Ex-Wife and I separated when our only child was two. She quickly found another partner and they are now living together as married. I still have regular visits and sleepovers with infant. Relationship between ex-wife and I is workman-like, but not particularly difficult.

Infant referred to step-father as "Daddy" or "DaddyName" (the forename of the stepfather) as soon as step-father moved into their home. This is fine with me. I am glad they have a strong bond.

But infant's mother started directing infant to stop calling me Daddy. First she asked infant to call me "DaddyName", then she went further to ask child to call me just "Name". Now, at age four, this seems to have stuck firmly.

Before anyone asks the obvious questions: I know this. She said it in front of me. She said it to me. She has asked me to remind infant to stop calling me "Daddy". I'm not getting this from the infant but from the infant's mother.

I would prefer to be called either "Daddy" or "DaddyName". I don't care what step-father is called and I use the term "Daddy" to refer to him.

Infant's mother is reluctant to gently introduce this small change, claiming it causes "confusion" for infant.

Is it normal for a biological father to be excluded in this way?

How do I persuade infant's mother to let me be called "DaddyName"?


5 Answers 5


Let me take a stab at answering this from the opposite side of the situation: I am a full time custodial parent (mother) who found a new partner when the child was 18 months old, said partner is now my husband and a full time care giver ("daddy" in every way except biological) to the first child and two more of the child's (half) brothers (technically). Ok, so now that you know my "blended" family status, you can see how I am qualified to provide some input here. I won't however, try to proclaim that our solution or my advice is broadly applicable to yours or anyone else's situation.

The answer to your first question "is it normal for the biological father to be excluded," is, generally, no. In some cases, where abuse or some other risk of harm to the child is a threat, the answer would be, understandably, yes. But, that's not the case here, otherwise, the mother would be seeking ways to exclude you in more ways than just attempting to strip your title.

The answer to your second question, "how do I persuade the mother to let the child call me DaddyName" is you can't. Sorry, but you most likely will have to agree to disagree. You will find, if you haven't already, that there will be at least a few issues that you two won't see eye to eye on (which is why you aren't together, right?)

One of the things that works both for you and against you here is that neither of you can control what goes on in the others' home. I mean, with the exception of something dangerous or illegal where child protective services would be involved, or the police. We're not talking about that now. Of course, you guys should work together to have a fairly consistent set of rules at both homes, but, let's be real: the rules, routines, norms, and traditions in each home will vary slightly. This is normal, unavoidable, and not something your child won't learn to navigate. Now, this means that at her house, you can't make her allow the kid to call you DaddyName. Maybe you'll be just Name. However, on the flip side, this also works in your favor because she can't force the child, when s/he is out of her control to call you anything other than DaddyName, or, whatever you and the kid work out. Btw-have you considered "papa" or some other alternative? Because it IS confusing to a four year old to have two daddys, which is why DaddyName works well, but might not offer enough distinction to a young child, or to the child's siblings if he has any.

I agree with some of the other answers here that suggest that she's doing it to try to provide a "normal" family environment for your child, especially if she has children with her new husband. It's nice to see that you aren't jealous of the relationship with the man who spends quite a bit if time raising your child. I am lucky enough to also say the same is true for my son's dad. In my house, my boy initially called my husband Name. Eventually, he called him "DaddyName" and now he calls him just Daddy. He had always called his biological father Dad at both houses, but began calling him DaddyName at ours when 1) his first brother was born, and 2) when he started calling his step dad DaddyName. For a while, both dads were DaddyName at the both houses, but, it has now completely reversed so that at our house, his biodad is now Name, and step dad is Daddy. He also calls step dad Daddy at his bio dad's house. It irritated him somewhat, at first, that he is Name at our house but he has enough sense to realize that at this point, my husband IS his dad, and like you he is (mostly) grateful that his boy is loved and cared for. Also, he can see how it's confusing to my boy's brothers (who are very young) that there are two "daddys" (is he my daddy too? Does everyone have two dads? How come we don't get to have two dads...and so on.)

We did, btw, years ago have the conversation about the names. He was agitated not by me telling the child to call him or my husband one thing or another, but that I wasnt instructing him at all . I told him I would never "instruct" our child to call either of them anything. If the boy wanted to call one "Monkey" and the other "Goose" it didn't matter to me at all because it had zero impact on the quality of the relationships. I figured the kid could figure it out on his own-letting the relationships guide him. I advised my son's dad to not push too hard, because children sort of naturally do what you don't want them to, and warned it would backfire. I told him, politely, what I said earlier about him not having any say in what goes on in my home, and vice versa. When put that way, he backed off, to sulk at first but he came around.

Ultimately, his distaste for the boy calling his step dad "Daddy" stemmed from his insecurity as a father. Once he figured out that no matter what, he IS the boy's dad, and the boy loves him as a dad unconditionally, he was satisfied to let the name issue drop. I'm not saying you are insecure, but if you are, don't be. As long as you are there for your child, that you love your child, care for him, he will know who you are and will call you by your name. He'll figure out (when he's a little older than 4, be patient) how to navigate both homes' rules (with frightening cunning at some point-Beware!). He'll call you what he'll call you even if it displeases his mother, at your house at least, but hey, that's all that you care about right?


Some of this is simply something you must work out with your ex-wife. What a child calls his/her parents, or any individual, is largely a matter of convention and personal choice; some people aver all such names and instead ask their children to use their first names. Others prefer "Sir" and "Ma'am" and very formal names.

That's really up to you and your ex-wife to work out on your own; for the most part, the actual term used will be far less relevant to your relationship with your child than how much time you spend and the quality of that time.

That said, there's an undercurrent here that is hard to miss, which is that she is probably trying to establish her new husband as the "primary" father figure. There are other reasons for this; she may want to give your child a "normal" family - ie, "mom, dad, child". It also likely would simplify things if she and her new husband have children of their own (ie, all children use the same terms for the same people). She may be wanting to avoid using the word "daddy" with anyone other than her current husband to make it less confusing for the child. It's hard to say, without asking her.

However, certainly it's understandable that you feel that she is trying to exclude you, and that's entirely possible. This is, still, largely a matter for the two (or three) of you to work out. You may want to discuss with her exactly why she wants things this way, and make sure she knows your feelings - that you feel that you are being excluded. The term or lack thereof doesn't have to be something that gets in the way of your relationship, but if you feel that you aren't being completely involved in your child's life then you need to make that clear. Certainly your child should know your real biological relationship (in more detail as he/she grows and can understand it further).

I largely think, though, that as long as this isn't a trend towards exclusion - ie, as long as you aren't starting to have a reduction in visitation - that it isn't really the important thing what you're called. Your child will associate good feelings with you no matter what word he/she calls you, as long as you continue visiting and spending quality time.

  • 3
    Do you think a child has a right to know who his / her father is? You didn't mention that in your answer. Please don't mention law. OP did not say where they are nor what part of the legal process they're at, so you cannot say what is or isn't possible under law, but OP doesn't appear to be asking about law either. Your third paragraph appears to ignore the fact that OP is happy for the step-father to be called "daddy"; OP even calls the step-father "daddy"! This answer fails to answer either of the two very clear questions and you should consider deleting it.
    – DanBeale
    Oct 11, 2014 at 21:04
  • 2
    First off, I don't believe this has anything to do with "knowing who his/her father is" - the mother isn't denying visitation(yet). What a child calls "daddy" is very different from knowing their parents' roles in their making. The terms we have in english (or language generally) are insufficient for defining what roles the actual person serves: hence the primary point of my answer, which is simply that the term is much less relevant than the actual, real relationship. Cultivate that and "knowing who his/her father is" is irrelevant, because she/he knows who "Tom" is, which is what matters.
    – Joe
    Oct 11, 2014 at 21:17
  • I'll remove the 'legal', though I think that's difficult to argue with, but it shouldn't be there. I think you misread my third paragraph; I did not imply the asker was unhappy with the stepfather being "daddy", I was saying why the mother was intending to exclude the secondary usage of "daddy". I'll try to clear that up.
    – Joe
    Oct 11, 2014 at 21:19
  • Does not answer my questions - downvoted. Oct 12, 2014 at 15:23

Note that this is a rather international forum and that these customs differ a lot between different cultures. I (living in Germany) have a bunch of children from two divorced marriages and there never was any question whom to call "mum" and "dad": the biological parents. The parents' new partners were always "FirstName". But my children regularly live with both parents (for two broken up marriages that's three households then, and quite an organizational challenge for me) rather than living with one parent and seeing the other only as a visitor.

Besides being a cultural issue this is, as had been said by others, an issue between your wife and you. From what you tell it looks like she wants to give a traditional family to her child. This, of course, is not the worst of goals, but I am not sold on this being worth the cost of making the child forget who the real father is. But then all we have is your side of the story, so this speculation might be all wrong.

In the end, you have three possibilities:

  • get over it
  • talk to her and sort it out
  • try to tell your child how things are, and leave it up to the child

Here's one more thing from me for you to help you decide: When I found one of the mothers of my children pull on them really hard to get them further away from me, even though I considered this not only unfair towards me, but also bad for the children, I decided that it would be even worse for them if I'd keep pulling at them from the other side, too. Of course, this was very hard for me, and it hurt like hell to let go a bit of your children, but in the end I think it was the right thing to do. (Also, when the oldest of those children became a teenager, it started to want to go back to spending more time with me, and fought this through against her mother's will. We have been very close since.)

That's a plea to be careful when you decide to talk about this with your child. If in doubt, do not pull from the other side.

  • 3
    +1 for the plea to not place the child in the middle of a grown up tug of war, especially where it's grown up egos that are the driving force. The strongest relationships are the ones we chose and form on our own-not the ones that are forced. This includes family.
    – Jax
    Oct 13, 2014 at 15:19

I'm writing this as a child from this sort of situation, rather than a parent. My biological parents separated when I was 10 months old, and my Mum, who had full custody, remarried when I was 2 (I'm now 19). My stepdad had three boys from his previous marriage also, and shared custody with their biological mother. They are all older than me in three year intervals, so the youngest was 5 when I met them (the oldest one 11, middle 8). My mum and stepdad then had 2 more kids, so half siblings to me and my stepbrothers. Anyway, to the point: my stepbrothers call my Mum by her first name, which everyone is fine with. They were older when they met her, and their mother was still very involved in their lives. However, I have always called my stepfather 'dad', despite having the choice to call him by something else instead. I was younger, my new brothers called him dad, and my biological dad was almost entirely out of the picture (mostly by choice at this point). It wasn't until I was 11 that my bioDad re-entered my life, and I won't lie and say it was a picnic. However the difference was that my stepdad, who had been through the custody battles with his own kids and knew how awful it was to be pushed away from your own children, was the one most insistent that I reform a relationship with my biological father...and that I call my bioDad 'dad' too.

After a while things got smoother and I called them both dad when I was with them, but unfortunately my biological dad's marijuana habits (which originated from before I was born) had reached addiction levels, and he passed away 2 years ago. My grief for a man I had only begun to know hit me very hard, and I am very grateful that my stepdad pushed for me to stay in contact with my bioDad, otherwise I would essentially have never known him. Anyway, my point to the great amount of rambling is that via living a life that broke the frame of the one-mum-one-dad-with-2.5-kids, my perspective of parent labeling is that, to me, there's a big difference between dad's and fathers, but to me the Dad role isn't always biological. To me, a dad is someone who acts as your dad. More grey than black and white, sure, but in my mind the male-contributor of your biological gamete is the Father. Your father can be your dad, sure, but I think the man (or woman or whoever it is) that acts like father is the one with the dad title.

It does suck how often the adults moulding the children aren't quite using the greatest moulds, though. While it seems impossible, I guess at the end of the day the child needs to have aged before they can truly make those kinds of decisions themselves, despite people thinking it will be too late. But show your child/ren you love them, and that you're doing the best you can, and even if their using the 'wrong' label in someone's eyes, it's the way they feel about you that matters.

  • I up voted this answer bc u hit the nail square on the head twice! 1st: there's a big difference bw dads and fathers, and 2nd when you said it's adults that mess it up. Ask any young child what word means "the man that loves you and takes care of you" and s/he'll say "dad." Really, it's only grown ups who get confused about it.
    – Jax
    Dec 11, 2014 at 5:14

I have always been told, including by my own mother when she divorced my father, that this is absolutely not okay. "Dad" or any variation thereof should be strictly reserved for the biological or adoptive father. The mother's new partner should be called by his first name only.

  • 3
    I think this is the sort of thing that has a lot more complexities than a black and white like this. There's a big difference between being divorced and remarried when the child is 2 versus 12, for example, and different family situations will likely dictate different answers.
    – Joe
    Oct 11, 2014 at 19:22
  • 1
    I down voted this answer, my reasoning is more or less explained by @Joe. Just because your mom said it wasn't right, doesn't mean it always isn't.
    – Jax
    Oct 13, 2014 at 3:39

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