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Gabrielle Union Explains Why She Finds The Term Stepparent ‘Very Annoying’: ‘It’s Not a Word That I Use’

As part of one of the most famous blended families on the block, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade have been extraordinarily candid about their experience navigating parenting their 3-year-old, Kaavia, as well as co-parenting Wade’s children from previous relationships, including 19-year-old Zaire, 14-year-old Zaya, 8-year-old Xavier, and his nephew, 20-year-old Dahveon Morris, whom he serves as a father figure for. And while Union no doubt seems like an awesome stepmom to Wade’s kids, she recently opened up about why she finds the terms “stepparent” or “stepmom” to be “very annoying” when referring to her relationship with his children.

Union recently appeared as a guest on the We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle podcast, and she told Doyle and her wife, soccer pro Abby Wambach, why she eschews the “stepparent” label. Describing herself as an “adult child of divorce” since her parents divorced after they’d been married for 30 years, she shared, “Here I am, having to deal with this new terminology for this other grown-ass woman that’s now saying, ‘I’m your stepmom.'” She added, “‘I’mma call you your name and you call me my name, but [stepmom is] stupid. And to this day, I refer to her as my dad’s wife and her name. I don’t use the phrase ‘stepmom.'”

When she started dating Wade in 2008, she described what it was like to develop a relationship with the NBA star’s children. “I wanted to make sure that I was consistent in their lives,” she said. “Whatever personality that I was trying on that day, or whoever I was, I just needed to be consistent so they could get used to me. They’ve already gone through so much upheaval, moving states away, not knowing anyone, having the trauma of divorce, and I just knew I needed to be consistent. But I didn’t know what my role was.”

“I knew that when I married him, I was married to them,” she continued. “The stepparent label was put on me by the kids’ school because you have to describe yourself: Who are you if you’re not their mother?,” she explained. “It’s very annoying. And It’s not a word that would I use.”

Jokingly blaming the negative cultural perception of stepparents on Disney movies, Union added, “What I realized very quickly is you will never, ever — I don’t care if the other parent is dead — you will never be able to replace the other parent. Don’t try to replace that other parent — that is not your job. Your job is to be consistent… Just be consistent so they know who you are.”

“Understand that you are never gonna be their parent, but you can be a consistent, loving, compassionate adult in their life that they can always count on,” she advised. “And you need to be the sanctuary in the storm. It is not your job to offer commentary about the noncustodial parent. It is not your job to point children in the direction of the truth you feel like is going to set you free but burden them with knowledge that they don’t really need… and always remember that there is a gap in ages for a reason. One of y’all is the adult, and then there are children. And you always need to be the responsible adult for a reason.”

Protecting her family’s peace is of utmost importance for Union. “I will only take the high road when it comes to the kids and protecting their peace and their grace,” she concluded.

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