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Don’t Forget Stepmoms on Mother’s Day

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Disliking Mother’s Day is like disliking the American flag, apple pie or Herb Alpert. It’s just not done. And yet there are serious reasons to question the high holy day of female parenting. The greeting card industry certainly didn’t think about how sad the day would make many women feel. There are the women who want children but can’t have them. There are the mothers who lost their children. And what about recovering alcoholic mothers who are trying to move past their earlier mistakes?

Even if none of those conditions apply, there’s also the problem of acting like one day a year of pampering makes up for years of ingratitude. Many families don’t have this problem but I know one mom who lives for Mother’s Day mostly because it’s the one day a year her children are forced to do something nice for her. Isn’t that awful?

There’s another group of women for whom Mother’s Day can be a bit bittersweet: stepmoms. Rachelle Katz. is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a private practice in New York City. She also is the author of “The Happy Stepmother: Stay Sane, Empower Yourself, Thrive in Your New Familywrites at CNN.com:

“As it approaches, I am reminded how disappointed and hurt I used to be when my stepdaughter didn’t acknowledge me on this day. From the time I married my husband when my stepdaughter was only 4 years old, I always felt she viewed me as his wife rather than as a stepmother.

This distinction may be acceptable to women who marry men with older children, but it bothered me because for years I spent every other weekend playing with her, cooking for her, and doing every other activity of a maternal caregiver. I really tried to develop a close relationship with but never felt I succeeded.

Being ignored is minor compared to the hostility and emotional abuse many other stepmothers experience, but my sense of failure grew each time I tried to grow closer to my stepdaughter and was rebuffed.”

She has some good tips for other stepmoms in similar situations. Like many problems, the solution has something to do with understanding what you can and can’t control.

But as we prepare to celebrate this day of happiness for so many moms, let’s also remember the women who wish they had children but don’t and the women who find themselves in the motherhood role without all of the accompanying benefits.