My ex husband and I have been separated for 6 years and divorced for 1 year. We have both moved on as he is with another girl and I'm getting remarried in July.
My oldest son now has a cell phone. I look through my son's phone, as he is only 10, and recently discovered a text message sent to his dad's girlfriend that said: "I love you mom and dad." Now, mind you, this lady has only been in his life for a year, and his dad has only been back in my son's life for two years. I get very upset hearing my son call her 'mom'. I don't want to start a boxing match, but I am really upset. Am I wrong in feeling this is wrong?
Dear 'Feeling Wrong',
My answer here supersedes any prior advice I have given on this subject. I answered a similar question not long ago on the blog, and the feedback which followed my advice made me re-think the subject.
One year hardly constitutes a girlfriend/boyfriend qualifying as a parent, step parent, or even parental figure. I believe it is inappropriate for your son to refer to your ex husband's girlfriend of one year as 'Mom'. What if they break up? I think for a ten-year-old, calling two people 'Mom' is confusing (heck, I'm 40 and I won't call my mother-in-law 'Mom' as I already have a Mom - but I also don't want to disrespect her, so I often just refer to my mother-in-law as: "Will you please pass the gravy?", or "Hey, can I help you with that bag?" ).
I wish I had more information about your specific situation to most appropriately give you advice (what does he refer to your fiance as?). Based on the details you provided and my experience answering questions of this nature - it is not acceptable for your son to call his father's girlfriend of one year 'Mom', and you should immediately put the kibosh on him doing so.
My advice is to have your son and ex and ex's girlfriend come up with a title which is more respectful than calling her by name, but more appropriate to her role (and, while I don't know your specific feelings about your ex's girlfriend, I suggest that you should probably not vote on her new title). I would bridge this subject with a sense of camaraderie and in the least combative way possible. This is an opportune time for you all to act as the partners you will be in raising your children in your new blended family.
I would like to add that once you are married in July, so long as your spouse is acting as a parent to your son, I find it completely appropriate for your son to refer to your new husband as 'Pop', or "Dad (whatever your last initial is)." If one is in a committed long term relationship and their spouse/partner is acting as a parental figure, they have earned the right to the appropriate parent-implying title.
I believe a name is just a name, except when it comes to a situation like this. I once advised someone that if someone acts as a parent, they deserve to be called as such, without taking into consideration that duration and longevity play a crucial role in what a child calls a parent's current flame where there is no long term commitment to warrant such a title. Do any of you have any experience with what to call a someone-a-parent-is-dating, who is not married, nor engaged/planned to be married, nor in a long term committed relationship anytime soon?