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Step father vs step dad. What's in a name?

(11 Posts)
HopingItllBeOK Sun 07-Apr-13 15:17:39

I know blended families can be an emotive subject, but is the lexical choice really so very controversial?

I have 2 DSs in their young teens. I split from their father 9 years ago and he isn't on the scene much now, met DP 6 years ago and we moved in together 2 years back. Before living together, the DC referred to DP by his name or as Mum's boyfriend. Since we moved in together and occasions have cropped up when the DC have needed to give DP a 'title' as it were, like a football coach asking DS2 who is picking him up from training, they have referred to DP as their step dad.

Immediate family on both sides (mine and DP's) have all gone with that, but recently some extended family, a couple of passing acquaintances and the DC's father have all said it is wrong to 'encourage' them to use the Dad aspect of the name and corrected it to step father. DC's father especially says it is offensive to him and looks like DP is trying to push him out by taking 'his title'.

Is it wrong? The DC decided on their own to use the term. When filling in forms for school and the like and putting DP as a point of contact I have used step father in the same way I use mother for myself, as it is more correct for an official form. The people commenting are talking about the term being spoken in a casual way, so the same rules don't apply and they have no problem with me being called Mum or Mam.

I figure there is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of all things step here, so thought I would ask if I have inadvertently committed a huge faux pas or if the people commenting just have too much time on their hands to be worrying on a non issue?

purpleroses Sun 07-Apr-13 15:42:56

I'd shy away from letting them call him dad, but referring to him as their step dad is absolutely OK. If he's living with you, and doing things like picking them up from football then that's exactly who he is. Not just your boyfriend.

My DD refers to my DP as her stepdad when she's talking to friends, and I've heard DSD refer to me as stepmum - it's a nice short title that says exactly who you are. I can't see a difference between "stepdad" and "stepfather" really - they're interchangeable surely? Stepfather just sounds a bit more formal to me.

My DC's school doesn't ask the relationship of the people to the child, so I just put DP down as an emergency contact by name - but if they had asked I'd have said "stepdad" I think.

Maybe just reassure your ex and his extended family that he's still their dad? Or use "stepfather" on official things if that keeps them happy, but let your DCs choose what to use.

AGivenNickname Sun 07-Apr-13 15:49:32

I wouldn't give too much thought on what others think as long as you are all comfortable with it. I'm a mum of 3 - 2 dc with an ex and they call my partner his name. However, when referring him to others in school and the like say step dad. They are fully aware he is not their bio dad and have contact with their own dad (if somewhat limited due to his arseness) but also consider my partner as much of a dad role.

Does your ex have a partner? If so, and isn't happy with your partner being called 'step dad/ father, what would he want that person referred to if the shoe was on the other foot so to speak?

McBalls Sun 07-Apr-13 15:57:24

Isn't it fairly moronic to see a distinction between 'dad' and 'father'?

So your ex is getting all precious about his title of dad but isn't bothered about father? Sounds like a right div.

MrsBombastic Sun 07-Apr-13 16:01:12

We have this issue and have opted for step mum and step dad, I think the term step mother and step father sounds cold and intimidating but each to their own I guess.

It just sounds too formal.

Lilypad34 Sun 07-Apr-13 16:18:38

I think if their father isn't on the scene much and your children have taken it upon themselves to call him dad or step dad then it's fine. Kids aren't daft and perhaps if their B father were with them more it wouldn't have become an issue?

abbyfromoz Sun 07-Apr-13 16:28:07

Imo there is no difference in the words step dad or step father- they both mean the same thing.

HopingItllBeOK Sun 07-Apr-13 17:15:51

I didn't think there was really any difference between the 2 terms, hence my using one on forms and the DC using another in conversation. I'd always thought they were pretty interchangeable which is why it caught me on the back foot when it was suggested that there was a difference and we were using the wrong one.

My ex does have a partner, his wife who apparently should be referred to as the DC's step mum, because step mother is cold and seems too much like a Disney villain. The DC have met her around 5 times in the 8 years they have been married and have yet to have a conversation with her. If the DC need to give her a title, such as when doing a family tree in school, they call her by her name or as 'dad's wife'. Again they came up with that descriptor themselves and I suppose it reflects the lack of relationship they have with her. It's still factually accurate, so I'm happy to let them go with what they want. I suspect my ex has just got his knickers in a twist about it because he's seen some of those 'inspirational' Facebook photos or fridge magnets that say "it takes biology to be a father but commitment to be a Dad" or some such.

If it were just his objection I'd be inclined to brush it off entirely as a knee jerk guilty reaction to realising that someone else has more involvement with his kids than he does and the DC recognise that, but the few other people (mine and DP's extended family, not ex's, we have nothing to do with them at their request) all mentioning it independently of each other did make me stop and wonder.

It sounds like the objectors either have no idea of the mechanics of blended families or just have a desperate need for a new hobby to stop them over analysing other people's family set up then. Thanks.

AGivenNickname Sun 07-Apr-13 17:31:32

Hoping, sod them - as long as your all happy with what's what.

Why w0uldn't your ex's wife make conversation with your kids in the time they've met - even if it's rarely? Sorry for the question I just find it quite shit of her. My partner has a child previously and where she isn't mine biologically and it's her dad who deals her first and foremost I'd feel quite awful if I couldn't at least welcome her in and communicate. It must be so hard on your children.

flurp Sun 07-Apr-13 18:03:25

Hoping-tell them to mind their own business! What does it veto do with them anyway?
Your ex sounds like an idiot and you should ignore his wishes when he won't allow his wife to be called stepmother!

HopingItllBeOK Sun 07-Apr-13 18:14:37

AGiven she is quite cowed and quiet. Ex was very controlling and abusive which is why he is now an ex so I don't think she dares do much with the DC in case he thinks she's doing it wrong or encroaching on his turf. They now have 4 DC of their own so she is usually too busy dealing with them to have a chance to speak to my lads either. In the beginning the boys did try and start conversations with her but have mostly given up now after they only got one word answers or nothing more than a smile in response. I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to encourage building any form of relationship between them tbh but since they see her so infrequently, it isn't really a huge issue.

It certainly explains why they have decided to go with Dad's wife rather than any variety of step title though I think.

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