Chances are, if you’re a parent in a same-sex relationship, you’ve been asked What do your kids call you?” If you’re a prospective parent, you may have asked it of yourself. Sometimes it’s for informational purposes—as when a teacher needs to know how to refer to you—sometimes it’s just nosy, as if the person can’t imagine how having two moms doesn’t confuse a kid. Here’s what I’ve discovered—with help from many of you.
Several years ago, I posted an online form to collect your responses about what your kids call you. The results keep coming in, which is wonderful. We’ve got lots of “Mommy” and “Mama,” but also “Anya” (Hungarian for “mother”), “Baba,” “Big Mommy” (and “Little Mommy”), “Cita,” “Eema,” “Lala,” “Maddy” (Mommy+Daddy), “Maman,” “MaPa,” “Mim,” “Mutti,” “Ommi,” and more (as well as a donor called “Spunkle,” short for “special uncle”).
Most of the responses have been from moms, so I’m going to make a special call to all you LGBTQ dads and other parents out there. Let us know what your kids call you! And moms, keep the responses coming! It’s anonymous unless you choose to share your personal name.
I particularly love the many stories people have shared about their name choices. Here are a few.
I was supposed to be mommy, but my son couldn’t quite say it when he first started talking. So he called me mimi for a long time and it just stuck.
- I was supposed to be mommy, but my son couldn’t quite say it when he first started talking. So he called me mimi for a long time and it just stuck. That’s how we got Mimi and Momma.
- Our son is 4 months old and we plan on letting him decide what he’d like to call us. until then we refer to each other as mommy or mama, equally as often.
- Both boys call us by name at home. Interestingly, they call us their dads when talking about us to others.
- I am generally the working parent; my wife works part time. Kids have gone through a phase during which they call whatever mom is home “mommy” and whatever mom is at work “mama.”
- Our kids our 5 and 7. They use Mommy for me, Mama for my wife, and Mom for both. Somehow, we know who they mean and if they mean my wife and I answer, they then say “the other Mom” and vise versa. (although, now that I think about it, our daughter also calls my wife Mommy if she is talking to me about her….like she will say “when will Mommy be home?” which I love, because to them, we are just both their parents, both their Moms.
Right now, we’re still training those around us to get used to these names and roles (which has its own importance and function for shaping how others see us and our family)
- My wife is Jewish, so “Eemah” is the Hebrew for Mom. We had started out with Momma (me) and Mom (her) but that got too confusing during those early barely-verbal days.
- Our 4yr old son calls me Baboo – it’s Italian for dad but many in our area aren’t aware of that. The donor was 100% Italian, so he is 50% Italian, 50% Dutch/English. When he gets older, he can decide if he wants to call me mom or what…
- In Arabic, Mama is the only natural choice. So, as a native Arabic speaker, that’s my partner. As the native English speaker, I liked Mama too, but if we wish to distinguish ourselves (just easier for everyone), then Mommy seemed like the best-fitting other name, so Mommy for me it is. Seems like that’s how most people go, but there is a lot of creativity I see here! But anyway, we’ll see how it turns out. Right now, we’re still training those around us to get used to these names and roles (which has its own importance and function for shaping how others see us and our family) and our son is too young still to say either of them… so we’ll see how he ultimately exercises his choice in the matter!
Others created something wholly new:
- One friend combined her name Sheila and mommy together to get Ma she.
Equally important: our second generation of children, whom I birthed, call their “half siblings” (biological children of my partner from a prior heterosexual marriage) their “sisters.”
- Our children are adopted from foster care. Both are actually closer to their foster than their biological families. Foster parents (in our case, one single mom- straight- and one lesbian couple) all get called by their first names. We tried the Aunt thing for a while, but it didn’t stick. They also see extended members of our daughter’s bio-family and both use the formal labels of her relationship for each individual- Aunt L, Cousin A, etc.
- Our daughter shared a crib with another baby for nine months in the children home they lived in. She lives with her two moms three hours away. The girls call themselves “sisters.” (They’re both only children.)
- Equally important: our second generation of children, whom I birthed, call their “half siblings” (biological children of my partner from a prior heterosexual marriage) their “sisters.”
- Our daughters were born to my partner’s sister. She and her husband were killed in a road accident when they were 13 weeks old. When they are talking to us or to me about my partner & vice versa, they use our childhood nicknames like the rest of our family. When they talk to people outside our family they call my partner Mamma & me mum (I’m Australian). We and they have always referred to their mother as their ‘first’ mummy/mommy and, their father as daddy, or first daddy when in combo with their mother.
- My wife and I grew up together and were childhood sweethearts. My first marriage was heterosexual. After our divorce, I found my first love and we are married and raising the children from my first marriage. The kids don’t refer to her as a step-mom, but as their “other mother”, & my ex-husband teasingly calls her his “ex-wife in law”. Our oldest daughter is married and has given us a grandson, we are Gee-moe and Grammy. Our four daughters say the only thing better than having a mom is having two moms…
One of the things that stood out to us was that [our donor] listed his favorite food as spinach.
- We used an anonymous (but ID consent) donor, but we have a lot of information about him. One of the things that stood out to us was that he listed his favorite food as spinach. Really? Who’s favorite food is spinach? When we were trying to select a donor we couldn’t keep all their numbers straight, so we gave all the “finalists” nicknames. His is, of course, “Popeye.” We’ve told our daughter (now 33 months) all about her conception and now she talks about Mr Popeye and tells all about how she was made.
- My partner’s brother is our donor…so we’ve been using the word donor (although the baby is only 10 months) and calling her brother “Special Uncle Larry” or just “Uncle Larry.”
A few expressed a desire for a better name or description for nonbiological moms:
- I so wish there was another word out there for “non-biological mother” (in a lesbian context, where there is a bio-mom who’s equally part of the parenting). “Non-biological mother” is defined by its negative quality: the person is defined as being *not* the biological mother. I want some word that is descriptive and informative, a word that would help adults describe these relationships we have with our kids to other adults. What I mean is, not something like “heart mom” or a term we might use with our kids, but rather something that could be used to explain our family composition in simple, direct terms.
- I agree with a previous person. There needs to be a name for the other mom. honestly, I think dad fits nice – sadly it’s hard to separate gender from the terms mom and dad. My son refers to me as his dad in the playground. He calls me his “rettadad” when asked.
One person asks an excellent question. Has anyone else had the same experience?
- I choose to be “Ima” and let my wife be “Mommy”. At age 3, our son shows a fairly clear preference for her, and I often wonder if this is influenced by the fact that she has the name with most of the outside social recognition.
Many thanks to all of you who have already shared your information and stories! If you haven’t yet participated and would like to, just fill out the form below. The results spreadsheet is here, so you can go look through the entire list of responses, if you like. Please do not reproduce it or use it for commercial purposes.