I am a divorced woman who has three kids. My ex-husband has a serious live-in girlfriend and I am also in a committed relationship. I am sure the time is going to come soon when my ex will get married again. While my kids like his girlfriend very much and feel comfortable with her, there is one thing they aren’t comfortable with: the term “stepmom.”
My daughter told me this one day after we were having a heart-to-heart. My husband’s girlfriend was upset with her because she didn’t want to share a room with her daughter. Their home has enough room for the girls to have their own rooms, however, his girlfriend’s daughter is younger than mine by a few years, really looks up to her, and doesn’t like to sleep alone.
My daughter is a teenager and wants her space. When she said she didn’t want to share rooms, my ex’s girlfriend took that very personally and got upset with her.
I was talking it through with her when she said, “She’s not my mom. Even if she and Dad get married, she won’t be my mom.”
That’s a battle I am not going to fight. I agree with my daughter. I had step parents growing up, and my parents forced that term on us very much. They wanted their new spouses to be accepted into the family so badly that they were shoved down our throats. Things would have been better if we’d had the space and time to figure out what, and who, these people were to us in our own time.
Also, to me, it’s just a title and nothing else.
While I want my kids to be respectful and understand their parents are in love with other people, they don’t need to think of them as their parents. They already have two parents that love them and care for them. There is no runner-up title in that job, and no one will ever change my mind.
And as far as my boyfriend’s kids go, I feel the same. I will never replace their mother, nor will I try to be another parent to them.
Even if we move in together and are all living under the same roof, I have not earned the title of being a parent to them. I can be a mentor. I can support them and be there for them. They can come to me with anything. But I’m not a parent to them, and I never will be.
Gabrielle Union uses the term “additional adult in their life” and I love that.
Union was on Glennon Doyle’s podcast, “We Can Do Hard Things”, and explained she thought the term stepparent was annoying.
Gabrielle Union is married to Dwyane Wade, who has three kids from a previous relationship. Wade has full custody of the kids, and Union said, “I wanted to make sure I was consistent in their lives. Whatever personality I was trying on that day, or whoever I was, I just needed to be consistent so they could get used to me. They’ve already gone through so much upheaval, moving states away, not knowing anyone, having gone through a divorce. I knew I needed to be consistent. I just didn’t know what my role was.”
That is such a raw, true statement. Kids do go through a lot of changes when their parents divorce or break up. There is no need to step in and say, “Hey, I’m going to be another parent to you.” That’s not fair.
Union added some great advice, saying, “What I realized very quickly is you will never, ever, I don’t care if the other parent is dead, you will never be able to replace the other parent. Don’t try to replace the other parent. That is not your job. Your job is to be consistent. If you’re a disciplinarian in your own life, continue to be that. Just be consistent so they know who you are… and kids adapt.”
I am also going to add something that I know not everyone is going to vibe with: I already have kids of my own that keep me busy. It’s my primary job to parent them as well as I can and co-parent with their father. We don’t need another two adults thrown into the mix, trying to assert their parenting opinions. That’s just complicated. I don’t have the energy to try and be a parent to other kids. It’s not a job I want.
My boyfriend and my ex’s girlfriend have different ways of parenting their kids and we give them the space to do that. It’s for the best, believe me.
This doesn’t mean we don’t talk about things, get our partner’s opinions, or look for them for support when we are struggling as parents.
There have been times I’ve needed my ex-husband’s girlfriend’s help and I’ve asked for it. She’s been more than happy to give it knowing that she isn’t the parent, but another person who is there to support my kids because she loves their father and she loves them.
Not everything in life needs a title. I cringe at the term “step parent” in the same way I’ve never been able to call my in-laws ‘Mom” or “Dad.” I watched my parents do that when they were married, and it always made me feel uncomfortable and didn’t feel right.
So, if you are married to someone with kids and don’t embrace the term step parent, you are not alone. And if you do, that’s great for you — we are all different and prefer different things.
For my family though, there will be no step parents. Only more love and support being exchanged. Because really, that’s all that matters anyway.