step mom....what should a baby learn to call her
05/18/2010 at 06:09 AM

My son has custody of his daughter (8 months) from a previous relationship. She sees her mom daily though. Now that she is developing language, the biological mom doesn't want her calling the step mom mommy which I understand. But what should we teach her to call her since the step mom has most of the care? Is mama acceptable? Mum? Any suggestions would be VERY helpful!

Tell the stepmother (by the way, she is only the stepmom if she is married to your son) to teach the baby to call her by her first name. If that is not acceptable, here is a link.

Also, the whole family should research all they can about attachment.


the baby has been with my son and his wife for the last 5 months. She sees her biological mother for an hour and a half a day. i think she's more than a typical step mom


My brother has reared his wife's grand-daughter. They adopted this little girl. His wife's health made it so that she was unable to provide care to a meth baby, so he was the primary, sole caregiver. He took time off from his consulting business when she was a baby to provide all the care. Now that she is 8, he works during the school year. She calls her grandma (who is the adoptive mother) Grandma. She calls my brother (who is the adoptive, legal, and caregiving father) Frank. When she introduces him, she says, "This is my Frank."

She almost never sees her bio-mom. She rarely sees her bio-dad. However, she calls them her mom and her dad. This preserves peace in the family.

I mentioned she was a meth baby. You'd never know it. She's bright, attentive, funny, caring, curious, capable, healthy, and as easy to discipline as most 8 year-olds. Meth babies are not easy to rear.

I think my brother is more than the typical step-grandpa approaching 60 years old. Even so, he is her "Frank."

Also, she is his only child. No-one will ever call him daddy.

The link I provided has mommy in other languages. I thought that crossing cultures would provide more difference and be less confusing than just an English variant of mom, mama, mommy, mum.


I really do like the idea of picking "mommy" in a different language. Her bio mom was abusive and that is why they have custody now. However, because she does have a mom and a dad we didn't feel she should call step mom mommy anyhow. Thank you so much! if you ever want to just "talk" you can email me at We have adopted our 12 year old grandson (different son's child).......his dad died and mom was/is a heroin addict. It is so sad to see so many kids in this situation. Like your brother and his wife's child, Christian is amazing and you would never know he was born addicted. bless you and thanks so much for the link! Emma


They do not have custody, the father has custody. The step-mother should be called by her first name.


No, actually, the court order listed custody as being both of them which is very unusual. I'd also like to reiterate that none of think our son's wife should be called mommy because they want her to always know who her real mother is.


I posted before I was done responding to Sngldad. We are just looking for alternatives to the name mommy and we really like the idea of picking an international name for mommy.


Not sure how the court could list a stepmother as having custody unless the bio mom had her parental rights removed and the step mom adopted. Very unusual indeed, may be a mistake. Does that mean if Dad and stepmom divorce, stepmom could fight for custody? What a mess that would create.

Not sure what exchanges we had in the past that you have stopped responding to me.


If she is having 90 minute daily visitation, then this custody determination is temporary, and will be revisited within the next few months. In my state, if the mother has complied with all the court's requirements, then she will regain at least joint custody of the baby.


This began as a question asking for suggestions on what to call a step mother. It seems to have turned into a discussion about me not knowing what I am talking about, even though we are living it. YES maymay custody is permanent. Mom's rights are terminated. Step mom has the legal right to adopt, which, when it is final, Sngldad, gives her the right to fight for custody should they divorce. However, both my son and his wife realize the importance of the bond between mother and child and THEY maymay, have agreed to the daily visitation as long as she is not high. Again, this was only to get suggestions on what everyone should teach a baby to call a step mother when the parents want her to be one of the permanent caretakers. The legal advice is unwelcome since none of you know the situation. and as for my stopping responding to you Sngldad, I don't stay on my computer 24/7.


Sounds like your family has already done the homework on attachment. I'm impressed.


This is a rhetorical question--but how the heck did somebody as responsible as your son seems to be end up fathering a child 17 months ago, and marrying a different woman 12 months later? Condom failure?

Rhetorical, and none of my business in this specific case. Still. As somebody in the mountains of verbiage on this site said, attitude is not an effective form of birth control.

There's a case out in Utah, absolutely horrific. The father of a 4 year-old boy had custody, but sent the boy to Utah for visitation with the mother--not sure if it was court-ordered. Mother and current husband BEAT the boy to DEATH.

Stupid choice led to pregnancy, led to unsupervised visitation, led to murder.

Maybe the 15 year old who got naked for her boyfriend ought to read this.


Well, his now wife and he had been together since they were freshmen in high school. Different colleges proved to be difficult so they broke up/got back together/broke up got back together. The last time they split she said it was for good........he had a short fling with his baby's mother until he found out she was an alcoholic and had mental health issues. He never knew she was pregnant until she had the baby and had the office of child support contact him. He had by then married his long time sweetheart and had moved to Florida. Once he had a DNA test they quit their jobs and moved back to Vt. It wasn't very long before the baby's mother became abusive and she lost the baby..... Quite sad for all involved, but definately a lesson for sure in being sure you want the person you're sleeping with to potentially be in your life one way or another forever.


I did not think you stayed on your computer 24/7. The reason I asked why you stopped responding to me was because you posted this.

"I posted before I was done responding to Sngldad."


She meant--And I'm making assumptions again--that she hadn't finished her post.


Ah'ha! Now i got it. I was reading it completely wrong. Thank you Mayamay.


Yeah, I love text communications. "I posted before, I was DONE . . ." as opposed to "I 'posted' before I was done . . ." It bites everybody in the rear at least once.


the child should call her mom or mommy. it is quite unfair that the child always remembers or reminds of being a step mom.
this will restrict the bonding of the new mom and child.


There is no "new Mom" there is a step mother, and a bio-mother that is still involved in this childs life.


Exactally, SnglDad! At our wedding reception my stepsons asked me and my husband if they could begin to call me "Mom". I told them absolutely not, they have a mother and they should continue to call me what they had been calling me since we met: Ms -----. When they asked why, I explained it could be very hurtful to their mother for them to do otherwise. It would have been devastating to me for my children to call their stepmother anything other than Ms and her name. People often trivialize the role of the bio parent in their zeal to validate their new relationship.


attachment or bonding occurs because a person has a need and another person meets that need. The people who consistently see to it that the child is fed and warm, and who do what they can to bring delight and comfort will have an attachment they share with the child.

I hope that the bio-mom will continue to take advantage of the opportunity she has to develop attachment. It is difficult for families to accommodate scheduling this in. That is why I assumed it was court mandated. It is impossible to have too many secure attachments.


let me just say, there seems to be quite a few people who seem to think they know more about our situation than anyone here. First, I have said since the beginning, we DON'T want the baby to call her mommy. We were looking for suggestions for alternatives. Seems to have brought all the holier than thous out of the woodwork! Second, the ONLY reason the bio mom is involved at ALL is because my son hopes one day she will change, realize what she's been missing and actually CHOOSE to be a mother. He and his wife have gone out of their way to keep her in the child's life. Her rights are terminated. She has no legal rights to the child. Superceding that is that my son and his wife want their daughter to grow up knowing her biological mother. so Singldad, NO there is no absolute right this mother has to see the child. As for YOU 2xstepmom.........NOT ONE PERSON IN THIS SITUATION HAS EVER "TRIVIALIZED" THE BIO MOTHER'S ROLE to validate their new relationship. Maybe all of you need to take off your know it all hats and actually read. I am SO sorry I posted the question. NONE of you know the situation so your "I know better" attitude has struck a raw nerve here!


Was responding to the comments immediately previous to my last comment. What we know about the situation is what you have posted. Personal attacks and name calling is counter productive to the purpose of this forum, which is to provide information not only to you but to other readers of these posts. Your "raw nerve" is possibly due to the stress of your situation and is not taken personally by me. Was pointing out that whether or not the child's mother is ever more a part of this child's life, the stepmother will always be just that, the child's "STEP mother". Best wishes to your family in this trying and complicated situation.


It is not complicated nor is it stressful. You all made it complicated in your own minds and nothing you have posted goes to the question posted that began this forum. You're all too eager to jump in with your opinions on everything but.


Conversations go like that. You start with a subject like, I don't know, the weather, and pretty soon you are talking about Nelson Mandela.

I still think that it is behavior that matters to a baby, not title, legal status, or DNA. It sounds to me like your son and his wife are walking the walk.

There is little doubt in my mind that there will come a time when your grandbaby will feel a sense of loss because her family is not typical. But it seems from what you have said that you are all trying to do the best you can in a difficult situation.


Your question was answered. Have the child call her by her first name. Others have given opinions that open more discussion.


It is not surprising that we make assumptions based on the things we usually see. Lots of people who have posted here have called themselves stepmothers when they are shacking up with the father. Many people are more interested in their own status (being called mom) than they are interested in the well being of the children. I dare say that most people in your son's situation would only allow visitation if it were court-ordered. These are the issues that your original post reminded me of. 2xstepmom and Sngldad were responding to cuddlycute's comment, as I was.
It is not necessary to call someone mommy for secure attachment to develop. As evidence, daycare workers are often called Ms ___ or by their first name. If a child is consistently well-cared for by a daycare worker, and then the worker is replaced, the child suffers grief.

I was just thinking, and I'm risking being a buttinski, the visitation that is currently occurring, it is supervised, isn't it? I hope so. I don't know if I'd ever allow an abusive, addicted bio-mom unsupervised access to the child.


Yes maymay, it is supervised by one of her relatives. there is a whole family on that side of the equation who love this child. That has not gone un thought of. Again, we loved the idea of mom in another language and are choosing one of them. Everything else aside, the baby is loved, we all understand the importance of love in a child's life and also understand that people can change, and are hoping the bio mom will. She often doesn't show up for the visit, but other relatives do. thanks maymay for all your suggestions.


Wow, interesting comments!

I may be way off, but I really liked the suggestion of another language label for step-mom. I have step-children who I came into their life when they were 17 and 22. They call me by my first name. My husband, came in to my children's life when they were 10, 16, and 20; they call him by his first name. Our kids are now 30, 28, 26,24, and 18. Now I am a grandmother to my husband's daughter's children (noticed how I said I am their grandmother, not step-grandmother). My son is now expecting his first child, and he has told me that he does not expect me to treat his child any better than I treat my grandchildren from his step-sister.

Since most kids only have two grandmothers they consider themselves lucky to have three, they call me Abuela, which is grandma in Spanish. This mother's day, our oldest; my step-daughter organized all the kids so that I can have a family portrait of ALL my children. My son, my husband's step-son, just graduated from college and in front of all his family and friends acknowledged my husband for being a great father even though he came into thier lives when they were older.

Regaredless of what your family decides with the title, or what they call her, the children know who loves and supports them. I admire your son, his wife and your family for going above and beyond in trying to raise your grand daughter in a healthy environment and offering bio-mother an opportunity to change. GOOD LUCK!


With babies you can't always be the one to determine what the baby calls her. Usually the baby will come up with something all on their own. I had this issue 8ish years ago when I met what would turn out to be my husband. I didn't really even think about it and just called him Steve to her. I worked during the day from 8-8 three days a week and he had a 9-5 and we had one car so he would drop me off at work, drop my daughter off at daycare and then go to his job. On the days i worked late he picked her up. Well after a bit my shifts got changed and we started picking her up together and allt he day care kids would say "Liya your mom and dad are here" and apparently when he picks her up alone they say dad too. So eventually she started calling him dad. It was strange to me at first but she never saw her biological father. And he was a dad to her. Six years later when she finally met her bio dad he didn't seem to mind. Anyhow I agree that step mothers are much more to kids then a lot of people are portraying them here. My now ex husband and I have 3 girls together. Due to our crazy distance (he's military and lives in hawaii, previously we all lived together in Germany) visitation has been scheduled oddly. He has gotten remarried and as far as I can tell from what the kids say she seems like a really great person. (I initiated the divorce btw so there is no jealousy on that end which is what i think gets in the way of a lot) She is a mom to them when I am not there. She plays with them and braids their hair takes care of them in every way and she loves them. If my daughters wanted to call her mom I'd be okay with that. It doesn't take anything away from me. They still love me just the same. It's just more people that love them and more presents at christmas and birthdays. I hope your son and his wife do well together. Good Luck!


My daughter lives with me but has contact with her dad on a regular basis he also has a fiance with whom I get on great with now. But I let my daughter decide what she wanted to call her the step parent I feel is just as important as the bio parent they play a huge roll in a childs life why Shouldnt they be recognised for what they do,if I was you id let the baby call step mum what ever they like its not really the mothers choice and maybe she should of thought bout this before she did whatever she did for her to loose custody


I know this thread is a bit old but ...

I found this site while searching for "What should a stepmother be called".
I am step mother to a 6 month old. My husband and I were briefly separated and he had a one nighter and Whammo! we have a sweet, beautiful baby girl in our lives. I know it's an unusal situation. No, I'm not insane. LOL. My husband is working towards a shared custody agreement with bio-mom and, at the moment, WE have precious baby girl three times a week. Yes, I said WE. I'm a bit surprised by what seems to me to be blantant animosity towards step parents in this thread. Yes, the biological parents of a child are VERY important. But why should step parents be looked upon so negatively? And, forgive my lack of experience here, is this the norm? Some of the comments in this thread make me feel bleak about the future of my FAMILY. That FAMILY includes this precious, innocent child whom I love very much. I just simply wanted to know some other parents opinions on what is a good "name" my step daughter could begin to call me in the next several months. She's already calling everything and everyone "DaDaDaDaDa" and "MaMaMaMaMa" so I'm trying to be prepared. I was thinking some version of Mom would be okay ... I guess not. It's sad. Can a child really have too many people love her? Do we, as adults, have to make this so much about ourselves? What about my step daughter, who has and will know me from the moment she was born, does she get a say?
My opinion, for what it's worth ... "Mom" is more than just a word AND it's more than just description for an egg donor. Mom is a feeling, Mom is warmth and unconditional love and safety always. You don't have to give birth to be "Mom".

emmaandall, bravo to your son and daughter in law for making it work in such difficult circumstance. I hope they come up with just the right name that helps your grandchild express their feeling of attachment to your daughter in law.


Lady Ace. The reason you may detect animosity towards those who are not the bio parents of a child, but still wish to be called mom, is because we are parents. Mom, Dad are not names, they are the titles of the people who created the child. Just as “President” is not a name, it is a position. How many people other than your parents did you address as “mom” or “dad” while growing up? If you think about it, and put yourself in your parent’s shoes, they would no doubt be hurt to hear you, as a child, call someone else by their title.
This is not about how many people can love a child. To make such a comparison tells me that you lack the ability to understand this argument from the side that truly matters, the parent’s side. Even though my ex and I are no longer together no one will ever be called “mom” by our two boy’s except their mother. I watched her carry them both for 9 months. I seen her sick every morning, feet swollen to the point she could not wear shoes. I seen her go through her nesting phase making sure everything was perfect for when her new born child came home. And, I also watched both times as she was cut from hip to hip for a c-section. I had it easy, I counted fingers and toes and held our son close to her as she was being stapled back together. You are not given the title of “mom”, you earn it. My ex earned it, and I would never allow my children to disrespect their mother by allowing them to call someone else “mom”.
As for the “we” comment, are you mentioned in the custody order as being a parent to the child? If not, there is no “we”. If you and your husband ever split, Mom and Dad would have visitation rights.


The point being made in my comments is not negative toward the stepparent at all. It is simply that a stepparent will always be just that, a STEP parent. The bio parent will always be the bio parent of the child. Your feelings about the situation have to come after the well-being of the child. Professionally, I have seen the confusion that allowing the child to call the stepparent Mom or Dad causes for the child. Out of respect for the bio parent, only the bio parent should be called Mom or Dad and the stepparent should be called by their first name or by another title. My stepchildren accepted calling me by Ms and my first name and their mother appreciates my sensitivity for her feelings. This decision will go a long way toward this child and your family having a positive relationship.


It's also about having what is real be something that is okay. If you keep the truth from the child until the child is older, it makes the truth seem worse than it is.

Grandma and Frank are my niece's legal parents. Mom and Dad are people she sees rarely if ever. Since this is the way it has always been, it is not scary to learn that Grandma and Frank are not her bio-parents.
IF parental rights are terminated, and the child is legally adopted by the step-parent, then Mom and Dad are perfectly appropriate, but in my niece's case she heard everybody call her Grandma her Grandma, and she heard everybody call Frank, Frank. This is not the case for all kinship adoptions, but it worked okay for this family.


you couldnt have said it better. I am a stepmother and I prefered to be called by my name with my stepchild calling me mom or mommy.This is a respect thing for the childs biological mother.


very well said


This is what my daughter and my grandbabies dad talked about. They decided to let her decide when the time was right.






Every person views things differently and the situation different, I myself am a step-mother of two and my husband and I have full custody of his children. We have had custody of the children for 8 years now and our oldest doesn't ever she her mother but the younger child goes every other weekend. I as you have said about your step-mother am not the typical step-mother, I do everything for the children an always have. Their mother is rarely involved in any part of their lives but I do have the children call me by my first name and I always have. She may view different than I but I just didn't think it is right for them to call me anything else, I love them dearly and we have great relationships and as far as a mother they do view me as their mom and not their bio-mom but I go by first name. I have a child of my own also and maybe that makes a difference because I just do not feel it is right to be called anything close to mom when I am not the mom.


Also, something to think about is if the child is going to continue to be spending amounts of time with the bio-mom there will probably be issues with the child and bio-mom if the child is using a special name for the step-mother. Things may be ok now but people can be very spiteful and one day the bio-mom may not be so nice and understanding about the name for step-mom


I am a "step mom" and when my husband and I first married the kids were 9 and 11 because of their ages, we used my first name for my (step) son and My biological)daughter was 11 she called her step-dad: Jim. I understand your desire to preserve Moms title, however your son and DIL will be providing the parenting and the "Mothering and fathering". So I "Momma" is acceptable, because of the child's young age.


I never introduced my son (James) as my step-son, ever. He has always been "my son". Just because I didn't give birth to him, didn't make me any less his mother, when he was sick, or I packed his school lunch every day, drove him to school, and picked him up, stayed home when he was sick, drove him to every track meet,and Prom. I treated him the same as my (bio) daughter and never made him feel less important or less my child than her. Calling a child "step" anything often brings negative connotations and feelings of inferiority to them. They always feel 2nd best, even if there are no other children in the picture. It goes with the title "step". The kids are 25 and 28 and we are mom and dad.