Huffpost Divorce
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jude Callirgos Headshot

I Would Like A Cooler Title Than 'Stepmother'

Posted: Updated:
Print

Here's a quiz: What words or images come to mind when you hear the word stepmother? Wicked? Evil? Cinderella cruelly banished from attending the ball? The over-dressed woman who married Dad too soon after the divorce?

Or is your brain's rapid response: Step-Mother -- one step removed from real family?

Regardless of where this mental exercise takes you, I'm wagering it's not a whimsical, happy place. Step-motherhood in literature, popular culture and somewhere deep in our psyches is littered with bad seeds, cloying wannabes, pathetic outsiders and jealous, revenge-wielding nut cases. We rarely hear real success stories or see role models bearing this tarnished yet common designation.

Everyone's favorite folk tale, Cinderella, has an entire stepfamily of females synonymous with wickedness, but her stepmother will be forever imprinted on our brains as cruel, selfish and ugly. And can we talk about Snow White or poor Hansel and Gretel? The Brothers Grimm, when seeking to illustrate the Ultimate Villainess chose "stepmother" once they understood that no one would read their stories if real moms behaved so viciously. Awesome.

So, where does that leave the rest of us -- the legions of women who make every conceivable and reasonable effort to integrate within an established domestic hierarchy, compromise at every turn, graciously accept whatever comes (that doesn't ruin the couch), embrace, feed, clothe, cleanup after, and grow to love deeply, our husband or partner's children? Where do we fit in to this wicked narrative?

Better yet, how are we supposed to feel when we're engaged in proud conversation about our families, and are forced to concede, "Well no, I'm her stepmother," when the dialog veers off into a place where only true moms can tread. I don't ever begrudge making the distinction, in fact I am proud to be so close to my stepdaughter's mom; I just hate the actual words for the very reasons outlined above. So much so, I had taken to calling my stepchild, quite simply, my daughter, because honestly, I don't make a separation in my mind or my heart, nor does her father, so why is it anyone's business in casual conversation? Besides, I don't like leaving my kid stranded on that step unnecessarily. I actually visualize her standing atop a large, white rectangular step that separates us and I do not like it (plus she's taller than me to begin with, which doesn't help).

The whole concept makes me feel like I'm on the Mom Farm Team, playing second string, or fiddle, unavoidably one step down on the Family Importance Ladder and wholly insufficient as a parent.

Not that I in any way wish to compare my meager, late in-the-game, quasi parental contributions to the years of love, trials and sacrifice of her mother and father, who by all accounts have done a stellar, downright remarkable job raising this young woman. There has to be a better way to identify a relationship that I treasure, than the Grimm's Fairy Tale appalling brand of stepmother.

I have heard some people use the phrase "my daughter through marriage" which is entirely too formal, does not roll trippingly off the tongue, and would look stupid on a t-shirt. It also includes a preposition, which seems like overkill.

And I've cringed when hearing clarifications such as, "daughter from my second family" or "third marriage" which are both absurdly long and positively too much information; any reference that must include how many times I've been married seems pretty intrusive. So that's out.

Now, if you will indulge me further, I would like to propose an idea that I hope will resonate with you, because I have been searching for something that my Child on the Step can say to her friends at school that blends easily with her vernacular and style, and just might be considered, on a good day, cool. And selfishly, I want something that I can attach to and feel good about.

I probably don't have to tell you that the college-age lexicon is more than just informal; it's rather like a series of abbreviations strung together with no punctuation, uttered at the speed of latte. There is no room for anything other than instantaneous comprehension in all forms of communication so swiftness and clarity must rule the day.

Therefore, from this day forward, I should like to be known as Mom2; pronounced MOMtoo or MOMtwo, if you like, inferring that I am the second Mom in her life but still warrant a Mom title because it's hard work playing shortstop between Mom and Dad, and I refuse to be banished to the Steps (wherever they are). As long as they are all cool with it, I would like to begin right away. I daresay we might begin a new trend. We could even shorten it to M2 when texting and tweeting, and yes, I could get t-shirts made for Christmas and post embarrassing pictures on facebook.

"Hi, I'd like to introduce you to my Mom2. She and Dad are visiting for the weekend."
Or, "Sorry, I have to take this; it's my Mom2 calling from California."

I could introduce her by saying, "This is Julia. I'm her Mom2. Her mother is visiting next weekend."

I truly believe this could work. Best of all, it's easy to text, tweet and reduces unnecessary syllables while retiring a wicked, old brand; and it emphatically indicates, without question, we are all family.

After all, she's my Kid2.