s Day celebrations.

It’s a phrase that I heard for the first time last year.

My husband was discussing Mother’s Day plans with my stepdaughter when I had accidentally walked in on their conversation. Their discussion came to an abrupt halt once they saw me standing in the doorway. I pretended I didn’t hear anything but for a moment, those five little words stopped me dead in my tracks. I was hurt. Partly for myself but mainly out of the crushing realization that I, too, had once been a 7 year old with a stepmother. And I, too, had once shared the exact same sentiment.

As a young girl I never celebrated Mother’s Day with my stepmom. No card. No phone call. No present. In my mind, this was not her holiday. Not that I was consciously denying her this day... it simply never occurred to me that Mother’s Day also includes stepmothers.

As both a mom and a stepmom I now understood the importance of being acknowledged by your children. In our daily struggle to carve out a place in the lives of our stepchildren it’s especially important for stepmoms to know that our efforts are appreciated. My stepmother gave of herself so selflessly when I was a child (and still does) – and got so little in return. I regret not showing her the appreciation she so rightly deserved back then. I don’t want my stepdaughter to grow up with these same regrets.

Luckily, Mother’s Day has fallen on our scheduled weekend with my stepdaughter the last two years. So I have had the opportunity to celebrate with her before she goes to spend the day with her bio-Mom. It seems as though the older she becomes, the easier it is for her to accept me as a "bonus" Mom in her life. This year, in fact, she remembered me all on her own and split a classroom Mother's Day project between her bio-Mom and myself. It's these little gestures that re-assure me that I am doing a good job after all.

As for my own stepmom, I no longer forget to show her how special she is to me, and how much I appreciate the endless love, support and guidance she has shown me through the years. After all, without her, what kind of step-Mom would I be?...

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