I don’t know when this phenomenon started, but I’m sure you’ve heard it – other women with kids referring to each other as “Mama.” I feel like this term has been on the rise the last few years. I myself have addressed other women this way and even addressed my readers this way before (please don’t search my past articles to see how many times I’ve done this!).
I didn’t think much of it at first. It felt like a term of endearment and camaraderie. I’d shout out a “Hey Mama, you got this!” while at the park, or if I ran into a friend with her kids in tow, I’d call out, “How are you doing today, Mama?”
But something shifted when I had my fourth child, and now I find that I really struggle with this term. These days I strongly dislike it when people refer to me that way.
My poor mother was one of the first people with whom I realized this was becoming a problem. Bless her; she’s so patient with me. She would check in on me when I was pregnant with our fourth and say, “How are you doing today, Mama?” It rubbed me the wrong way until I realized what was going on. I was overwhelmed as a parent and I just wanted to be her daughter, Amber. I wanted to fall into her arms and let her care for me as her daughter. I didn’t want to be Mama in my conversations with her, I just wanted to be her little girl again. I talked with her about it and she was very accommodating. She strives to call me Amber now, and I love when she calls me that because it reminds me that I am hers.
I did some soul searching on why this also bothers me when I hear it from my peers. I realized being called “Mama” surprisingly feels limiting and confining. Being a mother is one part of who I am, but it is not all of who I am. As we have added children to our family, it’s been harder and harder for me to see those other pieces of who I am. I believe it is natural and necessary to set pieces of yourself aside for awhile to make room for the responsibilities and time it takes to raise children. It’s a beautiful season of life, but it can also be challenging to balance your needs with your children’s needs. When someone calls me “Mama” it feels like all they are seeing is the part of me that’s raising children. I want them to see the other parts of me too, and sometimes remind ME that those parts are still there.
I think being referred to as Mama by others is also hard for me because my full-time job right now IS raising children. It’s my profession. I think it would be hard for anyone to be referred to all the time by their profession. Can you imagine if you saw a friend and shouted a greeting, “Hey, Accountant! How are you doing today?” Or greeted someone with, “Morning, Admin!” Our given names have significance, and we lose some of that when we substitute a title instead.
You know who I love to hear call me Mama, though? My four beautiful children. I LOVE to hear them call me Mama. Not mom, or mommy, but Mama. I love their little voices calling out to me, whether through laughter or tears, in the middle of the night or when they first wake in the morning. I love when my kids call me Mama, because that’s who I will always be…to them. They get a pass, but for everyone else, just call me Amber!