Taming the naming of parenthood

Thank you for all your comments on my last post regarding what children could/should/may call their parents. I promised a follow-up post with more discussion on my issues and our ideas for a possible solution, so here it is.

In summary the issue is two-fold:

  1. May wants to be called ‘mummy’
  2. I’m not so keen on being called ‘daddy’ (or the common variants)

The second point probably warrants some further exploration. There are three basic reasons why:

  1. As mentioned previously, it feels strange to me as my up-bringing was first names all round.
  2. Dad is a role not a name. I don’t think I’d objects to a being referred to by a third-party – teacher, friend of child, etc. – as ‘your dad’, as this is indeed what I would be to my kid. But it doesn’t follow that I would then want my offspring to use it to address me directly. I’m certainly not going to call them ‘child’ in the course of everyday conversation. Similarly I’m not called by my job title at work – I have a name, an identity.
  3. I think there are unfortunate connotations associated with certain variants on ‘dad’; ‘sugar daddy’, ‘father’ (used by priesthood, who have tragically then gone on to do very unfatherly things), ‘who’s your daddy’, ‘daddy’ as slang for pimp, etc. Ever since I found out what sugar daddies were I have gone off the idea of ever being a ‘daddy’ – while I don’t have a moral objection if both adults involved are happy with the arrangement it’s not an arrangement I want to have in a relationship with my child.

Others may be completely happy separating these concepts and issues out, but it’s not the way I roll.

From the comments, variations on mum and dad are the most common, but some interesting ideas. Firstly, ‘mummy’ and ‘[H]’ ( the [ ]’s denoting replacement with real name) – this seems a fairly obvious compromise, but it’s not very neat and certainly leaves potentially embarrassing erroneous confusion about ‘step-daddying’. Secondly, ‘mummy [May]’ and ‘daddy [H]’ – this makes things more personal and retains the identity ameliorates the ‘role’, but I’m not too enthusiastic as it leaves the connotations and would probably be more complex for the child.

After doing a bit more research, it seems that this is becoming an increasing problem with the changing nature of families away from traditional nuclear to remarried (where there are kids from both sides of previous marriages and new couple wanting a single united name for parents – probably more of an issue if kids are younger) and same sex parenting. The general solution seems to be to find other names that are associated with mum and dad, for example those words in other languages. May is open to this idea, but it does leave open the question of which variant to go with:

  • Mum & Dad (for reference)
  • Nonny & Poppy (compromise seemingly used a lot in the USA – not too keen personally, before you panic May :))
  • Amil & Ata (Elvish)
  • Imma & Abba (Hebrew)
  • Ammi & Abu (Urdu)
  • Mor & Far (Swedish)

This a just a select list of the ones I quite liked (except the first one) – Klingon was a little too tricky, I think – your ideas and suggestions would be welcome.

So no decision, yet – but then we haven’t decided any child names either yet 🙂


31 responses to “Taming the naming of parenthood

  • May

    What do you mean ‘Klingon was a little too tricky?’. Wimp.

  • Betty M

    Hmm. I think that unless you actually are for instance Swedish then calling yourself Far would come across as rather odd or even a tad pretentious and I would say go for H. I also expect there will be a bunch of difficulties along the lines you set out in your no 3 for any version of father you might choose including Klingon.

    On names generally there is a weird name zeitgeist. A prime current example is Florence. I know one Florence who is nearly 7 but there have been no other Florences since in either school or nursery or anywhere else until this summer when all of sudden I have come across 3 Florences under 2 months old not including David Cameron’s. I expect it is the fault of Florence and her bloody machine even though I expect none of the families have actually named their kids after her. You have to go extremely hors piste to get a “unique” name. Personally I say to hell with popularity and go for what you like.

    • May

      Well, yes. Swedish? Urdu? Why? But we have actual reasons for going with both Hebrew and Elvish, even if they are geeky and ridiculous reasons in the case of Elvish and I only originally said ‘Elvish’ to wind H up (and then spoiled it by getting my knickers in a knot over H’s spelling Ata wrong. Gah. I’m such a geek I’m practically a nerd).

      • Betty M

        I’m all for actual reasons although dubious about any such which include Elvish, Klingon, Borg etc. We could have gone for Maman and Baba (persian) or if you went back enough French and/or Hebrew but in the end stuck with regular English.

  • Paula

    I’ve followed your blog silently for quite a while, but I’m not sure I’ve commented before. I just wanted to say that though Nonny and Poppy are commonly used in the US (where I am), they’re normally used for grandparents. Not that that limits their use to grandparents; I just thought I’d toss it in.

    I hope so much that you have to agree on a decision about this soon. 🙂


  • everydaystrange

    Ah, but maybe you’re comparing apples and oranges. You wouldn’t be called “Senior Groovy Engineer III” (or similar job title) by your child because it’s not relevant. Likewise, H is your name but not a role. Two out of two for the bleeding obvious here but there’s one difference – we’re not defined by our roles. We’re defined by whom we are to the people we love. I’ve never been “mummy” in my mind, but here I am, being “mummy”. Contextually, when it becomes real you will change and re-view and revise. I wanted to me “mommy”. I melted at “mummy”. It feels like an honor, being a mummy (love you May and hope that didn’t hurt). Maybe it will feel different being “Daddy”. After all, you are both H and a role (husband) to May, although maybe she refers to you as a pet name as opposed to husband.

    What about “Papa”? Traditionaly yet different.

    • H

      I agree “Senior Groovy Engineer III” would be a mouthful for any child (considering it for a deed poll change though ;)), but my point was colleagues at work don’t address me as that, as I have a name, so why couldn’t I have a name at home?

      Your contextual points are good and certainly re-view and revise is inevitable.

  • TwoLittleDucks

    I love mama and papa. I think it just sounds so cute! 🙂

  • Womb For Improvement

    Surely Mater and Pater, or Sir & Ma’m.

    My friend (who lurks here on occassion) called her Dad, Doodles. It was a name that just evolved and I reckon that is what’ll happen once your progeny is born – you’ll happen on a name together.

  • a

    There are so many variations that you could probably choose anything Dad, Da, Dada, Pa, Pop, Pops, Father, etc. From the perspective of a Daddy’s girl, I can tell you that when my husband breaks out the “who’s your daddy?” nonsense, I give him my father’s name. Yes, I am a party-pooper. Oh well.

    As Shannon said, you may feel differently once you’re looking at your little one and trying to teach him or her what to call you.

  • Heather

    I love love love the Hebrew. I knew Abba but I didn’t know what Mother was in Hebrew. Love it.

    Or you can put on a Southern accent and go with Ma and Pa. I call my Dad “Pops”. No idea why. Started when I was a teen and thought I was too cool I guess for Dad anymore.

    My guess is that when you hear DADADADA for the first time – your heart will melt regardless of what you want to be called later on…

    • H

      I’m certainly hoping for heart melts and I’ll take what I can get initially – I’m guessing however, that names come in at toddler time.

  • Bionic Baby Mama

    Baba comes to mind as a possibility, too. That’s what Lesbian Dad uses, and she’s pretty damn awesome. (http://www.lesbiandad.net/)

    We’re thinking “Mama & Mommy” over here, but the kids do have a way of deciding for themselves, from what I hear.

  • mrs spock

    A friend from nursing school’s son called her and her husband by their first names. Until he got a little cantankerous, and started calling them Mom and Dad. And then he went back to first names, and was pretty cool with it.

    • H

      Interesting; don’t get me wrong I’m not overly fretting about it at the moment, but thought it was something interesting to write about. Certainly generating interesting comments 🙂

  • QoB

    There was an article on Offbeat Mama about this recently, too…

    The Irish for ‘mummy and daddy’ is mamó and daideo if you’re interested:)

    But I think it may also evolve depending on what your child prefers, too. They may have a few names for you:) My own perspective is that there’s only going to be a few people who could call me “mum/mam/mama” etc. – everyone else is welcome to my own name but it’s nice that they have a special one, you know?

  • Jenny F. Scientist

    Also from the US- also have only heard Nonna and Poppa (or variants- Nanna is what we called my grandma, may she rest in peace) for grandparents.

    My 18-month-old son currently calls me Bamba despite my best efforts at Mama. And I know lots of people who call their parents Ima and Abba (I’m Jewish, so, y’know, naturally) so that doesn’t seem weird to me at all.

  • Jenny F. Scientist

    By which I mean, have heard Nonna and Poppa ONLY for grandparents.

  • everydaystrange

    Alternatively, what about creating your own name based on how the little’un pronounces things? If your name is Herberthian (work with me here), present yourself as such and see what name comes up. That’s how the twins’ grandma got her name – there were implications with the hundreds of step-parents in this family but neither twin could say the word “grandma”. They could only pronounce “Gaka”, which is what she is to this day, even though they can now say grandma. So you could try out the name Herberthian and see what comes out. It may feel more special – my stepmother absolutely adores her name from them.

    Alternatively, I still like Papa.

    Make it “Papa Smurf” and you’ll be our hero over here.

  • Mary

    I’ve not read all the comments but I like Papa very much and think it’s a lovely alternative. Then when the child is older it can change slightly to Pop. FWIW we call our son kiddo an awful lot!

  • Solnushka

    Ha! What’s interesting about all those names is that the papa name is easier than the mama name to say – this is a pet theory of mine, so it’s nice to see H is doing my research for me. (‘m’ is a right difficult sound and most of the mama names seem to have taht, while the papa names have the ‘t’,’d’ or ‘b’ sounds, which are more at the front of the mouth and require less busy lips). So whatever you come up with should either follow that, or, so May can be the only woman in the world who gets her name said first, not. Try something with ‘g’ in it (‘Aga’?) .

    My son, incident’y, has decided that his Grandad’s name is ‘Paul’, which it is. He knows how to say ‘Paul’ already (well, ‘poor’), and he really can’t be doing with the ‘gr’ sound, so Granny (and Grandad) are just not happening. He is also adament that ‘babushka’ is ‘abuka’, and so basically I add my weight behind the they’ll do what they want theory, but repeat, pick manes that are easy to say if you want them to stick from the beginning.

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