"I didn't know how much children brought into your life until I got a chance to be a part of their lives," the country star tells PEOPLE of being a bonus mom to husband Garth Brooks' three daughters

By Brianne Tracy
May 21, 2021 09:00 AM
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trisha yearwood and garth brooks with daughter allie colleen
Trisha Yearwood, Allie Colleen Brooks and Garth Brooks
| Credit: Rick Diamond/Getty

Trisha Yearwood is opening up about her role as a "bonus mom."

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, the country star, 56, recalls how when she married husband Garth Brooks in 2005 she had to figure out how she fit into the lives of his three daughters Taylor, August and Allie (with his ex-wife Sandy Mahl).

"I had a dog before I married Garth but no children of my own. I never even really babysat!" Yearwood says. "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.'"

More than 15 years later, Yearwood says Taylor, August and Allie (now 28, 27 and 24, respectively) 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 says. "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."

When the girls were teens, Yearwood says one of the ways she bonded with them was through meals.

"We realized it was important [to have meals together] back when the girls were starting to drive," she says. "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."

Through this past year in lockdown, Yearwood says she and Brooks, 59, have gotten back to eating practically "all" of their meals together.

"We've been together basically 24/7," she says. "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."

RELATED VIDEO: Garth Brooks Says He and Trisha Yearwood Are 'Even Closer' After Working on Marriage amid Quarantine

As for Brooks' favorite recipe of hers, Yearwood — whose fourth cookbook, Trisha's Kitchen, debuts this fall — says he isn't picky.

"He loves everything," she says. "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. He loves everything in one dish, so he asked for the new book if I could do a breakfast lasagna. We worked on it together and came up with this amazing recipe that now we have in our arsenal."

"The other favorite meal is from the very first book," she adds. "I do a Sunday roast beef with rice and gravy, and that's our go-to. If somebody's coming over, he'll be like, 'You should make the roast beef. That'll really wow them.' It's the simplest thing ever."

As with her roast beef recipe, Yearwood wanted all of the recipes featured in her new cookbook to feel attainable.

"I wanted to make people really feel like they are in my kitchen," she says. "I'm really excited about it coming out because the food is good, and it's not hard to make. I really love when you can encourage somebody who thinks that they can't cook, that they actually can. It doesn't have to be hard."

When she's not cooking up something special, Yearwood says she can typically be found hanging with her rescue pups Millie and Emmy, who served as the inspiration for her new pet collection (out now).

"I really love rescues," she says. "It's what we always had growing up. I grew up in the country, and you never picked out a dog. A new one always showed up! Having the opportunity to give back and to try to help shelters across the country really makes me feel good because it's something that I so strongly believe in. My dogs are the best, so I wanted to spread that love [with this collection]."

Another way Yearwood has been keeping busy throughout this past year in lockdown has been with a new workout routine.

"Three times a week —no matter what — I do strength training for an hour," she says. "For the first time in my life, there has been consistency because I've been home. It's been so wonderful for me because it provides a sense of responsibility and accountability. It's good for my body and my mind and my spirit."

When Yearwood posted a makeup-free, post-workout selfie to Instagram in April, she says she got an added boost from the overwhelmingly positive response.

"A few days earlier, I had posted a photo from a photo shoot that got a lot of really nice comments, and I started to freak out," she says. "I wanted to make sure people understood that there are two sides: one where you have perfect lighting and someone else does your hair and makeup, and one where you don't."

"So I was thinking about that, and I had done a workout, and I was sweaty and gross," she continues. "I took a selfie, and I thought, 'I should post this.' I really did not expect the response. I think it struck a chord, especially for women. We always want to show our best selves on social media, and there's nothing wrong with that, but we also don't need to give a false sense of we're only at our best all the time."

At 56, Yearwood says she's never felt more confident.

"I'm getting older, and I can feel it, but my mom had good skin, and I'm grateful for those genes," she says. "At 56 — with wrinkles and all the things that come with age — I'm happier in my own skin than I ever was when I was younger. It feels good to get to this place."

For all the details on what Trisha Yearwood's life is really like, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.