For Step Families Who Don't Use the Word *Step*

Updated on February 25, 2011
L.P. asks from Uniontown, PA
20 answers

I've read responses on this site, where people have said that they don't refer to step relationships in their families as *step.* For instance, a mom might say that she and her husband don't refer to each other's children as step-children. They are simply "their children" or "their family."

This makes sense to me, and I don't want my son to feel any less a part of our soon to be new family when my fiance and I get married, in that he will become a *step-child.* My question is, though, how do you get around that? My son has an involved father, who is "Dad" so my fiance is not taking over the role of Dad to my son in the way of being a replacement for his bio Dad. To date, he calls my fiance by his first name and everyone is ok with that, at least for now. Although one time in passing, my son did ask if he could call my fiance Daddy... he quickly changed the subject before I had a chance to respond... and it hasn't come up again... yet. But I think it will if we have a child together, and my fiance is being referred to as Daddy for that baby. My son is 5, btw.

I can see how families with children on both sides from previous relationships can easily refer to the kids as "our kids" because collectively, they are. But in my case, my son is the only child in the situation, so if we refer to him as "our son," that not only presents him as the son of me and my fiance, but also may confuse my son... I don't know. Also, my fiance and I would like to have a child together... so if/when that time comes, and there is another child in the mix, it may be easier to just refer to them as "our kids" or "the kids" or "our family." But for now, how do we get around this? Like, if my fiance and I are talking to someone about my son, I can't say "our son," because that's not accurate, and for my son's sake, I don't want people inaccurately assuming my fiance/husband is his father, and my son having to explain differently. If my fiance is talking to someone about my son and were to say "my son," again, that's deceptive in a way, yet, I don't want him to refer to him as his "step-son." ?????

I don't know. Is being a *step* so bad?

Looking for wisdom from those families who do NOT USE STEP, and how you would apply that to my situation...


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So What Happened?

THANK YOU KRISTA... that is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Tearing up a little because THAT is what I hope for for my son...

Ok, a little follow up...

My son knows that my fiance will become his step-dad, which he is excited about. They get along quite well. And it's not so much what other people think that concerns me, although that is a factor, it's how my son feels and what he thinks that matters to me, and I don't want him to feel less than a bio child being a "step" and I don't want him confused. That's the crux of it.

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answers from Milwaukee on

I call one of my older, close friends my "bonus mom." Not exactly what you were looking for but most people understand 'bonus' as a postive word without much explanation.

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answers from Bloomington on

My family is very blended! We have steps and halfs, but NEVER EVER refered to it that way. We were all brothers and sisters. When My mom and Step-dad got married my mom had 5 kids and he had 3 kids from previous marriages. Then they had a baby together. We were never introduced as step or half or anything like that that. There were 9 of us and we all lived together. We all called mom - mom and Dad - Dad. They always refered to us as their kids. Still to this day all my sisters and brothers are just that. No step, no half - it just doesn't feel right to us to say that. It feels like a foriegn concept or something. Hope that makes sense.

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answers from New York on

I didn't realize that the man I call "Gramp" was not my father's bio dad until I was 8 or 9 b/c my father NEVER referred to him that way and my Gramp has always called my father his "son". My father's parents divorced when he was 3 and his mother remarried when he was 6- his father was alive until he was 17 and he called both men "dad" b/c both men were raising him as his "father". It wasn't as confusing as you might think b/c the two "dads" were rarely in the same place at the same time.

The way my dad explained it to me when I asked was quite simple- "a dad is someone who loves you and takes care of you, makes sure that you have what you need and most of what you want, tells you when your're wrong and celebrates when you're amazing. I'm really lucky b/c I had two people who did this for me."

If your fiance is treating your son as though he is his "son" then by all means, it is "our son". If your son asks about it, explain who "dads" are and that he's extra lucky to have two men in his life who love him so much.

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answers from Dallas on

We have older kids we brought into the relationship and younger kids we made together. They are all our kids but I differantiate his or mine in conversation for claritys sake. When my husbands' son (that's how I refer to him) introduces me to people he calls me his step mom, but he does it in such a loving, proud way that it makes me feel great. I introduce him as My favorite step son. He's my only one, so I hope that way he will know I'm proud to call him that. I took his lead and followed it.
With the younger kids, there is no step involved. They will grow up in the knowledge that mom and dad and big borther and sister are all one big family. There is no step in thier vocab. The kids certainly aren't step brothers and sisters. Either you're a brother or your not. There's no half or step. But when it comes to parents, assuming the name mom or dad kind of devalues the bio parents role. I know I don't want my husbands new wife calling my 18 yr old her daughter. If she did, my girl would correct her - hey I have a mom!

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answers from Denver on

I would ask him. He's 5 - he will have feelings he can talk about it. He may change his mind as he gets older, but if you let him have a say now, it will make this easier as time passes.

I love my "Bonus Mom" but it makes me uneasy when she calls me "her daughter". I have a Mom all ready. But I was grown when she came into my life and I might feel differently if I'd been 5. I don't know. Or I might just say "my step-Mom."

I call my step-brother "my brother" but that's a bit different. It's not like the fact that I all ready had a sibling meant I couldn't have another. My brother, by the way, is my "bonus Mom's" son....and he was 10 when he came into my life.

My step-Dad also has a son who is not and will never be my brother - not my step-brother either. And I do love my step-dad, but he was obviously a prettty horrible Dad (I don't normally blame parents for how kids turn out but he is very enabling with his son & obviously always has been).

I don't think "step" is bad and I don't think special names are bad either, and if your son wants to call both Dads "Daddy" and someone is confused, well, so be it.


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answers from Chicago on

I have a 14 year old daughter and my husband has never referred to her has his step daughter. Now, it is a little different for us because her real dad is not in the picture at all. Not sure if he ever will be.
When we first started dating, she was obviously just 'my kid'. But as we became more serious and got engaged and got married, he would refer to her as his daughter.

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answers from Denver on

I think each family has to work this out. In our case, I have a 15 year old step daughter that I've known since she was 3. Her mom and dad share joint custody and have since she was 1. She doesn't call me "mom" because she has a mom who I don't want to "replace" and somehow feel that wouldn't be fair of me to ask to be called "mom". She's always called me Deenie - which no one else does, so it's special to us. We all get along well and since her parents are very involved in her life - the step-parents go by our first name. It works for us.

Also, I say I have three kids (I have two others) most of the time. Sometimes, it comes up that she's not biologically mine, but I agree we are one family - they come in all shapes and sizes.

I know it works as she posted on her facebook one day that she's very thankful for many things... one was being part of the (listed the four last names of her parents/step parents) extended family. That was proof : )

Good luck and know it will work out and do what is right. No need to force anything. It's not what you call it, it's how you treat one another that makes a family!

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answers from Richmond on

We're a blended family. I see no need to explain our family dynamics. My fiance is dad (even though he's not bio dad to the girls, my son we had together). You can absolutely say 'our son'! Why not? My fiance has step-families, and calls his stepbrothers his brothers, step mom is mom, step dad is dad... I guess I've never known anything other than that, but I never stopped to think about it. When talking about my MIL and step MIL, I just say 'the mother in laws', plural, and only address it if someone looks REALLY confused. No matter what, you're still going to be 'mom' to a certain extent. Use whatever you're most comfortable with, more important, use what the KIDS are most comfortable with. If you two have a baby, those children will all still be siblings. I don't go around saying all 3 of my kids are half-siblings!

Congrats! :)

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answers from St. Louis on

I never refer to my step children as children. I always say I have X number of kids. If asked more specifically I say that XYZ are my step children, but I claim them as my own. For the most part everyone knows that they are my step children so this isn't an issue for us. I also have let them decide what they want to call me. This is a difficult subject, but most families are having to address this issue. I am eager to see what kind of responses you get from your question.

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answers from Miami on

Let me tell you im one of tose children with two dads...and its an easy as that, i have call them both dad since i was 5 and my mom marry my DAD, i spend more time with my newer dad, hahahaha....and it was never a problem for me one the biological is daddy, and the other dad...thats it....i was never confussed...

sometimes people around me i say my dad and the name and its fine, but most of the time im referring to my DAD ahahahah

At the begining this situation hurt my biological daddy but at the end he is just happy that i have someone else who loves me and treats me like a princess..

btw..i hope my son doesnt get confussed with the!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Whew! Long winded lol If you refer to your soon to be husband as step dad, stop now, or if you use step son dont do that either.

Here is goes: your son can say 'my mothers husband'
You can refer to your son as 'your son' cause he is
and your fiance can refer to him by his name or my wifes son
NOW if and when you decide to have another child, it is likely that your son will take on a name of his own for you fiance, weather it be dad or daddy, just let it come from him and when he is ready

my BFF was in the same situation and when she had her 2nd child, her oldest asked if he could call 'bobby' dad too cause his sister did THEN of course later came the questions of why they didnt have the same dad, she sat him down and explained in general and asked if he had any questions. THEN came the day her 2nd child asked why big brother had 2 dads and she only had 1 lol There is also going to be a concern with the biological father because they will feel as if though something is being taken from them, dont battle over it and be prepared for you ex to possibly give your son a guilt trip about it as my BFF experienced. She talked to her ex about the role her husband played and that he shouldnt feel treathened but pleased that he is there 24/7. When her son comes back from weekends he talks about what him and his dad did and refers back to bobby for a few moments until he unwinds back at home, then its back to dad. Bobby has sat down with him also and talked about how dad is a role and that he is lucky to have them both and also said it was ok if he didnt want to call him dad. He is a great man!

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answers from Indianapolis on

I have been a "step-mom" since my "step-son" was 4 yo, he is now 18 yo. He lives with his mom and step-dad, but is here as much as possible. He lives 2 hrs south of us, we are in Indianapolis. When I talk to people I always say my kids, my 3 kids, (my husband and I have twins together). He has never called me mom and never called his step-dad, dad.

He's always heard me say my kids, our kids, etc because as far as I'm concerned he is my own as well and I've always treated him as such. If you are talking to someone who doesn't know you and your talking about your kids, why wouldn't you just say "our kids", who cares if they know that he's not your fiance's child unless that is the topic of conversation. The bigger deal you make out of it, the more of an issue it is.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think you should just say "son." A "son" is a version of "step-son," anyway, you don't need to get technical.

One father could be "daddy" and the stepfather could be "dad."

Ultimately, you should leave it up to your son as to what he wants to call him. If he wants to say "dad," great.

I think it's nice for kids to be able to use terms that make them feel as close to their stepparents as possible, and not feel like a second-class citizen in the home.

I've had your situation, and I went with "dad."

But you should say "son" when referring to any offspring of yourself or your future husband.

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answers from Las Vegas on

There is nothing wrong with being a step parent, but your fiance would not be titled "Step-Dad" if he were being addressed personally.

I think it will all fall into place and everyone will be comfortable. If he wants to call your fiance "Dad" and his father is involved in his life, then I think he should talk to his father about it. Help him with his thoughts so that he can explain to his father why he would like to call him "Dad". As well, that his natural Dad would always be his number #1 Dad. It can be a touchy situation for everyone. I think the most important thing is what your son is comfortable with.

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answers from Boston on

We use the term step because it is a) true and b) respectful of the biological relationships between the children and their biological parents. My step-daughter has a mother, with whom she has lived most of her life. I love her and treat her like my biological children, but I don't want to call her "mine" because to me, that's taking credit for someone who is not "mine" and negates the very special relationship that she has with her mother. She has one mother, and I'm not it and that's OK. It's not my job to pretend to be her mom - our "step" relationship is good and special for what it is. My oldest son's father is not in the picture so the only "dad" he has known is my husband. In that case, he refers to my husband as "dad" because there is no one else who fills that role in his life. We collectively say that "we have four children" but when pressed further, I always say that "I have three sons and an amazing step-daughter." Now if my step-daughter refers to me as mom in public (school, etc. - she lives with us now) then I take her cue that she doesn't want to get into the whole extended family where-is-your-real-mother and I don't correct her. It's weird, I'm sure, to have your step-mom show up to places where you would expect a bio-mom to be and if calling me "mom" makes that easier, then so be it.

When my step-daugther's mother got married years ago (she is now divorced), her daughter started calling that husband "daddy" and my husband was relegated to his first name at worst or "daddy first name" at best for several years, and it really, really caused problems. My husband would get infuriated at the thought of this guy referring to my husband's daughter as his own, and hearing her say "hi daddy" to some other guy at drop off or pick up was nauseating to him. So for us, it's about respecting and fostering the unique bond between parents and children. Step parents aren't the primary parents unless the bio parents aren't around, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the reality of the situation.

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answers from Cleveland on

Well I dont have a step family at all (but i have a step nephew) my sisters husband has a child to another women and i just call him my nephew. IF i am asked I would just say well biologicly he is not but he is my nephew i love him like one and (if i saw him) treat him like one. talk to your son and your ex about it and see what they think and if they are okay with your soon to be hubby saying my son when talking about him

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answers from Allentown on

Hi, L.:
Children have a hard time being singled out as being different from others.
What does your son call his biological father?

Step-father? Dad?

Find names that can be inclusive with your son. It is something he is dealing with.

Good luck.

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answers from Gainesville on

I liked the idea to call the parent a "bonus" dad. And I wouldn't worry too much about semantics. If people ask, tell them the truth that he is your biological son and your fiance's bonus child or whatever term you want to use. As for your son getting confused unless he is a baby I don't think that will be a problem. I had a step parent and since he and i have the same hair color and my mom & sister have the same hair color everyone always thought I was his biological child, and even when I didn't like him very much I didn't really care, (Now don't get me wrong if they asked I told them no.)

On the other side my kids have just started calling my fiance their stepdad without anyone telling them too and I don't feel like its a bad thing..

just my opinion..

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answers from Dover on

My husband and I started dating when my son was 3 years old. We married when he was 6. He had asked if he could call my husband "dad" after we were married and I said "if you want to". At one time, around the time he was about 8 years old, he didn't see his bio-father for over a year...hadn't heard from him either. He doesn't call my husband "dad" although he has very much been a father to him all along/every day but has referred to him as "my dad" or us as "my parents" when talking to people. Since his last name is different, everyone pretty much know the situation. My husband and I both say "our son" (my son is now 19 and our daughter is just 4 so until my son was 15 he was the only child).

Even if others misunderstand it is better than using "step". The alternative is to be sure everyone, including your son, always know/feel that he is "just a step son" to your husband. I would rather insure he know he is just "son" and not worry about what anyone else perceives.

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answers from Phoenix on

I'm in a blended family. I have 2 kids, hubby has 1. My opinion is this, I believe when you and your fiance are together you can say "our son". When you marry, your husband legally will be a step dad. My husband and I both refer to our kids as "our kids", because they are. When "my" kids are at our home, my hubby is the "dad" of "our" house. Just like I tell my kids that their step mom is their "mom" when they are in her home. I only refer to my step daughter specifically as my step when i meet someone I don't know, or at the doctors or somewhere that her mother also goes. I heard someone once say they were the "second" mom and I liked that. Don't worry so much about it really. :o)

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