A Healthy Stepmother . . . on a Love-for-All

Mother’s Day.

It all started in the 1850s, when West Virginia women’s organizer Ann Reeves Jarvis held Mother’s Day work clubs to improve sanitary conditions and try to lower infant mortality by fighting disease and curbing milk contamination, according to historian Katharine Antolini of West Virginia Wesleyan College. The groups also tended wounded soldiers from both sides during the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Brian Handwerk for National Geographic

Hardly recognizable with the consumeristic nature of our modern Mother’s Day celebrations. Mother’s Day with all its exclusions of non-mothers and the raising onto pedestals of women for a certain 24-hour period rather than leveling the playing field for women every day of the year. If it’s that a woman births a child that’s being celebrated, then maybe we should just admit we’re celebrating the female ability to bring life into the world because we know this to be important for the future of our species.

If we’re celebrating nurturing, then Mother’s Day misses the boat with all the humans of both genders excluded in the narrow definition of mother.

And, what about Stepmother’s Day, officially the Sunday after Mother’s Day? What’s up with that? A separate day because these two women can’t be acknowledged on the same day, even though they care for and love the same children? Because one of the women birthed the children, she must keep any other woman’s hands off their heart? Can that be true? We see example after example in our everyday lives showing us this is how it feels to some.

As for being a stepmother, I honored stepmothers in A Heathy Stepmother and the Holy Grail of Success. It was one of the most commented on blogposts, after the post A Healthy Stepmother is Not Alone.

The thing is, there are some incredible women on the planet, mothers and not mothers alike. They are able to see that the best possible future for any child involves loving and moving toward love. They see that love is expansive and includes everyone. They see that love has no boundaries and the more love is shared, the more love there is. They know love begets love.

Here’s an example of two such women . . .

Sistering On

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I want to hear more stories like this. Let’s shout these stepmother-mother stories from the mountaintops. Let’s put them on billboards as people enter our cities. Let’s feature these positive stories on the evening news. The more adults hear stories of women working together to love children, the more men and women will know it is possible to lay down the stories of the common culture and move toward peace.

A Healthy Stepmother . . . on Love-for-All

Peace Dog

These two women in the Sistering On story went against our current cultural story that tells mothers to not like stepmothers.

I’m glad they did.

Today, and every day, let’s practice peace. Peace for the adults. Peace for the children.

I’m thrilled to know of these peace-seekers who enter into the world of Love-for-All. Maybe this is the frontier we humans are always seeking, the frontier of letting go of fear and opening into the largely unexplored expanse of the heart.

Maybe the pioneers are these two Sistering On women who will lead us to the happy place we all dream of finding.

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4 thoughts on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . on a Love-for-All

  1. Yesssss…. I think this is mostly true. However, I am fairly sure that in our situation, the biomom would like there to be much more hanging out… and because I am actually a big fan of healthy boundaries, it doesn’t make me feel comfortable to be around people without them, and that is what my “sistering on” situation would entail. I think that peace and a clear understanding of “we’re all on Team Kiddo” is totally possible without the mother/stepmother duo having a lovefest. I think that for relationships of all kinds to be reciprocal and healthy, there are some basic structures that need to be in place. I have no desire to be friends with someone whose life choices directly affect the finances of my household, for example. I can be supportive of the kids’ mom, and I recognize the positive things she brings to their lives, and I think she does with me as well– but that does not mean we need to be close or develop a relationship outside the one of supporting the kids.

    • Definitely, Victwa, there are so many ways the sistering could play out. And, definitely….positively……incredibly important to have some boundaries and make sure one person isn’t doing the sistering to go along with things, but in her heart she’s really not ready for it.

      I had to go back and read the article on Momastery again. I don’t get a good sense of how often the two women were spending time together, more an impression that they both felt free to show their love of the child. And, the mother was welcoming and making space for another person to love her child. That is really the simplest aspect of what I hoped to talk about in this post.

      I look forward to a day when there is less tension in my own situation and I completely understand what you are describing in terms of boundaries and basic agreements being in place. I am encouraged by the fact that there are stories where some are laying down the gloves, where some are beginning a different kind of dialogue than you see in the media describing stepmothers. Also, this article touched me because it felt like a genuine story, not one put together to promote a website or a new book. It felt like something that could happen to women like you and I, even if it never does. 😉
      I’m so glad to know you’re reading…

  2. So I have an observation to make. I recently became a mother-in-law twice over. My bio son and my step son both got married. As you might expect, there are blogs for mothers-in-law/daughters-in-law. And guess what? Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law are experiencing the very same issues that stepmothers and stepdaughters are experiencing. The comments start with, ” My mother-in-law is so controlling”. “My daughter-in-law is putting a wedge between my son and me”, etc. It appears that in the step family world, there is a triangular “thing” going on between the bio dad, the stepmother and the stepdaughter. In the in-law world, there is a triangular “thing” going on between the son, the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law. It is always bio dad and the son who are caught in the middle. So perhaps this step tension is not really step tension at all but women tension. Women (bio moms, step moms, step daughters, daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law) seem to be quite territorial when it comes to letting their bio family members be loved by other women outside of the family. Perhaps we should be looking at why women have such a hard time with that.

    • Hello Ellen, I’ve definitely noted the same issues you’ve pointed out. And, it’s true that nothing a stepmother experiences isn’t experienced in another type of family/group constellation. It’s a classic group-has-been-formed-and-functioning-for-quite-some-time and the introduction of another who wasn’t there in the beginning causes issues for some in the group. While I’m hardly a social scientist, there might be a correlation between the importance women place on relationships and the relational way women live their lives that pushes the issues of who’s in control, or who’s perceived as being loved more, into the forefront. I wonder if there’s any influence from the importance women place on identifying as a mother and the value placed on that. Do women feel okay about themselves regardless of their identity as wife, mother, daughter, stepchild, aunt…and so on. All interesting stuff. I can’t remember if Wednesday Martin addresses your question directly in her book, Stepmonster. I’ll take another peek and get back to you. All good pondering.

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