I never thought that I would become a bonus mom. When my husband and I met I had a rambunctious 8-year-old little boy, my own apartment, a really awesome job at a local emergency care office, an Associate degree, my first brand new car (a Honda Civic), and was working on my Emergency Medical Technician certification. Little did I know that in the next year I would also become a bonus mom to two more children.
A bonus mom is like a stepmom, but from a positive perspective. (We can thank Cinderella and most movies for giving us a negative outlook on the word stepmother.) Unlike the stereotype we’ve seen all too often, I consider my husband’s children an added bonus to our relationship. When I chose to marry him, I chose to love his girls as my own. Blood makes you related, but it doesn’t make you family.
I have my bonus kids 95% of the time, and I am the primary adult in their life. This stage of motherhood has not come easy and I’ve learned a lot along the way. It’s full of joy, tears, laughter, frustration, smiles, anger … and every other emotion you can imagine. Here are 5 ways I’ve managed to keep my sanity through it all.
Not All Blended Families Are the Same
I realize my situation may be different than a lot of blended families. My bonus kids do not go to another household every other weekend, so they are with me most of the time. I have a true mother/daughter relationship with them. My husband works long hours to provide for our family, and sometimes there are days where they do not see him at all.
In his absence he has granted me permission to parent them in a motherly way. My husband trusts my judgement in making decisions on his behalf. I take them to appointments, sign them up for extracurricular activities and cheer them on at events. I make sure their homework is done, take care of them when they are sick and ensure they have nice clothes to wear. I give them the love, attention and care they need.
Some moms in my position are not as active in their bonus kids’ lives, and that is okay. Some prefer the term stepchildren and stepmother, and that is okay too. Each situation is different. You and your spouse need to determine your boundaries and decide what is comfortable for your family.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I’ve had to learn how to pick and choose my battles. When my husband and I first married this was really difficult … and still is at times. I have come to realize that letting the small stuff go is so much easier than stressing about every little thing.
One thing that really helped our family was creating house expectations. A copy is posted on our refrigerator so there is no confusion about what we (my husband and I) expect in our home. I’ve also found that when you are upset, it helps to talk to that person calmly rather than in the heat of the moment. If you need some time to calm down, take some time. If it is something you can change yourself, change it. You determine your own happiness.
Take Care of Yourself
Go out for a pedicure once in awhile, alone! I love going to the nail salon and soaking my toes in a nice hot tub and relaxing. Oh, and those chairs … I soooo wish I had one at home!
I also rejuvenate by just having an afternoon to myself, whether it’s roaming the aisles of Target or catching up on some sleep. Your relax or down time could be going to a movie, walking your neighborhood, going to the gym or fine dining. I find it best to plan this time ahead so you have something to look forward to. Being a bonus mom is a very selfless responsibility. Do whatever relaxes and pampers YOU! You deserve it!
I didn’t think I needed counseling, but it has helped my family tremendously. Not just for me, but for my whole family.
Three months after my husband and I got married I found out I was pregnant with our daughter. I realized the new pregnancy, our recent marriage and moving into our new home was a lot of changes … not just for my bonus children, but for everyone in our family. Counseling helped me learn how to communicate better with my bonus children. It also helped my bonus children and my biological son develop a closer relationship.
Blending a family is difficult and sometimes an expert’s advice is just what you need. It is okay to ask for help. Do not feel ashamed to talk to a counselor. Raising children that you did not bring into this world is not for the faint of heart.
Put Your Marriage First
My husband and I did not get the child-free, early marriage experience. Just like other parents with children, we have to make time for each other.
Personally, I have found it’s better if this is planned time. Once a month we send our kids to one of their grandparent’s house and take a night for us. Do something nice for your husband, whether it’s vacuuming out his vehicle or buying a shirt at Target you know he will love. Kindness will go a long way. One day all of the kids will be gone, and it will be just the two of you. Keep the spark alive and remember why the two of you fell in love in the beginning.
There are some really great blessings to being a bonus mom. When I married my husband I instantly got two girls. I get to be a part of their lives, watch them grow and love them. My son got sisters and I got a family. But it’s not always rainbows and sunshine. There will be days it pours giant ugly raindrops, and you will want to hop on the next bus to who knows where and never come back. There will be times you’ll wonder what in the world you got yourself into. I am here to tell you that the good outweighs the bad. I never knew how much love my heart could hold until I had my bonus children.