Parenting, Stepmom Life

“Stepmom” vs. “Bonus Mom” and Why They Both Matter

Where does the word “Stepmom” come from?

The etymology of the word prefix “step” carries with it some connotations that don’t usually apply to the dynamics of a modern blended family. The word “step” comes from the Old English word “steop,” which essentially means “loss.” Earliest versions of “stepchild” were written as “steopcild,” which literally translates to mean “orphan.” So, a stepmother or stepfather means that person was stepping in as a parent to an orphan.

While that may be the situation in some circumstances, the prefix “step” has evolved to refer to the parent who steps in to parent alongside another parent who already has children, through marriage. In addition to the history of the word, so many of us flinch at the word “stepmom” because of the way we’ve been represented over the years as wicked, evil, home-wrecking seductresses. But it’s not always all bad. Let’s talk about “stepmom” vs. “bonus mom” and why they both matter.

Is “Bonus” better?

Because of these various negative connotations, lots of stepmamas out there prefer to refer to ourselves as Bonus Moms. The word “bonus” is like something extra special you get for being amazing, and that’s what we are! Someone extra special to love our partner’s child(ren) along with their parents. “Bonus” feels joyful and fun, where “step” feels everyone will think we want to ship our bonus kids off to boarding school and make the house a love nest just for two. Not to mention, the word goes both ways. It’s so much more important to make our kiddos feel more like they’re a bonus to us and less like someone we’ve inherited and just have to look after.

Stepmom vs. Bonus Mom

So why does “step” still matter?

What do we know about the modern meaning of the word “step.” Yes, I’m talking about the ones you walk with your feet. Being a stepmom is also all about taking steps. Sometimes they’re big ones, and sometimes they’re baby steps. Sometimes they’re forward, and sometimes they’re small. The importance of the word “step” is not that you might be seen as wicked, but rather that you have to always be mindful of your role and the dynamic of your family.

When to step up, and when to step back.

Over this last year I’ve learned so much about when it’s best to step up and what I should step back. My wife called me a few weeks ago to chat about a positive behavior incentive she and Mia’s other mom came up with. They wanted me involved so that all three of her parents are on the same page. I got to step up and give my input.

I’ve also learned that it’s easiest for me to stay home during parent/teacher conferences. Mia has two involved parents that show up at every single one. Of course I care about how she’s doing, but I get filled in as soon as they get home. If it’s a meeting Mia doesn’t sit it on, then I get to hang with her! Sometimes a step back is a step up.

Our roles as stepmoms might even change throughout our children’s developmental stages. One of my favorite stepmom bloggers, Jamie Scrimgeour, recently wrote about why she’s taken a step back on parenting her stepkids now they they’re teenagers. There are no rules here. Just be mindful of what step you’re on, and know that it’s okay to move around as they dynamic of your family grows and changes!

Stepmom vs. Bonus Mom

Take control of your own steps.

I want to share a wonderful resource I found from one of my other favorite stepmama bloggers, Kristen of “Stepmomming”. She’s created a Month of Love Challenge to help all of us practice our positive mindsets when it comes to being a loving stepmom, positive coparents, and healthy partner. Participate in the challenge by downloading your copy of the free calendar, where she gives you daily prompts like “Remember the first time you met your stepchild(ren).” Download your copy and join the challenge here!

How do you feel about the “step” part of being a stepmom? Let me know in the comments!


Beth Ann

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6 thoughts on ““Stepmom” vs. “Bonus Mom” and Why They Both Matter

  1. Thanks so much for the shoutout, Beth Ann! I love this piece on the different prefixes: very thoughtful and well-written 🙂

    1. Of course! I started using the calendar and it’s really impacted my winter blues mindset! I’ve been really excited to discover your blog 🙂

  2. This is insightful. I am, too a step mom (though I love the term bonus mom). I gotta use that! It gets hard sometimes and trying to remember boundaries and coparenting. The mother of my step sons isn’t exactly mean but she does say little “things” to me at times. Anyway, I enjoyed this article!!

    1. Thanks so much for reading! Yes, I think even when there’s a positive coparenting relationship, tension at times is always inevitable. You sound like you try so hard and are rocking this stepmom thing though!

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