To Call Him "Son" or "Step Son"

Updated on May 12, 2011
D.C. asks from Gresham, OR
27 answers

Here is the background. My husband and I have been together for 17yrs. I met his son the day after his 4th birthday. When I came into the picture they had been separated for over two years and the divorce was in process. There was a nasty custody battle in which we lost, as of today we and our lawyer don't know why. We ended with a typical visitation schedule and then he couldn't take at it his mothers house any more so at the age of 12 he came to live with us and she got the visitation. He has been with us ever since. I have never wanted to be a replacement for his mom as he loved his mom very much and I wouldn't want someone to do that to me either. Now our son is 21 and has chosen to go into the military. There is a facebook page that mostly parents and spouses and significant others have joined as a type of support group. For the most part it is very helpful as many of us are first timers going through this military stuff and then there are a few that have been through it before.

Anyway, when we receive letters and such we usually all communication through fb sharing stories and such. Most of the time I refer to "T" as our son, meaning that I am speaking for his father and I. On occasion I have said "my son". His mother is also on this fb page, which she has every right to be as we do. Today she sent me a private message asking me kindly to refrain from calling him "my son" and to refer to him as my step son. She basically says it hurts her feelings and that I should understand considering I have two other sons of my own. I don't mind being call step mom, but when it comes to the kids I don't like it when people say this is my step son or daughter, especially since I have been involved in his life for so many years. I told her that I didn't mean to step on any toes and that I would try and watch how word things. But then went on to explain that when I refer to him as "our son" I am speaking for his dad and I. She replied back asking me to say "his father and I"...received a letter..... or what have you. Meanwhile she has made claim to one of his friends as her son, but she said that she had the other mothers permission to do so. Why would she not allow that for me. I have been there for everything with him. I did not miss one sporting event in all his years of school, I was the one that made sure he got his braces and paid for it, I made sure he went to college and graduated with out having to pay. My sons gf says that she is just trying to establish herself because she joined this fb page so late and now she is trying to make up for it.

So I guess I am asking if it sounds like I am being unfair about saying he is our son.

I see that some of you have said to ask "our son" what he thinks. He is going through boot camp right now and I would never bring this to his attention while going through that. As for my husband, he would be [email protected]#$#, or should I say, really mad that she would even request such a thing. Plus, if I was in her presence I would never say this is my son. I know who gave birth to him. When it comes to introductions its easier for him because he just says these are my parents and refers to us with out names. But when we introduce him and our boys to people we just say this is T, C and B. And nothing is ever said. I think we know where we all stand. I just feel she is trying to stake her claim with him because .....well I will just leave it at that so I won't become nasty.
lol Oh and I guess I should be more clear. Its not his fb page, its fb that allows family members from his Army company to communicate with each other.

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Featured Answers

S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

yup, lynn M nailed it.
i do understand the mom's pov, but you're not being insensitive here.
it's just facebook, fer cryin' in a bucket.
khairete
S.

More Answers

L.M.

answers from Dover on

He is now an adult and if he doesn't mind being called your son, I would not worry about it. I am not offended if my son's stepmom calls him "her son" or "their son"...I am actually more offended that she doesn't claim him on her fb page. I like her very much and I know she cares very much for my son/loves him too but it shows she doesn't really see him that way.

I would tell mom "I am so sorry you are offended, it is not my intent. I have never tried to replace you but I love your son as if he was mine. Considering how long I've been a part of his life, I think you can understand that he is more than just a "step-son" to me. I will be careful not to word things claiming to be his mom but I respectfully will continue to consider him my son".

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J.S.

answers from Dallas on

Now that your "son" is an adult why dont you just ask him what is ok and not ok? It should now be his decision, not hers. If she gets upset then so be it but I dont think you need to worry about what she says to you. Like you said you and your hubby have done so much for your "son" and you should be able to express a title you see fit.

Sorry, off my soap box now.

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J.R.

answers from Glens Falls on

I think you should refer to him as your step son. I can see you care about him deeply and have watched him grow up and helped him in a number of ways. She could argue all the things she did for him from birth to 12. But this isn't a competition, it's just the facts. I am a stepmother and my daughter has a stepmother. My daughter's stepmom is forever causing problems by presenting herself as the bio mom. She met my daughter for the first time when she was 17 and my daughter never lived with them but she has no children of her own. I really find it very hurtful. I never present myself to anyone, anywhere through any medium as anybody accept who I am - a loving stepmother. And there's nothing wrong with being a stepmother. Now that you know it is hurting her, I would comply with her request.

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C.S.

answers from Redding on

I can see how it might upset her, but its her issue not yours. You are not saying my son to lay claim on him, but to the same point he is a son to you as well even if you didn't birth him. I have a stepmom and she has been so since I was around 6 (I am 32 now). She often refers to me as her daughter and sometimes even her favorite daughter :).

Its funny because I was just talking about this to my mom last night. She totally doesn't care as she respects my "step" mom's role in my life as well.

Maybe if anything just simply state that he is as much as son to you as your other boys even if you didn't birth him. and leave it at that. She cannot dictate what your feel or write. Or better yet, just ignore it and continue refering to your son as son.

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

Ask him what he thinks (in a very open way, don't put him in between you two or make him choose) and let that guide your decision. I follow my step-daughter's lead. If she refers to me as "mom" or doesn't correct someone who calls me "mom" then I don't either. But as a general rule, I do use "step" for exactly the reason described here. As much as I love her, I am not one of the people who put her on this planet and I have no right to take credit for her or call her my child. That is the exclusive privilege of her biological parents unless she requests otherwise and they agree. It drives me crazy when people treat the word "step" like it's a dirty word or something that separates people. To me, it's a sign of blending and love. It's a lot harder to be a step-parent (and step-child) than a bio one, that's for sure, and I use the word "step" like the badge of honor and commitment that it is.

I think that if his mom is a presence in his life, you should honor her request to refer to him as your step-son unless the young man feels strongly that he prefers son. I know that I would be seeing red if anyone else dared to call one of my children hers - my oldest son's birth father has a wife and the day that that woman calls my son her son would be a cold day in hell.

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C.W.

answers from Allentown on

While I think the bio-mom's reasoning is weird (b/c you have 2 other sons? Really???), it's probably best to respect her wishes IN THAT CONTEXT. In other contexts, do whatever you feel is best.

In our family, my oldest is always referred to as "our son" unless the situation requires more detail. But I doubt dh would do that if we were in the same room as ds's bio-dad. That FB page is basically the same as being in the room with his bio-mom.

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M.S.

answers from San Francisco on

I don't think you have done anything wrong. I think you are being extremely courteous and kind and thoughtful to think of her and her feelings and your son's feelings! I think the way you worded "our son" is just fine! Step son sounds just disconnected and not so close, I think if your son is bothered by it, then I would do something different, but it seems like he is just fine with it. Don't worry about it.... GL!

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T.T.

answers from Portland on

With the age he was when you met, and the length of time you have been in each other's lives, he is your son. You love him as your son. It doesnt matter who gave birth to him. You are his second mother. I think this sounds like a control issue to me. And I would not give in to her whim on this, especially when she finds it ok to call another person her son, who is really just a family friend! I have five stepkids, my youngest was four when we met, he is now 14 and we have a deep relationship. His mom is a nut and would have likely pulled something like this, but facebook wasnt out then and I would not have given in on it. I give of my self to these children, as if they were my own. They call me mom and I refer to them as my children. At times, I do explain that they I only gave birth to one of our children and my husband brought the rest to our family - when people trip out about me having six kids. On facebook, I have linked my family, and the kids are linked as sons. If she doesnt like it, too bad. legally - I am a parent. And so are you! Oh what fun we have with extended relationships!!

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P.M.

answers from Portland on

I sympathize with how and why you use the term "son," and with how awkward it can sound when you add the prefix "step."

There's no way to know what his mother's motives are, and she may not know herself, other that the uneasy sense that you are trying to replace her in the public eye. I suppose I'd feel the same way, myself. That doesn't mean that her wishes are what's best for everyone concerned, including your step-son.

I would ask him what he prefers, and go with that. If he's a diplomat at heart, he may suggest you use "step-son," in spite of the awkward sound of it and extra keystrokes. Or he may be willing to face down his mother on this one, and ask you to call him "son." Either way, you both know what you are to each other, and having nothing to try to prove to the public. I'm guessing his mom does feel she has something to prove, and thus is making this an issue.

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A.V.

answers from Washington DC on

He's 21 and it's his FB page. I would talk to him. If he's man enough to go to the military, he's man enough to have an opinion on what HE wants to be called. I think that his mom still has issues with the way things went down in T's childhood. The GF might have a good point. I usually say my stepson/daughter, but I will often say "our kids" meaning any combination of the three of them. I also don't think that there's anything wrong with "step" but every stepfamily has its own way of identifying members and many, like us, use different terms at different times. I might say "my girls" but it in no way invalidates the fact that one of them has another mother. They're with me, they're "my" girls. Sometimes I think teachers get more respect (many say "my kids" meaning their class) than stepparents. Anyway, in part because she took issue with "our" in the plural sense, I think she's nitpicking. I wouldn't get into it with her. Talk to him. I don't think you're unfair.

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H.W.

answers from Portland on

I answer this from a step-daughter perspective:

Keep the "step". I think it would be very different if your stepson was referring to you as "mom", and there had been a discussion about it. I can understand his mother's concern and feelings, and think her request is reasonable. She is his biological mother and you are not his adoptive mom.

I think claiming him as your son will also be confusing to others.

My stepmother has a great way of introducing my sisters and I to others: "These are our girls, Sally, Susie and Howard's* daughter H.."

For what it's worth, I do have two fathers I call "dad": my bio dad and my mom's second husband, who adopted me and raised me for the first ten years or so until he and my mom divorced. However, whenever I am around one or the other of them, I refer to the other "dad" by his first name. The same depending on which of my sisters I am talking to. It's all for clarity's sake and out of respect for those relationships.

And no, I don't think you are being unfair. I think you love your stepson very much and are very invested as a parent. My best wishes for his healthy return and his time serving our country.

*names changed

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K.M.

answers from Chicago on

it is up to the boy to tell all parties what is ok ... no one elses.

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L.C.

answers from Denver on

Wow...I was just about to post about this naming convention thing. Next year I am marrying my fiance who has a daughter who's 5 and lives with us full-time. I've been around since she was 2. We've been talking about whether I should go by "step mom" or something else and whether I should call her stepdaughter or daughter. Since we are still a relatively new couple, I have been hesitant to call her daughter but we asked her what she wanted to call me and she said that she wanted "mama" (we told her not "mom" or "mommy" b/c that's the name for her mom). We haven't asked her about the daughter thing yet. When I'm talking to people I don't know (like on here) I call her my step daughter, my kid or the kiddo.

I personally think you should take the mom's feelings into consideration and maybe talk to her (if you're on speaking terms) or just to not be so "public" about your calling him "son". It sounds silly I guess but until you can have a time to talk to your son about it, i think this would be the best way to please everyone without getting anyone mad.

I totally understand though, as I am in the same boat. I don't want the mom to be pissed at me yet I want to be as much a part of the family as she is...I'm already doing too much by being in the kid's life more than her and marrying my fiance. It's a tough situation for sure!!

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P.W.

answers from San Francisco on

I think it's great that you think of him as your son. I agree with the others about asking him what he thinks.

Over all, I think it depends on the situation. If my ex's wife called my son her son on FB, I would be annoyed, because I raised him and my stupid ex dumped him when he was 1. (However, she was always good to him when he visited them and he likes her. And she's now divorcing my ex.)

In your case, unlike mine, it sounds like you have probably been the better mother. So you deserve to call him son, and he deserves the title. However, in the interest of peace, and not hurting feelings, there is always another way to word things. You could always say something like "our wonderful Timmy" if you want to express love or praise.

You know your bond with your "son." It doesn't matter how it's worded. Give the woman some slack, I guess, and word it differently.

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J.R.

answers from San Diego on

I would ask your (step)son what he prefers you call him.

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H.G.

answers from Portland on

I would tell her your step son has never had a problem with it & that she can just step off.

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A.S.

answers from Boca Raton on

I think you are being very sweet with him, and I am a bio mom. You're just trying to not differentiate between the kids. . . it sounds like you have been kind and sensitive with his mom. Just keep doing that.

He's a grown man and she needs to let him handle this stuff however he thinks is best. If he doesn't want you to call him that he will tell you. It's just easier for her to beat you up but it's pretty silly when you think about it. It's not your (or his) problem that she harbors a petty resentment.

Good luck. Just keep the peace. Great job.

PS: I think Julie R. makes a good point too. It just sounds like your situation is a bit different.

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J.S.

answers from Hartford on

Since he's 21, I believe it's his choice as to whether you should refer to him as your son or step-son. But since you said he's in boot camp that makes it difficult to address right now. The next time you speak with him just ask him if he has a preference and leave his bio-mom out of the discussion. He doesn't need to know that she precipitated the question.

As for how to respond to bio-mom... make no mention that you plan to ask him at some point. Make no mention of how you intend to refer to him in the future. I would simply respond with, "Hello Bertha, I'm sorry that your feelings were hurt when I referred to Braaaaaydin as my son. I hope you realize that hurting your feelings was never my intention. I love your son as if he were one of my biological children and it's very easy for me to think of him as a son. I know that first and foremost you're his mother and gave birth to him and I would never try to take your place. I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day."

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V.N.

answers from Harrisburg on

That sounds painful to go through for you. I have never gone through this but I would personally ask your 'son' what he would prefer. I think he is old enough to be the one to decide at this point. What does your husband think?

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T.A.

answers from Chicago on

If your step-son is fine w/ being called your son, then continue calling him that. I understand you cannot ask him his opinion...and if he's in bootcamp it's probably not the 1st thing on his mind. I would not change what you've been doing b/c of his birth mother. If she doesn't like it, too bad...sounds like you have been more of a mother than she was. However, if it offends your step-son, then stop immediately. If your husband hasn't brought the issue up to you, then he's probably okay with it too. Feign ignorance with the birth mom & continue doing it, but not so often & not too in-her-face.

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C.S.

answers from Dallas on

I agree w/the others on asking him, however you are technically his step mother. I can see where his mother would have her feelings hurt. I would continue to say either so and so's son or my step son. If my sons step-mother claimed to be his 'mother' anywhere I would definetly have my feelings hurt and call her out.

L.G.

answers from Eugene on

Sounds like you love this young man. Call him your son so he does not feel differentiated from your other sons.
Your relationship is with him not his mother. She will be more and more out of your circle as he gets older. Lots of people have two mothers or fathers for that matter.
Our grandmother was my mother's stepmother. To me she was just my grandmother. Recently my cousin who grew up near her told me she always introduced her that way since that is who she was to us and she treated us as treasured and loved grandchildren
Nevermind what his mother said on FB. You raised him although she bore him and raised him too.

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K.S.

answers from Portland on

What does he call you when he introduces you to others? Otherwise, I agree with the other posters who say ask him. He's the one who should get to decide what he feels comfortable with since we always call someone who births us our mother, but many people also feel comfortable acknowledging a parent by marriage as their mom or dad too. I would be really careful to also let him know that you are absolutely okay with anything he wants, including him asking you to call him your step-son if he needs to because it will make it easier with his mother or even just because that's what he wants. I assume it goes without saying that you have his best interest at heart and therefore I would guess would put aside any personal feelings you have about it to honor what he is comfortable with.

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P.G.

answers from Dallas on

I agree with Lynn M - he may not be a son of your body, but he is a son in your heart.

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N.D.

answers from Portland on

sorry i haven't read the responses but there is an option on FB where you can opt not to show certain posts to certain people. i think you have every right to call him your son. aside from step son, is there another way to say it? kind of how there is "birth mom" vs. mom. sorry i can't help more.

A.G.

answers from Dallas on

I completely agree with Lynn M. She worded it perfectly.

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