Multiple Parents

Author Mikayla Kinghorn


I’m speaking from experience here, as a child of parents who have been divorced for 10–11 years of my 16 year life.

My dad married a woman called Sheena when I was about 5. Sheena has been in my life for a long time. She has raised me and comforted me, fed me and clothed me, told me stories and listened to mine. She’s not perfect, but I love her. She a mom to me.

When I was very young, my mom forbade me from calling Sheena “Mom” after I started to. That didn’t impact me too much, but now as a 16 year old, I’ve started wondering whether I want to or not. Sheena has raised me and claims me as her oldest daughter. If she doesn’t make the distinction of me being her “step daughter”, why do I need to make that distinction as well? (Unless it’s for clarity’s sake.)

When I was about 11, my Mom married a man called Jared. Before they married, they had been friends, and then partners. He lived with us for a while before they even started dating because my mom wanted him to have a good place to stay. He and his daughters have been in my life since I was 7 years old. Jared has also raised me and shares my passion for music and weird humor. We tell a lot of jokes and he and I are quite similar when we get along. I attribute a lot of my humor to him.

Shortly after my mom and Jared married, my mom told me I could call Jared “Dad” if I wanted to. But, because she forbade me from calling Sheena “mom”, I chose not to. I found the statement to be hypocritical. But now, I’m considering calling him “Dad” because he has raised me.

What I’m saying is that I understand how painful that must have been, but please understand this: your children don’t have just two parents anymore. It doesn’t work like that. Now they have three (maybe four, I don’t know if you are married). Two mothers, and two fathers, or maybe four fathers, or four mothers or whatever the combination may be.

Please don’t impose a distinction between parents in your children’s minds. It only creates an internal conflict to be dealt with later in life. No matter how old your child is, talk to him about your concerns and listen to his reasoning. Why did he call Matthew “dad”? Was it for the same reasons I myself call my stepparents “mom” and “dad”? Everyone has opinions, even younger kids. I wasn’t kept from expressing my opinion about the topic, but I never did, because I always thought the discussion was closed. Don’t let your kids feel that. Nuclear families have a tough time already, especially on the kids.

Also understand your child’s aim is not to replace you. Jared could never replace my dad. Ever. Sheena could never replace my mom. Ever. Each one of my parents has played a unique and individual role in my life and not one of them could replicate the other.

Overall, just talk to your kid. Listen and speak in turn. Understand you’re now not the only father-figure your son has and understand another man in his life is now a “father” as well. And if you have a wife, your son now has two mothers, and the same statement applies.

Lastly, DON’T HATE MATTHEW. You can’t hate your ex’s new partner. That, too, will only create conflict, in yours and your ex’s relationship and in your son’s mind. It did with me.

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