It won’t be easy. Trust me when I say it won’t be easy. And this isn’t meant to discourage you, it isn’t meant to be a challenge to do better than another woman in your shoes, and it isn’t about being ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than someone else.
You have to understand one thing: it’s your journey. No one can take it away from you, or write it for you. So promise me that you won’t be too hard on yourself. Promise me that you’ll push through doubt and insecurity because we all face it. And promise me that you’ll still see the good, even when it feels like you’re failing.
Because just stepping into this role takes bravery; don’t lose sight of that.
Here’s some candid bonus parenting advice:
1. You will mess up many, many things (and that’s okay).
When I first became a bonus parent, I tried to build my self-confidence by relating everything to my experiences babysitting. I thought that I would have this thing all ‘figured out’ because of ten years of loving on other people’s children.
Turns out it’s not that way at all (and that’s a good thing).
What happened when I walked in believing I would be perfect is that I fell short. Over and over again. I kept telling myself that I had to have everything right otherwise I wouldn’t be the ‘mom’ Austin needed. I kept beating myself up for the times I failed.
But listen—here’s the candid bonus parenting advice you need to hear right now—you’re going to make mistakes. That’s a part of the process. You’re going to say the wrong things, show up late, send an email you wish you could ‘un-send’ and bite your tongue reading through text messages you wish you could delete. But it’s okay.
Stop counting your failures and start focusing on the blessings.
Despite the mistakes, you’re doing better than you think.
2. It’s not a competition.
If there’s one thing I wish all bonus parents knew, it’s this: you aren’t trying to ‘beat’ or ‘challenge’ the biological parent or other parental figure(s) in the story.
Instead, you’re writing your own.
Here’s a bonus parent confession: Sometimes there’s this tendency to want to do more or to do better than someone else in the child’s life. It’s something we don’t even recognize half the time because it’s unconscious (and it’s also embarrassing to admit). But it happens. And truly, you have to teach yourself that regardless of where you fit in the equation, your job isn’t to compete—it’s to run your own race.
3. You have to stop measuring yourself to journeys that you aren’t walking.
We want to compare ourselves to other people. We want to judge our parenting on a scale of others we admire. We spend so much time looking ourselves in the mirror, trying so desperately to wish something else onto our skin—but it’s useless.
Because who we are isn’t meant to be a carbon copy of someone else. We aren’t meant to step into the lives, the families as a mirror image of someone else. We’re meant to be us.
So here’s some candid bonus parenting advice: stop comparing, stop stressing, stop measuring, and stop wishing you could do or be something different. Simply show up and be you.
4. Learn your line.
Everyone has a ‘breaking point.’ Everyone has a place where they will no longer compromise. Everyone has a moment when they can’t shift anymore or they’ll break. And to be a good bonus parent you have to find yours. You have to get yourself to that (uneasy and often painful) point so that you know what you’ll take ad what you won’t.
You have to be willing to have difficult conversations, too, and talk about the hard stuff to know how you’ll face it when it comes. But if you don’t know your ‘line,’ you won’t have a relationship that’s open, honest, and trusting. And that’s so fundamental in raising a child.
5. Be willing to shift.
You have things you won’t compromise on, and that’s okay. But bonus parenting comes with thousands of tiny moments where you will. You might think you’ll always be and stay a certain way, but you have to be open to the truth that love will change you and turn you inside out.
And yes, that’s scary. But it’s so beautiful, too.