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Author: toni

~ 10/26/09


I don’t remember exactly when it happened, when I crossed that threshold, but at some point in my life, strangers started calling me “ma’am”.  The bag boy at the checkout stand in the grocery store. The shoe salesman in Macy’s. The kid who bumped me in line at Disneyland.

When kids said it to me it wasn’t such a big deal. To them, anyone over 5 feet tall is a ma’am. But the adults?! And it seemed to happen overnight. I went from being carded to being called ma’am!

And I wasn’t sure in what way I had instigated it. Was it my demeanor? The little crow’s feet that had begun to tread lightly at the corners of my eyes? The fact that I was actually old enough to be the bag boy’s mom slightly older sister?

Whatever it was, it was a jagged little pill to swallow. And I’m not lying when I say I went through every one of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief in dealing with it: Denial (surely he’s talking to the silver-haired lady in line behind me). Anger (call me that again jerkweed and I’ll stick this size 8 mule down your gullet). Bargaining (I’ll workout, I’ll eat better, I’ll shop at Forever 21…just don’t call me ma’am). Depression (this sucks) and finally…yes, Acceptance (Oh, what the hell).  

Okay. So some people call me ma’am. So what? There are worse things, right? Like maybe….being called “MOM”.

Don’t get me wrong. I proud of my mommy status. And I love hearing my daughter call me “mom”. Well, except when it’s preceeded by a “no” or followed by a “whine”. But generally, I love being a mom and being called such.

But now my kid’s pedatrician calls me MOM! And it’s not just her. It’s every pediatrician in her office. And apparently – based on the letter of complaint from a mom I read today in one of those help columns in the paper – every pediatrician around the country has added this to their pediatric nomenclature.

Not Mrs. so and so. Or Toni. But Mom. “Mom, can you hold your daughter while I administer the shot?” “Mom, how long has it been since her tetanus booster?” “Mom, do you find that she’s pooping regularly?”

I don’t know when this trend started. Probably at the same time it became okay for five year-olds to call me by my first name. But I’m NOT a fan.

And I know other moms who are even more offended than I am. I have one friend who is particularly incensed by it. “How tough is it to look at the chart and say my name?!” she fumes.

I see her point. It just seems like another in a long line of dehumanizing practices that have become increasingly common in our society. Like having to pump your own gas, or keeping up with friends via online social networks rather than getting together. (By the Way. Shout out to my Facebook friend Jacque. Babe, get a picture up already).

Now I read somewhere that pediatricians supposedly use the term “mom” for the kids’ benefit. To make kids feel more “comfortable” during the doctor visit. Eh. Maybe that’s true. But really, doc, my kid isn’t upset hearing people call me by my real name. In fact, she’s quite used to it. And no amount of familiarity is gonna make her less likely to climb under that chair when it’s time for her flu shot.

Another excuse reason for this mommy calling is supposedly because pediatricians can’t assume that a mother’s last name is the same as her kid’s, what with divorces and remarriages, cultural practices and hyphenating (I am still regretting that one). This I can buy a little more. Of course, the doc could just ASK. But then that would eat into the 8 minutes they’ve allotted to see your child before they move on to the next child, collect another co-pay and ring up the office visit fee they’ve negotiated with an insurance giant. And we don’t want that.

Look, the easy thing would be just to complain about it. If you don’t like it, speak up. It’s your right as a patient. Or, rather, as the “mom” of a patient.

Me? Well, I’m one to complain if complaining seems in order. Really I am. But good and, well, geographically desirable pediatricians are hard to find. I mean. Why rock the boat? Especially if that boat is the one that notifies you when the flu vaccine finally comes in. So for now, they can call me “mom” and I’m gonna call it good.

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  1. I’m with you 100% on the whole “ma’am” thing, first of all! It just rocks my insides when someone calls me that. I know they are trying to be respectful, but it does feel like a jab to the rib cage! And as for the whole “mom” thing–the worst part of that, to me, is when my HUSBAND does it! Unfortunately for him, whenever I call him by his name, the kids start to do it too, so he is ticked! But I don’t think that we need to call each other Mommy and Daddy just so they don’t call HIM by his first name! (Oddly enough, they don’t do it to me!) I have a great pediatrician, and although she doesn’t call me by my name, she has NEVER called me “Mom!”

    Comment by mamabee43 — October 29, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  2. I’ve been guilty of calling my husband “daddy” usually when I’m pointing out it’s his turn to do some parental kind of thing. Like “Daddy, why don’t you help her open that ketchup?” or “Daddy, it’s your turn to do bedtime stories.” It just drives home the point that he’s a parent and must share in the parental responsibilities. You know, just in case he forgets like say, during football season…

    Comment by toni — October 29, 2009 @ 7:29 pm

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