58 answers

What to Call Stepmother

Hello, I have a question for my sister. She has a 12y.o stepson and she does not want him calling her by her first name and he does not want to call her "mom", which is ok with her however they can't seem to find a middle ground. Do any of you have any suggestions?

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So What Happened?™

OK, I guess I wasn't too clear with my question. My sister has been raising her stepson since he was 4 years old and he used to call her "My Jane" however now that he's older he finds it childish to call her that and she understands. She does not want him to call her by her first name because she has two daughters (ages 8 and 2 1/2) and thinks it would be kind of weird that their brother calls her Jane and they call her mom. I appreciate all of the useful responses however do not understand why so many people used my question to vent and be negative about a person they've never met. As a general rule I only respond to questions when I have something that may help the person and not put them down. Once again, thanks for the people with useful advice.

Featured Answers

I have a son from a previous relationship. he is 10 and my husband has been in his life for 6 yrs. I have never suggested my son refer to his step dad as "dad". He has a dad.
One the same note, I have always told my son if he wants to call him dad....thats ok. He does on occasion. I don't think there is anything wrong with the child to refer to her by name.

Just my opinion.....some times the titles need to be earned. It's not just a name, its a feeling

Maybe "Madea" is a good alternative. Not mom or the first name but it carries respect and endearment without crossing the boundries.

I got remarried when my twins were 5, and my son was 3. They all started out calling my husband by his name, and their stepmom (dad also remarried) by hers. Over time, because they were with my husband on a daily basis, the twins began to call him dad. It took my son a bit longer, but when he finally used dad, it was because he meant it. I never asked them to call their stepparents anything, this was a decision they made entirely on their own. My stepdaughters however, still to this day, call me by my name, even tho they were with me and my husband more than their own mom. They both have kids, and one says nana, the other says nana K.. You can't force a child to call someone mom or dad, this has to come from their heart, and to try to force it would cause resentment on the childs part. The other kids will adapt to their brother calling her by her name. Maybe they could sit down and try to come up with a name together that they both feel comfortable with. My kids actually ended up calling their stepmom 'missy mom' for a long time, so maybe 'mama jane' or something similar?

More Answers

I haven't read all your responses, but I also have a step daughter, and my husband and I have made sure she knows that she may choose to call me by my first name or by 'mom'; whatever she is more comfortable with. If she has that choice for herself, it makes her feel more comfortable. (She uses both, actually!- mostly 'mom', even though she has her own birth mom, too). But what matters most is that your sister and the child have a good, healthy relationship. The child needs to be able to have some comfort in choosing some things, even though the parent has the final say. Remember that a divorce situation and step parents, etc. can be hard and confusing on kids and the more comfortable they feel, the better. Sometimes it's necessary to ask ourselves as parents what really matters in the long run, as well as if certain disagreements are worth the battle...hope this helps : - )

1 mom found this helpful

When our boys were growing up, somehow I became "Mama B" to all their friends. I thought it was cute and respectful at the same time. Now that one of our sons has become a stepfather, he became "Daddy Bret" half the time and just plain "Daddy" the rest of the time.

To be honest, your sister should simply let her step son make the decision and accept whatever he decides... If he wants to call her by her first name, she should accept that. I come from a "blended" family myself and have always called my step mother by her first name. If he is forced to call her something else, he may begin to resent it. And being a STEP child is a difficult situation to begin with... But if he is given the choice, he may come up with something else that is a term of endearment (if they have a close relationship). I know it may seem disrespectful for him to use her first name since she is an adult/authority figure and he is a child but it's such a sticky situation to begin with - one that this little boy didn't ask to be brought into - so in order to help him adjust, it may be best to forego some of the formalities... But that's just my opinion based on my personal experience (your family's situation may be totally different!)

Well unless your sister things her STEP SON should call her MRS. Whatever her last name is, then she is pretty much out of luck. First of all this is her now husband's son and she is really putting a strain on making him feel like he is part of his family. She is a part of his life and needs to realize that, he may be 12, but wheither she likes it or not he is PART OF HER FAMILY. I have had my step father for ove 20 year, when I talk about him I refer to him as DAD to others, I found out a long time ago that after all the time he spent in my life, his feelings were very hurt that I would not acknowledge that he was more to me and really was.

My 8 and 10 year old address their step mother as Step Mom or call her by her name. Even I think it is silly that after 6 years they call her MISS APRIL. I told them, she is going to be around for a long time and we have a good relationship, she is a mother to them, if they call her MOM I'm fine with it. I'm their mother, and they know this, but this woman would do as much for my two as she does for hers. She deseves to be acknolwedged as to her part of the family.

I dated someone for 5 years and my kids always called him by their first name, your sister needs to pick her battles, and maybe realize she has an important place in that childs life.

That can be tricky with a 12 year old for sure! Try something creative like "super-stepster". Getting his input on a goofy title can be a good bonding time!

S.

I guess I would call her stepmom. I am not sure what else to call her. My son calls his stepmom by her first name and my SIL's stepdaughter calls her stepmom.

Does your sister have a nickname that she goes by? My step dad's name is George and I have called him Geo through the years. My step mom's name is Darlene and I always called her Dar. Maybe even just using the first initial of her first name ~ it's tough being in the situation but there is a happy medium. Key is to have them keep communicating with each other until that middle ground is found. Good luck to your sister!

hmmm this is a toughie.... I am not sure. Maybe they could come up with a cute name together.

For close friends, we often will have our children call them Miss or Mr., as in Miss Julie or Mr. Jeff. So it would be "Dad and Miss Julie." (or Ms. if she prefers) If that is too formal, maybe they could try "mom Julie" or choose a "mom" nickname from another language. For example, Mum (British), or Ima ("eeh-mah," Hebrew), or Mon Mere ("moh mare," French) or some other language. That's how we got to call my father-in-law "Papou" for grandfather. He did not want to be Grandpa or Pop. Papou is what Greeks use for Grandfather.

Hi,
When I was first married to my husband, through respect, I always called my mother-in-law by her married name. I just did not feel right by calling her anything else. When my children were growing up, I found that they were having a difficult time trying to address an adult who was not "Aunt" or "Uncle". That was when I explained to the boys about respect of identifying someone. So we used Mr.Gary or Miss J.. That seems to work perfectly for everyone. To this day, my daughter-in-law calls me Miss J. and it is perfect and respectful.

I hope this helps!

Out of respect, I feel he should at least address her with Ms. before her first name.

I guess I don't understand why this has become an issue for your sister after all these years. Her step-son has always addressed her as something other than mom in front of her other children. If she was worried about it being weird for the other two then she should have come up with a name for all of them to call her the same thing from the beginning...not wait until he is 12 and make it an issue. (Not trying to be negative here but you did ask for an opinion.) It sounds like this is more of a case of hurt feelings on her part because he has dropped the pet name for her that he used as a child. He is a pre-teen boy....at that age most of them refuse to kiss or hug their own mother in public. It doesn't mean that his feeling toward her as a step-parent has changed. She really needs to back off on this one and choose her battles. I see nothing wrong with him using her first name. My older son calls my husband by his first name and the younger one (who is his)calls my husband Daddy and it is not an issue at all. My older son does, however, refer to my husband as his dad when he is talking to other people so my husband knows that he thinks of him as a parent. Sorry, but I have to go with let the kid decide what is comfortable for him on this one. It harms no one for him to call your sister by her first name...other than maybe her ego being a bit bruised.

My niece was here this weekend and she doesn't call my SIL mom she calls her Mo. It is her mother she just likes to shorten things. It might be an option for you sister.

K. -

I have three children from my first marriage and they have always called their step-father by his first name. We had a child together four years ago and, of course, he's Daddy to her. It has never fazed her in the least that she calls him Daddy and they call him Don. It's also completely normal to her that they have a different last name and that they go to their Daddy's house on the weekend while she stays with us. None of that has ever been "weird" for her, however unusual it may seem to the outside world. It's just the reality of our blended family and it works for us. I hope that helps a little.

L.

I was 26 when my dad re-married, and my stepmom has always signed her cards "Maggie/Mom" I like it. It recognizes that she IS a mother and also acts like one towards me (in a good way), yet includes the adult nature of our relationship.

There are other battles and struggles ahead that are so much more important than this one.

Let the child call her what the child needs to until the child is comfortable with calling her something else. I have step parents and am also a step parent and so is my husband. As long as there is respect in his voice let him use whatever he comes up with as long as it is not demeaning. I have come up with nicknames for my step parents over the years and that will happen if she doesn't push the relationship. My step mom has become "MTP" Mom Type Person. In my own family we have dropped the word step as much as possible because we are always striving to be a well blended family but I am still L. to my husband's children - except when they slip and call me Mom or Ma which always makes my heart swell. You just don't push kids where you want them to be happy being at 12 yo, you guide them them their through their choices.

I hope all goes well.

When my son (who is going to be 13 next month) is talking to me or my family I know he refers to his step mom as his "second mom" or "Mama Joy" (her name is Joy). I am not sure what he calls her on a daily basis, as he lives with my ex and his step mom. Hope this helps. Good luck to your sister and her family.

Hi K.,

I am a step-mom myself. And when my step-daughter was a lot younger and was living with us full time she asked to call me mom. I had to sit her down and explain to her why she shouldn't and how it might hurt her own mother. So we decided on Miss J.. Yes she used my first name, but I guess that's better than the alternative, lol. Now that she'd older she just uses my first name.
I think it's fine and shows respect when putting the Miss in front of the first name. That is what all the kids in our subdivison do when addressing adults, Mr. Art, Miss. J., Miss Julie, etc...
Good Luck!
J. in Macomb

It sounds like they're not really comfortable with each other, as if neither wants to acknowledge they are part of the same family. ;) I guess they need to define how casual they want to be before deciding on a name. Is the child getting switched off between parents or is he primarily with one or the other? What about "Auntie ______" which can mean a close family friend to a child?
I'm sure as they develop their relationship something will natural evolve.

Since you added a little more context to the situation it changes my original response...Obviously they don't have to worrying about the fragility of blending a new family! I know it probably won't change your sisters mind about the first name thing (everyone has a different view of respect) I just wanted say that the kids may be able to understand it better than she thinks. My husband and I are still married, but each of us has two families. Around four, my son (now 5) questioned why we had so many moms and dads and why we didn't call them mom or dad like he does with us. We told the truth. He just looked at us and said "ok." Much easier than even I thought it would be! Also, all of my friends and my husband and I have gone through a period when our children called us by our first names (and I remember doing it to my mom when I was little). It seems to be right of passage! They hear our friends or our parents say our names so they want to try it too. It just took a couple of times of firmly saying, "no, you call me mommy" and they get it.

Anyway, I just have to add that I liked one of the suggestions someone gave of calling her MJ. That's cute and very Spiderman-esque.

I really think she needs to get over him calling her by her first name. Otherwise she's going to earn some unwanted nickname. :o)

I'm sorry some are being negative. My 9 year old has always called my husband Brent and my other children aren't confused by this. Occasionally my four year old will say Brent instead of Daddy and I simply say you mean daddy. I would just let the son call her what he is comfortable with. I wish them luck.

K.,

I met my "future" stepson when he was three. He wasn't thrilled with his Dad having a woman in his life. He called me "hers" or his mom's name. I went with it. After awhile he graduated to my first name. When he married a few years ago I was in the reception line next to his Mom. What a kid calls you at the beginning doesn't really matter. But most importantly, when you marry someone that already has children you better get used to compromising. It isn't about you.

S.

K.,

Would your sister be ok with the name M.J.? A shortened version of My Jane?

It might be a solution.

Good luck.

I have friends who are step parents and their stepchildren and their friends call them by their first name and add mom to it, so it would be like "K. Mom."

I would use the Ms...so sn so ....I actually have the neighborhood kids call me Ms J. - only because i hate to be called mrs H...thats my MIL and well ICK!

The kid is 12? I do not understand why he cannot call her by her first name. What else is there?

Hi, i have two girls who call their step mom by her first name and she doesn't mind. It may seem a little akward, but maybe use a nick name or something fun. I guess it would depend on your relationship and comfort level. I as a child always called my step dad by his nick name and my current step mother by her first name. My children also call my boyfriend of six years by his first name. Good luck to you on finding middle ground.

I am a young mother of 4 children, i work full time in the motel bussiness.

I read a lot of responses; and, although I don't have the problem as a mom, I did as a kid. We called him "uncle". It was too wierd. My son has a friend who calls his stepdad, "Buddy". It works out well, as all the kids call him that now that he is older. I agree with the suggestion of asking him. Sometimes, you can add "Miss" to the name or maybe he can call her "MaM". They will need to work it out together once given some suggestions. Maybe they could go out to lunch and have a "discussion", my son and I do that all the time when we need to talk about "stuff".
B.

Maybe "Madea" is a good alternative. Not mom or the first name but it carries respect and endearment without crossing the boundries.

I guess I would wonder why she doesn't want to be called by her first name.I had 2 stepfathers and that was what we called them {thier first Name} There are many issues in blended families and I think as long as he is being respectful he is ok.Pick another battle that is more important than what he is to call her. Good luck and God bless

I think this would be a bigger issue if the child were smaller, but he is 12 and is fully capable of understanding the situation...ask HIM what he wants to call her. My husband adopted my son when he was 13, but he still addresses him by his first name. He refers to him as 'my dad' to other people, though. We've never really addressed it, it was just left up to him. I don't see the problem with first names...that's what it's for, right? For that matter, my 4 year old has called me by my first name on occasion when he is trying to get my attention and Im not listening...LOL!!

My advice to her would be 'choose your battles...this shouldn't be one'.

~L.

K.

What about Mom Sue? Does the child respect her as a Mom? What about a nick name? I am the step Mother of three children and I had no problem with them calling me my first name. I am sure it was better than some of the names that were said behind my back.

Good Luck
K.

This is a delicate situation and as long as the child is treating her with respect; there is no reason he cannot address her by her first name if he is more comfortable with this. In time, there may be a 'pet' name developed (even if this is not "Mom".).

I very much agree with another poster that there are other battles and more important issues to focus on other than what she should be addressed as. Such as the fact that this little boy that is fast approaching "teenage-hood" will be needing a mother figure in his life and other ordeals and will need her.

It almost sounds as if she is not 'on board' or comfortable with the situation yet? I could be wrong, but this is what the situation is telling me... (coming from a step-child that has been there on that side of the fence. And as a Step Child... all my parents are addressed by their first names - beginning at age 9.)

No offense is intended, and I truly hope things work out! ;)

We have friends that are experiencing the same thing, they have decided with the help of the step son to call his dads wife Miss Kelly, as Kelly is her first name. ~Debbie~

Hi K.,

I'm just curious why your sister doesn't want him to call her by her first name. This is very common with step-parents. I'm a step-parent and I've let the children decide because this is a minor battle in the grand scheme of things. I would suggest your sister let the issue pan out for itself. I have a 14-year old step-son and know there are much bigger hurdles to overcome.

Does she think calling her by her first name is disrespectful? That's all I can think of...that she feels like a 12 year old addressing someone by their first name does not sound respectful. But your sister needs to realize something: While she may not want random 12 year old children calling her by her first name (because that would be disrespectful), her stepson is not random and also doesn't really have another good choice. He wouldn't want to call her mom (or anything insinuating 'mom' in a different language) because "mom" is a name that feels sacred for his own mother. Just the thought of calling your sister "mom" probably makes him feel a bit of betrayal to his real mom.

She should realize that her first name is the best option. If he wanted to call her Ms./Mrs., that would be REALLY impersonal (and strange)and I doubt she wants to encourage such distance between them. And if she goes with her first name, that doesn't mean all of his friends will be calling her by her first name too. The friends will refer to her as Mrs. {"last name"}. Think about it, kids call their mothers mom (because that is the name reserved just for them in their family), but their friends call her "Mrs.". So he will be the only child who gets to call her by her first name, which should feel special to both him and your sister.

The first name is personal, is not disrespectful coming from a stepchild, and is the best option to encourage more closeness between them now and in the future.

Just my two cents...

I think he is old enough to call her by her first name. She isn't his mother and unless his mother has passed away he shouldn't call your sister Mom. What does his Dad think? What did the stepson call her before his dad married her?

I don't think Aunt is the way to go and considering their relationship is much closer now I think their is nothing wrong with the 12 year old calling her by her name. My kids are 8 & 10 and both call their step mom by her first name. I am would be curious what other ideas you get.

Not to be rude but she needs to get over herself and think of the hard situation the kid is in. It is hard enough to have a step parent let alone one that will not let you call her by her first name like other step parents. She is not his mom she is his step mom and her first name is appropriate.

K.,

I don't understand what's wrong with calling her by her first name. But, if it isn't something she's comfortable with - maybe she has younger children and doesn't want to hear her own children pick up on the first name calling?

My suggestion is to find a nickname that is acceptable to both. Let is be a term of endearment just like your spouse would call you babe, honey, sweetie, etc. We all respond to our nicknames as easily as we do our first name or mom.

Just a suggestion. The most important part is the relationship your sister and her stepson have together. Focus on that and the name will just come and be more special to both.

Well, I don't have too much experience with step parents but I DO know that USUALLY if the kid doesn't want to call the step-parent mom or dad, they usually say the first name. That's what my cousins did with their step dad. I don't really see what the issue is with the first name. I mean, unless she wants to be called "Hey you!".

I have a son from a previous relationship. he is 10 and my husband has been in his life for 6 yrs. I have never suggested my son refer to his step dad as "dad". He has a dad.
One the same note, I have always told my son if he wants to call him dad....thats ok. He does on occasion. I don't think there is anything wrong with the child to refer to her by name.

Just my opinion.....some times the titles need to be earned. It's not just a name, its a feeling

My parents divorced when I was 5 and my dad remarried when I was 7. My brother (2 years younger) and I always called our stepmother by just her first name. And the same is true for all of my friends whose parents remarried.

I think "mom" is inappropriate unless his real mom is no longer a part of his life and he is comfortable with calling her mom. At the same time, I think Miss {first name} sounds too formal. They are family and Miss {first name} is something my kids call the neighbors, not family. I'm curious why she doesn't want him to just use her first name.

K. ~
I had 2 step-mothers growing up and I've been a step-mother for almost 11 years. I always called my step-mothers by their first name. My mom was my mom and no one could replace her (she passed away when I was 10). And my step-kids have always called me by my name. Also, my son has always called my husband and his dad's wife by their first names. I think adding the "miss" in front of her name is too formal, more like what you would use for an aquaintance than family. I don't understand why your sister has a problem with him using her name. I think that if he ever felt comfortable enough, he could call her mom, but that would have to be up to him, when he's ready.
D.

My kids called my husband by his first name and would accept nothing else. The oldest was 11. Recently, one by one, they've begun to call him Dad, but they are in their mid-30's to mid-40's now. I tried some cute names like putting Papa in front of his name but they wouldn't do it. Saw it as disloyal to their father. I'd just let him do what is most comfortable for him. There are so many bigger issues to deal with in a blended family.

You guys could come up up with nicknames for each other. You will even bond a little more from the exercise.

Speaking from my own experiences with stepparents...I never wanted or want to call them mom or dad. I feel it's disrepectful and potentially hurtful to my birth parents. I think your sister is just going to have to live with it. Who knows, maybe the stepson will come up with a cute nickname. All in all, I think it should be up to the stepson to decide.

If your sister doesn't want to be called by her first name, what does she want to be called? I hope she doesn't want this 12 year old kid to call her "mom." She's not his mom. I assume he already has a mother. It is common for step-children to call their step-parents by their first names. I call mine by theirs! I think your sister needs to get over this. It doesn't make sense. She's just making the situation more difficult than it has to be!

My step kids call me Care Bear, their dad starting calling me that and it stuck on the kids. I would never expect them to call me mom . Come up with some kind of special nickname that is special for him to call you. I love when the kids call me care bear- it warms my heart as if they were calling me mom.

Hi K.,

I'm with everyone else on this one - why the issue with using her first name? To say "Miss" whatever IS like addressing a teacher and is far too formal for family.

I always called my step-dad by his first name in the beginning, but because we became so close over the years (him & my Mom have been together now about 27 years) it transitioned into "Daddy" (sort of a joke between us because he's only 10 years older than me!).

My point is that your sister needs to figure out why she's so against having him call her by her first name and then she needs to get over it! Since she's supposed to be the adult here, she needs to be the one to make concessions to make her step-son feel as comfortable with her as possible. : )

I got remarried when my twins were 5, and my son was 3. They all started out calling my husband by his name, and their stepmom (dad also remarried) by hers. Over time, because they were with my husband on a daily basis, the twins began to call him dad. It took my son a bit longer, but when he finally used dad, it was because he meant it. I never asked them to call their stepparents anything, this was a decision they made entirely on their own. My stepdaughters however, still to this day, call me by my name, even tho they were with me and my husband more than their own mom. They both have kids, and one says nana, the other says nana K.. You can't force a child to call someone mom or dad, this has to come from their heart, and to try to force it would cause resentment on the childs part. The other kids will adapt to their brother calling her by her name. Maybe they could sit down and try to come up with a name together that they both feel comfortable with. My kids actually ended up calling their stepmom 'missy mom' for a long time, so maybe 'mama jane' or something similar?

he should just call her by her first name, as a child of divorce both parents remarried and always called my step parents by their first name

I'm sorry the child is 12. First names are fine.

I'd suggest looking in to your cultural and language heritage and picking a nickname for mom out of those choices. For example, because of our blended and reblended families, my kids have so many papas and grandmas that we call my (ex) in laws Ye Ye and Nai Nai, and their great grandmther lao nai nai since they are of Chinese decent. It's correct, respectful and not so confusing!

Being a stepmom is hard, but I have to believe that being a stepchild is harder. I see absolutely no reason why he can't call her by her name - it seems disrespectful of him to expect otherwise. My stepkids could call me mothergoose for all I care, I'm just thrilled I get to spend the time with them that I do. Whatever he calls her, it needs to be his choice.

K.,

This must be a difficult situation for both your sister and your nephew.

Here is my opinion, and that's all it is...an opinion. I think that since the other children are old enough to know, and I'm assuming that they know, that their older brother has another Mommy. Perhaps if your sister explained to them that since he has another Mommy it would be really confusing to him if he called her Mommy too. Now that he's older and loves her so much he's going to call her Jane.

Your nephew is a preteen and it is a VERY rough age. Since your sister is the adult in the situation, as much as it may pain her, it would probably be easier for her to be the one to give in. Your nephew has so much he's probably going through trying to force him to say something he doesn't want to or trying to have him compromise may be too tough.

Another suggestion may be for him to call her Aunt Jane which may sound more respectful than just Jane.

My parents are divorced and re-married. I always called my step-dad "Dad" and my step-mom by her first name. Everyone is different and I wish your nephew and sister the best of luck in resolving the situation! :)

I totally understand this situation. I have 3 step children and now a 2yr old and a 1yr old and I too have had this problem. But its not really a problem. I feel that the mom name will come in due time. I know you dont want them to feel preasured in calling you mom when your not really the mom. Touchy situation. I also look at it as a learning exprience for your little ones as well. You children should know that you have another name other then mom. Incase something happens to them or they are lost. (god forbid!) They hear the other kids call your name everyday could be a good thing. And for the most part kids are very smart and your kids know your mom. And soon shell be the mom to her step son when hes ready. Many Blessing.......... M.

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