Michelle Miller is a mother of three and Cincinnati native. In addition to parenting, Michelle is a hairdresser. She is also currently working on a children’s book about half-siblings and hopes to help other families explain these sticky situations to their kids in a way they can understand.
I am a bonus mom. I married a man seven years ago who had made a sweet little boy before me. I didn’t think I wanted to be a mom before our son came into my life. He made me realize that the things that were holding me back from motherhood, like fears of ruining a child with my broken ways, my lack of patience, or my selfishness, were all really just that: fears. He made me realize that I am way more gentle, loving, and selfless than I was letting myself see. I owe him so much for expanding my view of myself!
This love did come with heartbreak as well. I used to tear up at the typical words of a child (I want Daddy to do it! I want to go with Daddy), mostly because it seemed to never be my turn. My clients at work wouldn’t recognize our relationship as typical even though I was living the life of a mother, thinking of his needs and wants and scheduling my life around him. I remember one of the first Mother’s Days my husband and I spent together as a married couple, he did nothing for me. I cried at the end of the day realizing that I was going unnoticed. It never dawned on him to do anything for me and he was so apologetic!
My husband and I married when our son was 3 and we spent a few months together as a family before we started trying to grow our family. I have to admit, having more children has softened the things that I yearned for with our oldest. I never pushed myself on him emotionally, but I so badly wished he would run into my arms upon coming home or snuggle with me on the couch. I had major fears about showing up at school or day care and find him not caring at all that I was there. I didn’t want anyone to potentially see a lack of interest in me, so I bailed out of things like that.
We have had two more kids since we have been married and I still struggle at times with my role. I don’t get to make major decisions in his life due to his mom obviously having opinions about him. One summer I researched all these amazing, different summer camps he could do, how it could work with his schedule, and prices. I had it all mapped out to find from my husband that he didn’t think it was super important to push the issue with his mom. She had already mentioned that she would sign him up for the same camp as last year where he would go every week. I felt defeated.
One night we were reading to Cohen at bedtime and something came up about me being “like his mom.” The context was me being his mom without having given birth to him, but even at 9, Cohen didn’t process it the same way and went on about how I wasn’t “like his mom.” In his mind, his mom and I are so different. We have different rules, we act differently, but the statement he kept saying was “Shell isn’t like my mom.” My eyes filled up with tears as Dave tried to explain what the book meant. That I am in the role of mother like his own mom, even though I didn’t give birth to him. The few minutes of back and forth were so painful for me. After all this time, he still didn’t see me as his mom.
My clients regularly say to me that I am so lucky to have one girl and one boy, which really hurts me. Most of these women have known me for years and know that my stepson exists, yet they don’t acknowledge him as my son. I always say I have three children, always. It doesn’t even cross my mind to think about it any other way.
I have never pressed the issue of being called “mom,” nor will I ever. Cohen calls me Shell, which is a nickname that no one else calls me. It is my mom name to him and I love it. I hope he never grows out of it. I pack his lunch, and help with his homework, I work on his table manners, teach him and his siblings how to get along. I am a full-blown mother at our house and I know that. I know that God placed me in this position and I am meant to be there. I hold firm that I know who I am, knowing there are tough times ahead (his graduation, wedding, the birth of his own children), but I love my family. It would have never been without him. I will never give up on being his bonus mom. It is who I am.