I have such a love/hate relationship with Mother’s Day. Why? Because as a society, we are still overly obsessed with separating out parents—especially the biological (the real ones) and the step (the add ons).
Even Hallmark is in on the uncomfortableness. Just take a look at their awkward “STEPmom” cards that fill the shelves at CVS and Target. They usually say something poignant like “On this Mother’s Day, I want to thank my great STEPmom,” with a picture of a woman and a child standing just far enough apart that you aren’t sure if they are related or simply met on the street. Flip to the inside and you’ll find, “Love, your STEPkids!”
The message is clear—the world is simply not ready to acknowledge that two wonderfully different women are capable of raising a child as equals, regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
Which begs the question – why?
I was lucky enough to be browsing Facebook yesterday and saw a post from Jacque, an old friend from college. Her status update paid homage to a beautiful relationship that has been built over time and I was so moved, I reread it four times.
The photo below was tagged with a message to her ex-husband’s wife thanking her for the flowers she received from her for Mother’s Day.
Her message read,
“When your daughter’s bonus mom sends you flowers for Mother’s Day. Emily, I am so proud of our family unit that models respect for one another & puts kids first. I am also so very lucky that Matt found an excellent lady who loves my daughter as her own. Thank you. Thank you for being such a solid representation of what a mom is and of how women should treat one another. XOXOXO Happy Mother’s Day to you, too.”
Cue the tears. So beautiful and poignant. And incredibly powerful.
Many moms (under the right circumstances) fall in love with the other woman who loves their kids. Not always – but more times than you would guess. I know it’s rarely easy but I’ve been beyond impressed to see many strong women put their kids in front of their pride. It’s so admirable.
But what about the rest of society? What about the observing mothers who treat you like a pariah, the school officials who reserve seats for STEPparents in the back of the room or the extended family members who ask you to step away so they can take a real “family” photo?
Why is it so hard for others to treat us like real moms?
I remember when I first became a parent, and I would say “my kids” when I was talking about my daughter and son. In front of my kids, I would have other mothers say to me, “Oh, how sweet that you call the kids ‘your’ kids. Does the real mom mind?”
I wanted to say, “Of course I call them my kids! I feed them, bathe them, protect them and I chase the monsters away. I pack their lunches, help them brush their teeth and took them on their first camping trip. I never miss a school conference, hold their hand when they get their hearts broken and teach them how to hold their hands up when they are getting picked on.”
But I kept my mouth shut for the sake of our family. I would smile and explain that we have a special bond and that in my eyes, they were my kids. I would quickly move along and pray that my daughter or son didn’t hear the rude conversation.
And as frustrating as these moments were, I also tried to remember to do my part on the other side of the equation. While my kids’ biological mom isn’t active in their lives, I acknowledged her often. I talked about how proud she must be of them and the fact that they are lucky enough to have two moms – and point out that many kids only get one.
So when I look at women like Jacque and others who have formed bonds with their child’s bonus moms – I struggle with why it’s so hard for Hallmark and so many others to accept it? For as progressive as we have become with accepting change in so many ways – why do we get stuck in the past and continue to put labels on parents or feel the need to add an adjective in front of the word “mom?”
There are so many horror stories out there about unfit mothers who have no right to carry the heroic title of mom. But there are also millions of bonus mothers out there who would lie down in traffic for their kids.
I’m a MOM. I love unconditionally and put my kids first. I do the thankless and exhausting work just like all the rest of the biological mothers out there - and I expect nothing in return.
So to me, tomorrow is meant to be dedicated to the women who love their children relentlessly.
It’s meant for all moms.
No adjectives needed.