My Fiancé's Mother Wants Me to Call Her "Mom.". How Do I Say No Politely?

Here's the best way to handle this awkward situation

Updated 10/02/17

Elizabeth Cooney

Weddings are all about two families becoming one, and the new family you and your partner are creating. It’s no surprise, then, that your relatives will start to get really chummy with your S.O., and theirs with you—and your future in-laws might just ask you to call them “Mom” and “Dad.” The closeness is all well and good, but of course you should feel comfortable with the relationship and any boundaries you want to establish. So what’s a bride to say if she can’t imagine calling anyone other than her own mother “Mom”? Our experts have a few tips.

First off, know you’re not alone. Many brides and grooms get a little queasy at the thought of calling their in-laws “Mom” and “Dad,” especially since they already have parents of their own. But there’s something about a term of endearment that can bring a family together and help form a closer bond. So before you say “no,” ask a few questions.

Is this a family tradition?

In some families, calling your in-laws “Mom” and “Dad” isn’t just a nice thing to do—it’s the rule. Check with your fiancé to see what the family-wide practice is. Many in-laws want their children’s spouses to feel like part of the family, and to be as close as their own children, so they choose to forgo names and titles to help blur the lines. Find out what your in-laws call their in-laws. If formal titles or first names are all but forgotten, you may have a harder time getting out of it. You may want to just go along with it, and could realize it’s no big deal after a few months.

Are your in-laws married to the idea?

Not a family tradition? Find out how serious your in-laws really are about having you call them “Mom” and “Dad.” There’s a good chance they suggested it just in case it’s something you wanted to do, as a way of letting you know they’re open to it. If it’s more of a suggestion than a request, try a short and sweet response like, “I’ve been thinking about what to call you, and I would feel more comfortable with ‘Janet’ than ‘Mom.’ Is that alright?” If it was just an idea, she’ll be happy knowing what will make you comfortable.

Is there another obvious option?

If you have a formal relationship with your in-laws, there’s very little chance you were asked to call them “Mom” and “Dad,” unless they did so because they simply thought they should. Jumping from “Mr. and Mrs. Andrews” to “Mom and Dad” is a huge leap! Instead, ask if you can use their first names, and see if you get more comfortable referring to them in a more casual way.

Whether you’re calling them by their names, nicknames, or “Mom and Dad,” there’s one more question to answer: When do you start? It’s awkward to suddenly change how you refer to someone, and will definitely take some getting used to. Our best advice? Start as soon as you and your in-laws have decided what you’ll call them. If that’s before your wedding day, don’t wait! A few weeks of using the old terms, followed by an abrupt change as soon as you walk down the aisle, is confusing—and can be hard to remember. Instead, use that conversation as a starting point, and start practicing. Use whatever names you’ve decided upon whenever you answer the phone, when addressing emails, and even in your greeting when you send a text. The more you say it, the easier it will become. And if you get it wrong, correct yourself! Your in-laws will appreciate your efforts to get more comfortable with them.

Still not comfortable with the idea? You could always avoid using a name at all when you’re speaking in person—and start calling your in-laws “Grandma” and “Grandpa” once you have kids!

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