Mother’s Day is past. So is Step-Mother’s Day. Sometimes it’s not about perfect timing, but more about perfect trying. Being a stepmom and part of a blended family is about trying your best and not about how (or if) your step-kids love you. Nor does it matter if you love them. What it can be about is self-reflection about how you want to affect the new (and maybe challenging) little lives that are in your Motherly-orbit. Like all things Blended you’ve got to mix it up and spin it around and look at it from another angle.
Make mother’s day about deciding what kind of mother you want to grow into being, regardless of what emotions swirl around you. Here are some ways to do that:
- Write your step-kids a Mother’s Day card: Think about what your step-kids might need to hear and give that gift to them. Keep it positive and encouraging. How have they grown, what are some positive qualities they possess? Find the good, spread the positive.
- Decide on your future relationship for your family: Chose behaviors today that will serve to build the relationship you hope for in the future. It’s like dating, except you’re really courting the family and doing all the niceties that bring about positive feelings. Positive memories create bonds. Bonds create love. All of your actions, from big to small, will either aid in helping you blend the family or continue it’s separateness. Make a mistake? Own it, it will show them how to be emotionally brave and that they can trust you to be honest.
- Reflect on what kind of step-mom you want to be: Will you choose the punitive, harsh, name-calling behavior that stigmatizes the stepparent condition? Or, will you practice unconditional love, even though you may not feel it, by choosing to rise above your hurt feelings, forgive your step-kids’ growing pains, and continue to help them when they need it? This means tolerating mistakes, some irritating behavior, and disrespect — just like a bio-parent does everyday.
- Do less – gain more: As a step-parent you have responsibility without authority, so step-back and reflect on ways to be a supportive friend more than a parent (without losing boundaries for safety and societal laws). Let the bio-parents handle the discipline and look at things from your step-kids point of view.
- Kindness takes courage. As the adult, its up to you to set the example. Validate your own negative feelings, and make a conscious choice not to dwell on them. Choose your actions and words according to what will help your blended situation.
- Speak to the underlying emotion: When kids act out, their behavior is usually a result of an underlying emotion. If you can help them name what they are feeling, you’ll have a shot at helping end the behavior while validating your step-kids feelings. Presto! They feel heard and understood. This takes patience, but it’s worth the time to build emotional connections with a child.
Since it usually takes about 6 years for a blended family to start feeling natural, a step-mom will have many years to practice not taking kids emotions personally and doing all the bio-parents do without, potentially, ever receiving any thanks or love back. As a step-parent you may never come to love your step-kids the way their bio-parent does, but if you remember Mother’s Day isn’t for you and use it to hone your own choices you may end up doing exactly just that.