This post is an introduction to an ongoing series of “Parenting with an Ex”. Within this series, I share my own parenting with an ex experiences as well as those of unRehearsed readers. Topics include visitation, communication and the emotional well-being of both mom and child(ren).
An unRehearsed Reader says:
My tween daughter calls her stepmom “Mama D”. Really?!?!?
Who cares if she visits them once every month and for school breaks. I am the mother. Will people be able to identify which one of us is her real mom? And you would think that her dad would have stepped in to stop this foolishness. It’s not right, even though our daughter is only 9, it’s still not right.
One immediate response after reading the above situation is anger. Angry that this woman has manipulated your child into calling her mom. Angry that since she’s mom now, your child will forget about you. Angry that your child has forgotten about all that you’ve done for him/her. Angry that your ex-husband has allowed this to happen without all parties involved having a discussion. Angry just for the sake of being angry.
If we dig deep enough, we find that the anger is rooted in fear, the fear of losing your child.
After spending part of her summer vacation with her dad and family, approximately one month, my daughter returned home talking about someone named “Mama D” (the initial was changed to protect the…uh…innocent(?)). In my heart, I already knew who this Mama D was but my mind was having trouble accepting this nonsense. After listening to her talk without taking breaths, I finally asked: “Who is Mama D?” She responded with “Oh, that’s my stepmom.” She went on to say that she wanted a name to call her stepmom and after much brainstorming, they settled upon the name Mama D.
I immediately saw red. Everything around me turned red. But I knew that I could not display this anger while in the presence of Tween Girl.
I was angry because my ex did not consult me on this new name. Were they trying to replace me? Did they think they were better parents than me? Was this name change the beginning of them trying to gain full custody of Tween Girl?
As one reader explains:
…whether on purpose or accident, the child has made a connection with someone who hopefully will have a positive influence. This means the child is comfortable with the step parent. This does not take away from the bio-parent. Children are a discerner of character. Let the child do what is comfortable for them.
Isn’t that what we, as bio parents, want? We want the child and the step parent to connect. So many times we hear horror stories of the child and step parent not getting along, forcing the bio parent to choose between child and husband/wife.
My advice to the reader?
It is normal for you to feel angry, just don’t stay in that emotion. Be confident in your own identity. Trust and believe that your child is aware that you are mom. Knowing your identity will help remove the fear.
If other people are having trouble identifying the true mom, let them figure that out by how you carry yourself. If you are a mom who knows her identity and is nurturing, protecting, disciplining, and all of the other things that contribute to raising a healthy child, no one will have any trouble determining that you are mom. If a good relationship is formed between you and the stepmom, the stepmom can provide additional nurturing, protection, discipline and all other things that contribute to raising a healthy child.
When parenting with an ex, the ultimate goal is raising your child.
An ex is an ex because things didn’t work out. There could be many reasons as to why things didn’t work out. In our reader’s situation, there was no reason for her ex to consult with her regarding what the child should call the step mom.The child has made a connection with someone they obviously love and trust.
Stepfamily name games can be complicated for both children and adults, says Smart Stepfamilies. Knowing this helps to remove the need for competition between bio parents and step parents.
When I faced this stepfamily name game situation, I moved past the anger (easier said than done) and accepted the fact that Tween Girl was being loved and taken care of by her stepmom during her visitation time. Tween Girl’s step mom is an additional person that loves her.
How would you react/respond to the reader’s situation?