The other day I had just ordered myself a tall Vanilla Latte from Starbucks and as I was waiting I opened YouTube and started to look around. I came up on this video of a former R&B singer Mashonda and Alicia Keys with husband Swizz Beatz.
I had remembered just snippets of this story about claims of infidelity and drama between the women and the little son shared between Mashonda and Swizz Beatz. The group had come a long way from drama to now sit down interviews it seems discussing Mashonda’s new book called Blend: The Secret to Co Parenting and Creating a Balanced Family. In one point of the interview the topic came up of what the young boy refers to Alicia as and how the whole family calls her Umi. The word Umi is Arabic for Mom.
One thing to know about me if you are just reading one of my blogs; I am a researcher to the point my family calls me Abby ( for any NCIS viewers out there). It’s in my DNA and probably is why in Graduate school I blew through all the 20 plus pages papers we had to do.
Back to the topic at hand; when I researched this whole Umi and everyone on board with the love; I came up with an interview Mashonda had conducted; seemingly in the beginning when wounds were fresh so to speak. In this interview she was upset about a woman she didn’t know trying to get “her” son to call her mom. In the interview she stated she can call herself a stepmom but how dare she call herself mom. Crazy change of events right? What changed? One thing I think is amazing is the maturity of Mashonda to not only realize she was placing her own emotions and anger over the child but to rectify it for the child.
This had me thinking about all the different times I’ve heard of issues with what the child can call the stepmom. Many of those times came attached with a story line of the biological mom not liking the new woman or angry with the father. It made me think when reading the article “why did she say the woman could be stepmom and is that suppose to mean lesser than something”. I often wonder is the biological mom being territorial over the child or is her ego or pride overshadowing her love and logic? In so many chat forums when I see responses from some Moms it becomes one liners like ” who do she think she is? “, ” I’m the mom” , ” she needs to know her place” and such and such. It gets to such an adult level I often forget that the objective or topic is about the child.
I know there are plenty of stepmoms that if they could send moms a letter it would read something like this:
In no shape or form am I or would I every consider or pretend that you are not the biological mother. I respect women and every woman who brings a life into this world. Regardless of anything concerning you and I outside of the child(ren) please know I respect your position and role in his/her life as their Mom. I am not trying to cause drama or make you mad nor am I pulling some type of power move on you and most importantly I am not trying to take your place – But you have to come to terms that I do have a place also. I am a woman who has chosen to take on a parent role to your child and I would love to do it with you but either way I am. I will from this day forward see that child as my child- which I would hope you would see the love and care in that – this means I will protect that child, I will teach and guide that child to be the best representation of their selves. That child will not feel like an outsider in our home; that child will have an additional mom. I would hope that you allow that child and I to travel this journey together. Let us figure it out and be supportive and encouraging when he or she ponders at what they want to call me and whatever they feel in their heart to refer me as – show your acceptance and not selfishness or territorial. They can have us both as moms because the love we give them moving forward will both be the love of a mom. We have one connection til one of us take our last breath so as mothers let’s do what unconditional loving mothers do- let’s do what ever we need to do for the best love and outcome for our child. I didn’t help make him or her but I took a vow to my Husband to join you both in this life journey helping love them.
Now here’s the thing that when you are in the middle of the emotions you normally can’t see; the kid(s) are already in a state of anxiety or excitement and what they feel and see from the adults in their lives can either add to that or help ease it. Each person has to decide but as a stepmom you can choose to help ease it. How? A perfect scenario would be to call the mom and discuss it but that sometimes isn’t a possibility, especially if the mom is at the stage of emotion like the former Mashonda who felt some type of way of another woman calling herself mom. I tend to focus strictly on the child when it has to deal with my relationship with the child directly. My stepdaughter started to ask prior to the wedding questions like ” what would I call her?” to ” what should she call me? ” I ask her ” well there’s stepdaughter” and she replied ” you don’t have to put the step in it”.
This gave me insight of her comfort-ability. I told her ” of course not you will be my daughter “. You see I was always going to refer to her as my daughter but I was going to take “her” time and not mines in getting there. I’ve done that since day one in our relationship. Being a part of a blended family I knew how important it was to me that I was always referred to and still to this day as “my daughter”. I always do I would always be that type of person no matter what. When we discuss about what she wanted to call me I could see on her face a little bit of anxiety so I told her ” we can stick with Terra for now “. She and I have went through many names starting with the infamous”her”.
After we got married she has went back and forth with my name and “Mom” and sometimes when referring me in conversations she has went in between “mom” and “stepmom”. In her logic “mom” is an OK option for her since she refers to her biological mother as “mommy”. One day we talked about it and searched google for the word mom in other languages; funny thing was seeing that many languages sounded like the word mom or mother. We wanted something different. We decided to copycat and use Umi on for size.
When I spoke to my husband about the whole thing he was completely clueless, didn’t even think about it. I know that comes from our different background with me growing up in a blended family and him not. There are different things where I have a different insight and therefore more focus and thought in how things are done. I tell him you might only have one viewpoint as the dad but I am seeing things through the eyes as a step mom and a child who grew up in a blended world. It takes a second and a much-needed one sometimes to sit your partner down and speak about topics such as these so they know. The dad can assist my having a loving talk to the child. One thing I have notice is that the age of the gained child makes a difference in the name given. I found that younger kids getting a stepmom are more quickly to attach the word mom to the gained parent and older kids typically in the early teens and up have a harder time with it; and you will see the first name to nicknames being used.
I think the biggest thing a stepmom can do is UNDERSTAND. It isn’t about us either- that’s the formula you guys; it isn’t about what we need to be called or validated nor is it about respect instead it is about truly coming into the role a parent and sharing parenthood. It is about being that middle ground for the sanity of the child. Let the child be a child and learn and develop their emotions and bond (as much or little) with you on their time. Us stepmoms have to carry superpowers in case you didn’t know. We have to have patience, understanding, resilience, maturity empathy, abundance of self-love (cause some kids can give you a run for your money), selfless love and endurance.
So what should your gained child call you ? What ever it is they are ready to start calling you to start both of your journey together as family. Trust me; those kids often surprise you when you let them take the driver seat.
What should you call your gained child? You are a Mom regardless of what is in front or behind it and that child becomes a part of your life and your heart.
I can speak from a child’s eyes personally (doesn’t account for every child of course) and say they don’t want to feel different, instead they want to feel included. When you think they aren’t listening when someone ask you who is this with you- trust me they are and they might not say anything but they are listening to where they fit in with you. Just remember that and go with your heart and desire as a parent and don’t let any external issues or negativity sway that. As the story went above when a person is letting emotions control them they can’t see clear and quite frankly that isn’t your concern . The only thing you should do is focus on your journey with the child.
Remember a lot goes into a name , people spend months deciding on what to name their unborn child. We go through life with a name and along the way we sometimes gain new ones . Each one has meaning. Don’t let this one mean any less. With love and a goal to just be an awesome Parent on Board
~ Umi (maybe it will stick or maybe we will try on something else along our journey)
Article on Mashonda talking about Alicia being called Umi (Original source is Sister Sister October Edition)
Youtube interview of Mashonda, Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz