27 answers

8 Yr Old Son Calling My Ex-husband's Fiance "MOM"

I just finished up with a somewhat nasty divorce. We both live in the same city, so we share custody of kids and have to deal with each other on a regular basis. My ex has had his fiance and her 2 kids living with them for the past month. My son just told me the other night that to welcome her to the family, he called her "mom." I'm having a very hard time dealing with this. Should I let it go? Or try and explain that he only has one mom and one dad and that it hurts my feelings? I can only imagine how my ex must LOVE it every time my son calls his fiance "mom"- knowing that it probably kills me inside. Please help if you have any suggestions.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you everyone for the responses. As of now I plan to let it go and not make it a big deal. If I try to talk to the ex, then he'll be thrilled at the idea that I was hurt by something. And I'd rather not give him the satisfaction. As for my son, if I make a big deal to him-- he'll just feel bad and more confused. And when he's mad at me, he might throw in the "mom" thing to make me mad. He's a smart one and knows how to push my buttons. I did ask my son that night, if daddy had told him to call her mom. He said no. My daughter had taken a different approach to welcoming her - she put glitter on their floor and balloons in her room! Ahhh the thought of cleaning up glitter! :) But really, I can be proud that my children are caring and smart! Also, the fiancee was a friend of ours from a few years back. And funny, I get along better with her now then the ex. No surprise. She's actually able to keep life a little more peaceful between the two of us. I did like the suggestion about talking to my ex about how he'd feel if my son called a step dad "dad." But once again, I don't even want to bring the issue up with him right now. It still hurts. And I am planning on getting some kind of counseling, not just about this, but about everything my ex put me through and keeps putting me through. Thank you again for all the advice!

More Answers

Tell him that is sweet, no matter how hard it is for you. He is trying to be nice and that, as a mom, is what you want from your children. I grew up with devorced parents, and you do not want to put your feelings onto your child or make your child feel like he needs to choose a side. He will always know that you are his mom, but you also need to let him feel comfortable talking to you about how he feels towards his father and step-mom. If his father is being mean and spitefull, your son will eventually see that. You want to be the bigger person and be the better influence. Good luck!

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I would not suggest telling your son that it hurts your feelings. When children go through nasty divorces, they do notice the tension and stress between the two parents. Sorry that it hurts your feelings, but on the other hand, it is great for your son that he feels that safe and secure with his new step-mom. That more than likely means that she's treating him well and showing him love, which is what you want for your son. Unfortunately, when parents are not together there is a very high likelihood of one or both of them having new relationships or a new marriage that will automatically provide a step-parent for the child. The best you can ask for is a step-parent that loves your child and treats him well. You're probably feeling this way, because you're not used to your son feeling motherly love like this from someone else. But you really should not bring your son into the situation, which will put the stress and feelings of the adults on his shoulders. Children do not deal well when they also are handed the stress of the parents. Your feelings will eventually pass. Even though you and your ex had a nasty divorce, it would be to the betterment of your son to not only get along with your ex but to also get to know and get along with his new step-mom. Otherwise, if it were me, I would just refer to the new step-mom as "mommy (her name)." It would very subtly encourage something other than "mom."


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I've been there, done that, too so I do feel for you on this one. First of all, this woman is not even his step-mother, just his father's fiancee. Your son is confused, yes, and trying to make the best of everything and children do, in divorce, try to make things look normal to themselves by thinking of both sets (if now there are two "sets") of parents as both being Mom and Dad. However, to help him sort it all out, explain to him, very gently and lovingly, that since he already has a woman he calls "Mom" (you!), perhaps you can help him come up with a better "name" for this woman. Since she is not yet his real step-mother, but possibly might be one day, maybe he can call her something like Mama So and So (insert her name there, don't call her a so and so) or Mamacita or something cutsie, but 'MOM" is reserved for his real mother and you need not tippy toe around this issue. Kids need to know definites and it is better for him in the long run if he differentiates between her and you. Mom is more than a name, but it IS a name -- and it is YOUR name, far as he is concerned.....or should be anyway. So let him know that he is free to love her and has your approval to love her, but the name of "mom" is yours and yours alone. He won't be emotionally scarred by reserving the name of "Mom" for you. And your feelings DO count. Many years ago, my daughter (11 at the time) came home from a visit with her dad and his wife and told me she called the woman "Mom" whenever she was there, and the pain of that has never gone away and has caused me to resent the woman, as well. I would never allow my step-children to call me Mom -- I always explained to them that they had one Mom, but could call me Mama and my name with it or call me by my name alone or some other pet name they could choose, but Mom was reserved for their own Mom, this out of respect to her as the one who gave birth to them, and this particular mom did not raise them daily -- I did! But it taught them to always show respect for other people's feelings and it did not hurt our relationship one bit for them to call me something other than "mom". Also, have a talk with your ex and let him know that you and your son have decided he will call her something else and when you talk to HIM, you need not be as gentle! Kids need to know that we have feelings, too, and if you want an open and honest relationship with him, it's okay to say you love him calling you "mom" and want it to be his special name just for you. It's okay to tell him that. Now, all that being said, my own mother was hateful and bitter to an extreme about my dad and his new wife, and I would never condone anyone doing that to a child. But this is not being bitter, it is not being hateful -- and it's okay to want and insist that your own son reserves the name of "mom" just for you. Yes, it means more to you than it does to him, but that's okay!

1 mom found this helpful

I had the same feelings when my daughter was 4 and called her Step mom "mom". She outgrew it and calls her by her name now. I think it is sweet that your son has accepted her into his life. He realizes that she is going to be a part of his dad's life. I know deep down you wish that he would be mean to her, but honestly, he is being respectful to his dad. She must be good to him for him to call her that, so at least that is comforting that she is not evil and mean to him. I don't know what to tell you. I am torn. I mean, being a step mom now, my husband's kids are 14 and 15 and we are not close at all. They are too old for that and they call me by my name and that is fine. I still wish deep down that we could be closer, but I understand. I would not tell him to stop calling her mom. I would leave that up to him. I did voice my concern to my ex at the time it occurred, but what can you do? At the time she was being "mom" to my daughter because I was in military boot camp, but soon after I got out my daughter lived with me again.

So basically, be happy that your son has a good stepmom that he feels comfortable calling Mom. He might change his mind later and call her by her name. And please understand that your son knows you are #1 Mom in his life and no one can replace you. Your actions are teaching your son right from wrong, so the decision you make on how to handle this is important. I would talk to your son about it, maybe ask him if his dad told him to call her mom and why he wants to call her mom, but I would not tell him to stop. Regardless, you should never talk bad about his dad or stepmom to him. That is his family too now.

1 mom found this helpful

I feel your pain. I have been there and it does hurt to know that your child is calling someone else "mom". I think what is worse though is that your ex is showing a total lack of respect for you being his mother and teaching your son that is okay and that mom is just a word. Well it is more than just a word. My daughter will be 8yrs old in Jan. and I went through a horrible divorce and custody fight. It was the "fight of my life"!! Both my ex and I had started seeing other people after our divorce but the custody was still going on. He was/is seeing someone and the same thing happened. You do have to be very senitive though for and to your son because it can be confusing for him and he wants to please his father too and not "make waves". I had to sit back and think about how I was going to talk to her with out being so mad that she could see it. I explained to her that is was "okay" to love someone else as well as me. I also explained that I am, and will be the only mom she will ever have no matter what. I have one daughter and one son. I tell each of them everyday..."you are my favorite daughter" and "you are my favorite son". They thought it was kinda silly at first and they say to me "But I am your "only" daughter" or " I am your only son" I smile and say "Exactly". I told her that it was okay to call her "mommy Michelle" if she wanted to but it was her choice. In the last year I have also been on the opposite side of the coin as well. My boyfriends daughter is 10yrs and she completely adores me. She also wanted to call me mom. Although it felt nice to know that she has accepted me, I explained to her basically the same thing on her "mothers" side. I told his daughter she could call me "mommy L." if she would like but to always remember that she only has one "Mother". I hope this helps. Let me know how it goes.

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I couldn't imagine how that tore your heart out. I, nor my sisters, ever called our stepmother "mom." She wasn't! I would gently put it to your son that, while you understand he wanted to be nice (remember to be nice, remember to be nice *wink*), that she is not his mother. Maybe explain to him the logisitics of mom vs. stepmom. That just because Daddy is married to her, doesn't make her his mom. You gave birth to him, giving him great rights to be the sole namesake of his "Mom." Of course try not to sound too possessive.

Heck, my stepdaughter ignores me and doesn't even address me, but I wouldn't want her calling me "mom." I've bent over backwards to try to get on her good side, but it doesn't work, so I've given up. I've bought things for her, tried to make her feel comfortable and everything. Her father & I got together when she was 6, married when she was 7. Her parents split up when she was a year old. So, if on a good side, your son is at least showing he likes his new stepmother, where as my stepdaughter refuses to acknowledge me in my own home.

I know some kids get all confused about things. Like my husbands niece was wondering what my son would call my stepdaughter's mother. Um, nothing! There's no relation at all there. Try not to make a big deal about it to your son. Maybe make it out to be an, "oh by the way" thing. If you get all up in arms, he may want to do it just to aggrivate you. I don't know, I'm not great with advice, but I thought I'd try. Good luck & many hugs through this.

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Can you see if he'd call her 'mom, Karen' instead of just mom? Don't make too big a deal about it but just let him know that while it hurts your feelings to know he calls her 'mom' you appreciate that he wants to make her feel part of the family.

This seems to work with several of my divorced/remarried friends and the kids like the compromise. It makes it less traumatic for them to know that while you guys aren't married anymore he has both his mom and dad and 'mom karen'. I'm sure he's having a tough time with his parents divorce and other folks in his life and maybe this helps him deal as well.

My kids call several of their friends moms "mom" and while it takes a different light in your issue, I know I'm the "mother" and no one else.

Hope that helps. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I understand how this is upsetting you. From your post your son did it to make her feel better, not to hurt you. You should feel proud that he wanted to think of a way to make someone feel good. He probably figures you know how he feels about you. He's not doing it to hurt you and how your ex feels about it is of no consequence. YOu have a very caring son that you should be proud of.

1 mom found this helpful

Nicely, talk to your ex about the topic. Don't mention your son calling his fiance mom. But in general terms. Does he want your kids calling your next fiance / husband "dad" or would he prefer another term. Once you get that going he may see your point a bit better. But I wouldn't mention your son calling his wife mom at all, it will look to him like jealousy and he will defend his fiance. Your son will always know who his real mom and dad are, but I understand your pain with it. Your son is doing his best to adapt to a new and difficult situation. Always remind him that no one will ever love him the way you do. "mom" is just a word a term. Motherly love is internal and no words can describe that.

Good luck, J.

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I am sorry that you are going through this. I know it must be painful! However, with that said, I have to say, let it go!!! He was trying to do something nice, and if you scold him for it or make him feel bad, he will be very confused! He doesn't understand the situation. I feel that kids don't ask for divorces, and pay a high price already, don't make this about him. It is painful, but it is about you and your feelings. You can work it out much better than he can.

I would just ask casually if daddy wants him to call her mom or if he wants to. I would also encourage you to be very gentle and loving and say over and over again, if you want to that is fine, but you don't have to. Then I would have the talk with dad (or do that first). I would not tell a child that he is "hurting my feelings". I think that may be a little cruel.

You sound like a very smart woman. Just tell yourself that this is only a title. You know you are his mom, but you know, chances are that if your ex is like most men, she is doing a lot of "mom" duties with your kids. Step-mothers can be horrible people (like mine), but some are wonderful and only want what is best for all of the children. I have a friend who has been a wonderful step-mom for years, and I have seen the other side. I know you don't want to hear this right now, but it is important to be open-minded. I would just encourage you to be "the bigger person" and just be supportive for your son who is obviously hurting and struggling to make sense of it all!

Good Luck and take care!

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Divorce sucks and hurts. For the kids too. I can only imagine the pain of your child calling "the other woman" YOUR name!

Still, this is a tough thing for kids to go through. I think I would ask him if he could have a different name for her than he has for you... maybe "mama" and save the "mom/mommy" for you -- or even Mom-Jill (or whatever her name is). Whatever you do, I'd be careful not to have him thinking that what he's doing is wrong or bad. He's going through his own struggle trying redefine his family now that Mom and Dad aren't married anymore. He is not the wrong one or to be made to feel like he has to to "take care" of you, ya know?

Can you talk to your ex about this? Is he a factor in the "mom" choice? I would express to the EX ONLY that you don't like it. In the end, whatever your son chooses to call this other lady, YOU are his mother and nothing will change that. As such, it is your job to protect him from the ugliest parts of a divorce and the havoc they can wreak on kids. I'm sorry for your pain. I hope you find happiness and come to peace with your situation --- and, eventually, a good partner to be there for you.

Know you are not alone in this:




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This opinion comes from being a teacher of young children and a degree in developmental psychology...so do with it what you will. I think that a divorce is hardest on the children. Children see that their parents are hurting and they don't share their feelings because they don't want their parents to hurt any more. So, your son is trying to deal with the strange situation as best he can. He knows who his real mother is. You will never be replaced. So, I think you can acknowledge how he has tried to make his step mom welcome in the house and assure him that that probably made her feel good. Remember he is trying to please three adults and that is a lot for a young child to deal with.
Your hurt feelings are totally natural. However, I think it is best for your son, to keep them to yourself. He is not trying to hurt you. The weight of your feelings on his shoulders is too much for a little one to bear. It might be helpful for you to talk about your feelings with a therapist. It is so helpful to talk to a third party who is not emotionally involved in the situation.
You are in a tough situation. I wish you lots of luck.

1 mom found this helpful

I had the same thing happen to me. I simply explained the one Mom and one Dad ordeal. I am also remarried and anytime that my child called her stepdad "Dad" I corrected her. I told her that she could come up with another name for her stepmom and stepdad that was similar to Mom and Dad but just not Mom and Dad. It really hurt my feelings also but I did not let my child know that it did, I tired to just talk to her about the situation but I did let my ex know what was going on & that was not going to happen and he needed to correct her when she called her Mom & that he would not like someone else to take his name as Dad & I except the same.

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I know that must hurt for your son to call his finacee mom. Please keep in mind that your son is 8 and he is doing what he feels is extending an olive branch to her. You are his mom and he knows that. You all are going to have to get along for the sake of the children and the better you two work together, the better off everyone will be. Your children will be the ones that will have to stay over night in her house and women do tend to set the tone. Let it be a good one. Your son seems to be very smart. He knows that kind words don't make enemies. Follow his lead and talk with her and make her your ally. There is no need to let a bitter divorce dictate the rest of your child raising days. Forgive and move on. Have a wonderful holiday season.

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It sounds like you raised a very respectful, caring son. He will always know you are his Mom, even if he calls his Dad's new fiancee "Mom" (which slightly off-subject - for stability, they should be married before he calls her such). Since there are 2 other kids at his Dad's now, your son may just be trying to fit in with his soon-to-be stepsiblings by calling the fiancee by the same name (Mom)as they do.

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I dont think he understands that by calling the other woman 'mom' he is hurting you. He is 8, that might be too much complication for him to grasp. He also doesnt know all the hurt that happened in the relationship. I wouldnt make it a big deal and either ignore it, or grit my teeth and let it go. Despite calling her 'mom', YOU know YOU are his real mother and care for him. When he is older he will realize this too. But you also want the other woman to accept him as a son as well, and not treat him differently than her 2 kids. Now if he was telling you this because they made him say it, and he didnt feel comfortable calling her that, then just assure him he can call her whatever he feels comfortable calling her. I didnt call my step dad DAD until I was a adult, he raised me from 6. Why does he feel he needs to welcome her to the family? Very adult thinking for a 8 year old...yet if you were the 'step mom to be' in the situation it would make you feel good.

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I understand why your son called his Dad's fiance "mom" but you should explain to him that the title is reserved for the "biological" mom or for someone that is very special AND you know very well ie.not someone you just met. He probably feels it would smooth things over when he is at his father's house. The fact that he told you says even he is not real sure what to call her! Maybe the two of you could come up with a name! He does need to know that calling her "mom" hurts your feelings so an agreed upon name would help both of you.

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First of all let me say I am sorry that you are having to experience this. I totally understand, although my situation is quiet a bit different. My 10 yr old son calls his stepmom "mom", but she has been in the pic. since he was 2. At first it was quiet hard, but I understand & one day you might as well. He calls my husband (whom has been in the pic since he was 3) dad.

I usually tell my son that I am the only mom he will ever have & he knows this. Divorce is extremely hard on children & your ex introuducing him to a new "family" is a big transition for your son. I am sure that he will probably call her mom & then her name as well. Remember, your son in trying to fit into a new "family" with your ex, is fiance & her chilren (who calls her mom). He is old enough to know who his "MOM" is.

Try not to make it any harder on him by making a big deal out of all the details. I know as a mother how hard it is, but it will get easier. Hope this helps....

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I, too, would have my heart ripped out if that happened. However, your son is only 8 and doesn't understand what he is doing to you by calling her mom. I know it is not easy, but I would have a little heart to heart with your son, but also try to let it go. If you press the issue too much, he may mention something to his Dad or her and that may cause more of a mess than it already is. Believe me, one day he will understand and appreciate that you are his only mom.
Take care.

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When I started dating my husband, his 5 yr old daughter called me her other mom. Her mom made a big deal out of it, and basically she was allowed to call her moms husband, dad, but couldnt do anything like that to me. It was sad, because it confused my stepdaughter and made her feel bad. Now, we have been married 4 1/2 yrs and our relationship with each other is strained because her mom has made a big deal out of things like that. A child will never feel the same way about a step as they would their real parent so there is no need to make a big deal of it. Good luck

Sorry to hear about the nasty divorce.

I don't know if it would help your case, but my cousin and her husband divorced (kids were really young). When the Dad remarried the kids called the new wife mother and their mom was Mom. They didn't really understand the difference between not married to my dad... so by giving each woman a different name it helped and didn't take away from the other lady.

At 8 he might understand the difference. But maybe a special "name" for the new wife would work. Of course, I don't think Mom names should be given until after the marriage b/c you never know what might happen between now and the wedding date.

I do know from a step mom perspective that while I don't mind the kid using my real name and would never pressure her to call me mom/mother/momma/etc being called "this is my dad's wife" hurts a lot. Not even using my name...

Talk to your son about his feelings of the new woman and his thoughts on calling her mom. His reasoning may surprise and may make the "issue" a little less hurtful.

Good luck!

Please be careful. You have raised a thoughtful, considerate child who was trying to be welcoming. Most children are bright and intuitive and can figure out things without having it spelled out for him. The best possible thing you can do is to establish a business relationship with your ex where both of you put your son ahead of your feelings about each other. He is a part of each of you and will feel badly if either of you is criticized or undermined in any way. He needs love, support, confidance, trust and encouragement as he approaches middle school. He needs two parents. Step parents who have good rapport with children are a blessing. My son was blessed with a step mother who is always loving, kind and good to him. I can only wish for you time and patience to heal your loss and pain.

Let all those negative feelings go it is only going to hurt you more...I have been there done that...

try not to let it hurt you it wasn`t ment to hurt you
just think about all the things your ex will miss by not being in the family picture all the time.
& how much you will be able to go & do when your kids are w/him ( i had to raise my daughter w/out any help, whatsoever from her father no weekends off no child support) & when it comes down to it she is the `mom` when your child is there. so showing some respect to her is a good thing for your child to do. & it may be hard for a while but it gets better

Having gone through a divorce with my parents at a fairly young age (I was 11), I can relate to some of the feelings that your son may be going through. Based only on my feelings during that time, I would recommend letting it go. You should explain to your son that he doesn't have to call anyone "mom" just to make her feel welcome, but if that is what he wants to call her then he should do what he feels comfortable with. Please try to understand that he isn't trying to hurt you. He is wanting to "fit in" with this other part of his family. There are these other kids at his dads' home and they call her mom. I would wonder if he also hears the other children calling your ex "dad." And he is at the age that fitting in is important. Also, please remember that if the divorce was nasty for you and your husband, can you imagine how hard it was on your child? I remember that for the longest time regardless of how many times my parents told me it wasn't my fault, I blamed myself. And I simply wanted to please all the other people in my life, as I thought I could prevent pain if I just made everyone happy. This could be another reason for him calling her "mom."

I think you have to put your feeling aside here. If he feels comfortable calling her mom, no matter if the ex is beaming, if it is best for your child, I would go with you. You know he is not doing it to hurt you, but rather to help her...which should make you feel pretty good that you are raising a compassionate child. If they were asking for her to be called mom, I would have a very different opinion. But since he came up with it on his own, know he is doing it out of love. Best of luck!

I think Jordan C gave you the best advice possible. Your son isn't rejecting you - that's the furthest thing from his mind. He probably just wants everyone to be happy and is doing whatever he can to make people around him smile. And it probably never feels like it's enough.

My parents had a bitter divorce, and it hurts the kids soooo more than they will ever let you know. My mother still has no idea how much it hurt us, and it's been 33 years! Don't add to your son's burden. I mean, I always think people should talk about their feelings, but right now you should try to put his feelings ahead of yours, because *HE* is the one who has to go from one house to another, from one life to another. If he calls her "mom" while he's there, it's because it probably helps him get along with the other kids, rather than feeling like the outsider. If it feels right to him, and it's happening at the other house, try to let it go. I KNOW it hurts, we ALL know it hurts. But you have no idea of what the dynamics are like at the other house, so... let him do what works for him.

I mean, this is mostly how he's acting at a different home, when he's not with you, so hopefully it won't really come up that much around you. Everyone here sympathizes with you and understands how it hurts your feelings. But part of being an adult is to deal with heartaches and to take a few hits for your child's sake. Talk to friends or a family counselor about it and KNOW, in your heart, that you could NEVER be replaced in his eyes. It's not about rejecting you, it's about finding his way in this new double life, trying to fit in and have some sense of normalcy.

Good luck

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