I was saying my goodbyes to my sweet almost-stepdaughter 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 breach 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
That’s why we decided on a special name just between us.
My stepdaughter calls me “Mama K,” and it is exponentially more special to me than if she called me “Mom.” I know I’m not her mom, and I would feel like a fraud if that’s what she chose to call me.
I used to worry about what others would think if they heard her call me by name. Would they question my worth? Would they think she was being disrespectful? I loved when strangers would mistake me for my stepdaughter’s mom in public.
It was validating. And having her call me “Mom” would be just as validating.
But eventually I grew in my role, and I began to realize I don’t need that validation. My relationship with my stepdaughter and the special role I get to play as her Mama K is beyond anything I could experience trying to be her second mom.
The Stepmother Role
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 try not to fall into hoping to become 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.
Unless the child’s mom is completely out of the picture, you are not and never will be the child’s mom.
Would it work for you?
If there isn’t pushback from the other home and the child initiates the request, it likely won’t be harmful to allow a stepchild to call you, “Mom.” If the child or the ex are uncomfortable with the request, it could make things even harder for a child of divorce.
Divorce is confusing enough for children. They’re trying to welcome a stepparent while accepting that their parents are not together anymore, navigating life with shared custody, and adapting to a new normal.
A couple of things could work against you in this situation. Your stepchild might feel discomfort on their own or loyalty binds to their other parent could be the impetus for the discomfort.
If the ex is upset by the decision, she could make things very uncomfortable for your stepchild. She could be talking poorly about you or your partner and making the child feel like they have to choose sides, or she could refuse to let the child talk about Dad’s home, which feels isolating and confusing.
Regardless of the reason, unless everyone in the dynamic is on-board and comfortable, it could cause trouble if you allow your stepchild to call you “Mom.”
Validation for your Unique Role
I understand that you think you deserve the title.
You are an incredible stepmom. You play an irreplaceable role in your family. Trust that your contribution is seen and appreciated.
You are a valuable parent, and you have the capacity to be incredibly influential in your stepchild’s life, whether or not they call you “Mom.”
P.S. Want to read about more of the harsh realities of stepparenting? I think you could probably relate.