"My 4-year-old doesn't call me mum."

… Or Jess.



My four-year-old son refuses to call me Mama, or Mummy or Mum.

My son calls me ‘Jess.’

As an aside, my younger son doesn’t call me anything. He went through the developmentally appropriate stage of Dada and then Mama (oh joy!) And now nothing…

I can only think, even at his tender age, he realises that this is a sensitive issue and out of loyalty to both his Mama and his big brother, he’s staying neutral. Yes, it does seem a bit bizarre when you say it out loud but it all seems to work just fine.

So anyway, we were in the supermarket. That intimidating arena; where all parenting skills are on show, when you are generally at your, very harassed worst.

The little guy calls out, “Hey Jess, can we get ice cream”

I honestly didn’t even register it, as this is what he calls me. I just went into the usual speech about, we have some at home blah..blah and then I heard:

“Did you hear that?  That little boy called her Jess.”

“But he looks just like her, she must be his mum.”

“That’s terrible.”

The supermarket. Where all judge-y parenting stories start.

Yes, shocking isn’t it,  ‘random lady in the supermarket.’ I think so too and I am his MOTHER! Don’t know why she was so outraged.


Well I do know, and it does jar in everyday conversation. People will say: “What did he just call you?”

‘Random lady in the supermarket’ you are not alone, my own mother is not too happy either.

I do get it. I am his Mama and he should acknowledge it and to not acknowledge it, well let’s face it, it’s a bit of a denial isn’t it. He doesn’t call his Dad by his name.

Now I should point out that my son adores me, almost as much as I adore him. There isn’t a moment of the day that I ever doubt that and so, secure in my own sense of self (even if it is a little hurt), I have tried to get to the bottom of it.

At first I thought it was a phase, he’d get over it. He thought it was something a little bit funny and bit cheeky etc. But no, it has gone on far too long for that and so the discussion goes a little bit like this:

Jess (AKA ‘Mama’) Schmidt.

Me: But there are only two people in the whole world that get to call me Mama and you are one of them. It’s really special. Why don’t you want to use it? Anyone else in the world can call me Jess.

Him: But your name is Jess, so I call you Jess.

Me: Yes but I am also YOUR Mama.

Him: Yes, but I like Jess. I know who you are.

Frustrated, I retreat. His argument seems to imply that he knows what our relationship is; he doesn’t need to name it.


What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
      By any other name would smell as sweet;

Maybe Shakespeare had a point, he usually did.

But damn it, he’s four – is it really too much to ask? Trust me, and I am not particularly proud of it, but there have been times that I have refused to answer to Jess. But as he pointed out, it’s my name! And it’s not really the adult thing to do is it.

But maybe, we have reached some sort of understanding. After a particularly exhausting bout of  “I’m your mama” Vs. “but it’s your name” I know I am repeating myself, stay with me, the little guy turns to me and says “I know you are My Mama but you also are My Jess.”

With tears in my eyes, I reached for my clever, beautiful, maddeningly stubborn little boy and hugged him, for all my heart was worth.

He pulled away and looked into my eyes, his little face darkened with concern and said “Why are you crying Mama?”

And I cried a little bit more and decided to go and smell some roses.

Jess is a mum to two boys, a soon to be marathon runner and a writer. She moved with her family to Hobart three years ago in search of crunchy autumn leaves, snow capped mountains and some sunny skies.

Do your kids call you by your first name? When did you start stop calling your parents ‘mum’ and ‘dad’? What do you call them now that you’re an adult?