This week one of my sons had an outpatient surgical procedure at a hospital. Over the course of the next four hours I must have been referred to directly as “Mom” by at least six adult strangers, all hospital professionals.
Late-breaking news: I’m not their mother.
“Hi, Mom,” said the receptionist. “Hey, Mom,” said the intake nurse. Then there’s the equally annoying, “I see you’ve got ‘Mom’ with you,” to my son, as if he’s their sibling. No, dear, my son has HIS mother with him, not generic “Mom.”
Everyone saw my name on their intake sheet. One saw my identification. They knew I had a name or else they wouldn’t have asked for my signature. And even if they didn’t see my name, they probably knew I had one. I wasn’t wearing a t-shirt or baseball cap with MOM printed across it. So then what makes it okay to refer to me as “Mom” instead of by my name, or else just plain, “Hello”?
Like other mothers, I’m referred to as “Mom” regularly by instructors, teachers, administrators, coaches, retailers…and ‘Blunt Moms’ readers can probably think of more offenders.
What’s wrong with it? My identity is not limited to raising children. I did not begin to exist when I birthed children, and I will not cease to exist when they are grown. I am an individual with an identity and a name. Please use it!
A woman knows she has entered the public, community-owned realm when she’s visibly pregnant and strangers manhandle her pregant belly at any opportunity. Then they tell her what to do and not do with her pregnant body, how to birth, and how to breastfeed. And on and on.
The ease with which strangers treat a woman who is going to have children, or who has children, like communal property reflects an ancestral instinct to care for progeny and ensure for their survival, because every baby was once critical to the group’s survival. The village did care about its babies…a thousand years ago. Today, however, overpopulation has rendered us all pretty expendable. And we are raising children in less of a village and more of a dog house. The world is dog-eat-dog for the bottom 99 percent, so let’s top pretending there’s a village involved in this.
People love the “it takes a village” mantra. It’s warm and fuzzy. Hillary Clinton even made a load of money off of it by using the phrase as the title of an electioneering book. But it’s a mythic place, not a reality. There is no “village” raising children in the developed world; and the only actual villages left in the Amazon are being razed and raped by oil and resource corporations for profit. Let’s not pussyfoot.
A village didn’t raise my kids. My husband and I are raising our kids, period. So friendly villagers can stop calling me “Mom” and refer to me the way that I refer to them: by their legal, given names, thanks.
Liz Sydney is a too-blunt mom raising two boys. She likes being called “Liz” or “Ms. Sydney.” She particularly loathes the word “Mommy” used by anyone who isn’t actually a child. She enjoys writing on topics unrelated to her blog theme Our Violent Child and she loves joining punny hashtag games on Twitter (and even got on the top-ten list of one once!).