Mommy v. Mother

Mommy v Mother

The making of a “mommy blogger”

I am “Mommy.” I love being called “Mommy” by my four-year-old son as much as I don’t love being called that by anyone else.

Strangers only rarely refer to me this way offline, but do so frequently online. I first noticed this when my blogs started gravitating away from topics like bullying, mental illness and abuse and toward my experiences as a mother. No longer was I merely a blogger. I had, through some kind of magical transmogrification, become a “mommy blogger.”

While some might have thought of me as a depressing blogger in light of my fondness for melancholy, I’d never been referred to as a “depression blogger” or “abuse blogger.” I suspect it feels wrong to boil others’ complex, difficult experiences into diminutive two-word descriptions. By contrast, motherhood is all cuteness and giggles, so it’s no problem slapping on the label “mommy blogger” and rolling.

The weight of young lives

What a bunch of bull. Growing up in a single-mother household of five, I saw a kind of motherhood that was two parts lighthearted jollyness to eight parts grit. That grit was made up of so much more than I could see as a child, but involved worrying, planning, protecting, nurturing even while soaked in kids’ vomit, Dumpster diving for items to resell at frequent garage sales, working two jobs when possible and fretting through no jobs if safe child care couldn’t be arranged, and pleading with a deadbeat ex-husband for child support he didn’t seem to realize he was legally obligated to pay.

The entire weight of four young lives rested on my mom’s shoulders. No matter how she felt, no matter how little support she had, she had to keep going to see her children grow into a future less exhausting and painful than her present.

Mommying? Or mothering?

That’s mothering. “Mothering” is simultaneously fierce and beautiful, gentle and brave. “Mommying,” on the other hand, sounds like something women do because they just don’t have the skill sets to do more than chase around three-year-olds while other adults hold down real jobs.

I have done many things in my 35 years. My life has been easier than my mom’s, and my experience with motherhood has been easier as well. And yet, of all the things I have done, motherhood remains the most challenging. I make choices for myself knowing I can withstand the consequences. I make choices for my son knowing that he cannot yet make them for himself, nor bear the weight of their consequences. The weight of his life now rests in my hands and heart; my choices today impact his entire future.

Each day, I must not only ensure my son is fed, clothed, and sheltered, but also do my best to instill in him the wisdom to make good choices for his own life later. I do this knowing, sadly, I will not always be here to support him. I teach him now hoping he will carry pieces of me with him even after I am gone, and hold tight to those pieces as both a light and an anchor.

That’s “mother” to you

Spoken by a stranger, the endearment “Mommy” doesn’t capture the gravity of these myriad roles and responsibilities. Instead, it diminishes and oversimplifies the powerful, immortal work of mothers. When spoken in a child’s voice, it is clear William Makepeace Thackeray nailed it when he wrote, “Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.”

If you are my child, I encourage you to call me “Mommy.” I will bask in the glow of that reverential word.

Otherwise? That’s “mother” to you.

How do you feel about strangers calling you “mommy”?
Do you feel like strangers appreciate the complexity of your work?

Deborah Bryan

From researching killer whales in British Columbia as a teen to volunteering as a tutor in law school to running a couple of marathons and one barefoot half marathon, she carries some pretty remarkable memories close to heart. Her life day to day now doesn't include quite so many extracurriculars, but she is content within it.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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  1. Linda Dianne

    Wonderfully stated with perfect focus and defintion of the differences.

    • Deborah Bryan

      My original Tuesday post was very different and much dryer. My BIL said he didn’t get it at all. In light of energy limitations, I used this as an opportunity to condense the inspiring post. :)

  2. Great perspective! You’ve articulated what I’ve felt but have been unable to say.

    • Deborah Bryan

      Thank you, Sandra! It’d been nagging at me for weeks when the epiphany hit a couple months back. It felt good sitting down and articulating it. This entire week’s posts has given me a great opportunity to reflect!


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