I loved being called Mommy when my boys were small, and my non-verbal daughter Sophie, now fifteen years old, vocalized mmmmmmm a few times in her life where it appeared she was referring to me. My boys, now twelve and nine years old, call me Mom, most days, and sometimes they refer to me as mean mom when I refuse to get them something at Target or deny them three daily desserts.
I remember the first time I was referred to as Mom when my daughter was diagnosed with infantile spasms. She was three months old, and I was a first-time mother. It felt surreal to be a mother and almost sweet to be called Mom by nurses and doctors who traipsed into and out of the room. It was more shocking to be a mother in a hospital, practicing how to give ACTH (steroid) shots to an orange so that I'd feel more comfortable injecting my baby in the tiny muscle of her thigh when we got home.
Over the years, I have variously been referred to as Mom in IEP meetings and at doctors' offices, and I have to say that it always makes my skin crawl. I find it undignified, in a way, a word that doesn't exactly conjure the same respect as Mother, for example, or goddess. I want my children to call me mom, and I even don't mind being referred to as Sophie's mom or Henry's mom or Oliver's mother. As much as I respect and relish the role of mom, I do believe that the mom in our current culture is The Mom -- the harried chauffeur, the one who is schlepping the children around, the one who drives a minivan and volunteers. I am definitely The Mom, in that respect, and happy to be one, but I have to say that when I'm negotiating with a doctor over my daughter's healthcare needs, or fighting an insurance company or discussing my daughter's education in an IEP meeting, calling me Mom as in Mom has some concerns about such and such or Mom, how are we doing today? -- well, I'm going to bristle. The word is more of an endearment, to me, than an address. If we're going to continue down this much-welcomed path of patient-centered care where parents are equal partners in the care of their child, particularly those with special healthcare needs, we need to address one another by our names.
Mom, what can I do for you today? the principal of my daughter's new school says.
Please don't call me Mom, I'll say. My name is Elizabeth. Please call me Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, the mom, the mother and the goddess posts regularly at her personal blog.