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what's in a name?

(31 Posts)
islean Fri 21-Jan-05 22:17:47

I’ve been with my DP for nearly a year and we plan on getting married this autumn. He has a 4 yr old daughter who today out of the blue asked if I minded if she calls me Mummy sometimes because when I marry her daddy I’ll be a kind of mummy. We discussed all the other things she might like to call me – my name, step mummy, mummy-my name, and other words for mummy such as Madre etc. I said I don’t mind if that’s what she’d like and it is up to her to choose what she is comfy with. Part of me is so happy that a little girl I’ve known for such a short time thinks enough of me to want that. I am still new enough to this to be surprised at finding me looking after a child at all (50% custody) and I don't think I've tried to be anything more than a friend to her showing her love and respect. She is perfectly content with the idea of having a spare mum which I have to say I am still getting my head around and hadn't actually thought of talking to the little one about it yet.I certainly never intended to match or replace her mum but I doubt very much her BM will see it like that. Part of me is terrified because the BM is going through complete trauma over detaching, is in total competition mode, and my DP and are living in permanent fear of the next emotional assault.

Even tho she was the one to leave my DP after she had an affair she never left that relationship emotionally or physically but he moved on (and I moved in). DP and i had to remove her belongings which she refused to take out of his house, stop her entering the house because she would find a pretext to pop in and then take over and treat me as a guest in 'her' house, stop her making phone calls/texts/ emails every second of the day and night. She is trying to deal with it(failing miserably and blaming my existance for her every misfortune - after all if it wasn't for me she could have all the benefits of the old relationship and the new) - and is eaten up by jealousy over my role in her daughters life as it is. If even a whisper of it gets back to her there will be a major explosion. She refuses to recognise my existance until DP puts the ring on my finger as having anything to ‘officially’ do with her DD.

Not sure how to play this? Anyone else had to face this? Any advice?

jampots Fri 21-Jan-05 22:20:44

islean - gosh what an honour. I cant help im afraid but there's lots of stepmoms on this site. However, i have to say that the thought of my children calling anyone else mummy is too horrid to bear - sorry. I know it's at your sd's instigation but from her mum's viewpoint - a bit of a slap imo.

nailpolish Fri 21-Jan-05 22:21:55

have no experience of this at all but just wanted to say you sound like a lovely person, no wonder your dp's little girl likes having you around. im sure youll get through this, good luck with the wedding and your dp's daughter saying such a nice thing to you must have been like a ray of sunshine.

good luck as 'mummy!'

ScummyMummy Fri 21-Jan-05 22:30:25

Hmm. Great honour indeed but I think it'd be as well for her not to call you mummy. It could be confusing for her as well as likely to unnecessarily alienate her mum, IMO.

JanH Fri 21-Jan-05 22:40:10

No experience here either but while I agree with np and jampots that it says loads about you that your future DSD feels like this, I also agree with scummy that it would cause more trouble than it's worth for her to actually call you mummy at the moment.

Hard to put this across to a 4-yr-old though. Could you and DP together lean on her a bit to call you something else for a bit longer? Does she usually call you by your name?

Caligula Fri 21-Jan-05 22:45:44

Very difficult one for you, but I'd go with the others and say come up with an alternative to Mummy (unless of course, she does call her mother something different). I think it will cause too much bad feeling, I personally would feel apoplectic if my children called anyone else Mummy, and long term, it may cause problems when she's older and going through her teenage rebellion stage.

Even something like Mama Islean is less incendiary, and acknowledges the closeness of your relationship with her without making it look as if you're inappropriately muscling in on the Mummy title (even though it's not at your suggestion).

islean Fri 21-Jan-05 23:03:03

Thanks - it may be an honour when the shock wears off

She usually calls me by my name and my DP and I have only ever promoted that he is daddy and BM is mummy and I am me but her BM gave her a long talk about me the other week about marrying her Dad - BM has a big thing about the formality of that.

.......and that's where it turned in her head from me being her step mum-to-be, to the BM explaining what a step mum is, to her thinking of me as another type of mum, to her wanting to call me the 'm'word. I've noticed a couple of times in the last few days she started to call me mummy and then corrects herself because I think she knows other may not like it. I put it down to a little confusion and reinforced my name - but there wasn't any confusion today, she was absolutely clear in what she wants and the more I tried to suggest alternatives the more she got upset - it became a 'but don't you want to be my mummy' senario.

I tried to explain that much as I'd love to be I'm not, which got the response but mummy said you will be my step mummy when you and daddy get married so it will be ok if I call you it then then (I was thankful for the bus turning up at that point so I could come home and think about it)

I don't want to see her struggle, and I don't want to hurt her or her Mum

and I don't have a clue what to do ( think I'm a bit worn out by one crisis after another at this moment)

instant parent (just add child, confusion, and hot water)

pedilia Fri 21-Jan-05 23:14:29

Since the birth of DS2 (3 months) Ds1 (4 years) has asked to call DH (stepdad) Dad, we have neither encouraged od discouraged although I did suggest he called him Daddy Alex, he knows his Dad, he alternates between the Daddy and Alex. I know if the roles were reversed and he called someone else Mum I would not be to happy, but he is stable and happy and that will always be more important.

JanH Fri 21-Jan-05 23:33:43

Supposing she called you something like Mama instead, islean? Would that be OK or just as bad (or worse, even?)

I think you and DP need to try to explain to her, without getting into how upset her BM might be if she called you mummy, that while you are like a mummy for her and look after her and love her like a mummy, she only has one actual Mummy, so she needs to find a new special name for you.

Hope this doesn't sound patronising...HTH

ScummyMummy Fri 21-Jan-05 23:45:07

Agree with janh, tho would avoid mama too (what a spoilsport eh?!). I think it's dead important to gently explain that she only has the one mummy, though by all means reiterate that you think she's great and that she can have many special people in her life. If you're consistent she'll get the message eventually, I'm sure. You sound like you're doing a great job.

Caligula Sat 22-Jan-05 09:39:50

What does her mother think? Have you discussed it with her? (Or is it not that kind of relationship?!)

jampots Sat 22-Jan-05 10:48:16

the poor little soul has obviously thought logically about this and is probably struggling. I do think its lovely of both of you to look closely at this special title. How about you come up with some favourite "names" togehter then put them in a hat and pick one out which can be your title. FWIW all the children I know with step parents call them by their christian name.

beansprout Sat 22-Jan-05 10:49:13

This is tricky. If circumstances were better, it may be ok, but I think it is a lot to ask any woman that her child calls another woman "mummy", esp one who she feels so insecure/threatened etc around.

Perhaps if you explain that she already has a mummy, and she is very special etc, but that you could be whatever-name-you-agree. This would emphasise the fact that you do have a different relationship. I suspect her logic is that whoever is married to daddy must be mummy, and she may still be readjusting to the circumstances.

It is a huge honour though, and all testament to your relationship with her.

Btw, my sd has always called me by my name, but she was 12 when I met her, so it was a bit different, but like you, I see my role as a distinct one from being her mum. I think it is important that the adults make these distinctions too as no matter how much you put in, you will not be the one at the parents evenings, signing consent forms, etc etc, so I have found it is worth maintaining that respect for the BM as the mum, no matter what my opinion of her.

Best of luck though, she sounds like a v lucky little girl to have you in her life.

Frizbe Sat 22-Jan-05 11:43:42

When ss was five and we were expecting dd, he decided he wanted to call me mum too, but grew out of it after about two weeks!

islean Sat 22-Jan-05 12:48:56

Talking to her mum isn't possible sadly unless its general pleasantries. As the BM sees it I don't have any rights or involvement til I'm married to DP so I also have no right to discuss the little one directly with her (because she'd have to acknowledge I exist). (Its ok for me to wipe bottoms and noses and have her throw up over me but not to discuss it with her mum). How that may magically change in sept I don't know but we either don't talk at all or I have to leave it to DP to play chinese whispers for now.

Thanks Perdila, Mummy-my name is a good option because of a precident I guess - they have a long standing family friend with three children (one hers one his one theirs) and BM, my step daughter-to-be (why isn't there a word for that?) and everyone I know calls her Mummy-Lisa. We are thinking about adding to the family and I'd want my children to call me Mummy or similiar which could just add to the confusion but that way I could be mummy me/or just me (and if she calls me mummy sometimes it won't make her feel bad) and BM might understand the logic of that if we can explain it to her. As I'm part spanish I could happily be Marde but she isn't familier with it. Can't ever see myself as Mama though.

going to raid amazon to see if there are any good books for explain this sort of stuff to children as more of this is clearly coming - she asked last night why Mummy's and Daddy's shout at each other and why her daddy and I don't!

love the idea of picking names out of the hat. DP and I going to talk through the options and see where we go with this.

Surfermum Sun 23-Jan-05 21:37:42

I think it's great that you are really thinking about the best way to handle this. It's so hard isn't it when the bm doesn't want to acknowledge that you exist? My sd's mother thinks that her daughter is nothing to do with me, even though she has regular weekend and holidays with us.

My sd has never called me mummy and I wouldn't want her to. Her bm, however, when I first came on the scene, decided that I told dsd to call me mummy, and that I wanted to take her daughter away from her, as couldn't have any children of my own because of a termination in the past that had gone wrong! Utter rubbish of course as dd has proved! Her other 2 children (not dh's) had called dh Daddy when he was with her, and the x had encouraged them to do so - but that was different apparently.

I would be really careful about this one. The last thing you want to do is upset her mother over this, and it sounds like you are doing everything you can to make sure you do the right thing. I hadn't got dsd to call me mummy, but her mother convinced herself that I had and it caused no end of problems. She was trying to refuse dh contact with his daughter and this just added fuel to the fire that we were out to get her daughter off her. Dh even got questioned about my fertility in Court (damn cheek!).

I hope you manage to find something that keeps your dsd and her mum happy. Good luck and keep up the good work.

galaxy Sun 23-Jan-05 21:45:30

Until dd was born, dss called me by my 1st name. To save confusing dd, he calls me mum/mummy in front of her and it's stuck and he often calls me mum when it's just the two of us.

He called me from his birth mums the other day and said "hello mummy" and got daggers from her.

The difference is though that's he is 12 and lives with us.

I think she is very young and maybe choosing an alternative affectionate name may be better.

collision Sun 23-Jan-05 21:55:24

Islean, as I was reading this I thought about some of the other names she could call you in other languages and then you said you were part spanish....couldnt she call you 'tia' which I think is aunty in Spanish? I think it is a lovely name and you could explain to her that it would mean a lot to you, that as you are Spanish, it would be a special name that no one else can use apart from her. Little ones love things that are 'special' and it might solve the problem. You could say that having 2 mummies is a bit confusing for you and that Tia is easy to say blah, blah etc

edam Sun 23-Jan-05 22:39:10

Slightly different situation, but my own mother's take on children calling more than one person mummy is that it's a description of a role, as well as name for your own mother. We had a very dearly loved childminder when I was a kid and often called her mummy by mistake - because she was a mummy doing mummy things.
Guess that's not going to reassure your sdd's bm though. But sounds as if you are a fantastic step-mum, anyway!

lucy5 Sun 23-Jan-05 22:49:47

I like the Tia idea, it would be a special name between the two of you and there would be no confusion. I know that if my dd called someone else Mummy, however close they were to this person, my heart would be torn out. I think it would give you less hassle with her mum in the long run. She's lucky that shes got someone like you, you are obviously agonising over this situation. I wish you all the best.

Nelli29 Mon 24-Jan-05 08:47:46

islean Firstly you seem to be handling all this very well! As you will see from my other threads I am in a similar situation to yourself, I met my dh almost 2 years ago he as a sd who is now 6 (4 when I met her) We married sept just gone. My sd has never hinted that she wanted to call me mum as although she and I are close she has a very clear idea of who is who as BM won't let her forget and has been known to put tension and pressure on her in the past. I have struggled terribly with a mixture of feelings and I do find it an on going battle. As for the whole name thing it might be just a phase your sd goes through. Not much help I'm afraid but I think if you can you should try to discourage it unless all parties are happy. You will probably end up being accused of encouraging her to call you mum out of spite or something. There are books available also which explain many different family set ups and whos who in a child friendly way, which you may find an helpful aid to get around this problem and explain things. What does you dh think about it?

otto Mon 24-Jan-05 11:19:13

This is a tricky one. Your sd must find it very confusing at the moment and it's all a bit of a novelty too, so maybe, as Nelli suggests, it's a phase and she'll revert to calling you by your own name in the future.

I read what you said on another post and think that you are handling a difficult situation very well. I've been part-time step-mum to a 9-year old for the last five years and I know what a 'challenge' it can be. Even though we've now got through many of the problems that these situations through up, I still have an uncomfortable relationship with BM and I never discuss sd with her, though it would make much more sense if I could. I hope it all works out for you as your dp and sd are very lucky to have somebody as understanding as you.

Your online diary idea sounds like a good one btw.

otto Mon 24-Jan-05 12:53:17

I meant throw up, not through up

msann Mon 24-Jan-05 13:04:20

i have to say that i wudnt like my duaghters 2 use mum/mummy etc for any1 else even if it was mummyX.
I was really hurt when they met their dads new partner for the 1st time & although their relationship is in v early stages she spent most of the day explaining to my daughters that she was in effect their 'step mum' i was vv upset by this

islean Mon 24-Jan-05 20:21:20

I think that was very premature msann. It's one thing to say 'I'm going to be your step-mum' if you really are, quite another if you are just dating a man with kids. We waited until we were very very sure of our relationship - and not wanting to let down the kids we waited until her Dad and I were shopping for engagement rings and already living together for six months before we started to explain it to her - and the very first person we told after the little one - was her BM.

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