The Name Game

21 05 2009

I received a letter from a reader a few days ago. She’s a recently divorced mother of four children between the ages of 8 and 2. Her husband remarried within a year of the divorce. She says, ” My kids have refer to their new stepmother as ‘Mama HER NAME HERE’ which I feel is hurtful and disrespectful to me. Am I out of line suggesting they call her by her first name?”I have written about this very scenario in my book. I also wrote an article for Remarriage Magazine about how stepfamilies choose the names we call each other, which I also reprinted here. This is an excerpt from my letter back to this reader:

If you plan to bring it up with anyone, your ex-husband is the one to talk to about how it makes you feel. You could suggest to him that you’d feel more comfortable if they tell the kids to call their new stepmother by her name. I know this can be challenging because there is so much emotion here, but the most important thing is that the children do not feel caught in a loyalty bind. You are their mother and will always be first in their hearts no matter what. That’s just the way it is. What they call their stepmother, really has nothing to do with their feelings for you. As hurtful as your situation may be, if you can give your kids the message that it’s okay for them to like this new adult in their lives, then you will be doing them a huge service. The research is very clear on this. Kids who feel that liking their stepmothers hurts their mom are stuck in the middle. And they act it out in all sorts of negative and harmful ways as they get older. Of course, this is so much easier said than done.

On the flip side, we stepmothers have to be sensitive to the fact that if we suggest the children call us anything with Mom or Mama in the title, we might make the ex-wife angry and the kids defensive. My stepkids call me by my first name. They only use stepmom when they are introducing me to other people. What do your stepchildren call you?

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25 responses

21 05 2009
chris

When I married DH, both his children and mine were asked what they would be comfortable with.
I’d been down this road as a bio-mom when my ex remarried and felt that what mattered most was whatt he kid was comfortable with. My bios call their SM “mom” and it was tough to swallow for a month or so, but 10 years later–I’m so glad I let the kids choose.

So, my stepkids insist they want to call me “mom.” I offered up alternatives and they were hurt- they wanted me to be “mom” and so, fine, I was Mom. Bio mom knew about ths and seemed fine with it.

Fast forward over a year later and after a year of nonsense and drama, we no longer co-parent with BM and instead use parallel parenting as everything turned into a fight with the BM. BM then announces the Skids are to call me by my first name, after a year of me being “mom.”

Fine with me. I don’t need the drama and I know a name doesn’t define me. It’s weird that she waits a full year to demand this, but whatever.

The skids are damaged by this and instead of calling me anything, I have simply been “you” or no name now for a year. It feels AWFUL to me and to the skids. This wasn’t my war or my problem and it wasn’t the skid’s fault BM decided this was the hill she wanted to die on. I am unwilling to fight with any of them. I have asked them to call me by my name or a nickname and the skids want me to be “mom” so by default I am no name.

I think this should be discussed and agreed on and included in divorces and parenting plans. Too many times this becomes a weapon either the SM, the father or the BM uses to hurt the other. Long before new partners are brought into the picture there should be an agreement about this because it harms everyone when this becomes an issue.

22 05 2009
Ruth

It seems like the original writer’s situation was reasonable. If the kids are between 8 and 2, they need to call the stepmom by some title that indicates her role. Since Dad’s Wife is normally “Mom,” the compromise to ask the kids to call her “Mama Carolyn” or “Mama Heather” seems reasonable. It’s not the same as asking them to call her “Mom.” It differentiates that she’s not their *real* mom, which is why the first name needs to be tagged on, but that when they are at her house, she’s not a neighbor (“Mrs. Watson”) or an aunt, but Dad’s Wife. Little kids learn respect for adults better when they have to use a title, and “Mom” and “Dad” are both titles. Another solution might be for her to be “Mrs. Dad’s Name,” like “Mrs. Bill,” and that’s even weirder.

22 05 2009
Kate

We use the first name rule – my stepkids call me, my parents, my cousins, my siblings and their spouses, all by our first names. Although we introduce eachother typically with “my stepkids” and “my stepmom” and the kids haven’t had to introduce my parents to anyone so I don’t know what they would call them. Probably “Kate’s mom/dad.”

After their dad and I got engaged, the oldest asked if that meant now she could call me Mom. She jumped up and down and hugged us when she realized she could call me Mom, like she had been eagerly waiting for that for some time, and my response was along the lines of, “Well, you can call me Kate or Mom or Stepmom or whatever you feel most comfortable with.” And I didn’t jump for joy at the idea of her calling me mom, like she did. This was not because I wasn’t overly excited that she wanted to call me that. We are very close, I am very much a maternal figure to her, love her dearly, and consider my step-parenting role to be one of the one of the most important roles in my life right now. I hesitated to respond to her with excitement for fear of what her mother would say if I she discovered I was complicit or encouraging of her daughter calling me Mom.

Since then, my stepdaughter slips in a “mom” here and there when she’s talking to me and always gives me a look each time that is a combination of slyness and happiness. Kind of testing out how I will react, I guess, and seeing if she can get away with it. I’m always caught off guard for a moment and then respond just as I would have if she had called me the usual Kate. In retrospect, I responded to her initial request to call me Mom with hesitation based on her mother’s difficult relationship with her father and me, not based on my relationship with her. And I wonder if I did the right thing? Will she think I didn’t want to be as close to her as she wanted to be to me because I reacted this way?

24 05 2009
jacobatthewell

My stepsons call me “Mike”, and my daughter calls my wife “Rachel”. The kids were older when we married, Rachel’s boys 5 and 10, and my daughter 11. We never considered telling them to use any mom, mama, or dad terms (the boys dad and my daughter’s mom are very much in the picture). They oldest two, particularly, would have balked and been uncomfortable. The five year old, who is less aware of the emotional cross-currents, might have been fine calling me Daddy-Mike or something like that initially, but that would have planted a seed that might bear bitter fruit later. Meesha, in http://www.stepmotherrevolution.blogspot.com, wrote a moving most in October 2008 about her little stepdaughter, who initially called Meesha “mommy”, but then, as she became older and more aware, felt guilty and conflicted whenever she used that term.

29 05 2009
dragonmctt

I get so irritated when the conversation about what kids call their step parents revolves around the parent’s feelings. It should always be about what makes the kids feel most comfortable, not whether or not the mom or dad get their feelings hurt by it. The parent is the adult, the one that made the choice to divorce, the child didn’t, get over it!

My irritation comes from personal experience. When my stepson was 7, after living with us 100% of the time for 6 months, he began EOW visits with his mother. When he would go over there, he would sometimes slip up and call her by my name. He had and has always called me by my first name. As a teacher, I can tell you this is common. I can’t even count how many times in the classroom a child has called me mom by accident. It happens.

SS’s mom would get irate when he slipped up and yell at him that she was not me, she was his MOTHER. To the point where one Sunday we picked him up and he bawled in the car on the ride home. He told us the story of what had been happening and then asked if he could call me “mom”. We asked him why? He said he figured if he started calling me mom, then when he went to go visit his mom he would be used to it and he wouldn’t accidentally call her my first name and she would stop getting so upset. We told him whatever made him most comfortable was fine with us.

Unfortunately, he was naive enough at this point to think that telling his mother the next weekend over there about his plan would be a good idea. Instead of acknowledging the struggle he was having trying to keep her happy, she screamed at him for 1/2 hour about how I was not his mom and never would be and he would never call me mom. (We asked him how he knew it was a half hour, we thought he might have been exaggerating, but he said he and his brother were just about to sit down and watch a show, and by the time she was done, it was over!)

She missed the whole point. He wanted to do it to protect her feelings. He came home crying that weekend too. SS is now 16, went 1 1/2 years without seeing her at all, now only visits his mother 2 weeks a year (his choice) and rarely talks to her on the phone. He can’t wait until he is 18 and doesn’t have to see her any more. Wonder why?

To any parent out there that thinks it really matters one bit whether your poor little feelings get hurt by what your child calls another adult in his/her life, get over yourself. It is not about YOU.

And to any parent out there that thinks they are somehow protecting some sacred relationship by making a big deal out of the Name Game, you’re not. You are actually pushing your child away. SS’s mom has learned the hard way – she has barely any relationship with her child anymore. Go figure. But thank god he never called me mom.

21 06 2011
Christina Kelso

For you to feel this way, you MUST not have had any children of your own, which makes sense why you would be so quick to say “Get Over It”, 2those of us, who actually went through the pain of carrying the child/children,& delivering them, staying up taking care of them when they were sick, being up every 3hrs, losing sleep, dealing w/the madness that comes along w/getting them ready 4 school, making sure they are eating the right foods which entails cooking, taking them to appts..you get where I’m going w/this!..Step-moms, in most situations, are “Weekend Moms”..Sorry, but youare…so GET OVER IT & accept it! A lot of us “Real Mothers” actually Do care what we are called, and what our kids are calling someone else. When a woman carries a child, and sacrifices her whole life for her children… I think she deserves the respect to be the ONLY one to be called, Mom, Mother Mommy etc….

22 06 2011
dragonmctt

The fact that she gave birth does not excuse a life-time of neglect and emotional abuse – sorry

16 02 2012
Kevin

Your remark is plainly feminist and a tad selfish. It is silly to feel sorry for a woman simply because she went through some pain to birth a child. That is what women are designed for physiologically speaking; childbearing. There are plenty of women who give birth out there that don’t want or don’t care about the poor soul they carried. Also consider the case of the surrogate mother whom literally birth children for money. As far as what makes a “real” mother, ask any adopted child who has a loving relationship with his/her adoptive mother that question. Oh yes, and don’t forget about the least respected situation of all, which is no less difficult than that of a single mother who actually gave birth to said child, the single full-time father caring for an infant. That is my situation, by the way.

dragonmctt is dead on the money with that post you disagreed with. I’m not asking for anyone’s pitty here because it isn’t about me. I accepted this possible outcome when I decided to start having sex with my ex-wife. My boy didn’t just fall out of the sky onto my head. Now I get to do what I’m supposed to do and put my son FIRST. I don’t DESERVE anything just because I’m his biological father. I can write out all of the add-on’s if you will. (There when he was born, changed his first diaper, woke up every 3 hours to check on him, lost sleep, blah blah blah BORING) Every good parent goes through this regardless of whether or not the child was actually birthed by him/her.

Ultimately the child should be allowed and encouraged to make the most out of ALL of the positive adult relationships he has. That means potentially all 4 parents and their extended families etc…. It’s our job as parents to respect the feelings of our children. I find it to be almost criminal that people would force their own selfish desires on their poor children and then play mind games with their exes vicariously through them. Respect is not a birth right, you have to give it to your kids to get it back. How pathetic.

10 04 2012
momma

You must have gone through one bitter divorce. I hope you realize this so-called “Weekend Moms” have a huge hand in raising YOUR children. I think she deserves the respect for taking on those responsibilies. With any luck your children have a step mother who cares for them and respects you as a part, and if you were smart you would be kind to the woman caring for your children when your not around.

And as a side note for any responses to my comment- I am both a bio mom and step-mom. So I really understand both sides.

25 05 2012
Stacy

So what about in a situation like mine. I have two sons that call my husband Daddy because their father is non existant. Do I tell my 3 and 6 year old boys that they can’t call the man who is their father Daddy? And I also have two step-daughters. The 5 year old calls me Mommy and her mother is mom. There is always that distinction. We have custody of both girls, but only because their mother moved after being fired AGAIN and so no longer lives in an are where she can exercise her 50/50 visitation. I am the woman who kisses their boo-boo’s, prepares their meals, tucks them into bed, helps them with their homework, helps them pick out clothes, does their hair, takes them to band practice, goes to soccer games and videotapes them. Doesn’t that make me their mother? Just because I did not give birth to them does not mean that I don’t care for them day in and out and am in fact their mother. My boys step-mother will never be called Mom or Mommy because they already have a functioning mother. She can be any other name and if I were to ever fail in my mother duties and they called her Mom, it would be my fault and I would have to suck it up.

16 11 2012
Ariana

I think that a biomom who only sees her child once a month is in a different category to a mom who is a full-time mom or in a shared custody situation. Your stepchildrens mother sounds like she’s out of control and, in general, has no acknowledgement of others feelings.

There are people (men and women) who get married a year after a divorce and want their kids to call their new spouce ‘Mom/Dad’, or they tell the child to call them that when they’re very small. This is also based on the other parents, and the step parents, feelings. Is that fair to a child? Some kids get told to call their stepparent ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ when they’re young and feel guilty about it when they get older. That isn’t very fair to them either.

I don’t understand why some stepparents wish to be called by the ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ label by other peoples children, especially ones who are very active and involved in the childs life. Some people do it even after the Mom/Dad have explicitly said they wish to be the only ones called that. So then they continue to do it in spite of knowing how it effects another person. Is that fair? Is that not having the step-parent only thinking of their own feelings?

If they child is older and came to that decision on their own (without being pressured one way or the other), or the other parent is barely involved in the childs life I can see them calling the other parent Mom or Dad as acceptable, but to have a young child or to be introduced to the person as ‘oh this is Mama ____ or Daddy _____’ is pretty selfish on that step-parents/other parents part.

3 06 2009
Kela

This same question has been brought up numerous times on my weblog or emailed to me as well, and I always tell my readers to ask themselve this question prior to stating their concerns to other blended family members; “Do all of your statements or concerns begin with “I?” If so, then that means it’s likely about YOU and not your children? The harsh reality is, who cares how YOU feel? It’s about your children being comfortable with the divorce and remarriage and making sure you don’t create any divided loyalties for them. Divorce and remarriage nowadays is too much about the adults and that’s why our children suffer the most long-term damage as a result.

My son calls his stepmom mom and it doesn’t and has never bothered me in the least. As a matter of fact, I was so happy that he felt close enough to her to start calling her mom in the first place. That means that she’s doing something right and making him feel like her own in their home. THAT SHOULD BE ALL THAT MATTERS!

I completely understand how one might be hurt due to a situation such as this, but just because your pain is understandable doesn’t make it okay voice your concerns (to your ex-spouse or his/her new spouse). My advice is to consult a therapist to deal with issues regarding your divorce or your ex-spouse’s remarriage, but don’t be selfish by telling them that they can’t do something that they are comfortable with just because it hurts your feelings.

Kela
Founder of http://www.blendedfamilysoapopera.com

15 06 2009
StepMom

“My son calls his stepmom mom and it doesn’t and has never bothered me in the least. As a matter of fact, I was so happy that he felt close enough to her to start calling her mom in the first place. That means that she’s doing something right and making him feel like her own in their home. THAT SHOULD BE ALL THAT MATTERS!”

Kela, I wish more bio-moms felt this way. Sadly it is more about them and their insecurities. My stepdaughter started calling me mom because she felt comfortable with it. I never asked her to call me that, and never pushed her one way or the other. She reasoned in her own little 5-year-old mind that I do all the same things that a ‘mom’ does, so she should just call me that. :) I told her that was fine with me as long as she was happy with it.

Sadly her bio-mom heard her say it one day, and gave her a HUGE guilt trip on how that is a ‘special’ name that is ONLY for REAL moms, it broke my heart to see her in the middle of that. She didn’t understand why it was wrong, but she also didn’t want to ‘hurt her moms feelings’, so she’d call me mom out of habit and then say “Oh.. sorry.. I mean (first name)” it felt like a knife each time she did it. I simply smiled and swallowed the pain, it wasn’t worth putting her even deeper in the middle.

This really should be something left to the the child and their comfort level, they should never be put into a ‘chose between us’ situation. It’s completely unfair.

19 06 2009
OtherMother

The ever-ensuing issue of the “Name Game” – from not only my experience, but for those of you who have posted as well – seems be more of a problem with the bio-mom due to her own insecurities. Even worse than a bio-mom discouraging her child from calling their stepmother whatever they feel most comfortable with is encouraging her child to call their BIO-DAD by his first name. This, unfortunately, is the predicament my husband and I have found ourselves in. My step-daughter loves her father, and expresses as much whenever she’s with him. He’s her beloved “daddy”. When she isn’t with him, however, she’s instructed by her mother to call her “daddy” by his first name, and encouraged to call her mother’s BOYFRIEND – not her husband, not her fiancee, her BOYFRIEND – “daddy”. My step-daughter has come to my husband in tears and expressed her young, five-year-old confusion on the situation. When my husband confronted his daughter’s mother, and asked her to think of their daughter’s well-being and fragile feelings, she became unruly and benevolent. She didn’t want to listen to reason at all. Although it was clear she was hurting and confusing her young daughter, she repeatedly threw out her “mother knows best” trump card in order to justify her misguided actions. Like in so many others, it all comes down to selfishness and pride on the bio-mom’s behalf in this situation. It’s one thing to make a child feel guilty for warming up to their stepmother, but it’s another thing entirely to try and turn the child against the other bio-parent. I agree with the other comments made thus far: children should never be placed in the middle of adult confrontations. They should be encouraged to forge and deepen new and existing bonds with the adult, parental figures in their lives without prejudice or jealousy interfering with that process.

6 07 2009
Christine

Great advice. This last weekend I was walking with my boyfriends six year old daughter and she asked me if she could call me mom. I picked her up and gave her a huge hug and told her how happy that made me and that I loved her a lot. I also told her that we might want to ask her mom if it’s okay because we would never want to hurt her feelings. I told her that if it did that we could come up with our own special name that she could call me. I hugged her again and we went about our business. Then, throughout the rest of the weekend she would call me mom and watch and see how I responded. I just responded as if she called me by my name. I talked to her dad about it and we both agreed that it would be more painful to tell his daughter no but we both don’t want to hurt her mom’s feeling either. It sure is a tough one. I like the above comments about how it’s not really about the parents…it’s about the kids and how they feel and how comfortable they feel and if they feel loved. I know that I would not like my kids to call someone else mom but for some reason this little girl wants me to be her mom and I’d love nothing more than to be a mom to her. She is even prompting her 3 year old brother to call me mom.

20 09 2009
Mary

It’s not noble allow my bio kids to call their stepmother “mom.” While you’re all congratulating yourselves for your selflessness (insert eye roll here), there is nothing wrong with having a parent–be it mother or father–NOT want their child calling their stepparent “mom” or “dad.” While we should be mindful of what the children want, we must also create boundaries. If my husband had a child, I would never, EVER want that child to call me “mom,” not if the mother were alive and present in the child’s life. That is disrespectful to the biological parent. Period. And that causes resentment between parties, understandably, because it’s just plain wrong. It’s NOT right to call a stepparent “mom” or “dad” (the exceptions being those otherwise noted above), and should not be encouraged. It causes confusion and frustration. As for dragonmctt’s post, I’m positive that the young man doesn’t speak to his mother for reasons OTHER than her wanting to call her “mom.”

Get over yourselves. Set boundaries, and stop patting yourselves on the back. Calling a stepparent “mom” or “dad” is wrong and unacceptable.

23 09 2009
CeeCee

Well, you are entitled to your opinion, but I think the hostility is uncalled for.

It is noble to allow a child to do what the child feels most comfortable with regarding something so petty as a nickname.

I am not defined by my title.
As a biomom, I have lost NOTHING in my children calling the stepmom Mom. My relationship was not harmed, my role was not diminished and my life was not affected one tiny bit. My ego took a tiny hit at first and then I realized that the kids have been through enough. It was a stupid hill to die on. I am secure enough as a bio mom that I know calling a stepparent “mom” costs me nothing. It’s a nickname.

I could care less what my stepchildren call me as long as it is respectful. I do take issue when someone who does not reside in my home demands that her feelings trump everyone else’s. The stepmom has feelings, too. the children have feelings too. It’s not all about the bio parent and it’s that kind of territorial pettiness that mess the kids up more than the initial divorce ever did.

Any parent who feels their feelings and opinions are the primary ones that should be respected, pretty much has no business lecturing others on respect. The children have been through enough. What matters is that the child is allowed to be raised in peace and not subjected to the insecure demands of a bio parent who cannot get things in perspective.

I think considering the feelings of others such as the step parent and the child is the very difinition of “getting over yourself.”

14 11 2009
Cindy

Mary, why does it bother you so much to have your child call their stepmom, mom. If its not forced upon them and thats what the children want, I see no problem with this. Grow Up. Names are just that, it doesnt correspond with your childs feelings. If your children resent you it probably has a lot more than name usage.

8 04 2010
Denise Burks

My step-kids call me by my name, Denise, although I recently found scribbling under the basement staircase where my stepson had written with a big black permanent marker f***Denise! So I guess there were times in the past twelve years that they did have nicknames for me, too. I suggest treading softly on this topic. Divorce sucks for kids. Try not to make a big deal out of anything. Take it from me. Be a little bit chill or you’ll find yourself with similar nicknames.

http://stepmotherinthesuburbs.blogspot.com/2010/02/whos-kid-is-it.html

1 06 2010
Kimberlee

I think I’m the only one on here who is not a parent, but one of the stepkids: I am 18 years old and have had a stepmom since I was 7 and a stepdad since I was 13. I call both my stepparents by either their first names or silly nicknames I have for them, because that’s what I wanted; but if I had wanted to call them Mom or Dad I would have, regardless of how my birth parents felt about it. Divorce, split custody, and remarriage is hard enough, you don’t need to add politics to something as ridiculous as what you call someone. I think the only feelings considered should be that of the stepparent and stepchild: every one of these bonds in different, they alone should decide how close they are and what name is appropriate. Sorry bio-parents, but if a child feels like a stepparent is another true parent to them, they should be allowed to call them Mommy or Daddy if they so choose.

7 12 2011
tara

My step son flips back and forth, sometimes I’m Tara sometimes I’m mom….but no matter what he calls me, I will always call him my son.

24 12 2011
sarita

I told my step kids I don’t believe in children calling adults by their first name. I said they could call mrs.norton, miss sarita , step mom or mom. They chose mom and their mom told them not to call me mom so nows I’m a little hurt and they are confused.

6 01 2012
Dene' Ballantine

I am a mom with 2 adult daughters who have a step-mom. I was also raised with a stepfather (actually 2) after my parents divorced. As a result, I have some experience with the ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ title regarding step-parents.

My childhood blended families (I was raised with my biologic mom) insisted that us kids use the title ‘Dad’ when referring to our step-father to avoid the embarrassment of being a mixed family, and many families still approach the blended-family situation this way. Another common reason a family culture will take on calling the step-parent either ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ is to demean the absent parent with the implicit substitution of a ‘GOOD parent- not like that OTHER one’- a common occurrence in one or both of divorced parents who are unable to overcome resentments against the other. However, instead of a black or white, salt or pepper approach regarding what to call a step-mom (or step-dad), I think a more cooperative and ‘larger-picture’ approach works better, and maybe especially so when communication is poor and bad feelings are still present with ex-partners.

First, the truth is fine and there is nothing wrong with referring to a step-parent by his/her correct and proper title of ‘Step-mom’ or ‘Step-dad’. That is the least hurtful and least offensive of all choices (besides calling the step-parent by his/her own name) in most cases.

However, the usage of the term ‘Mom’ (or ‘Dad’) is a special one and it DOES (most of the time) come with a unique set of emotional identifiers and expectations for most people. Moms who have loved their children go through an inner confusion (often with negative emotions) when they hear their child calling another woman by the title that should properly be used when referring to the biological or adoptive Mom. The same thing is true when a child who loves their mother hears his or her mother calling a non-biological child her ‘daughter’ or ‘son’. (“But I AM her daughter/son, not YOU” is a common thought for children to feel that comes with negative emotion.) Confusion and upsets come from lack of clarity in the intention and expectations of both mom and daughter (or the male counterparts thereof.)

Even more confusion occurs when the Oedipus complex shows up. Daughters consciously or unconsciously create a ‘mom or me’ dynamic in relation to their fathers (Moms AND Dads can’t win here , because if Dad chooses mom, the daughter feels rejected… and if Dad chooses the daughter, the daughter feels superior to and often disrespects her mother. Either way, problems are sure to follow, and use of the term ‘Mom’ when addressing a new step-mom can be another way to intentionally display disrespect and cause pain in the biological Mom.)

Children are also not mature until around the age of 21, when brain cells complete the ‘differentiation process’… meaning that children do NOT have full thinking capacity until that time. Before biologic maturity, teens and children take risks and make decisions based more on emotional responses than thought-out decisions. Parents can keep focusing on the longer-term picture and know that ‘this too will pass’.

Personally, I feel a tinge of hurt every time one of my adult daughters calls their step-mom, ‘Mom’. I look at the outcome of any response I might be tempted to give and I am left with this: they are ultimately going to do what they are going to do. If we shame our children for calling their step-mom “Mom”, our children will only take it ‘underground’… and increased secrecy only causes MORE distance between mom and child. After sharing (without ‘victim’ emotion) how I felt with one of my adult daughters, I was left with the understanding that she is very clear about me being her MOM… and the other one is mom (caps or lack thereof intended). Communication with safety and acceptance is important because it releases resentments and unrealistic expectations.

This particular daughter has turned out to be kind and considerate (lucky me), so she respectfully avoids referring to her step-mom as ‘mom’ around me. She does refer to her step-mom as ‘Mom’ in correspondence, etc., and when I read it I initially cringe, then quickly collect myself and move on.

In one of my darker moments from the past (and you know that we all have our darker thoughts… or we are untruthful), I was tempted to refer to one of the young women I mentor as ‘daughter’ during a conversation my daughter(s) could overhear, with the purpose of sharing the same pain response I have felt when my daughters call their father’s wife ‘Mom’. I wanted to think that my daughters loved me so much that they would not continue to do something that they knew hurt me- a personal control issue with a juicy payoff: I could have chosen to blame my daughters for my own negative emotions instead of taking responsibility for them, myself. Isn’t it good to know that we do have control over our actions and thoughts!

The real opportunity this situation provided for me was to look to see what needed to be smoothed out or transformed in my own personality to line up my expectations with reality so that I would not be negatively affected by my beloved child calling another woman by my perceived title.
It is important to be honest about ALL our feelings, including all feelings of upset (feelings are not ‘real’ or ‘not real’, they just ARE.) By acknowledging our feelings with acceptance instead of judgment, we can look at them as an observer might do. This gives us the opportunity to move past our initial, unhelpful emotional response(s) into a more desirable and satisfying long-term response that WILL create a better future… (win the war, instead of winning one battle and losing the war, so to speak).

Making someone wrong or blaming/disparaging a person (name-calling, judgment, or assumptions and conclusions based on your own personal past experiences) when Moms feel hurt because their daughter (or son) calls their step-mom ‘Mom’ is not helpful for anyone. Acknowledging hurt feelings, then deciding on a more DESIRABLE outcome that respects both the parent and child, and moving with appropriate actions towards that more positive future is much more empowering to create long term positive results for everyone.

11 08 2012
J Dub

I am a stepmom and have been living with and caring for my stepdaughter for almost 2 years now (since about her 2nd birthday). She’s always called me by my first name but it’s getting more and more awkward as time goes on. I spend a significant amount of time with her by myself (taking her to dance, to the zoo, etc). Everything is fine until she yells out my name across a crowded room and everyone looks at me like “oh, she’s not your daughter, we thought she was.” And then you can see people trying to figure it out…babysitter? (I’m 11 years younger than her dad) stepmom? other random person?

When she talks about her family it’s always Mommy, Daddy & my name. She calls my parents grandma and grandpa, but I am just me.

It doesn’t necessarily hurt my feelings that she doesn’t call me by some nickname and I certainly do not want to instruct her to call me Mom. She has a mom and that would have to be her choice (when she’s older). I am looking for some other nickname though, that doesn’t scream babysitter or stepmom when we are in public and that includes me in the family.

Any suggestions?

24 10 2012
Green Bay Rocks

Not ALL Stepmoms are weekend mothers. I work in my stepdaughters classroom, pick them up from school, take them on playdates, help with homework, the list goes on. It is really a shame even if there are weekend Stepmoms out there to be so bitter. They are still with you children and influence them in some way. Therefore if you alienate yourself from them it will never let you really have a healthy relationship with everyone involved in your childrens upbringing.

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