Bonus Daughter Went from Calling Me "Mom" to Using My First Name

Updated on July 07, 2009
M.C. asks from New Britain, CT
15 answers


I guess you could say this post is for the bonus (or step-, if you prefer) mommies like me out there. My oldest daughter is now 14. I have known her and been an active part of raising her since she was 5. From age 6, even before her dad and I were married, she always called me "Mom." Now, for the past few months it has been "M." when she's talking to me. However, she called me up the other day to ask me something and told her mother, "My mom says..." I asked her about it (very non-confrontationally) about a month ago and she just said, "Really? I didn't notice, huh." She and I still have a great relationship (hate to say it, but WAY better than any of her other parents, inc. my husband) and she still confides in me, seeks advice from me, etc. She still says "I love you," but I really miss being called "Mom"; really, I've earned it! So what's your take on it, moms? Is this teenage rebellion, maybe part of her "finding herself"? I never had a stepparent so I don't have anything by which to compare this.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your advice. I value all the input and it has helped me put things in perspective. It might offend her biological mother (I don't think so, because she and I have had conversations about it in the past and she never said anything about it--also, I never asked her to call me Mom, my daughter started doing it on her did my other bonus daughter, who has a different mom). For those who said she and I have a "friend" relationship, please understand that that is very hurtful...I love ALL my children (no matter whose biology they have or what they may call me) and I am a good mom to them ALL. I have a mom/child relationship with ALL of them. I resent the woman who told me I won't have a relationship like that with my "real" children when they are teenagers. ALL my children are my "real" children, and I have a good relationship with them all. I don't expect that to end simply because they are teenagers--teenage years don't have to be awful with your family if you have good relationships!

Thanks for your input and I won't worry about it anymore. She and I are still close and that's what matters, a name won't change that. (By the way, I also feel that the names "mom" and "dad" are very much earned. Biology does not a parent make. Adoptive parents earn the right when they sign over the paperwork. In most instances they have worked very hard to earn their titles. I would formally adopt my daughters in a second if I could, but they are lucky enough to still have their birth mothers in their lives.)

More Answers



answers from Boston on

I was a stepdaughter who called my stepmother Mom or Mommy Caryl when I needed to differentiate between my two moms. From very early, when I was 6 on until the present, I am 43, I called her this and referred to her in these ways. As I grew into adulthood saying Mommy Caryl became very cumbersome and inappropriate. Starting to call her Caryl as an adult also felt wrong as it seemed to diminish my love and respect for who she was in my life. I wish very much that we had found a way to make a transition to me calling her Caryl or some other special name so that I did not have this challenge. My Cousin who was also a stepdaughter called her stepmother Ellen from when she was a toddler and this has been much more comfortable for both of them. They clearly love and respect one another and it does not cause pain for my Aunt Ellen to not have been called Mom.

It sounds like you were hurt by the change.I think it would be okay to say "I miss being called Mom, but I can understand that it might be less confusing for you to call me M.". It might open a door for dialogue and also might reduce the guilt your bonus daughter feels as she explores her identity.The less guilt she feels the more her love can come through.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Wow, I'm really surprised that this child's mother was ever okay with her calling you mom. I would not be happy if any of my children were calling another woman mom. I've never been in your situation before, but given that she's not your biological child I would just let it be. Maybe she's come to view it as disrespectful to her own mother. Maybe her own mother doesn't want her calling you mom. And maybe it's just a teenage thing. No matter how motherly you have been to this child though you are not her mother and probably need to respect either her or her mother's decision for her to not call you mom. Maybe because she confides in you so much she looks at you more as a friend anyways which you should actually rejoice in. With your own children you won't be able to have that "friend" sort of relationship when they are teenagers. So maybe instead of viewing it as insulting or a title you've earned and she should be calling you you should look at this as an opportunity to steer her in the right direction when she comes to you as her buddy. Sounds like she still has great respect for you, but you would be way over stepping your boundaries as a step parent if you requested she call you mom.



answers from Boston on

Hi M.,
I agree with the person who said that your bonus daughter probably realized that it might be hurtful to her mother to hear her call you "mom" so has shied away from doing it. I don't think it's a reflection of a change in feelings toward you. You might ask again, just to make sure. No matter how mature kids seem or how much they seem to have worked through parents' divorce/remarriage, I think there is always that conflict of whether it's OK to love the step (bonus!) parent.

[My son is nine and close with my husband (his stepdad). He's never really known his own father, only has memories of him. Yet he still has conflicts over loving his stepdad equally to his father, etc.]

BTW I see that people are giving you intellectual advice like "value the relationship, not the label," "Don't sweat the small stuff," "Just roll with it." Although I agree with these bits of advice, I also think it's normal for you to want to understand the reason for the change and even when you DO understand it, to miss her calling you mom and to grieve a bit for that time when she did. I think you should give yourself permission to feel that way, although not to dwell on it. The important thing is that you maintain the good relationship, which it sounds like you have. So good for you!


answers from New York on

I don't think anyone earns the right to be called mom. I agree that now that she's 14 she probably realized that calling you mom might hurt her own mom's feelings. Maybe her mom or another family member pointed it out to her.

I'd say don't sweat the small stuff. Continue to be there for her just like you always have and enjoy watching her turn from a child, to a teen, to a beautiful young woman.



answers from Boston on

Now that she's alittle older it has probably occured to her that calling you mom could be hurtful to her real mom. Maybe she refered to you as mom in front of her and her real mom said something or maybe just changed the expression on her face and it was enough to get her thinking that there may be a problem. Children in this situation are under alot of pressure to keep everyone happy. My advice: don't make a big deal about it. What difference what she calls you as long as you have a good relationship? It's probably best to say nothing and just let her use whatever is most comfortable for her.



answers from Boston on

Maybe since the age difference between the two of you is so little she feels odd calling you Mom. As a teenager it is something she would certainly realize. A mom is usually a much older person (like 20 plus) and you are not. I don't know just a thought. Plus teens do act out. Maybe she is testing the waters as someone said. If it bothers you try to resolve it for sure. At least put it out there. She might not do anything about it now but it will be there at the back of her mind and someday when she is older and more mature and sure of her decisions she can rethink it.


answers from Boston on

I think you have to value the relationship and not the label. I am a stepmom and I never, ever asked the girls to call me Mom. For a while they called me "S'mom" (short for "Step-mom" because they wanted something more special than my first name, but it upset their mother so much that they dropped it. I felt badly for a while, but I realized it wasn't the most important thing. Your bonus daughter may have pressure from the other home to NOT call you Mom, and she may be counting on you to be okay with that.

She may also be going thru some rebellion with her mother - the fact that she called you to ask something and then turned to her mother and said "My mom says" could very well be a way to give her mother a hard time. She may be challenging her mother's authority and using you & your opinions to do that. My advice is to NOT be a part of that!

She may also be realizing that there is not as much difference in your ages as there is between herself and her biological parents - so that could be an issue too. Perhaps her mother is jealous of her ex-husband's younger wife???

As long as she is loving and respectful, I think you have a LOT going for you! You have two children to call you "mom" and I think it's important to show the 2 bonus children that you have plenty of confidence in your relationship with them. You can respect their decision to use the "Mom" and "Dad" labels for only their biological parents. If her mother remarried, would your husband be perfectly fine with his children calling their step-dad "Dad"? I think very few people would be really okay with that - I know my husband felt that his girls' stepfather had not "earned" that right. It's a good thing too, because that marriage did not last - and it would have been harder for the girls to say goodbye to another "dad", you know?

I think you need to treasure your wonderful relationship especially as she goes into adolescence. She will need you and may confide in you more than in her own mother, and you need to do everything you can to have her continue to rely on you. Since her behavior indicates she totally values you, I think you really have to let the label go. There are so many other big challenges facing you as she moves toward adulthood, and this just isn't a battle you need to fight!

Good luck!



answers from New York on

Hey MOM,

I would say she is just trying something new out.

Testing the waters so to speak,

Yes it may hurt you but I don't think its intentional, I think its probaby more to do with something else
( not sure what tho LOL)

She may have seen a movie, OR might like the idea of calling her mom by her first name instead. and feels she can do this with you ,

Where she can't with the others.

I wouldn't answer her if she calls you M. this way she she reverts back to calling you mom.

And since she pretended not to notice LOL, its obviously a part she is playing.

I knew plenty of kids in Highschool who would suddenly called their parents by their first name,

I dunno why, I guess it was cool to do in a few movies.

Try and find a movie where its KEWL to call your mom MOM.




answers from Boston on


Your daughter's response to your question sounded to me like she is feeling her oats. Since you have a good relationship with her I would -privately- talk to her and tell her that you miss her calling you mom. That you love her and think of her as your daughter and that you would love her to call you mom again. See what she says. She may have a 'real' answer for you or just say she wants to be a grown up and call you what other grown ups call you. Either way hopefully she will tell you the real reason why she changed to calling you M. instead of mom.

Good luck,
L. M



answers from Boston on

I am a step daughter who was raised by my mom and step dad from the time I was 2. I think what your step daughter is going through is the awkwardness of identifying between her mom and you. I always called my step dad "dad" but when speaking to my father and friends about my step dad it felt kind of may be even more weird with her mom regularly there. I differentiated between the two by calling my step dad "dad" and my biological dad "father" (unless I was actually talking to my father)because my father was a once of year visit and I lived with my step dad full-time. Your step daughter must be having a real hard time differentiating you guys in her mind because she is close to both of you. I would sit down and talk to her about it. Tell her that you understand that she may feel awkward identifying between you and her mom and if she feels that its necessary for her to call you by your name so to not feel like she is betraying her mom or to help seperate the two of you in her mind then that's ok. Tell her you still love her as you always have and hope that she still thinks of you in a "mom" way even if she feels strange by calling you that. You may also find that as she gets older the age gap between you two doesn't feel as great. Meaning that as she becomes a teenager that she feels that she can relate to you more...and if thats the case you should hold onto that because you will have a more trusted relationship to discuss problems that may arise in her adolescence.



answers from Boston on

I have a step-father and step-mother, and I have never called either of them by mom or dad. I have always called them by their first names. My step-father has been in my life since younger than your daughter was when you arrived on the scene.
I would guess that if the biological counterpart is still in a childs life and the step-parent hasn't formally adopted the child, its very unusual to call their step-parent by mom or dad. Your daughter may have realized this.
I know that if, when I was growing up, I had called my step-parents by mom or dad, my biological mom or dad would get really offended.



answers from Boston on

Hi M. - I really wouldn't worry about this. I found that at a certain point (a bit younger though I think) my step-son became very conscious of the labels for all of us because he was starting to realise that his family was not quite the same as everyone else's. He suddenly started telling everyone I was his "step-mom" even before his father and I were married (though we'd been together so long this of course made sense). In fact it would infuriate his mother because though he would refer to her as "mom" to an outside person he called her (and all of us actually) by her first name because we'd always referred to one another that way. It's so amazing that you have such a close relationship with your "bonus" child - I'm equally as proud of my relationship with mine, and I think these issues are totally normal. Sure I started calling my dad by his first name when I was 14, just to be cheeky! So try and focus on all the amazing positive things about your relationship - what she calls you isn't the important part.....

All the best,



answers from Boston on

M., I'm not a step parent, but I had one from the age of 6 on. I called my step father Dad all of my childhood, but as a teen I did go back and forth between the two. I think it was a bit of loyalty to my biological father and a bit of figuring out who I was. Even now I go back and forth with what I call him, although when talking to him it's almost only Dad. I don't think I realized as a teen how much that name really means, not until I had kids of my own and realized how earned it was!! If you are that close, perhaps you could ask her if she's upset, but it will probably change again before you know it!!



answers from Boston on

Hi M.,

I was raised with my parents divorced and both remarried. My stepmother has been in my life for as long as I can remember (I think they met when I was 4). I always had called her by her first name and then when I was maybe 12 - 13, I felt like I wanted to call her mom (for a couple of reasons, 1 - I felt like she was and 2 - I didn't have a lot of friends with stepparents and I was always referring to her as "my mother" anyways) **side note** - I lived with my father and stepmother..... My mother caught wind of me and my decision to call my stepmom "mom" and was none to pleased. So it was short lived due to the guilt received on it. I was fortunate (and still am) that my stepmom was fine with it (atleast that's how it appeared to me - she never made a negative comment and was supportive either way). To this day, I have a stronger relationship with my stepmom than my "real" mom. I can confide in her, and love her as though there is no "step" involved. She's a true "grammy" to my kids and has always been an active parent in my life. Just a perspective for you to think about from your bonus daughter's standpoint. Hope all works out well for you and your family :-)



answers from Boston on

Hi M.,

First let me say how lucky your husband and his first wife are to have someone like you to help in the raising of their daughter! Your loving comments really sound sincere and anytime a young women can find a supportive adult to share with it is a blessing.

I can see why you might be hurt. It is about her though and we have to be careful it is her feelings that are primary. I think there is no harm in telling her honestly how you feel without laying on a load of guilt. If, after that she continues to call you M., my best advice is go with it. She is as you put it "finding herself" and may decide to call you mom again in the future. The relationship sounds like a beautiful one whatever she calls you.

God Bless, adolescence is a wild ride and you should hold on tight!

J. L.

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