The Trouble With Labels: What Do You Call A Stepmom?by Rosa Lear
During the weeks that my husband's son "D" stays at our house, he's my virtual shadow. I get him ready in the morning, pick him up from school, sit him on the counter while I cook dinner, and bring him along whenever I run errands. He asks for me when I'm not around, tells me how he's feeling, lets me smother his little face in kisses, and loves me unconditionally.
I've become so used to having him around that when he's not with us, I feel a little lost, like there's a piece of myself that is missing. While I've always known that I wanted to be a mother, he has confirmed for me that it's what certainly make my pretty full life complete.
While D will never call me Mom, and it will be a long time before he understands the relationship that makes me his stepmother (I'm "his" Rosa, which I love), I do play that mother figure to him when he's with us. There's nothing I wouldn't do for this miniature version of my husband.
When we are out in public together, other adults always seem to assume I'm his mother even though we look nothing alike. I couldn't tell you how many times a store clerk has talked to him about his mommy, but means me. D doesn't yet seem to understand that they're talking about me and I usually let it go unless he looks confused. I keep in mind that these people mean well, are just being nice, and correcting them about the true nature of our relationship becomes too cumbersome for such a casual interaction.
But I didn't always let the comments go. The first several times it happened, I was very sensitive about it and would always correct the assumption, explaining that I was just his dad's girlfriend. The looks of confusion and judgment made me uncomfortable. For months and months, I kept doing it because I felt as if it was an affront to D's mom, like I was trying to assume a position that wasn't mine.
The only time I truly become uncomfortable is when the other children at D's school refer to me as his mom. I'll enter the classroom to pick D up, and all the children start saying, "D, your mom is here." It's confusing for him when he turns around and it's me instead. And it's awkward to correct these children who may not understand divorce and that a boy can have both a mommy and a stepmommy.
D is only four and there are many years ahead of us in which I'll be confronted with these situations and will have to make a judgment call on whether or not to correct the inaccurate label. I expect the standard "why does D have two mommies?" questions and have a standard answer. But I worry about how to handle the references we'll likely get when Matt and I have our first baby together and it starts calling me Mommy. Will it be confusing to D to hear his sibling call me Mommy, but I'm not his? Will the baby be confused that its brother is calling me Rosa? Will the baby call me Mommy or Rosa? And if it calls me Rosa at some point instead of Mommy, will my heart break?
I don't have the answers, and I'm nervous about how to handle these situations. Do you have any advice to offer?