Being Called Mom: The Weight of Words

Words matter, so the weight of being called mom as a foster mother comes with a mix of emotions about what it means and what it doesn’t.

My Expectation

Most new mothers eagerly await the moment they hear their child say “mom” for the first time. There are a lot of other milestones that occur before this moment that “actually” give the title of mother to a woman. But when your child looks at you and says it themselves, it brings a new weight. 

I knew that when we started our foster journey, I was taking on the role of “foster mother”. I also knew that didn’t mean I would necessarily ever be called “mom”. While I might forever be “Liv” or “Auntie” or another name given to me by the children in our care. When our first placements arrived, I was “Liv”. Legally I acted in the role of “foster mother” and “guardian”. However, the term “mom” was not something I had experienced yet and didn’t expect to in the near future. 


What “Mom” Means
Late Night Snuggles

Hearing the kids call me “mom” now is something I never want to take for granted. It came slowly, then all at once. I find our natural drive to fill these roles in our lives fascinating. It’s almost this inner framework of family that we long to fill when there are gaps. God’s design for family relationships is ingrained in our DNA, but the reality of a fallen world means that many of us face brokenness in these roles and we often face a longing for restoration. With kiddos 6 and under at the time, our kids were experiencing that ache even if they didn’t know it. 

Knowing the history of others that have stood in as “mom” for these kids before we ever even met them makes the weight even heavier. I am not the first person to love them. Nor am I the first person to meet their needs. There have been other women to kiss scraped knees and tell them bedtime stories. I’m thankful for the love they have received before me. To me, being called mom by these kids means I’ve joined a line of women that cherished the lives of these children. The reality is there that I may not be the last one they call “mom”. However, being seen by them in this season and hearing that word will continue to fill me with gratefulness and honor. 

What “Mom” Doesn’t’ Mean
Displaying our Voting Stickers

The joy of being “mom” for me was initially mixed with so much heartache. My husband and I meant it when we started this journey with the goal of reunification. By accepting the title of “mom” was I being hypocritical in our mission? It took time for me to reconcile this in my head. While I feel the weight of what it means to be “mom” to these kids, I have also learned what it doesn’t mean. 

We’ve talked with the kids a lot about their parents. There is so much they don’t understand because of their ages. But, I’m also often very surprised by how much they do. The nature of foster care is that the future is rarely easy to predict. We can’t say for certain if these kids will end up being with us forever. If I get the honor of being their “forever mom”, we will continue to be open with them about their “first mom” and the love she has for them. Being “mom” now does not replace her important and sacred role in their lives.


Looking Forward
VBS Memories

When I look at the kids, I continue to pray for reconciliation and healing. I hope that as the future comes, they are able to restore the pieces of that relationship with their birth mom that they can. I think adoptive and foster mothers can fear what a biological mother’s presence would do to a relationship with their kids. While I can’t say what our future holds, I know that my being “mom” doesn’t replace the role and history of their birth mother in the same way that her presence in the future would not replace me. 

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