Mother's Day: A fine balance for Stepmoms and Biological Moms

05/08/2011 12:53 pm ET | Updated Jul 08, 2011
  • Karen Stewart Founder and CEO, Fairway Divorce Solutions, Author "Clean Break"

Mother's Day -- A special day set aside to celebrate our mothers and grandmothers. On the surface this seems easy enough -- buy a card, some flowers and perhaps prepare dinner. It is also a fun day for the younger children to take a stab at preparing breakfast and serving it to mom in bed. The image is full of fun and laughter.

But, for blended families this day can cause stress when trying to find the right balance between attention towards mom and step mom. Being a step mom is not an easy job. Regardless of whether the children greet you with open arms or can barely look you in the eye, it is full of imbedded unpredictable challenges. Except in the cases where the biological mom is no longer in the picture, the stepmom is always second fiddle. The job of being a stepmom is hard work and it often does not come with the same unconditional love and feedback that a biological mom receives.

Defining the role of stepmom is personal and needs to be communicated and defined between a couple so that when events like Mother's Day, weddings etc. come up, you have a blue print to guide you. Recipe number one for success is that biological dad and step mom must be on the same page. It is in the children's best interest regardless of age to have respect for their parents and that does include the stepparent. The couple can set the guidelines but Dad sets the tone and his role is so important in achieving balance and harmony for the children.

If step mom plays any kind of role in the children's lives then she needs to be honored on this day. If she is creating a home for the children, even older children, then Mother's Day is a perfect day for them to thank her. The gesture is important but "the how" should be left to the children so that they can find a way to acknowledge her that feels good to them. If a card is too personal then flowers, baking cookies or something fun like a funky pair of socks could work. If there is a lot of stress around this event, then get them to write cards to all the great moms they can think off and include step mom. It is important to let them give in a way that works for them, but giving should be non-negotiable.

Biological Mom is forever and celebrating her hopefully comes easy for the children. Because step mom is married to Dad, and therefore can be perceived as a threat, she needs take a leadership role and encourage gratitude towards the biological mom. The children will benefit greatly from this gesture. Regardless of whose weekend it may be, ensuring that the children get to spend this day with their biological mother is a must. It does not matter how you frame it, the children will feel horrible if they are not permitted to spend the day with their mother. This should be encouraged so that this day reminds the children of how important a parent's role is, regardless of whether biological or otherwise.

On the other hand, biological mom needs to rise to the occasion as well. Few biological mothers have open arms for the stepmother of their children and yet digging deep to find gratitude is not only in the biological mothers best interest but also in the best interest of her children.