Q: My mother died when I was 5. Two years later my father married Judy, a wonderful woman who raised me and has always made me feel loved. I regard her as my mom, even though I will never forget my biological mother, but every Mother's Day my aunt (my mom's sister) wants me to visit my mother's grave and completely disregard Judy. I want to acknowledge Judy for what she has done for me, but it causes a problem every year. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: The problem here is what gets many bonus families into trouble — comparing. Comparing mom to bonus mom, dad to bonus dad, etc., and the truth is, it never has to be either/or. You may see that it's not a contest but it appears your aunt is afraid her beloved sister's memory could get lost.
Two things might help: First, have a heart-to-heart with your aunt and remind her that you will never forget your mother. I notice that you call your stepmother "Judy," not Mom. That in itself demonstrates respect for your mother.
Consider designating another day other than Mother's Day to acknowledge your mom's life. Even after all this time, your aunt may need a special way to address her grief, and there's no one quite like you with whom she can share how much she misses her sister. Make going to the cemetery together part of that day and acknowledge some of the things your mom liked to do.
Or, you can also do the reverse: acknowledge Mother's Day for your mom and aunt and establish a special day for just you and Judy to recognize how much you mean to each other.