When my stepson was in elementary school, our home was always full of neighborhood kids after school. One night, while I was cooking dinner, a few of them wandered into the kitchen to see what I was making. One of the more precocious boys commented on what an awesome mom I was – and my stepson was quick to correct him: “She’s not my mom!” His friend was confused, and began to list off all of the “mom” things I do: cook, clean, laundry, buy toys (lol)… Finally, the boy scrunched up his little face and announced, “You’re just like a mom, so I will call you SCH-mom!” It was stinkin’ cute.
What to call (and not to call!) stepparents is a big hairy deal for many families. My stepkids have always called me by my first name; in fact, my stepson used to tell people, “This is my Brandi” when he was younger! At the same time, my husband struggled to navigate this aspect of the relationship with my stepdaughter after his ex forced her to call her stepdad “Daddy.” If you read this blog regularly, you know that I believe in empowering stepmoms to make the best decision for their situation – every stepfamily is different! I try to gracefully share different perspectives from my own experience – and ask for grace in return when dealing with such a delicate subject.
I don’t have any biological children of my own, nor will I. I will never fully understand the bond between mother and child, but I have seen first-hand my husband’s heartbreak at hearing his only daughter call someone else her dad. Will you put yourself in a biological mother’s shoes for a moment, hearing her child call another woman “mom” – can you understand why that might hurt her feelings? Forget how often she sees your stepchild, or if she’s a good parent (in your opinion). Put aside the competition, the past wrongs, and simply see her as the daughter of God she was created to be…a mom, just like you.
If you’re a custodial stepmom, this may hit closer to home. I’m going to be honest: it is maddening to raise a child full-time and then have the school, doctor’s offices, and the rest of the world treat me like a second-class citizen because mom has “step” in front of it. But then I check myself at the door: whose opinion do I care about more, the world’s or my stepkids’? Because my stepkids know who I am in their life, title and position matter far less than the love and care I can give to them. This is one of the founding ideas behind The Called Stepmom: it’s about purpose, not position.
What if your stepkid chooses to call you “mom”? Younger children that spend equal or greater time in their dad’s home often bond quickly with their stepmom and call her a variation of mom as they grow up. Some stepkids also mimic what they hear a stepmom’s biological children call her. Even if you don’t force them, many parents and even stepparents think it’s dishonorable to allow a stepchild to call a stepparent mom or dad. The argument is based on biology: each child only has 1 mom and 1 dad. I respectfully disagree – my husband was adopted and even after meeting his biological family, his adoptive parents are his mom and dad. A family friend was raised by her grandparents – and they’re the only mom and dad she has ever known. Now, all of this being said, I am not downplaying the hurt a biological parent feels at hearing their ex’s new spouse being called by their “name.” My hope is that you will simply see that there are two sides to every story – you can’t know until you’re on their side of the fence.
So where is Jesus in all of this? Glad you asked! No matter what you’re called, what your title is, what your position is…Jesus knows your name. YOUR name.
See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. – Isaiah 49:16
Your name is in front of Him, always. He’s thinking of you, celebrating with you, weeping with you, and walking alongside you. When you remember that the God of the universe, the Savior of the world, knows your name – it’s much easier to put aside the title. God created you to be you!