Moms have this amazing knack for making each day count, don't they? They handle everything from wiping away tears and patching up scrapes to cooking favorite meals and making sure everyone gets to their activities on time. They just seem to know when a child needs a hug or when they need some space. Some big shoes to fill…

For many families, the mom role has been expanded, adding the crucial “bonus mom” to the family dynamic. Love blossoms for these women who step in and step up to be friends, confidants, role models and caregivers without, in some cases, trying to overshadow or disrespect the role and parenting wishes of the moms. It can be a fine line to walk. 

When Candace met her stepson for the first time, she was sure he hated her. The toddler would feign injury to gain attention from his father while citing Candace as the cause. But gradually, that subsided. At age six, the child refers to her as mom. “[The] easiest part of being a bonus mom is just the innocent love from him; it’s so pure and genuine, and you know that you’ve earned that love,” Candace says. 

Lexie Bell has a different experience. Her first meeting with her now teenage stepson was love at first sight, noting how snuggly he was from the beginning. Her bond with him has grown over the years, especially since she experienced many of her mom-“firsts” with him. 

“We would make cookies, do arts and crafts and go on mommy-son dates. We still do go on our dates [and] have ‘talks’ in the car where I would let him ask all of the questions he had about everything and anything,” Lexie shares, noting this has been a way to build trust and connect with him since he was young.

Dawn Evans
Dawn Evans with her family

Dawn Evans shares this sentiment. “Parenting is hard,” says Dawn. “My opinion is the more [parents], the merrier.” For Dawn, the role of stepmom has been maintained even after the romantic relationship dissolved. 

But all the love does come with headaches, misconceptions and wrong perspectives. Alyssa Reddick says boundaries can be the toughest thing.” As a parent, I know how to parent my biological children. But as a bonus parent, I have to make sure I'm checking in with their mom and dad,” says Alyssa. “Reinforcing their rules and goals. And generally trying to not step on any toes while presenting a united parenting front.”

Dawn agrees. She admits her open-arms approach to treating her bonus kids as her own can be overwhelming to the co-parent. “I’m just hoping that they know I’ll always show up for them,” Dawn shares. “There is no more “mine and yours” there is just ‘ours.’”

Navigating the role as bonus mom has also shed light on the relationship with their respective partners. 

“I had a bit of a ‘cheat code’ watching my husband be a father before we were married,” says Lexie. “It was really incredible to watch. I knew he was going to be a great dad to any biological children we would have, too.”

Alyssa emphasizes the need for clarity and dialogue to ensure a smooth course for all parties, which has helped her relationship with her husband remain strong.

“I think it's helped both of us learn better communication skills and teamwork. Because in this situation, we're both bonus parents to each other's children. So we're constantly checking in with each other. Which makes any miscommunications very few and far between,” she says.

At the end of the day, the love of a child is precious, and the title of bonus mom is a treasured distinction that these stepmoms take seriously and graciously. 

Lexie put it best: “Being a bonus mom is a privilege. Of course, like with any other role, it comes with its challenges. And still, it's one of the best roles I've ever had the privilege of holding. Hold space for all of it. The good, the easy, the fun, the hard, the sad, the frustrating. All of it. Because what you get back is priceless.”