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Mother's Day Etiquette for The Divorced

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What are the rules about step-mothers and ex mother-in- laws on mother’s day? Here’s a 10 etiquette tips for the modern day divorced family from divorce360.com
Flowers picked from the garden, a breakfast of peanut butter and jelly served bedside....ahhhh, it’s mother’s day again. But now, along with the sticky kisses and homemade cards, you have to deal with a stickier issue - your kids step-mom and your ex mother-in-law … on the same day? Divorce360 is here with the new rules and etiquette on how to handle, survive and thrive this mother’s day.

• A significant number of children will spend this Mother's Day, May 11, without both biological parents. According to a study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, only 63 percent of American children grow up with both parents — the lowest figure in the Western world.

• In the old days, etiquette rules included which side of the plate you put your fork on and not burping at the table. Today, they include navigating divorcing parents, whether to get a stepmom a gift and what happens when Mother's Day falls on the weekend Dad is supposed to have the kids. Situations like these call for a new understanding of good manners.

• "If the kids come home and say we got this great present for the step mom and mom didn't realize the relationship was there, it can be very political and open up some new wounds," said Carolyn Ellis, author of the New York Times bestseller "Thrive After Divorce". If Dad's really moved on and re-married, dealing with the stepmom can require all the manners you've got.

• "If children have a stepmom and a biological mother who are actively involved in parenting, Mother's Day can be problem, said Dr. Judith Wallerstein, who has spent 30 years studying the effects of divorce on families. “There's no question the priority should be given to the biological mother. On other hand, the stepmom may be very devoted and would be in considerable pain if she's ignored. Meanwhile, there's considerable pain for the mother if the stepmother shares the day.”

• "Grandmothers are often even more important after divorce." So, respect her relationship with your children by not standing in the way if your children want to honor her on Mother's Day. She may be your ex mother-in-law, but she is still the grandmother of your children,” notes Dr. Wallerstein, cautions.

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An important key that is missing from this piece is the essential component of communication between the stepmom and the biological father about expectations held by each for this holiday. This may involve the stepmom taking her partner aside privately and expressing any desires she may have for recognition on this day. Yes, the biological mother typically gets top-billing on Mother's Day but this is not to say that a card can't be given to the stepmom or special recognition be given on one of the days either before or after the actual day. A stepfamily is sometimes a compromise of expectations. The first step, though, is communicating what these expectations are with one's partner. Only from here can undue hurts and misunderstandings be avoided.

September 23, 2014 - 6:15pm
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