I think that being Dad’s Wife is only understood by other stepmoms. Not so much in general society, or at least the true understanding of the term. In a social setting when trying to explain a family dynamic, calling myself a stepmom is more easily understood and accepted far more graciously than saying “I’m Dad’s Wife”, although this is what I would like to call myself and this is why:
Firstly, it’s likely one of the nicer things my stepkids call me, that in and of itself is reason enough. But let’s be honest, I have my own set of reasons aside from others moniker for me.
Being Dad’s wife allows me to better maintain and support my “Lady of the House” status that I worked hard to achieve. I am The Lady of the House and will be treated as such by all that enter. For example; If I invited you over for dinner, I would expect you to take off your shoes at the door. Not because it’s you, but because that is my house rule and my expectation for everyone. I’m not mothering you by having this expectation any more than I am mothering my stepkids by having the same expectation. Out of respect for The Lady of the House (AKA Me or Dad’s Wife), you all would take off your shoes, as will my stepkids.
As Dad’s Wife I’m not in competition with anyone for anything, titles or roles. Who competes with a wife? The ex certainly doesn’t and won’t. The term “Mom” is nowhere in Dad’s Wife like it is in Stepmom so it can’t be misconstrued or misinterpreted. Dad’s wife is much less threatening than Stepmom and often can (and has in our situation) diffuse high conflict situations and scenarios. I also feel more accepted in dad’s life when there is no competition or (imaginary) threat.
The kids don’t have to feel awkward in introducing us, “This is my dad J and his wife M”. It sets the tone for respect with a slight indication the level of our relationship. There is zero pressure, especially for teens, to struggle with the “what do I call her” when the parental/child relationship isn’t there. No one’s feelings are hurt, and the kids have expressed how you fit into their life.
And lastly the responsibility! OH responsibility…As stepmoms I believe that we feel a sense of responsibility to the “mom” portion of the title. To help raise these stepkids, guide them, clean up after them. When legally and as Dad’s wife there isn’t that level of responsibility, any more or less than our responsibility to our friend’s kids, nieces and nephews. That responsibility falls back onto the parents, and I am therefore not at all responsible for how they turn out either. It’s hard enough being responsible for how my own children turn out, why add to that stress and responsibility? My favourite though? I’m not responsible for their laundry either!
The only down-side to being Dad’s Wife is “The Social Dad’s Wife” is not nearly as catchy as “The Social Stepmom”.