Fri 11 May 2012
I connected with Tia, the author of today’s piece, via Twitter. She is a mom (not a stepmom) and her daughter has a stepmom. She is sharing her heart and the gift she sees in her daughter’s “bonus” mom. It wasn’t this way at first and Tia shares who and what has inspired her to embrace her daughter’s “bonus” mom. Her journey will touch you and you will be moved by the blessings that pour onto her daughter because of it. Tia is amazing! I can’t express in words what this piece means to stepmothers. I am grateful for Tia and her story and hope every mother whose child has a stepmom will read and be inspired by her story.
Before I begin, I know at least one person reading this is thinking, “…but you don’t know what I’ve been through.” You are right! None of us knows someone else’s journey, unless we’re walking down the same path and wearing your shoes. I don’t believe that ever happens, but if it could, just know I wear a size 5 ½ shoe and prefer peep-toes or flip-flops.
I am a mother and not a step-mother. I have one daughter who was a mere 14 months old when her father and I separated. Naturally, I felt she needed me around the clock but I also knew how important it was for her to build a strong bond with her daddy; so I requested we share joint-custody. It was a very difficult situation to be away from my daughter overnight. It was even more difficult that my daughter had a step-mom within 5 months following the divorce.
Let’s be honest. I knew there would be a new woman in my daughter’s life one day, but I wasn’t prepared for it to happen so quickly. My daughter will be 5 years old this month and the first three years following the separation was not an easy road to travel. During the past year, I’ve recognized and now value the Gift of a Stepmom. I’d like to take you through how I got to this place but first, I’m replacing “Step” with “Bonus”.
I refer to my daughter’s family through marriage as “Bonus”. Where did I get this from? LeAnn Rimes. This was a turning point in recognizing the value of my daughter’s bonus mom. For reference, LeAnn Rimes referred to herself as a “Bonus” Mom to the 2 children from her husband, Eddie Cibrian, previous marriage to Brandi Glanville. Some people were aghast by LeAnn Rimes’ use of the term and I must admit that was my first reaction, too! Then, I took some time to process it. I asked 3rd parties familiar with co-parenting what the term “Bonus” meant. (By the way, I also found out that it’s interchangeable with, “Blended” and “Bonded”.) I applied this new found information to my situation and liked the change.
Next, I removed the emotions from our situation and looked at it objectively. Surprisingly, my first observation came from looking at my own family. I recognized the gift that my older sister is to her daughters in a blended family with 2 biological daughters and 2 daughters through marriage. If you ask her, she has 4 daughters. If you ask me, I have 4 nieces. I feel the same amount of love for all 4 girls. This got me thinking…
While I don’t believe any person walks the same road in the same shoes, as another person, I think there is something to be learned from the parallel paths we journey down through life. So, I applied what I saw in my sister’s blended family to my daughter’s blended family. A light-bulb went off! What I realized is that if my daughter’s bonus mom felt the same way about about my daughter as she did for her 3 biological children; then I needed to be more accepting and recognize the important role she has in my daughter’s life.
Recently, my daughter became a big sister to a half-brother by her dad and bonus mom. She is now one of five! Leading up to the birth of her brother, I began to pray for her bonus mom’s good-health and the health of her unborn child. Why? Through this process, I needed to find a common ground on which I could relate to my daughter’s bonus mom. So, I started with the most obvious – motherhood. Motherhood is like a brotherhood. There is an unspoken bond, whether we like to admit it or not. Once I began including her in my daily prayers, over time I noticed a change in my heart towards her and I began to value her for whom she was as a person. When I realized this, it was like having a weight lifted off of me.
Then, there comes a defining moment that will change the dynamic of the relationship between the two mothers. Both people know it, when it happens! In our situation, it was at my daughter’s soccer game, while my daughter was sitting on the bench with me. With a quizzing look on her face, she asked me if her bonus mom was her momma, too. I affirmed that was correct. Still, with her wheels turning, my daughter cautiously stated that she had two mommas. With a smile, I hugged my daughter and responded, “Yes. You have two mommas who love you very much.” My daughter was satisfied. She smiled big and was ready to go back in the game. After the game, my daughter’s bonus mom stopped me. She had overheard our conversation. Appearing very amiable, she thanked me for what I had said to our daughter during that conversation on the bench. Yes, I said “Our Daughter”. My daughter has two mothers and a father who love her very much. Ultimately, this was a humbling experience that probably helped to break down some of the barriers between us.
Being a mother or a parent isn’t easy. A child doesn’t come with a parenting manual at birth. If they did, most of us would probably throw it out the window on the first sleepless night when nothing works! Am I right? With social calendars, careers, school, activities and daily routines, a parent has to either be organized and have great time-management skills or be extremely flexible. If you have a child; you understand the time demands that go into caring for an infant and toddler. During the early years, parents learn to function on auto-pilot or adrenaline; maybe caffeine, too! My daughter’s bonus mom is a professional in the workforce, involved within the community and a now a mother to 5 children, including an infant. I need a break just thinking about how she manages it all! While my daughter’s father is a good dad, I would be naïve to think her bonus mom wasn’t hands on in caring for our daughter from an early age at the time of our separation. I am appreciative for the time she invests in our daughter; down to the smallest things, such as fixing our daughter’s hair before daycare or putting a dress on her before a church program.
All relationships need a solid foundation by which to grow. Currently, when it comes to day-to-day interaction, I find it much easier to work with my daughter’s bonus mom as opposed to her father. Is our relationship perfect or ideal? Not even close. However, there have been significant strides made between the two of us, as I’ve tried to describe here. While all of us are part of the co-parenting dynamic, my ex-husband and I have also made noticeable improvements in our relationship. It takes two or in this case three; so I can’t take all the credit. For my part, I hope the changes that have evolved within me being able to accept my daughter’s bonus mom and family as a gift in her life have contributed to where we are today. While I’ve been overjoyed and on an occasion brought to happy tears with our progress, I consider this a building block for the future. Remember, this is a journey I’m making in my size 5 ½ shoes and without a parenting manual. Sometimes it’s two steps back to move three steps forward.
Ultimately, I believe family is what you make it. So, how do I know my daughter’s bonus mom is a gift? I talk to my daughter every night she is with her daddy and it’s clear her bonus mom makes time to spend with our daughter; doing activities together such as baking a pie or planting flowers and spreading mulch. It may seem mundane to an adult, but to a child, it means the world! I smile at the thought because that’s what a mother does. In the case of my older sister, it is my bonus niece who is reciprocating the Gift of a Step-Mom. She happens to be pregnant with her first child, a girl, and is naming the baby…after my sister! One thing I’ve learned is that a child can refer to two people as “momma”, as my daughter does. That doesn’t make one person more or less important than the other. They are both special to the child in their own way.