When Trisha Yearwood married Garth Brooks, she also became stepmom to Brooks' three daughters, Taylor, 28, August, 27, and Allie, 24, who Brooks shares with ex-wife Sandy Mahl. In a new interview with PEOPLE, the Grammy winner looked back on her early years as a "bonus mom," sharing that she got some important advice from her husband.
"I had a dog before I married Garth but no children of my own. I never even really babysat!" Yearwood exclaimed. "So I didn't know what to do with three young girls. Garth was such a wonderful mentor to me as to how to be a parent, and he told me, 'You'll find your way with each of them. Don't try to be their best friend, and don't try to be their mom.'"
It's now been over 15 years since Yearwood and Brooks married, and Yearwood noted that her stepdaughters have given her "a lot of grace" as a parent. "They let me learn my way and allowed me to be that third parent in their lives," she said. "They were a gift that I didn't know I needed. I didn't know how much children brought into your life until I got a chance to be a part of their lives."
Yearwood loves to cook, and meals became one of the singer's favorite times to bond with the girls when they were teenagers. "We realized it was important [to have meals together] back when the girls were starting to drive," she explained. "Getting three teenagers together at once is almost impossible, so we started having 'veggie night' to try to get more vegetables in their diet. They loved it, and some of the best conversations happened around that table."
During the pandemic, Yearwood and Brooks returned to eating nearly "all" of their meals together. "We've been together basically 24/7," Yearwood said. "We kind of lost that as we got busier in our lives, and I think that getting that time back was really valuable for us as a family, especially for me being a bonus mom."
The Trisha's Southern Kitchen host used those many meals as an opportunity to test-drive recipes for her upcoming cookbook, and Brooks was happy to offer his opinions. "He loves everything," Yearwood said. "And he's wonderful because he's honest. So in testing recipes for the new book, if something didn't seem like it had enough spice, he would give me real advice. Sometimes I didn't want to hear that because I'm like, 'I think this is perfect!' But he was usually right."