June 22, 2021
Series: Welcoming All Families - "Mommy" & "Daddy" Is Not the Preferred Term for Some Parents
By: Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), CLE | 0 Comments
Today's post is another occasional post in the Welcoming All Families Series, which helps childbirth educators and other perinatal professionals create a safe and appropriate space for all people who are growing their families. You can find all the posts in the series here.
In the United States and around the globe, June is PRIDE Month, a time to recognize, center and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and their families. (Not sure what all those initials stand for, check out this handy reference guide.) The New York Times ran an article earlier this month that was applicable to childbirth educators, perinatal professionals and health care providers who work with birthing and postpartum people during the childbearing year.
Some L.G.B.T.Q. Parents Reject the Names ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’” addresses the importance of families having their parenting roles and corresponding names for those roles recognized and respected. Families in 2021 are diverse and not everyone identifies as a mother or father.
I know most educators have already moved beyond “husband” and “wife,” to acknowledge that many pregnant families are not married, by using the term partner or support person when referring to the non-gestational parent. More than 40% of babies are born to unmarried parents in the USA. (Hamilton, et al., 2021.)
But assuming that a male-identified person who is the parent of a child wants to be called “father” and the female-identified person (or the person who gave birth) should be called “mother”can be a big leap in 2021. The NYT article includes interviews with several new parents who have chosen to use other words to identify their parenting role, and what they want their children and others to use when referring to them. One parent stated that they found it “chaffing” when referred to with traditional terms.
Researchers found that 20 percent of the lesbian couples and 5 percent of the gay couples — participated in some version of “undoing gender.” Many do this by taking parental names from their native cultures or religions that strip away the binary in this cultural context, collapsing the dichotomy between terms by merging them, such as “Mather,” a fusion of mother and father, or creating nicknames (“Muzzie,” in one instance). (Frank, E. L., et al., 2019.)
Ellen Kahn, the director of the Children, Youth & Families Program at the Human Rights Campaign, said the gender binary that underlies “mother” and “father” doesn’t jibe with some parents’ self-understanding and self-presentation: “For queer parents who don’t think of themselves as gender conforming, ‘mommy’ and ‘daddy’ may be a little discordant with the way they think about themselves.”
Many parents also expressed a willingness to have the terms that they and their children use to identify them as a parent be flexible and they are open to change or modification as their children grow.
People who work with growing families, including childbirth educators, should be aware of this and refrain from using the terms “mother,” “father,” “mommy,” or “daddy” when referring to a parent or group of parents. “Let’s have the mommies in this group and the daddies over there” has no place in an evidence based, inclusive childbirth class. Health care providers should use the actual name of the parent when working with them in a medical setting, rather than ask the “daddy” to support “mommy” while pushing, or inviting “daddy” to cut the cord.
Diversity and differences are what makes our world so rich and interesting. Recognizing that one size does not fit all is a simple thing to do to help people whose nascent identities as parents are just emerging. Acknowledging that some people prefer to be called something other than father or mother can be handled by using a more general term until you learn what each families’ preferences are.
Happy PRIDE and thank you for creating a welcoming space for all families in your classes.
Frank, E. L., Manley, M. H., & Goldberg, A. E. (2019). Parental Naming Practices in Same‐Sex Adoptive Families. Family Relations, 68(5), 580-595.
Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, Driscoll AK. Births: Final Data for 2019. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 70 no 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2021. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:100472.
TagsPregnancy Parenting Childbirth education Series: Welcoming All Families Welcoming All Families Sharon Muza Labor & Birth Pride Month