On Being a Bonus Parent
Two years ago I made a very conscious decision to go on a date with a single dad, not just a single dad however, a single dad of 4. I had dated several other people in my “dating career” with children, though most only had 1-2, and didn’t have them more than about 30% of the time. There were some who questioned my sanity (and perhaps secretly still do) when I shared that I was dating someone with children. It never fazed me, and I remember our first date, he reminded me of the fact that he was a single dad of 4, and I said that it didn’t scare me, and hoped for a second date, as the first was pretty amazing.
Our friendship grew, our relationship bloomed, and now my significant other is my best friend. I did not meet the children for well over 6 months into our relationship, and when I did, we took it very slow where they were concerned. I was introduced first as a friend, I would stop by for a few hours, or we would go somewhere and I would go right home after. Eventually he sat them down and explained that I was his girlfriend, and thankfully they accepted it, welcomed it, and the older two claimed they “knew.”
Eventually there were overnights, which led to me moving in, and now, us having our own home as a family. Yes, all of their things, his things, and now my things under one roof, new rules, new expectations, there is a learning curve for all of us. The good news is, that it gets easier, and we begin to work as a unit, until eventually we are in the flow and for the most part, all on the same page.
I have become a “mom” figure to them. They reside with us 50% of the time, we do school runs, homework, outings, family dinners, play games, do lots of arts and crafts, and have started building a home with structure, rules, and routines. We have truly become a family, we love each other, we support each other, we help each other, we laugh together, create memories together, and yes, of course sometimes we get on each other's nerves.
Being in a “mom” role came fairly naturally to me, however it’s not always easy being the bonus mom. Sometimes it is down right challenging, and sometimes I doubt myself. I have doubted if I could do it, the answer is, of course I can, and I am. Sometimes my way might not be their way, or his way, and vice versa. I have doubted that it could or would last, doubted that they really accepted me, there has been a lot of self-doubt in this journey. Through it all I remain grateful, humble, and remind myself that it’s okay to not have all the answers sometimes.
There is no book or manual, there is no instruction book, it’s just practicing best judgment, and trying to do what’s best for the kids, the home, and the family. It is both the most rewarding and most challenging role to date, yet I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Sometimes it’s lonely, not having other “mom’s” to troubleshoot toddlers, tweens, or teens with. It can be hard not knowing how they truly think or feel, and not knowing if I am actually doing a good job. Sometimes it feels like judgment all around, and then I remember, he chose to introduce me to his children, to have me in his life, to create what we now call “our” family and our home, he trusts me with them, he loves me, and we are a chaotic, sometimes messy, loud, wonderful family of 6.
Even on the hardest of days, when I feel like I am failing as a bonus parent, I love each one of them more than words can express, more than I could ever attempt to put down on paper. I remind myself that there is no manual for parents, “step” or bonus parents, we learn and grow as we go. The important thing is, we are in it together, creating memories, raising tiny humans, raising the next generation, and by doing right by them, we can only hope that one day when they have families of their own they have learned to love and nurture, and that just maybe we will get the opportunity to watch them to raise tiny humans of their own.
If your a bi-parent, a step-parent, or somewhere in-between, I see you, I hear you, I am you, and I am here to remind you to be gentle with yourself, you got this.