Limited Language and the Love in Blended Families


There is an unseen hurdle in blending a family that is virtually not there. As blended families strive to create a feeling and vision of one family, the english language has yet to evolve enough to accomodate that desire.  The words that are needed, are simply not there.

When my husband and I were first married I was called “Mom” by my children, Cove and Summer and I was called “Ivy” by Rocky, Dylan and Rainy whom my husband brought into my life. Eventually, this difference in name-calling, that is common in blended families, would no longer be acceptable to the children. To them,  as we were trying to blend our family to become one, this one disparity created a vibration of separateness. 

This is what came to be:  After a couple of years of being together, our son Rocky stated, “It’s weird and it makes me feel as though I am different when I call you Ivy and Cove and Summer call you Mom.” At the time I explained that the english language can be very limiting and it would be nice if there was a word that lay between mom, stepmom and my formal name, but there was not. In time, I hoped for that to change as the population of blended families grew and the need for such a word was created due to necessity. However, that time had yet to evolve and it still has not.

In trying to come up with a solution and also feeling the same way, I suggested that Rocky, Dylan and Rainy create a nickname for me to soften the difference. I explained that I loved nicknames and I find them to be cozy, a sign of closeness and they are a form of intimacy. The concept was perfect for them.

The children followed through and came up with the nickname, “Nani” which was derived from the movie we had seen several times over called “Lilo and Stitch.”  The character Nani was a caretaker to her little sister. She was not her mom, but her role was to be a mom. The nickname caught on and for a couple of years I became “Nani” to Rocky, Dylan and Rainy.

As in dominos, one thing led to the next. Cove and Summer thought it  would be nice if they could call Rocky, Dylan and Rainy’s dad something different than “Allen.”  They all came up with “Da.” They did not want to call him “dad” which was reserved by their father and my former husband. So they took off the ending “d” and found a way to create a nickname that was intimate and a recognition to his nurturing.

After some time passed Rocky, on his own, started calling me “Mom.” The others followed and, eventually, all the children picked up the name “Da.” The children wanted equal emotional rights and not be different than each other. This was the path that came to be and we became “Mom and Da” to all of our children.

I wish the story could end there. But it would have been irresponsible and insensitive to not address being called “mom” to Rocky, Dylan and Rainy’s mom and Allen’s former wife, Robin.  I told her what transpired. She did not like it and, understandably, explained to the children many times that I was not their mom. However, we both knew, as moms, that attempting to take that away from the children would not go well for either of us or for the children. I also let her know that I was not attempting to replace her role, as their mother. I also let the children know that calling me “Mom” may cause Robin discomfort.  They understood this: yet, the children’s unity took precedence and they had confidence that their mom would have the strength and understanding to move forward and allow them the freedom to call me “Mom.”  It came to be that, I became their “Other Mom”.

In regard to where the story began and the initiation of a nickname to replace formality and taking a step toward blending, having a nickname was one of the best things we did. I would not encourage where my story went; but, I would not be honest if I did not like that I am “Mom” to all of the children and I am rewarded with the title of such. However, I would suggest the notion of having a nickname replace a first name of a parent.

I was amazed how a nickname, that was synonymous with stepmom and mom would bring all of us closer together.

In this case the children contributed to the oneness of the family and that one litte thing calmed the vibration of differences that can come the blended families way.

I would like to end this with a beginning. If you have any ideas or names that you can think of that can broaden our english language for blended families, your contribution would be an amazing thing. Let me know…

Best Wishes,

Ivy Lifton



8 Responses to “Limited Language and the Love in Blended Families

  • I think there is a rule in “the rule book” that you can’t have two moms. You also aren’t allowed to have two dads. You are allowed to have two brothers and two sisters and two dogs and two fish. It’s because moms and dads are more jealous than brothers and dogs and fish.

  • I just went from serious to smile in 1.2 seconds.

  • I can so relate to this post. My now fiance and I have been together for about 5 years. He had a daughter from a previous relationship and I began being a parental figure to her when she was about 2. She is 6 now and her mother is married with 2 other children from her husband.
    My fiances daughter is now 6 and has called me Steppy, Mom A, and now calls me Ashie (short for Ashley). Her younger brother is 2 and follows suit of her sister by calling me Ashie and my fiance Daddy (all the kids call the moms husband Papa so there is no real mix up on double names).
    We all get along great and partake in functions together, but with us planning to have kids and mixing families in a very non traditional way, we have been trying to figure out nicknames for everyone. What my kids will call the non related siblings and parents and vice versa. ‘Daddy’ for the non related kids we believe will get very confusing or even wear off in time. But we would like an easier explanation for the kids to have than “yea thats my half sisters real dad and step mom and her half sibling that we arent related to but we all still act like a family”.
    If anyone has any ideas they would be much appreciated!

    • Hi Ashley,
      Congratulations on being part of a large family. There is not a blended family around that does not confront this issue, at least internally. The reality is that you and all of the children and all of the parents are part of one family. The complication of having to define everyone’s relation to one another is a trigger to all sorts of emotions. If you are called “mom” that may cause problems. If you introduce one of the children as a half sibling, that can’t feel good to the child. They are not half of a child. However, we try hard to honor the relationships and where everyone stands in the family and who is what to whom. This is too complicated all in trying to be sensitive. However, you are a mom, your fiance is a dad and the children are the children.Those are the primary roles and that is what needs to be honored, not the titles. The same applies to the family of your fiances former wife. Although uncomfortable at first, the children will be relieved to not have to keep track of so many names and titles. Their lives are already complicated in certain ways and you would be surprised how they would just like to have permission to simplify the names and titles. You and the other adults can tell the children that there is no need to define the children’s place in the family and who is what to whom. Come up with a nickname together and encourage the usage of it. If one of the children calls you by your first name, just say in a loving and joking way, “Is there an Ashley here, no there is not; but there is a Mommy A here :)” Also, I would recommend that you keep the nickname consistent. In regard to the siblings, encourage them to call each other brother and sister. There is no rule that the words “step” and “half” must be used. They are siblings that share parents, that is what makes them a brother and sister to each other. It really is ok for you and the others around you to be one family. Best Wishes, Ivy L.

  • Ah you’re my new hero! So many people frown at me for trying to keep the two non related families close. I look at my step daughter as my own, how could I not look at her other siblings as kind of my own too? I would never want any of my children to feel alienated from each other all on account of a silly thing like DNA. It is a good idea to sit down (we the parents I mean) and discuss how we should establish names on our end (mine and my fiances) because as it stands there is mommy, daddy, and papa. Im the only one with no real nickname on account that we do not have our own children yet so my step daughter has not had to hear any other name for me but my real one! We’ve tried nicknames in the past but they never did stick. I think in the end we will leave the choice to her since she is the ‘child in the middle’. Maybe I just need to slow down all together and wait until I’m actually pregnant with my first instead of fretting about now 😛

    • Hi Ashley,
      Your actions are following what you know to make sense and be the right thing to do. You may find others (like the ones that frown) are just not comfortable with what society has deemed acceptable, in regard to circumstances such as ours. You are doing the right thing, regardless of how fast or slow you go through this process. I think that the most important piece is that you do things based on your belief system and what you know to make sense. One of the most difficult things for me was encountering all of the egos, including mine. However, I knew that regardless of how things played out, My job was to be a mom to all children around me, no matter what. You may be called “Ashley” or you may find a nickname that sticks, either way; please continue to be that mom that knows biology does not have to put you in “your place.” As far as not “fretting,” it is so easy to say you should not fret….but it is soooo hard. If you did not fret about it, it would be a very unusual thing. If you find yourself in a slump, have an outlet. Maybe you can give your daughter (step) a hug and tell her that you love being “like a mom” to her because you are and you do. Eventually, “like a mom” will turn into “a mom.” I am so excited that your first born will have a sister to come home to. I hope you get to read my last blog. It is about this same thing and being one family. Best Wishes and keep in touch! Ivy L.

  • Thank you so much for your kind words. They are definitely giving me more and more confidence in entering into a blended family. I am very happy to announce that my little one was ECSTATIC when I let her know she gets to decide what her and her future sibling call me (she’s settled on maahhm right now hehehe too cute) I joked with her that having my baby call me Mommy would be just too confusing since there is already one mommy. I cannot explain her happiness as I had the conversation with her. Thank you so much again for all your advice and kind words, they were a wonderful influence. I look forward to all your future blogs! !

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