Home » I’m Tired of Pretending I Don’t Enjoy when Strangers Mistake Me for my Stepdaughter’s Mom

I’m Tired of Pretending I Don’t Enjoy when Strangers Mistake Me for my Stepdaughter’s Mom

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As my stepdaughter K and I peruse the produce at the supermarket, a sweet older lady looks at me with a gleam in her eye and tells me my daughter is beautiful.

My daughter. Uh oh. I had no part in her genetic makeup that makes her beautiful. Do I need to clarify this is my stepdaughter? Does it matter? Does she know Kevin or Amanda, K’s biological parents? Is there a chance she knows their families? Will I ever see her again? If not, then I’ll just accept the compliment and move on.

Perhaps I’m a chronic overthinker. What’s the harm in letting her think K is my daughter? Besides, it feels kind of nice to be considered part of the Mom Club.

I’m tired of pretending I don’t enjoy when strangers mistake me for my stepdaughter’s mom.

Call it selfish, deceptive, or conniving, but I’m tired of pretending I don’t enjoy when a stranger mistakes me for my stepdaughter’s mom. I’m happy you’ve mistaken me as her mom; it means I must be doing something right. I won’t correct you unless you need to know the details of my family dynamic because I’m jealous, in need of a little appreciation, thankful that I’m doing it right, and I love her like my own. If I’ll never see you again, I’ll say thank you and walk away appreciating your kindness.

*To be clear, anyone that I could possibly run into again (e.g., dance moms, PTA and school staff, or parents of her school friends) or is in any way connected to either of my little girl’s families is not considered a “stranger” for the purpose of this argument.*

I’m a little jealous.

Of course I’m jealous that someone else birthed this beautiful, brilliant little girl. Don’t we all want to take credit for something wonderful in this world? As strictly a stepmom to K with no children of my own, my world revolves around her and her daddy. I give her my all, but she’s still not mine. So occasionally when someone doesn’t know better and calls me her mom, I savor it.

I want a little appreciation.

Stepparents don’t get appreciated often. Yes, I knew that when I started dating her dad and when I married him. But it doesn’t change the fact that I still want a little appreciation for what I do. Is that so wrong?

I bathe, clothe, feed, play with, read to, and teach life lessons to my little one, just as a biological parent does. I go to work to provide for her, I help with homework, and I make dinner and prepare lunches…

So when a stranger mistakenly calls me Mom and I can take a little credit for my part in raising her (even if it’s not as her mom), I feel appreciated. 

I want a little validation I’m doing it right.

One of the hardest parts about being a stepparent without any children of your own is jumping right into the parenting role without reading any of the books or getting any of the pep talks from friends and family beforehand. I had no idea how to raise a child when I started.

Other parents are so quick to shame about car seats, nutrition, and education, but I wasn’t given a manual to learn all of this! I was thrown a 4-year-old and told “Good luck!”–obviously her father was there with me, and he took the lead on raising her. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled to catch up on the parenting learning curve.

When a stranger mistakenly calls me “Mom” in the supermarket or at the mall, it’s validation that I’m doing it right. Or I at least look right when I’m doing it.

I love her as my own (more than just a little).

Of course I love this little girl, and of course I’m so thankful to be one of her moms. She has both Mommy and Mama K that love her to pieces. I have a role that is specific to me; it’s not a role that replaces the crucial role her mom plays, but it’s a role that is in addition to that role. She’s my stepdaughter, and I’d give my life for hers without hesitating. That’s all that a stranger needs to know. A stranger doesn’t need to know that I am Mama K instead of Mommy; honestly, that person in the supermarket or at the mall probably doesn’t care and just wanted to tell me my stepdaughter is cute.

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I’m happy you think she’s mine.

I work everyday to make sure my stepdaughter knows she’s loved. If you have mistaken me for her mom, that means I’m showing her the love and respect a daughter deserves. I may not have given birth to her, but I will still do my very best to help give her a wonderful life. I may have missed the first 4.75 years of her life, but I’ll make up for it in the next 80+.

I still have the utmost respect for her mom’s role in her life and I’ll continue to correct those that need to know I’m not the biological parent, but to all of the strangers that mistake me for her mom, thank you.


28 thoughts on “I’m Tired of Pretending I Don’t Enjoy when Strangers Mistake Me for my Stepdaughter’s Mom”

      • Hi
        I love this I have the honour of being a step mummy to a four year old, I was recently star struck on a bus with her when a little boy asked if I were her mummy I froze thinking oh god every ounce of my me wants to say yes! But she knows her mums name so I became an umming mess until a friend said yes she is , she didn’t even react so I felt like a fool ? thankfully I experienced it again in the same week and said yes without a worry I love having that acknowledgment from others we are no less we do the same role as a biological parent. Loved the article so relatable

  1. I was a step daughter. At the time when she and I met I was twelve. I called her mum, not mom but mum. I loved her from the start. However, when people would refer to me she would instantly go into the details of everything. “Oh, no she’s my husbands daughter from another marriage blah blah blah.” A stranger that hands you a compliment or a few nice words in passing is really not looking for answers. My Half sister at the time was two so all I could think of is maybe she worried people would think at almost 40 that people would think she had me at close to 30 LOL. The horror;) .

  2. You are absolutely a mom for her! You contribute to making her a beautiful person everyday you care for her and pour you love on to her. Sure you can’t take credit for her biology, but that’s the least of what makes a parent. It’s being present in her life day in and day out without fail that gives you the right to be called a mom. Yes she has a fantastic biological mom too and that is a wonderful thing! I know her mom appreciates the love that you give to her daughter when she can’t be with her. You will never replace her mom but that’s never been the goal. But don’t sell yourself short either you are a mom to that little girl. When she grows up she will recognize that as well. The more people we have who love us in life the better! It takes 2 pretty special mature women to work together as parents to the same child. Good job ladies you rock at momming this little girl!

    • I love your outlook here. My father remarried twice after my mom (I know, that seems like a lot!) I was able to experience a stepmom that genuinely made me feel loved and admired and one that made me feel second best to her son. I’ve heard some stepparents say pretty much the opposite of what you expressed and it’s just so sad. Children never get to choose what happens in these situations. It’s unfair when stepparents make children feel like interlopers in the lives they have created with their parents. You truly are a blessing to your stepdaughter!

  3. So nice to have it put in words! I was at the mall the other weekend with my boyfriend and his daughter (who is 8) and there was a small gleam of pride when the sales associate kept referring to us as mom and dad. Neither of us corrected her, and we giggled about it as we walked away, and inside I was beaming. She certainly couldn’t be mine, she’s 8 and I’m 20, but knowing that we have that family vibe is wonderful. I don’t try to replace, her mom is her mom, but in the time that I spend with her I want her to know i love her like she’s mine and that she can come to me with anything, just like a parent.

  4. It’s like you took the very words from my brain. I could not have expressed my own feelings any better. It is so difficult. The worst heart break I have ever known is loving a child that “isn’t mine”. Yet I’d give her the world. Your relationship with her birth mom is inspiring. My situation is quite the opposite, with much jealousy and resentment. But I have hope. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I came here straight from your article about not wanting your daughter to be a stepmom and one reason being you don’t want her love for her child to be denied….

    It only took one time of me explaining that my son was in fact my stepson to someone that I knew we would see again and him asking me if I didn’t want to be his mom for me to NEVER ever correct anyone- regardless of who they were-again. He took my dismissal of my Mom role as ME denying HIM. I was devastated he felt that way. He calls me Mom- he knows my importance and my role in his life. If he sees me as Mom than no one else’s opinion or insight into the situation really matters 🙂

  6. LOVE love love this. I feel like this 100% with two stepchildren and no biological. It’s fun to know people see me as “mom” sometimes and I accept it gladly from strangers!

  7. I am a stepmom to the most adorable 2 yr old around I became his step mom when he was almost 6 months old , he has stolen my heart and to him I am mommy too! I wouldn’t trade him for the world this article brought me to tears bc it hits on everything I feel and go thru every day it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  8. It’s so crazy to think I am not alone in thinking this! I have a step son I met him when he was two now he’s 4, I always secretly loved when people assumed that I was his mom, or ask “he’s so cute how old”, also he’ll mistakenly call me “Marta” which is his mom’s name and what he calls her and I just gleam inside. Not having kids of my own yet and getting to experience a type of motherhood is awesome

  9. thank you so much for writing this article! This helped me realize alot of things and it’s nice to read that I’m not alone in feeling this way toward my step son. He may only be almost 9 mths old and our situation is far more complicated with my stepsons mother (we butt heads but what females don’t am I right? At the end of the day we set a side all differences for the most important person and that’s our son!

  10. I loved your piece. RGC was 3 when I became his Stepmum and he has just turned 29. A fine young man that I am immensely proud of. When he was little, he called me his ‘Spare Mum’ which made me very happy.

  11. Maybe I’m the naysayers here but I’m a mom and a stepmom to be. As the birth mom of my 14-year old I wouldn’t appreciate it if my exes girlfriend was mistaken as him mom. Perhaps it’s different for those of you who’ve been around since the steps were little. But I’ve done all the work, she’s just now becoming the permanent lady in his dads life after a few short months. I don’t appreciate her being able to jump in at 14 and claim any mom status at all. Totally different had she been around from when my kiddo was a lot younger, but now, nope. And yes, I know more people to love him is better yada yada, I agree. But at this late in the game stage, no one else can take any credit or “mom” role. Thankfully my son fully agrees. I know I’ll get flack for this but that’s my feelings. And yes, as a soon to be step mom myself to a 17 year old I’d never come in and claim her as my daughter in public. Her mom and dad, whole
    Divorced for 14 years, have done all the work and I believe give credit where credit is due.

    • I think that’s a totally valid response – no flack from me! I have been in my stepdaughter’s life since she was very young, and she sees me as a second mom, so that’s the relationship used for the basis of this article. There’s never a one-size-fits-all solution for blended families!

  12. I actually just stumbled upon your awesome blog while doing a google search on advice on how to handle the “mistaken for mom” situation.
    My stepdaughter is 8 years old, I met her 1 and 1/2 years ago and we have been living together for half a year (her mom and dad have split custody, she lives in our home 50% of the time).
    While we may very well still be in the honeymoon period, so far our relationship is very very good.
    (Although I might be doing a bit of super-step-momming). She is a really smart kid and she has sorted it out that I am her real-nice stepmom, she loves me and she loves her mom deeply and they’re very close. I feel we are all very comfortable knowing there is room for me in her life as stepmom.
    We’ve had the mom/daughter mistake before and because of how close she is to her mom I have always wondered if the mistake would make her uncomfortable.
    Usually these are not extremely obvious situations that I have mostly handled by pretending I didn’t hear/notice it because I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.
    We’ve recently had a series of very obvious “mom/daughter mistaking” and every time I didn’t correct people in front of her, I wondered if she would think I am trying to over step her mom or take over her role somehow.
    My stepdaughter is quite shy about chatting up strangers so leaving it up to her to decide whether or not she wants to step forward and explain it herself is not an option.
    We have a background of very honest conversation, she’s quite bright so that was how the three of us (me, my fiancé and her) handled some of the relationship/home changes that have happened so far.
    So my real question is: should I talk about this with her? Ask her how she feels? Ask her if she’d prefer that we mind our own business and let people mistake us or whether it is important for her that I make it clear that I am not her mom.
    Has anyone had this conversation with their step kids? Is this just loading adult-overthinking on her shoulders?

    • I think it’s really important to check in with our stepkids periodically to see how things are going, especially when something like this comes up. You can see how she feels about it and if she thinks it’s worth clarifying or if it can be your little inside joke.

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