Cyma Shapiro Chats with Tami Butcher, author of the children’s book: My Bonus Mom! Taking the Step out of Stepmom
Excerpt from the book:
“Almost eleven I remember it well
What seemed a sad story turned out really swell.”
Questions for a child with a new step-parent:
Is she going to replace mommy?
Will daddy love her more than me?
What if she doesn’t like going to the zoo?
Questions to a parent when an ex remarries (creating a step-family unit):
What do the two of you feel grateful for?
How can you believe something positive about “the other one” and feel it; what can keep you motivated to work on that?
What if your child likes her/him and she/he helps your child?
Q: I am a stepmom to two older children whom I call my own. However, I have always grappled with the fact that the attraction and love I have for my husband forced me to include both his ex-wife – a woman I had no interest in – and the two husbands she’s subsequently married. Can you address this aspect of step-parenting?
A: Being a step-parent can be the most difficult thing a person can do. So many dynamics for the step-parent to “step” into, people just don’t understand. All I am hoping is that as a parent we put those own egos aside, just for a moment, and think about the child. The child didn’t get divorced, the parents did. To your friends, sister, confidant, talk till the cows come home about how you don’t like the ex, but to the kids you lovingly refer to her, it’s just the best way to go. It creates respect and a bond with the children, trust me, I know, I lived it and my parents sucked it up and did it, for us. We are better people because of it.
Q: While helping children cope with the sometimes insurmountable task of welcoming and, indeed, accepting step-parents and step-siblings, you have the added pressure of the parents’ inner dilemmas and trauma. Try as hard as they might, sometimes personal feelings and/or emotional baggage comes into play. What are your thoughts about this?
A: I often ask myself this same question, if my husband (of 16 years) and I got divorced right not and he got re-married could I do the same as my parents did for us? It would not be easy, but because of the way our lives turned out, for the better, I would at least try. You have to make a commitment early on in the divorce to your ex that you will not bring the children into the drama of the adult baggage, it’s just not fair. It’s just like anything else that is hard, a diet, a workout regime, breaking a bad habit. Once you give it time, it becomes easier and becomes a part of your new mental state.
Q: Do you feel it is important to clearly delineate the roles that each parent plays? For example, step-parent as a friend, mother as a mother; other step-parent as a friend, father as a father, and so on. Or, can there ever be an interplay between roles?
A: I remember a conversation that my “bonus” dad had with us girls early on in the marriage. He let us know he was not here to take our dad’s place, he was here to be another person to help us grow, mentor us into good people and just one more person to love us. This communication was a key part of our understanding of the role that both he and my “bonus” mom were going to play in our lives. So, yes clearly laying out the roles each person will play would tremendously help a child understand better.
Q: Do you believe that these roles, and the jockeying for a place within the family unit, should be discussed first between all adult parties?
A: Absolutely. Otherwise one’s understanding of their role might be different than the other parent.
Q: What if the biological parent is less a “good” parent and role model than the new step-parent?
A: This happens more often than you think. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard from step-parents that they had to step right into the parent roll from the beginning. This is when the step-parent is most important and can become the best adult role-model for the children.
Q: What is the one thing that you want children of divorce to know?
A:That it does get better, with time. I would also like them to know that they are never the reason for their parent’s divorce. The love they have for them will never be less and possibly even more during the hard times.
Q: What if the pain of the divorce is just too much for a child to bear, despite therapy and other support systems? What if the child simply cannot accept the fact that a step-parent exists?
A:This is when my theory is the best form of therapy in the world. The ex needs to let the child know that their mom or dad’s new step-mom or step-dad is another person in their life to love them, not a threat, not a bad person. There is no therapy in the world that will make more of a difference than the actions of the biological parents and how they treat and embrace the step-parent. If they accept, their children will accept.
Q: Aside from the obvious, why do you call the step-parent a “bonus?”
A: If another person is in your life to love you, how can that not be a bonus? Every person who enters your life and make it a better place is a bonus, and that is exactly what my step-mom and step-dad did.
Q: What thought/idea/belief would you like to leave our readers with, today?
I am not here to sugar-coat divorce in any way. It is a difficult thing. It makes you sad, scared, angry, hurt. However, I am here to tell you that it does get better AND if as a parent, you could put your own ego aside for just a moment to think about the children, it can make a world of difference. My parents embracing both step-parents was the biggest gift that they could have ever given us children. Because of that, it took the guilt, the anger, and the confusion out of the picture. We are better adults because of the actions our parents took when we were young.
Tami is the wife of Mike Butcher a longtime coach and former player for the LA Angels Baseball team. She knows how to be a single mom even though she’s happily married since her husband travels half of the year. She can give tips on how to create schedules that are not overwhelming, that really focus on helping the child / children, and promotes keeping the lines of communication open with the ex, so that parents can focus on the child instead of the dynamics between each other.
Reflecting on her own family dynamics, Butcher realized that if she could plant a seed in children’s minds that having a stepmother or stepfather can be a “bonus,” then their minds and hearts might grow to accept their parents’ new spouses instead of automatically thinking of them as evil as many childhood fairy tales portray them. The product of that revelation was My Bonus Mom! Taking the Step out of Stepmom.
Tami Butcher graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in business communications and later earned a teaching degree from Grand Canyon University. It was while teaching seventh-graders at Phoenix Prep Academy, that she made it her goal to write a children’s book. But first, she married the love of her life, Mike, and started a family. She has three children ages 9, 11 and 15. As a child, Butcher grew up with what she lovingly refers to as her “bonus mom,” a nurturing, caring woman many in society would refer to as a “stepmother.” Butcher’s parents amicably divorced when she was 11, and for the sake of Butcher and her three sisters, decided to keep each other fully involved in their children’s lives despite the divorce. Eventually both her parents remarried, but they continued to share birthdays, holidays and special times together with their children, as well as with their new spouses.
Because of her parents’ efforts, Butcher and her sisters grew up feeling blessed for having two moms and dads instead of “stepparents.” Currently, Butcher resides in Chandler, Arizona with her husband and three children, where she helps with the family restaurant business.