We were taking a great family vacation and on the way back, a stranger asked my 6-year old daughter if my girlfriend was her mom. She said "no, this is Ema, who lives with us." Both of them ended up feeling embarrassed by the situation and a bit hurt.

So we're having a family discussion about this. My daughter and Ema both love each other a lot, but she's not a "step-mom" yet, and doesn't want to be called "mom" either to keep the relationship names clear. So Ema just wants to be called "Ema."

Of course this will come up, so we all want to figure out if there are some good names or phrases that avoid "mom" in the description.

My suggestion was simply that Bella could say "this is Ema" and leave the relationship ambiguous. After all, it's a stranger, and they don't need to know the details. What matters most is that they care about each other. Suggestions?

2 Answers 2


My daughter refers to all the women who are friends to me and who play with her and care about her simply as "her friends". Doesn't matter to her that some are 20 years older.

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    I like your daughter's attitude!
    – Stephie
    Jun 27, 2015 at 18:09
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    While the other answer is very thorough, we all thought this was the best choice. Thanks! Jun 28, 2015 at 23:04

I agree, it's noone's business. "No, this is Ema" is a perfectly reasonable answer.

Or, she can say,

  • No, this is my dad's girlfriend, Ema.
  • No, my mom is in Cinncinatti. This is Ema.
  • No, this is not my mom.
  • No, this is my future step-mother, Ema.

or, simply,

  • Yes. (Who cares if the stranger is told something that's not correct? Sometimes it's easier to meet their framework. Maybe they were being polite and wanted an introduction, and didn't really care about the details.)

Or, even more simply,

  • No.

Why let anyone make you feel embarrassed or hurt if there is nothing embarrassing or hurtful in the situation?

On the other hand, you might want to explore why the two of them actually felt embarrassed and a bit hurt. Technically, Ema will be her step-mother if the two of you are ever married, which doesn't mean that your daughter can't continue to call her by her name. Right now, though, she isn't.

I should add that in this situation, Bella's feelings should take top priority. Ema is an adult, and can handle her own feelings. You should decide based on what Ema feels most comfortable with, because as you say this is going to happen again.

  • Good summary and 100% agreed (from both myself and Ema) that Bella's feelings take precedence. I asked my daughter and she didn't like "my dad's girlfriend" and didn't have any good suggestions. She also didn't want to say "yes" since it's "not true." Jun 26, 2015 at 21:28
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    I've always referred to my step-dad by name, as my mom's husband, as my step-father, or when talking about him and my mom I call them "my folks". Usually just by name, though. I think that's pretty common in the US with single parents' significant others.
    – user11394
    Jun 27, 2015 at 20:18

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