Are You a Bonus Parent?

More than ten years ago I first heard the term “bonus mom” said by movie actress Jada Pinkett-Smith after her recent marriage to movie star Will Smith who had a young son from his first marriage. Up until that time, the newest concept in family systems with children from divorce was the “blended family”. Although, no one called the Brady Bunch a blended family, nor Carole Brady a bonus mom. Certainly, no one ever called Cinderella’s evil and ugly step-sister her bonus sisters. Of course, these two cultural examples are from a less politically correct time. Long before divorce hit one of two families. Long before same-sex marriage and adoption created families with two dads or two moms. So was it time for our language to change, to create new labels for new
cultural institutions?

Many celebrities have adopted the “bonus” language. Trisha Yearwood, wife of world-renowned country singer/songwriter Garth Brooks, is a bonus mom to his 3 girls. New step-mom, Leann Rimes, infuriated many followers when she wished everyone a Happy Bonus Mom’s Day (she and her new husband Eddie Cibrian were reportedly both married to others when they started the affair that resulted in their subsequent divorces and new marriage a few months ago). Many of Ms. Rimes- Cibrian’s Twitter followers thought it she was far too quick to label herself a “bonus” to her husband’s two young sons who were said to be distraught at their parents’ divorce. So perhaps the word bonus doesn’t always work?

One unidentified “mom of her husband’s son from another marriage” (whew – what a mouthful! See – we do need a good term!) took a very interesting approach to help her new step-son have a name to call her that was both familiar and intimate to denote their new familial relationship and yet not a mom-based word that could easily bother the son’s biological (and custodial parent) mother. She researched other languages for words that mean mom and she found one in Gaelic that in English sounds like “bean”. You may think it’s silly but that’s what her step-son calls her – bean – and they both love it and it’s meaningful and isn’t that what a loving label like Mom should be anyway?

What do your step-kids, step-mother, step-anything call you? If you are a same-sex couple, what do your kids call you and your spouse/partner? The English language is so flexible in order to adapt to changing cultural mores. Tell us what your favorite blended family terms are today, by contacting us!


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