Updated: May 17, 2021
We sat in our various spaces, over Zoom, in 3 Mid-western States, discussing how to bless stepmoms in 2021. It was time to do something on a larger scale. Boxes? Nope. Not yet. More content? We have a library full of resources and more to come. Someone, I can't actually remember who, said, "How about we honor a woman as our Stepmom of the Year?" YES!!! And SOTY was born.
We all know how hard it is to "stepmom". Varying degrees of conflict, parental alienation, feelings of powerlessness, and more, are heaped on top of normal, everyday, issues of life. Add in High-conflict Bio Moms, Disneyland Dads, Interfering Extended-Family, child support, spousal support, etc. and "hard" seems like an understatement.
Imagine living "in-step" while engaging with, not one, not two, but FOUR Bio-moms. Now, imagine engaging with four Bio-moms while mothering a his, mine, and ours
hodge-podge of 7 children.
Now imagine mothering those 7 children, then the girlfriend of your bonus son comes to live with you, along with your new grandchild. Now, imagine they have a second child while living with you. Got the picture? Now, imagine doing all of that while battling Stage 2 Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Feels overwhelming, doesn't it. Well, Cassie Rogers does that with grace, wisdom, aplomb, and a smile.
Two aspects of Cassie's story arrested our attention. First, the narrative of the person who nominated Cassie was filled with appreciation for how hard Cassie worked to bring the family together. Second, the person who nominated Cassie was the mom of her 7-year old bonus child. Bio-mom had this to say about Cassie:
"She communicates with the moms to keep the peace between us and their dad. Invites us to most activities and all special occasions and our other kids. She enrolls all the kids in school, sends us 1st day school pics and any other pics she takes. She sends all info on Dr.'s appts, school info, grades, and any other important info we need to know. She cares for and loves our kids the same as she does her own...She has even bought groceries and anything else I have told her I needed for my household, and taken me to the store to shop if she's in town. On top of all this she has a form of cancer she is currently on chemo for plus has a part time job. She is hardworking, determined, has a huge heart, loves each of the kids for who they are...[Child] calls her Mom and says he loves her as much as he loves me. I could not have ever asked for a better stepmom for my son!"
For a Bio-Mom to embrace, admire, and love a Bonus-Mom is amazing. For her to love her so much, she doesn't mind her child calling Bonus Mom "Mom" and expressing a love for her equal to his love for mom is stupefying. But, I get it. Cassie is as impressive in person as she is on paper.
When asked why it's important to her to include her bonus kids' mom, this bubbly stepmom had this to say:
"I always try to include my bonus kids' moms in everything we do. I host a mother's day dinner every year for them. I don't want to ever leave them out of anything important in the kids life. As a mother myself, I would want to be included. So I tried to show empathy for everyone, even in the worst circumstances."
"I grew up without my mom. My dad wouldn't let her be a part of our lives. And I knew how it felt how to be without both parents in my life. So I kinda made it my mission, that if I were to ever become a stepmom, I would include them in their kids' life regardless of the circumstances."
"I encourage [the moms] to be the best they can be because the kids need them in their lives. They need to know that they loved and wanted and not just by me and their biological dad but their bio-moms too!"
When asked what has been most rewarding, she responded with:
"The love and support of the kids. Seeing them grow."
"Everything I do is for these kids."
Her last words of advice for Stepmoms who might be struggling with Bio-mom, or their roles, were:
"The first few years are the worst. The relationships are new and fresh. So, some of the bio-moms might not have respect for you. They think you're trying to take their place. You have to put yourself in their position, show some empathy, and let them know, "Hey I'm here. I'm here for my children, I'm here for your children and I'm just going to be the best Bonus Mom that I can be... I tell them what's on my mind. They may not like it at times but it's never about putting them down. It's always let's try to do better for the kids. Let's build a relationship so that we can be better... after a while they get tired of being high-conflict... With one of my bonus kid's mom, she calls me about everything, we were very high-conflict, there was a couple years we were constantly in and out of court. But we've managed to become somewhat friends, I like to say we're friends. We've embraced that relationship. She says, 'I'm a better mom because of you!' and it's because I didn't put her down, but I challenged her... let's see what we can do as a family to make it better."
Thank you Cassie for leading with honesty, open arms, empathy, and by keeping the kids first! You truly deserve the title of Stepmom of the Year!
If you'd like to hear Cassie in her own words, please check out our podcast. We're going to check in with her in about 6-months and we ask that you keep her and her family in prayer as Cassie continues her battle against cancer.