Salute to Bonus Moms


Mother’s Day can be a painful and depressing time for a lot of women—those who’ve never had a mother, those who’ve lost their children, those who’ve never had children, and those whose mother has been a curse instead of a blessing. Today my heart goes out to you, for whatever it’s worth.

A lot of attention and love is lavished on mothers today and that’s how it should be. This should include bonus mothers, the women who bravely roll their sleeves up and jump into kids’ lives despite any number of adverse circumstances. While bonus moms might be grandmothers raising their grandchildren, or foster moms standing in the gap while biological moms get their lives together, I want to salute the committed stepmothers among us.

I’m not talking about the women who marry a father and simply tolerate his children. I’m not talking about the nut jobs that are jealous and possessive and drive the children away. This isn’t about the women who take over and make the kids’ life a living hell, or the ones who treat children as a fashion accessory or a photo op. I’m saluting the brave ladies who enter into a new family and love their stepchildren as their own.

Perhaps from my own experiences, I equate the word stepmom with Cinderella’s selfish, sadistic guardian. I prefer the term bonus mom, a phrase I heard actress Jada Pinkett-Smith use to describe her relationship with her husband’s son from his first marriage. The term bonus mom, to me, describes a relationship that does not replace a biological parent, but recognizes that she is in the wife/mother role when the kids are with them. “Bonus” also acknowledges the wondrous fun that having more people to care about you as family can bring.

Bonus moms might just have one of the hardest jobs on earth. Out of love for their man and his kids, they may willingly walk into a war zone. The children’s biological mother may fixate on the new woman in the picture as the cause of everything that is wrong in the world. She may feel replaced, even though the wife/mom spot in that household has been open for awhile, perhaps of her own volition. She may feel threatened because the bonus mom brings talents or abilities to the table that she doesn’t have.

A bonus mom can be the target of stalking, harassment, gossip, disdain, extreme scrutiny, and all manner of horrendous challenges. She may have to set and continuously maintain strong boundaries to keep an ex-wife from trying to run things on her turf. She walks the fine line between keeping the peace and protecting her new household from unnecessary interference—a feat that requires dignity and strength.

These women can find the initial stage of adjustment in their new family a total nightmare. Marrying into a family with children can trigger the ugliest and worst traits of the kids’ other side of the family, who may see it as their mission to poke, prod, and intrude. Successfully combating these problems requires a husband who always treats his new wife as #1, and a faith-based, united front against the army of control freaks that seeks to punish that woman for daring to be a blessing.

When I was young, my dad remarried. His new wife wasn’t much older than me and made some of the mistakes that new moms are prone to make. We had a lot of good times, but I was still relieved when their marriage broke apart. I grew up thinking that situation was all her fault and that she was some villain who had wronged my father. It would be 25 years before I knew what had really happened.

When she and I reconnected later in life—all because of a recipe I wanted—I found that she and I had some amazing things in common, including bad experiences with men. After battling my way through my own life’s mine fields and survival tests, I had so much more respect for her than when I was a kid. As I listened to her recount the last days of her marriage to my dad, I realized that she wasn’t some unstable beginner who abandoned us, but a woman who truly loved “her” kids and didn’t have the proper support in her marriage to make it work.

My view of her completely changed and we are now close friends. Recently I’ve had a lot of reasons to rely on her perspective, and discussing family matters with her helps me be better at what I do. The woman I once almost hated has become a force for good in my life and her story has reiterated to me what an uphill, bloody battle bonus moms may face until things settle down—if they settle down at all.

Bonus moms, march on in the faith that you have a God who can do anything at your back. The very same power that raised Christ from the dead is at your disposal as you face the challenges of raising children that are not your own flesh and blood. Whatever problems you face, whatever flaming arrows and shrapnel bombs are thrown at you by the other side, remember that your God can make the crooked ways straight, make streams in the desert, and move mountains to protect and grow your family.

Pray for your bonus kids—wholeheartedly, passionately– as if they were your own. Be the mom you didn’t have. Be the mom you’d want to have. Don’t let anything or anyone stop you from making a difference in their lives and loving them the way they need to be loved. You may not have given birth to them, but the stability, love, and values that you bring to their lives may make all the difference for them in the long run. God has entrusted you with the development and well-being of His most precious creations.

As Max Lucado says, our toughest challenges are but bobby pins and rubber bands to God. Give whatever hellish harassment, fire, brimstone, threat, risk, or even mere inconvenience you are facing today to Him, and watch what He will do for the sake of your family. If He brought you and your husband together, then you can bet He will bless your union and bind you together as an unbreakable force if you let Him.

Bless you for devoting your lives to your husband and his children—may you be richly rewarded for your faithfulness and tenacity. You have no idea how much I respect you now.

If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not deter or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. –William Penn

©2010 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

4 thoughts on “Salute to Bonus Moms

  1. oh my goodness!! This had me in tears this morning. You write so eloquently about this difficult situation- honest, yet hopeful. That is a message we “bonus” Moms need to hear more frequently. We are not crazy failures. We are in a tough situation and it is our love and faith that provides us strength. Thank you so much for your wonderful words.


    1. That is so kind, thank you! When I wrote it I was still somewhat shell-shocked from a situation in my own life that gave me more respect for what bonus moms go through.


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