Some time ago, I was folding laundry on the dining room table when my step son came out of his room after a nap and said, “Can I ask you a question? I hope this is okay to say…” Of course, he can always come to me (and usually does) if he needs help with something or wants to know more information about a subject of some sort. Then the bittersweet question that his father and I have been excitedly waiting for and honestly dreading finally came.
“Can I call you Mom? Am I allowed to do that?”
While I have thought of the possibility of this moment happening for the past 4 years of this 6 year old’s life, and wanting it, really wanting it, I never brought it up. When his father brought the subject up to me, we both quickly agreed that it should be on our son’s terms. We would only talk about it if he wanted to. When it finally happened, my stomach dropped. I felt guilty. I felt like I shouldn’t want it, he’s not biologically my son. It’s not my place to be called mom by him. But then I thought-
Why not me? I’ve been there for most of his life, I’ve been treating him as if he’s my own son; he IS my son in my eyes and has been for several years. I taught him to read at a very young age, I potty trained him, I help make major decisions in his life, I attend school events, I changed my work schedule so I could be home with him during the school week, we cook together, we have #familyfunday every Sunday, I plan his birthday parties and play dates, I make sure he’s eating right, getting enough sleep, kiss boo-boos, comfort him when he’s sad, tuck him into bed every night. Alongside his father, I have been his parent. Unfortunately, his birth mother hasn’t been able to be as active in his life as we would like, and while ALL of us are taking steps and making progress every day to remedy that, it’s a slow process. He still loves her, he still calls her mom. I realized, it doesn’t matter what he calls me as long as it’s respectful. If he wants to call me “mom,” he should be able to. It’s not as if he can’t use the same name for both me AND his birth mother because I’m a bonus mom not the only mom. I told my step son he was absolutely allowed to call me mom, if he wanted to. His response?
“YES! THANK YOU…….MOM!”
He gave me a giant bear hug then proceeded to run through the house yelling for his dad so he could tell him the great news, with the biggest smile on his face. The guilt started to subside and hearing him call me mom felt so natural. It made him happy. His father loves the idea as it brings us closer together as a family, gives our son a sense of security and stability (which, let’s be honest, are some of the biggest things that kids crave and need), and allows him to make his own decisions and have control in his life after being through so much uncertainty in the past.
He goes back and forth between calling me by my first name and mom. Usually the M word comes out when he wants something, did something wrong, or needs extra cuddles or attention. I happily respond to both names. He was quick to mention to his new teacher this year that he has two moms and one dad. For him, our situation is normal. For us, his health, safety, and happiness are all that matter, and as long as they fit into those guidelines, we support his decisions.
I’ve been debating on whether or not to share this part of our story and how to go about it without sounding insensitive or judgemental as this is a touchy subject in most split families, I would imagine. I’m not sharing this to convince anyone with opposing beliefs that they should follow our example. Every family and every situation is different. For us, this works. Every crossroad we come to, we actively discuss the options and decide together what we feel is the best one. We allow our son to help make family decisions when appropriate, and we always have open communication. I want other step moms and step dads to know that it’s okay to feel guilty, and it’s okay to be happy. It’s okay to be unsure and have mixed emotions. Talking to your partner about what you’re feeling helps so much.
What’s not okay is bashing the other parent, saying inappropriate or rude things about the other parent even if the child can’t hear what you’re saying. It may be difficult but the birth parent will always be your child’s parent, whether they’re not in the picture or not. They’re a part of your child’s identity and should be treated as such. As soon as a step parent realizes that, it makes family life so much easier and more enjoyable.
My step son calls me mom, which means he has 3 parents that love him with everything we have. He is happy, healthy, safe, and most of all- LOVED. And I wouldn’t change it for the world!