Yesterday, I shared a post about some things that I wish I had known before dating a single dad. I decided to continue along that same vein today and talk about some things that I wish I knew before I became a bonus mom. Maybe it’s just me, but I went into marriage and “momming” with certain preconceived notions about how we were going to be this one big happy family with minimal problems. Now, I don’t think it was bad to set my sights high, but I’ve learned some things through these past three years of parenting and being both a bonus mom and a biological mom that I would dearly love to share with you.
- I would love my bonus kids and biological kids differently.
I remember telling myself at the beginning of my relationship with my three oldest kids that I would love them just like they were my own. And I did and still do. They are my children that God has entrusted to my care, and I will love and fight for them with every last breath that I have. When my two biological children came along, I remember feeling guilty because there is definitely a different kind of love between children that you gain as a bonus mom and children that you carry in your body. One day, my oldest son’s kindergarten teacher (who had also adopted and had biological children) and I were talking about our bonus kids and biological kids, and she looked at me and said these words. I will never forget them. She told me, “You will love both your adopted children and biological children, but the love will be different-and most people won’t understand that.” Let me tell you, a HUGE weight was lifted off of my shoulders that day. I love all my children fiercely, but with my oldest three, I made the choice to love them and let them grow in my heart as opposed to my biological children who grew in me. (Well, and in my heart to, but I hope you understand what I’m trying to say!) Not everyone understands that, and, you know what? As soon as I accepted that fact, I stopped getting as hurt when people would question whether or not I loved my bonus kids.
2. To some people, I’m the hero.
It is no small feat to go from being single to becoming a wife and mother within the space of 2 months. It’s also no small feat to go from a business professional to a stay-at-home mom. I went through both of those changes in a short time, and when I tell my story, there are a lot of people who look at me as some sort of hero. While I get all the good feels from people telling me how awesome I was to make the choice to become a mother, the danger that I sometimes face is making myself out to be the hero. Yes, what I did was a huge thing. Trust me, I know! But, at the same time, I don’t ever want my kids to see me walking around with this puffed up ego. I mean, the circumstances that lead to me becoming their mom were pretty awful. I usually just tell people who try to hero-ize what I did that I am just very blessed to have been able to fill the void of their mother.
3. To some people, I’m the villain.
If I were to say the word, “stepmother,” what would immediately come to your mind? I know for me, I immediately think of the stereotypical Disney stepmother types. You know? The evil ones. The ones who lock their stepchildren in towers, refuse to let them go to the ball, give them poisoned apples? Yeah. Guess what? To some people, because I am not the biological mother of my three oldest children, I am a villain. And, MAN! Have I really struggled with this. This past summer, a lady that we worked with at camp was talking with my husband. He brought up a situation where there was an unpleasant decision that he made, and he made the comment that he felt awful because it seemed that there were people who blamed me for his decision. She told him that that wasn’t too far off the mark for him-and me-to feel that way because, as the non-biological mother of these kids-even if I wasn’t the one who made the decision-I would be the one blamed for it. It would all be pinned on me. And she told him that it was wrong but that it was a fact that we would both have to accept. This was the hardest thing for me to swallow. To feel like you’ve sacrificed everything for children that people make very clear are not your own, to call these children your own, to treat them as your own, and then to have people villainize you? Well, it’s no walk in the park, I can tell you that. But, I have realized that I have two choices. I could let it eat away at me and become bitter and withdrawn, or I could brush it off and make sure my focus was on being the best parent that I could be to ALL of my children.
4. I would pour gobs of blood, sweat, and tears into my bonus kids and get frustrated with the lack of “return.”
What do I mean by this? Well, just that in this whole bonus parenting journey, we have gone through some pretty heavy stuff. I’m not going to get into it here, but there have been seasons where I will literally spend all day dealing with just one child. Thankfully, they all take turns with their behavioral issues, but I remember, after a particularly difficult battle of the wills, wondering if I would ever live to see a change of heart in this child. I know that you go through that regardless of bonus or biological children, but, having that extra element of “you’re not my real mom” does throw a wrench in the process of getting at your child’s heart. It is really easy to get discouraged, and the process might last a little longer, but one thing I’ve learned is you can’t give up on them. Ever.
5. I would inherit her success and failures.
I don’t want this point to be taken as being a Debbie Downer on my children’s late mother. She gave birth to them and loved them, and I am very, very careful not to assign blame to her for stuff. I want my children to respect and honor her as is her due. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this either. Let me just sum this up by saying, everyone parents differently. There are things she did and ways she parented that, well, let’s just say, I’m not her. I can’t take credit for her successes, but I do have to deal with her failures (and I use the word failures loosely). I’m not here to run her down AT ALL. Please, please, PLEASE do not walk away thinking that this is me griping. The hard truth is that there are things that the kids struggle with because of gaps in her parenting. Do I have to deal with those and help fill in those gaps? Yes. Do I run her down or blame her (especially in front of my kids)? Never.
Just as in my last post, I 100% feel that all these “challenges” are completely worth it. I love my kids, and I can’t imagine my life without them. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. But, that doesn’t change the fact that bonus parenting can be tough. Worth it, but tough. I don’t know what your parenting story is. I don’t know what difficulties you’ve faced or are facing right now, but if I can be of any help-even if it’s just a listening ear or an extra voice to pray for you, I would dearly love to do so.