I was remembered today on Mother’s Day with a phone call, a card and a Facetime connection that included both stepchildren, my granddaughter and both granddogs. Lucky me.
I survived 40 years without giving Mother’s Day a second thought (other than to thank my own mother), so I’m still a little surprised—and pleased—when I’m thought of on Mother’s Day. Far beyond just being remembered on a Hallmark holiday, I’m fortunate to have two wonderful stepchildren with whom I get along well. Stepping into the role of stepmother hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes, it has been … well … how do I say this … bang-my-head-against-a-wall, heartbreakingly difficult. Days like today make all those other, less satisfying moments worth it.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ve updated a post I first wrote six years ago. “Survivor” is still around and so am I, so it’s worth pondering again, updated for this season’s “Survivor: Edge of Extinction.”
How being a stepmother is like “Survivor”
1. Outwit, outplay, outlast. If you can’t outwit and outplay a 13-year-old, you’ll never outlast one.
2. Do not be the leader. Leaders get voted out of “Survivor” (look how it turned out for Reem), and bossy stepmothers are unlikable all the way around. I learned early on that I had no role as disciplinarian, and thank goodness, my Beloved was up to the task.
3. Don’t be a follower either. Children—biological or step—learn how to push their parents’ buttons. If you let them get to you, they win.
4. Be nice but don’t be too young, too pretty or too stupid. Having to compete for your spouse’s attention helps no one. Be yourself. Be sincere. Help with homework. Care.
5. Keep your emotions in check. The frequent tears on this season’s “Survivor” are a little too much; methinks Jeff Probst might be pushing the contestants a little too far in the pursuit of TV drama. Yes, the actions of my stepchildren have made me cry. Crying is good sometimes. But not on camera or under the hot lights.
6. Being a good cook helps. If you can’t be a good cook, tend the fire. My tastes and my stepson’s tastes do not jive. Thankfully, my Beloved is a good cook. And I clean up after him well.
7. Lighten up. On “Survivor,” lunatics get voted out (hello, Wendy) but people like to keep funnymen around. In the end, the comedians are often the “fan favorites.” In my step-dynamic, Caswell tells the jokes and I laugh at them. In the words of Martha Stewart, this is a very good thing.
8. Avoid lying. Blindsides make for good tribal councils, but blindsided contestants tend to hold grudges when it comes time for the final vote. That goes double for stepchildren.
9. Win immunity challenges at any cost! There have been a lot of challenges in this season’s survivor requiring contestants to stand, balance, figure out puzzles or hold on the longest (even if it means passing out). Similarly, sometimes the best tactic for a stepmother is hold on longer than she ever thought she could.
10. Don’t monopolize the challenges either. If you’re seen as huge threat, you’ll be voted off (can you hear me, Joe?). Stepchildren don’t like threats to their security either.
Enjoy the “Survivor” finale this week! And happy (step)Mother’s Day!