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?

Me and MaxThe 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!”

DON'T CALL ME 'MUMMY' - Why the trend for addressing grown women as "mama" or "mummy" has to stop.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?

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53 Comments
  1. It is absolutely not too much to ask – and this comes from somebody who has no children. I never refer to my friends with children as “Mummy”, unless I am talking about them to their child (e.g “Let’s go and find Mummy,”).

    Of course I am the weird one because I have never wanted children so what do I know?

  2. While reading this post I was singing in my head J-Lo’s “I ain’t yo’ mama nooo, I ain’t yo’ mama nooo” lol.
    Anyway, the excuse that it’s “easier” for people to call you “mum” is absurd, to be honest. Shouldn’t that be true for the dad too, then? Why just the women? I will never understand.

    1. Also, if it’s easier – and therefore acceptable – to call people by descriptors rather than names/titles, why isn’t it OK to call them names like “redhead” or “woman” or whatever? It only seems to be “mummy”!

      1. Hahaha exactly! I love this post Amber. I already worry about my loss of identity when i have children and I’m not even pregnant yet!!! It’s something I have a strong reaction to when i just think about it (i worried that meant i won’t be a good mother….. but clearly that’s crazy thoughts). Thanks for talking about this xx

  3. I work with children in a healthcare setting and I call the parents of my patients (the children) ‘mum’ and/or ‘dad’. Mainly to reassure the child that their parents are still there but also to save time. I have a lot to achieve in the childs appointment and I need to get the child’s co-operation pretty darn quick. Seeing 12+ kids in a session makes it pretty near impossible to remember the name of the parents as well. I’ve not had anyone object to this in 15 years of doing this either.

    1. That’s fair enough if there’s no other way you can refer to them (For instance, I would prefer someone to just say, “ How are you today?” rather than, “How is mummy?”, especially in situations like the one I mentioned, where there are no children there to be reassured by it…) and it serves a purpose, but as I said, this happens to me in pretty much *all* settings, and it’s from people who definitely know my name! (And I’ve never objected to people doing it either, but it doesn’t mean I’ve been happy with it!)

    2. I object to this but probably wouldn’t mention it – how do you know people are not silently fuming inside? Why do you think calling me ‘mum’ would reassure my daughter? That’s not what she calls me. Why not call me (child)’s mother?

  4. Gosh, I’ve just realized how weird I am. My friend is pregnant and sometimes I greet her and her boyfriend by asking “so, how are you daddy?” But, it’s different because it’s a joke, not sexist because I do the same thing with both and they don’t mind

      1. You aren’t. Lots of people just don’t feel able to comment.

        Bizarrely I was in a twitter thread about this topic today…… it’s common for people to say “but no one has ever objected”. Of course they don’t overtly complain – why would you deliberately upset the doctor looking after your child? Doesn’t mean it isn’t offensive.

  5. Honestly it’s so rude. Particularly prevalent in healthcare. (Child)’s mummy bothers me less (though I prefer the term mother) but actually calling me mummy. Just awful. I suspect many parents tolerate it as they don’t want to upset a consultation that is primarily about the child.

    1. I’m guessing it might be different in situations where the child is the patient, but it mostly happened to me while I was pregnant… It’s interesting, because even healthcare workers were able to use my name (or at least avoid using a name I hadn’t invited them to call me) *before* I was pregnant – i.e no one ever referred to me as “redhead” or “short girl” or whatever on the grounds that it “saved time” – so it was only after that that it suddenly became too difficult! I’d be interested to hear from other professions who do this on the grounds of being too busy not to, though: it would obviously be different if it was an emergency situation (none of mine have been) or something, but I’ve had plenty of jobs where I encountered dozens of different people every day, and I was still expected to either use their name, or just avoid it altogether – I.e by saying things like, “Can *you* sit over here?” rather than, “Can *mummy* sit over here?” which just sounds incredibly patronising to me, especially when there are no children present!

      1. Exactly – people say “mum can sit there” when it’s only me and the baby in the room, why don’t they say “you can sit there, it is clear who they are talking to.

        From the other side – I’m a doctor who sees adults as patients. Sometimes I am asked to talk to their adult children. I can’t promise I always REMEMBER all the children’s names, but I ask! I don’t just call them “child” or “son”.

        And in an emergency – fortunately I haven’t been in that situation either – but why not call me “child’s mother” or even “child’s mum”. If you just call out “mum” you might even end up with the wrong parent (as there is likely to be more than one mother in the waiting room……..)

        I went to a children’s centre every week for 6 months on maternity leave, to do activities with my daughter. The staff were lovely (and so I felt awkward complaining – but maybe I should have found a way to do so) – they remembered my daughter’s name, my job, the childcare arrangements I had planned, where we were going on holiday – but never once bothered to call me anything other than “mum”.

        Can you tell you have touched a nerve here? This makes me so cross………

  6. So true! Some close friends or family might call you mummy to show how excited they are about your baby and they make a fuss about your new status, so that can be done nicely, the same way close people call you “MRS so and so” when you just got married.

    Wait until Mother’s Day when the father of your child is expected by some people to buy you gift and go on and on (and on) about it. I am not his mother!!! Repeat for Father’s Day.

  7. I feel in the somewhat blessed position that at 19 weeks pregnant this hasn’t happened to me yet… And I’m kind of wondering how I escaped it so far! Genuinely, I think with my sonographer she was just too rude to call me anything – she couldn’t get me out the door fast enough with fewer words! I’m sure the day is coming and when it does… yeah, I’ll find it as irritating as you do I’m pretty sure. It’s a hard enough time adjusting to the idea that a small human will depend on you soon (when it’s your first) and all the life-changing body issues that could well bring about, without losing your identity too. And this is probably going to be as hated for me as being referred to as ‘Mrs [husband’s first name] [husband’s surname]’ – as if it wasn’t a big enough deal you take someone else’s surname you apparently actually lose your entire name to this man in some people’s eyes?! (Usually companies sending you spam you don’t want in the first place.) And again, I don’t ever see that happening in reverse either.

      1. We have different surnames and are both Dr. It often mashes people’s minds when H answers the door to collect something for me. ‘Here you go, Dr Smith’, when the parcel had my very feminine first name on the front. WTAF? And the other day, I received a parcel from Argos, with ‘Dr’ crossed out, and ‘Mrs’ added instead.

        I could go on…. And the ‘Mummy’ thing makes me cringe immensely. My hated variant is when my own friends refer to parent acquaintances as ‘Joshua’s Mum’.

      1. Not the husband’s name thing (I’m not married, for a start!) but the being called mum or mummy – nobody did it to my face at least until my daughter was born.

  8. I get granny all the time, I’m even suggested to be the dong’s granny, and I noted the the super vet, Noel Fitzpatrick, calls his patients’ owners animal’s name mummy/daddy, which seems ridiculous to me.

  9. I also hate shirts that have “baseball mom”, “ football mom”. Wearing a team shirt to support your child is one thing but I am not the mom to the whole dame sport.

    1. Yes, difference there though is that people presumably choose to wear these (unless given them as a gift and feeling obliged I suppose). I have no choice about how people address me.

  10. Lol, It seems really odd to me that you wouldn’t just politely respond with “my names Amber” I do this all the time when people mispronounce my name… it’s Rashell, not Rachel not Rasheen, Rashell. Also if I do it with the biggest smile on my face and a slight giggle it makes them feel less awkward for being corrected so to speak. And when people call me Mrs Fordyce…. “No Darling, that’s my Morher in Law. Rashell is just fine”

    1. Because by doing that you are making it clear that you don’t like being called “mummy” and therefore risk causing offence, being described as the difficult patient/parent, etc. Correcting pronunciation of your name is different, they didn’t *mean* to pronounce it wrong. Whereas calling someone “mummy” is clearly deliberate, so asking for something different is implied criticism of their actions.

      1. Exactly: if someone tells me I’m “looking good, mummy!” it’s not really the same thing as pronouncing a name wrong, and correcting it just seems really churlish and difficult. (I once politely corrected someone who got my dog’s name wrong -they were super-offended and told me there were “more important things to worry about than a dog’s name!” I hate to think what kind of reaction correcting the use of “mummy” would inspire!)

  11. I’m having a similar experience. Before I had my baby, I would get called momma by my friends, coworkers, and just random people (ie the barista at a coffee shop. It was really frustrating to me, because I was more than just a momma. I remember my mother in law telling me, “once you have that baby, you’ll forever be known as your child’s mother and not by your first name.” Ugh, seriously I thought, but sure enough! Also, another big issue I had was all the pregnancy comments. If I got called one more name I think I was going to explode. For example, you look like you have a gaint ballon under your shirt, still sitting on that egg, you really got big over the weekend. The worst part was everyone staring at my belly and not my face. Also, I wasn’t even close to my due date and my coworkers would say, “you’re still here?” Maybe I’m too sensitive, but I was beside myself.

  12. My pediatricians’ office actually has a policy against this! I had noticed (and loved) that our provider didn’t do it but it wasn’t until I befriended someone who worked there that I found out that they are actually instructed not to do it. The doctor who owns the practice thinks it’s condescending and makes parents trust you less.

    My favorite midwife would occasionally call me “mama” but it was in very specific context and since I had a such a good relationship with her, it didn’t bother me. I also felt like I could have asked her not to if it did.

  13. I was very lucky no one dared comment on me during pregnancy!
    It’s interesting, all these people who say “no one has ever objected” – I bet they have, they just didn’t say.

    (If you wear one of those “baby on board” badges though I think it is kind of assumed that you want people to comment. I didn’t, I didn’t want special treatment of any sort.)

  14. Oh my god I love this post, I hate being called Mummy by any one other than my son! Even my husband does it and I totally agree with the identity issue it raises. Is that all I am now??

  15. As often with me, not quite the same. But… I went to the doctor many years ago when I was experiencing insomnia and was subsequently feeling a bit stressed and low. I don’t like to take sleeping tablets, but I thought they could recommend half an hour with the surgery’s counsellor or some acupuncture (which I’d had before and found effective).

    Not only did the locus doctor not listen – he prescribed me Prozac which is a heavy-duty drug and was totally inappropriate- he asked me in a childish voice if I could talk to “Mummy” about my problem! I’m convinced he wouldn’t have called my then-50 Year-old mother by the same title if she’d been waiting for me in the waiting room!

    Needless to say I turned down his prescription.

  16. This is so on point Amber! One of my daughter’s friends (all be it, only 4.5) constantly calls me ‘Melody’s Mum’ and after 700 attempts to say ‘honey my name is Jenn’ I now reply to her ‘Hey Melody’s mum’ with ‘Yes, _____’s daughter?’
    Might seem extreme, but we are neighbours, her mother is my best friend and I know she knows my name.

    It’s the biggest Bug bear for me having become a Mum- that loss of identity – I am actually a person with passions and interests outside motherhood!

  17. YES! I’m not a mom yet, but on the same level, once I got engaged everyone would refer to me as “Mrs. Napier” (New last name). Especially my mom. Don’t get me wrong, I was so happy to be gaining a new last name and hubby, but I had also just graduated college – the first one in my family to do so! Yet I felt like everyone saw my engagement and wedding as a bigger accomplishment than graduating college. I’m more than just a wife, just as you are more than just a mom. Love my new title, just don’t need to be reminded of it constantly. Thank you for sharing!

  18. Whenever I’m asked “is this xxx’s mother? I always respond with “yes, this is Mrs. Smith, how can I help you.” I’ve done it so much his school now just calls and asks for me by name, and his doctors do the same.

  19. I do find it weird. To be honest, Steve gets called “Daddy” just as often as I get called “Mummy”, but we do BOTH find it weird. We even find it weird referring to each other as “Mummy and Daddy” when we’re talking to the kids. It’s a special term – it denotes your relationship to the person saying it; if you’re not their parent, they can use your real name!

    While we haven’t found this particular thing to be a gender issue, I am getting irritated by all the people saying things like “Mummy’s in charge of you and Alice… and Daddy, of course!” to Matilda. I’m not in charge of Daddy – he’s a grown man; he makes his own decisions. To be honest, at almost-three, there are a lot of ways in which I’m no longer in charge of Matilda, either – my job’s to teach her to look after herself, not to constantly boss her around. Gaaaaaaah.

    1. This is like people who see you out without your child and say “is Daddy babysitting today” – no, my child’s father is being a parent.

      1. I’m lucky – I’ve only had this said to me once and it was by an 85 year old so I forgave her her outdated views. But the amount of people who assume I’ll need to “rescue Daddy” if he’s been looking after the kids for more than a few minutes shocks me.

  20. I’m glad you’ve discussed this. A friend of mine was telling me how insanely non-existent she felt once her child arrived and she just became Mummy to everyone. It’s like having a child wipes all prior identity, and it’s just ridiculous. I’d cringe if I ever called anyone Mummy (unless that individual was arisen from the ancient city of Hamunaptra due to an enthusiastic archaeologist, at which point, I hope a young Brendan Fraser shows up).

  21. A little OT, but each time I visit your blog and see the headline for this post, I start singing “Don’t call my baby” by Madison Avenue… 😆 And then it’s stuck in my mind for the rest of the day. Oh well! Have a good weekend, Amber! ❤️

  22. Guilty as charged! I call a few of my friends “mama,” all of whom are actual moms, but are also kind of “friend moms”if that makes sense as a thing? As someone who is not very adult and does not have kids, I have a few friends that “mom” me. I’m ok with it, and I do think they are fine with being called “mom” but I think I’ll try to make sure of it in the future. I’m also in the US and it seems like more of a thing here. I would NEVER call my friends “mummy.” It’s not a term that’s used here, but I wouldn’t be a fan of it. My husband and I also refer to each other as “mom” and “dad” when we pretend we are talking for or to our animals. Like, I’ll talk to my dog and say “dad’s over there making your dinner.” So basically, I’ve just been reminded yet again that I’m a weirdo without boundaries. Because I know not everyone is like me, I’m definitely going to make a conscious effort to be more careful about who I say what to 😉

    1. It’s not the specific word that bothers me (I know Americans don’t say “mummy”), it’s the fact that people are using ANY version of the word – mummy/mom/mama/whatever – to refer to me: it just seems really condescending to me!

      1. Yes. And if amongst a group of friends some people like to be called ‘mama’ or whatever (I wonder whether the people who call you ‘mummy’ do it because they like it themselves) that’s different.

        But using it without asking if you like it (especially in the healthcare context, that’s when it really bothers me) is rude.

      2. I totally get what you’re saying and I can see now where it could come off as condescending, I just never meant it in that way so I guess I never thought about it.

  23. This is definitely a thing over here in the States too — drives me up the wall! I think so much of it is about identity erasure: once a woman becomes a mother, she stops being anything else. I don’t mind in so much settings where it clearly is about my son, for example, the nurse at the pediatrician saying things like, “Mama’s going to hold you on her lap,” because then it’s clearly for his benefit. And the teacher’s at his daycare often say “Oliver’s mother” — but they also call my husband “Oliver’s dad,” so I know that it truly is about making their lives easier! But I don’t understand people calling me “mama” when (a) they are not my child, (b) I am not doing anything related to parenting, and (c) it would be just as easy to call me “you.”

    I also just get very frustrated in general by people referring to mothers as mummy, mama, mommy, etc. when that person is not YOUR mother. The way I feel about it, those words are names that your child calls you, and “mother” is the correct term for a woman with a child.

    1. Oh yes, I don’t mind being “J’s mother” in some contexts. Or if people talk to my child and say “give that to mama” or whatever.

      But when they actually address me as “mum” as though I am their mother……….. (and actually the word “mum” irritates me too, but that’s probably just me)

  24. I’m not a Mum yet and have definitely been guilty of calling people Mama in the past… *hides face*. The point you make about losing identity during parenthood and the part that the new title plays in that really resonates though so will be much more cautious in the future! Great post!

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