By Erika, The Bonus Mom
What’s in a name? Turns out, everything and nothing at all.
When my husband Roger asked me to marry him I remember my head swirling with so many thoughts – joy, excitement, exhilaration, and even a little fear. Even though we had talked extensively about marriage and I knew it was the next step we would be taking, I was not prepared for all of the thoughts and emotions that came with an actual proposal.
In that moment, though, I was quickly brought to reality because we were surrounded by five screaming kids who went from shrieking “you’re getting married,” to “you’re going to be our mom too,” to “we’re going to be cousins!” (For the full story, and to make sense of these shrieks, check out how Roger proposed here.) Of all the things the kids shouted that day, “you’re going to be our mom too” stuck with me. It resonated all day long. And the next day. And the next.
Prior to our engagement, I had read books about blended families and bonus parenting. But I still wasn’t quite prepared for the idea, the thought, the sound of being the Bonus Mom to Roger and Londyn. I mean, I was prepared, but let’s be honest – nothing prepares you for parenthood.
I also wasn’t prepared for how much consternation what the kids would call me would cause me. Right away, our son Roger slipped easily between calling me “Miss Erika” – what the kids called me since the day we met – and “Mom or Mommy.” He would play the “Mom” hand especially heavy when he wanted something from his father – “she’s our Mom too, so I’ll just ask her!” Londyn, stuck to Miss Erika – and that was fine. I, however, had an internal struggle about what I wanted the kids to call me. Mom felt like I was asking them to cheat on their actual mother. Miss Erika felt too formal. I wasn’t sold on plain old Erika either. Hubs (then my fiancé) told me not to worry, that something would come naturally.
Honestly, though, I worried. Right up until the moment we were married and said vows to each other and as a family – the four of us. And for many moments after.
When the kids came to stay with us for the summer and I came home to them from work for the first time, I was greeted with shouts of “Mom” and “Mommy.” But they quickly slipped back into calling me Miss Erika – which was familiar and comfortable to them. It bothered me, though.
That felt so formal. And I didn’t want people to think I had a formal, rigid, overly disciplined relationship with our kids. After all, they’re OUR kids now. I felt like “Miss Erika” betrayed my loving, sweet, affectionate, and real relationship with Londyn and Roger. On the other hand, I never wanted to put the kids in a position where they felt like they were betraying their own mother by calling me “Mom” or “Mommy.” They have a mom.
One day, the three of us were chatting when Londyn told me she didn’t necessarily like calling me Miss Erika but that she felt bad calling me Mom. I told her I got it and we decided we would brainstorm a new name for me that was just theirs. We tossed around a half dozen names and landed on “Mimi Erika.” They could live with that and I could live with that. Except, well, old habits die hard. And everybody, the kids, their dad, their grandfather, EVERYBODY still called me Miss Erika. I get it, they’d been calling me that for 2+ years, a new name wasn’t going to stick overnight.
And a new name, or old one, wasn’t going to change my relationship with them. It didn’t make me love them any less or them love me any less. It doesn’t make them behave any better. It doesn’t make the sweet moments any less sweet, the proud moments any less proud, the difficult moments any less difficult, or the funny moments any less fun. It turns out that no matter what our kids call me – they are our kids. I’m their Bonus Mom and they are my Bonus Kids – adding joy and love and fullness to my life. Roger and Londyn have taught me that Bonus Mom and Bonus Kids, by any other name, would be just as sweet.