Having a bonus child definitely comes with its own set of challenges, but contrary to what others seem to believe, I don’t actually need a reminder that I am not “his mother.” I am well aware of the fact that I didn’t have to endure 9 months of pregnancy for him, that I don’t get to tuck him into bed every night, and that at the end of the day, I have absolutely zero say in the eyes of the court. Do I wish that aspects of my life and our relationship could be different? Sure, but despite how challenging things might be at times, I am forever grateful he is in my life.
I Did Not Give Birth To Him
My bonus son was just over a year old the first time I met him. I didn’t know what to expect leading up to our meeting, but I can tell you that I definitely didn’t expect to lock eyes on him and to feel like he was a missing member to my family. I realized that while I may have missed his first words, his first laugh, or even his first steps, I would be a part of the rest of his life and share in some of his most precious moments.
There is an interesting dynamic at all of his events with three “parents.” I acknowledge that I’m not the first person he runs to and I would be lying to say that it doesn’t hurt sometimes. In these moments, though, I get to observe the happiness on his face to turn to 3 parents he knows love and support him beyond measure. While I may not be the first person he runs to, I am always the 3rd and that’s better than not being there at all.
I Miss Out On Daily Moments
Over the past few years, we have been working towards and fighting for a custodial agreement closer to 50/50, but even when this is achieved, I will miss out on 50% of his mornings, evenings, and daily events. I think it’s great that I don’t have to worry about his physical safety while he is away from us, but it doesn’t mean that his lack of presence isn’t felt. His younger siblings ask for him on a daily basis, and I walk by his room each day wishing he could be here. These aren’t things that we tell him because no child should feel guilty for enjoying time with another parent, but it is a fact that he is a staple in our family even when he isn’t physically with us. Our family’s schedule often has to revolve around our times with him, and while we try to keep that at a healthy level, mainly for the sake of everyone else’s sanity, we also do it so that he knows he is just as important in our eyes as anyone else.
When he is home, I don’t just sit back and have my husband take care of all of his needs. Instead, I cook his favorite meals and help with his schoolwork, and I’m the one who ensures he has anything and everything he could wish for. I don’t say this to make it seem like my husband doesn’t do anything- that is far from the case – but our son is far from lacking a mother’s touch at home. Truly, from this perspective, the only time our son is missing something is when he is not home because he misses the presence of his Dad.
I Am Just a Spouse
At the end of the day, in any important discussions, therapy sessions, doctor visits, and even to teachers, I am a person of little significance. I don’t envy others trying to navigate our dynamics, just as much as I wish we didn’t have to navigate them ourselves. While I might not have the actual power and control to truly dictate anything to do with his life, I am still an adult figure that has to make sure whatever is decided actually happens. In truth, neither of the other parents knows our custody agreement as well as I do; neither parent seems to spend as many hours searching for solutions to problems; and neither parent seems to spend as much time stressing over every little word or phrase they say to make sure the whole world doesn’t fall off its axis. So even though I am constantly reminded that I am not someone who actually matters, the title of bonus or stepmom comes with its own set of responsibilities. And I gladly subject myself to all of these extra pressures because the only person who matters in this situation could not care less about whether or not we have a blood relationship. This little boy in my life doesn’t care that I am not included in any of the actual discussions, but he does enjoy that whatever outcome is decided, I am there to make sure he has the time of his life!
Ultimately, the only person who I feel has the power to dictate our relationship is him, and for the past 6 years his title for me has been Mom. He has decided on his own to call me Mom and if he ever decides to change that decision it will, again, be something that I let him decide. I truly believe that having the title of Mom or having the blood relationship of a Mom is not what makes someone an actual Mother. I believe it’s the willingness to constantly go above and beyond to ensure his happiness, to make sure that what is best for him is put first, and to sometimes sit back and watch things from the sidelines.