We like to imagine that when two families come together, it will be all wonderful for everyone.
But it’s hardly ever as simple as stories and movies often portray, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor KATLIN28 had been seeing her boyfriend and his two children for just under a year, and she was developing a meaningful relationship with all of them.
But when the kids’ mother accused her of crossing boundaries, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she was becoming too comfortable with the family.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for letting my stepkids call me ‘Mom’?”
The OP had a good relationship with her boyfriend’s two children.
“I moved in with my fiancé (28 Male) earlier this year. He has two kids, S (4 Female) and D (3 Male).”
“The kids are under split custody, so half the time with Dad, half the time with bio mom.”
“I have met her and the kids before in person, she came off as a decent person and we never had any issues.”
So much so, the kids recently started calling the OP “Mom” officially.
“Not an exact measure of time but two or three months ago, S would randomly call me ‘Mom’ or most commonly, ‘Momma,’ like before going to bed as we tuck them in and say our good nights.”
“It was an odd adjustment, but I know they’re little, and I mostly brushed it off with a little, ‘Okay, goodnight hunny.'”
“D would only call me ‘Mom’ if S did (he’s three, so he’s imitating).”
“Well, about a month ago while S was with Dad and me, she asked me if it was okay for her to call me ‘Mom.'”
“Up until this point really, both kids called me by my legal name and only knew me as Daddy’s ‘special friend’ since we aren’t officially married yet.”
“It was quite a surprise for me (a sweet one, I should say). Dad and I both explained to them that if they want to call me ‘Mom,’ ‘Momma,’ etc, it was okay as long as they wanted to.”
“S has on her own made it clear (to us, at least) that she has two (two) moms, and one dad (bio mom’s boyfriend doesn’t want to be involved with the kids). Both kids understand they came from their mom’s belly and not mine.”
“Dad I went to drop the kids off with their mom as usual, no issues. I stayed in the car, and she left with the kids. Nothing crazy.”
The children’s mother lashed out at the OP and her ex-husband.
“As Dad and I were driving home, their mom called, and I told him to answer but let her know she was on speaker phone with both of us. So he answered and let her know I could hear the convo.”
“She started off aggressively stating, ‘I don’t know who’s telling these kids that [me] is their mom, but you need to know you will never be their mom,’ etc, etc.”
“I told her that the kids chose to call me ‘Mom,’ and we explained to them that I’m not their real mom, just an extra mom.”
“She still did not like that and went on about how it hurts her feelings that the kids are saying she isn’t their mom anymore and all this nonsense.”
“I got firm and explained that I understand why it would hurt her feelings, but that I didn’t believe what she was saying because of what I have heard the kids themselves say.”
“I explained that I allow the kids to call me ‘Mom’ because they see me as a maternal figure, and it’s about how they feel, not her insecurities.”
“She then went on to not only scream at him and me on the phone, but in her car in front of the kids. ‘YOU BOTH ARE PIECES OF F**KING S**T, AND THESE KIDS ARE MINE, NOT YOURS. I HOPE YOU BOTH F**KING GO TO H**L.’ And honestly, I couldn’t make out much more of what she said as most of it was unintelligible.”
The OP had another talk with her stepkids after their weekend with their mother.
“After the kids’ weekend with her, they came back and were sad because their bio mom said I’m not allowed to be their mom.”
“I asked them, ‘Do you want me to be your other mom?'”
“They both said yes.”
“So I told them that if THEY want me to be another mom to them, then I can be.”
“My heart breaks because these kids really seem to love me and I do love them.”
“Am I the a**hole?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some thought the OP was the AH for crossing this boundary so early in the relationship.
“As a stepmother. I appreciate where you’re coming from and your reasoning, but this can be really confusing and damaging for little kids. These children are very young and this can be so confusing with them.”
“OP is not the mother, has to know this would be inflammatory, and made no move to discuss this with the mother. OP is YTA all day long and hugely overstepped her boundaries.”
“The dad is, too. $1000 says dad would be enraged if they came home calling a new dude daddy.”
“‘Bonus mom’ is okay when they’re older, but this is so wrong, if not for the absolute total disregard of boundaries, then the massive amounts of confusion for the kids.” – FerretSupremacist
“I am not surprised OP completely disregarded the kids’ mother’s feelings and didn’t even have a talk with her after the first time about it after she wrote in the first paragraph, ‘half the time with Dad, half the time with bio mom.'”
“She wrote Dad with capital D, and then biomom instead of Mom with the same capital M or instead of just mom. OP kept referring to her as bio mom later on, too, like she is some absent parent who did nothing but birthed the kids and then ditched them.”
“OP is YTA even just for referring to mom as bio mom.”
“To me, that part of the first paragraph gives the impression that she is already imagining herself in the mom spot more than she should, like she is somewhat superior to the actual mother.” – Cute-Shine-1701
“YTA. Especially for referring to their mother as their ‘bio mom,’ a term reserved for markedly different relationships.”
“You’re talking about a woman who has joint custody of her children, not one, who, for example, might receive an annual letter from her offspring’s adoptive parents about their progress. Not that those women wouldn’t deserve more consideration than you’ve managed to show here.”
“Do you genuinely have no concept of ‘Mom’ (and associated terms) being a precious designation? Absolutely zero understanding of the level of pain you have caused? It’s perfectly true some children will call a woman other than the one who birthed them ‘Mummy’; but vanishingly rare for that to happen if they retain a relationship with (and here I am using the term correctly) their biological mother.”
“You shouldn’t have said, ‘Yes.’ You should have asked, ‘Why?’ and informed the children’s mother.”
“(I’d not be too overwhelmed with emotion about them calling you ‘Mommy’ at bedtime, etc., by the way. Even older children quite routinely call anyone female in a vaguely caring role ‘Mummy’; didn’t you ever hear a teacher call a classmate ‘Mummy’?)”
“Topping it all off by deciding to tell the children to ignore what their mother had said? How can you possibly think that will end well?”
“No, she shouldn’t have used profanities in front of the children, but she’s still not the AH. That crown is yours, but your fiancé holds the scepter, given he so willingly facilitated this.” – Refuse-Tiny
“I think the worst part of all this is not OP’s, the dad’s, or the mom’s feelings, but taking very young children and causing all kinds of confusion.”
“They don’t understand why Mom is upset. They don’t understand why Mom said no, and OP is saying yes. They don’t understand the complex relationships.”
“YTA for playing hurtful, head games with the children.” – Juxaplay
Others rated the situation as ESH because of the conversations that weren’t happening.
“Sorry, OP, but YTA.”
“You are NTA for talking with the children and determining their feelings on the matter and explaining the difference between you and their mother.”
“HOWEVER, this should have been a conversation that you, your fiancé, and their mom had together BEFORE allowing the kids to call you mom. It could have been a calm, rational conversation, where understanding, reasoning, and boundaries were established.”
“You could have decided that she would be ‘Mom’ and you could be ‘Momma’ or something similar to ensure the kids understood that there is a difference between you two.”
“Instead, their mom is blindsided by this. That makes you (and your fiancé) the AHs.” – chuck10o
“ESH. You shouldn’t have made the decision of letting the kids call you ‘Mom’ without talking to their actual mother first. That’s a big no-no.”
“The way she reacted was also wrong. Instead of having a discussion with the father of the kids, she exploded on both of you.” – Mean_Suit_9222
“It’s not up to kids to set boundaries; it’s up to parents. I understand the question was sudden, but you’re an adult and could’ve listened to their thoughts about it and then talked to your fiancé who should then relaying and communicate it to mom.”
“I don’t think the screaming was appropriate, but I’d be so angry if my ex told my kids it’s fine to call someone else Daddy without even talking to me regardless of if they’re remarried or not. I agree with Mom ultimately despite the distasteful delivery and probably would have had a similar initial reaction.” – ShreddedApplez
“Everyone is giving the dad way too much slack. OP DOES NOT HAVE TO COPARENT. DAD HAS TO COPARENT. How is the main judgment, not ESH? No matter how you look at it, OP is definitely not an AH by herself.”
“Anyone saying, ‘You should have asked their mom,’ and ‘You need to co-parent…NO. Dad is an equal parent and even has 50/50 parenting time. He should be stepping in and determining what is appropriate and what is not. And if he’s not sure, he should be the one discussing it with his ex.”
“Not OP, probably not ever, but certainly not this early on.”
“The mom is also an AH for her reaction because, again, not co-parenting. I understand being hurt, but I’d be having a talk with my ex about boundaries, not cussing out his fiancée.” – DeepPossession8916
But some thought there was more than enough love to go around and said NTA.
“NTA. It’s understandable that their mom would be wounded to hear her kids calling someone else ‘mom,’ but the kids are so young if you’re marrying their dad, they should be able to look to you as a mother figure. At the end of the day, the adults’ feelings in this situation come second to the kids’ secure attachment.”
“OP even says in her post that she and her fiancé have explained to his kids that she is not their real mom, she’s a bonus or extra mom. If she’s holding that line, and is clear with everyone, including herself, that she’s not their real mom, then I don’t think she’s an AH for not correcting a three- and four-year-old anytime they use ‘Mom’ language with her.” – coffeemom23
“I mean, considering their bio mom is 1. dating a man who wants zero involvement with her kids; 2. accusing the OP and the dad of alienation against her; and 3. trying to alienate the kids from their dad and future stepmom… I can see why the OP did not discuss this with bio mom.”
“Also, how the kids are parented while they are in their dad’s house isn’t up to their bio mom (unless they are being outright abused, then she should report that and take it to court for custody). Biomom doesn’t get any say in how things run in OP’s home, just like OP and bio dad doesn’t get a say (outside written custody agreements) of how things run in bio mom’s home.”
“OP is NTA, but I also see red flags from biomom, so y’all probably should be keeping an eye out in case you all need to adjust the custody arrangement.” – KorakiSaros
“I’m also a stepmom, but I am very torn on this. On one hand, my four-year-old stepson once called me ‘Mummy,’ and I laughed it off and said, ‘Not quite, buddy.'”
“He called me that to his bio mom once, and she was clearly upset about it, texting my partner and asking if that is how we refer to me to him. But she is also a stepmom to another four-year-old and a two-year-old, and she has no problem letting them call her ‘Mom’ and referring to herself as a bonus mom.”
“There’s an almost identical time frame of being in these kids’ lives for reference.”
“On the other side, she also has my stepson refer to her fiancé as ‘Daddy,’ which makes sense when the other three children all call him that. It hurts my partner’s feelings, but at the same time, he understands that if his son sees him as another daddy, that’s fine, it just means more love for him.”
“So when he talks about her fiancé, he refers to him as daddy the same way he refers to himself.”
“I’m team NTA because ultimately it’s just about the bond and what the child is comfortable as identifying the relationship to be.” – Early_Village1914
“I really am astounded at so many people’s attitudes here. I was this kid. No one is forcing the kids. They want to.”
“Their mom should feel HUGELY relieved that they have a third parent that they love and trust. Not to mention… why is she dating someone who wants nothing to do with her kids?”
“OP does sound like the better mom. They took the time to explain; kids even that little are not stupid (I work in ECE), and many of them are capable of understanding all kinds of relationships, be they gay, straight, poly, or otherwise, if they are explained at age-appropriate levels.”
“They made sure to let the kids know they do and continue to have agency over the use of the term ‘as long as you want to,’ which gives them an out to change their minds.”
“The kids’ mom is 100% prioritizing their feelings over their children’s, and it is not okay. They will grow up to have, at best, a very complicated relationship with this woman, not to mention the trauma she is going to cause by bad-mouthing the kids’ other parents.”
“(I was that kid and it was horrendous, my mom and step-dad made me feel like I had to pick, which made me feel secretive and guilty, and has led to a host of other problems for me.)”
“HAAAARDDDD NTA.” – Rough-Bet807
The subReddit could understand that two families coming together could be messy, but most were critical of how the OP was handling this. They either felt the OP was blatantly crossing boundaries, while others thought a conversation was in order before moving forward.
But others thought that the children were fortunate to have so many people who loved them and wanted to be in their lives, whatever their titles would be.