Stepchildren call their stepmoms a wide-range of names, Alicia Keys prefers “Umi.” The Grammy Award-winning singer, who is married to producer Swizz Beatz, shared in her new book, More Myself: A Journey, that her stepson, Kasseem Dean Jr. used to call her “stepmom,” but “stepmom” wasn’t a good fit for her.
“When KJ was little he started referring to me as his stepmom, which didn’t feel like the right vibe to me, especially when Egypt began mimicking KJ and also calling me stepmom,” she wrote in her memoir. “So Swizz and I came up with an alternative: KJ would call me Umi (pronounced OOH-me), a beautiful word that means mother in Arabic. Egypt and Genesis now also call me Umi, in addition to Mommy.”
Keys went on to say in her book that being a mother figure to her stepchildren and having two of her own has been an incredible experience all around.
“Umi is one of my favorite words and identities. And being Umi to a wide range of children also gives me parental foresight,” she said. “By walking alongside a thirteen-year-old KJ, I get a peek at what may be ahead for nine-year-old Egypt. It’s a real-life practice run. And Nas, who is navigating early adulthood has his own unique relationship with me, given that I’m not his biological parent. There’s a freedom and honesty in our connection, and I want to create that same safe space for my other children in the years ahead.”
Keys also opened up in her book and spoke about the tough decision she had to make in regards to going forward with her second pregnancy.
“I wasn’t ready for this, which is what I told the doctor,” Keys wrote. “‘This is the worst time ever. I’m working on my next album. My husband just got into Harvard Business School. And I’ve been drinking—a lot.’ I left her office feeling so torn. The music I was creating felt more important and urgent than just about everything. I’d have to put off its release for at least a year if I chose to have the baby.”
Keys is not unlike many modern-day women who feel like they have to make a choice between having a child and having a career or having a child with limited resources and support. Ultimately, Keys and her husband chose to have their unborn child and in December 2014, Genesis was born.
“While I was struggling over my choice, I went into the studio one evening and began listening to ‘More Than We Know,’ a song Swizz and I had written,” Keys wrote. “The lyrics are about how we’re capable of so much more than we can ever imagine. My eyes filled with tears. How could I take away the potential for this beautiful child, this light that could touch others in ways I couldn’t dream of. For me, the song was a powerful message that I should go on with the pregnancy.”
Keys seems as if she has a beautiful heart and soul, with enough love to share with not only her children, stepchildren, but the world.