What is a Bonus Mom? 3 Key Differences Compared to Stepmom

What does it mean to be a mom? A mom is someone who loves her children unconditionally, takes care of them, looks out for them, and ultimately has their backs for life. However, these moms may not necessarily be the women who gave birth to those children.

A bonus mom is a woman who has taken the role of the mother to children whose biological mother may not be around anymore.

Although often used synonymously to stepmoms, bonus moms do not need to have a romantic relationship with the children’s father. They can be any woman who wants to take care of the children as her own, and they become bonus moms as soon as they act like it.

This article will define what a bonus mom is and outline the key differences between bonus moms and stepmoms.

What is a Bonus Mom?

woman carrying a child at the beach

If this is your first time encountering the word ‘bonus mom,’ you are not alone. This term is not one most people use on a regular basis. However, it is a term that holds dear to many families.

The origin of the term is explained by Bonus Families, an organization dedicated to helping separated families cope with co-parenting their children. According to them, they came up with the term as a substitute for ‘stepmom.’

The need for a substitute word for stepmom comes from the negative connotation of the word. Perhaps injected into the societal subconscious by fairy tales of protagonists mistreated by their stepparents, the term ‘stepmom’ or ‘stepmother’ carries a negative implication.

The problem stems from children not wanting to use the term stepmom. As explained by Dr. Jann Blackstone, founder of Bonus Families, her daughter Melanie would refuse to call her a stepmom as her friends would immediately assume that there was a strained relationship between them.

The issue was confounded by the fact that Melanie still had her biological mother around. Thus, she also cannot call Dr. Jann Blackstone ‘mom’ for fear of upsetting her biological mother.

Alternative names were considered, and the family settled on ‘bonus mom.’

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Thus, a bonus mom is essentially synonymous with a stepmom. However, the creation of the term was to bypass the negative connotation that ‘stepmom’ held.

Today, bonus moms are defined as women who go above and beyond for children whom they did not give birth to. These are women who act as mother figures to children who may not have their biological mothers around.

While stepmoms are the closest comparison to what bonus moms are, anyone can be a bonus mom for various reasons. The individual does not have to be married to the children’s father to become their bonus mom.

For example, an aunt that decided to take in her orphaned nephews and nieces can become a bonus mom. A family friend who acts as a mother to children whose biological mother has military deployment can become a bonus mom.

Essentially, any woman who takes care of children she did not give birth to is a prime candidate for becoming a bonus mom.

Key Differences Between Bonus Moms and Stepmoms

Although bonus moms are indeed often compared to stepmoms, there are some inherent differences that distinguish bonus moms from stepmoms.

  1. Reason

mother kissing her baby

Bonus moms and stepmoms are often compared, sometimes even used interchangeably. However, one major distinction between the two titles is the reason. The reasons why a woman becomes a bonus mom are not necessarily the same as the reason why a woman would become a stepmom.

It is easier to begin by defining a stepmom. Technically, a stepmother is the new partner or spouse of the children’s father. The biological mother of the children is no longer in the picture due to divorce, separation, or death.

Thus, it can be considered that a woman automatically becomes a stepmom the moment they marry a man who already has children.

On the other hand, a bonus mom is defined more loosely. While a woman can become a bonus mom through the same route as a stepmom (i.e., marrying a man who already has children), that is just one of the several reasons why someone can become a bonus mom.

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Since the title of bonus mom is not given to someone in a particular situation, but rather given to someone who plays the role, an individual has a variety of reasons why they have become a bonus mom.

For example, a woman can look after the children of her friend who is terminally ill. The woman can perform all the responsibilities and duties of a mother. Regardless of a relationship with the father of the children, that woman can be called a bonus mom.

  1. Candidates

mother smiling at baby yawning

Another important distinction between bonus moms and stepmoms is the people who can become candidates for these titles. Can anyone become a bonus mom? Can anyone become a stepmom?

As mentioned above, the role of the stepmom is predicated on the condition that the woman is the partner of the children’s father. There is that relationship condition before someone can be considered a stepmom.

On the other hand, practically any woman can become a bonus mom.

Another great example of bonus moms is mothers-in-law. Many mothers-in-law take on a more motherly role to their in-laws, especially when their own biological mothers are no longer present.

When a mother-in-law goes above and beyond and treats their in-law just as they would their own child, then they could already be considered a bonus mom.

Another example to showcase how anyone can become a bonus mom is teachers. There are many stories out there of teachers who have taken it upon themselves to treat some students as their own. These cases are often due to unfortunate circumstances where the biological mothers are no longer there.

Grandmothers who take in their grandchildren can also be called bonus moms. These cases are common when the biological mother is unavailable to take care of her children.

  1. Intent

mother laughing with her baby

After everything already mentioned, the last key difference between a bonus mom and a stepmom is intent. The intent is important as it is the driving force that led these women to become bonus moms and stepmoms.

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Firstly, a woman becomes a stepmom the moment she marries a man with children. Thus, it can be said that becoming a stepmom does not involve intent at all since a woman can become a stepmom without even wanting to be a stepmom.

While many women who marry men with children understand and accept their roles as stepmoms, there are those who are only interested in their spouses – and not the children. Perhaps these are the sources for fairytales to come up with the evil stepmother trope.

On the other hand, bonus moms do not simply become bonus moms. They become bonus moms when they already play the role of the mother.

A bonus mom is typically a woman with the intent to take care of the children due to a particular reason. Whatever the reason may be, they put it upon themselves to take care of the children as their own.

Understandably, the two titles are not mutually exclusive. A woman can be both a stepmom and a bonus mom. When a woman marries the children’s father, she automatically becomes their stepmom. However, she can eventually be called a bonus mom when she performs as a mother does.

Final Thoughts

The key differences between stepmoms and bonus moms are almost semantic, which is why the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, the slight difference in connotation is important when distinguishing the two. The difference is also important for the bonus mom to hear.

Although the term ‘bonus mom’ arose due to the negative connotation of the ‘stepmom,’ the terms themselves do not define the women in these roles. Just because a woman is a stepmom does not mean she is bad. Some women are perfectly comfortable with that term to describe themselves.

It is also important to understand that there are plenty of families where the bonus moms and biological mothers work hand in hand.

Regardless of either title, both stepmoms and bonus moms are mothers in their own right as long as the children are loved and taken care of.

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