It started as soon as I announced my pregnancy.
“Looking good, mummy!” “Great post, mama!” All of a sudden, grown adults were referring to me as “mummy” – and it only got worse as the pregnancy went on.
I remember one day, I went for a private 4D scan. “How’s mum today?” asked the ultrasound tech, as she helped me onto the table, and I had a few seconds of confusion where I genuinely thought the woman was asking about MY mum, and wondered how she knew her. Then the penny dropped: I was “mum” now – and not just to my unborn child, but apparently to a large number of grown adults, too.
Which was pretty trippy, tbh.
People mean well, of course. They assume that I’m proud and excited to be a mother, and that I’ll want to be reminded of my new status at every possible opportunity. Well, they’re right about the first bit: I am, indeed, very happy to be Max’s mummy, and I’m sure that when he starts to call me that, it’s going to melt my heart.
When people I DIDN’T give birth to call me “mama”, though? It’s honestly just kind of weird, really. Because the thing is, I don’t NEED to be constantly reminded that I’m a mother now, and when people insist on doing it, it can feel quite condescending – as if they’re talking down to me, and almost “babying” me by using this cutesy, over-familiar term that only one person in the world has any right to call me. It might sound like an over-reaction, but my name is a part of my identity, and it’s hard enough to retain a sense of identity as a new mother, without having my name casually disregarded too.
It’s also kind of sexist. No one, after all, has ever referred to my husband as “daddy” – not once. I can’t even imagine him posting a photo on Instagram or Facebook, say, and having people go, “Oh hey there, daddy!” or “And how’s daddy today?” But they do it to me – and to other women I know – without so much as a second thought. It seems that, as soon as a woman becomes pregnant, she has to struggle to retain a sense of identity, while men just continue on as before. Why is that, I wonder? Why do we assume that a woman will want complete strangers to address her as “mummy” as soon as she becomes a parent, but that men should continue to have an identity outside of their role as fathers?
The fact that this casual erosion of identity doesn’t apply to men also makes a lie of the usual excuse given for it, which is that it’s just “easier” for people to call a woman “mummy” than to remember her name. That ultrasound tech, for instance, probably sees dozens of women every day: she can’t possibly be expected to remember everyone’s name… can she?
Honestly? I think she probably can, actually: she had my notes in front of her, after all, and this wasn’t an emergency appointment – in fact, it was something I paid quite a lot of money for, so I don’t think it’s TOO much to ask that people use my name: or, at the very least, NOT give me a nickname – for want of a better word – without my permission. And it doesn’t just happen in medical or child-specific situations either: no, it’s ALL THE DAMN TIME, and it also comes from people who know my name already, but choose not to use it.
If I post an outfit shot on Instagram, say, I can practically guarantee that I’ll get at least one comment from someone who thinks I’m their mummy – even although neither the photo nor the caption makes any reference to my baby. Again, I know people don’t mean anything by this, and probably think they’re being nice, so I’m not horribly offended by it or anything like that: I just find it a little odd that I can post a photo of my shoes, and people will just be all, “Yeah, I see you over there, trying to start a conversation about fashion, but I happen to know you have a child, so Ima call you “mummy”, even although you didn’t say anything even remotely relating to motherhood!”
It’s not the biggest deal in the world, obviously, but it IS a little odd, and I know from my conversations with friends that I’m not the only one who has to bite her tongue in order not to retort , “I’M NOT YOUR MOTHER!” every time it happens. Unfortunately, though, I ALSO know from friends with toddlers that it’s only going to get worse, and that, once Max starts nursery or school, I can expect to only ever be addressed as “Max’s mummy” from that day forth. And, of course, I love being Max’s mummy: I just don’t particularly want to be addressed that way by anyone but him.
Is that really too much to hope for?