As a new mother, one of the most difficult struggles I have encountered is trying to maintain my original identity while taking on my brand new role as a full-time caregiver to another human being. It’s such a hard transition, giving up selfish habits, freedoms and concerns that suddenly seem insignificant. It’s hard to hear your phone ring and know you have to ignore it because the baby is crying/eating/sleeping, etc., or cancel plans at the last minute because of an overnight ear infection or just sheer exhaustion. In the beginning, it is super easy to be resentful of this new life when you’re chained to the house and the rest of your friends, or heck, even your husband, can come and go as they please.
But what if I had to give up my name, too? Apparently in other cultures, once you become a mother, you are known to all as Mother.
One of my mom friends on babycenter.com is a convert to Islam. On the web site, we typically refer to each other by our screen name, but since some of us have been communicating since we got pregnant, alot of us are on a first-name basis. I’ve recently been commiserating with a small group of moms about our baby’s sleep issues, and as time has gone by, there are three of us that write daily. I know what these ladies do for a living, what the children’s names are, where they live (generally speaking) and how much they sleep, most importantly. I refer to one of the moms by her name, but the other had never offered hers up. I understand the desire for privacy on the internet, especially when discussing such identifying details, so I had never thought twice about the lady only going by her screen name. I won’t reveal her name out of respect, but her handle is made of her son’s name preceded by the letters Um. I assumed the name meant “mother of —“, but never gave it much more thought than that.
However, today, as I was writing to her, I was thinking about how strange it was that I know so much about this person yet don’t know her name, so I mentioned it. She explained to me that her screen name essentially is her name now, because in Islamic culture, when you have a child, your name becomes “Mother of —“, and that is what everyone calls you. The father’s name changes, too, so it’s not just the women, but I found myself really mulling this over today. Would I have done that for my son?
I’m already Mommy to him, but would I want the whole world to refer to me as that, too? I mean, I am a mom, 100%. Practically everything I do all day long pertains to mothering my child in some way, shape or form. But that’s not all I am in the world. I’m a daughter to my own mother. I’m a wife to my husband. I’m a friend to a lot of people. I’m a woman, a Tennessean, an American, a liberal. My role as a mother doesn’t really pertain to all those facets, so would I be willing to change how everyone refers to me, and therefore sees me, just because I had a child? Or is changing your name redundant, an afterthought? Once you have a child, are you forever seen by everyone as “Mother of —“?
Once Declan starts school, I’ll be “Declan’s mom” to the teachers, other parents and his friends. They won’t think of me as Christi, at least not at first. But not everyone I meet or encounter will be in relation to him. I may work again, god willing, and I have friends that I knew way before I had a baby. Am I Mommy to them, too?
And is there really anything wrong with that? I have no greater joy on earth than being Declan’s mom. Why not wear it on my sleeve? I’m a mommy! I created a human life, brought it into this world, (attempted to) nourish it and am responsible for its survival! I should be screaming that from the rooftops, right? Maybe Mommy should be a title of respect, like King or President. Lord knows I worked harder to have Declan than Queen Elizabeth did to sit on the throne. She only had to be born. I had to puke, gain weight, ache, push, tear, bleed and sweat to earn my title.
Queen Mom. That’s what I’ll call myself and everyone else with a child. God knows we earned it.