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Woman lets stepkids call her 'mom'; their actual mom calls to tell her off. AITA?

Woman lets stepkids call her 'mom'; their actual mom calls to tell her off. AITA?


As a stepparent, it can be awkward figuring out where you fit in.

If you feel bonded with the kids, it's natural to want to step in as another parental figure, if nothing else, as an adult who offering love and support. However, there can be tension if your partner's ex feels threatened by your presence. Navigating that, sadly, includes no simple rulebook.

In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a woman asked if she's wrong for letting her stepkids call her mom.

She wrote:

AITA for letting my step kids call me mom?

I moved in with my fiancé (28M) earlier this year. He has two kids, S (4F) and D (3M). The kids are under split custody, so half the time with Dad, half the time with bio mom. I have met her and the kids before in person, she came off as a decent person and we never had any issues.

Not an exact measure of time but 2/3 months ago, S would randomly call me “mom” or most commonly, “momma” like before going to bed as we tuck them in and say our good nights. It was an odd adjustment, but I know they’re little and I mostly brushed it off with a “okay goodnight hunny.” D would only call me “mom” if S did (he’s 3, so imitating).

Well, about a month ago while S was with Dad and I, she asked me if it was okay for her to call me mom. Up until this point really, both kids called me by my legal name and only knew me as daddy’s “special friend” since we aren’t officially married yet. It was quite a surprise for me (a sweet one, I should say).

Dad and I both explained to them that if they want to call me “mom”, “momma”, etc, it was okay as long as they wanted to. S has on her own made it clear (to us, at least) that she has two (2) moms, and one dad (bio mom's bf doesn’t want to be involved with the kids). Both kids understand they came from their mom's belly, and not mine.

Dad I went to drop kids off to mom as usual, no issues. I stay in the car, and she leaves with the kids. Nothing crazy. As Dad and I were driving home, their mom calls and I told him to answer but let her know she’s on speaker with both of us. So he answers, lets her know I can hear the convo.

She starts off aggressively stating “I don’t know who’s telling these kids that [me] is their mom, but you need to know you will never be their mom, etc etc”. I told her that the kids chose to call me mom, and we explained to them that I’m not their real mom, just an extra mom.

She still did not like that, and went on about how it hurts her feelings that the kids are saying she isn’t their mom anymore and all this nonsense. I got firm quickly and explained that I understand why it would hurt her feelings, but I don’t believe what she’s saying because of what I have heard the kids themselves say.

I allow the kids to call me mom because they see me as a maternal figure, and it’s about how they feel, not your (her) insecurities.

She then went on to not only scream at him and I on the phone, but in her car in front of the kids, “YOU BOTH ARE PIECES OF F-ING S#$T AND THESE KIDS ARE MINE NOT YOURS, I HOPE YOU BOTH F-ING GO TO HELL” and honestly I can’t make out much more of what she said as most of it was unintelligible.

After the kids weekend with her, they came back & were sad because their bio mom said I’m not allowed to be their mom. I asked them “do you want me to be your other mom?” They both said yes. So I told them that if THEY want me to be another mom to them, I can be. My heart breaks because these kids really seem to love me and I do love them. Am I the AH?

People kept it real in the comment section.

coffeemom23 wrote:

NTA. It's understandable that their mom would be wounded to hear her kids calling someone else 'mom', but the kids are so young, if you're marrying their dad they should be able to look to you as a mother figure. At the end of the day, the adults' feelings in this situation come second to the kids' secure attachment.

Refuse-Tiny wrote:

YTA. Especially for referring to their mother as their “bio mom”; a term reserved for markedly different relationships. You’re talking about a woman who has joint custody of her children; not one, who, for example, might receive an annual letter from her offspring’s adoptive parents’ about their progress. Not that those women wouldn’t deserve more consideration than you’ve managed to show here.

Do you genuinely have no concept of “mom” (& associated terms) being a precious designation? Absolutely zero understanding of the level of pain you have caused? It’s perfectly true some children will call a woman other than the one who birthed them “mummy”; but vanishingly rare for that to happen if they retain a relationship with - & here I am using the term correctly - their biological mother.

You shouldn’t have said “yes”, you should have asked “why?”; & informed the children’s mother. (I’d not be too overwhelmed with emotion about them calling you mommy at bedtime etc btw: even older children quite routinely call anyone female in a vaguely caring role “mummy”: did you never hear a teacher call a classmate mummy?)

Topping it all off by deciding to tell the children to ignore what their mother had said? How can you possibly think that will end well? No, she shouldn’t have used profanities in front of the children, but she’s still not T A. That crown is yours, but your fiancé holds the sceptre, given he so willingly facilitated this.

Lepidopteria wrote:

YTA. Actual stepmom here, for 10+ years, and I have my own biokids with my husband as well. I've known my SKs since they were 8 months and 2 years old, respectively. They have never called me mom and if they had when they were that little, I would have diverted them to something else.

You can come up with an endearing nickname that isn't 'Ms. whatever' or just your actual name, which can sound weird from little kids, but that also isn't obviously mom/mama/mommy. My SKs call me a name that my stepson made up for me when he was 2 and couldn't pronounce my actual name.

Sometimes they refer to me as mama but only when they're speaking to my younger son about me, and he calls me mama. As in 'Go tell mama that dada is home!' If I'm with SKs in public people will often assume I'm their mom. As they've gotten older they either brush it off and ignore it, or gently correct people: 'Oh that's actually my stepmom.'

You are not their biological parent. It's one thing if biomom isn't in the picture. But she is, she loves her kids, and you are WAY overstepping, especially when you know this is a potentially fraught coparenting relationship.

You've lived with this guy for less than a year and you're not married. I get it, you care for the kids. You're allowed to. You're allowed to do 'motherly' things for them, too. But you don't know how long this relationship will last yet, and cementing yourself as another mother is dangerous for the well-being of the kids.

Her bond with those kids is deep, and while she got behaved inappropriately in response to this, you guys are in the wrong for letting it get this far. Asking two young kids 'Do you want me to be your other mom?' when their actual mother is already fired up about this topic is BEGGING for trouble and drama and is only going to cause more drama for these poor kids. You are extremely out of line here.

There is no reason for your heart to break by simply asking the kids to call you *whatever made up endearing name you can come up with that isn't MOM*. Furthermore, from this point forward, there is no reason at all for you to communicate with these kids' mom at all. Move all communication so it's between your partner and his ex. You two talking is only going to cause further conflict.

O4243G wrote:

YTA. Stop calling their mom their BIO mom - that’s so weird. That’s their mother.

It’s so revealing in the language you’re using that you’re super condescending about their actual mother and it’s baffling you think you have just as much of a role or a say over these children as she does. You don’t. You could be out of the picture tomorrow and these are her children forever. Something to keep in mind.

DayNormal8069 wrote:

YTA. Look, it’s utterly INSANE you let these kids call you mom without speaking to their mom about her preferences in this area. Utterly disrespectful. The fact your fiancée let this happen is mind boggling. Like are you actively trying to torch your relationship with this woman?!

But it’s also insane that their mom yelled at you like this with her kids in the car. But considering the massive breach of basic decency you and your partner performed here, it isn’t shocking she lost it a bit.

Clearly, OP and her boyfriend are TAs in this, and they should've honored the feelings of the actual mom.

Sources: Reddit
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