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Letting go

hollyissad's picture

I have posted on this site pretty sporadically over the last few years. I’m a full-time SM to SD7. SD7’s mom is deceased and died when she was 4. I came into her life shortly thereafter. Things were rocky in the beginning, then things got better, she started calling me mom about 1 year ago. I am expecting my first baby in July.

I guess my role has always been a very confusing one to me. I’m stuck in what I think of as eternal limbo. I’m a ‘mom’ to her when she needs a mom, but I’m not a mother within its own right, and am denied privileges that come along with being a mother. Often I feel like the title is more for show and compensation than out of feeling. We have a good relationship, but I think I read into more than it actually is, and I’m finding myself taking a step back.

Right now, I have a lot going on. I’m 6 months pregnant, and on top of that, my beloved dog who means the world to me has been diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. She is on diuretics that are making her have accidents, especially during the night. I wake up and she is drenched in urine (the bed is too), and she doesn’t wake up when this happens to move. The medicine seems to be working with her other symptoms and she seems to be happy so far, but it’s still been really hard. I don’t have the energy I do to make myself crazy over SD7 and her affection. I also feel oddly that the closer I get to giving birth to my son, the less I need to feel like “mom” to SD7.

Anyway, this morning I was getting ready for work, and SD7 is getting ready for school. She often reveals her “true feelings” while singing to herself. This morning she was repeatedly singing about how unfair it is that her mom died. At one point she then goes on to sing about how you only ever really have one mom, and that is the one who gave birth to you. It got me thinking that maybe it would be better for both SD7 and myself if she went back to calling me by my first name. I don’t want to do this to be spiteful or vindictive. But I feel that I may have overly encouraged her to call me mom, and that was wrong, and that if the true feeling is not there, I would prefer to be addressed by my first name and not a name that holds such meaning.

I’m wondering if I should broach this topic with SD7 (in a kind and compassionate way of course), and how I should go about talking to her about this subject. I think it may be in our best interests. I hope this doesn’t come across as cruel.


hollyissad's picture

I suppose I feel that I am called mom out of a convenience for an image that is more easy to project to other people. Other kids expect you to have a mom, and it may be weird or uncomfortable to explain that your mother is deceased when you are young. It may be easier to just call someone "mom" so that you can fit in better, or it can be easier when you are around other people. But hearing her true feelings, it feels less authentic I suppose. I don't want her to feel different, and she can certainly tell kids whatever she feels comfortable with, but I also want to encourage her to be true to herself if she doesn't feel that. I agree that mom is subjective, and I don't have a problem with her saying it if that's how she feels.

hollyissad's picture

She does love me, and I love her as well. I truly just want to do what is in her best interest. Being pregnant has not made me want to distance myself from her, but has made me realize that if I let go of my tight grip on needing her to want me as her mother, needing to be accepted by her, that it will be okay. I AM a mother. And I consider myself a mother to her as well, but I don't want her to feel that I am forcing that upon her. I regret so strongly encouraging her to call me mom and think of me as a mom. I am not her mom, and I know she feels that way. But I am A mom to her, and I will continue to be there in whatever capacity she needs. I just feel that I have made some mistakes. I felt desperate, and now that I feel less desperate, I'm able to take a step back and see clearly that she should have led the way on this one, and that I was very wrong.

robin333's picture

Don't take it personally. Some people process as they talk/sing. It's possible this is on her mind since you are expecting, and I guess showing.

I think it is best for you to let her choose what to call you.

My first DH died when DD was 8. Now DH and she have a great relationship but she calls him by his first name. I think she doesn't call him dad because she would feel disloyal. He's been a great father figure and they are very close. It has never been brought up by either of them.

I think it's hard for kids that lose a parent. It's scary because they are one step closer to being an orphan. My DD recently told me that she was having a hard time seeing her dad and that that she couldn't made her sad. It's been almost 8 years and I still struggle with some parts and I'm an adult.

I think you have done a tremendous job with SD. Thank you on her behalf for being that steady female presence in her life. It can't be easy. I really think her singing is hr way of working through understanding what a mom is and her place with the upcoming new dynamic.

hollyissad's picture

I appreciate everyone's kindness. I guess sitting there getting ready today and hearing her words, it did sting a little just because I've tried so hard, but I immediately recognized that that's her *mom* and of course she feels that way. And of course I should have let her lead the way. I think I have done a decent job, but there is always room for improvement. My overly sensitive nature doesn't do me any favors.

Tuff Noogies's picture

i agree with some of the other posters, i think she's just working through confusing thoughts and emotions. she's still a li'l thing.... and u've got a lot on your plate, no wonder your emotions are off kilter!

it's ok for some kids to have two moms. i did. still confuses hubby about which "mom" i'm talking about!!!!

xeromatisaurus's picture

Yeah, kids are weird, amazing and confusing in the way they express themselves, especially before they reach more articulate ages. 7 years old is so young to be processing all of the roles in her life. Her bio mother is gone, her "new mom" is here but is going to be another "new mom" to someone else and she probably isn't sure of her role yet in being a big sister to the new baby.
Even if you feel like you've asserted yourself too much to her as Capital M "Mom," and are now regretting that, it's totally understandable and you're totally allowed to feel that way. Things will continue to adapt naturally as she grows up, too.
At this point, if you're really feeling like you need to change things, I would say all you need to do is talk to her and leave the ball in her court as to whether or not she calls you "mom". Someone else in the comments above suggested that you tell her she can call you whatever she wants. I agree that that is the best of both worlds. You get relief from the pressure, and she gets the power of choice.
Giving her the power to have a role in defining your relationship will only strengthen it. You're free to reassure her that you are simply there for her, whether she wants to call you "mom" or not.
Kids adapt quickly to this kind of thing. Stuff that us grown ups thing is a huge deal is usually no biggie to them. Good luck!

furkidsforme's picture

On a side note- if your dog is an older spayed female, please speak to your vet about estrogen deficient incontinence. It is possible the nighttime incontinence is coincidental with the addition of the diuretics, and may be easily abated (or at least greatly reduced) with a simple estrogen supplement. Common old lady dog problem. But not many vets seem to diagnose it.

oneoffour's picture

OK so her singing ... she only has one mom and somehow that mommy was taken away from her. Your new baby gets to have his/her own mommy and SD misses her mother. How unfair is that? Pretty stinky unfair to a 7 yr old who lost her mother merely 3 yrs ago.

My DD and DS call DH and I their parents. It is much easier than explaining all the details of how a mother in NZ got to move to the USA with her kids and her ex is OK with it. And no, the kids are not demons!

Also she is reacting to no longer being the one and only. My older daughter was 9 when my 1st husband announced we were expecting our 4th child. She pitched a fit yelling "What is wrong with you? Us three are all you need! Why do we need ANOTHER person in our family?" Did I mention this was at some family party? So don't think Miss7 is really too off base.

Step back a little on yourself. She feels jealous her mother was taken from her and had a little pity party for herself. She is 7 and misses her mother. As she gets older her mother will be a good memory. And maybe remember her mother to her. "You know, Daddy was showing me some pictures of your mum and you look so like her. The same pretty hair/eyes/smile." Let her own her mother. She cannot get a hug or a kiss from her anymore.

Disillusioned's picture

I'm wondering if she is feeling anxious and insecure about her relationship/importance to you now that you are having a baby of your must be scary for her, and maybe in her own way she is stepping back herself, to avoid more hurt and pain

I feel a bit bad for her that on top of losing her Mom, just when she starts to connect with you and call you Mom, maybe she feels she will be second best and not all that important to you Sad

And of course, the new baby will have a Mom...but maybe she feels angry that she doesn't, her Mom is gone, and she is struggling to cope with that

She is only 7, over time I think she will come to terms with it all

Be supportive and let her know how much she is loved and valued, and how important her role of big sis is to her new baby brother!

kathc's picture


Maybe get her a "big sister" t shirt to wear when she meets her new baby brother at the hospital?

NoWireCoatHangarsEVER's picture

Off topic, but when my elderly dog got like that and I wasn't ready to let her go, I got a toddler bed mattress with protective sheets and coverings that I would change all the time