Over four years ago, my boyfriend and I met. Naturally, we exchanged social media information and I could tell from the photos he liked to travel, he was educated, a family man and he just genuinely seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. But there was something there that I wasn’t expecting; photos of a little girl I could only assume was his daughter. But maybe it wasn’t? Maybe she was a family member or the child of a friend? After a bad breakup and the worst relationship of my life, I wrote out a list of things I wanted in a partner moving forward. Everything I saw, seemed to line up with what I was praying for in a man. Everything except for a child. So after several conversations, I of course had to ask, “Who’s the little girl in your photos?” To my surprise, it was indeed his daughter. It was ok though. He still had everything I was looking for in a man, plus I appreciated his transparency about his daughter. Once we really began clicking, I decided I wouldn’t let the one thing I didn’t want stand in the way of a potentially good relationship. You know how they say, “Everything happens for a reason”? Well, maybe there was a reason I met a man with a child. Now, over four years later, I can confidently say I am beyond happy that I swiped right and took a chance on a guy with a kid. Not only did I gain an amazing boyfriend, but I also gained a bonus baby.
“Bonus Mom” and “Bonus Baby” became a part of my vocabulary after having a conversation with a friend who also was dating a man with kids. She said the kids referred to her as Bonus Mom and I absolutely loved that! Stepmom and stepdad just seem so harsh and formal. Hell, I don’t even call my own stepdad anything with “step” in it. That’s just my dad. I quickly adopted the title of Bonus Mom and like to think I embody a Bonus Mom through and through. To me, a bonus parent isn’t there to take the place of a biological parent, they are there to give the child(ren) bonus love, bonus hugs, bonus advice, and bonus gifts. Everything that comes from a bonus parent is just an added bonus to the kid’s life because quite honestly, it takes a village to raise a child.
I not only gained an amazing boyfriend, but I also gained a bonus baby.
I didn’t get to meet his daughter right away in our relationship. First, he had to make sure I was the right person. Plus, she lives in Chicago, with her mom (most of the time). He would go for weekend visits to see her and would send photos, or I would see posts of her on his Instagram. I could tell she was such a sweet little girl and I could not wait to meet her.
The First Time
Then the time finally came. After about four months she was scheduled for a two-week visit to Michigan. I would meet the kid from the photos live and in the flesh. I was excited but nervous more than anything. I’m an only child and not often around little kids. But when I am, I do have this nurturing, motherly instinct about me. Babies love me so I was praying this two-year-old would love me too. But what if she didn’t like me? Would we have to break up? Would this mean I would be a terrible mother to my own future kids? Will she cry? Will I cry? So many thoughts swirled through my head before the introduction.
I’m a planner so I prepared myself both mentally… and at Target. When I first arrived to meet her, she was asleep but she woke up to a strange woman smiling in her face. I could see the confusion in her eyes but in my preparation, I made sure to come bearing gifts. I had toys on deck so she would know I was a nice lady and I could be a safe space for her while she was away from her mom. Even though she was only two and her father was the first man I had ever dated with a child, neither of us understood at the time what our relationship would flourish into.
Looking back, I am so pleased I made the decision to bring her toys. I knew she was really into PJ Masks at the time so I got her some PJ Masks toys, one of which was a little Wolfy doll (a character from PJ Masks), and for her entire visit, that little Wolfy toy was her absolute favorite thing. She took it everywhere with her and I even think she wanted to take it to bed with her a few nights. I found comfort in knowing something I had given her became her favorite toy.
The Day I Felt Like a True Bonus Mom
Everything was going so well and she seemed to really like me. Then there was one day during the visit when I left to go back to my apartment after spending the entire day with them. She cried as I left, yelling out, “Rica!” She couldn’t pronounce Jessica at the time. It tore me to pieces. It was that day I understood the bond between a parent and a child. I’d like to think she was crying because she was so fond of me that she didn’t want me to leave but it was likely that she really missed her mom. I had become that motherly figure and I was leaving her. This was the day I felt like a true Bonus Mom.
Years later, my bonus baby is no longer a baby. She is five years old and is my best friend whom I call Chicken Nugget, Governor, and Princess, among other things. I don’t know what I would do without her. I absolutely cannot wait to watch her grow up and I am beyond excited to see what she becomes. She is already so smart, so talented and so loving. As her bonus mom, I now have even more of a reason to work hard. I want to show her that she can do anything she puts her mind to. One day she will have a little bonus brother or sister but until then, she’s my number one girl. I love you always, my Chicken Nugget.
Tips for being a Bonus Mom:
- Remember you’re not the birth parent. There’s a fine line between biological parents and bonus parents. Bonus parents are exactly that, an added bonus to the child’s life. While we may want to sometimes parent like we are the real parents, we must take a step back in certain situations and let the biological parents do the parenting. Offer opinions or suggestions but at the end of the day, mom and dad’s words will reign supreme.
- Treat everyone with kindness. This goes for the child and the birth parents. Oftentimes, you’re added to a child’s life as a bonus parent because of a strained relationship. It didn’t work out with your partner’s ex so now you’ve stepped into their lives. New additions are not always well received (lucky for you though if you have been welcomed with open arms) so treating the other parent and the child equally with kindness and respect will go a long way. It’s not always easy being the bigger person but it will pay off in the long run.
- Support your spouse or partner. Co-parenting isn’t always easy, so being there for your partner will help strengthen your relationship. It could even help strengthen their relationship with the co-parent. Rooting for your spouse or partner as a parent is huge! The stronger your relationship, chances are the stronger your relationship with the child can be.