I remember when we told our kids we were going to get married. They were images2excited. “Oh boy!” said my future, youngest stepdaughter. “Does that mean I get to call you Mommy?” It rolled off her tongue naturally. I immediately put the kabosh on that. I said as gently as I could, “No, Honey, you already have a mommy.”

I SO wanted to do the right thing. At the time I thought that was the right thing. There were times in the beginning when I regretted my response, but it was done. My stepchildren have called me Susan ever since.

What’s in a name anyway? Just because you’re called by your first name and not “Mom” doesn’t mean you don’t count. It doesn’t make you not important or not loved by your stepchild? It doesn’t make you LESS than the biological mom – just DIFFERENT.

Think about how and why your stepchild, who respects and cares about you, even loves you, still calls you by your first name. She calls her bio mom “Mom” because that’s who she is to the child. The truth is you didn’t give birth to your stepchild and raise her (him) from infancy. Someone else did. The name she uses with you and the name she uses with her bio mom is a definition of the relationship and of habit. Those things don’t change.

Furthermore, the title of Mother is not earned. It just is. It’s not a contest of who’s nicer, prettier,sweeter, a better cook, the favored one or even about who’s a better Mom. What we’re talking about is a stepfamily including biological parents and stepparents. As a stepmom, you’re in this family because you fell in love with a bio parent who has kids.

In healthy stepfamilies, all the players fit in some how, some way. Everyone can occupy a place of respect and recognition, regardless of names and titles. Your attitudes and behaviors towards stepchildren shape and define you far more that what they call you.

After years of marriage I’m still Susan to my stepchildren, and their mother is always “Mom”. It’s never affected my relationship with my stepchildren.

And… if you hang in there long enough as a stepcouple, you’ll be called “ Grandma and Grandpa” by your grandchildren. Funny how it seems to work itself out over time!

NOTE: There is no right or wrong way to address people in your stepfamily. This is one of those things that has to be decided by the individual stepcouple, children and stepchildren. You can come up with your own creative and comfortable ways to be addressed. Some stepmoms are called “Mom”, and it works. Others aren’t. Some people come up with names that work better, ie, Mom 2 or Mom followed by her first name. Go for whatever works. If it doesn’t work, change it later.

What do your stepchildren call you? Does it work for you and for them?

Susan Wisdom
January 1, 2009

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Etjen says:

    Interesting conversation. We haven’t merged or married yet but my stepson to be called me “Almost Mommy” when he learned of our engagement. I’m glad I didn’t respond yet. We now have an opening to explore as a family how we’d like to be referred.

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