Updated: Oct 19
Since I was a teenager, I had the idea of getting married and having my own kids. I always liked kids, but I was never looking to be in a relationship with someone with kids.
I come from a very mixed family. My father and my mother met in the U.S. when they migrated here many decades ago. My father had six children before meeting my mother, and she had my sister, just one.
We all eventually ended up in a two bedroom apartment, and my mum, mother of three girls including myself, had to also care for my siblings. All six of them.
She had always been such a great example of what a step mother would be like. Loving, caring, and accepting.
My mother is so loved by my siblings that it brings me joy to see that they all consider her their mother. It genuinely makes me feel complete.
Her love story with her bonus kids, at times, makes me feel a bit inadequate. And this is with great humor.
Being the youngest comes with lots of love, but also lacks a lot of attention. This may not settle so well in the family considering people always think the youngest are the most spoiled. And yes, that may be partially true, but there is always something that lacks. In my case, as the youngest of nine kids, everyone was at an age where they were exploring and trying to get their own lives rolling. My mother and father were so busy with all the kids that I had to somehow learn how to be indepent and play on my own.
While this was not a factor that I complain about, it definitely was one that shaped my way of being as an adult.
I've never been selfish with my toys, or clothes, or anything I owned. But I was a little selfish with my friendships and relationships.
I want to explain how your upbringing can affect your emotions and your ability to open up to new relationships, including ones with your step or bonus kids.
I am the type of woman that gives all my love and heart with conditions. Not because I don't have the ability to love unconditionally, but because I have been hurt too many times to love openly. Even so, my love still has the ability to be unconditional, but on my terms.
I became a bonus mom when I was 24 years old to a four year old boy. I was still a child in many ways, and I was not ready to take care of someone else's child as my own.
I've always been great with kids, but being someone's bonus mom came with responsibilities and expectations. Something I was not looking for in any way.
I met my significant other at work in May of 2017, and at first it was just a flirting game. I was young and wanted to explore a bit. But my heart was a loyal one, and eventually I was hooked. Even though we both seemed to be on the same level of interest, it had never occurred to him to tell me that he had a child.
I know many people tend to keep their children private, usually because they are not serious about a relationship or are protective of them. I understood that perfectly.
I found out he had a child because I walked in on him talking to one of our colleagues about their children, both fathers to boys.
I was in shock, so I left.
I thought about it for many days, and eventually, came to the conclusion that it was ok and it would be fun. And no, thinking about whether you want to be in a relationship with someone with kids does not make you into a bad person. You absolutely have the choice to stay or to go. Being with someone with children is a commitment that involves multiple people, and it is not always an easy decision to make nor one that should be taken lightly.
I remember meeting my bonus son for the first time. He was such a cutie. We took him to the park where we all got wet at a splash pad. All three of us got wet even though none of us had bathing suits. Then we got some ice cream. It was a good day.
Then in the months to come, he joined us occasionally at our kickball games during the summer. I enjoyed all of our times together. We even went to the beach with my nieces, who just so happened to be about the same age as him.
It was all very good and I was enjoying myself, until September and October of that same year. My life took an unexpected turn and the events that followed flipped my whole life around.
In September of 2017, I found out I was pregnant.
After a long battle, I ended up not having the baby. [You can read more about this in my blog The A Word]
The stress, the sacrifice, the emotions, the lack of support...
It all took shape in a way that I was too ashamed to recognize and admit. Resentment.
I started resenting my bonus son because of something that had nothing to do with him.
I was left with this hole in my heart after the loss of the baby. I felt like I had no place. And after that, seeing my significant other with his son made me very angry.
I refused to take care of his son at times. Feeling this anger towards his existence [and towards my significant other]. Wishing that my bonus son could stay with his mother and not come around.
I cried a lot and tried my hardest to open my heart to his little boy. But everyday I was with him, it reminded me of what I had lost. Something that I wanted and couldn't have.
Things started to get more difficult when I tried to push through those negative feelings and did things to cater to my love for kids. I went out of my way to be the best bonus mom I could possibly be by baking cakes, going to the park, and doing arts & craft with my bonus son. An effort overseen.
He didn't care much for my efforts. He cried for his mom. Called his mom and spoke to her in front of me reminding her that he loves her, all while looking at me. He was rude to me at times, and gave me a hard time.
He even took my privacy away whenever he felt that I was enjoying myself too much.
I knew he did not know of my internal pain. I knew he was just being a child. But why had my emotions turned from cuddly clouds to dark stormy ones?
For two years I battled with myself against feeling resentment towards him. When I finally started to let go, I was able to find a little bit of peace within myself.
One thing I had to learn the hard way, was that I was not his mother. Though I had wished to be able to help him with his studies, and educate him in mannerism, and guide him in his everyday tasks, I had a blunt reminder that that was not my job.
And so I backed off for some time, and decided to give myself the space I had been needing.
It was a constant battle between wanting to be his friend, trying to be his mother, craving for that child love, and setting boundaries.
After some extremely rocky moments, talking and understanding, we both got a good idea as to where we stood with each other.
While we don't have that same relationship as my mother and my siblings right now, we do care for each other very much. Our relationship is still developing, and I know that someday we'll both be able to talk on a deeper level and understand each other better.
It's not easy being a bonus mom. Especially when their mother is present. And at times, it does feel like your privacy is compromised. Your bonus kids may go back home and tell their parents everything!!!
It comes with the territory.
All I can say is that all emotions are normal.
Feeling angry, feeling hurt, feeling happy, feeling content...
It's all part of the process. And it will get better with time.
Just remember to set your boundaries, create a routine, and only do as much as you feel day by day.
There are absolutely no expectations. You just do the best that you can.
Don't beat yourself up, don't compare yourself to anyone, and don't try to be someone you're not.
You are doing a great job!
Allow your relationship to develop on it's own. Don't force anything, even if it feels like no effort means no progress. Kids are constantly developing and growing everyday. And as they get older, they go through stages that you once went through as well. Relate to them, but give them the space to grow and become their own person. This is especially true with bonus kids.
The maturity levels will eventually allow you to have deeper conversations, deeper connections, and give you the opportunity to open up.
The one thing I have to say, and it may vary depending on the person, but whether you are taking the full responsibility of raising a bonus child or not, the same as you would do with your own, always set boundaries. Set time for your own inner peace and your own private time.
From one human to the next, it is easy to say that patience is something that you have with all kids or all people. But be kind to yourself if you find yourself with little to no patience with bonus kids. It is not that you dislike them or that you don't have patience, it is just that it is not always easy to have patience for other people's kids.
I admire those who have limitless patience for other people's kids, especially after a certain age. For those of us whose patience requires a little more effort, it is important to know when to walk away, and how to practice deep breathing and letting go.
I found myself planning lots of solo beach days, or going out with my friends to give myself the "me time" I so deserved.
Many bonus parents take the time to really be involved with their bonus kids. The only thing is, when both biological parents are involved and both households have different ways of raising the kids, it can really put a strain on your relationship with your significant other.
I found myself reteaching my bonus son how to clean up after himself, how to brush his teeth, how to properly use the restroom as a gentleman, and take care of his belongings at every visit. It got pretty exhausting. It still is at times.
Even though he spends about 4-5 months out of the year with us, the mannerism and the skills that we teach him seems to fade away after some time, and we have to go back and teach him again. This is to be expected with split custody, and can be very tiresome.
With all honesty, after some time, I kind of gave up. My house was a mess. With a toddler and being pregnant with my second child, having to teach a 10 year old for the hundredth time on how to clean the toilet seat after each use, or to clean up their mess after eating, or put their games away after each play felt pointless.
I cried. I was exhausted. And the last thing I wanted to do was be the mean step mom.
While I treat my bonus son with love and care, I always promised myself that there would not be any special treatment between my own and him. Everyone has to clean, read books, help in the kitchen, help with the yard, and so on. I know that he is not fond of having chores, and it makes me laugh when he complains [a quick reminder of how I used to be at his age], but I know he will truly benefit from those skills as grows older.
I try to be fun and make things easy. And all I can hope is that there is something [some quality or character or anything] that I am providing for him. Something that maybe his mother or father isn't providing for him. Isn't that what bonus parents are for? To get that extra bit of love or assistance?
Anyway, I just wanted to make it clear that being a bonus mom or dad is no easy task. The same as parenting, there are no manuals. You sort of just got to wing it. See how you are compatible, how you are different, how you are alike, and just wing it.
I would probably even say that it is a bit harder than true parenting to some extent, simply because they are actually not yours, and you have to abide by someone else's rules. And you're not even getting paid for it! Ha! You are a free nanny!
See, I told you there would be some humor.
At this moment, my bonus son and I have agreed that we are friends. If he does what I ask with his chores, I will reward him. But with attitude and talking back, I will take things away. I make sure to keep things fun, and worth making an effort. So far, things are looking good.
Of course some days are better than others, but I can't expect things to always be or feel perfect. And neither should you. Life is filled with many ups and downs, the same as certain days and with relationships.
All in all, just make sure to enjoy the good days as much as possible and take it easy on the not so good ones.
Here are 5 Great Tips on How to Create a Bond with Your Bonus Child:
Tip #1: Pay Attention to Details
Kids are picky about many things, from food to their favorite places, to their favorite shows. When you notice that they like something, embrace it and enjoy it with them. Whether it is a show or a place or food, when you make it known that you know what they like, it makes them feel special. It's a nice feeling to see them smile and thank you for knowing what they like.
Tip #2: Play Fun Games
Challenge them to a game! Kids love games. Video games or board games work well. We used to play Smash Brothers all the time or even the Mario Party Game. We even bought this kids version of Monopoly and played it as a family. My favorite game to play is Uno. We have this in-house championship, and whoever wins the most games gets a golden crown. They keep their crown until someone else steals it through playing more Uno games.
Tip #3: Involve Them in Family Decisions
Kids love feeling like they have a say in things. So whenever you are thinking about going out to eat or trying to find a place to go for entertainment, ask your bonus kid to see where they'd like to go. This works well with learning what they like as well.
Tip #4: Read them a Book
My bonus son does NOT like reading. Ha! When I first started realizing that he enjoys being read to instead, it was a little too late for me. He has grown out of that phase and now he just looks at me like I'm crazy when I ask him if he wants me to read to him. I read books a few times to him from the ages 4 - 6. Not as often as I wish I did. But learn from my mistakes and try it out. If you see that they truly like it and enjoy it, keep doing it. Soon they will be older and less willing to sit there listening to you read to them.
His favorite book was There's a Monster in Your Book, by Tom Fletcher. [Affiliate link]
Tip #5: Bake or Cook with Them
This is by far the most fulfilling activity. It's messy, yes, but so worth it. Especially when the food or dessert comes out delicious and you can eat it together. We made food and baked so much, it sort of became our thing. He looked forward to it.
Here are 5 Great Tips on How to Handle Negative Emotions, Stress, &/or Anxiety that comes with being a Bonus Parent:
Tip #1: Be Kind to Yourself
It's easy to forget about your own emotions, thoughts, and well-being when you are going through a new experience. If you are experiencing bonus parenthood for the first time, it can be overwhelming at times. Please take the time to do some self-love/self-care when you deem it necessary. Creating new relationships is a lot of hard work and effort, and deserves a good incentive.
Tip #2: Set Boundaries
This is not always the easiest to accomplish. Many individuals find it hard to accept boundaries and may even challenge them. If you feel strongly about a personal boundary, make sure to put your foot down and stick to it. Make sure to communicate with your significant other regarding your boundaries and explain with clarity why it's important for you. Remember, setting boundaries is healthy and protects you from unnecessary stress. It also helps promote healthy habits.
Tip #3: Set Expectations
When you are entering a relationship with someone with children, you are entitled to setting your own expectations. This means that you are willing to be in a relationship with someone with children, and you are open to being a part of their already existing family, but this doesn't mean that you wish or have to take any additional responsibilities. If you want to pick up the kids from school, you can, but you don't have to. If you want to cook for the kids, you can but you don't have to. These are actionable responsibilities that take time out of your everyday life, that again, are not your responsibilities. Being in a relationship with someone with kids does not force you to have to take such responsibilities, but please do communicate your expectations with your significant other. Also, please keep in mind that some individuals may expect the extra help, if you are setting your boundaries and expectations, and they are not too happy about them or have a hard time respecting your wishes, this can put a strain on your relationship. Make sure to always be transparent about your intentions.
Tip #4: Take it One Day at a Time
Not one day will be the same as the previous or the next. One day will be amazing and the next will be horrible. This is to be expected, even with your own kids. Many things can affect your day, from your mood to your partner's mood to your bonus kid's mood. Or even outside factors. Take a moment to take deep and intentional breaths. Try to relax as much as you can on not such good days, and remember that the bad days will pass too, nothing lasts forever. When I am having a bad day, I always communicate with my family that the grumpy me is out and needs some love or space. When I am feeling better, I let them know that the happy me is out and wishes to hangout. It really helps communicating without having to tell the whole story.
Tip #5: Don't Compete
We humans tend to have some sort of competitive genes in us. Whether it's for games or simply about seeing whose diamond ring is bigger. Who cares! You are a bonus mommy to a child that doesn't quite belong to you. Many individuals get jealous. If not you, then the biological/adoptive mum. This does not make it ok to be competitive on who is better or who has more or what not. In the end, you will always lose. Unless you are a bonus parent to a child whose parent is just awful and they are abused or mistreated, which can happen. In any case, be yourself and only try to be better than you were yesterday.
Here are 5 Great Things Not To Do as a Bonus Mommy:
Don't compare yourself to other mommies or your bonus kids' biological/adopted mommy. Everyone is different and handles things differently. If you are a seasoned bonus parent, you may already have your way of handling things. If you are a new bonus parent, please remember that we were all new bonus parents at some point too. Mistakes will be made, but this means you have some things to learn along the way.
Don't always take things your bonus kids say seriously. At times they may feel jealous, hurt, or simply don't like the idea of their father (or mother) dating someone other than their biological/adoptive parent, and may say unkind things. Also, while this doesn't always happen, please remember that if your bonus kid lives part time with each parent, they may be coming into your home under the influence of thoughts and emotions from the other parent.
Don't kill yourself trying to please your bonus kids. If they come into your new relationship feeling upset about the idea of mommy/daddy dating someone else, there is nothing you can do to make the feeling go away. Allow time and natural interactions do the talking. Just remember the 5 tips I provided above to help bond with your bonus kids.
Don't say mean things about your bonus kid's biological/adoptive parent. I know that jealousy can get the best of us, or even anger at times, but this is just a short moment in life. I promise. I can reassure you that you have the upper hand here. You gained a child and a new title without having to do all the hard work. Embrace it and flow with it. Your name will be all in your bonus child's mouth, and with good reason. You are awesome!
Don't allow your own personal emotions or thoughts to be silenced by anyone. If you are feeling a certain way, explore those feelings. Understand them, why they are there, and try to work through them. Make sure to talk to your significant other about these feelings. If you feel unsupported by your partner, please make sure that you also take the moment to see if this is where you should be. Like I said, being a bonus parent means you are building a relationship with multiple people. This also means you are sharing your living space and your energy with everyone involved.