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My Stepdaughter Calls Me Mommy and Her Birth Mother Is Extremely Upset

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My little stepdaughter started calling me mommy out of her own about 8 months ago. My husband and I didn’t correct her, although we did teach her how to say my name. We figured that this is what she’s comfortable with and therefore if this makes her happy then it shouldn’t be an issue. She knows her bio-mom, loves her, lives with her half the time & is a very content, confident & well adjusted little girl. She is very happy in both of her homes with both sets of parents & step-parents.

Her bio-mom recently heard her calling me mommy & got very upset. She told my husband that we need to “correct” it, & that it’s psychologically damaging for the daughter & that it’s probably confusing for her. While I totally understand and sympathise with her hurt, we believe that the daughter should choose & call me whatever she’s comfortable with, as long as she’s happy. There is also a baby on the way, and we feel that forcing daughter to call me by my first name while due-baby calls me mommy might alienate daughter & cause a sort of distance, like she’s an outsider.

From the beginning I’ve shared parenting with my husband. I feed, change, dress and bathe her. I love and care for her like she’s my own, but I’ve never tried to interfere or replace her bio-mother whatsoever. I totally respect her as a mother and have always “known my place”.

I really just want to know what is best for the little girl and her psychological and emotional well-being. (From South Africa)

My Stepdaughter Calls Me Mommy and Her Birth Mother Is Extremely Upset

Answered by on -


Since your step daughter started calling you “mommy” on her own and you taught her your first name, perhaps there may be a compromise that could work. However, I wouldn’t do anything without a discussion and agreement by all the parents. Since your step daughter is comfortable calling you mommy adding your first name as a qualifier might help. As an example, if your first name were Joan then “Mommy-Joan” might be acceptable. This can help her make the distinction while honoring the fact she sees you as a mother figure.

Talk with all the other parents together about this. Once everyone agrees what works best they can help with the consistency.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. DanProof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

My Stepdaughter Calls Me Mommy and Her Birth Mother Is Extremely Upset

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). My Stepdaughter Calls Me Mommy and Her Birth Mother Is Extremely Upset. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 6, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 12 Oct 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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