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Blended Family 101: Coping with Disappointment on Mother’s Day

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The following is a true story of one stepmother’s Mother’s Day: My very close friend, who married a man who had two children, came home after dinner at her parents, on Mother’s Day, to see a gorgeous bouquet of flowers on her doorstep. She immediately thought that her husband, the father of the two children, had them delivered to her, since his kids stayed with them 50 percent of the time. But when she opened the card, she was shocked to see the flowers were not from her husband, but from the children’s biological mother. The card read, ‘Thank you for being so wonderful with my children when they are with you.’

It gives me chills every time I think about it. Why? Because it’s an anomaly. It’s like a freak accident. It happened almost a decade ago. And, now, they are now divorced.

Let’s be totally honest here. Many mother’s are let down on Mother’s Day, disappointed that perhaps their kids forgot, or their spouses did only the bare minimum, like running out on Mother’s Day morning get grabbing flowers from the closest gas station. Or, we’re running around visiting all the older mothers in our family, so we don’t actually have anyone celebrating us.

For stepmothers, there are different reasons to be disappointed, except, honestly, we’re not allowed to be.

In all my years talking about being with a partner who has children who are not biologically mine, and listening to other stepmothers talk about their stepchildren, never once have I heard a story that even comes close to my friend’s experience of receiving flowers from her husband’s ex.

Who would even think to do that? Most stepmothers, including myself, have learned to not expect anything on Mother’s Day, even if the children stay with us half the time. It’s just the way it is.

Mother’s Day is a tricky day for blended families. I have numerous friends who are in their partner’s children’s lives and aren’t acknowledged at all. Last year, I did get a text message from my partner’s children, but to be honest, it was all still a bit of a let-down.

Us non-biological mother’s are human, so, while we’re allowed to have our feelings, we can’t ever blame our partner’s children; we can only acknowledge that it’s a tricky day for everyone, and that, yes, of course they should be celebrating their biological mom first and foremost.

My partner and I have had many discussions about expectations, not limited to just Mother’s Day. I’ve had to lower mine, because I generally have high expectations for every Hallmark Holiday. I love to celebrate, what can I say? So I used to hate it when people didn’t live up to my expectations, but that all changed when my partner and I blended families. Now, I have no expectations, which is the way I think it probably should be, even if I don’t love it. It has to be that way. You know how they say life isn’t fair? Well, that’s true. Leading up to Father’s Day, I will tell my daughter, who is not my partner’s biological daughter, that she needs to make him a card. Every Father’s Day for years, my daughter has written the sweetest words to my partner in a homemade card. She comes up with the words herself, with no help from me at all.

So, when we first blended, I kind of thought the same would be true for Mother’s Day, that maybe my partner would nudge his children into at least giving me a card. But, as my partner’s children got older (they are now well into their teens) he doesn’t feel comfortable telling them what to do. And I get it. If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t want to be told that I MUST do something.

I really had no idea how hard blending families was, because no one talks about the hard parts of blending a family and having children in your life who aren’t biologically your own. When you first find yourself in a relationship with someone who already has children, there’s a massive learning curve.

It’s been a number of years since my partner’s children have been in my life and it’s taken a number of years to learn not to be a little disappointed on Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day, I’ve come to learn, is one of those days that, no matter how mature you might think you are, you still have to take the high road, be an adult, and pull up your big girl underpants. Why? Because I finally realized that I shouldn’t expect anything from them. They have a wonderful mom who they should be with and pamper. No longer do I expect anything on Mother’s Day from my partner’s children. It’s neither here nor there. But if I do get a text,  I’ll be thrilled. And if I don’t? Well, to be perfectly honest, my armor is already up.

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