Celebrating Bonus Moms!

I am so glad to learn right along with you today! I noticed a card in the greeting card aisle that said “Happy Mother’s Day Bonus Mom” and thought it would be perfect for my aunt.

Upon the return home, I got to thinking about it, “maybe it means something different??”

Why, heck, it does! Let’s find out what a bonus mom means, and how you can celebrate this special lady in your life.

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What is a “bonus mom”?

“Bonus mom” is an endearing term used for a stepmother. It is a positive reference to a healthy and happy stepchild/stepmother relationship. The term may also be used in the instance of adoption.

As Beth Ann over at The Inclusive Stepmom describes it, the definition of bonus mom is a splendid way to refer to a unique, blended family situation when the birth mom is still in the picture.

Step-son riding on the back of his step-mom, balancing on a skateboard.
Stepmoms, AKA “bonus moms” can be great fun!

Celebrating bonus moms

You’re never too old to get a stepmom! My father-in-law remarried at the age of 78! Each spouse came with a complete set of kids and grandkids to keep up with. Luckily for us, things have worked out in a way that arguing over holidays isn’t an issue.

Side note: I came across this book called “My Fairy Stepmother” and thought it was a neat anti-spin against the typical bad stepmother storybook theme, have a read!”

We feel pretty blessed that this woman came into our dad’s life. We don’t refer to her as “grandma” because the first wife was deeply loved and will forever hold that title. I know our new “bonus mom” had apprehensions of fitting into her new blended family. We did everything to assure her she was loved and welcomed.

Our bonus mom is acknowledged on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and at Christmas time with gifts. The gifts are simple, as neither of them need more things. For example, just receiving a card would light up her day.

If you’ve never seen the Lucille Ball classic, “Your’s, Mine, and Ours.” hava a peek at this trailer. The classic comedy is about two widowers who combine their very large families together. The children’s (humorous) struggles and coping strategies make for a fun movie. Spoiler alert: they find their own happy way of making it all work.

Ideas for bonus mom gifts

Giving a gift is a very respectful way to send a stepmom the message she is appreciated and accepted.

Let’s be honest, though. Not everyone is easy to buy gifts for. In fact, some people make it darn right hard if they have a certain set of expectations. I sincerely hope that is not your situation!

I think the sooner you set the gift “standard” the better. I hate to see anyone fall into the hole of required gift giving. My advice varies depending on the family’s ability to pay for gifts, the age of the stepparent, and the family’s already established gift giving traditions.

The gift shouldn’t be about “buying” her love, and the dollar amount should not be interpreted as an indication of her worth. A gift is always appreciated that reflects the interests of the stepmom. It shows you are paying attention to her, and that is priceless.

Mother's Day breakfast/brunch gift basket for a stepmom/bonus mom.
This Mother’s Day breakfast gift basket was fun to put together for my husband’s stepmom during COVID.

The picture above shows a food gift basket I put together for my husband’s stepmom during COVID. A nice gesture like this allowed us to acknowledge the new bonus mom in our life, while still allowing us to enjoy our own plans for the day.

Some popular gifts for stepmothers:

  • a birthday cake
  • food baskets
  • nice meal
  • hobby-related gifts
  • flowers
  • a bonus mom shirt, mug, or other article embracing the relationship
  • bonus mom jewelry (bonus mom necklace is popular)

You’re probably wondering why “birthday cake”? It struck me years ago that many people somewhere along the line stop getting birthday cakes. If they are empty-nesters, they just don’t bother for two people, or someone living alone.

I started buying birthday cakes for people in my life (little, cute ones). My husband and I have also made it an annual event to deliver one to our sweet, elderly neighbor who lives alone. She loves it!

Gifts for bonus moms can be funny. After all, blended families need to have a good sense of humor getting through the ups and downs of their unique challenges. Light-hearted gifts can be used in a good way to smooth out any underling tensions. Just make sure it isn’t taken the wrong way!

One last comment – make your stepmom feel included. Although you might not physically give her a gift, inviting her to dinner or to a restaurant is a lovely way to squash any feelings of insecurity she may have.

Names for stepmoms, a gift of respect

I imagine that most women are not crazy about being called stepmom, due to the bad rap in storybooks and movies. They (or loving stepchildren) have taken it upon themselves to give their new second mom a more affectionate name.

Deciding together how the new spouse should be addressed is important. Don’t discount the age of the child factoring into decision making. One person pointed out that a 6-year-old takes things literally, and would more easily grasp calling a new stepmom by their first name (although the new stepmom may hate it).

Teenagers will not want to be forced to call this new woman “mother.” In the twilight of their teen years, heading into adulthood, use of the first name may be more acceptable to all.

A new stepmom considering her options for nicknames to replace "stepmom."
A nickname for a new stepmother should be acceptable to everyone in the blended family.

Besides bonus mom, here are some other options to use in place of it:

  • BOMO (short for bonus mom)
  • Bo-Mom (short fo bonus mom)
  • Stom (a combo of “step” and “mom”)
  • Sama (a combo of “step” and “mama”)

I hunted around the Internet for some examples of nicknames for stepmoms. Honestly, I think they were overthinking it – I didn’t really find their lists helpful.

What I did think was pretty cool from Love to Know, was combining “mom” + stepmother’s first name. That had real possibilities. After all, this results in a very one-of-a-kind title.

Here are a few examples:


A stepson giving his step mom flowers and gifts.
A stepson presenting gifts to his stepmom, or “second mom.” It’s obvious the two have a warm relationship.

Similarly, just add “mama” to your first name: Mama Renee. In some cultures “mama” is a woman who is close to you and respected.

Another idea is to just go with the first initial of your name, “T” for Theresa, for example.

If that just doesn’t work with your name, how about making up a brand new nickname (for a brand new life!)? Often, nicknames are earned, with curious stories attached. As one stepmom proclaimed, “they [nicknames] are not necessarily something that can be chosen from a list.”

My co-worker comes from the south, and she addresses me as “Miss Renee.” I dare say I like it! It is a term of respect (or maybe just a term for over the hill people, LOL!). I’ve also come across the term “Miss Mommy” – which can be a transition from the fiance to the wife (Miss Julie to Miss Mommy).

All of these can be fun ways to work out alternative names with the new stepkids. I bet it will result in some giggling! Just remember that when kids are loved and cared for by another person enough to want to call them something special, they well you let you know!

Enjoy the discovery time!

Be sensitive when choosing a stepmom nickname

Please be aware that using the new spouse’s first name is an option, but that can be interpreted as disrespectful. The times I’ve witnessed children calling their biological parents by their first name… was odd. The delivery was always pompous, and strangely felt that the kids were on the same level as the parents. The child, indeed, was feeling they held power.

I caution you when referencing the biological parent, to stop the use of first names immediately. It is the first step towards a pattern of disrespect that can continue for life if not stopped.

It’s easy to see that a new spouse would feel disrespected being addressed by their first name. Although I have strong feelings about the use of first names of biological parents, the use of first names for a step parent may be very appropriate.

It is a bit funny, when a spouse naturally calls his wife/husband by their first name, and the child picks up on it (such was the case when my toddler grandchild shouted out his daddy’s first name to catch his attention!). Parents soon learn to start addressing their spouse over by a non-first name to avoid this situation – good luck with your youngsters!

A new spouse would not assume the new title of “mom” “mommy” or “mother” – that goes for dad titles, too. If you insist that these titles are applied, you will risk losing the respect of your child. I think most kids understand that mom is a special title that only the biological mom gets.

A stepmom blowing out the candles on her birthday cake.
Happy Birthday, Stepmom! Birthdays are an opportunity to celebrate the mother figure in your life.

None the less, there can be a slip of the tongue, and the stepmom may be called “mom.” It’s natural to happen and shouldn’t be made a big deal with. Also, the parents should gently remind their kids the correct way to refer to the step parent. It’s so easy to hurt children’s feelings – unknowningly.

If a young child continues to have trouble adapting, try reinforcing your choice each time to the child, “I am not your mom but I do love you. I like the nickname you gave me, it makes me smile and it is unique.” After a few times, they will begin to understand, but if it’s just a one-time slip up, roll with it.

The exception to the use of “mom” is when the child lost their mother very young in life. My aunt’s maternal mother passed away when she was two years old. She was always been treated as if she was the biological daughter of my grandmother. She called grandma “mother” just like my own mom called her.

Hopfully, both women will realize the child loves each mom, but each in a different way. Maybe someday there will be clever names for stepmoms, like the trendy new grandma names that have been surfacing.

 As one stepmom put if, “Get creative and color your own beautiful story!”

Mother’s Day for stepmoms

Of all holidays, blended families really struggle with Mother’s Day. All can agree, no one wants to hurt the biological mom’s feelings, or feelings that there is a competition between the two women. Many bonus moms go out of their way to make sure the birthmom is always respected. Bonus moms are good people!

Did you know that there is a Stepmom’s Day? There’s a Step Family Day, too!

National Stepmother’s Day is celebrated the Sunday after Mother’s Day according to National Today. National Stepfamily Day is celebrated annually on September 16 according to Census.gov.

Husband and wife embracing.
Many stepmothers/bonus moms are lovely individuals who give unselfishly to their new family. Who wouldn’t want to thank them for that?

According to Jamie Scrimgeour, stepmom to three and mom of one, Stepmom’s Day “gives children and stepmoms the opportunity to have Mother’s Day celebrations without impeding on the day with their mom, especially given that most children are with their mom on this day.”

However, Jamie is quick to point out that Stepmother’s Day never felt right to her, and it doesn’t feel right to a lot of moms. Somehow, even with their own holiday, stepmoms feel like “second fiddle.” I can’t blame them, as many stepmoms unselfishly play the mom role the whole year through, with seemingly no credit.

I always love a good compromise, if there is room for everyone to share just a little bit of Mother’s Day together, all would feel more acknowledged and complete.

Mother’s Day cards for bonus moms

There seems to be a card for everything, doesn’t there? It’s these unique times that I rely on greeting cards to do the heavy lifting for me. Unfortunately, they don’t do a great job. I found the ONE card at Walmart (our local Hallmark closed a couple of years ago).

The cover of the card is featured at the top of this article and actually says “To My Bonus Mom.”

Mother's Day Card with targeted to "bonus mom."
A thoughtful Mother’s Day card with an inspiring message for bonus moms.

Folks, this is a job for Etsy! The online maker’s platform really shines in unique cards for unique situations. Since most people totally fail at thinking ahead for Mother’s Day Gifts, I suggest you buy a few cards to have on hand for future years.

What to write in a card to a bonus mom

  1. I’m glad that you’re part of our family.
  2. You’re very important to me, I hope you feel my appreciation and how much it means to me to have you in my life. Happy Mother’s Day!
  3. I really do feel our connection is unique and special, and I treasure you as a mother figure in my life.
  4. Happy Mother’s Day, I’m thankful for everything you do for us.
  5. To a person who has become so important in my life, Happy Mother’s Day!
  6. You’ve changed my world for the better, and I’m lucky to have you in my life!
  7. Thank you for adding so much fun and joy to our family, you rock!
  8. I couldn’t ask for a better person to be my stepmom. you mean a lot to me, happy Mother’s Day!
  9. You’re the best Bonus Mom, ever! You hold a special place in my heart. Happy Mother’s Day!
  10. God brought us together to be a family. You have been an exceptional stepmom, I’ll love you always!
  11. You have brought so much light, love, and fun into our family. Thank you for so unselfishly giving of yourself and making our house a home.
  12. You’re the best stepmom I could ever get! I love to spend time with you, enjoy your special day, Happy Stepmother’s Day!
  13. Thank you for keeping watch over me, for showing me care, thank you from the bottom of my heart forever and always
  14. You may not have given me the gift of life, but life has given me the gift of you!
A stepmom/bonus mom receiving a gift from her stepdaughter.
A bonus mom receiving a gift from her loving stepdaughter.

Inspirational bonus mom quotes

Being a stepmom is hard, both in terms of the stress of navigating the family dynamic, and the extra help needed to pitch in and raise kids. I leave you with some inspiring stepmom quotes to uplift you (if you’re a stepmom) or leave you appreciating this special someone in your life!

“A healthy stepmother knows that somedays she’s a stage hand, somedays she’s the leading lady, and someday’s she’s the audience… and she plays eacy role with style and grace.” -Unknown

“Some people only hate you because of the way that others love you…” -Unknown

“We’re not trying to be someone else. We’re pretty wonderful being ourselves.” -Unknown

“I’m a stepmom. What’s your superpower??” -Unknown

“A child cannot have too many people who love them and want them to succeed.” -Strong Stepmom Awareness Campaign

Step-mom (bonus mom) giving a hug to her step-daughter.
Bonus moms are AMAZING. They pour extra love into our world, let’s acknowledge their kindness!
Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!