Parenting

Why I am the "Other Mother"

In a household with lesbian mothers, Susan Goldberg shares how her two kids designate each parent.

Susan and her family.

“Mom?”
 
“Yup?”
 
“No, I’m talking to Rachel.”
 
Variations on that exchange happens a good half-dozen times in our house each day, the byproduct of a household in which there are two mothers who never got it together enough to designate which one of us would be Mama and the other one Mommy. I mean, Rachel and I talked about it, but only halfheartedly: neither of us had a particular affinity to either title — and, frankly, we had reservations about ever being able to keep the two names straight (no pun intended).
 
So now, we both answer to Mama (and, increasingly, as the kids get older and cooler, Mom) and — when our children need to differentiate between us — our first names.
 
I’m so used to it that I barely notice when one of my sons refers to me as “Susan” — as in, when eight-year-old Rowan, say, yells across the soccer field, “Susan! Did you see my epic goal?” or five-year-old Isaac wakes in the middle of the night and calls out, “Susan? Can you come cuddle me?” — but it still occasionally results in some raised eyebrows from bystanders.
 
What they don’t know is that, for me at least, being called by my first name is a vast improvement over what I used to be called. When Rowan was about two, he picked his own names for me and Rachel. After being told for most of his toddler existence that, “This mommy is going to give you a bath and your other mommy is going to put you to bed” or “This mommy is cooking dinner right now, so your other mommy can read you a book,” he started calling us — you guessed it — This Mommy and Other Mommy. Which was both hilarious and cringe-inducing.
 
Especially since I ended up being Other Mommy.
 
(I told the story once to the father of infant twins, who doubled over in hysterics and then began referring to his children as This Baby and Other Baby. I wonder if it stuck?)
 
Eventually, Rowan shortened Other Mommy to “Uhmum”, which sounded quite sweet. And eventually (and thankfully), he dropped those monikers in favour of the universal Mama/Mom and the specific Susan/Rachel. Of course, his brother eventually followed suit. And that’s how we roll.
 
To me, it all smacks of resourcefulness and creativity and utility: I like it that Rowan and Isaac know who we are and what we do, both as individuals and in relation to our family as a whole. I like it that our kids seem to realize that we’re both Mamas and real people with our own names. I like that they refer to us as both, switch between the two seamlessly, and correct us — multiple times a day — when we get it wrong. And, frankly, I’ll pick my kid calling me by my first name over “Other Mom” any day of the week.