When parents divorce and remarry, the kids typically ask themselves the same questions: Did they do something wrong to cause their parents to divorce? Will the stepmom take their mother’s place? Will mom get mad if the kids happen to like dad’s new girlfriend?
Divorce and remarriage don’t have to lead to family strife or a long-term battle between stepparents, parents and their kids, says Tami Butcher, the author of a children’s book called, “My Bonus Mom! Taking the Step out of Stepmom.”
She should know. Butcher’s parents amicably divorced when she was 11, and for the sake of Butcher and her sisters, their parents both stayed fully involved in their children’s lives after the divorce.
Both of Butcher’s parents eventually remarried, but continued to share birthdays, holidays and special times together with their children and new spouses. Her parents never called each other names or battled over the kids, Butcher said.
Because of her parents’ efforts, Butcher, 44, said she and her sisters grew up feeling blessed for having extra parents. Butcher came to view her stepmom as a “bonus mom.”
“My parents truly put their egos aside,” she said. “It took the guilt and pressure off of us.”
Butcher said her positive experience with her stepparents led her to write her first book in a series that will include two more books: “Bonus Dad” and “Bonus Sister,” which is about her youngest sister born to her mom and stepdad. Both new books are pending publication.
“My Bonus Mom!” is aimed at children age 11 and younger, and was published last summer by Little Five Star, a division of Five Star Publications, Inc., based in Chandler, Az., where Butcher lives with her husband and three children, ages 15, 10 and 7.
Butcher helps with the family restaurant business while her mother and “bonus dad” own two restaurants in Phoenix. Butcher and her children frequently travel to Southern California during baseball season as her husband, Mike, is the pitching coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Mike Butcher has been with the Angels organization for 26 years as both a minor and major league player and a coach since 2000.
Tami Butcher graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in business communications and later earned a teaching degree from Grand Canyon University. While teaching seventh-graders at Phoenix Prep Academy, she made it her goal to write a children’s book.
Butcher said stepparents have gotten a bad rap in many children’s fairytales, books and movies, leading kids to have a closed mind about having a stepparent or blended family (think: Cinderella).
Based on Butcher’s positive experiences with her stepparents, she hopes to show that children who come from divorced families that maintain a positive attitude can be happy. Her picture book discusses the conflicting emotions children experience through divorce and remarriage such as dismay, anger and fear.
When asked what she hopes young readers would take away from her book, Butcher said, “I would like for them to learn that having somebody extra to love you in your life is an amazing thing.”
She said her mom worked, was on the school board and was an Arizona state lawmaker, while Nancy was a stay-at-home mom.
“What my mom didn’t give us, Nancy gave us…. Your dad married the stepmom because there is something special about her. Kids should look for that too. It’s not good that your parents are getting divorced, you’re sad, angry and scared, but things will get better. If you open your heart to that person, it will make it so much easier.”
Butcher said she hopes parents will read her book and share it with their kids so that divorced parents realize the importance of “taking the high road” and building an amicable relationship with their ex-spouses.
“Oftentimes people focus on the negative when there can be a positive side to divorce. My bonus mom, Nancy, has been an incredible mother and grandmother to me, my sisters and our children,” Butcher said. “We never called Nancy our stepmom. We never used that word in our house. We never said stepdad. We said, “This is Nancy or my other mom, Nancy.”
One of Butcher’s sisters had heard another child use the term “bonus mom” to refer to the stepmom he loved, so the family adopted the term and Butcher thought it was a great name for her book.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.