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Step parent boundaries

Livery's picture

Hello! I'm not sure exactly how this works, so I'll just shoot. I come here because I need advice on a situation that not many people can give me, given that they have never been in this situation. This seems like a decent place to try and seek some kind of answer. I've been in a relationship for about 9-10 months now with someone whom I previously dated a few years back, before he had a child. We now live together, and his son is just about 2 years old. The child's mom and I get along well, and do not have any issues whatsoever. The only issue I have is that he, at times, calls me "mommy" to his child. He will say things like "go get mommy," or call me "mommy _____," with my name at the end. This makes me extremely uncomfortable. I have voiced to him that I do not like it, and that I do not feel it is correct to have his son say such things because it may lead to confusion as he gets older. As the months have gone by it just keeps creeping in, and I hear myself start getting called mom again. The paternal grandmother even made a remark when the child called me "mama" and I very nicely told him "my name is _____, I'm not mama but I care for you very much," which caused her to almost be irritated with me. Almost as if I had done wrong by telling this child very nicely that I am not his mother. The child's mother is in his life, her and the father have 50/50 custody. The father and his side of the family do not like her, she is not the greatest mother but she still is his mother and I don't feel like it is my fault that this was who he had a child with, she also would absolutely not be okay with her son calling another woman mom. In a way, I feel wrong for it but I am not sure if that's just because of how he presses it on me or if I actually do feel wrong. I do love the child, don't get me wrong. It is just a strange situation that I can't seem to communicate through, since it will just go away and come back a few weeks later. Seeking advice, any advice. I just am not sure where to turn for this. 

Edit: I also want to add, on the weeks that his child is with us it is like I have to take on a role as if I am this child's mom. I know dating someone with a child is different, but is that inappropriately different? I change diapers, I feed him, I watch him, I wake him up and dress him if dad just can't seem to get out of bed with enough time before work, make his lunch for school the next day most days, if dad has to work and daycare is closed I have to find a way to make it work with my work from home schedule. I just feel like a lot of weight is put on me for someone so young, and someone who has never had plans on having children of their own. 


JRI's picture

Your instincts are entirely correct in several matters.  No, the child should not call you momma and the father and his family are entirely wrong for encouraging that.

You also correctly sense that you are shouldering too much of the child's care.  I predict that the fellow Steptalkers will be quite vocal and angry on your behalf!  Often, a custodial parent will try to make the partner assume a "parent" role, for various reasons.  In some cases, it is an altruistic impulse, wanting tbe child to have a more worthy parent figure.  Sometimes, it the fulfillment of the "happy family" fantasy.  Sometimes, its due to their own laziness. Whatever the reason, it is wrong for the child and wrong for you.  Dad should be changing the diapers, feeding him, dressing him and all the other tasks you describe.  You are the girlfriend, not the new mom, the boy already has one.

Read around on this site.  You will see that others have had this issue.  You are young, think about whether you want this right now.  Good luck, Livery.

ndc's picture

JRI is spot on.  The child should not call you mom, especially if it makes you uncomfortable - he has a mom already.  It looks like your boyfriend is trying to move you into the mom role whether you want it or not, and that is wrong.  HE needs to step up.  This is pretty common - many men do it.  Whether it's because they're lazy, used to traditional gender roles, or whatever, it's not right. 

If your boyfriend is home, HE should be the one handling all the parental duties.  If you are working from home, your boyfriend should be making alternate arrangements for his child.  Working from home is not compatible with providing child care - that's not fair to you or your employer, or to the child.  Your boyfriend needs to really step up his parenting.  I'd have a talk with him about it.  If his expectations of a partner aren't what you want in the relationship, better to know sooner rather than later.

notsurehowtodeal's picture

You are correct, the child should not call you Mom and you should not be his caretaker. Make it very clear to everyone involved that they need to stop encouraging it. Stand up for yourself.

You do not have to take on the "mom" role when the child is with you. While it may be a bit different dating someone with a child, the difference should be you making allowances because he has to care for his child - not you do the actual careaking! Just because you work from home, does not mean you are not working and it certainly does not mean that it is your problem when there is no daycare. What would SO do if you weren't around?

Ask your SO why he thinks you should care for his child? No matter what answer he gives, the real reason is because he thinks childcare is "woman's work." Do you really want to stay involved with guy who is that dated in his thinking? You don't want children of our own - why in the world should you take care of another woman's child?

You are young. You should be out having fun, not taking care of someone else's child.

Kes's picture

I think the above are all good answers.  If you feel uncomfortable, that is reason enough for the child to be corrected when he calls you his mom.   I'm sure it is great for your partner if you would step right in, and provide practical and emotional care for his child - saves HIM doing it, huh?  But it is not your place.  

tog redux's picture

I'd urge you, in addition to not having the kid call you mom, to stop acting like mom. You haven't even been dating a year and yet your SO is perfectly fine with you taking over all parenting, which is a huge red flag.  HE needs to be the primary parent, all the time, with you helping when you feel like it. If he gets irritated by you insisting on that, then it's time to end the relationship. He may be looking for a woman to take over his responsibilities as a parent, rather than to be his partner. I promise you won't be okay with that forever. It also indicates selfish and irresponsible personality traits that will irk you in other ways.

lieutenant_dad's picture


Your BF needs a heaping dose of reality. Can't wake up in time to get his son dressed? Guess he is late to work. Can't fix his lunch? Guess his son gets hungry or he pays the daycare for lunches. Daycare closed? Guess he'll be staying home or finding a babysitter.

DO NOT DO THESE THINGS. Keep your happy butt parked in bed. Don't premake those lunches. If your BF leaves without taking his kid, you call him ONCE and tell him he either comes home or you're dropping the kid off at his desk. Make it clear as crystal ONE TIME that you are NOT the mother and NOT taking on that role.

My guess in this is your BF is trying to alienate his son from his mother. He and his family probably think if you stay and accept the role, your BF can go back to court and get more custody and push BM further away. Whether they want to do this out of malice or truly think she's a crap mom (or both) doesn't matter. This WHOLE situation is wrong to you, to that little boy, AND to BM.

I have been on the other side of this with my DH. His XW had the kids call their first SF "Daddy". It was part of her plan to alienate the boys from DH and hurt DH. Well, it ended up hurting her kids, too, when she booted him to the curb too many times and he finally filed and went through with the divorce. She also screwed over any chances that the boys would have good relationships with her new BFs/DHs because it's just not worth the emotional investment.

Be blunt. "BF, I am NOT your son's mother. I am NOT parenting him. YOU will be making his lunches from now on. YOU will be getting up to get him ready, even if it makes you late for work. If you leave SS with me, your two options will be to come back and get him OR I'll drop him off to you at work. I WILL NOT be used. I love you and I care about SS, but that doesn't mean I am going to replace BM. You became a single father the day you two split, and while I don't mind helping and spending time as a family, the heavy-lifting parenting is YOURS to take on. If you don't want to do it, I suggest reworking your custody schedule with BM to have less time."

If he breaks up with you, good riddance. Better to get out now before you get fully sucked in with a joint mortgage, marriage certificate, and baby on the way. It only gets harder to correct bad behavior the longer you stick around, and you 100% have the ability to leave at any time. SS is not your problem.

Rumplestiltskin's picture

I just came to agree with everyone else. So much about this situation is so wrong.