The Other Mother: My Kids Don't Call Me 'Mom' But I Know I'm Valued

by Dr. Jennelle
three moms
Dr. Jennelle

You know those things that the rational side of your brain totally realizes are not a big deal, but your inner righteous babe cannot let lie? It turns out, my inner righteous babe is hard to quiet.

I know I am loved, by my partner and our kids. I know that I am valued by both as well. I know that I help make our family run and my purpose in our family operations is grand and important and needed. I know all of those things. I know that I help make lunches, get the kids ready for bed, cut nails, assist with teeth brushing (except after getting ice cream), do laundry, pickup and drop-off from school and camp, help with homework, teach life lessons, make memories, and create special bonds with each of our kids. I know that these things outside of my love are what make me a mother. I know that in the ways our kids say they have three moms, ask if they can call me Mom, ask for “the other Mommy” when I’m not the one responding to their pleas, and even when they tell their friends, “I can’t do that, my mom says no,” when they’ve just asked to do something they know they shouldn’t.

But when your mom name is “Nelle,” nobody else knows that.

And while I can sit with my equitable heart and know that what I know I have is more important than what others see and think, my righteous babe keeps yelling anyway.

My righteous babe shakes her fists when others hear “Nelle, can we play for five more minutes?” and they think I am a babysitter or the nanny. (Okay, maybe being forced to say I was the nanny in the beginning makes that one particularly stinging.)

My righteous babe gets a little red in the face when I sign a permission slip or call the school and my name does not match our children’s or my partner’s, and they have to check if I’m authorized.

My righteous babe rolls her eyes when it is questioned why I would want to be present at parent-teacher conferences or doctor and dentist appointments.

And my righteous babe even gets full on self-righteous when someone gives one of our kids an item of clothing that says “Mommy Loves You.”

Guess what? Nelle loves you too. But no one is making shirts that say that.

And my rational brain says that it is completely absurd to ever get into an argument with the woman you love because you find a “Mommy’s Little Devil” shirt picked out for school the next day. And it’s not because you do not want your partner, the biological mother of your collective children, to be robbed of the opportunity to put said collective children in ridiculous clothing with foolish slogans.

It is because you can never have that opportunity.

And sure, my rational brain knows there are a million opportunities that I do have as “Nelle” that I am insanely grateful for. Insanely. So I assure you that these righteous babe moments are few and far between, and — fortunately — fleeting. But I would be lying if I said they didn’t happen.

So, my children, years from now, if you want to puffy-paint on your graduation cap “Nelle Loves You,” I won’t object. My righteous babe will cheer and hoot and holler louder than you’ve seen her yet. And it’ll embarrass you just as I always have, and just as you’d expect to be embarrassed by your mom.

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”