"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

A different kind of Mother's Day


It's 29 years since I celebrated my first Mother's Day as a new mother to a gorgeous 7 month old boy. But this weekend it will be 5 years since I experienced my first one as, not only a seasoned mother, but a new stepmother, and it was a bit of a rough day to be completely honest. Not that there hadn't been a few difficult Mother's Days in between. Of course there had.

Changed forever
When I became single again, Mother's Day became entirely different to the Mother's Days I'd known for the first 19 years of being a mum. I hesitate a little to say this, not wanting to sound in any way like I'm profiling young men (ahem). But after my marriage ended let's just say there was nobody (except me) to remind my two late-teen sons that it was Mother's Day, nobody to suggest that their mum might like to be fussed over, even just a little. Nobody to remind them that while I may not be the wife of their dad anymore, I was still (and would always be) their mum. Truth was, we were all still struggling with the events that had changed our lives forever not quite a year before.

So Mother's Day took on a tinge of sadness for a while.

Unrealistic expectations?
Eventually I decided that if I wanted the day to be even just a little bit special, I would need to give them adequate warning, alert them well in advance of the day. I would also need to make sure I was free and available, should they so desire to spend a little time with their mother. As much as I wanted them to remember the day without my help, it probably wasn't going to be, and to save myself the heartache, the simplest thing to do was to help them along.

Now I would actually hate for my sons to read this and feel bad (well, maybe a little bit bad wouldn't hurt....... jus' sayin'). A few years ago my eldest son did take me out for dinner in lieu of Mother's Day, when I'd been away travelling on the actual day. It was a beautiful gesture, and I loved every minute of it, particularly that he picked the restaurant, and that the whole thing was his idea. So I'm not saying that my sons are incapable of thinking about Mother's Day, but I guess understandably it's not the priority for them that it is for me.

Ummm, Stepmother's Day?
Once I became a stepmother as well as a mother, the day gained a whole new dimension. I wasn't the only mother in the family. How weird is that? And I wasn't sure what to expect from my first "Stepmother's Mother's Day". Here's how it went down.

At least a month beforehand, I suggested to my new husband that since my stepchildren were scheduled to be with us that weekend, it might be wise to ask their mother if she had any plans or hopes for the day. That way, we would know well in advance when the children would be with us and when they would not, so that we could plan other things around that. I am most definitely a planner, but I recognise and get totally frustrated and annoyed respect that not everyone is. Nevertheless, we asked the question. At that stage, she didn't know whether or not she would be working that day, but would let us know.

A matter of scheduling
I know what you're probably thinking. How kind, how self-sacrificing, to put the Mother's Day desires of my stepchildren's mother ahead of my own. Well, I could let you keep thinking that, or I could just 'fess up and admit that really, I just wanted to know so I wouldn't have my own plans for the day (as yet unformed) obliterated by discovering at the last minute that actually it wasn't going to work because of someone else's scheduling issues!

And so we waited to hear confirmation. And waited. And waited some more. And finally, less than a week before Mother's Day, my husband received a text message that she would be working in the early part of the day, but would like to have the children over for dinner in the evening. Not quite the advance warning that I would have liked but, swallowing mild irritation, I was thankful that at least we now knew. Of course, that was far too early in the piece for my boys to have possibly even registered that it was Mother's Day in............. oh............. just a few days!

What about me???
At this point, it's befitting for me to be brutally honest yet again. I admit that having my life revolve on a regular basis around someone else's children, and quite often their mother's plans too, had been, and is still at times, one of the frustrating issues about being a stepmother. So even though we now knew what would be happening, I was starting to feel neglected and insignificant. It seemed that now it was all sorted that my stepchildren would be spending time with their mum, nobody was bothering to ask what I might like to do. Nobody was going to bother making a fuss of me that day.

Nobody. Boo hoo........

On the one hand, I'd wanted to leave some flexibility in the day so that in the (highly) unlikely event my boys decided to plan something, I would be available. On the other hand I knew, given past history, how improbable that was, and I wanted to plan something with my husband in our "alone time" that would make the day memorable. A bit of a dilemma. And of course, as I dwelt on my situation (and sulked a bit), I began to make a lovely foothold for the enemy of my soul (and my peace).

Maybe it's actually up to me
After a relatively short-lived pity party (progress!), I prayed (and confessed) about the situation and realised that it was actually up to me if I wanted Mother's Day to be enjoyable. It wasn't right for me to rely on others to make it so. I guess I did (do) hope that one day my boys will learn to plan ahead for special occasions (not just Mother's Day), but even if that never happens, I could still make sure that the day was pleasant for me.

At that point, I'd also decided that it was good and right to acknowledge my stepchildren's mother, and so I resolved that we would buy a card and a small gift, and let her know how much she is appreciated and valued as a mother and as a cooperative co-parent. This isn't something I would have been able even to consider a few months before, but God had been showing me how surprising and faithful He is, and how His grace, mercy and love are freely available to me and through me when I choose to do things in His strength.

Awkward and a bit weird
In the end, the day wasn't all that wonderful for me. It was fairly awkward, both for me and for my stepdaughter (almost 12 at the time), who was the only child home that morning. I'm sure it felt weird and, well, wrong for her that the person she felt obliged to gladly wish reluctantly mumble "Happy Mother's Day" to, was not the person to whom she would have preferred to say it first. She'd also declined my help to make a Mother's Day cake to take with her in the afternoon. I felt rejected, and a bit teary that neither one of us really wanted the day to be like this, and that it wasn't fair. For a little while I just wanted to hide away and let the day disappear.

But my tender husband, who had bought me beautiful flowers and made breakfast, would have none of it. He held me while I cried (but not for too long), and encouraged me to think of something nice I'd like to do. Then together we made a plan and redeemed the rest of the day, which included visits to see my two boys (because sometimes you just have to go to the mountain)!!

There is hope
A light-hearted footnote on the subject of waiting for sons to plan for Mother's Day........... I rang my own two mums on the day. Both live interstate, and I like to call them and let them know I'm thinking of them. Firstly, my mum reported that my older brother had made a cake and was bringing it around for afternoon tea. A lovely surprise for her.

And then my stepmum told me that her eldest son, my stepbrother, had phoned in advance (first time for everything) to ask if she would be home on the day, as he had a gift for her that he wanted to bring. Another unexpected but lovely surprise. There was much laughter as I told my mum and my stepmum I had no such expectations of my sons that day, but I was heartened by their stories that maybe one day all boys grow into sons who anticipate and plan for Mother's Day......... it just may take 50 years or more!

8 comments

  1. Another heartfelt and honest post, Sue. I do love the way you express yourself, with a bit of humour there in the mix. It's funny how a day that is made for mothers, for them to feel EXTRA special to their children, too often leaves us feeling the opposite. It's hard to have to be the one to adjust expectations to cope with things not being the ideal that we'd like. Still, it sounds to me like you have done a good job - easy to become bitter, but much better that you have chosen to be positive and proactive about making the day a nice one, no matter what your sons may (or may not) have planned!

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    1. Letting go of expectations is a lifelong challenge, it seems (to me)! I also have one son who likes to resist the expectations that the world tries to place on him, so his Mother's Day text messages have often come right at the end of the day, almost as a footnote "Oh by the way, happy mother's day", lol. I've actually learned to really love this about him, as weird as that may sound!!!

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  2. I understand your struggles with Mother's Day. I learned long ago not to have expectations. My husband is a terrible gift buyer and didn't grow up celebrating anything, so when our girls were younger, he did nothing to encourage them. Now they will call or send me something, but they both live too far to travel for the day. I lost my own mother a few years ago, so that took some of the specialness off the day for me too. For years I have tried to make my own enjoyment in the day. I usually plant my hanging flower basket and pots of annuals. I enjoy the task and it is instantly rewarding. I realize that my Mother's Day is a way to treat myself and do something I enjoy.

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    1. That's such a lovely way to approach the day! These days I also try to plan something nice for myself, but I try not to set it in stone so that if I do happen to get a last minute suggestion I'm happy to ditch my plans for theirs. I guess I still live with a bit of hope, lol xx

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  3. This was so touching and beautiful! I am a stepmother as well. Though mine is 17 and I have known him since he was two, I still feel hurt by being the "second choice." Step parenting is very hard and the children do not realize that to you, they are your children. I am very thankful that my (step) son and I have a really good relationship.

    And my children will not think ahead either!

    Stopping by from #BloggersPitStop!

    Blessings,

    Amy

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    1. I'm so glad for you Amy that you and your stepson have such a good relationship, that must be wonderful for you both. My stepdaughter is about to turn 17 and we are pretty good friends these days too, but she is super close to her mum so I never want to compete with that. Stepfamily life is certainly much more challenging than I would have ever expected, in ways that I often didn't anticipate! Bless you on Mother's Day xx

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  4. Mothers Day holds a lot of happiness mixed with sadness for me Sue - my husband always buys me a present and makes me feel special, but my kids don't live nearby and a phone call is my "gift" for the day. I wrote a post about it last year - which MAJORALLY upset my daughter and created a huge rift for several months. Mothers aren't allowed to be honest - we just have to keep smiling and accept whatever is on offer. I keep trying to reel in my expectations - this year we decided to call it Wife's Day and celebrate it with my husband - and accept the phone calls from the kids as an extra - rather than feeling sad. It worked pretty well all in all.

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    1. For a day that's meant to be a celebration, it certainly brings challenges and sadness for many, many mothers (and desperate-to-be mothers, and once-were mothers, and long-distance mothers, and estranged mothers...........). That's a great idea to rename it "Wife's Day" and celebrate accordingly Leanne. Without the name change, we did that too really, with dinner out for just the two of us in the evening, and the bonus was flowers waiting for me at work on Tuesday, sent by my eldest son, who forgot I don't work Mondays, lol.

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