What gives you the right?


A while ago someone that had misunderstood the content of one of my posts made an accusation that I had called a child my own when I had no right to do so.

The accusation was made incorrectly but in such a way that I felt it was offensive to many people that I would consider mothers so I removed it.

It did make me wonder though, who does have the right to call a child their child? What gives someone the right to call themselves the mother of a child?

Is there a list of things that you have to have or do? Is there a list of things that you have to not have or not do?

I’m genuinely curious what people think?

I know it’s not as simple as just biology because a large number of women who have no genetic connection to their children are legally responsible for their welfare.

So is it a legal definition? Surely that misses the mark in some instances too?

I have long held the opinion that a mother is the person that does everything including all the little things, the big things and the all through the night things for a child before the child can do them for themselves. I never considered a situation where there was more than one person who did those things who might want an ungranted recognition for doing them because not everyone wanted them to be doing them.

A mother is also the person that should be teaching and training a child how not to be a child forever, to do and be the best adult that they can be. If a mother is actively trying to keep her children her children does that make her less of a mother?

I am in the fortunate position that the child shaped hole that a lot of women seem to develop across their child bearing years is wonderfully filled by my own beautiful son, biologically and unquestioned as my own but there are women who don’t have their own biological children and who might never have any but who do all the hard work things on a regular basis for children that they are not “allowed” to call their own.

Is it only biological mothers that are unwillingly finding themselves in situations where they might be expected to share their children’s affections that they falter at recognising another woman’s role in performing their children’s duties? Even when it would be in the child’s best interests to be allowed to do so? Can the part of being a mother and having the protective instinct to keep your children from harm not be expected to gracefully kick in here?

Should unconditional love and a desire for the child’s well being not extend to this situation?

Should these tests be included to prove the right to claim motherhood?

*Image from http://simplymotherhood.com/


16 thoughts on “What gives you the right?

  1. My thoughts on this: Whilst a stepmother’s role is an important and unique one, it is not in any way the role of mother. I’m raising my children on my own. If my children had a stepmother, I would be mortified to hear her referring to my children as her own. It would overstep every boundary, and show absolutely no regard or respect for me as their mother. Surely it’s hard enough for the children’s real mother to accept their child being absorbed into another woman’s household for a couple of days a week, without having her precious role of mother made light of by the new woman in the child’s life referring to herself as mother. I couldn’t stomach such a lack of intuition and sensitivity.

    • Thanks for your comments.
      For the record I have never and would never refer to myself as my step children’s mother and I do do that out of respect for their mother.
      For me, I don’t feel like their mother, I am quite happy with my space as their step mother. I am fortunate to have my own child – so perhaps that is why, but it was an interesting question to me about when and why it doesn’t feel right to me and if it was right for other people.
      Do you feel that is also disrespectful to refer to step children as “my children”? Is that the same thing or slightly different for you?

      • I definitely don’t think a stwpmother can refer to her step children as ‘my children’ unless the mother is not in the picture and you have taken the children on as your own.

  2. I have been a step mother with 93% care of two children. At no point would I have ever called myself their mother. That is a special label reserved for one woman: the woman who gave birth to them, did the hard yards in the beginning, is their mum. My step kids mother was pretty useless but she was still their only mother. They loved her and she was number one to them and I would never have stepped on that for the sake of the children. They had special names for me, none of which were a derivation of mother – they were just affectionate nicknames.

    • Thanks for your comment.
      I agree that I don’t and wouldn’t call myself the mother of my step children but I am surprised that with 93% custody you don’t feel more like their mother than she was? What ages were the children when you got that level of custody? Do you have your own children too? Perhaps that’s the key to feeling happy with being a step mom?

      • The kids were 3 & 5 when they started living with us. I do have biological children with their father also now, but didn’t for the first few years. I did not want to jeopardise their view of their biological mother, which I knew was an integral part of their own self-view, for my own purposes however.

  3. wow. Your lesbian mother rebuttal is so very ignorant. That you can draw a parallel is enough for me to discount anything else you say. Truly upsetting. And proof that anyone really can have a blog. Hopefully your ignorant voice will just disappear into the ether.

    • My question was not intended as a rebuttal.

      I was asking the person who said “That is a special label reserved for one woman: the woman who gave birth to them, did the hard yards in the beginning, is their mum.”
      and then said
      “I did not want to jeopardise their view of their biological mother, which I knew was an integral part of their own self-view”

      Those comments don’t leave much room for a situation where 2 women did have and were open to sharing a child so I was asking what her thoughts were.

  4. For complete disclosure; my current view, with thanks to all who have participated in the discussion, is that the right to call a child your own is a gift that can only be bestowed at the discretion of a biological mother.

  5. How ridiculous and stiff some of these attitudes are! Is the role of mother so fragile that it must be treated like a sacred cow? My partner often refers to ‘my boy’ or ‘my son’ indicating his stepson-who also has a biological father who is in his life-because that is the role my partner occupies in my son’s life-as well as his father-just as I call all my stepmothers past and present stepmother-and just as my partner and I often refer to one another as husband and wife although we are not married-partly for expedience and partly in commonsensical deference to the roles we occupy in relation to one another-we are all mature and secure enough not to have to reiterate some hierarchical bullshit about ‘only mother’ etc-jeez Wendy Styles-heard of kinship? It is where family roles are flexible and expansive – it is great for children and parents and society in general-parenting isn’t about possession or a maternal identity that depends on exclusiveness-the kids are gonna work it out for themselves-why impose your insecurity on them? Personally I would have loved to have another woman sharing my role when my son was young-the job of raising kids in our society can be lonely and isolating compared to societies that run on kinship lines (like indigenous Australians for instance…). I encourage to my son to think laterally and to be flexible-that is part of modern family life-hopefully heading towards acknowledging that we are all related to one another and that our love and care should extend beyond just our own immediate family.

    • Thanks for your comments Katerina.
      I agree wholeheartedly with your semtiments.
      After reading the other comments though, it seems to me the most prudent and the kindest way to refer to children that are not your own is as their biological parents prefer.

  6. In the case of a lesbian couple raising a child, the non-biological parent has legally recognised parental rights over the child and can have legally enforceable custody and access. In every way except biologically they are the child’s parent. Whether the child calls one mum and the other Mumma (for example) is up to the couple.

    In reference to the other issue, you should always respectfully defer to the child’s actual mother and if she feels that you have crossed a line by referring to the child as your own, then you just need to apologise and not do it again.

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