Stepmom or My Dad’s Wife?

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If you have older, teenage stepkids, do they refer to you as “stepmom”?

When my husband and I married, his daughter was 17 and his son was 14. Not too much mothering involved with them. I mean, I do my stepson’s laundry, I take and pick him up from school 2-3 days a week, but does that fall under the heading of “mothering”? I don’t necessarily think so. I do things for him because I love him and I want to bless him, but I don’t think these actions necessarily give me the “stepmom” title.

I think the title belongs to the stepmoms of younger kiddos. You are much more involved in a mothering role when they are with you, either part-time or full-time.

My stepkids have introduced me to their friends as their stepmom, and it makes me wince a bit inside. My husband and some of my friends think that it’s a positive thing as they feel that the kids are acknowledging my role. I don’t feel that way. They have a mom. I’m their dad’s wife.

I often wonder …

  • Do they feel as awkward saying “stepmom” as I do hearing it?
  • Do they know that they have the option to introduce me as “my dad’s wife”?
  • What if it’s how they acknowledge me being a member of their family?

Of course we didn’t have this discussion before or after we got married. We just sort of rolled with it. Is it too late for that conversation? Do our stepkids need to refer to us as step-whatevers? Who is that title really for anyway? Us, them, or the people outside of our family that we feel need clarifcation of our roles.

I asked my oldest son about the titles of “stepmom” and “stepdad”. I mean, he has a dad. And I don’t necessarily view my husband as acting like a dad to him. My son had an intersting take on it … he suggested “Adult Friend” which quickly evolved to K.A.F., K, Adult Friend.” And I could be D.A.F. “Deb, Adult Friend”. At 17, he’s rarely without an answer.

Have any of you encountered this? Thought about this? I would love to hear your thoughts on it all.

Lots of blended love,



  1. Gayla Grace says:

    You might get more comfortable with the title stepmom as time goes by. I agree with your friends that it’s a good sign your stepkids refer to you as their stepmom, a motherly term. “Their dad’s wife” seems more impersonal to me and might make your stepkids think you don’t want to be their stepmom if that’s what they are to call you. It’s really just a personal choice, I guess, and more importantly, it sounds like your stepfamily relationships are bonding nicely!

    • Dawnde says:

      I would be thrilled if my 14 year old stepdaughter introduced and/or referred to me as her stepmom instead of her dad’s wife. Until today when she told me that’s how she refers to me I thought we had a close relationship. I’m very confused hurt and feeling disrespected. She says she’s ok I call her my daughter though. She comes and talks to me about things she can’t and doesn’t talk to her mom with. She’s uncomfortable with displays of affection(because of her mom)yet will lay her head on my shoulder while she cries.
      She says she feels weird refering to me as her stepmom because she has a mom.
      I never expected to be called mom but not even the title of stepmom when she’s referring to me… I am so sad and been crying all morning.
      Been her dad’s wife for 2 yrs.

      • Deb says:

        Hi Dawnde,
        Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting!

        The loyalty bind is so strong with stepkids and their biolgoical parents. I think it’s especially strong with stap-daughters and their moms. So many pyschological intracacies involved in the mom/(step)daughter/stepmom dynamics. I think it’s great that you have that relationship with your stepdaughter! And I think that’s much bigger than a label or title. You two are in charge of your relationship and it’s going to grow and change with every passing year. Keep doing what you’re doing, doing the right and noble thing with her. I know that one day in the future she will refer to you as her stepmom.

        Blessings to you and your family,

        • Dawnde says:

          Thanks Deb for your reply…I was so floored at finding out, I missed the obvious and that’s what you pointed out…our relationship which is actually closer than her and her moms. Her actions with me speak louder than any title ever could .

  2. At first I winced at the title of stepmom, (My steps are age 14 and 16), but now I realize it is the most concise way to describe the relationship to their peers. I am that to them, not just something to their dad. I’ve thought of other terms, but for teens, nothing is a simple and concise.

    My children (age 6, 8, 9) call my husband their stepdad or by his first name. Once, while we were out as a family, the littlest guy referred to him as “my dad” to another adult and kind of looked at me for validation. Again, I think it was the easiest, most concise way to describe the relationship in that setting.

    All of our children continue relationships with their parents of origin. It’s certainly complicated!

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