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Mother’s Day When Your Teen Has Two Homes

Holidays change after divorce, separation, or remarriage.  They aren’t better or worse per se, simply different, and often they come with sometimes unexpected emotions as each member of a family grapples with the “new normal.”  Here are a few things to consider as we near the Mother’s Day holiday in the United States.

1) Be prepared for All the Emotions

Built into a two household or co-parenting family is the experience of loss.  Something happened or didn’t happen to cause things to be the way they are now, and with the experience of living in the family, often comes feelings of grief.  Even if there was an unhealthy dynamic in a nuclear family, when a family lives in two homes, there is often an experience of loss.  Each family is unique and has a different dynamic, but in all my work, loss and grief are common feelings around holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries.  Layering on to matters, it could be the biological mother isn’t around, shares no parental responsibility, or is otherwise unavailable.  Maybe there’s a mom and a stepmom to consider.  This impacts children of different ages differently.  For teens, they may feel some excitement as they pick out the perfect gift, plan breakfast, or write a card.  Other teens may dread the how am I going to navigate seeing mom and stepmom on the same day?  Do I get both of them something?My stepmom isn’t my mom, why should I have to honor her?  Emotions will run the gamut for both teens and adults.  

2)  Navigating May be required.

Maybe there’s been a recent change at home and living in two homes is a new experience.  Maybe Dad or Stepdad is no longer in the picture or out of the home, so instead of them being the person to help a teen be thoughtful about the upcoming day, make a plan, and helping them execute it, now there’s just Mom.  Maybe Dad’s in a separate house with a Stepmom, which presents its own dynamic.  Now the teen may be responsible themselves for figuring out a plan, making the day special, or even remembering to celebrate at all.  None of these experiences are “bad” or “wrong,” they simply are as the constellation of a family shifts.  A teen learns empathy in the process of thinking about mom and honoring mom, has the opportunity to build brain muscles by making a plan, and gets a sense of accomplishment when they follow through on the plan.  Still, it may or may not happen in this way.  Which is why, I encourage families to…

3)  Lower Your Expectations

Some families strive for the perfect holiday.  They make holidays special because of how hard or difficult life is on the other days during the rest of the year.  At the end of the day, Mother’s Day is just another day.  Yes, it’s a reminder to honor the human who carried us and gave us life during the first nine months.  Yes, it can be important to take moment and be with that person or remember them or do something good for them.  AND, it’s going to be what it’s going to be.  Maybe it’s a reminder that, yes, my Mom is human too.  Maybe it’s a reminder to be kind.  Or maybe, because of schedules or distance, “Mother’s Day” has to be celebrated on another day.  That’s okay too.  However it turns out is what it was meant to be.  If you’re a mom reading this, and your teens completely forgot to celebrate you, do what you need to do to take care of yourself…call a friend, cry, exercise.  Then have a conversation with them telling them how hurtful it was for them to forget about Mother’s Day.  There’s no need to turn it into a guilt-fest, but it is important for you to speak your truth and let them know what impact it had on you.  If you’re a stepmom reading this, and are having a really rough week.  I feel you.  But…

4)  Remember there is a Stepmother’s Day

This may be controversial, but I want to be clear here; it is not up to non-biological kids in a two household family to honor a stepmom.  It’s the partner’s responsibility, (if the partner so chooses) to honor the Stepmom, who probably does some or a lot of “momming” to their kids.  I often see kids and teens getting pressured into feeling a certain way about a stepparent and in an effort to ease the discomfort of adding new members of a family, parents can get overzealous in wanting a child to feel a certain way about a partner.  I’d like to humbly ask you now to let it go.  Let the teen have their feelings.  Don’t require them to act or feel a certain way, especially on this day.  Honor your partner who is now helping you raise children from a previous relationship, but don’t make your children do so.  If it really is important to you to honor a Stepmother, wait a week.  Yes, literally.  The Sunday after Mother’s Day is officially Stepmother’s Day.  It was created in 2000 by Lizzie Capuzzi, a nine-year-old, who wanted to celebrate her stepmother, Joyce.  She proposed the date as the Sunday after Mother’s Day and sent a letter to her Senator who brought it to Congress where the day was enacted.  Pretty cool, right?  So yes, stepchildren do often want to celebrate this person who pours so much energy and love into them.  Just as often though, they don’t.  So this is where it comes down to following the kids.  Over time this may change too.  Sometimes what is started by a parent pressuring, can turn into a teen choosing.  Once teens become more independent, they may choose to celebrate in their own way without any adult telling them what to do.  

5) Make Space for All Experiences

Above all, have self-compassion and grace for how this day goes down in your family.  Just like they say every child grows up in a different family, every person in a two family home or co-parenting situation has a different experience of Mother’s Day.  All experiences are valid and important.  Remember to do things to nourish the body like drinking lots of water, taking deep breaths, and doing something good for yourself.  After all, it is a day like any other and after twenty-four hours, we’ll be on to the next.  

How have you been able to navigate Mother’s Day in your blended family?  Comment below! 

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