‘I hate Bre.’ If you’re a parent, you know how deep those words cut. I was broken.’: Bio, bonus mom shares journey, ‘It’s not easy, but it’s WORTH IT!’

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Meeting My Future Husband

“As a single, first-time mom, my life outside of motherhood was put on the back burner. I had a son I was now responsible for who came first in every aspect of my life. The thought of dating was the last thing on my mind, as I did not want to miss out on a single moment of his life. One of my closest friends at the time, Allison, who is also my son’s aunt, had tried to set me up with several people throughout my pregnancy and when my son, Landry was first born. I kept telling her, ‘I’m not ready yet.’ That was until she mentioned one guy, Andrew.

mom and her son
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

She explained to me that she and her husband had a friend who would be perfect for me and that was going through a divorce and had been unhappy for a long time. The thought of dating a guy in the middle of a divorce seemed risky, but she then spilled the news that he had five children from his marriage. Five kids! Most people would run away from that right? Instead of turning my shoulder on yet another one of her plans, I gave Andrew a real thought. I added Andrew on Facebook—yes, sometimes social media is good—and waited for a message. That night as I was laying in bed, my phone buzzed, and I had a Facebook message from Andrew.

That first night our conversation started out rough as he mentioned he was a Cubs and Michigan fan, and I myself am a Cardinals and Iowa fan, both rivals of each other. After we got over his poor taste in teams, our conversation took off that night, and we talked for a couple of hours without missing a beat. It felt natural. It felt good. I knew this guy was someone I wanted to give a real chance.

After one week of text messages and phone calls, we were able to meet in person. My daycare unexpectedly closed for the day we had planned, but Andrew did not care, he said, ‘Bring Landry along!’ He was only three and half months old at that time. Big bonus points for Andrew already and we hadn’t even met yet! We met at Dick’s Sporting Goods followed by a lunch at Noodles and Company. The day was perfect, simple, yet so perfect. I remember when we left the parking lot, he sent a text saying, ‘You’re all that and a bag of chips.’ I knew that day that I had met my future husband and my son’s future bonus dad.

couple smiling together
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

Navigating A Blended Family

After a month of meeting up together and serious conversations regarding our children, our future plans, etc., it was time for the most important part of our relationship, meeting his kids. I met his two girls first, Emma (10) and TinLeigh (2) at a county fair where Allison lived. Emma came into the door and instantly gave me a hug and introduced herself. He went home that night and said the girls enjoyed their time and were excited that dad had a girlfriend. About one week after the fair, I was able to meet his three boys Liam (8), Rylan (6), and Maddox (4). The meeting with the kids went smooth, and I was instantly able to picture life with all of us together.

dad holding his son
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

The first couple of months of being in the kids’ life was easy. I was able to be the fun one, the pushover, the one who gave the kids what they wanted, but yet still demanded respect. Andrew would mention how much fun the kids had every time we were together and how happy they were that I was around. After five months of long-distance dating, we made the next jump in our relationship, and Landry and I moved in with Andrew and the kids. This is when things became tough for all of us.

family of 8 sitting together
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

Andrew coaches girls high school basketball, and I moved in in the middle of the season, which put me home with all of the kids alone. That lady in dad’s life who was mostly fun had to start having rules with the kids. The kids were not used to having a female figure in their life that had rules and expected them to behave and help out around the house. I went from being the fun one to the one the boys didn’t like.

Being the bad guy was tough, there were many nights I questioned whether or not I could really be a Bonus Mom. Liam, our oldest boy, was a total momma’s boy who had the hardest time with the new rules in the house. The toughest night was the first time he said, ‘I hate Bre.’ If you’re a parent, you know how deep those words cut. I was broken. I did not know what to do. Do I let up on rules? Do I leave? Do I push harder? This was a difficult time for all of us to navigate.

family portrait in a field
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

After having outbursts, Andrew and I set the kids down and explained what we both expected from each other and each of the children. Things slowly got better the more the kids were able to trust me and see that I was sticking around. They each knew at the end of the day that I loved them like my own and would do anything for them. Once I had their trust, they knew the rules were coming from a good place.

We lived together for ten months before he asked me to marry him in my parent’s camper. I knew without a doubt this was the life I wanted and said yes. Throughout those ten months, he would smoothly ask the kids if they thought he should marry me or if he needed to keep me around. He made it a priority that he had all of the kids’ approval before asking. I knew Landry was okay with it, the way Andrew treated him like his own, how Landry preferred Andrew over me at times. I knew I was making the right decision. We got married in March of 2021, four months shy of knowing each other for two years.

couple on their wedding day
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

Bonus Mom Journey

As a bonus mom, finding that balance between friend and parent was hard but important. I wasn’t their real mom, as they pointed out several times, but I was a mother figure, and I knew I wanted nothing but the best for them. At the beginning, every time one of the kids would say, ‘You’re not my mom,’ it would hurt. It would punch me in my stomach. I had to remind myself that they were going through a major change in their life, but I was not going anywhere. One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for anyone going into the new role as a bonus parent is to be consistent. I was consistent with demanding respect from day one, and once the kids knew I was not backing down, they stopped saying that phrase and knew I was not changing.

mom putting shoes on her daughter
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

Being a parent, let alone a bonus parent, does not come with a manual. At times I wish it had because it is a very gray area at times. The kids still had their mom in their life, and I made it a point that I was never going to replace her, but I was another mom that was going to love them like my own. When kids have both parents in their life, my advice is to form a relationship with the ex as fast as you can.

The kids’ mom and I did not have a great start. Andrew and I both knew going into this relationship so soon in his divorce that there were going to be issues. The tension, hate, and dislike of the situation made the smallest things hard for the kids. Communication was rough, and being at the same events made it awkward for the kids because they did not know how to handle it. As hard as it was for myself, I made it a point to never say anything negative in front of the kids no matter what they came to our house saying. That is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can give the next person is to never talk about the other parent around the kids. They are sponges, and all that does is ruin your relationship with that child. The kids are the most important aspects of our lives when it comes to being a bonus mom and we have to remember that at all times. Do not let the negative comments slip out in front of them.

family portrait outside
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

Being on both sides of parenting, being a bonus parent and being a biological mother, getting along makes it easier for everyone, especially the child. I am thankful and lucky enough to have a great relationship with my sons’ father and stepmother. We attend the same parties that way Landry does not have to miss out on any family event. His stepmom, Liz, and I are able to communicate about Landry when it comes to anything. No, it was not always like this, but once we all moved on life was that much easier. So if you are coming in as a bonus parent, make it a priority to form that relationship with the other half. No, you don’t have to attend the same events, but getting along enough to have a simple conversation is a game-changer and will make life that much easier for you!

Being consistent, treating bonus children as your own, and forming important relationships is a recipe for a great life as a bonus mom. We have settled into our lives now and things are great. The kids do see me as a mother figure and know I love them like my own and always will. Being a bonus mom is NOT easy, but it is WORTH IT! The comments will stop, the doubts will stop once the kids know they are loved and you are here to stay. You were put into this role as a bonus mom for a reason, and I promise you it will be one of the most rewarding roles you ever take on!”

family portrait
Courtesy of Bre Carbajal

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bre Carbajal from Camanche, IA. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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