What Are You Called, Stepmom?

Nicknames. We all have them. Stinky Feet, Four Eyes, Cutie Pie, Step Mom, Smarty Pants, Sweetheart, The Geek, Little General. Some we instigate, others we inherit, many we earn, still others evolve through funny or embarrassing situations we found ourselves in. Most nicknames we cherish and when we hear them, we are immediately taken back to a moment in time, a season in our lives that was precious. Others when spoken aloud make us cringe and bring negative emotions to the surface unbidden.

Here’s a bridge newly blended families must cross every day. What do the step kids call the stepparent? Kids have it relatively easy. Their name is their name is their name. Usually. But with adults, it’s much more complicated. Do you throw respect to the wind and let them call you by your first name, Susan? Do you attempt to give a partly respectful yet partly casual nomenclature such as Ms. Susan? Do you come up with an alternative to “mom” that is still familial such as mama, mum, marmy or mia? Not in favor of “step” being part of the name. Thanks, Disney. Do you insist they call you mom since the other kids in the house will be referring to you as such? See what I mean? It’s a hard bridge to cross with turbulent white water rapids running below!

In our home, we let our daughter take the lead. Kids can sometimes be wise beyond their years if we are willing to listen. Her reasoning went like this. Your name is Karen. You also are like a mom to me. “I’ll call you Mommy Karen.” That was that. Done. Decided. When my husband and I welcomed children to our family of three and they began calling me mom, she naturally did too. When she refers to me while talking to others, that can be complicated too. Some of her acquaintances don’t know she is a blended kid, so she just calls me her mom. Many do know her story and she calls me Karen when talking with them since she refers to her biological mom as her mom. Conversely, when I introduce her to my friends, I typically do not divulge the status of our relationship unless they need to know. I don’t really think anyone enjoys being referred to as the stepparent or the stepchild.

No matter what you decide, someone will not be happy. You are going to have to accept that fact as a family and be prepared for it. Include the kids in the process if possible. Their ownership in this decision is a big step in their ownership of the relationship. A relationship that hopefully will last a lifetime. Just like your name.

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