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Stepmom to Stepmom

Sharing experiences of Mother’s Day.
By Ron L. Deal

Ask a stepmom if she enjoys Mother’s Day and you’ll get a wide variety of responses. Many feel honored and respected while others feel isolated and defeated. Still others journey from dread in the early days of their family to celebration after a few rough years have passed.

Why such different responses? Because both positive stepfamily bonding and negative stepfamily stress often rotate around the stepparent. If the stepparent is appreciated and accepted, Mother’s Day is a pretty good day; if, however, she is not, then it’s a tough weekend.

Not too long ago I invited Facebook stepmoms to share their experiences of Mother’s Day—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Did I get a variety of responses? Yes. But more than that, I discovered helpful perspectives, a sense of hope in the journey, and a big dose of inspiration.

If you’re a stepmom, consider this “stepmom to stepmom” advice. If you’re not, share this with someone who is.

The reward at the end of the journey

Shanna B. shared greetings with her children’s stepmom in Arkansas while her stepchildren’s mother sent Shanna warm regards as well. She said, “We’re 10 years into this blended family and have chosen to create peace among us. Our children win when there is peace.” Obviously she and the other homes have worked hard to find a workable co-parenting relationship which pays off in each of the homes on special days like Mother’s Day. Keeping this end goal in mind is useful for enduring challenging times.

Amy R. had a great Mother’s Day. “With words and actions my husband recognized me as mothering the girls for the first time since we got married. I was showered with homemade cards, pictures from school, flowers, and even some ‘mom’ references (as opposed to my first name). This was a significant moment for me.” Want to make the stepmom in your life feel special? I think this father and these daughters got it right.

Julie L. shared her rewards and a new feeling. “My 10-year-old stepson called from his mom's to wish me Happy Mother's Day. Very sweet and unexpected. I also got cards from him, my son, and my stepdaughter. This is the first year that Mother's Day felt 'normal' and not full of angst.” The old saying touts, “No pain, no gain.” Sometimes stepmoms have to endure pain (angst) to achieve gain (unexpected reward). Julie’s comments remind stepmoms to keep the long-term view and press through. 

Mixed bag

Stepmothers often report a mix of emotions because of family dynamics. Clearly, for them Mother’s Day is not just good or bad, it’s both. Hope W., for example, shared how hard it is to have the children spend Mother’s Day with their biological mother every year. “It is as it should be,” she pointed out, but still she misses them. A hard reality for many stepmoms with wonderful relationships with their stepchildren is that they usually get the short end of the time stick when it comes to holidays and special days. Hope keeps a healthy attitude about it: “It was still a great day and I got ‘I love you’s’ from them—that’s what matters most of all.”

The situation for Amber O. is similar, but different. Her mixed bag includes feeling badly for her stepson. “Our son has to spend every Mother's Day with his biological mother,” she wrote. “This year he really wanted to stay with me, but of course wasn't able to. He got home at 6 p.m. and was very upset because bio. mother took the card he had made for me. So, I just asked him to tell me what it said and thanked him for it anyway.”

Kids are often caught in the middle of the jealousies between homes. In addition to missing time with him on a special day, Amber regrets that her stepson isn’t allowed to recognize her the way he wanted. Still, she found a way to make him feel better and consider his feelings first.

And finally, Laura S. discovered that not all stressors come from stepchildren. “My stepson (age 9) has actually been more loving today than my daughter (age 12). LOL.” That, too, is good perspective. Even biological children can be the source of struggle!


My guess is that “Reward” stepmoms journeyed through dry desserts of heartache before reaching “the Promised Land.” Some of our readers are still there … and looking for ways to survive. Sally D. and Tia L. both shared that they did not hear from their stepchildren on Mother’s Day, but then, they didn’t expect to either. Still, even if you don’t expect to hear a word of thanks, “hope deferred makes the heart sick” (see Proverbs 13:12). Janice A. didn’t hear anything from her stepkids either, but then, “It’s okay; their mother would make them feel bad for calling or texting.” That hurts on more than one level.

Sometimes stepparents get mistreated not because of who they are, but because of who the mom is. Emily T. wrote, “My stepkids’ mom moved out of the county and chooses to stay there. She visits her kids a couple of times a year, but never on Mother's Day. So I suffer the backlash of their grief at not having their mom around. It's very hard.”

Situations like this are unfair to say the least, and yet, common. Unfortunately, Emily doesn’t have the power to change how the children feel about their mother. All she can do is love them with a steadfast, unconditional love that in time will overwhelm their confusion and soften their hearts. (Just like God does for us.)

To all the stepmoms out there, whether you are experiencing rewards, a mixed-bag of emotions, or heartache, I thank God for you. May His courage, mercy, strength, and magnificent love be yours today. 

© 2013 by Ron L. Deal. All rights reserved. Used with permission.  

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Meet the Author: Ron L. Deal

Ron Deal

Ron Deal is a marriage and family author, conference speaker, and therapist. He is founder and president of Smart Stepfamilies™ and director of FamilyLife Blended™, the ministry initiative of FamilyLife® to stepfamilies (for more visit and 

Ron is author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family (and DVD series), The Smart Stepdad, Dating and the Single Parent, The Smart Stepmom (with Laura Petherbridge), and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage: Keys to Success in the Blended Family (with Dr. David Olson). A highly sought-after, recognized expert in marriage and blended families, Ron is a member of the Stepfamily Expert Council for the National Stepfamily Resource Center, and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor with over 25 years experience in local church ministry and family ministry consulting. He is a featured expert on the video curriculum Single and Parenting (2011, Church Initiative) and his material is widely distributed by a variety of family education initiatives

Ron served as a member of the Couple Checkup Research Team (headed by Dr. David Olson, PREPARE-ENRICH) which conducted the two largest studies of marital strength ever accomplished. They surveyed over 100,000 marriages and remarriages (over 200,000 people) and examined the qualitative differences between highly satisfied marriages and low-quality marriages. The results of their groundbreaking research for couples are published in the books The Couple Checkup (Olson, Larson, & Olson-Sigg, 2008) and The Smart Stepfamily Marriage (Deal & Olson, 2015), and are featured in Ron’s newest seminar for dating, engaged, married, and remarried couples, the Couple Checkup Conference.

Ron is a popular conference speaker and has appeared in dozens of national radio and TV broadcasts both in the U.S. and Canada. His daily 60-second radio feature, FamilyLife Blended, is heard by thousands each week around the country and online. He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, ABC’s Nightline, WGN-News, The Mike Huckabee Show, FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, HomeWord with Jim Burns, Celebration, and The 700 Club, and his work has been referenced online (e.g.,,, in magazines (e.g., Essence), and in newspapers throughout the world (e.g., USA Today, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal, and Minnesota Star Tribune). The May 2012 issue of Ladies' Home Journal featured Ron's therapy work with a blended family couple in their popular feature column “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Ron has written feature family articles addressing a variety of family matters for a variety of publications and online magazines including Focus on the Family magazine, ParentLife, The Family Room, Gospel Today, Christianity Today, and HomeLife magazine. On a regular basis Ron trains therapists, marriage educators, and ministry professionals at conferences around the country and has spoken at the National Stepfamily Conference, and the Utah and Arkansas Governors' conferences on the family.

Ron and his wife, Nan, have three boys. Their middle son, Connor, died unexpectedly in February 2009 at the age of 12. In his memory, the Deal's have partnered with Touch a Life Foundation to rescue and rehabilitate children in Ghana, West Africa, from trafficking. They would be honored if you would help them sing Connor's song. Visit Connor's Song to learn more about this ministry and to hear Connor sing.

In addition to FamilyLife sponsored events Ron is available to present his Couple Checkup Conference or Building A Successful Stepfamily conference in your church or community. Learn more here.



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