Monday, November 5, 2012

The Label of Stepmom

Climbing the Family Tree

I label myself as a stepmother. It is the most accurate description for the role I fill in my kids’ lives. They label me as their stepmom because it is the easiest explanation for who I am in their lives.

Yes, I sometimes call them my kids. They are the children in my life. They live with their father and I 50% of the time. When I go to their school or sporting events and someone asks me “which child is yours?” I don’t say, “none of them”. I say, “that one”. Sometimes I explain further that I am the stepmom, sometimes I say I am their father’s girlfriend. It all depends on the situation and who I am talking to.

I label myself as girlfriend when referring to my relationship with my boyfriend. Sometimes I label him as my partner. I guess you could get technical and label him my domestic partner, but that just sounds so stiff and formal.

I label my stepkids’ grandma, grandma. She is their grandmother 100%, even though she has no biological or legal bond to them. Her emotional bond is just as deep with my boyfriend’s kids as it is with her own biological grandchildren.

My parents label me a mother, because that is the role I fill in my house. I have more than once, in my adjustment into parenthood, been told by my parents “that is the mom’s job”. They are not insinuating that I am, or should be, taking the children’s mother’s place. They are simply using a label.

Some of the family members that I label “cousin” are actually my mom’s cousins. I’m not really sure what my first cousin’s daughter is to me either so I just label her cousin as well.  

We all go by many relational labels, none of which do anything but help others categorize our relationships with different people. Mother, Stepmother, Father, Stepfather, Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, Niece, Grandparents, Girlfriend, Boyfriend, FiancĂ©, Wife, Husband, Ex-wife, Ex-husband, Friend, Acquaintance, Boss, Co-worker, Supervisor, Artist, Mechanic, Teacher…

Some people are stricter about family relationship titles than others. I know a lot of people who chose not to have sex or to live together before they got married, no wait… I can actually only think of one couple who did that who I know personally and I’m not really sure about the sex part. It is 2012 not 1900, times and family dynamics have changed.

At my house, with my family, my label is stepmom. The kids call me Ash. They know that I am not married to their dad, but they also know that I love him with all my heart. They know that I am going to cook their dinners, make their lunches and help them with their homework. I am going to do everything that a stepmom or a mom is “supposed” to do.

When I fell in love with my boyfriend I knew I was stepping into a much bigger role than just girlfriend. I understood that I was stepping into the mother role in the home the children have when they are with us. I never mistake that role as actually being their mother, but I also never minimize the importance of the role I am playing in their lives. 

photo credit: shawnzrossi via photopin cc


  1. ashley, i love this post! the kids are very seldom hung up on our titles ... it's the ROLE we play in their lives that's important, not what we ask them to call us.

  2. My stepmom has been with my Father so long, she forgets who she is talking to when she introduces me. She introduces me as her other daughter. She did it a few months ago to her own cousin. He just kind of looked at me as she walked away. I laughed and said "I'm Rick's daughter." It clicks and people always laugh. It's funny every time.

  3. Ashley, thank you for this! I think many of us struggle with finding an accurate label. My concern is slightly different than yours: while I co-parent with my husband, I don't consider myself a parent. As a childless stepparent, I am not a mom, so "stepmom" doesn't work for me; "stepparent" doesn't work for me either. I wish we had another word for ourselves! A few more thoughts on this from my blog (hope it's okay that I share!):

  4. Love this post. 'Stepping' is so not easy. For the adult or the child(ren). I've nominated you for the Liebster award, so dash over and claim it before writing your next great post! :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...