This morning Deborah The Closet Monster (great blogger, check her out) referred me to an article she wrote as a guest on Dr. Greene entitled “Mommy vs. Mother”.

It, along with other posts I have seen over the past few months, got me thinking about how we react to the words mother vs. mom vs. mommy and what influences those very visceral feelings.

Growing up, my mother did not hug or kiss or say she loved me very often. When she ever DID say anything it was more, “I do love you…” as if she were trying to convince herself of this fact. She was not abusive per se, but because of her I have to make a concerted effort every day to physically love on my kids. I have to remember to tell them how much I love them. The words don’t come easy even though I feel the love.

The physician role is easy. I am in control because I have distance. As a parent, however, those kids have my heart wrapped up into such a knot that it hurts (in a good way) every time I look at them. I desperately want them to not feel as uncomfortable as I do about getting close to someone emotionally. So I work very hard to be a good role model for them.

As such, I don’t feel close to my mother. We have a complicated relationship and so to maintain a certain emotional distance, I only refer to her as “Mother.” I never call her mom, mamma, mommy…. only mother.

When I use the word “mommy” for someone, it is a complement of the highest degree. Anyone can be born into motherhood, but it takes a special someone to be a mommy, someone who can do more than just rear…. they nurture.

In posts that I have read, some women are offended by being called mommy. Some are offended when called mother. This is similar to the Ms. vs Mrs. debates. Each and every person has very valid reasons for feeling whichever way.

But you know what? No one can read minds. Herein lies the problem. It is inevitable that I and others will offend someone at some point.

Today, as I pondered this post, it made me think about my own mother quite a bit. I decided that I probably don’t give her enough credit. She struggled with the same emotional distance from her mother. In fact, she had a fairly miserable childhood so the fact that she was able to show love of any sort is somewhat of a miracle.

I love you, Mom.

My kids are starting to grow out of using the term “mommy” now and it makes me terribly sad. I think I will be fine eventually, though, so long as they just don’t start calling me “mother”!


42 thoughts on “Mommyhood

  1. I grew up without a mother, mama, mom, or mommy so I’d be delighted if I had opportunity to say either. My kids call me mama…I guess I started that since I taught them how to talk. My granddaughter calls me grandmother because I taught her to say that. I had utmost respect for my grandmother but my grandma was neurotic I just didn’t didn’t want to be associated with that. I guess if my grandkids started calling me granny I’d be good with that, too. I’m just happy I can be a part of their lives.


  2. Just wait until they need something….when my daughter wants to sway me she will call me momma, and she is 17. She doesn’t ask for much so that usually works! 🙂 My mom wasn’t a huggy, lovey person either, but I knew that she was my rock. I rubbed the skin right off of my kids when they were little and they still hug and kiss me goodbye before they walk out of the house. I have heard that you over compensate with what you felt was missing from your childhood. True,false…I can’t say. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As always, I love your post. I feel like I relate to so much of what you say. I grew up with a “mother” too. My mom, er mother, rarely hugged us, rarely told us she loved us, and when she did either of those it was very forced. So I have a hard time being huggy/lovey to lots of people. But for some reason I’m completely opposite when it comes to my kids. I think my expression of love towards them comes from a void in my own life that I don’t want to be a void in their lives.

    On a related note, my sister in law is drop-dead gorgeous. Her mom has never told her she’s pretty, and my SIL has told me that if she ever has a daughter she’ll tell her that often. So I also tell both my daughter and son that they’re beautiful and beautiful souls all the time.

    You seem like an amazing mother and mommy and mama (and woman and doctor, etc. etc. etc.). 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One more thought I didn’t include above…. I’ve recently been trying to mother (mommy?) myself in many areas that I never had a mother. It’s been a LONG road to find healing from the void I experienced from my mom’s inability to express love (phrased like that because I can’t believe that she didn’t love me now that I’m a mother and I have such an unconditional love for my kids), and one of the ways I’ve found healing is by nurturing myself.

    Liked by 2 people

      • One of the things I’ve done is determined what ways I really feel like I didn’t have a mom, and I’ve looked for people in my life that do offer those things to me, whether it’s someone who I know is a complete confidante, someone who I can be honest with, someone who I can share my fears and dreams with, etc. And I’m pretty close to my mother-in-law (weird, right?). Not that I see any of these women as substitutes for my mom, but I have been able shift the focus away from what she hasn’t been to me and focus on what I do have. I’ve also really deepened my walk with God.

        Perhaps the key to me transforming my thoughts regarding my mom was reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I also worked through Healing Your Family Tree by Beverly Hubble Tauke and it was such an eye-opener to so much in my childhood. This book also gave me the courage to reach out and see a counselor for the first time, which was pivotal in changing the way I let my lack of having a mom affect my life now and my life as a mom to my own children.


  5. My children called me Mommy until they heard older kids using ‘mom’. I’ve always called my mom ‘mom’. My father called his mom “mother” because it’s what she wanted. And my daughter’s very young son calls her “mama”. I love “mama”. I agree with you that we assign different meanings to the variations of “mom” words. But I suspect where some of us may see “mother” as stiff and not warm and fuzzy….others may use the term “mother” and have extremely warm and fuzzy emotions.

    I so appreciate this post and your later use of the word ‘mom” in place of “mother”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! It’s funny how we get hung up on things like this.

    I have to admit I don’t like being called Mom by the nurses at the pediatricians office. Years ago one nurse was calling me mom like I was her Mother. I remember saying (and I’m not proud of it) “I have 2 children and you are NOT one of them.” The kids were little and at that stage where they are sick more often than they are healthy. She probably avoids calling women Mom to this day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I will confess that I do it sometimes at the office myself. In the heat of the moment when I am trying to say look in the ear of a squirming toddler, I will say “Mom, I need for you to hold her like so and so…” It really is a term of respect, a deference to their role. I could manhandle the kiddo into submission screaming and crying but as mom if you help, usually we can accomplish it without fussing. Mom is a source of comfort. At the end of office visits I will sometimes say, “You are doing such a great job, mommy!” That is so much more personal than saying, “You are doing a good job rearing little Johnny, Mrs. Such And Such.” After reading some posts I toyed with stopping that but figured people come to see me at this point because of reputation and if I am not intending to be disrespectful and say it with love, then hopefully it will be OK. If not, I have an apology at the ready! 🙂


      • I also think that your tone is telling your patients that you are saying it with respect. You can tell when someone is saying it because they are being lazy or saying it without respect. Just be you 🙂


  7. Truly bad parents don’t know that they are bad, simply because they don’t care enough to know, or even own it. With such a beautiful articulate heartfelt post, I would say that even your fear of failing proves all the more how much of a great mommy you really are. Your kids are lucky to have a mom who has a big enough heart to break the chain of indifference.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Very thoughtful post. I imagine a lot has to do with WHO is saying the word and in what context. Also guessing the terminology rankles some women who feel they are being reduced to this one aspect of themselves and no longer merit a name.

    I relate to what say about your mother. I had lively, demonstrative older sisters though, and I know that made a big difference.

    Only worry if your kids start addressing you as Mrs. [insert your last name]!


  9. A single word can say so much. Thanks for this thought provoking post. I’m relieved that my son calls me “mom” even though I refer to my mother as “my mother”.
    That’s open to interpretation 😉


  10. I don’t care which, both are better than when my son calls me “Barbara”. I say, “knock it off! People will think I’m the nanny!” Which is probably not true because nannies are showered and not usually checking Facebook.


  11. Interesting thought. We always called our mother Mommy. I never really gave it any thought, however you bring up a point of view that makes me think back and how some of my friends called their mother “Mother.” I always thought it was because they were rich. As it turns out, after reading your post I was the lucky one. :o)
    I am not a doctor in any sense of the word, but I do have a sixth sense for reading between the lines. It is good that you realize your mother’s up bringing could have something to do with her behavior. Now in your role as an adult and a loving mother I hope you find the room in your heart to give her another chance. Don’t think she doesn’t realize how you feel, because she does. Let it go, show her how to be a huggy, kissie, funny, loving mom.


  12. This is unusual I know, but this is also my first visit to your blog. It will take me a few days to read your already posted offerings but I will come back. I am looking forward to reading all that interest me, and this blog does interest me. Kudos to a great Mommy. :o)


    • Thank you so much for stopping by and for reading and commenting! Your blog was suggested by WordPress I always visit and peruse before hitting the follow button. I was drawn to your posts. It is a real honor that you have followed mine. I never expect it! And I am trying to give my mother a second forty-second chance. It is hard. She is not really a happy woman and I think physical and emotional closeness is painful to her. Still. I love her. She is my mother! 🙂


  13. Pingback: Debbie, happily | The Monster in Your Closet

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