Like everyone else, I began my life with my given name. In my 20s I promised myself I would never get married, but just in case, I made a decision about my name. I decided that I would only change my last name if it were “easier” than the one I was born with, which I defined by the speed and accuracy with which other people could guess the spelling without me having to tell them. This was tricky, since my maiden name is Hopper. Yes, I heard them all… “grasshopper, bunny hopper, are you related to Dennis?” That aside, I found it quite annoying that people couldn’t grasp the simple concept that Hooper has two Os and Hopper has two Ps. To that end, I knew I would be excited by a name that I could simply say and everyone could spell. Please, oh please, could the man of my dreams be Mr. Smith?
Fast forward to my 30s when I met the man of my dreams, Mr. French. When we married, the name factor was a little bit of a borderline decision; French is a more innocuous last name but I had my doubts about the general public’s ability to spell it without me having to say, “you know, like French Fries??” Not to mention this was during the time of the whole French = Freedom movement (opposition by France to our Iraq invasion in 2003). In the end, I changed my name. In fact, what ended up being the decision-making hurdle was knowing I would have the same name as my mother-inlaw. Did I also want to be called Mrs. French?
Fast forward again to my 40s (it hurts to write that) and I am a mom of two beautiful boys, ages 4 and 6. Turns out that worrying about being called the same thing as my mother-in-law pales in comparison to being “Mommy” in the company of millions of other women. I used to think it was funny how parents bristle when their children call them by their first name — anyone who has kids remembers the first time it happened! But at the same time, why do we correct them? Am I not an individual with a fairly unique name? Why shouldn’t they call me that? In fact, my brother-in-law, who is an only child, has called his father by his first name for as long as he can remember. For years I thought that was the most bizarre thing, though I am not sure why other than because no one else does it.
As a result, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about why anyone likes to be called Mommy. Is it some kind of trophy you get after going through the rigors of childbirth or adoption? Suddenly we want the same name as our own mothers, while our mothers get to become something cute like Mima or Nana?! And, heaven forbid, you also get into the trap of your spouse calling you Mommy (I don’t even know where to start on that one)… So, while I don’t really understand the importance of being called Mommy, I am sure that there is safety in numbers. At the playground, at school, or pretty much wherever, the number of kids that are whining, screaming, or making wild demands for Mommy is pretty deafening. However, I also blend in so no one really knows if it is MY child making that scene. Perhaps I could sneak away and some other Mommy could get this one for me… Every Mommy can pick out their baby’s cries in a sea of children. I have also discovered that I can recognize my own children’s utterance of Mommy above all other noises. And sometimes, if I listen closely on the playground, I might also hear something sweet like “Mommy! Watch me swing so high!” Most days, I don’t have to listen very hard. My 4 year-old is notorious for shouting across the house, “Mommy! Mommy!!! Mooommmmy!!!!” I bristle up, expecting to hear something of the likes of, “Wipe my bottom!” or “Brush my teeth!” So I shout back, “WHAT?!?!?” He replies, “I love you!”
I like my name
Erika is a recovering workaholic turned at-home mom of two boys ages 4 and 6. She is married to a recovering chemical engineer turned firefighter. Erika is slowly discovering what she likes to do now that she has time to do it.