Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My fiance’s 10-year-old daughter said last week that she wants to call me Mom. Her mom, who has 80 percent custody, is 100 percent against this. The daughter wants to do it anyway and not tell her mom. This doesn’t feel right.
On the other hand, her father and I want to support her in developing a relationship with me as she sees fit. If that includes calling me Mom, then we embrace that.
What’s best for the daughter here if her mom won’t budge in her opinion (and history says she won’t)?
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It Takes a Village
The best way to support the daughter is not to be a wedge between her and her mother.
Yes, the daughter wants to call you Mom, which is wonderful and loving and says you’re doing well at developing the relationship.
I suggest you give the daughter a big hug and say you’re so touched and happy she wants this, and that you feel the same way about her. Then say you understand why her mom wants to be the only “Mom,” though, and you also don’t want Daughter to be in the position of having to hide something from anyone — secrets get heavy.
So, maybe you and she can come up with a name you both like? Whatever it is, her mom would likely be more open to it if you said to her, “I understand your objection to ‘Mom' and will work with her to make up something else.”
Many readers have worked past this same obstacle, and here’s what they said:
• My name is Sue; my stepdaughter calls me SueMom. So does her husband and her best friend. I love it!
• I was in foster care at 14 and my “Mom” and “Dad” were the reason — abuse and neglect. I really wanted to call my foster mother “Mom,” but she said she thought that wasn’t the best idea and suggested I call her “Mother,” which I did until she died when I was in my 50s. It was a good way to bridge the gap.
• In 20 years, this little girl could easily have two “Moms.” My aunt and uncle both had kids from previous marriages, and they’ve been married now for 35 years. When my cousin says “Mom,” I literally don’t know if she’s talking about her natural mom or stepmom. That’s what blended families do. Natural Mom may relax in a few years, and not see stepmom as a challenge to her. Give it time.
• When my son was about 8 he didn’t like calling my spouse “Stepdad” and came up with “New-Dad.” We had a good co-parenting relationship among the three adults, and we thought this was funny. His dad laughed at being called the Old Dad. My ex recently remarried and I was granted an upgraded title from Ex-Wife to First Wife. It’s important to have a sense of humor!
True. However, sadly, a sense of humor can’t be implanted in humorless, defensive or angry parties to a co-parenting arrangement.
Thank you all for weighing in.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.