Having any major holiday drama-free can sometimes seem challenging for any family, let alone a blended family. Mother’s Day is no exception. There are still some family sensitivities and considerations for enjoying family togetherness, honoring moms and step-moms, and spending time in a respectful, meaningful way. When a blended family is involved, it may require a little extra sensitivity and time management. According to the study titled Post-Separation Parenting Arrangements and Developmental Considerations (J. McIntosh 2010), the most positive blended family relationships occur when the parents have the ability to; “get along sufficiently well; (there is) a business-like working relationship between parents; child-focused arrangements; and a commitment by everyone to make shared care work.” In other words, the best outcome for children living with divorced parents is the existence of co-parenting, cooperation, and flexibility. In real life, though, it is easier said than done. Mother’s day can become difficult when feelings about the relationship may not always be positive. For example consider the biological mother who holds that position, but maybe is not in contact with the child. Or the aunt, who does not have official position of mother, but exhibits the mothering qualities and hence has built that sort of relationship. Here’s where Dr. Renee comes to the rescue with some solid tips about making any holiday (including Mother’s Day) as stress-free and drama-free as possible for blended families.
Dr. Renee suggests recognizing that “mothering”, is a verb and “mother” is a noun. Thus we might very well feel that the person who holds the position of “mother” is not the only one “mothering (the verb)”. Ideally, children will have in their live, adults who do both, hold the position and do the job. However if that is not the case, and you want to remain drama-free here are two rules of thumb to live by:
1. Honoring the position held (i.e. mother, step-mother, friend/aunt/grandma as mom, and even dad as mom); something that feels appropriate to acknowledge the person who holds the position, even if they are not actively doing the job, is a great way to keep drama to a minimum. Yes, there may be angry, hurt feelings here (ex. She does not deserve it), but think of it as a certificate of acknowledgment and a means to taking care of yourself by remaining stress-free
2. Honoring the relationship; when you honor the relationship you are expressing feelings and your appreciation of that person in your life. Here is where you may want to put your thoughtful and heart-felt attention.
Given these two precepts, here are a few creative ideas about how to ease the tensions that can possibly occur around Mother’s day. By keeping these two values in mind and using a little bit of ingenuity coupled with genuine respect for people’s feelings (including your own), there are a number of ways to celebrate. And, if none of these ideas sound appealing or authentic to you and your blended family, then maybe it’s time to put everyone’s collective heads together and come up with a brand new way of celebrating – one that honors either, the position or the relationship, and ideally honors both.
Honoring the position – This can be a simple gesture like giving a card that shows recognition, finding or making a thoughtful gift of recognition, or even a telephone call or face to face interaction of recognition. Simply recognizing the fact that the special person has a role in the blended family life that is important and saying “Thank you,” can be a powerful acknowledgement.
Honoring the relationship – Paying attention in a meaningful way is one way to honor the nurturing relationship itself. Honoring the relationship itself is about the emotional connection that this nurturer provides. One way to show honor is by using eye contact and really listening when the person is talking. Or, participating in a fun family activity like bowling or playing outside in a park (with no cell-phones or technological interruptions) is another way to honor the relationship. Connecting and paying attention all show respect for the relationship itself.
Ideally, there can be a situation where the blended family wants to recognize both the position and the relationship. Here are a couple of ideas:
A Blended Brunch – This is a fab way to get people together in the same place at the same time for Mother’s Day in a blended family. Kids love planning and preparing parties, so, with a little guidance, the entire meal can be prepared by the kids. It’s a fun way to pull together and brunches are one of the easiest group meals to fix, so low-stress. This kind of cooperative activity is a fantastic way of showing honor and respect for both the position and the relationship.
Half and Half, please – Honoring the position and the relationship may require some excellent time management – it’s all worthwhile, though. For example, one Mom or Step-Mom can spend time with the children in the morning until around two in the afternoon. Then the other Mom or Step-Mom can spend time with the children from two o’clock on until the evening. That special time is the perfect way to honor both the position and the relationship in a way that makes children feel valued and loved.
These are just a few of the ideas that can work for a drama-free, hassle-free, mentally healthy Mother’s Day for any family – not just blended ones. The key to celebrating Mother’s Day in a healthy way for blended families is communication and respect. By honoring both the position and the relationship, everyone feels connected and respected. No matter how the day is spent, it truly is an opportunity to put aside any issues and pay homage to everyone who nurtures children in a loving and meaningful way.