My kid’s other mom

Some children have an imaginary friend. My 5-year-old has an imaginary mom. He calls her “My other mom,” and regales us with all sorts of tales about her life. And she has quite a life! While I sometimes think I’m doing OK in my attempts to have it all, I have nothing on this woman:

  • She works for McKinsey, the management consulting firm
  • She has 18 children. Curiously, two of the other children are my 3-year-old and 1-year-old; I like that even in his alternate universe, my 5-year-old kept his siblings

How, you might ask, has she done all this? She’s 99 years old. My son isn’t aware of the dilemma of the biological clock, so in his mind, she had much of this time to build her career and family. She isn’t doing it on her own. She’s married to my son’s other dad, though we hear less about this gentleman than we do about the other mom. His other dad was, for a while, 33 years old. I think my 5-year-old picked up that we thought this was funny, and so now he’s started saying the father is 45. Not that that’s less cougar-ish, really. When my son got into watching Crocodile Hunter, he claimed Steve Irwin was his other dad for a while. We haven’t told him the story yet of what happened to Steve Irwin (who died 8 months before my son was born).

Recently, he’s decided that Steve Irwin is not his other dad. But his other mother has similarly crazy adventures. She’s taken my 5-year-old to Australia, to Africa, to Russia, to Hawaii, to the myriad other places he’s studied on his maps and his atlas. She’s patient with him on plane trips, though as he told me this morning “People thought she was crazy to take a 3-year-old on a trip to Australia!” She lived in Botswana for a while. This came out when my son once told me that “You’re my favorite mommy!” I thanked him and he clarified that “You’re my favorite mommy in the United States.” His other mother had sub-Saharan Africa covered.

Crucially, she lets him have a cat. This is a major point of contention between us. I am adamant that I can’t have another living thing depending on me — I’m not even watering my house plants anymore — and the kids aren’t old enough to take care of a pet. My son’s other mother doesn’t have such problems because hey, she can do anything. Remember the part about her big career and 18 kids?

The other mother ebbs and flows in the frequency of her mentions. I thought she’d stayed in San Diego this summer when my son didn’t mention her for about two weeks after the trip. This would be keeping with a fine family tradition of imaginary friends staying on the west coast. When I was growing up, my family lived in San Diego for three months when I was 8 and my little brother was 3. He had a friend called “Baby Crunchy” who did everything with us, but stayed behind when we moved back to North Carolina. Alas, after a few weeks, the other mother was back, and she’s been with us pretty steadily since.

Have your children had imaginary playmates or parents?

Cross-posted at Gifted Exchange

21 thoughts on “My kid’s other mom

  1. My daughter has an imaginary friend Kaitlyn, based on the real daughter of one our friends. But now we must set a place for Kaitlyn at the table, and whenever she spies my cell phone she needs to call Kaitlyn. For the past two weeks every day it’s been Kaitlyn this and Kaitlyn that. I find it amusing what they come up with in their heads.

    1. @Alissa- This raises an interesting question. How much does one indulge the fantasy play? Setting a place probably isn’t too much of a hassle (as long as you can keep using the same dishes). Hunting down a spare car seat for Kaitlyn might be more trouble…

  2. What a clever little boy! My kids have lots of imaginary friends and adventures, but so far no imaginary mommy! I guess I’m all the mom they can handle 🙂

    I love the sound of his other mom. If only we could be optimally productive in our careers and still having kids at 99. I’m finding the whole biological clock thing depressing…In theory, I would love to have a 4th kid (not 18, but still, a big family…) but I don’t want it now and I’m 37. So, in a few years, it will be too late. If only I had until 99!!

    1. @Rinna- I know, having until age 99 would make various choices less stark! All I can hope is to strive to be as awesome as my son’s other mom. Except for the cat part.

      1. Oh, by the way, I am SO with you on the no pets thing! Especially when my friend told me that having a new puppy is like having a newborn, including nighttime waking. No thank you!!

  3. It’s awesome that his imaginary mom has such great circumstances!

    My oldest daughter had an imaginary friend she called Very Tiny Baby. For a long time she carried her hand cupped against her chest and said Very Tiny Baby was inside. One time she had a breakdown all over the floor of the grocery store because she thought she had dropped Very Tiny Baby.

    My middle child had a wide range of imaginary friends called The Guys. I noticed at some point that he stopped talking about them and when I asked about it he shrugged and said “we all got a little busy.”

    My youngest, who just turned four, still has two imaginary friends, Sherwin and Ohbert. They have great international adventures and despise eating leftovers (she always tells me this when it’s leftovers for dinner at our house).

    I think imaginary friends are a very cool insight into how kids think and process the world. It’s neat that your son has one that is a mom and that has a good handle on work and family stuff!

    1. @Catherine – I love it! Sherwin and Ohbert. I need to write a story with those names in starring roles. Also, it is completely understandable that one would stop hanging out with the guys when one gets busy. I think this happens to all of us 🙂

    1. @NicoleandMaggie – ah, a whole ‘nother post. Actually, the TV/media content issue is one we’re figuring out right now. He figured out (finally) how to turn the TV on, and has now realized that there are shows beyond what we’ve recorded on the DVR. I found him watching some Teen Nick sit com this morning, which I definitely did not want on.

      1. Neil Gaiman was on NPR this week and said his 3 yr old’s favorite show was a super creepy version of Alice in Wonderland called Alice. He’d never told her it was supposed to be scary and she wasn’t scared. (Contrast my son’s terror at that age of the grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge on Dora.)

  4. This is adorable. My 11yo son is surrounded by imaginary friends, and they are frequently in the middle of a battle with some imaginary bad guys. It is not unusual for friends to come to our house and see my son writhing on the floor as he wrestles with an imaginary opponent. I love that he has such a great imagination, even if it sometimes is noisy with his battles going on all the time.

  5. No imaginary friends yet, but my 3yo has given birth to: a pink dog baby (in September just before her sister was born), a brown bear baby, and is currently pregnant with a snake baby. Lots of newborns in this house 🙂

  6. Funny post, Laura! My older son had an imaginary friend and then when my younger son went to nursery school, he kept talking about his friend, Baha. I thought that “Baha” was imaginary until I found out there really was a girl in his class with that name!

    1. @Diana – I made this mistake with my other son. He kept talking about this little girl, and I thought she was an imaginary friend, but she turned out to be in his class, I just hadn’t seen her family’s name on the class list.

  7. This post cracked me up. We don’t have any imaginary people here, at least not yet. We do have elaborate parties populated mostly by dolls and stuffed animals, though.

  8. My wife just might be the most animal adverse individual I’ve ever met. Now, however, with major prodding from my children, she will not even consider the idea of selling or giving any of them away.

    Our animals “outside”: 3 dogs, 2 cats, 1 guinea pig, 1 horse.

    The 1 cat is her favorite. The guinea pig loves(and responds to my wife) like no animal I’ve ever seen…

    My advise, get the cat….. with short hair 🙂

  9. Seems the imaginary mom thing is universal. My 4 year old daughter has an imaginary mom with a first name and a family name. She has a job too and I am currently a stay at home mom. I d go with the fantasy and inquire about her when my daughter brings up the topic and she would say that her other mom lives in a remote area, more specifically by the sea. This fantasy makes me feel sad and really concerned about my performance as a mother: there is this thing that is missing in our relationship that makes her long for a better version of me. Probably she needs a mom who praises her and is less critical of her behavior. No online scientific article on the topic though to support or refute my claim.

    1. Heba… my daughter started talking about another mum too… she apparently looks just like me..but she dresses better and wears sparkly makeup…i don’t wear any make up…’s a very special occasion.. this other mum lets her do things that I play with her laptop and other personal items… it worries me too…but I am hoping that it passes

    2. I am with you. I am a mom via a surrogate who my almost 5 year old doesn’t know about yet. She refers to her other mom from time to time, typically when we are playing together and says her other mom teaches her dance moves…kinda dance move, leaping more like it. The first time she said it I couldn’t help, but react because it is a very hurtful sensitive topic for me. I told her I’m the only mom she is ever going to have. Since then, I’ve gained my composure and just ignore it or say “oh, ok.” Last night she said her other mom taught her something about this dragon clock thing, right before bed, right after I laid in bed and read her a story. I didn’t react, just said I love you, good night. I’m not sure if she doing it to get a rise out of me or what?

  10. I’m a 17 year old and I have an imaginary mum. She’s my source of comfort and consolation and helps a lot with my mood. Not saying your kid is in a similar emotional low but it can be comforting to have someone (parent, friend etc) who is always free and focused on you, as narcissistic as that may sound.
    I take my hands, switch them to the opposite side and hold my head so that it’s like another person is holding me.

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