Thursday, 6 March 2008

Hi, I'm Catherine's mommy

Soon after my son was born, my first name changed to "Nicholas' mommy." I think it started with that first playgroup meeting. As we each walked in carrying our new babies (they were far too young to play, but it was still called a playgroup...hmmm), and diaper bags and assorted newborn paraphernalia, we were perhaps for the first time, somewhere as someone's mommy. It was that mommy badge that gained us admission to the group. So the identification made sense.

When Rachel was born less than two years later, I gained a longer name..."Hi, I'm Nicholas' and Rachel's mommy." Two in diapers and car seats meant a two part name.

Later, as they became more independent and Catherine joined the family, I began to be more selective. So one moment, I was Nicholas' mommy, a second later, Rachel's mommy, and the next Catherine's mommy. It all depended on who was in front of me -- or rather who was hanging off my arm or wrapped around my leg.

This transformation happened to me, an independent woman with a name and identity, and even a CV, without me even being aware. It just WAS.

While the thought of changing my surname at marriage had sent me into terror (I never did do it), changing from the name I knew to someone's mommy never bothered me. I delighted in the role. So the name was a badge of honor.

But now that my youngest is 10, I've begun to wonder...after she is grown, who will I be? How will I adapt after so many years of being known as someone's mommy?

Those of you who have faced this...any thoughts?

A footnote: When I was walking into my daughter's aftercare last night, after writing this post, one of her classmates was coming out with his mom. He saw me, and gave me a cheerful "Hi Catherine's mommy!" Guess it really is too soon to worry about what happens after!


Susan Harwood said...


I so much identify with your comments here!

I too have two children and, when the first was born, I was suddenly 'Amy's Mummy' instead of Susan Harwood.

Then I was 'Amy and Ben's Mummy'.

And, although I have invited my children's friends to call me by my first name, they won't bring themselves to do it - so I can be walking along the street and hear a little person call out 'hello Amy's mummy!'. Or, if they are visiting - 'Ben's Mummy - may I have a glass of milk?'

And, like you, I didn't change my name when I married. (To the regret of my husband - and I think our children wish we would all have the same name too - but I can't bring myself to do it!)

However, unlike you, I haven't enjoyed being defined as somebody's mummy. In fact, when I was helping out at the Infant School and the staff there insisted on calling me after my children's names, I rebelled - and pointed out that I was a person in my own right and that I have a name of my own - and please would they call me by it.


They said it was easier for them to name me after my children and that this practice saves them the embarassment of getting last names wrong when the variety of last names in families often indicates a complicated family structure.

I found myself nearly in tears.

Now the children are older, I find the Junior School insists on addressing letters to 'Miss' Harwood (instead of Ms, as I would prefer).

I find myself cross about this too - feeling (perhaps wrongly, I admit) that they are trying to make a point - though I am never clear what it is!

Oh! Sorry to say so much! You've touched a nerve!


Terry Whitaker said...

I felt the same way until I went back to work.

When I did, I went BACK to using my maiden name, even though I had changed it previously. So now, I feel as if I have two personnas--Leo and Sophie's mom is just part of it. I love that part of it (but perhaps because I also have the other part), but I do think you raise such an interesting point.

Men never get identified as solely "somebody's dad" do they?

Constance said...

Even in Singapore, we are facing this! I am Raewen's mummy in Primary school and Leawen's mummy at the nursery. I am also Gary's wife, Mrs Tan and Lance's daughter.

When I introduce myself, i just go, Hi! Call me Constance.

Love your blogs, and your thoughts!

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