Celebrate the Stepmoms in Your Life on Stepmother’s Day

This year, I’m going to celebrate Stepmother’s Day with the gift my stepdaughter gave me: the knowledge that she and I share the sense of being “born” into this experience together.

A few weeks ago my stepdaughter, Lily, and I were in our “creative room” where we paint and make jewelry and craft together. Lily had finished making a sweet Mother’s Day gift for her mom, something we do together every year. Now she was creating a photo album for her grandma.

All the photographs were ones I’d gathered since the first day Lily and I met in person. (We’d been getting to know each other over Facetime and Skype for months.) She was just six years old. She was a shy little girl on that day – I remember how she kept peeking up at me out of the corner of her eye. It made her dad and me laugh.

Over the last six years, she’s grown into the confident young person who was sitting by my side.

We had all the photos of her spread out over the table. Lily looked through them and said, “Hey, there aren’t any photos of me from when I was a baby!”

“That’s true,” I said, “They’re all photos Dad and I have taken since I first met you.”

She nodded and got back to pasting photos in the album and writing funny, sweet captions for her grandma. She seemed to be deep in thought.

“Well,” she said, looking up from her work, “That’s one difference between a mom and a stepmom.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Well,” Lily replied slowly, putting down her sparkle pen, “Sometimes you might feel like you can talk to your mom more about some things.”

“I totally understand that,” I replied, nodding.

Lily’s dad, Joe, and I have been very mindful about creating a home where Lily feels comfortable talking about her mom, her dad, me, the divorce – whatever’s on her mind. (We’re fortunate that Joe and Lily’s mom are amicable and make good use of parallel parenting.)

When Lily chooses to open up to me like this, I’ve learned that the most important thing I can do is simply listen.

“Well, when you’re talking to your mom,” Lily continued, “you can ask her, ‘What color hair did I have when I was a baby? What was my life like when I was a baby? What did I do?’ Because your stepmom maybe doesn’t know that because maybe she met you when you were four or three, but she didn’t know you when you were born. So I guess it’s kind of nice talking with your mom about when you were a baby.”

“Yes, sweetheart, it sure is nice talking with your mom about all that stuff,” I said.

Lily was quiet for a moment. But she wasn’t done. She was on a roll. When she spoke again, her voice had this clear, mature-beyond-her-years quality that Joe and I call her “11-going-on-25” voice.

“When you’re with your stepmom,” she continued confidently, “it’s always fun to go back to your memories because then it’s like ‘Oh, I started to become a whole new baby then.’ Because then it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, we talk about when I was born with you!'”

Lily used air quotes and smiled when she said the word “born.” (She and her friends have been doing that a lot lately. Apparently air quotes are a “thing” in the tween girl set at the moment.)

“When you and I first met,” she went on to say, “it’s like I was being born from you! I got a whole new start of something else to talk about. Now I talk about how I was a baby with my mom, and now I talk about when I was a baby with you.”

Again, the air quotes – and a knowing smile – when she said the word “baby.”

“Wow, I’d never thought about it that way,” I told her. I really let it sink in, what she’d just shared with me.

“But that feels true,” I continued after a moment, “That was the beginning of our life together as a family, and a whole new beginning for you.”

I gave her hand a light, little squeeze. Lily squeezed me back and returned her attention to the photo album.

Lily had given me a lot to think about. I sat next to her quietly, my heart full and happy.

It felt like a profound gift – knowing that she felt that way, all these years later.

I remembered how I felt the day I moved in with Joe and Lily. I was so conscious of changing their space – the space they’d shared as dad and daughter for nearly two years.

I didn’t have much stuff when I moved from my studio in Brooklyn to the Colorado mountains. Mostly boxes of books, which I’d set upstairs in our bedroom. After making our dinner that night, I went back upstairs and saw that Lily had written “I LOVE KIRA” on every single box I’d brought with me.

The truth is, Lily and I each entered into our relationship in a similar way. We didn’t know each other. But we did know this: we both loved Joe. I think we simply decided we were going to love each other, too.

And every day since then, we’ve gotten to know one another better and love one another more. This is what makes the stepparent-stepchild relationship so special (and sometimes, for many people, so challenging).

There is no unconditional love. Our love is all earned. I think that’s what makes it so precious.

. . . . .

I believe many stepparents would benefit from understanding their families as an ever-evolving new beginning. It’s just like Lily said: we’re all “born” into this relationship together.

We stepparents put such unnecessary pressure on ourselves and our new families. Give it time. Studies show that most stepfamilies take an average of seven years to bond. Seven years!

So be patient.
Be gentle with yourself.
Be open with your spouse.
Ask for your his support when you need it.
Give him space to set the tone with his children and his former spouse.
Stay curious about your stepchildren – get to know them day-by-day.
Let your stepchildren come to you when they’re ready.
Create a warm, loving, supportive home.
Honor your stepchildren’s relationships with both their dad and their mom.
Create space for yourself.
Do the things that make you happy.
Let things unfold.
Breathe.

And by all means, celebrate with your family on Stepmother’s Day!

Stepmother’s Day, you ask? Yes, it’s the Sunday after Mother’s Day.

Sadly, Stepmother’s Day is not something many people know about – even some stepmoms have no idea that there’s a special day for them. (Just look for a Stepmother’s Day card in your local gift shop, and you’ll see what I mean.)

What a shame considering that an estimated one-third of children will live in a stepparent home before the age of 18 and 50% will have a stepparent at some point in their lifetime (Pew Research Report on Stepfamilies).

It’s time for a change. So if there are any stepmoms in your life: acknowledge them and wish them a Happy Stepmother’s Day!

. . . . .

Mother’s Day is often celebrated with flowers, chocolates, a handmade card, soggy cereal and cold coffee for Mom’s special breakfast in bed, all made by kiddos with the best of intentions and a knack for leaving a huge mess in the kitchen. Those are all lovely gifts.

This year, I’m going to celebrate Stepmother’s Day with the gift my stepdaughter gave me: the knowledge that she and I share the sense of being “born” into this experience together.

It takes time, but the three of us – my husband, my stepdaughter, and I – have created a happy little family, with our own memories and our own stories and our own history … together.

Are you a stepmom? Do you have a stepmom? Leave a comment sharing your experience, especially if you’ve celebrated Stepmother’s Day!

Photo Credit: Konstantin Yolshin/Shutterstock.com


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