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You're littledreamylady's step mum aren't you?

34 replies

dreamylady · 15/09/2009 22:25

For the third time in a few months I've been asked this question.

(In brief, DD's Mum died when DD was 8 months old and I have been her dads DP for 2 years now - she is now 4 and has called me Mummy for nearly a year)

I handle it fairly OK when DD not in earshot - actually I probably don't but it doesn't matter as much! - but I've twice been asked it by children (6 year old girls - prob fascinated by portrayal of evil stepmums in fairytales and wondering what i have in store for DD ) and both times right in front of her. She has been having some attachment issues the last 6 or 7 months and seems to be coming out the other side of it but I'm worried what effect these assumptions / my response will have. Because I always feel uncomfortable at asserting myself as her Mum and the stress of making sure i get it right - especially as in both cases her first Mum was known to the children in question and their families.I don't want DD to pick up on this and think i feel uncertain about our relationship - I am committed to her and my only uncertainty is probably my 'status'or role in everyone else's eyes.

As I've posted previously, I actually get quite prickly if an adult refers to me in this way-in my mind step parents are for when you have another mum or dad somewhere. If you join a family where one or the other is missing, and the child is young enough, surely you take on that role, should they want it?

Any suggestions for dealing with this without getting emotional? I explain that I am DD's Mummy now, and that step mums are for when you have another mummy somewhere. I suppose not everyone will agree with that but that's how i see it. Maybe i should let her answer herself? But not sure she's ready for that.

OP posts:
Maveta · 15/09/2009 22:35

what about saying you are her mummy but you know it can be confusing because she also has another mummy in heaven (-insert wherever dd thinks she is-)?

chegirl · 15/09/2009 22:41

I dont really know what to say.

I was in a different situation in that we started fostering a family member's baby (virtually from birth) and then went on to adopt him (he never lived with birth mum).
For a long time family members kept referring to my son as ''s baby'
I didnt challenge it at first as we assumed he would return to birth mum at some point.

After it was clear he wouldnt I began to get slightly narky. In the end I would say 'he is NOT '
's baby, his name is '

By the time adoption went through it had stopped (within earshot anyway)

I would never deny my son's history but was not right to refer to him in this way.

I think that people use stepmum in a more general way than you see it. They find it hard to understand your situation I suppose.

I can sympathise with the way you feel about this. I dont think you are going to be able to stop it without looking like you are trying to replace birth mum though. People are bound to jump to that conclusion and that will make things harder for you.

I am sorry that you are having to deal with this. I really hope it changes.

colditz · 15/09/2009 22:45

I'll tell you about someone I know - his 'step' mum raised him from age three. It doesn't occur to him EVER to tell people she's not his 'real' mum. She's just his mum. He loves her (probably more than he loves his 'real' dad, tbh)

As for 6 year old girls - direct them to their mother or father to answer their questions. You don't have to.

Chocolateteapot · 15/09/2009 22:50

I am sorry that it upsets you and I get what you are saying and your DD is much younger than the girl I know whose Mum died. Her father has now married a lovely lady who the children call Mum but I do struggle referring to her as her Mother as silly though it sounds, I feel as if I am being disloyal to her Mum who was my friend and a huge help when my DD was having her motor skills assessed as she had been through it with her son.

It is made worse by the fact that another friend's DH died last week which shouldn't matter but it is still very raw at the moment to all of us who are supporting her and her DD.

I do want to get beyond this and I'm sure I will but I'm not there yet. I do hope I'm not upsetting the lovely lady who is your position, I have wondered how she feels about it and did once manage to introduce her as her Mum but haven't done so again.

I know this doesn't help you and the age of the children is different but I just wanted to bring a different perspective.

PortAndLemon · 15/09/2009 23:11

I think a big part of your problem is that you see a step parent as being for when you have another mum or dad somewhere and that's not how most people, or the dictionary, regard the term. Most people see it just as "in the position of a parent, and married to a biological parent, but not actually a biological parent" and don't give it the emotional loading with which you are investing it.

dreamylady · 15/09/2009 23:17

Thanks all -

chegirl thanks for sharing that - its nice not to feel the only one - it isn't a good feeling or one that's easy to admit to. You're right though other people prob don't think through too much what stepmum means. The thing is, adoption is a legal process - like marriage - effectively I'm cohabiting with dd AND her dad as a mum and a wife but without any of the paperwork!maybe that's how i answer the questions next time?!

and to chocolate I can imagine it's hard - you have had a horrible time of it I'm very lucky that 'first mummy''s friends and family have been really supportive and encouraging of my involvement which i found really moving. I'm sure thay find it hard too sometimes but I think they were just so happy that DD would have someone new to love her and do the job that her first mum wasn't able to.

your friend would probably have wanted you to stay close to her family and keep an eye out for the kids - if their dad's new partner is anything like me she'll be going through a huge adjustment - its very hard starting a relationship and keeping it growing when you have this kind of history and very little time to yourselves - so maybe the best thing you can do for your friend's memory is to be as supportive as you can of them as a family. Not easy though eh.Hope things get easier for you and your friends.

OP posts:
dreamylady · 15/09/2009 23:21

portandlemon- ouch.
thanks for giving it too me straight - I think! in terms of what other people are probably thinking ('get over yourself' maybe?)
But what does this mean for DD when people use the term? She wants me to be her Mummy...

OP posts:
Chocolateteapot · 15/09/2009 23:33

I can imagine how hard it must be and am glad people are supportive. I hope I have been supportive, I have certainly tried to be in as many ways as possible and it is so lovely seeing them as a family together and I'm glad the DD feels secure enough to call her Mum. It is just this one thing I struggle to do myself and have noticed other friends do as well. Silly really but things like this are sometimes not rational.

Chocolateteapot · 15/09/2009 23:45

None of that helps your situation though. I think as time passes people will stop referring to you as her step mum, it is just getting to that point unfortunately probably will have to happen in its own timescale, whatever that may be.

PortAndLemon · 16/09/2009 07:58

Again I think you may be overthinking it. You can be your DD's Mummy and her stepmum at the same time; from her point of view there's no contradiction there. You are her Mummy; you're her whole idea and model of what a Mummy is. That's not going to be changed by the fact that you are also her stepmum. And as Chocolateteapot says, over time people will mention it less and less anyway.

ByTheSea · 16/09/2009 13:13

I call my stepsons my sons as well. I have been raising them since they were very small (1 and 2) and am the only mother they know. While their birth mother is still alive, she has never shown any interest in them at all. They know I'm their stepmum, but they also know I'm their real mum, if that makes any sense. Both boys have some attachment problems (one quite severely), and I only wish I had known about it when they were little. I highly recommend therapeutic parenting with your DD as she is so young chances are you can make a really positive difference in her life.

I can totally sympathise with your position and understand what an adjustment it can be. You seem terrific and I wish you all the best.

dreamylady · 16/09/2009 18:02

Thanks for your message bythesea. Wow 2 young boys, that must have been quite a challenge!! It really helps to hear from people who can really identify with my situation. There's a world of support out there for adoptive parents but I haven't really found anything for people in our situation. I will look into therapeutic parenting and see if its for us. She seems OK at the moment though she has a few 'quirks' which hopefully won't develop into anything else, but I'd just like to know what to look out for IYSWIM.

I was thinking about my reaction again last night and I wondered if it might be that 'step parenthood' is defined by a persons relationship to the biological parent, (as port and lemon said, ...married to the childs biological parent... ) and not the relationship to the child themself. my relationship to DD is of course closely bound to my relationship to DP, but it no longer depends on it or should be defined by it. I will always be her Mum now and it's not dependant on DP's and my relationship.

It might just be semantics but semantics do matter. Thats the basis of NLP and all that stuff isn't it?

OP posts:
FabBakerGirlIsBack · 16/09/2009 18:08

If you get married and adopt her she will be your daughter in the eyes of the law and you will be her mum.

Just concentrate on being her mum and stop bothering what people say.

If you are not married to her dad you are not her step mum so you can say no, you are not her step mum, you are her new mum.

dreamylady · 16/09/2009 18:09

chocolateteapot I bet your friends childrens' new mum doesn't notice - i've been thinking about how DDs first mum's family and friends refer to me around her and I can't think of many examples, though we see them regularly. So maybe they struggle too but I'm just oblivious! So don't worry about it and don't force it if it's going to sound awkward. Just say "this is ..." if you have to and let her/they fill the gaps.

OP posts:
Kewcumber · 17/09/2009 11:53

my response would depend on what your DD feels. If (I htink you said) she wants you to be her mummy then you smile and "say yes I'm her mummy". You don't need to contradict that you are her step parent (though personally I also consider a step parent to be one where the birth parent is still aorund), you just need to reinforce the Mummy.

What ever other people feel (and I can understand the feeling that chocolate tepot has of being disloyal to her friend) the important thing is for your DD to see you making a statement publically that you are her mummy.

Everyone deserves a mummy rather than a step-mother.

If anything happened to me I hope DS could find someone to love him and want to be his mummy.

Romanarama · 17/09/2009 12:01

I agree with Kew. She deserves a mummy. If I die I hope dh will find some one else who can be a real mummy for my boys. She has had 2 mummies one after the other, you are not cancelling her first mummy out.

MadameCastafiore · 17/09/2009 12:03

My mum died when I was 11 months old - the woman my father married was my step mum.

You are her stepmum - you did not give birth to her - you have to get over that because to me you are, by getting shirty about this, not showing much respect for the woman who gave birth to her and loved her and sadly died.

God this is actaually making me feel very very angry.

GColdtimer · 17/09/2009 12:13

In stark constrast to how MadameCastafiore feels, my friend also lost her mum at aged 2. Her Dad remarried and she also referred to her stepmum as her Mum. Whilst she alwasy knew she had another Mum and marked her birthday and anniversary, keeps a photo of her by her bed, etc, her step mum was the person who brought her up and has played the role of "mum".

Her stepmum died recently and she has been so upset by some people saying to her "well, she was only your stepmum, how are X and X (her "step" sisters) taking it."

She is so hurt and angry by that, as if her feelings are not as important. Her (step) mum always referred to herself as my friend's mum.

I am not sure that helps you at all but I just wanted to share it. With regard to your DD, she knows she has a mummy in heaven (or wherever you say she is) and as long as you are always sensitive tothat, whilst being her "Mum", then I am not sure what you can do about what other people say. In time, people will probably drop the "step" mum tag.

Kewcumber · 17/09/2009 12:31

madameC - I adopted DS at 11 months - should I for th erest of my life call myself his "adoptive" mummy and him my "adopted" son?

Whether you gave birth to a child or not is not the issue (IMVHO) but how you both feel about the relationship. Why shouldn't her DD want another Mummy?

You may not have felt this way about your step mother for some reason that doesn;t mean everyone feels the same way.

I don;t think you can on the basis of a few lines of text claim the OP is being disrespectful - I think you are projecting your own circumstances onto her.

Pitchounette · 17/09/2009 12:57

Message withdrawn

MadameCastafiore · 17/09/2009 13:00

No Kewcumber I am not projecting anything - if you start a relationship with a man and their previous spouse/partner has died and you take on their children that is brilliant but you have to understand and respect the fact that the child/children had another mummy who was sadly taken away and so to get cross/upset when others call you their stepmum is disrespectful to the woman that gave birth to them and didn't have a choice in not bringing them up.

GColdtimer · 17/09/2009 13:04

Its a tricky one MadameCastafiore and perhaps very personal to the families invovled. In my friend's case, she got upset when people referred to her "step" mum as such because she had always seen her as her Mum, despite loving and missing and grieving and respecting her first Mum.

Kewcumber · 17/09/2009 13:33

but MadameC - what about respecting the childs wishes - who wants you to be referred to as mummy? Do they not count?

ANd for the record - few borth parent "choose" not to parent their children even ones who relinquish their child for adoption. Circumstances make it impossible.

MadameCastafiore · 17/09/2009 15:01

I explain that I am DD's Mummy now, and that step mums are for when you have another mummy somewhere!

She may be dead but she should still be included in that child's life, spoken about and it be normal to do so in day to day conversation.

I am so cross because the OP really makes it sound as though the birth mother is no longer a part of this little girls life. So by all means let her call you mummy and call yourself mummy but understand and be accepting of the fact that there is another woman in this relationship and the very worse thing you can do is sweep her under the carpet so as to not offend your sensibilities.

chegirl · 17/09/2009 16:02

I have seen other posts by the OP MadamC and that certainly does not seem to be the case.

I do not get the feeling that she is trying to ignore her DD's birth mother at all.

I can understand your feelings but I think this OP needs to be seen in a wider context.

Being called Mummy, rather than Stepmum is not enough to wipe the child's birth mother from memory.

As an adoptive mum I am very aware of the importance of including my DS's birth mother in his life history. That does not extend to him being expected to call me Great Auntie, even if that a biological truth.

Of course it is a sensitive issue but I think each family needs to work it out for themselves, looking at the best interests and needs of the child.

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