Wed 9 May 2012
This is one amazing woman with one amazing heart. One of the greatest joys of being a stepmom is connecting with wonderful women like Adrienne. She shares how hard Mother’s Day has been for her and what she has learned through it. Her words will touch you in a way that will leave you wiser and feeling comforted that you are not alone. Grab the Kleenex and get ready to be touched by Adrienne’s story.
When asked the question, “Is Mother’s Day a challenge for stepmoms?” I would say yes, Mother’s Day has been a huge challenge for me from time to time. In the 16 years that I have been married to my husband, I have more often than not focused on what I didn’t have instead of what I did have – causing my own unnecessary grief and anguish. Before I explore that premise more, allow me to share a little background.
I was the custodial stepmother to (3) girls, ages 6, 10 and 14. The girls are now age’s 22, 26 and 30 – adult stepchildren. Their mother was not in the picture in any significant way (i.e. no weekly visits, special outings, financial or emotional support). My husband worked evenings and weekends which left the lion’s share of the parenting to me, which I gladly accepted because nurturing and loving and edifying is my God-given nature.
Well, fast-forward after providing this care for many years, I grew to “expect” (gigantic mistake) that I earned the privilege of being reciprocated and honored for my service on Mother’s Day. After all, I did all of the heavy lifting during their formative years; so I was willing to share this honor with their biological mother – fair is fair right? Wrong!
My “expectation” of being honored on Mother’s Day by the (2) oldest girls after they left the home began something like this:
- One year, they sent a card with my youngest stepdaughter to give to me at 10pm at night. I was so offended that I wanted to hurl that thing out of the window. Of course I didn’t and instead graciously said thank you to save face.
- Another year, when my youngest stepdaughter became a teenager she received a call from the oldest stepdaughter (who is a young adult by now) outlining the full day of events that she had planned for their mother and that she expected my youngest stepdaughter to attend – from beginning to end. Celebrating their mother is not a problem, but disregarding the fact that I exist, that the “family” traditionally honors me on Mother’s Day and not attempting to ascertain the timing of our festivities was a total slap in my face.
- Yet another year, after being reminded that I am celebrated on Mother’s Day as well, so some accommodations need to be made; and then agreeing to have my youngest stepdaughter back in time for our festivities and then reneging on their agreement which requires us to change our plans (once again) to factor in time to pick up the youngest stepdaughter so that she can celebrate with us. I was not a happy camper that day…and I was supposed to be celebrating at my favorite seafood establishment!
- Finally, I remember just leaving my home and driving around crying my eyes out on one Mother’s Day because…I don’t remember why…I just remember the overwhelming feelings of rejection.
Well, silly me, I didn’t have to endure all of this pain, offense and anger. I was too focused on the circumstances and not the root of the problem. I was too focused on my emotions and let them get the best of me. I’ve heard it said this way: “You can have emotions, just don’t let your emotions have you!” Mine had me right where they wanted me feeling less than, feeling unappreciated, feeling as if something was wrong with me because I just couldn’t get these girls to love me!
I now have a new perspective on Mother’s Day, past and present. The girl’s were unable to acknowledge my many positive contributions to our stepfamily because they were in a severe loyalty bind and needed it to be very clear to everyone that their Mom was, is, and will always be numero uno. I was unable to see the forest for the trees because I didn’t and hadn’t realized that they were grieving the loss of their family of origin. Every time they saw my husband (their dad) with our son (their little brother) and my daughter (their little sister) they saw a family unit that they weren’t included in and the grieving starts all over again. I wish I knew 16 years ago what I know now about stepfamily dynamics. It still would have been complicated but I am convinced that it would not have hurt so much.
- No expectation at all for my (2) older stepdaughters, so any acknowledgement I receive is a wonderful surprise.
- I expect to receive a lovely poem/card from my daughter sharing her appreciation and fond memories of our life together…always special.
- I expect to be loved, honored and cherished by my husband and my son because I am the only wife and mother either of them have and they both like to spoil me on special occasions.
- I expect to make the day joyful and loving and fun by focusing on all the wonderful gifts that the Lord has given me:
- Stepchildren that don’t hate me and actually like me most of the time.
- A son that loves me.
- A husband that adores me.
- My annual trip to Seattle to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom, grandma, sisters and nieces.
If only I had known and accepted the simple truths of stepfamily dynamics years ago. I wouldn’t have wasted so many years sad and frustrated on Mother’s Day when I had so much to be thankful for in my life. One of the many foundational beliefs’s that I live my life by these days is this:
“The manner in which one endures what must be endured is more important than the thing that must be endured.”
For me and my family and stepfamily, that means simply to “lay some grace on the friction in your relationships and watch those rough edges smooth out”.
Make it a Happy Mother’s Day!
Adrienne Wilson is a
- Committed Christian;
- Wife to my loving husband as we seek to strengthen our Stepcouple;
- Mother of 1 son;
- Smom of 1 daughter;
- Stepmother of 2 stepdaughters;
- Step-grandmother to 2 step-grandchildren (ages 9 and 6months)
Adrienne shares that she finally has her priorities straight for this season of her life and is learning to thrive in this jumbled world by keeping it simple and grounded in her faith.
She plans to join the forces of stepmoms helping stepmoms in some form or fashion. She knows that just hearing someone else’s story has made her feel validated and successful when before she often thought that she was simply wicked and quite the failure. You can connect with Adrienne on Facebook or on Twitter.