“Can I call you Mommy?” asked the timid voice from the backseat of my car.
There it was.
After nearly 5 years as a blended family, my seven year old stepdaughter was attempting to change the rules.
Since our relationship began, my husband and I always told her that she could call me by my first name.
When we married, we re-assured her (and my husband's ex) that I would not be taking the place of her biological mother, and that she did not have to call me Mom.
I was still – and always would be -- “just Cathy.”
My parents divorced when I was around the same age as my stepdaughter. I was ten when my father re-married and 18 when my mother married my stepfather. In both instances, I called each stepparent by their first names. So I fully expected my stepdaughter to be no different.
Now out of the blue came the question.
My stepdaughter was reaching out to me.
Since becoming a part of each others’ lives, I’ve followed the guidelines on how to create and maintain a successful blended family. And now my stepdaughter was doing her part to further strengthen the bonds of our relationship.
My heart sang.
Not wanting to discourage her, I simply replied “Sweets, you can call me whatever you want.”
I soon began to question my response.
We have a joint custody arrangement with her biological mother. How would she feel about her daughter calling me Mommy? And what would my husband think?
Suddenly, a seemingly simple question had become much more complex.
The subject of what to call stepparents can be a touchy one – for everyone.
In her quest to find a suitable name for me, my stepdaughter displays extreme compassion for her own mother’s feelings. She is concerned, as am I that her bio-Mom would feel threatened if she started calling me Mommy.
Let’s face it, the term stepmother comes with so many negative connotations.
It’s true that since turning 30 I do have more facial hair than I’d like to admit, but c’mon! I do NOT resemble the stereotypical wicked stepmother depicted in those fairy tales. You will not find a single wart on my nose. There are no dungeons or spinning wheels to be found around our home.
So, we continue to search for an appropriate nickname – one that satisfies my stepdaughter’s need to solidify my place in her life while not causing confusion or conflict with her biological mother.
At present, we are trying bonus Mom -- a term that places emphasis on how lucky she is to have an extra mother to love her. She, in turn, is my bonus daughter – another female entity in the house that I can be girly with.
And you know what? We kinda like it!
Now, if I can only find that recipe for poison...err, poached apples.