Blended Families Week: Why a Step Parent is a Bonus Parent

BY: - 18 Sep '13 | Blended Families

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When I met my step son he was 10 years old, and my step daughter was 6 months old. I have to be honest, I was a bit nervous about dating a man with children. I didn’t have any children of my own and in my own life I was not too fond of my mom’s husband. I wasn’t coming from a total deficit though, as a teacher I had excellent training in child development and I never have any trouble accessing my inner child. As my relationship with my then boyfriend developed, I fell in love with him, not only as a man, but as a father.  And when we decided to marry, I decided, then, that I would be a “bonus” mom rather than a step mom.

The term “step” has such a negative connotation. Many kids, particularly older kids are resistant to the fact that someone may be coming in to try to replace their biological parent. In order to ensure my bonus children and their mothers that wasn’t the case, I told them to call me by my first name, “Donnie.” Interestingly enough, my step son has actually slipped up sometimes and called me “mom” as he lives with my husband and I. He also told me recently that when he gets married he’d like a wife just like me. I never tried to force myself on my bonus kids.

Additionally, my husband put up very clear boundaries. Very early in our relationship he informed all parties that he would not tolerate any disrespect of me. When two people have a past together and circumstances force them to move on, it can be very difficult to move on without “rules of engagement.” This meant that he would never even listen to negativity. Additionally, when it comes to discipline, I’m very careful and gentle about how I approach it. I discipline my bonus children the way I do my students – with an understanding that they have their own moms & dads and I serve more of a supportive role. If there is something particularly sensitive or problematic, I talk to my husband privately about it, and he then addresses it with the children and their mothers.

When you think of yourself as a “bonus” parent, you approach your role differently. You have the potential to be a prize in a child’s life, an extra set of ears, another shoulder to cry on, another pair of hands. You will develop a unique relationship with your “bonus” children because though you may not be a biological parent, they will come to value your opinion and seek your advice. Ultimately, the best thing you can do as a bonus parent is show your bonus children a healthy relationship by loving your partner, and how to be mature by encouraging healthy co-parenting between your partner and the biological parent of your bonus children.

BMWK Family: What do you do as a “bonus” parent to develop a relationship with your bonus children? 

Check out more Blended Family articles on BMWK


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  • Anonymous

    This is harder than it sounds. You were fortunate enough to have someone set up clear boundaries, without “guilt parenting.” Unfortunately, most guys fall into that category.

    • Donnie Smith

      Dear Anonymous,

      Thanks for your comment. It is definitely something that requires work from all parties involved and it was certainly not easy. Everyone just has to respect the role and ultimately remember that the children are watching and learning from the adults. Once we all remembered that they are the ultimately priority and that we all have their best interest at heart, everything else fell into place.

      – D

  • Anonymous

    Just a thought – but you actually dated and married a man who left a woman with a 6 month old baby girl to take care of by herself, while he went off and married you. Red Flags!!!! I would have never married my husband or dated him if he had a child that young, because he could turn around and do the same thing to me. How can any man walk away from a little precious baby girl, Smh

    • Anonymous

      He walked away from the mother not the child.

      • Anonymous

        What’s the difference? After I had my first child, I couldn’t imagine my husband leaving me with our infant child to take care of by my self (changing diapers, sleep deprivation, before work dropping off/picking up from daycare, taking sick days because the child is sick, etc…. When children are involved, you fight to the very end to make the relationship work, because being a parent is a full time job, not just picking them up on the weekend for 2 days and a half then taking them back to the custodial parent – to do all those things I listed above by themselves. So yes, to answer your question “he did leave the child behind” to start a new life with someone who will get more of his time than his precious baby girl will ever have her entire lifetime. My father lived with my mother and I, and I can’t imagine my father not picking me up from school “everyday” greeting me with a big hug and calling me his little princess. “Quality time equals value in the long run – trust me – it paid off in my adult life how I view men and relationships, with having my father in the house with me” !!!!

        • Chocolate Vent

          I have to agree with ‘Anonymous’ – I wouldn’t dare date, let alone consider getting serious with a man who has a 6 month old. There are so many loose ends, particularly on the mother’s end, but for a man to focus on a new woman with a fresh baby says volumes about the kind of man he is. He can be a “good” man, but between taking care of a 6-month old full time (which he SHOULD be doing) and financially supporting not 1, but 2 children is a lot for a new woman to take on. And he has 2 different baby mama’s? That’s tough!

          You touched on discipline. You wrote, “If there is something particularly sensitive or problematic, I talk to my husband privately about it, and he then addresses it with the children and their mothers.” See, I can’t have any child in my house that I can’t discipline myself. I think as the mother-figure in the home you lose power when you have to go to their father first in order for him to address the problem. As the children get older, they’ll sense that you have no real power. That’s a NO-GO for me.

          But, all in all, it is good that he was able to meet a good woman! A man with multiple responsibilities is just not for me. Your perspective on becoming a “bonus mom” is great, though. It’s nice to hear that you are handling things so well.

          • Donnie

            Dear Chocolate Vent,

            We have to agree to disagree here. Disciplining children is not about “power” in my book, it’s about correcting behavior and helping them to grow. If there is something minor that needs to be addressed like language, chores, that kind of thing, of couse I’m comfortable addressing it, but let’s face it, sometimes kids can make really bad decisions that have serious consequences. I think it is respectful to yield to both biological parents because if I were in the same situation I would want at least some say-so in correcting behavior and training up my child. While I didn’t have any children I certainly came with my own challenges and baggage as we all have, so I wasn’t at all turned off by my husband’s “multiple responsibilites.” No man or woman is perfect and it’s up to each individual person to determine what is or is not a deal breaker. For me, the fact that my husband had children was not a deal breaker. It is also unrealistic to believe that people who have children are supposed to stay together romantically no matter what. While that would be the optiminal situation and of course no one would disagree with that, it’s just not reality. The statistics for both blended families and single parents speaks volumes as to what is really happening.

    • Donnie Smith

      Dear Anonymous,

      Thank you for commenting. There are circumstances where people procreate but decide to become co-parents rather than romantic partners which was the case in my husband’s situation. They are both excellent parents and remain friends as they both mutually decided to move on. There are many households where people decide not to be together which is OFTEN in the best interest of the child. If I had the mentality that you have, I would have missed out on not only a great guy, but the best friendship I’ve ever had in life. Walking away from a relationship does not always entail walking a way from a child… just a thought :)

      • Anonymous

        One quick question – Do you have any children?

  • Ronnie Tyler

    Great post Donnie…and you are so right…a step a bonus parent…another person to love and guide the children….being a step parent is a huge blessing (when done right.) I am so happy for my husband and how he loves all of the children.

    • Donnie Smith

      Thanks Ronnie! It truly is a blessing. I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason :)

  • tika

    Intresting…. let me ask… with all due respect Do you think your husband would ever cheat on u due to previous cirumstance?

    • Donnie Smith

      @Tika – No disrespect taken. I trust my husband with all my heart and would not have married him if I had any inkling that he would not be faithful. He’s my best friend and our friendship comes first. When I fell in love with him, I fell in love with all parts of him (and he me) and that’s what makes our marriage special. We didn’t judge each other – we’ve actually both been married before. It was about moving forward together.

  • Brit

    Some fail to realize that a step/bonus parents, are sometimes a blessing. My son loves his step dad and doesn’t acknowledge him as step dad either, he calls him Daddy. He loves, supports, nurtures, and they love each other SO SO much! I’m very thankful for my fiancé. He’s been around since my son was 8 months old, he is now almost 3. He’s the second best father figure and role model that I’ve ever seen in my life besides my own father.

  • anonymous

    Reading this article….and to get straight to the point. … u need to anaylize your marriage again..because there are a lot of different things that I agree to disagree on…. Is step parenting a blessing ? Of course but then I read the article about your husband leaving his child. ..that took me by surprise. You believe that your husband will not cheat on u..but never underestimate your opponent. Some people are blind to what’s in their face..Food for a thought!!!

    • Donnie Smith

      Dear Anonymous,

      No where in the article does it say my husband left his child. My husband has a great relationship with his children & their mothers. When my husband and I got married in 2010, that ended any competition. We chose each other and we made a lifetime commitment to each other & to God. That’s the difference between dating and marriage. I’m very secure in my position in life, in my family and in my household. The thing about a man, is that you can’t force him to be somewhere he doesn’t want to be and my husband is exactly where he wants to be. Some people are blind to what’s in their face, but that wouldn’t be my situation. Be blessed!

      • anonymous

        No need to be defensive, If that’s ur belief then u are entitled to it. So to add u are so right men are where they want to be!

  • Denise

    Donnie I think your article is fantasic..and I love your views on life, love and relationships keep up the good work!!

    • Donnie

      Thank you so much Denise! I have been through so much and it is a blessing to be in the position I am in today. I appreciate your support and positive feedback! E-hug!!!

  • RhymeFest

    Donnie when you and I got Married we spoke of what it meant to “Tie The Knot” . For us, it was defined as a rope the when pulled, tightened up. Whatever issues arose in our Marraige be it infidelity, children issues, health, finances ext… When the rope is pulled we come closer together. I’m in more then Love with you, we’re engaged in Empire building which for the simple minded may not be comprehendible.
    You’re a wonderful mother to my children, they know it and honor you for it. When my daughter walks through the door of our home you’re the first person she looks for and comes running to for hugs and kisses.
    My son has referred to you as his mother at some school events, and I’ll never forget when he thought he hurt your feelings and broke down in tears. You’ve saved my life and the life of my children with your love, nurture, kindness and Kansas City cookin!
    You have absolutely no competition and nothing to defend. You’ll always be “The Wife” and experience what all luxuries come with that. Our Knot will forever be tied.

    • Donnie

      You are so much more than my husband! Thank you for your constant love & support. I couldn’t ask for a better friend, listener, coach, counselor, lover or life partner. Your life is so inspiring me and thank you for helping me to open up my mind & my heart to true love. I thank God for you daily and the empire that we are building together. This thing is forever baby. P + H = RL forever baby 😉

    • Anonymous

      @ RhymeFest – Your words are really cute, but how are you going to explain to your little girl why she only gets picked up on the weekend, and why she doesn’t have a constant “positive” father figure in her life. How are you going to explain to her when you have a baby with your “new wife” and she sees how your changing diapers, picking that baby up from school/daycare and having nightly dinners with your “new family”. Trust me, you better come up with a very good lie to cover up you “mess you caused” because if not, you will definitely not be walking her down the isle on her wedding day!

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