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Don’t Call Me Mom: Why I Hate Being Called Mom By Anyone But My Progeny

March 3, 2015

Lisa Miller wrote an article this week about calling women “Mom” when they are not that person’s mother, describing the fetishism of motherhood. Her post is entitled: If You Aren’t My Child, Don’t Call Me Mom. I wholeheartedly agree with Lisa.

My issue with being called Mom by adults happened when my daughter was born. Strange adults that I happened not to know, but whom worked in the medical field, happened to call me mom, as in: “Mom, sign here, please.” Whoa, I am still bleeding from this birth, and I only had one child, so why is this stranger calling me Mom? It’s an intimacy not reserved for anyone except the little being I was holding at the time, so fresh and new that she could barely open her eyes against the bright lights for more than a few seconds. I was entranced by her, awestruck, and feeling as if I had birthed the most perfect being the world had witnessed, so who was this interloper standing next to me?

I have been called Mom by other adults in settings like schools. I have had other medical professionals refer to me as Mom when discussing my daughter. I correct all of them the way I usually do, by telling them that they can call me by my name, but that I am not their mother. It’s a strange and awkward conversation to have with another adult, and I wish I didn’t have to do it, but only one person in this world calls me Mom with righteousness, well, with the exception of nieces or nephews who are just learning monikers, and they are accepted. All the other people who call me Mom as adults are interlopers and just as inappropriate.

Most medical staff look irritated when I remind them of my own name and state my preference, but I don’t mind telling them. Most school staff look annoyed, but I find it the epitome of rude to be called Mom, as if that is somehow my professional title, or a public call. Motherhood for me is not public. Motherhood is an intimate relationship and not one that I share with everyone else. Every mother will tell you that there are things that they may share with their children, tell them, or be told in return, that have no business being out in public, and it’s out of that respect for the relationship that I value so enormously that I protect it. I can’t understand why others don’t see that.

Lisa Miller takes the discussion all the way up to the President, and that’s a sad state of affairs that even the President refers to women, strangers to him, as a class with an intimacy he doesn’t deserve:

What bothers me is the rampant appropriation of “mom” by adults, who use it in reference to other adults. You know what I mean. The president says he wants to make life better for “moms.” As the 2016 presidential campaign gears up, pundits talk about courting “the mom vote,” and the prospective candidates themselves comply. In speeches, New Jersey governor Chris Christie refers to his own mother as “a strong, tough woman from a single mom,” and in her Twitter bio, Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. senator and secretary of state, calls herself “Wife, mom” before enumerating any other accomplishments. Celebrities gush about how they adore being moms — “I’m Mommy,” says Beyoncé, “I love it all” — and headline writers lasciviously promote bad-mom crimes. “Mom Injects Feces into Son’s IV” is just one recent example: It’s shocking when anyone does such a thing, but it’s exponentially more shocking when the perp is a “mom.”

My objections in these instances are the obvious ones, already expertly enumerated by Heather Havrilesky in the Times last fall: Why is the dominant culture consigning all females who happen to be parents into one giant fetishized category?

Mr. President: you have a mother, and it’s not me. Just because I am a mom to a child does not mean I have taken the whole country on to raise. It’s an incredible foisting of responsibility that because I have become a mom now that I must become the mom. I only accepted that role in my own childbearing capacity, not everyone else’s, and dear god, I don’t want to take on the responsibility of mothering in that codependent sense people seem to long for as adults whenever the media rely on “mom” headlines.

The thing is, too, that the term mom, coming from other people, is derogatory. It’s a way to declassify women, as if to lower them to only the state of their uterus. It’s like the president of Turkey saying that the most glorious state for a woman is motherhood, and frankly my status of motherhood, or even should it be a lack thereof, is just nobody else’s damn business. How motherhood would or wouldn’t affect me is not a public debate.

Here is some unasked advice: Unless you are my child, don’t ever call me Mom. It won’t go well for you.

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