I got married in March and immediately jumped into Bonus Mom mode a few weeks later when our son, Dillon, came down to visit for spring break. From that trip, I said to myself, "Piece of cake! I've got this down packed!"
Oh, but summer came, and the first few weeks humbled me in ways that made me question if I was doing anything right!
Time went on and I gradually moved passed my "new mom" jitters. But along the way, summer grew me by teaching me what it means to be a bonus mom when you merge lives with a partner who has kids. Because I am still mastering these golden nuggets, writing this post is just as much positive reinforcement for myself as it is for you. And I believe drilling these things into your mind is a great way to keep you in a good space and help you grow as a bonus parent.
Read on to learn the seven things every bonus mom should know.
Expect An Adjustment Period
Since Dillon lives long distance, we miss out on the consistent interaction that I wish we had.
As summer started, I noticed that he seemed more disengaged from me than he was during his previous visit. This was initially disappointing because it felt like I was starting over. I wondered what triggered the relapse and even felt like I was spinning my wheels trying to build the relationship.
But as time passed, he couldn't help going back to the kid who crawls up next to me for movie night or asks if he can go with me to do random things. He drifted back to the carefree kid that talks my head off about the most recent happening that I should be in the know about.
Dillon went back to the car DJ who puts me up on what the young people are listening to these days. He started requesting family nights, sleepovers, and quality time. He went back to normal. And when I thought about it, he ALWAYS does.
From this thought, I realized that I should expect an adjustment period. It is different going from one house to another, especially when you add in the dynamic of a newbie being there. Although it never feels good when he is totally curving me, doing my part means being understanding to the adjustment until it turns into a seamless transition.
Kids Are Good Judges Of Character
I believe the reason that the bond between me and Dillon is always rekindled is because children are a good judge of character.
Children observe the way you care for them and how you respond to certain situations. I believe Dillon knows that I love him and that I will ensure that he has what he needs when he is in my care.
Why? He has seen it.
Children know how you feel about them by how you treat them. Keeping this at the forefront of your mind is a great way to avoid going crazy over all the small things that do not matter in the big scheme of things.
Consistency is key with children.
Dillon taught me that children's expectations are based on repeated behaviors. For example, I am primarily responsible for being the fun parent.
Our first extended trip together consisted of me taking him to do a million and one things. I continued that tradition through the next few times we connected, so naturally, when he came down for the summer and I told him I actually had to work, he tilted his head to the side and said, "Oh, I get it. You are trying to surprise me! You're not serious right?"
Because I consistently did fun things when he came down, he was caught off guard by the idea of sitting still for a few days. It didn't matter to Dillon that he doesn't necessarily do fun things every day at home, it mattered that he felt I was being inconsistent.
My husband and I enrolled Dillon in more summer camps than he could fathom, alleviating pressure to balance work with a trip to the arcade or the trampoline park every day. However, this situation taught me the importance of consistency in everything I do with my son. That means loving him the same; trying the same; taking care of him the same; and reinforcing core principles the same.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Be dedicated to showing your bonus child who you are to them and how you feel about them. Be conscious of your influence. Ask yourself, "What am I teaching through my actions?"
Even when you do not realize it, you are consistently teaching your child something. Make sure that something is something worth teaching.
This summer, I consistently taught principles regarding good character. Almost every morning, I reminded Dillon to be a better person today than he was yesterday. I encouraged him to do at least one nice thing for someone throughout his day, and I stressed the importance of having a good attitude.
I reinforced my message so much that he eventually knew the spill before I said it. And even though Dillon may not understand why I consistently reiterate these concepts or repeatedly do certain things, it will make a difference in his view of the world as he grows older.
Parenting is a lot about molding your child to be the best that he can be. Choose a way to consistently help your child be better in some way.
Do It Your Way
Diving into parenting can be intimidating, especially when you are a bonus parent.
When Dillon first got here for the summer, my mind was cluttered with feedback and nervous anxiety about what the boundaries were for parenting. I wanted to be respectful of his biological parents, and truthfully, I didn't want to do anything that would make Dillon dislike me.
The first few weeks of his stay were stressful simply because I was tip-toeing around doing it my own way for fear of the outcome.
Eventually, I made the decision to use my own parenting style. I got this in my head and stuck with it. I developed my own routines, my own morning talks, my own techniques for discipline, and went with it. And guess what? Everyone survived!
Allow For Organic Relationship Building
Everything takes time. Do not try to force relationship building or get frustrated if it doesn't happen on your timeline. Let things happen organically. Allow your child to learn you better as you do the same. Find things that you have in common and take an interest in things that are important to the child.
Dillon and I bonded over something as simple as watching Avenger movies. He enjoyed talking to me about the movies and giving me background on the characters. Over time, this turned into our thing. Movie night was our way of connecting. It made him feel comfortable to talk to me about something that was on his level.
Nothing happened when I was trying too hard or wasting time worried about whether he liked me. Think about it this way: You are a good person. Why wouldn't someone like you after they get to know you? Keep that train of thought in your head and allow time to be your friend. Don't panic. You will get there.
Be patient with your child. It can be tough being a little person in a blended family. Kids pick up on things that adults think they are cleverly hiding. Sometimes the pressure of trying to make everyone happy can feel overwhelming. Try to understand the child's perspective and make the decision to do your part to alleviate that pressure in any way that you can.
Just as important, is being patient with you. You are new to this. Do not beat yourself up over mistakes or worry about how it will be viewed by others. Instead, do your best. Learn from your shortcomings, and focus on being a better parent every day.
You are more than capable of doing this! Don't let hiccups rain on your parade. Keep going!
*Article originally published on kandiceguice.com
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Kandice Guice is a lifestyle and beauty writer who doubles as an attorney and entrepreneur. She prides herself on helping multidimensional women discover personal and professional fulfillment by encouraging them to live with ambition, sass, and a whole lot of pizzazz. When Kandice isn't closing corporate transactions or writing blog posts, she is usually cheering on her husband as a football coach or looking for new travel adventures with friends and family. Check her out at kandiceguice.com and follow her on all things social @kandiceguice.
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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I'm a wellness founder who currently has no therapist. Now, don't judge me; I'm being vulnerable with you.
A few years back, I felt like my life was shifting and that I wanted to find a new therapist to help me get to the root of what I was experiencing but didn't exactly have the language for it. Almost a decade ago, I was a depressed, socially anxious Black girl in an abusive relationship with practically no friends in college. Fast-forward to now and I'm a grown woman thriving and the founder of one of the largest wellness organizations for Black women.
The shy girl I once was (and still am at times, if I'm being honest) has now led meditations at Coachella, worked with Taraji P. Henson's brand, and produced her own content on mental health and Black women's healing with Foot Locker Women! But can I tell you that deep down, there are days when I still felt like that girl who thought she was broken and unloved?
That realization made me angry; I felt like I had done so much self-work and work in therapy that feeling like that girl again as a grown-ass woman made no sense.
It felt like I was going backward, and I didn't understand why, so I figured the best thing to do was discuss this in therapy. After switching insurance, I was on the search for a new therapist, and I specified to her what I was experiencing and asked if we could work through it together. She seemed kind and supportive, and she was a Black woman, something I wanted in this next chapter of therapy and womanhood as I started therapy in my early twenties and I was now approaching my thirties.
A few weeks into our sessions, she flat-out asked me, "Why are you here?" She couldn't understand why someone as successful as me needed therapy and said to me multiple times during the sessions to follow in so many words, "You don't need to be there, I think you're fine."
Yvonne Orji Therapy GIF by Insecure on HBOGiphy
Her words immediately triggered me because I felt like it was her way of saying as a Black woman, seeing me doing well made her wonder why I needed this support. I left and never went back following that session.
That was almost two years ago. There have been times when I wanted to go back, but I'd tensed up at the thought given the traumatic experience, life will always send us experiences the way that challenge us, and I don't think that never returning to therapy is the answer. Before I even began searching for a new therapist, I processed my sessions with the former therapist and, as best as I could, sent empathy her way.
We can often think that our therapists are going to be perfect and not misstep, but they're human and flawed just as we are. Whether we admit it or not, we all walk have our own biases and ways that we see the world. Perhaps she looked at me and thought, This woman is thriving; what problems could she have? She could have gone through life with no one supporting her once she began to succeed.
As I go back into therapy, I've sat with myself, and I feel confident enough to express myself again and share what I need from them in this season as I interview new therapists. There are many articles to support how to find a therapist, but I want to support you if you're heading back to therapy after taking a much-needed break.
Figure Out Your "Why"
You want to know why you're going back and ask yourself if there is something you may need from therapy now that you didn't need before. Your needs could be the same, but as time goes by, we change along with our needs. It helps to prepare a script as you approach therapists to share, for example: "Hi, my name is ______, and I'm looking for support in ______ in therapy at this point of my life."
In this post-pandemic era, Black therapists and therapists overall are overwhelmed and overworked. I can't even begin to tell you how many therapists I know personally that have stopped seeing clients due to burnout. You might not find the therapist you're looking for overnight, and you could very well be scrolling through potential therapists, getting excited at the idea of a conversation with them, and then discovering they are no longer accepting new clients. Do not be discouraged; your therapist is out there.
Don't Be Afraid To Be Vulnerable
I like to look at therapy in many ways like I look at love. And what I mean by that is much like dating; you are not going to get the experience you're looking for without vulnerability. I challenge you to be transparent with your therapist, they will only be able to help you get to the root of what you need support with if they get to know who you really are, and what you need.
I am rooting for you as you head back to therapy. Know that I am supporting you and cheering you on from the sidelines as we go back and do this healing work together.
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