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Can we talk about children calling step parents mom/dad?

post #1 of 82
Thread Starter 
Little background. I have a 4 yr old step son who calls me mom. His father and I were married when he was 6 mths old, and we were seriously dating when he was born. He lives with his mom, he loves her, he knows I am not his mom. As he grows older he calls me mom out of habit, but the times are fewer and farther between. This is a very tricky subject, his mother and I have never discussed. Naturally I would understand if she doesn't want him calling me mom. She is his mother I can't argue with her. On the other hand I wasn't going to tell dss he couldn't call me mom when he was just learning to talk and didn't really understand what was going on. Perhaps I should have, but for some reason I felt I would send him the wrong message if I did? All the other children were calling me mom, yk? As he grew older and was able to understand a bit more each year we discussed the topic in more detail. I am his 'step mom' he grew in his 'mom's' belly not mine. I love him and if he wants to call me mom he can and if he would like to call me by my first name he can.

So my question is about oldest dd. She does not call my dh dad. This is a no-brainer to me. She was turned 4 the year we were married, she has a dad, she lives primarily with him. You get the point. However, X-dh married a year ago. My dd calls her mom: I've said nothing to dd or X-dh. I don't want to live by a double standard. Her step mother has 3 other children, they call X-dh 'dad'. I'm really uncomfortable with it all b/c of all that I know about X. He has alot going on, for instance, social services substantiated he abused one of his step children, though he wasn't married to their mother at the time, they were just living together. (ETA: YES, I did something about it, but no criminal charges were brought.......I digress.)

Anyway, can I get some thoughts on this? Stepmother has become very unhappy and overbearing and I'm really not liking that dd calls her mom, but I don't know what, if anything, I should do?
post #2 of 82
That's a tough one... I"m sure it would bother me too.
My DSD calls me by first name, she also calls her stepdad by his first name. On the other hand, my sister's DSD calls her mom.

Different kids are comfortable with different things. However, I guess you have to tell yourself that it would be wrong to steer her against it, but most importantly, is that just because she calls someone "mom", doesn't mean she forgets that you are her "real mom".

post #3 of 82
I think it depends on why DD calls her stepmother "mom." If it is just something that she started doing, then that's cool. If the adults in the house are forcing it on her, that isn't okay in my book. She should call her stepmother whatever feels comfortable/respectful to both of them.

I call my stepdad by his first name, but when I am talking to others I refer to him as "my dad" or when I am talking about my mom and step dad, I say "my parents." I also have a relationship with my bio dad, so whenever I say "my dad," my df says "Which one?"
post #4 of 82
I am the full time mom to my DSD. I've known her since she was 2, she is 6 now. She asked to call me mom 4 months after meeting me because she wanted a mom. I'm okay with it. Her BM (who is not a part of her life) has a problem with it. She does not like it at all and it's because it makes her feel like she is not DSD's mom. If your DD isn't being forced to call her mom then I think you should just let it go. She knows you're her mother.
post #5 of 82
We've dealt with this one. When DH and I married, my DS was 6 and my DD was 4. His DS had just turned 3 the week before our wedding. My DD occasionally slipped and called DH "Daddy," but my kids didn't ever really wanted to call DH by anything other than his first name. SS, though, wanted badly to call me Mommy. We actively (though gently) discouraged that because we knew it would be very hurtful to his mom.

Several years later, BM moved in with her boyfriend and started encouraging SS to call him Dad. DH was bothered by that, partly because he is the only dad, and partly because he felt cheated when we'd thought of BM's feelings and she didn't seem concerned for DH's. DH spoke to BM about it and told her that it was fine if they found some other name for SS to call BF other than his first name, but it shouldn't be Dad or Daddy. Fortunately, she didn't fight him, since of course she doesn't have to do what he says! At any rate, I think SS never really liked it and preferred to call BF by his first name, which is what he does now.

I really think that, when the bio (or original adoptive) parent is alive, it's not OK to have anyone else get that honorary title. Not for the sake of the kids; like a PP said, kids know who their parents are, but for the sake of the parents. It's hard to co-parent with a person you don't know and didn't choose. I'm the only mom of my kids, and I'm the only one who gets called that.
post #6 of 82
Thread Starter 
I really appreciate these responses guys. This is something that I desperately need to reconcile in my mind on BOTH ends.

As for dd, I've given it more thought and I think that the reason it bothers me is b/c: DD lives primarily with her dad, and while I see her for each and every weekend/weekly vsit, holiday visitation, additional holiday visitations, birthday visitation, summer visitations, school events, and I call her almost everynight (though I don't always get an answer), I'm not with her everyday, her step mother is. So if she were with me full time and only saw her step mom for visits I think I might feel less threatend. I know that's not fully logical, but it's true.

Where my dss is concerned, I have always had conflicting feelings about him calling me mom b/c I know that it probably wouldn't be a "good thing" as far as his mothers is concerned. I can totally undestand that, I always have, but it seemed so heart wrenching at the time b/c he was SO young. Now that he's 4 1/2, like I said, we've discussed that I'm his 'step-mom' and I've also told him that he should refer to his mother as 'mom' when all 3 of us are together, and not call me mom.

There is NOTHING I can do about dd calling SM 'mom'. You have no idea what I deal with, and I wouldn't dare say a word and run the risk of causing more disagreements in that home than already exists. Believe me, I rarely ever say a word if I can avoid it at all.
post #7 of 82
I'll try to respond to this

My dd is very young and her father and I haven't been together since I became pregnant. He married when dd was a few months old but had been dating for some time before that. It is one of my "fears" that dd will begin calling SM "mom" on her own since dd is so young and just doesn't understand the dynamics yet (very much like your ss). I hope her SM will actively discourage that. DD does not have to understand the relationship with her SM to call SM an appropriate name- something other than a derrivative of Mom. If SM or ex do not stop her from referring to SM as mom- I will most certainly stop her. She has a Mommy. One who carried her in her body, birthed her, sat by her bedside while in the hospital, cared for her after surgeries, nursed her from her breast, does her therapy with her, cares for all of her needs 98% of the time. I will always be there and always be her only Mommy. Nobody else desrves that title. Just the same as nobody else deserves the title of Daddy besides her father.

A situation that comes to mind is dd's gparents. She doesn't have to know her particular relationship with them to call them Grandma/Grandpa, YK? It's all about how I refer to them in regards to dd. Understanding the relationship will come in time.

I know others here think it is OK for a child to choose to call a SM "mom" but that is simply not an option, IMO. Young children are taught what is OK and what is not. It is not OK for them to call a SP Mom or dad, and should be instructed as such.

As far as your dd calling her SM Mommy- I'd talk to your ex about that. Maybe he doesn't realize it's hurtful to you and if you talk about it he'll stop. It doesn't so much sound like that's a real possibility from your most recent reply. It's a tough situation but it is something that should have been nipped in the bud much earlier in the relationship. Really, it sounds like there were a few mis-steps by yourself on your ss's behalf and by your ex on your dd's behalf. I hope you come to terms with the situation...
post #8 of 82
Thread Starter 
I think you've put into terms precisely what I think that my ss mom would say if approached about the situation. I appreciate your post b/c it's important to be reminded of that POV. As far as mis-steps go, I'm positive there have been a few, but in fairness, I think all of us collectively as parents, rather we see it or not, have been guilty of a 'few mis-steps'. That's why I try so hard to do what is best for the child, while still keeping the parents in mind.

This calls to mind something that has influenced me in my choice. My granny was called granny by children other than her biological grandchildren. The children that lived next door to her called her that. They were very close with her all of their lives, starting at birth or a very early age. Those children had two real sets of grandparents that loved them very much, and I'm not sure how they felt about their title being given to someone else? That situation made me realize or ponder what was actually in a name, yk? In reality, she was affectionately dubbed as 'granny' to these children and that is what she was.

I'm really not trying to denote the relationship of a mother and a child. I'm just still heavily influenced by experiencing this real life situation and the realizations that I drew from it. I think, therefore, the meaning of any title given is held in the heart of the giver, and that is why I think it is important for children to do what they are comfortable with.

As another pp said, no matter what my dd calls her SM, it doesn't change my place in her heart and the connection that we have, and even though my dss calls me 'mom' sometimes, I will always be second in his heart.

Now, having given this more thought, I think my real question to myself and to others is, "Do you think that allowing your child to call someone other than yourself mom or dad will impact your child in a negative way?"
post #9 of 82
Custody agreements in Oregon specifically prohibit using
the designation of "father" or "mother" or their equivalents to be used by the child with reference to any person other than his natural mother and father.
Of course, if the child comes up with it on his/her own, that's harder, but I think you should encourage something else. I'm a big fan of the first name, myself.
post #10 of 82
When my DSS was very young his mother said to me and DH that DSS could NEVER call me mom, she has expressed it at other times. Actually what she said was " I know you may have kids (with DH) but this one is mine he can't call you mom" DSS always calls me by my name and when people confuse me for his mom out in public I always say I am his Molly his mom's name is Michelle. So as to not confuse DSS and so he does not feel like I am rejected him by saying he is not mine.

I think that if someone has issues with Step child calling Step parent by mom or dad it should be gently discouraged. Occassionally DSS will call me mom just like I will call him my DS's name. We have goofy time and act like we are not sure who is who but I think it is important to respect mom and dad's wishes in this regard.
post #11 of 82
Oh but Step grandparents and aunts and uncles are the same for all. They are considered the same as bio-grandparents and if Family wants a relationship with DS they have to have same relationship with DSS.
post #12 of 82
I'm curious...several of you have mentioned that you do not agree with stepkids calling the step parent mom or dad. A couple of you have said you absolutely forbid it (not just in your own situation but you think it is wrong wrong wrong). So is this across the board? My birth parents are alive but I do not know them and I don't call them mom and dad. I call my adoptive parents mom and dad. DSD's bio-maternal side of her family has next to nothing to do with her and has been that way since birth. So because her mom is a slacka$$ parent who births children and then tosses them away she should never be allowed to call me mom? Because her BM is alive? Well tough. Being a parent is defined by a heck of a lot more than just giving birth or supplying DNA. Great for all of you who are active in your children's lives..I realize that my statements here do not apply to your situations and most of you gave your opinion specifically about how you do it but a couple said it was wrong across the board. Maybe some of you need to think outside of the box.

The day Angelica wants to stop calling me mom could come and that would be fine. Of course it would hurt me because I love that child like a mother. It is her choice. She decides what she wants to call her BM (her first name) and she decides what she wants to call my grandparents (grans and grandpa). What it comes down to is who she is around more. She has a relationship with me and my family. She has no relationship with her bio family and that is the bio family's choice. So she is just supposed to be motherless for the rest of her life? I don't think so.

To the original poster, I'm sorry you're in this situation..it sucks and I'm sure it has hurt your feelings. I can def see how you might feel a bit upset about her calling her SM mom because she is around her more. I really think you should focus on the positive though...If she likes the woman enough to call her mom then the SM must be doing something right. Hopefully she is being a great SM and a positive role model for DD. Consider yourself lucky! You do have the right to stop her and if it is something that bothers you then you should stop it. You have the right to create boundaries. Also, I saw that you commented on keeping your mouth shut...I know it's none of my business but why?? Is it not your household too? We all go through rough times but laying down and "taking it" will not fix anything and it will create a pattern where you are not a part of your household anymore. If you don't stand up now, if you don't create the boundaries now, it might be 20 times harder to do it next time. Maybe I'm stepping over lines here but I wish you the best and hope that you find the answers you need here.
post #13 of 82
Thread Starter 
To the pp, I totally understand where you are coming from. I've tried to practice the 'never say never' policy myself b/c who knows what situations life will bring. I look at each situation individually and try to make choices accordingly. I can totally understand why you dsd needs/wants to call you mom. I would think that her own mother might understand as well, though I'm sure it's still hard.

I assure you that I do speak up when it's absolutely necessary, but speaking up often doesn't accomplish anything. XP refuses to do a thing I say or even consider it if it's not his idea. He is a very bitter, insecure, selfcentered person. I know that sounds harsh, but I assure you I don't say those words out of bitterness myself.

I choose to forgive XP intentionally everyday. I try to remind myself that while he is gravely wrong in our situation, one day we will shed the struggles we carry in this world, and then we will have perfect understanding, perfect love, and live perfectly in harmony together. I'm sure it sounds trite to some, but in my heart it's what I truely believe.
post #14 of 82
I think a lot of it has to do with custodial relationships...and this came out in the posts. Children are more likely to naturally call the custodial "parents" be they bio or step "mom" and "dad" especially if there are other children involved. I don't think we should force children NOT to call someone something just as I don't think they should be forced TO call someone something.

Since DP and I got married, the girls have, at times, referred to him in the third person as their father or stepfather. They don't call him Dad, but after baby comes and I'm calling him that, it might become more natural. And if it does, well, what of it? He has taken on that role, and though their biofather sees them a few weeks a year, if they choose to accept him as their daily dad I just don't see what's wrong with that.

On the other hand, I guess I also wouldn't be too bothered if they started calling their stepmom "mom" while they are with her, and when they wanted to send her a mother's day card, I was thrilled that she's made such a strong impression on them (I've been getting mother's day cards daily or multiple times a day a week...). Maybe I just don't feel threatened? It sounds like it's a situation where someone feels their role is threatened, then they don't want the kid to say "mom" or "dad" but it really should be about the children, not about what makes the parents happy. At least, that's my opinion
post #15 of 82
While I think that if they don't want to call their step parents mom or dad, that should be honored, I think that it would be great if they did feel like it.

"Do you think that allowing your child to call someone other than yourself mom or dad will impact your child in a negative way?"
I would hope that if my children had to spend much time with their fathers new wife/girlfriend that they would feel taken care of and loved enough to want to call her mom. It is very hypothetical since it has been almost 2 years since thier dad has even come to see them.

My children have rarely been away from me overnight. But, especially when they were just little ones, if I was going to leave them with someone, it was going to be with someone I knew they would feel comfortable with in a motherly way. Someone whose lap they could curl up in, someone they could wake up in the middle of the night, or even sleep with, someone who was there for them. I would hope they would feel that way about any mother figure they would have to spend lots of time with.

I do think that the age for kids to fall into calling a step parent mom or dad is over very young (like I would be surprised if my 6 and 7 year old would start it with a person they would meet now), but I believe that feeling of support and love can still grow even at much later ages.

If you have a family that is parent, step parent, kids of parent, then new baby; it seem like it would be harsh to deny those older children to call you mom or dad. In very blended families where there are several layers of parenting and moms and dads it would be less noticeable, but when that step parent becomes a parent for the first time to a newborn, it can be such a difficult transition anyway. And there is much more of calling that parent mom or dad, while they are falling in love with the new baby, I can't imagine telling child that they can't say mom or dad if they want to.
post #16 of 82
When my ex remarried, there was apparently a discussion regarding what our kids should call their stepmom (until then, they'd called her by her first name). She and their Dad suggested that they call her Mom when with them, as that would be less confusing for her kids (2 years younger than ours, who were 8 & 10 at the time). My kids politely declined, saying that they weren't comfortable with that.

One area of contention that they (our kids) have is that her kids call my ex Dad. They have a very involved father themselves, and it really upsets both of ours a great deal. As the younger said "they have their own Dad - Dad is OUR Dad."

Just something to consider.
post #17 of 82
Thread Starter 
Ahh, thank you all so much again. The recent post have revealed much of my own feelings during the time when my dss was a baby and I had a baby of my own that was dh and I's first child together. There are alot of perspectives to be considered here and I hope that this post has at least provoked thought in all of us.
post #18 of 82
my son is only 2 1/2, and dp has 2 daughters who don't live with us who are 2 1/2 and 1 1/2, and they have all made slips with calling us "mommy" or "daddy". it is especially hard for my son since he is always hearing dp called daddy by his son. they are always reminded, gently, of what our names are. I don't think there's anything wrong with reminding a young child to call you by your name. it's what you would do if a child who was not yours or not even your step-child, right?

my ss asked if he could call me mom. I said no. mostly because I've only been in his life for a few months. so I wasn't comfortable with it. to be honest, I could care less about his mom's feelings.
post #19 of 82
While I was 11 when my father remarried, and I rarely called my stepmom, mom, I can't imagine how put down I would have felt if she had said, "please call me E__." Again, especially after she finally had her own kids when I was 15 and 17. Even then I understood that things were going to be different when she had her "own" children, but I can't imagine how it would have felt to have been pushed out of that relationship on the rare occasion I called her mom. Yikes.

it's what you would do if a child who was not yours or not even your step-child, right?
It depends on the situation. For one, you are in a mothering or fathering position. I know that when my boys decide what kind of father they want to be thier stepfather will come to mind. He fixes bike tires, and plays catch, tells them to go to bed, and gets up set when they throw rocks near car. Not that thier own father would never come to mind, but I imagine dh would come before grandpa or a neighbor or thier brother when they are thinking about good and bad things that fathers do.

In many other situations where a child comes to really depend on you, there is often some kind of pet name that comes with that relationship- Aunt, or Granny, or Sis. Something that says this relationship is important. If mom or dad really bother you, then it is probably worth thinking up some other special name. I did babysit a little girl for about a year, and while she didn't talk much (she was just 15 months when we stopped), her family already had a special name they called me. But I don't think I would have corrected her if she called me mom along with my boys, and I don't think that her parents would mind.

Then there are the times children my boys are playing with call me mom, or L's mom, just because they don't know my name, then I do tell them my name, but not for a kid who means it.
post #20 of 82
Originally Posted by katydid317 View Post
my son is only 2 1/2, and dp has 2 daughters who don't live with us who are 2 1/2 and 1 1/2, and they have all made slips with calling us "mommy" or "daddy". it is especially hard for my son since he is always hearing dp called daddy by his son. they are always reminded, gently, of what our names are. I don't think there's anything wrong with reminding a young child to call you by your name. it's what you would do if a child who was not yours or not even your step-child, right?

my ss asked if he could call me mom. I said no. mostly because I've only been in his life for a few months. so I wasn't comfortable with it. to be honest, I could care less about his mom's feelings.
I can't imagine how it would have felt to have been pushed out of that relationship on the rare occasion I called her mom. Yikes.
Yeah, at least for me personally, I would never reject a child giving me such a gift of love as to acknowledge my parenting role, nor would I expect DH to if our daughters ever chose on their own to call him "Dad." It just doesn't seem quite right. I had a stepmom when I was a child, and do now, and neither was loving or parenting to me, so neither would ever be anything in my mind but their first names. But under different circumstances (perhaps if my dad had married this amazing woman he dated for about 5 years, who I loved and was really a part of our lives) I could see it going differently. And if I'd been put down, it would have hurt. Hard.

FWIW, I don't correct other neighbor kids if they call me mom, unless they seem to be asking my name. Then I consider it more a title than a name, if that makes sense. Like dd1 through much of pre-k called her teacher "Teacher" because she had trouble pronouncing her name. No insult, no problem, nothing to bring attention to.

But to each his own :
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