I’m so excited to start this series! Questions about being a stepmom/bonus mom and our blended family are always my most asked questions. So I wanted to start a series about blended families, being a bonus mom, and growing up with divorced parents.
My parents divorced when I was little, 4 or 5. I primarily lived with my dad (in Washington state) and then would go spend half the summer with my mom (in Virginia). My dad got remarried when I was 5 or 6, and my step mom became a big part of my life too. Very grateful for all of my parents, but I think going through a split family dynamic growing up helped me understand a few things as a step/bonus mom and brought some perspective to certain things I see my bonus kids go through now.
Before I start, I want to preface this by saying, no two situations are exactly the same, but being a parent (bonus mom or regular mom) is always easier when you have a community, friends, or family to rely on or talk to. I feel like you guys are all my besties so I hope this series can maybe help anyone navigating being a bonus mom, or dating someone with kids. And in case you don’t follow me on instagram and are wondering where these questions below came from- I did a Q&A and had you submit all your blended fam/bonus mom questions. I compiled the most asked questions and will be breaking them into different posts (And it will also give you guys time to ask questions in comments below that I can include in my future posts.)
So here we go…
Q. How long have you and Cody been together and where did you meet?
A. We’ve been married for 10 years this fall! We met selling alarm systems door to door in South Carolina and Texas. We both sold
Q. How many babies did you birth? Which ones are your step kids?
A. The oldest two, Mara and Wes are my bonus babies (Cody was married before and had Mara and Wes with his ex-wife). Beckam and Ollie I birthed, and are my biological children.
Q. Was it hard for you to date Cody initially because he had two babies?
A. I actually had a serious boyfriend in college who had kids. I knew I always wanted to have a big family and I had a great example of a stepmom/bonus mom growing up, so dating a guy with kids was never a big deal for me. I know this is not always the case, a lot of you have messaged me saying it’s been a hard transition dating someone with kids, but the biggest piece of advice I can give you is give it time. Our situation wasn’t easy at first. The divorce was hard on a lot of people and things took time. Eventually you’ll develop a structure, find what works for you and your family, and get into the swing of things. I would also say for the kids’ sake, unless you really see yourself with this person for a long time, I wouldn’t rush to meet the kids if you don’t see it being long term.
Q. How do you handle emotions about his past/firsts? (Jealousy, resentment, sadness).
A. For the most part, I didn’t really think about knowing he had done things without me or experienced things first before me. It wasn’t something I consciously thought about or dwelt on, but there were a few random moments when it hit me…
Right after I had Beckam there was a moment I was like ‘Oh, he’s already done this’. He had gone through and experienced a lot of the first time parent things already.. I thought to myself I could be mad or jealous he wasn’t going through it the first time with me or I could look for the positive like ‘hey he will know what to do maybe in times I won’t’. This is a life lesson I’ve learned over the years in general, you always have a choice on your mindset to focus on positive or the negative.
I do remember asking him when we were home one of the first couple days with Beckam, “Does it feel any different this time around?” I am always pretty open with how I feel. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I think communication is even more important with blended families, because it’s really easy to let emotions/feelings bottle up inside and it super important to have a lot of communication to understand and support each other.
The other time I can really remember was when I wanted to go to Paris for the first time. Cody had gone with his ex-wife and didn’t love all the touristy things (he’s not big on museums or seeing all the sites) so when we first got married he wasn’t super anxious to go back and I hadn’t been to Europe in years, and didn’t want my first time being in a city I had been dyiiiing to go to to be thinking about him and his ex wife. I honestly don’t know why that event stood out to me, but it’s the one thing I didn’t want to repeat. Instead of going with Cody, I decided to take Beckam.
He was 6 months old and my friend Amber (you guys probably know her – Dae/Barefoot Blonde) and I took our babies with our friend Jaci and it was such an amazing trip! It’s honestly one of my favorite memories with Beckam to this day. And now we’ve been back to Paris as a family a couples times and I love it. It’s one of my favorite family spots. But for some reason that first time to a bucket list place I didn’t want to be thinking about what he did with his ex wife
I think there’s something about those ‘firsts’. Maybe we build them up in our head, but if there is something that is important to you, talk to your spouse or significant other. I was really up front with Cody about it and he understood. I mean I don’t think he totally understood my emotions behind it, but he supported us going and wanted me to go have fun. On that same note, and I want to emphasize this, you are entitled to all of your feelings. You’re entitled to feel jealousy at times, resentment, or sadness. But then how you handle it is on YOU. You have a decision to make: what are you going to do about it? You can just sit in your feelings and build bitterness, or you can acknowledge them and then try to grow and change. I know everyone will handle things differently – and it’s not to say I have never felt sad, jealous or hurt, but I hope it can bring some connection and encouragement to those of you going through the same thing.
Q. Tips for dating someone with 2 kids with someone else?
A. I think my biggest advice would be to put the kids’ wellbeing first and foremost. That might not be what you’re expecting, but instead of thinking how the kids could affect you or your relationship, think about how you could be affecting the kids. My #1 piece of advice: wait to meet the kids. Don’t rush things and give it a little time, just out of respect for the kids. Especially if you don’t see yourself getting really serious with their parent – it’s not fair to them to have a new person in and out of their lives that doesn’t intend to be in it long-term. Put yourself in their shoes.
Q: How did Cody introduce you to the kids? About to go through this & I look up to your family.
A. This can vary so much depending on your situation, the kids ages, etc. I think meeting somewhere that’s neutral territory is a great idea. Somewhere outside your space and outside their space so everyone feels comfortable. Another idea is to do some sort of activity you can do together so you all have time to warm up and conversation can flow easier and more natural. It’s funny I had forgotten about this until you guys asked, but I met Cody and the kids at the McDonald’s Play Place – and we got ice cream.
Q. How soon did you meet the kids when you and Cody were dating? Did they accept you at first?
A. I met Mara and Wes 6 months after Cody and I started dating. They were honestly so young I feel like they warmed up super easy, and I love kids, and babysat and nannied a lot so I feel like overall I’m good with kids which made it easier. I’ve known Mara and Wes since they were toddlers so I’ve been lucky that they’ve mostly grown up with me in their life.
Q. How did your family accept that Cody had kids?
A. I touched on this earlier, but I was pretty serious with the guy I dated before who had kids, so I don’t think this was ever an issue really for my parents. I never straight out asked them though… I think their main concern was that if I married someone with kids, he was a good dad. It’s funny, I think seeing guys as a dad helps you identify the good ones even faster.
Q. What did you do for your bonus children when you guys got married?
A. Mara was our flower girl and Wes was our ring bearer. I honestly can’t remember if I got them a specific gift or memento for the wedding, but I’ve seen the cutest ideas and gestures online after we got married – there are so many creative and thoughtful things you can do to make them feel special and loved! I think ages play into this on what kind of gift or sentiment to do
Q. Do you ever feel like your own kids get put second to your bonus kids? Struggle bus here.
A. Hmm this was an interesting question… I think having limited time with my bonus kids makes me want to make sure we are making the most of that time, so I feel like Cody and I are more intentional and mindful of that time. With Beckam and Ollie, its more routine if that makes sense, but the days we have Mara and Wes we try to make sure we are wrapping up work right at 5 or earlier so we can get more quality time together, planning something fun for the weekends, etc. So it’s not that we treat Ollie and Beckam different, but we do treat the time we have with Mara and Wes differently, if that makes sense….
The other time it feels like we do things differently is holidays, and it’s not that I feel like our kids get put ‘second’, it’s that we have to make some adjustments for schedules and splitting times on holidays. So that becomes the priority vs how an unblended family might celebrate. For example, we always split Christmas with Mara and Wes’ mom, so some years Beckam has to wait until the afternoon to open presents or on Easter we do the Easter egg hunt later after we get them. So not getting put second, just adjusting some traditions because we would rather have Mara and Wes with us to celebrate together as a family.
Q. How long were you a bonus mom before having Beckam and Ollie?
A. 3ish years I think… honestly I have the worst memory with dates, Cody is so much better at that than me
Q. How did you feel the change was when you had B?
A. There were two big changes for me – #1) Before I had Beckam, Mother’s Day sucked. Of course Mara and Wes are going to spend Mother’s Day with their mom, and I would never want or expect them to be with me instead of their mom on that day. But as a bonus mom you spend a lot of time loving and nurturing and building a bond with your bonus babies, so selfishly I wanted to celebrate with them too. I was/am so grateful for them and for the love they have brought into my life, so it was hard not getting to be with them on that day. Cody was always thoughtful and did something before Mother’s Day with all of us to celebrate being a bonus mom, but it’s still a reminder on the day of when so many people were celebrating that you just wish you could hug your bonus babies. Once I had Beckam and Ollie, Mother’s Day changed for me and took some of that away. I still miss seeing Mara and Wes so much on that day, but it’s nice I get to be with the other kids.
#2) Having Beckam and Ollie brought so much perspective to how it might feel on the other side of the equation, things that until you have kids of your own probably won’t make sense. Like in some ways I wonder if I was too involved before… some of this is hard to put into words, but it brought perspective to not feeling like I had to be a part of as many decisions with Mara and Wes, and to give their mom space like at school functions. Example… before I had Beckam and Ollie I signed up to help in Mara and Wes’ classes and volunteered for things, and yes I’m so glad I did that, but I also realized maybe that’s something their mom just wants to do…as I’m writing this I realize I probably should have just asked her instead of assuming either way . I also felt like it brought perspective to her side of splitting time… Splitting time sucks for both parents 100%, but before I had my own kids, I always sided with Cody, and then once I had Beckam and Ollie I imagined having to share so much time with Beckam and Ollie with another woman/family, not seeing every milestone, splitting holidays, all of that sucks… of course you want your kids to be loved by as many people as possible, but it made me understand her point of view a little more in some ways, that until you have your own kids you don’t really understand as a bonus mom.
Q. How did you guys decide on “ours” babies. My bf is 10 years older and 3 kids – I’m worries he’s done. LOL
A. This is a conversation I would FOR SURE have before you get married. I thought Cody and I did but he says he doesn’t remember . He was always on board for us to have one together, but I always wanted at least 2 because I was an only child and always wished I had a sibling. Since we don’t have Mara and Wes full time I didn’t want one of our kids to be by themselves when Mara and Wes are gone, so I always wanted at least 2. Cody didn’t realize that so he thought he was done after Beckam and it took me yearsssss to convince him on another. Obviously he’s glad we did now that we have Ollie, but it’s still an important conversation to have prior to make sure you’re on the same page.
Wes and Mara with baby B
Q. How did you talk to the kids about having another baby (meaning before Beckam was born?)
A. Honestly it’s been so long ago that I don’t remember how we told the kids, but I remember surprising everyone in our family somehow. They were really excited – both with Beckam and Ollie.
Q. I had a really awful step-mom experience – did you ever worry about treating the kids different?
A. I’m so sorry – I feel like I get messages like this A LOT and it makes me so sad. I pray everyday my bonus kids feel loved when they are with us and know how much they mean to me. I’m sure I’ve done things wrong, but I think as a parent we always want to strive to be better, so I hope they always know how loved they are, not just them but all our kids.
That wraps up part one! Some of the upcoming posts will talk about schedules, things I’ve learned being a bonus moms, discipline/parenting my kids vs. bonus kids, how involved I am with ex-wife, etc… if you have new questions or questions about anything above drop in the comments below.