A Stepmom’s Struggle With Being Called a Bonus Mom


stepmom more than bonus mom

I have to admit, when I hear myself referred to as “bonus mom” I internally cringe. It has nothing to do with the people who say it or others who are bonus parents, but for me, it’s really hard and uncomfortable.

I’m lucky to have a lot of wonderful people in my life. My mom is my absolute best friend. I have welcoming in-laws. And I even have a stepmom of my own whom I love. I feel like I should embrace the mantle of bonus mom. But I just can’t.

One of those mental barriers for me is my close relationship with the aforementioned absolute best friend mom of mine. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned more about the circumstances of her life. I know how sensitive and good-hearted she is. I’ve learned she’s my hero, and I want to be as good of a person as she is. I also know she would be incredibly hurt to hear me bestow the name “mom” on another woman. 

Growing up, I never heard the phrase bonus mom. It wasn’t ever a topic I needed to concern myself with. I’ve always called my stepmom by her name, and I correct people that she’s my stepmom when they assume she’s my mother. I also see myself as her kid and she is an important influence in my life. But that “mom” label, for me, feels too sacred to call anyone else but my own mother.

Now that I’m a step-parent, many caring family members and friends have encouraged me to call myself a bonus mom. Some automatically refer to me as the kids’ bonus mom. It feels good to know people see me as an important person in my step-kids’ lives. It’s encouraging to be recognized for the new roles I’ve taken on. That helps me move forward on those really hard days. But I also feel really uncomfortable with it.

I have to confess, my step-kids’ mother has even called me their bonus mom. She and my step-daughter made a bracelet for me that says “Bonus Mom.” It was the kindest gift I’ve received in a long time. I teared up because it meant so much. Bonus mom feels most-okay coming from their mother, but there’s still that piece of me who feels uncomfortable.

I don’t see a stepmom or stepdad as less than a bonus mom or bonus dad. However I do feel like that biological parent, who is still involved in their child’s lives and plays an important part, should have the title of mom or dad to themselves.

Maybe (probably) it’s my own hang-up, based on the relationship I have with my mom and the things I later learned she experienced in her life. But for me, I’m proud to call myself a stepmom, and I’m proud of my step-kids when they correct others that “Steph is my stepmom.” In our situation, I don’t want to step on their mother’s toes or impede their relationship. I’m glad our kids recognize that boundary and are comfortable asserting it.

As the kids get older, if they ever choose to refer to me as bonus mom it’s the thing that would make my heart sing the most in this world. In a situation like that, I would never correct them to say I’m their stepmom. But as far as my self-identification goes, I’m good with stepmom.

I’m curious what your thoughts are!

Parents, bonus parents/step-parents, or adult kids with a step-parent/bonus parent- let’s connect in the comments!

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Always up for taking on new roles, Steph is a hobby enthusiast and now enjoys sharing her varied interests with her amazing, silly, sometimes-adventurous step-kids Olivia and Wyatt. Exploring outdoor spaces and coming up with messy science experiments are favorite family pastimes. Steph is a life-long Iowan, Des Moines area resident since 2006, and happily settled down with husband Alan in 2015. She has a couple different gigs including adjunct instructor at DMACC and graduate student at the University of Iowa School of Social Work, but step-parent is (usually) the most fun.


  1. My name is Steph as well and my step-kids call me Steph-mom. Their mom is very much involved in their lives and not too fond that I am.


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