Taming the Mommy Tiger: Why Letting Your Stepkids Call You “Mom” Fuels His Ex’s Resentment (And What You Can Do About It!) by Wednesday Martin, PhD
One of the most common questions I hear from women who marry or partner with men who have kids is, “What should they call me?”
While there’s no one right answer, I do concur with the overwhelming majority of experts and women in the trenches who know from first-hand experience that there is, in a broad sense, a wrong one (to which there are rare exceptions): Mom. Or Mommy. Or Mother. You get the idea.
I’m not big on oversimplified advice— there’s way too much of it out there for stepmothers in books that tend to gloss over the point of view of the woman with stepchildren, as if she’s got no right to have one.
That’s just wrong, which is why I wrote a book from a stepmother-centric perspective. But when it comes to this particular issue, unless the planets are aligned just so (and we’ll get to that, to the factors that might make it easy and OK for his kids to call you and think of you as mom), it is best for all parties if you acknowledge the specialness of your bond with his kids of any age by coming up with a word other than mom to define it.
“Hey!” you’re thinking. “That’s not fair! I’m just like a mom. I do lots of heavy lifting. I do X, Y and even Z for those kids!! And she’s (fill-in-the-blank with neglectful or a terrible mother or unloving and selfish and disinterested in her kids—or even an alcoholic/drug addict/liar). So, why is she the only one to be called mom? Does just giving birth to them make her the only mother?”
Yep, it does. Whether we like it or think it’s right or wrong, we will likely be able to save ourselves a lot of grief and aggravation by acknowledging a simple truth. In our society, motherhood is romanticized and idealized. Mothers—no matter how bad—are put on a pedestal by the world, in general, and by their kids, in particular. Sometimes, you may have noticed, the more problems the mother has, the more fiercely protective of and attached and irrationally loyal to her the kids are. It can make your head spin, especially if you know you’re a better parent than she is.