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The One Thing I Want You to Stop Calling Me

When a stranger refers to me as "Mommy" in public, I usually smile and brush it off, but I'm also internally screaming.

It's true; I'm a mother. My daughter has called me "Mama" from the moment she started using language. When she says it, it's an intimate, sweet word. She can call me "Mama" all day. It certainly feels like she does.

But it's just different when a salesperson, barista or stranger calls you "Mommy," when you're out in world like any other adult.

"And what will Mommy have?"

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"Mommy" will have you not speak to her in such a creepily infantilizing way, person I don't even know. Do people use "Daddy" when speaking to men with kids? I don't think so. So then what is it about our collective consciousness that makes it more acceptable to refer to women in this way?

Part of the answer may be that it's just too hard for moms to shed the mom identity. It's like we're walking around with a scarlet 'M' emblazoned on us.

I get it—you see me walk into a coffee shop with a stroller, a diaper bag and an adorable baby, and there's no fighting my charms. Everything in my radius gets sucked into a veritable black hole of motherhood. Does seeing me make you think of your mom? Is that why you call me "Mommy"? Where's Freud when you need him?

Maybe you just think you're being cute without realizing it's creeping me out.

It's not just strangers who do this. Your friends and family might do it, too. I think it's OK under certain circumstances. I don't mind when my husband calls me "Mama" when he's talking to our daughter. When he says, "Let's go find Mama." That's just us being a family.

I wish strangers realized that while some people become mothers, they're still people.

I care about politics, ethical quandaries, and humanity's collective striving and seeking. I earn money and pay taxes. Yes, I also wipe a toddler's butt from time to time. I'm a mom.

I love being a mom. I love relating to other moms. I think and write about motherhood almost every day. But even someone so thoroughly into mom life has her own identity, one apart from motherhood.

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If you feel like calling someone "Mama," call your own mama. Or call your grandmother or a motherly mentor you might have. If you see someone who appears to be a mom, avoid weirdness and opt for politeness. If necessary, don't call her anything at all.

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