It’s very rare to see two women who have been married to the same man at different points in their lives be able to sit down and have a cordial conversation about life, love, and motherhood. This is why when Jada Pinkett-Smith included her husband Will Smith‘s ex-wife, Sheree Fletcher in her Red Table Talk, we expected all kind of fireworks.
What we got was opposite of the reality-show worthy, catfight, drama, but instead a conversation between two Black women centered on love, respect and admiration.
Fletcher tearfully described the moment her son met his stepmother-to-be “Miss Jada,” and affectionally asked if they could buy her a gift because he liked her so much.
“Thank you for loving my baby,” Fletcher said to Pinkett-Smith as they touched hands and shed tears.
Their heart-to-heart is one example of the important role stepmothers can play in a child’s life, and why outdated stereotypes about “evil stepmoms” need to be thrown away all together.
Tina Knowles-Lawson, Gabrielle Union and LeToya Luckett are all examples of women who have stepped up as “bonus moms” who burst their love on children who aren’t biologically their own. And, statistics say they’re not alone.
According to Psychology Today 50 percent of the 60 million children under the age of 13 are currently living with one biological parent and one stepparent, while 1,300 new stepfamilies are forming each day. Moving in as the “new mom” isn’t as easy as Tia Mowry‘s character, Stephanie Turner-Phillips, made it look on the Nickelodeon show Instant Mom, but it can work.
Recently during VH1’s Dear Mama special, Gabrielle Union opened up about the importance of being a supportive step-mother, who doesn’t try to serve as a replacement for a biological parent.
“Find your way and find your space in an unobtrusive organic way,” said Union.
This Mother’s Day, we want to recognize all the women who have embraced non-bio children in their lives. Here are five reasons “bonus moms” should be celebrated too:
- They have some of the same duties as bio moms: Bonus moms may share some of the same financial, spiritual and emotional responsibilities as a child’s biological parents. In some cases, she may even be a primary care giver who assists in raising a child day-to-day.
- They can have different kinds of conversations: As a bonus mom, she doesn’t always have to (or want) to be a strict disciplinarian. This provides an opportunity to play more of a mentor role to her stepchildren, providing her with a different perspective along with a child’s biological parents.
- They hold down their partner, which can help their stepchildren: When a stepmother comes into the relationship with her new partner, she can bring about a second chance at love for that parent or an opportunity to start over. While it may initially be hard for kids to embrace, that new relationship can also facilitate positive changes in their mom or dad’s life, which can improve their relationship with their own children.
- They can be a lifeline in tough times: Children may not initially want to call their stepmom for help but over time that same woman can become their go-to. Bonus moms who go out of their way to be there for their stepchildren, can help with everything from school projects to love advice.
- They can bring the blessing of more siblings: Blended families can mean more siblings, cousins, aunties and more love overall in the family. Children with a bonus mom can end up gaining unexpected and additional support through their step mom’s personal and professional networks.
Chalise Macklin is a freelance writer who has written for Black Enterprise and Kontrol magazine. She is also an adjunct journalism professor at Arkansas State University. Follow her @chalisemacklin on Instagram.