Stop calling me mummy, my name’s on the card

“Sit there, Mummy.”

I looked behind me. There was nobody there. Just a door and a wall, blank except for a poster advertising free chlamydia testing.

The nurse tapped the chair beside her, without taking her eyes off my file.  “How are we today?”

Apart from Princess Anne, Margaret Thatcher and Hyacinth Bucket, I wasn’t used to anyone referring to themselves in the third person. Instinctively, I looked over my shoulders. Nobody was there either.

j and mummy

with J on bateau mouche, paris

It was just me, the nurse and a semi-circle of plastic chairs. She snapped her file shut and stared at me, her expression somewhere between quizzical and petulant.

Unsure how to answer, I reverted to schoolgirl mode. I stared down at my feet, or tried to. I hadn’t seen my feet, horizontal, for several weeks now. Ah, the penny finally dropped. She was talking to the bump and me.

“I’m fine, thanks,” I replied, with a subtle emphasis on the word I’m.

My name’s in the file, I wanted to add. And, as for bump, I was hoping you’d tell me that.

But I bit my tongue instead. I needed this woman on side. I could be begging her for pethidine in the days to come.

In any case, it was just as well. I wasn’t prepared for the loss of that badge of individuality and identity. My name. My tongue hurt. I hoped I wasn’t dribbling blood down my chin, but I needed the practice.

Even before I officially became a mummy, I started to become generic. Teachers, hospital and nursery staff no longer had to wrestle with the pronunciation of the word Ms or the lack of hyphenation in my double-barrel.

For some, things are now much simpler. I’m J’s mum. End of.

It seems churlish to take issue. Having a child is a blessing. And what does this attachment to my name say about me? Do I have an external locus of evaluation? In layman’s speak, am I plain insecure?

Don’t get me wrong. Motherhood brings with it a whole new identity. The changes are profound. It’s all good life-enhancing stuff. I’ve tried to sum up the ups and downs (and the overriding ups) in Motherhood, the good, the bad and the truly amazing.

Motherhood is a way of being, rather than just doing. It’s the most important job in the world. I really believe that. Honestly, I do.

So why do I find myself lost for words, stumbling in a panic, when my former colleagues ask me, What are you doing now?

I’d like to say something about the miracle of having a child, to explain the being/doing conundrum. I’d like to say that tickling little pink baby feet is more appealing than spending all day hunched over a spreadsheet. But, of course, I don’t. I may need to work with these people again, and OH has already told me that I’m starting to sound a bit whacko sometimes.

Instead, I mutter something about being a stay-at-home-mum. I feel myself flush red with embarrassment. I’m not ashamed of not working (in the wage slave sense of the word). It’s just that my answer sounds so pathetic and lame. Profound, it’s not.

Fast forward a few years, I haven’t returned to the office. Now I have a portfolio career, of sorts. True, there’s no Porsche on the drive. However, I’m independent and free (with enough latitude to be a bit whacko sometimes, if that’s what I want.) I have my own business cards, a bicycle and a coffee machine that works (well, mostly).

woman at laptop

home office

Mother, Lawyer, Writer, my cards say, under my name (which is in bold now).

I like the byeline. The subtext, I hope, is implicit. I don’t like labels. But, if you must, I’m not going to be tied down to one.

Mother, Laywer, Writer. I’m glad I resisted the temptation to insert, in parenthesis, the words, Manic, Resting, Struggling. (It was a close run thing.) I want the card to say, in a quiet sort of way, I mean business.

Above all, I want the card to save me from myself. I want to stop stuttering when I’m asked, What do you do now? I want to stop blindly clutching at other people’s labels, and putting myself down.

And I’ve got to stop replying without thinking, A bit of this, a bit of that.

About sarah

Old enough to know better, still young enough not to care. Property lawyer, sometime developer, writer and mother, coffee lover and cat-napper. I blog about life as a mum in North Wilts.
This entry was posted in gender, mum in the sticks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Stop calling me mummy, my name’s on the card

  1. Jes says:

    Brill post! I don’t like when people use the royal we at the best of times but I can imagine it’s frustrating when a professional uses it! :)

  2. I love it that you have ‘mother’ on your business card. My mum always used to pick me up if I introduced her as, “this is my mum”. Never really got why until I became a mother myself!

    As for the whole SAHM thing. I’ve found my way round that was to say I wasn’t currently going out to earn a living… because from my perspective as a SAHM I was working just as hard if not harder than when I was swanning out to my old fulltime job!! Still working on a clear definition for my new WAHM status though!

    Great post!

  3. sarah says:

    Thanks Luci. I totally agree, don’t think I ever worked as hard at the office as I did when I had LO, it’s just I’m not sure others always saw it this way…but, yes, it was much calmer in the office (and that’s saying something).

  4. I do that stuttering thing when someone asks me what I do now. Not quite sure what to say. I get cross with myself for worrying that other people won’t think being a SAHM is enough. Always feel I need to add more. And it’s lack of confidence too, common I know; not helped by being an army wife. I’m more likely to be asked what my husband does than what I do. Horrified me at the start, but used to it now! Great post.

    • sarah says:

      Thanks A Patchwork Life. Yes, agree, it is largely a confidence thing. I can identify with the wanting to add more, which is where I trip up (lack of consistency….)

  5. This is so true, I remember the first time I was called “L’s mummy” about 5 years ago and it hit home that there were a lot of little people (and big people) who would only know me as “somebody’s mummy”. A second child later it bothers me less, but I do have moments where I want to shout my “real” name out!

    I also love that you have Mother on your business card. Brilliant!

  6. sarah says:

    Thanks Franglaise Mummy. It was sort of sweet in a way to start with, but actually worried me more as time went on….I did feel people should start reacting to me as me. It’s a big part of who I am, which is why I put it on the card.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>