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What is really in a name.

southernshellgirl's picture

I just felt the need to express some of my thoughts and feelings as a step-mom called "Ma".

First I want to tell Georgia I appreciate your comment on my last post and do not take offense to your comments and I do take it with the upmost respect. I do understand that not having a biological child yet,(another 4 months to go), does put me on the opposite side of the fence from BM and maybe no matter how much I attempt to understand I may not be able to at this point. I promise that if my feelings and opinions change after the baby arrives I will admit it 100%. I always appreciate someone being able to honestly say they feel otherwise and make an effort to show me another side to things. That's why I come here, to gain insight and information that I may not have on my own, and to have that commoradory with others who face step-parent issues and feelings.

I know it sounds weak, but DH and I never intended for SD to call me "Ma" or anything of the sort. I have been a constant role in SD's life since Bm first brought her to DH and I to "babysit" when SD was only two months old. DH and I have been together since before SD was born. No, I didn't steal him from her while she was pregnant, by both their accounts they were "dating" or just "hooking up" whem BM became infatuated with him and wanted more. By her account, Dh wouldn't say I love you and she knew he was still going out and meeting other girls so she decided to get pregnant. She wrote in a letter to him that said she knew he would love their child because he was great with kids, and she thought with her being the mom he would love her too. He wanted to try to stick around and maybe even be with her so he could be with his child, but not long into her pregnancy she told him the truth that she had stopped taking her pills on purpose to keep him and that was the end. DH knew he could never trust her and the relationship was over. In no way diminsihing his responsibility in creating a child with her. He has been completely committed to his role and responsibility as SD's dad since she was born.

BM told Dh that she thought having a baby would make him happy, that it was what he would have wanted. she even wrote in the letter to him that she thought she always had HIS best interests at heart. I'm sure anyone can see that BM never had anyone's interests in mind except for her own, and least of all those of her child, even before she was conceived. Single handedly deciding to bring a child into the world with a man that, by her own account, would not commit, would not say I love you, and she always thought was "cheating" on her with other girls, is in my opionion, the most selfish and disgusting thing she could have done. And I do feel I can judge on this, I hate to admit it, but I was in a very similar situation just before I met DH. A man I was "dating" that I began to care strongly for had every interest in having me in his bed, but not in his life. Never said he loved me though we dated several months, and I suspected he was out partying and meeting other girls because he showed no interest in commiting. I can relate to BM's helpless feelings and wanting to hold on to something she believed could be great.

But that is where to similarities end in the relationships. I have too much self respect and cared too much for my future children to ever attempt to force a commitment from a man at the possible expense of my child's future.I could have done just as BM did and stop taking my pills and had his baby, but the truth is it never crossed my mind. I walked away from that man. I walked away from all men to tell the truth. I knew what I wanted, but until I met the one that wanted the same with me, they didn't deserve me. I had too much to give. And I know from the way my parents valued me and my sisters, that my future children deserved so much more than i would be giving them if I made the choice BM did, no matter what the outcome.

I don't want to sound bitter, I know now that Sd is such a blessing, and she is to every life she touches. I don't believe in "could have, would have, should have's", she is here, she is healthy, and she is wonderful. I believe God does have a hand in that. I won't go any further right now, but I have very strong and wonderful feelings about the way DH, SD and probably the even larger part, how BM has made a great impact on who I am and my ability to see the value and purpose in my own life.

See, I come here to vent, but the truth is that I care very much for BM. I believe she and I were meant to be in eachother's lives also. I vent and get angry because I don't understand her and as anyone can tell by my blogs, I don't agree with her decisions. I have learned however, that you can disagree with someone, but you cannot negate their feelings. I disagree with BM's choices, but I have and do respect her feelings, especially those about me. I get hurt easily by Bm because i care so much for SD, but also because I care for BM and want the best for her. I promise, if Bm were living up to her potential as SD's mom, I would be the last person in the world to support taking custody from her. I care for BM and consider myself to be her friend. Even with the terrible things she's said to me, if she called me and needed help I would be there for her and I say that without question or doubt. I believe that is what SD can see from me. And we are hurt most easily by the ones we love. But my care for Bm cannot overshadow my commitment to SD. Bm is an adult and can make her own decisions, SD is a child and needs our protection and guidence, and that is our first priority.

Getting back to the point, what is in a name? Dh and I tried to get SD to call me "Shell Bell for quite some time. We knew when she started saying "MAMA" to me something had to be done. I'm not sure if Sd couldn't say Shell Bell or just didn't want to, but she began saying "Ma" when she wanted me. I'm sure anyone who has spent time with a very small child knows you cannot explain why things are the way they are or should be different. I know that sounds like an excuse, so I will take responsibility for DH and I not being more persistent and saying "no" and telling that baby not to call me "Ma". It became a nickname and it stuck. I kind of related it to little kids with their favorite animal or blanket. They identify it as a certain name,"woobie", "blankie", "ya ya", whatever, and soon that's what everyone is calling it. If my mom wanted to refer to me when speaking to SD, she would call me what SD called me because that was how she identified me. Never as "Mama" or "Mommy", but as "Ma".

In the begining I teased DH saying if I was going by "Ma" he should be "PA". Later we found out that is what BM began teaching SD to refer to her 18 year old fiancee as, "Pa".

So keeping in mind SD is only 3, Sd began calling me Ma when she began to talk and then BM began refering to me as Ma when talking to SD when SD was 2 and continued to do so until this January. That has been my nickname from her for most of her life, and for as long as she can remember.

I want to make it very clear that I have never misrepresented myself and who I am to SD. Not to anyone, and especially not to Sd. When I intoduce her I do so as "my step-daughter" or "I'm Step-mom". When we told SD we are having a baby and we began talking about the baby in my tummy, Sd asked me if she was in my tummy, I said "no, you were in your Mommy's tummy". Then I talked about how I was in Grandma's tummy and Grandma was in G.G.'s tummy and Mommy was in Nana's tummy and Nana in Nan's tummy. I have no problem telling Sd where she comes from.It is very important and I do not want SD to ever feel as if I have lied to her. I feel very secure in my role in her life and am proud to be her step-mom.

That's where my feelings about the name begin. I don't feel it is wrong for SD to call me mom, because I am a mom to her, "Step-MOM". I don't understand there having to be a biological link to deserve the title? She is my daughter, my "step-DAUGHTER". The negative feelings about the title are in the feelings of the beholder. To any who have issue with the step-parent being called anything similar to mom or dad, would it be okay if she called me "Step-MOM"? that is what I am, why would there be a problem with that? That is identifying somone by their role. BM herself calls her step-father "Dad". Why is that okay? She has a biological dad.

I do not want to sound as if I am being disrespectful to biological parents when I say, I feel that the concern over what the child calls the step-parent is derived in jealousy and insecurity, and I feel that way because if the parents and step-parents are honest with the child, only strangers are not aware that the step is not the biological parent. And if the step is in the role as mom or dad, loves the child as their own or at least close to, and the child reciprocates the love and respect in that relationship and that step's role, what does it really matter what strangers think?

No biological parent can be replaced. I'll say that one more time, NO BIOLOGICAL PARENT CAN EVER BE REPLACED! I truely believe that. No matter how much SD loves me, no matter what she calls me, no matter where she lives no matter what BM chooses to do in her role in SD's life; I am not and will never be a replacement for Sd's Mother. I am her step-mother, and if to SD my role is exactly the same as what my wonderful mother's role was in my life both as a child and today, then that is what SD will know a step-mother to be. And I refuse to short change her on the experience and love I was so fortunate to receive because the the rest of the world is threatened by the idea I may be trying to take the place of her biological mother. My relationship with SD will not be cripled by the sterotype of the wicked step-mother from Cinderella, a movie I gladly allow my step-daughter to watch because I know that when I tell her I am her step-mom, it is the idea of the wicked step-mom that is forign to her, not her relationship with me.

Then on to another issue I have, if being the biological parent is the only way to deserve to be identified by the role of mom or dad or any nickname similar, is it okay for adopted kids to call their adopted parents "mom and Dad"? THose children have or had biological parents too, but they're identifying with the role the adopted parents play in their lives.

Georgia, I too am not trying to pick a fight, I do appreciate your feelings and opioions and hope you are not offended by my questions or comments either. I know this is a long debated issue and I welcome comments or answers to my questions above.

I note the comments you made of how SD is too young to understand the differnence between the biological parent and step-parent. I agree, and that is why I have such issue with BM wanting to make the change in my nickname at this critical juncture in SD's life. When everything else is changing.

SD's maternal grandmother "Nana" beat Mommy up and that is why they moved in with Bm's ex-financee's mom. SD was in the house when that happened and BM's mom called us to get SD out of the situation. Dh and I wanted to help BM too, so we took her and SD to our house for the night, we were afraid for her safety. While SD stayed with us, Bm moved all of her and SD's blongings into the ex-fiancee's mom's house. While trying to work it out, BM agreed to let me care for SD while she worked because formerly BM's G-ma kept SD at Bm's mom's for her, and after her mom beat her that wouldn't work. Dh and I would pick SD up from BM every morning and Bm would pick her up after work. BM got upset when SD began to cry and not want to leave when she would come to get her from Dh and myself, so she put her in a public daycare for the first time in Sd's life. I don't know what everyone else thinks, but seeing my 3yo SD and knowing her, those were all very significant changes in her life. It was difficult for her. The only thing that has remained consistant and unchanged is her life and the relationships when she is with DH and myself.

I hurt to think what SD may think or feel if, at the time we are expecting her first and only sibling, BM, Dh and myself all began telling SD she was no longer allowed to call me "Ma", but her baby sister can. She's 3 and is going to have to learn to deal with sharing her home with us, her family, and the attention for the first time. Dh and I do not feel comfortable starting a new "rule" in our house that will set SD apart from us and her sister.

Like I said, I have not and will not misrepresent who I am to SD, and will be completely honest with her and tell her how I am related to her by being married to her daddy, but I tell her that now, and just because she is too young to understand is not her fault, nor should it be. My relationship with SD has not changed, it is her mommy's feelings about me that have changed. I have voiced to SD that my feelings about Mommy also have not changed.

I do not and will not set against BM in a battle over what SD calls me. I have not said "Mommy is wrong" and instructed her not to mind her mother. I have always encouraged her to be good and mind her mommy, and at the same time I try to teach her to think for herself and realize that people are different. Like I said in telling SD about how it's okay for her and daddy not to like the same ice cream, Mommy's feelings about me have changed, but SD's have not. BM is trying to change what SD calls me, but what she really wants to change is the way SD feels about me. I know that the love, care and respect I give Sd is much stronger than a name she calls me. That is why I am comfortable leaving it up to SD in our house and telling her she will not get in trouble here if she wants to call me Ma, but also tht my feelings will not be hurt if she calls me Shelley.

I do not want to encourage SD to disrespect BM or her instructions in any way, but I do know that BM has a tendancy to make very poor and selfish decisions and use bad judgement and language. THough I always want SD to respect her mother, I do not want her to always follow her mother's example or think she is always right. Dh and I had to start teaching SD a long time ago that just because it's okay with Mommy, doesn't always make it okay with us. I don't know about you, but allowing a 2 1/2 year old to say "Hell" doesn't sit well with us. Do you think telling SD that that is not appropriate or allowed in our house means we are placing SD in a bad situation and teaching her to be disrespectful to her mother?

And to address the comment about wether or not DH and I are going to encourage SD to keep secrets from Mommy, the answer is no. I have and always will encourage SD and instruct her not to lie. I do worry about her and if BM is going to punish SD if when she asks if she has been calling me "Ma", SD says yes. unfortunatly, Dh and I cannot control what Bm does when she has SD. and as much as we try, we will never be able to protect sd from her mother, her mother's choices or any negative influence she might have. All we can do is be true to our values and beliefs and pray for SD to protected.

Thank you for taking the time to read, I would love to have other opionions and feelings.:)


gobbism's picture

My FSS doesn't even call his dad 'dad' and I think that's OK. I know he'll never call me 'ma' or anything like that but I think it's a matter of age. 12 is much different than 5 and under. I've read here that a lot of SMs get 'ma' or the equivalent from kids that young.

There was a post a while ago about whether a BM keeps her ex's name or not and personally I don't think that matters either. It's just about how much conflict it generates and how or whether it an be resolved.

Sita Tara's picture

I know how it feels to have my son, only two when I divorced, call his SM "mom" and me by her name. I know how it feels to see him run into her arms or give her a long hug and kiss goodbye in my presence. I know how it feels to have him write a homework assignment about his other house, not even mentioning me, because that's where he was when it was due.

All those things said, I have never nor will I ever make him feel bad for those things. I am forever grateful that he has his SM, that she has been very loving to him his whole life, that when he can't be with me I know he is safe and loved and well cared for.

ANY BM who has issues with it...well... they need to seriously think deeply about what is best for their kids. My sons don't call their SM mom, unless it's a slip up. BUT I would never be upset with them, or her if they did. I just can't see the point. Our relationship is strong so what would I have to be insecure about?

Now if they had a domineering SM who MADE them call her mom, well that would be different. But I haven't met anyone like that so far.

You are completely worthy of the title your SD have given you. It is BM's problem that she is having difficulties with it, and it likely comes from her own insecurities that your DH didn't pick her to share a child with, but you. That would be my hunch anyway.

Enjoy that little girl. And continue to make peace with whatever she wants to call you. Because I have a SD who used to call me mom here, until BM emotionally beat it out of her. That makes me sad, but mostly for SD who should be allowed to call me whatever she wants in her own house.

Peace, love, and red wine

Colorado Girl's picture

and I am right there with you when it comes to my skids' BM. I just want her to be a the mom I know she is capable of being. I think that ALL of your BMs issues with you are radiating with jealousy and insecurity. So in your attempt to keep the peace, would it be so objectionable to appease her request?

I posted on your other blog, so sorry if I repeat myself.

Why is this SO important to you? I'm thinking it's because you don't care what she calls you and your SD is just calling you what is natural to her. The problem is that someone in the equation is bothered by it. Whether it stems from jealousy, retaliation, or whatever, BM is making a big deal of it. So is this fight worth it to you?

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain."

Catch22's picture

Really Shell Bell Smile I don't know why you feel the need to defend yourself here, this is our place, not BM's, although I haven't read the first blog you mention... :?

You seem like a SM that loves her SD and BM and DH should be very grateful, there are a lot of spiteful SM's in this world, all 3 are blessed to have you.

I can see you have a huge hang up with this and I can see you are worried about the effect this will have on SD, but really does it matter what she calls you? Yes I agree it is annoying that BM is making a fuss about something like this and after all these years, but SD will only feel what she feels in her heart not in a name. And if you don't let it affect you she probably won't notice either.

Tell her that she can call you another special name (like shell bell) and that you would love that so much and if you don't make a fuss she will probably just follow suit, little parrots they are Smile When the baby comes, she will feel the normal feelings that even blood sibs feel when a new member comes along, but with the love you have for her, those feelings will fall away with ease when she see's its just one more person to love in your house.

Put your feelings about what BM is doing aside and don't let it affect your relationship with SD..just be happy with her and with your DH and new wonderful addition and everything will be ok. She is trying to make you feel what are you are feeling, there is no other reason she would do this. Don't let her actions rent space in your head, you have already proved you are above that. Best of luck xx

Catch xx
*Mean People Suck*

Sita Tara's picture

Once the baby can call you mama, then your SD once again will want to. I would just take a casual approach and answer to whatever SD chooses to call you. Why make a fuss on this? If BM is bent on you not being "Ma" and drills this in, then SD will feel conflicted, but likely follow what BM says (I don't agree as obvious above, but the reality is when a BM is demanding and testing loyalty of their child, the child usually caves, especially one so young.)

SD may continue to call you what she wants to as she gets older, has another sib calling you mommy, etc. I really think we're all over-thinking this and it's best left to the child. It may not be the child's wish but BM's that wins, but I would not make a fuss either way from your side. I just answer when SD calls me mom or Zen. I'm sure SD has other names for me that BM has drilled into her. Wink Luckily she doesn't say those to my face.

Peace, love, and red wine