So the question came up again on Friday, “mom why do you have a different last name than me?” “Are you still my mom?” asked my six-year old daughter. With tears in my own eyes, I looked into her beautiful brown eyes filled with tears and said “always and forever” as I scooped her into my arms for a big bear hug.
My 8 year-old stepdaughter who is going through a lot right now with the absence of her biological mother, told my little one that I wasn’t her mom anymore because I didn’t have the same last name. She told my little one that I was her (meaning my stepdaughter’s) real mom now because we both shared the same last name. Imagine the confusion and hurt in my little one’s heart.
The decision seemed so easy when my husband and I got married nearly 3 years ago. I didn’t’ even hesitate, of course I would take his name. I had never really considered a last name to ever really belong to a woman anyway. We are born with our father’s last name. We marry and take our husband’s last name. So for me, Heather is the name I most identify with. And it wasn’t that I didn’t think about how my kids would feel about me changing my name, it’s just that I knew I would always be their devoted mother to my dying day regardless of the last name I wore. And I chose to change my last name out of respect for my new husband. I didn’t want to bear my ex-spouse’s last name when I said “I do” to my husband.
I’ve gotten the name question before from my older kids. I explained to them why I made my choice and they seemed to understand. And when I go to their classroom and help out or if their friends come over and I’m called Mrs. B, I never correct them. I know who I am. I don’t need a last name to define me.
But getting the question from my little one with the look on her face really made my heart ache. Even more than that, it hurt me to know that my SD said that to her. To me that was malicious. I know that she yearns for the return of an emotionally healthy bio mom and I know she is jealous of my children because of how often they see their dad. But no excuse for such cruel intentions.
So, I just held my little one and assured her over and over that I was her mom and I have always and will always love her. I whispered in her ear all the things I love about her. I asked her if she believed I was her mom. She hugged me so tight around the neck and said “Yes. Mommy I love you from the top of the sky to the bottom of the clouds plus 1,000.” When she says that I know she loves me and I knew we were okay.
It still hurts to think we even had to have that conversation. But being in a stepfamily isn’t easy. Being in any family isn’t easy. I guess one of the lessons I continue to learn is to address issues head on and use them as teaching moments. I got to use that conversation to reinforce just how much I love my
daughter. I then had a similar conversation with my other kids to see how they were feeling. I hugged my kids a little more and a little tighter that day. Something good did come of it!
How did you handle “the name game” when you married? How do your kids feel?