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21 May 2014 @ 10:35 pm
A word choice question  
This is a bit of an odd question, but I've grown up surrounded by couples who have never been divorced, or lost a partner and remarried, so I don't really know how people refer to their step-parents in relationship to the parent they are married to.

I have two characters with step-parents: Alec, whose dad is remarried and whose mum is not, and Sarah, whose parents are both remarried. So, if those characters were to refer to visiting their parents, would they be likely to say 'my parents' or 'my mum and step-dad/my dad and step-mum'. Would it depend on how they viewed their parents? Alec sees his step-mum more as a mother than he would see his own mum as his mother, whereas Sarah's parents divorced late in life, so she was raised by them both. I suppose it would be a personal choice, but I'm trying to be realistic. It seems clumsy to have to specify, but perhaps that's one of the complications of being a child of divorced parents.
Human Collaborator Flunkie Pool!fic Musejoyfulfeather on May 22nd, 2014 04:12 am (UTC)
This is occasionally an issue in my life! 'Cause no matter what your preference is, it can be a little awkward. And you might change what you say depending on who you're talking to.

My parents got separated when I was two. I literally have no memories of living with my father. My sister and I would visit him for a few weeks every year, and he'd come visit us for long weekends sometimes. So he's been in my life, but he's definitely not the guy who raised me. That would be my stepfather (Michael). We moved in with him when I was 10. He's the one who took me to/from school, taught me how to shoot a basketball and throw a frisbee, taught me how to drive, and was generally there for me emotionally and in every way.

If I'm talking about Mom and Michael, I'll generally say "my parents" -- e.g. I'm going to visit my parents this weekend -- because that's what they are; the fact that he's my stepdad doesn't really matter. If it's relevant to the conversation, like if I'm talking about visiting Mom and Michael one weekend and my dad the next, then I'll be more specific and say "my mom and stepdad." I have to be careful not to say "my parents" about Mom and Michael when I'm talking to my dad, which is one of those tricky spots. One more note: if Dad were to marry his girlfriend now, I would probably refer to her as his wife, rather than as my stepmother.

From the parents' side of things: Michael calls me and my sister his daughters, because he did raise us and there's really no reason to make the distinction. Mom never liked it that I don't call him "Dad," but it never felt right to me. I have a dad. I also have a Michael. IDK if it ever bothered him that I stuck with his name rather than anything else.

I know you didn't ask for an essay, but I felt like sharing. :) I hope this ramble helps a little!
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on May 22nd, 2014 04:16 am (UTC)
It helps a very lot! All of this is relevant to my interests. Thanks for sharing, you've covered both of my characters' situations with your answer, so I have a lot to draw from there.
frozen_delight: armchairfrozen_delight on May 22nd, 2014 04:23 am (UTC)
Just wanted to add my two cents and say that I also think it's the most common for the children to refer to their mother's/father's new partner by his/her first name.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on May 22nd, 2014 04:34 am (UTC)
Yes, this is also a good point. Thank you! I love how I can get answers in minutes when I post random questions at midnight. Thank you, loyal readers.
Kat Reads Anything She Bloody Well Wants Tobookblather on May 22nd, 2014 07:22 am (UTC)
My parents are both divorced and remarried (ish), both late in life-- I was nineteen when they divorced and they're just now getting engaged/remarried. I address their significant others by their first names, and in the third person I tend to refer to them as "my stepfather" and "my honorary stepmother" (the honorary to be dropped when they get married). However, when the relationships were first starting up, they were "my mom's boyfriend" and "my dad's girlfriend." I had no personal engagement with either one.

There's also my cousins. The eldest one has a different father than the younger two, so she refers to their father by his first name, and their mom as "Mom." However, the younger two use both their parents' first names, because their older sister was referring to their father by his first name, so of course they did too, and then realized that wasn't fair so now they call their mom by her first name too. IDK, my cousins are strange.

Anyway, the level of personal engagement might be the key. Someone raised entirely by a stepparent might refer to that parent simply as "Mom" or "Dad." Someone who's just met their stepparent might refer to them as "my parent's spouse." IDK if that helps.
The Writer They Call Tayawanderingbard on May 22nd, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC)
This is all very helpful, thank you!
The other Weird Alaeron_lanart on May 23rd, 2014 03:42 am (UTC)
My ex lived with his dad and stepmum when I met him. both his dad and his stepmum had been widowed rather than ending up single via the separation/ divorce route so the situation isn't the same. He never regarded his stepmum in the same light as his mum as he lost his mum in his early teens and his dad married again in his late teens.

Having said that, he gets on great with his stepmum and refers to her by her name (as did I when we were together and so does his current partner) and she was definitely a mother figure as my ex has a half sister as well as a stepbrother.

The ex always talked about his 'dad and Maura' I don't recall her ever being referred to as mum or stepmum except in explaining who she was to people who didn't know - and sometimes then he'd just say, "she's J and P's mum"

Problems arose with the extended family as my ex's mum had been the youngest of about 9 kids. About half of her brothers/sisters wouldn't speak to his stepmum if they didn't have to, which as they lived in quite a close knit suburban community caused quite a bit of friction. Organising the seating plan for our wedding wasn't fun, especially when you consider that I have a very small family.

I was never able to call the ex's dad by his name to his face for some reason - he was always referred to as P's dad or your dad and when speaking to him, I never ever used his name. Not bad going considering he was my father in law for 18 years!