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Should Stepmoms Go By Mom?

When Stepmoms Go By "Mom"

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."

Image Source: Shutterstock
Join The Conversation
Ashley1386895635 Ashley1386895635 3 years
My non biological daughter calls me mom because I am her mom :) We are the parents in our home. No one else is involved in our decision making as a family. It was her choice from the beginning and she has always thought of me as her mother. We have formed a bond that can never be don't need to be blood related to do that.
PegSteele1386081175 PegSteele1386081175 3 years
I personally think that parents need to be the adults and let the kids call the step parent what they want as long as it is respectful. The step is providing the fathering or mothering when the kids are present. They are in fact the "Mom" in the house that the kids are in. Take the title "Mom" as just that a Job title and remove all the ill feelings. And step parents don't ever use terms like "your other mom" about the biological mom or Mom Susan for the biological mom. If that Mom is called "Mommy" than say..."Well dear I think we should discuss this with your Mommy before we do anything." Step parents should take the title the kids want to use and it should be as far from what they use for bio mom as possible. For example: Mom - Ma (try Mom and Mother) or Mommy - Mama (Try Mommy and Mom or Mother). And if it is like I see most small children they use Mama and Mommy most often and Mother when they are angry. Mom is usally a good replacement for the real thing.
Sharilynn14599752 Sharilynn14599752 4 years
By the way, he calls me by my first name, and my children call my husband Dad. That was their choice.
Sharilynn14599752 Sharilynn14599752 4 years
We have a blended family of five children. My stepson was 11 years old when I married his dad, and my children were 7, 5, 3 and 18 months. I agree that it is the choice of the child to determine what they will call their stepparent. Because my stepson lived with his mother, I made it a point to let him know that I am not his mother, but that I certainly love him just as much as I love my biological children, and there are no steps in our house. I respect him and the relationship that he has with his mother. I include him when I refer to "our kids". My children love him, and they love my husband. Even though we have had our disagreements, and falling out periods, ultimately we all love each other. My problem was with my husband's ex, because she doesn't like the fact that I have a good relationship with her son. Even he was upset that she would insult me. But, the bottom line is that I refuse to treat him differently, just because I didn't give birth to him. Children are sensitive, and as the adult, you have to be inclusive and fair.
ChristinaDautartas ChristinaDautartas 4 years
No. Thats my title and I have earned it. Her children can call her mom, mommy, momma, mother or howerver she wants it. NOT MY KID.
JAM282 JAM282 4 years
@Batitsta, I see your concern with not giving a child 'serial stepmoms' (or stepdads) as that just causes confusion and abandonment issues. I think if you do use a special title for a stepparent that has not legally adopted the child, and the other bio-parent is still in the pic, it has to be after a bond is truly established and shouldn't be full-out 'mom' or 'dad' but 'momma so-and-so' for the stepmom. As to the concern about the dissolution of the family unit... that is a legit choice you made not to remarry, but it's not a realistic thing to happen. Blended families aren't going away. People will fall in and out of love, marry, divorce, and seek happiness again. In my parents' case most of my childhood was miserable b/c of their constant fighting. Divorce would have been better instead of staying together 'for the kids' (they ultimately did when we were grown). Also, some people have 'oops' pregnancies after casual sex, and the kid is born into single parenthood. Does that mean neither parent has a right to find a romantic partner? Couldn't that give a child more stability if the blended family works? I think so, but of course it has its own challenges. By the way there are plenty blogs and b*tch boards online with moms complaining about step-moms, and vice versa. I do agree with you that people should be MUCH more careful with their choices of who they decide to marry, and even more so who they reproduce with. It would avoid so much misery for all involved, especially the innocent kids.
BatistaCorbin BatistaCorbin 4 years
I don't agree with any child calling a stepparent by anything other than their the situation that the children both have good parents. All stepparents are "REPLACEABLE"! This is something society forgets. If a marriage doesnt work out the stepparent is out the door, and the child is left with the REAL parents. In most cases the step parent has no legal rights to the child. No rights to be on school records, to be on medical documents, or to even be present during visitation exchanges. In my situation my ex husband is 31, in marrying his new girlfriend...she will be wife number 4!!!!! And the third stepmom to his other son that he has from a previous relationship. That boy called a woman "mom" from age 2 to age 8, then we married and everyone told him it was time to call me "mom" when he had been calling another person mom literally two weeks before. I didn't allow it. I felt it was teaching a young boy to attach and detach from one mother figure to another, one woman after another. So where do I fit my son in all the crazy marriage ups and downs with his dad when no one can guarantee me that there wont be a 5th or 6th wife in his life? He will be told to refer to someone as Daddy's wife and by their first name. Told to be kind and respectful but that she is not his mother. I feel this way in the case of a step father as well. I will not tell my son another man is his dad. I may not agree with who my ex husband is, but I made the choice to have a child with him and he is his dad. No one else should be considered equal to that. Its not just that a biological mom gives birth and shares that special bond. The child is part of you. In my case he is what I live for everyday. I have been on my own with him with NO help in anyway except a child support check. Doing my best to give him the best child hood. No woman can come in, and start trying to involve/interfere with that after all these years just because she marries his father and gets in her mind they will all be one big family. In my case, the woman is not even allowed to contact me. There are no laws stating that stepparents and biological parents even have to interact. And there are times it is in the best interest of the child that they don't. Where are the blogs and support pages for moms who have to deal with stepmoms btw??? Does anyone realize how many stepmoms go around creating problems and making things worse by coming in a criticizing the real mom? By actually trying to move her out of the picture because they think this new two parent household is better than what the biological mom has given all this time? Its ridiculous!! Here is the main problem.....blended families!! Im in my thirties, and come from that generation where you were taught divorce was excusable, and that you just move on. I have had a stepdad, stepmom, stepsiblings, the whole nine yards. So Im not speaking from inexperience. But the fact is, instead of making our focus to teach our kids to WAIT to get married and to stick with their marriages and their children they create, we are so focused on teaching everyone how to make blended families work. All we are doing is allowing people to repeatedly remarry without consequences and without getting help,allowing people to create one blended family after another, confusing kids, and pretty much allowing this free thought to just GIVE UP....because if it doesn't work out you can find a new family and try to make that work instead. I made a personal decision in my own life after this last experience not to marry again. I feel in our society its too big a risk. Marriage has a less chance of working out every time you do it, and you can know someone and think it will last forever and they turn out to be a monster. Thats a risk I am not willing to take for my child. He has a good life, a good childhood. I spent years grieving the loss of the future family I dreamed of. Grieving because in the end I made a bad decision, and now my son lives in a single parent home. I refuse to risk making a bad decision again and it damaging his happiness. I realized that just because I don't have a man or more kids, doesn't mean that he and I aren't a family. Id rather be a single mom any day than trying to blend a family for the third or fourth time like his father. In closing, stepmoms/stepdads are replaceable. Don't forget that the next time you are telling someone else's child to call you mom.
JAM282 JAM282 4 years
There is no 'right' answer, it is basically what works for all involved - especially the children, if the adults can put aside their egos and emotions (few truly can). Yes, the bio-mom carried the child, spent sleepless nights, named the kid, and will always have that bond. But, a stepmom who is actively involved w/the child sacrifices herself(emotionally, physically, and financially) to help care for a child she did not even create, and that is worthy of special recognition, too. Step-moms love, give and sacrifice by choice, and if the child recognizes that value and forms a bond, simply calling step-mom by her first name seems a truly insufficient form of acknowledgement (not to mention it can come off disrespectful for kids to call adults by first names). So e.g., 'momma Kate' or' momma K,' some variation that recognizes the special role and does not assume the 'mommy' title reserved for bio-mom, should be all-around acceptable. It usually works for step-dads, so there is no reason moms should let territoriality make the decision. They should be thrilled that another adult is willing and able to love and care for their child as their own. The child gets the benefit of that good relationship, so the person that creates and nurtures the relationship should have a special title as well.
CoMMember13610564559165 CoMMember13610564559165 5 years
I am a step mom to a 5yr old little girl and a 7yr old boy. (Biomom to an 18yr old son) They have called me mom from the very beginning which bothered me horribly at first that they got attatched to me so quickly. After their dad and I were married and we moved in together that same week is when I realized the children had serious emotional issues. I have spent now a year and a half waking up with these poor children between 13 to up to 20 times or more with nightmares, night terrors and dreams that daddy was going to leave them. We decided to file for custody of the children because I knew something was horribly wrong. The bio mom turned around and lied on a VPO that deestroyed our lives and our case. I now have 2 very confused, hurt and very upset children who beg us to help them get away from their bio-mom only to have the judge NEVER once hear our side. After over $20K spent on lawyers, we are broke...even with proof that abuse is happening in the the biomoms home, no one will listen to us. I think after all the hours I've spent wioth these two in the middle of the night, teaching them simple basics like writing their names, tying their shoes, and helping them cope with their other life that is total chaos, I am now perfectly more than ok with them calling me mom. I've earned it and love that they are comfortable with it. These are 2 kiddos who are just glad to be with their dad and I because even for a weekend...their lives are normal and they are loved and safe.
stephaniestephens27955 stephaniestephens27955 5 years
i have to add~ when we decided on Daddy Bryan, the younger was only 1 and had just started talking. we didnt want him to get confused about who his dad was or if we say daddy, he starts looking for the wrong one. that was the bigger reason because at that point i was still fairly ticked at his bio dad and respect wasnt a big thought to me, but i didnt want relations to turn south.
stephaniestephens27955 stephaniestephens27955 5 years
i have 3 sons and each has a different father. (almost got married but dad wasnt ready to grow up, one night stand tho long time friend, and my husband) when my husband and i got married we only had the 2 who were 1 and 3. hubby and i spent about 1 week trying to figure out what the boys should call him. at this point the oldest father was in and out of the picture and the younger's father had only been around for about 6 months (after spending the first year adimently denying he was the father) we finally settled on "Daddy Bryan" out of respect for the younger's dad and on the off chance the oldest's dad started coming around again, which he finally did 6 months later. 1 1/2 years later my husband and i had our youngest, who is now 2. my husband and i are about to celebrate our 4th anniversary and my older 2 call him Dad (mostly the oldest) or Daddy Bryan (mostly the younger). they swap back and forth so often but its always one or the other. the oldest's dad just got remarried and i'm wondering what they plan on having my son call her. somehow, sitting here thinking about it, i dont think i would be very comfortable with my 7 yo son calling his brand new step mom "Mom". i have full custody of all of my kids and my husband is their full time father. their bio dads only see them every other weekend. so for them to call my hubby Dad doesnt seem like a big deal to me, but when my oldest would only see his new stepmom 2x per month, i dont think i would like it much for him to call her Mom. my middle son's father, my husband and i are all pretty good friends and get along well. he doesnt really like the idea of our son calling my hubby Dad but i believe its his choice. as i said he usually calls him Daddy Bryan but sometimes he says Dad. he also differentiates "my Real Dad" and "my Step Dad" if he is talking to people outside our household. i tend to say either Dad (hubby) or Your Dad (bio dad) when talking to the kids but that mostly because of the youngest. i've gotten into the habit of always saying Dad/dy to the youngest so thats what comes out. but if i mean their bio Dads i say "Your Dad." the funniest name game in our house is what our youngest calls each of us. Ma (me) Daddy (hubby) Dada (oldest brother) and Bubba (younger older brother) Dada is the funniest to me and Daddy :)
SydnieBacon SydnieBacon 5 years
I completely agree that this is the child's choice. It should be explained in a way the s/he can understand. this is something that I am having a hard time with. I will let my step son call me what he likes and will NEVER ask to be called mom. I feel that is something special. the mother of my step son gave my husband and I a hard time when we got married and she is getting married herself. She refers to her future husband has my step sons dad. this really upsets me because i know it hurts my husband. My step son is 4. we went to the state fair and my step son says "my mommy said i can have two daddies but only one mommy. if i have two mommies i can't see my dad any more." granted we weren't there for the conversation it hurt. My husband explained you only have one mommy and 1 daddy". next visit (one weekend a month because that's how she set it up in the divorce) he comes back to say " mom said I can have as many dads as I'd like but only one mom." I am having trouble with her because i don't agree with the things she says and how she's handling the situation. I try to see things from her point of view . that's why i understand him not calling me mom and again would never ask for it. I don't think it's fair to say only one mom but 2 dads if you'd like. help Please.
KristenScott70448 KristenScott70448 5 years
My step daughter calls me by my first name. I never encouraged her or discouraged her either way. She's 25 now and still calls me by my name, but when she introduces me she says this is my "other mother" and used my name. I never thought twice about it. We get along great and I'm not her mom, but she is my daughter! Although she always lived fulltime with her mother close by, she spends a lot of time with us even now. It worked out just like it was supposed to.
AprilBurris13308 AprilBurris13308 6 years
My fiancé's son at first would call me mom, but I was the one that was uncomfortable. Almost three years later with a daughter together, I would like for him to call me mom(not mommy, for the sake of his mothers feelings) so not to confuse his sister. His real mother says I am only his friend until his father and I actually get married, then I can be his step-mom but still call me by my name. She has only recently been back in her son's life after two years of not living with her son. She abandoned her husband and son and would only sometimes visit him while he was at her mother's house. I feel I have a right for him to call me mom. I have taken care of that little boy from the moment he came into my life. She only did it when she felt like it. Do we still need to respect her wishes?
RachelHill RachelHill 6 years
My husband told his children to call me Mrs. Rachel. problem solved. When another child calls me their mom, one always corrects them with step and the other says, "she is my mom, in a way!" As long as you are respectful...
cai90072 cai90072 6 years
The title of mom and dad have been a strange journey in our home. My son didn't call me (his bio and full custody mom) mom till he was nearly two. I wasn't to concerned, we are fully bonded. I just never really referred to myself as mom and neither did the people around me.Until that is my now husband moved in. from day one of our dating he always called me mom in front of my son and my son started using it. After his second birthday my son walked into the kitchen, looked up at my husband, raised an eyebrow and asked him "my dad?". The response was "sure". He calls my husband dad because it makes sense, this is the man who works his hands to the bone for him, wakes up in the night, goes to the park and is what a dad should be. Really the bond is the important thing and the title is just honorary. now my son is almost 3 and he refers to the most important woman in his life as mom(my mother, and his aunts) and the important men as dad(my father, my brother). It doesn't bother either of us as it really is just a title and more about repetition and familiarity. Kids like their worlds to be simple and make sense. If you are taking care of them , love them , and let them define their worlds, they'll love you back and it won't matter what they call someone else
MegeanSmitingell MegeanSmitingell 6 years
Well our situation is wee bit diffrent. See, I have two biological children and two that are not. But in the same, they are mine. We have full custody of them and I am their legal mother. How it got to that is a VERY long story, but never the less. I am their only mother. Yes, they have a birthmother and it still hurts to know that I did not give them life, but I am in their life and I am making their life what it will become. Another woman in their life is their Grandma.. Bryses mother.. She thinks it is ok to teach all of the kids to call her mom and not me, this on the other hand ercks me. I understand that I am not their biological mother, but I am their only mother.
jessicafindley31636 jessicafindley31636 6 years
it does depend on the child but not to b encouraged by the other parent. my daughter from my first marriage calls her now step dad daddy. that's what she knos she was 7 months old when he and i moved in together. her and her brother are very close in age so when we would say daddy referring to Logan and his bio dad she picked it up. plus to him she is his kid even if theirs no blood.
CallieSonpon CallieSonpon 6 years
Mom is just a name, but you have to earn being called mom, if your the step mom and you raised the child than you deserve that roll. it also is what the child feels most comfortable with.
vanessadiaz53748 vanessadiaz53748 6 years
i think it should be the childs chioce weather to call a step parent mom or dad they should not be force or told to call someone something there not comfortable doing so.
CherylMitchell96380 CherylMitchell96380 6 years
I had a daughter prior to my marriage and my husband had children from a previous relationship. My daughter didnt have much of a relationship with her biological father so to her that is all he was. She would say "my biological father" and she called my husband "daddy". We got custody of my husbands kids at ages 15, 12, 9. I told them each they could choose what to call me because I know they already have a mother. The oldest wanted to call me Cheryl, the middle wanted to call me Ma, and the youngest called my Mom. Now that they are all grown the oldest slips up and calls me Ma on occasion...that warmed my heart but I know he is fighting the feelings still.
MerandiCech74147 MerandiCech74147 6 years
My step son calls me "Mom" and it's by his choice. His biological mother didn't like it and I even encouraged him to just call me by my name but he chose to call me "mom". That is completely fine with my husband and I. I feel I'm just as much his mom as his biological mom. He lives with us full time and I'm the one who is involved with his activities with school and outside of school. It should be up to the children on what they call a step parent.
Tenille95719 Tenille95719 6 years
I understand your hurt and pain. I went through the exact same thing with my ex and his new wife. I didn't get along with either of the two so I became furious when I heard my son refer to his step-mom as 'Mommy'. I sat my son down and told him that you have 1 mommy and 1 daddy. I always explain things to my son in kid language when i need him to understand. I said to him "you know how you pretend to be a power ranger" he says "yes" I said " are you really a power ranger" he says "no" I said same thing with (his step mom name) she is not your real mother but you can call her mommy if you want. I told him that you don't have to call her mommy but if you want to you can. I was fine after the talk because he wasn't confused and he understood. There are other children in his father's home and it only makes sense for him to call her mommy so that he doen't feel like an outcast. I think we as parents alot of time put our feelings before the childs and make very bad choices. My son knows who carried him for 9 months, he knows who loves him more than anything in this world. Our special bond is unbreakable and untouchable so I don't even worry about that 'mommy' status anymore.
Candice3702310 Candice3702310 6 years
It is the childs choice. PERIOD. Yes it broke my heart when my ex encouraged my oldest two call his now ex-fiance Mommy. BUT now that I have remarried, (5 years now) My oldest 2 call their stepfather Dadd or Daddy, It's always been their choice. Which caused my youngest some confusion when he started talking. My girl friend's step kids the oldest just turned 2, call her Mickie, a smash of Momma Vickie. She didn't feel right about them calling her Momma, so when her step kids started calling her Mickie she thought is was great even though she got alot of greif from others around her. Again it all comes down to the childs choice.
When my husband and I got married I told my three step children that they could call me whatever they wanted ... Their mother informed them that calling me "mom" was not an option! So I asked for a name that they would like to call me other than just Katy.... My youngest step son who is 4 picked the name "fluffy"... I laughed and said ok fluffy it is!
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