Almost nothing enrages a mother more than the thought of another woman replacing her. When biological children start using any derivative of "Mom" in reference to another woman, many of us get downright territorial.
"I was devastated when my son piped up about 18 months ago with, 'Daddy said I can call his girlfriend Mummy,'" writes Brooke W., a member of the Single Moms community. "I thought it was really wrong of my ex to encourage that in a child who lives with his bio mother full-time. I guess to some it sounds silly but hearing your child call you 'Mummy' is one of motherhood's joys, and I believe, privileges. And it hurts to imagine my only child calling someone else that special title."
"She was not pregnant with him, [did not] give birth, or spend more hours awake than asleep with him," posts Jade C., also a member of the Single Moms community. Her son's biological father allowed her son to call his dad's new wife "Mom."
"I explained to my ex-husband that I birthed these children and while they need to respect his wife, she is not their mother. I am," writes Elizabeth T. in the Children with Divorced Parents community.
Keep reading to see more on this delicate subject.
The question of what children call their stepmom (or stepdad) is a volatile one that can easily ignite when a new baby enters a blended family.
"This is a tough one," posts Kathryn P. in the Children with Divorced Parents community. When she married her current husband, she asked that his daughter from his previous relationship call her "Momma Kate." Kathryn was pregnant, and she didn't want the new baby to call her by her first name. Her stepdaughter more than willingly complied: she quickly dropped the "Kate" after their marriage and stuck with "Momma." In an effort to differentiate, Kathryn made sure her stepdaughter continued to address her biological mother as "Mommy."
But the momma/mommy solution doesn't work for every blended family. Kathryn suggests a variation: "There are a lot of people I know that create a name for the step-parent so as not to take the place of what they (the kids) already have (for the biological parent). Something that is respectful to the new adult but doesn't cast a shadow over you (the biological parent)."
It's an idea tried in this writer's household.
In the Fall of 1995, when my husband Bob and I married, my stepkids, Josh and Denise, were 10 and 7. Much hand-wringing over what to call me began. Honestly, I hoped to avoid the issue. I knew problems with their biological mother were inevitable. Josh solved it quickly. He told me he couldn't call me "Mom" but didn't feel good about just using "Amy" either. With a big grin on his face, he came up with "Amymom." It worked for me. It worked for his younger sister.
It didn't work for their biological mother.
When the kids visited her the following Summer, she was less than pleased to hear their name for me. And when they returned in the Fall, the affectionate term was no longer part of their vocabulary. It hurt. I cried. I didn't do a very good job of keeping my feelings private. My pastor wisely told me to not focus on the title, but to put my energy into the relationship.
Fast-forward 15 years to November 2010. The letters Denise sent me from Army basic training began with the words, "Dear Amymom." And both kids have since listed me as a "Mom" on Facebook. I cried again. Joyful tears this time. Josh and Denise are now adults, making their own choices about what to call me.
Some say kids shouldn't have to wait that long. Some say that despite the fact that divorce and remarriage don't change biology, these life events do introduce different authority figures and relationships that must be reckoned with. Some say it's the kids — and not the parents — who should make title choices in blended families.
"If they (the kids) call a stepparent mom or dad for whatever reasons, then just let it be. It is what they are comfortable with," posts Tara M., a member of the Children With Divorced Parents community.
However, she does acknowledge the pain a biological mother is likely to feel when her child calls another woman "Mom."
"I understand the incredible pain a bio parent feels when their child calls someone else by their special name. It is important to understand that it is only the name that is the same and not the bond," she writes. "You will forever be the woman who carried that child."