I was saying my goodbyes to my sweet little girl as she prepared to catch her flight to the wedding destination, where we’d be reunited in just a couple of days. She hugged me extra tight, told me how excited she was, and assured me she would miss me until I saw her again. I told her I loved her and couldn’t wait to officially be her stepmom – before we knew it, we’d officially be a family! She pulled back from our embrace, looked up to me with those big beautiful blue eyes and heartwarming grin and said, “After the wedding, can I call you ‘Mom?'”

Be still, my heart.

My stepdaughter wants to call me “Mom.” I must be doing something right, right?

She and I are as close as stepmom and daughter can possibly be. But it’s still completely out of the question. Out of respect for her mom, I’d never allow such an extraordinary breech of Amanda’s trust in me with her daughter.

I am not my stepdaughter’s mom. I will never be her mom.

Meet: Mama K

A stepmother’s role is to supplement, never to replace.

It’s easy for a stepmother to nurture her children. It’s in our DNA; women are comforters and fixers by nature. It’s perfectly okay to fall into a maternal role when your stepchildren are in your home. Snuggle up, give bedtime kisses, and share advice as only a parent can do.

But do not allow yourself or your child to think you’ll ever be a replacement. You are an extra parent, a bonus mom. You get to help with all of the fun stuff, experience all of the not-so-fun stuff, and everything in between. But you are not and never will be the child’s birth mom.

It’s not okay to allow a child to blur those lines. Though a stepmother’s role may fall in a gray area depending on custody arrangements, the child’s age and comfort level, and involvement in the child’s daily life, there are still very distinct lines that should never be crossed. Having your stepchild call you “Mom” isn’t a gray area. It definitely crosses a line.

Divorce Sucks

Divorce is confusing enough for children. Try to imagine how much more complicated it becomes when you add stepparents to the mix.

Now Daddy is spending time with another woman. Why don’t I get all of his time? Why don’t I get to see Mommy and Daddy both all of the time like I used to? They should be married and live together again. Also, my stepmom smells funny, not like Mommy does. My stepmom doesn’t make the same dinners Mom does. Daddy laughs at her jokes, even when they’re not funny. He tells me to be nice and respect her. She tucks me into bed and says prayers with me like Mommy and Daddy used to do together. Why does she get to sleep in Daddy’s bed but I don’t? I like sleepovers.

You really think that’s an appropriate time to tell them they have two moms? Heck no, techno.

Let them be little, please.

I understand that you think you deserve the title. You’re a rockstar mom supplement, but you’re still not Mom. I understand that you bust your butt for little appreciation or recognition. You are a warrior, but you’re still not Mom. I completely 100% understand if she wants to call you “Mom” because you’re so influential in her life, but you’re still not Mom. It’s not about you. It’s about the child. Don’t make things more difficult on her as she tries to grow up and learn how to navigate a world between two homes and four parents.

Why My Stepchild Cannot Call Me Mom | My Stepdaughter Wants To Call Me Mom - Here's Why I Won't Allow It | Stepmomming | Stepmom Blog | Stepmom Questions | Stepmom Bio Mom Co-Parenting | Blended Family

Love them so much it hurts

Love your stepchildren so much it hurts: hurts to be away from them, hurts to know you’re not their #1, hurts to think you could ever lose them.

A stepparent is one of the most misunderstood, underappreciated roles in the world. Don’t expect a child to understand what you do, how you feel, or what your role is. Fully grown adults can’t even understand or give you the recognition or appreciation you want. Having the children call you “Mom” isn’t going to change that. It’s only going to confuse the children and hurt their mom.

Take one for the team. Find a new name, like “Mama K” or “Bonus Mom.”

Keep killing it out there, Mama.

PS: Want to read about more of the harsh realities of stepparenting? I think you could probably relate.

About The Author

CEO & Founder

Hey there, I'm Kristen! I'm an Air Force wife and [step]mom to a beautiful 8-year-old, and I run on coffee, wine, and Amazon Prime. I blog at stepmomming.com where I provide comfort and guidance for overwhelmed stepmoms, encouraging and helping them to write their own happily ever afters. You can find [step]momming on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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12 Responses

  1. Sarah

    The post that comes immediately before this one is about how your stepdad was a “real” parent to you and one of your previous ones was about how your mother in law said you weren’t a real mother. I think I totally agree with the sentiment behind what you’re saying here, but I really hate the way you said it!!

    In my mind, the reasons stepparent shouldn’t have the kid call them “Mom” or “dad” is for the following reasons: (1) it will hurt the coparenting relationship. (2) the child will suffer negatively when their biological parent finds out. (3) the child might feel like they HAVE to call you Mom or else risk hurting your feelings.

    After a certain age, I don’t think Children don’t get “confused” about who their biological parents are…!

    • Kristen

      Thanks so much for your comment, Sarah!

      I absolutely 100% believe I’m a real parent, but I’d never say that I’m K’s only mom, which is what I believe the title “Mom” represents. I am one of her moms, but not the only. I do believe the titles “Mom” and “Dad” are reserved for biological parents unless the biological parents aren’t in the picture at all.

      My main concern is that I would greatly disrespect the role that her mother does play in her life, if I allowed my stepdaughter to call me “Mom” as well.

      • Sarah

        Thanks for replying to my comment! It’s so rare hat you actually get to have a dialogue with people like this :).

        I think that we mostly agree, but I guess I still react to your post for a couple of reasons but really all stemming from the same thought: each step family has such a different and unique dynamic and I felt like your post tries to handle a really complicated issue too simply. For example, I don’t come from a situation where I have respect for my step sons mom. And, my stepsons mom would react extremely negatively if he called something as similar to mom as “mama k”. I still come to the same conclusion as you do, but I have to take a very different way to get there because I need that decision to be 100% about my stepchild and not about his mom.

        But I think the biggest reason why I reacted to your post is because I’ve seen so many people who are ready to discredit the role of stepmom use posts like this as examples to bolster their disrespect for stepparents. I know they are idiots anyway, but I can just imagine them saying “See? This stepmom knows her place. Why can’t the rest of you learn?”

        I really, really respect you making yourself vulnerable like this and opening up this conversation. It’s such a tough topic to discuss and (like all the posts I’ve read on this blog!!) it makes me have a ton of respect for both you and Amanda.

      • Kristen

        Thanks so much, Sarah! I really appreciate your candid feedback 🙂

  2. Tracy Poizner

    I completely agree with not letting your stepkids call you mom! For one thing, you are just setting yourself up one day to hear “You’re not my mom!”, a normal rite of passage for most kids. It’s different where a child has lost their mom, or she is really never in the picture and they are craving someone to fill that role permanently. It can be a grey area where there are step-siblings and the child feels profoundly exlcuded to have to call you something different.
    I have see the loyalty bind at work in my own family. My stepson, who considers me more of a mother to him than his own mother, got extremely upset one time when someone else assumed I was his mother. He actually became surly and miserable, even went back to live with her (lasted 3 days), all because he hated himself for wishing that it could be true.
    There’s no end to the mystery of a child’s heart. As long as their mother is alive, her existence needs to be acknowledged and respected, at least energetically. Calling another lady ‘mom’ is just looking for trouble.
    Thanks for an awesome article!

  3. Tracy Poizner

    I wrote a little post about how to wrap your head around not being a mom, where that feels like an issue for a stepmom. Link below.

  4. Erin P.

    I agree with your reasons for your decision for your family. To add a different experience/perspective, my stepson calls me mom, by his request when he was 4- I’ve been one of his primary caretakers since he was 1. There is no one-size-fits all recommendation for this issue. Our reasoning is that “mom” is a job description, not a sacred name, that everyone is of equal value and he has enough love for two moms and that he’s better off for having a diverse inner circle to learn from. I myself come from a non-nuclear upbringing, I call non-blood relatives mom, aunty, and grandma, which adds to our bond and my sense of self and family. That does not take anything away from my special connection with my blood relatives. It is an abundance-mentality thing, I don’t see a problem with more love, more family, more terms of affection.

    Given that though, I can’t control what the mother thinks and says, as you said. My stepson is 8 now and I’ve given him ample opportunities to choose something different, to alleviate any pressure on him. We talk all the time about why he lives the way he lives. This is one thing he can choose and we make it about what HE WANTS and we stand behind his decisions and empower his voice. No one else is living his moms-house-dads-house reality but him, and I trust him to know his own mind.

    He continues to stick with calling me mom for now. If you can expect yourself to put the child first, you can expect that of the mother, too.

    • Jackie

      Hi! I completely agree with ur comment above. I’ve been in my stepson’s life since he was 2, & he calls me mom. His mom is not in the picture, my husband & I have him full time. He has been told & can tell u I’m his stepmommy & “X” is his real mommy. But he says no, ur my mommy. I would agree with this post if his mother was in the picture & raised her son & also deserved that respect. Therefore, my son can call me whatever his heart desires & he knows he can call me by name & still chooses to call me mom

  5. Holly

    I just have to say that there are some instances where it is perfectly alright. My soon-to-be step-daughter lost her mother to a horrific car accident 12 years ago. There has not been a mother figure in her life since she was 4 years old. She wants to call me “mum” and I will definitely let her do that.

    • Kristen

      I completely agree with you, Holly! I can’t believe I didn’t put that in the article – I’ll go back and add it now! That is definitely a time where you’re physically stepping into the role and it’s not a supplemental role you play.

      Thanks for bringing that edit to my attention!!❤️

  6. Sara

    Right on. I’m a ‘bonus mom’ to Two beautiful girls, 7 and 11, and have been in their lives for 6 years, married to their dad for four. Our youngest once asked me the exact question and I simply said, baby you already have a mama, I’m just an extra person to love and care for you. You nailed it. And made me feel like I did the right thing too. Our babies are our number one priority and you’re right, it’s already hard and confusing enough
    Without the convoluted titles. It’s very seldom that anyone will ever know exactly how you feel, where you’re coming from, or just how much you really do. Thank you for all you do and you’re reassuring words. I can’t tell you enough how amazing this post is. We got it right and keep on keeping on! Kudos to you bonus Mom. 😉


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