“No, I don’t celebrate Mother’s Day,” Sherry said. “Why should I? My stepkids will be with their mom, and I doubt I’ll hear from them. It’s just another day since I don’t have kids of my own. But I must admit the day carries some sadness.”

Sherry and I talked about how she’s been involved in her teenage stepchildren’s lives for years. She’s gone to ballgames, cooked favorite meals, celebrated holidays, attended school activities, listened to hard feelings after boyfriend breakups, and so much more.

“You play an important role in their lives,” I said. “I wonder if you’ve ever thought you should be honored on Mother’s Day?”

“Well, I guess,” she said. “I do a lot for them and I really care about them. But it won’t happen, so I put the thought out of mind.”

If you ask a group of stepmoms if they celebrate Mother’s Day, you’ll get a variety of answers. Some celebrate with their biological kids while their stepkids are with their mom. Some enjoy the day with their stepchildren and feel loved and honored. For many, however—especially those who don’t have children of their own—celebrating the day feels awkward and unjustified.

“It just doesn’t feel right to celebrate when I’m not a ’real mom,’” Sherry said.

Oh, how that comment saddens me.

What embodies a “real mom”?

If you play an active role as a stepmom, you are a mom and deserve recognition for your efforts.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll get it from your stepchildren. Perhaps they feel it dishonors their mom to show appreciation to you on Mother’s Day. You can’t change that. But you can ask your spouse to honor and acknowledge you on this special day for the role you play with his children.

I’ve learned to celebrate Mother’s Day with no expectations from my stepchildren. If they offer a gift or choose to honor me in some way, I’m elated. If they don’t, I remind myself of the privilege I’ve been given in shaping another child’s life and affirm myself for what I offer. My husband Randy appreciates the role I play, and we celebrate the day together.

It hasn’t always been that way, though. In the early years of our marriage, my feelings were hurt when my stepchildren didn’t meet the expectations I created. They had a mom they dearly loved and rightfully honored her. And Randy didn’t consider that I should be recognized for my mothering efforts with his children.

Until one year, in a burst of tears, I told him, “If I don’t hear from your children on this day, I need you to express appreciation for what I do for them. It doesn’t have to be elaborate—a sincere thank you with a rose or two will do.”

Our guys are not mind readers. Particularly if they’re not a stepdad, they don’t understand the emotional and physical toll we endure at times as a stepmom. Mother’s Day is the one day a year a simple gesture of appreciation from them can mean a lot.

Ways to celebrate Mother’s Day as a stepmom

A variety of variables play into how a stepchild reacts on Mother’s Day. The length of your marriage, your husband’s support, the age of your stepchildren, the biological mom’s behavior, and the environment in your home are a few things that contribute.

If your stepchildren honor you, embrace the offering. But if they don’t, make a conscious effort to not take it personally.

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Here are a few suggestions to help you celebrate Mother’s Day, regardless of what your stepchildren do. Pick one or two or create one of your own to construct a day that leaves you feeling special for the valuable role you offer your stepfamily.

1. Abandon your house and spend the day at a nearby lake, bike path, or hiking trail.

Absorb the beauty of nature while you count your blessings. Set goals with your spouse to help you become more connected in your stepfamily, like regular game nights, stepmom-stepdaughter shopping dates, or movie nights as a family. Pray together for each member of your stepfamily.

2. Find another stepmom who’s having a difficult time and spend the afternoon with her.

Encourage her efforts and talk through her challenges. Laugh together and affirm one another. Commit to offer support on an ongoing basis as you reflect on Scripture to help. Here’s one of my favorites: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

3. Spend the day with your own mother to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Tell her the special place she carries in your life. Be specific. Continue to make memories together to hold onto after she’s gone.

4.  Attend your favorite place of worship.

Celebrate Mother’s Day by wearing a beautiful corsage that signifies the important role you play as a stepmom. Take pride in being part of your stepchildren’s lives as an additional parent.

5.  Give yourself the gift of relaxation.

Kick back with a good book, time at the movies, or a day at the spa with a girlfriend. Eat at your favorite restaurant and tell your family you’ll be taking the day off from chores. Turn up the praise and worship music and connect with Jesus. Pamper yourself in whatever way feels special to you.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a difficult day for stepmoms. Create your own special day and make memories that leave you feeling blessed to be a stepmom.

Go ahead—plan your celebration! You deserve it, sweet stepmom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Copyright © 2021 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Gayla Grace serves on staff with FamilyLife Blended® and is passionate about equipping blended families as a writer and a speaker. She holds a master’s degree in Psychology and Counseling and is the author of Stepparenting With Grace: A Devotional for Blended Families and co-author of Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Gayla and her husband, Randy, have been married since 1995 in a “his, hers, and ours” family. She is the mom to three young adult children and stepmom to two.