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Mother's Day Isn't About Me

Photograph by Getty Images

I’m a stepmom. I love my stepchildren like I birthed them. I take them to school, the park, the library. I cook their favorite meals, pack their lunches, pour their milk. I clean their room, fold their clothes, find their shoes. I hug them, kiss them, scratch their backs until they fall asleep. I’m a mother figure for them. I am, for all intents and purposes, a mom.

But it does not bother me in the SLIGHTEST that I’m not “celebrated” on Mother’s Day.

Look, I’m not their mama. I do not expect my kids to make me cards and pick me flowers for Mother’s Day. I do not expect the day to be SPLIT between their MOM and me.

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Maybe it’s different for you. Maybe I truly am the luckiest of all the stepmoms because I know I am appreciated. My kids pluck purple weeds nearly every day and bring them inside to me. They are constantly making me little cards and drawings. My stepdaughter gives me scraps of paper every weekend that say, “I love you Sam the most.” She draws pictures of her family and those pictures include her mom, her dad, me, her stepdad and all of her siblings. My stepson tells me he misses me, thanks me for pouring his milk, tells me I’m the “bestest.” My stepkids’ MOM tells me she appreciates me, thanks me for loving her kids the way I do.

I’m sorry if you’re the stepmom everyone talks about. The stepmom who never gets any recognition, who is ignored during pick-ups and drop-offs. I’m sorry if your stepchildren never tell you "thank you" or that they love you or that you’re the bestest. I’m sorry if your husband doesn’t think of you as a parent, doesn’t tell you how much he loves you for loving his kids. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Don’t let yourself get down over a Hallmark holiday.

But none of that has anything to do with being upset over Mother’s Day. If you’re depending on scribbled pieces of construction paper to prove your worth, you need to take a good, long walk and reevaluate some things. If you find yourself getting angry when your stepkids’ mom posts pictures of the scrambled eggs with hunks of shell her children made for her on Facebook, you need a time-out. If you find yourself looking up articles on how to deal with the “mother of all holidays,” I think you should read this paragraph instead:

You are important. You are worthy of love and recognition and appreciation. We all know we should be thankful for our moms ALL the time, not just on Mother’s Day, and the same goes for you. If you’re not getting the thanks you deserve, speak up. Tell your husband you feel unappreciated. If he doesn’t care, that’s a problem. Don’t blame your stepkids or their mom for how you feel. It’s not always their fault. Think about how much effort you’re putting in, how much positive energy you’re exerting. Don’t let yourself get down over a Hallmark holiday. It’s really not that big of a deal. You don’t need supermarket carnations to feel good about yourself, just know that you are important. Really, really important.

Would it make my day if my stepchildren drew me a “Happy Mother’s Day” card? Of course it would (that is not a hint, Kara, I swear), but I don’t expect it. I’m not their mama. That day is about her, just like “Father’s Day” is about my husband and the kids. Should we have the kids tell their stepdad, “Happy Father’s Day”? Sure! Maybe we will. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. The day is not about making sure everyone’s OK and no one’s feelings are hurt. The day is about hastily-made popsicle crafts and extra hugs and “I-appreciate-you"s for the moms and dads.

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This job, this LIFE of being a stepmom is not about getting all of the mom rewards. We don’t get Mother’s Day noodle projects from school, and we’re not first in line for “Mommy & Me” sleepovers. I am not a stepmom so that I can weasel my way into everything my stepkids’ mom has already earned. I’m a stepmom because I married a man with children. I’m a MOM because I would take a bullet for these kids and I love them more than anyone else in this entire world. That should be enough for you. No one said this was going to be easy. In fact, most people probably told you this was going to be hard as hell and the most thankless job ever. They were kind of right. This isn’t about your ego or your precious feelings, I’m sorry. This is about getting to love your husband’s kids so fiercely, that it doesn’t even occur to you on Mother’s Day to be upset. This is about knowing your own worth without expecting a gift to measure it against.

I know that, sadly, not everyone gets to have my experience. Maybe that’s why I don’t need a fuss made over me, because I already know how much my kids care. And maybe I don’t need a fuss made over me because I’m not their mama.

Let’s start a new holiday, shall we? The “Happy We’re a Family Day!” Everyone gets hugs and kisses and “thank you"s and “I love you"s, and we’ll celebrate it every single day! How about you start it off the next time you see your stepkids? Tell them you love them, that they are important and that you appreciate all they bring to your life. Then say, “I’m happy we’re a family!”

Because I’m sure they are, too. Keep working hard, stepmamas. We know how wonderful you are.

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