Written by Jen Brister

Lifestyle

Tales from the other mother

Jen Brister is a mum. No, not that one. The other one. This month, she needs you to know that neither twin is actually called Dooda.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Or something. No but seriously, names can be confusing, not least if you’re Mum, but not ‘the actual mum’; you’re the ‘other one’.

We’ve spent the last 20 months drilling our proposed names ‘at’ our children, “OK, say Mama… no, Ma-Ma… No I’m Mama, she’s Mummy. No not Bunny. MUMMY!” But they’ve come to their own conclusions and they are that we’re both Mama and Mummy. Yes it is confusing.

“I think he’s talking to you.”

“No he’s definitely talking to you.”

“Well he’s looking at you.”

“What the hell is that smell?”

“Yeah, he’s definitely looking at you.”

Nothing has brought me as much pleasure in the entirety of my middling life than hearing my sons call me ‘Mama’. Initially I couldn’t get my head round it, my desire to correct them was, at times, overwhelming: “Guys, can I stop you there. OK, how to explain this… I’m not officially your Mum, I mean I am still your Mum but I’m not your actual Mum-Mum. She’s sitting over there with a look of exasperation on her face. I hope that helps.”

Don’t worry, I have never said this out loud. Well, only once and they didn’t seem to have any idea what I was going on about.

“For those of you who think it’s hilarious to suggest the name ‘Mad’ ‘cos it’s a mixture of Mum and Dad, trust me when I say it’s a lot funnier in your head.”

I don’t know why I’m surprised to hear them call me Mama. I have literally spent the entirety of their lives referring to myself in the third person to really drum it in. “Mama loves you.” “What did Mama say about putting dirt in your mouth?” “No, Mama doesn’t like it when you bite her.” I imagine it’s as irritating to hear out loud as it is to read. Does everyone do this, or is this just the insecure workings of the ‘other mother’? Answers on a postcard please.

Just be grateful that my third person references haven’t stretched to adult conversation: “Jen’s really tired.” “Jen’s just popping to the shops.” “Yes, Jen would love another drink.” I think we can all agree that it wouldn’t be long before someone rightfully punched me directly in the face.

Picking a name for yourself as a parent is a weird thing to do. If you’re hetero, of course there is no question of who you are and naturally what your name will be. You don’t have to sit with your partner and work it out: “OK, so we’ve got Mama, Mummy, Mum, Mom, Momma, MiMaw, Mum-Mum, Mother, Madre, Mam, MamaJen, MummyJen, MumJen, MJ & M…”

It’s a bloody minefield. And for those of you who think it’s hilarious to suggest the name ‘Mad’ ‘cos it’s a mixture of Mum and Dad, trust me when I say it’s a lot funnier in your head.

I’m not entirely sure how much difference it makes either way. Yes my boys are calling me Mama for now, but I know that might change as their vocabulary grows and their pronunciation improves.

I mean, trying to make sense of anything they say is hard work. At the moment the big one calls the little one, ‘Dooda’. All you really need to know is that my girlfriend and I did not name one of our kids Dooda, or anything close to Dooda.

To be honest, naming your children can be its own separate nightmare. It took us a long time to come up with our boys’ names and like all soon-to-be parents, our process was unique to us. My chosen method was to declare my love for one name and then rigidly refuse to consider any others.

To be fair, most of my girlfriend’s suggestions were pretty wacky; at one point it really felt like her choice of name depended on the room that she walked into: “What do you think about the name Radiator?” “I think Tongs is a nice name.” It helps to be rigid when the alternative is naming your kid ‘Coving’.

Oh and just a bit of advice for any people out there who are waiting for a sprog to arrive, or are in the midst of naming their baby, or might consider the madness of children in the future.

Whatever you do, do not under any circumstances tell ANYONE the name of your baby before it arrives. You will not thank your friends for their ‘input’. “Markus? I hate that name! I went to school with a guy called Markus and he was a complete bellend.” See? Not helpful.

“If your baby points to a random man and calls him ‘Dada’, don’t go bright red, contradict your baby loudly and overcompensate by talking about how your boys have two fantastic uncles who’ll be fantastic role models – it looks weird.”

Still, I am loving that we have a Dooda in the house and that my children are finding their own language to describe things and themselves, even if it is mostly gibberish. The reality is that when your baby starts to talk they’re just sounding, so whatever comes out of their mouth is just, well, sounds.

You can’t take it personally when they spend six months shouting, “Dada!” every time you walk into a room. It’s not cause they think you’re their Dad; it’s just easier to say Dada than it is Mama. So don’t get paranoid about it; don’t think to yourself, “Is it my haircut? Should I put on a bit of makeup? Is this shirt too androgynous?” It’s not about you. SO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CALM DOWN!

Also, if you’re in a public place and your baby points to a random man and calls him ‘Dada’, don’t go bright red, contradict your baby loudly and overcompensate by talking about how your boys have two fantastic uncles who’ll be fantastic role models – it looks weird.

I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

And so here we are 20 months into this never-ending rollercoaster ride and I am officially a ‘Mum’ because my kids have told me so. It is the best of times (apart from the 5am starts, the endless poo and the horrific tantrums) and I’m making the most of it. That’s really just code for, “I’m too tired to do anything else.”

To all the parents: I salute you; it can be hell out there but apparently it’s worth it. And for those of you who don’t want and have never wanted and will never want or have children… please stop looking so bloody smug.

Read all of Jen’s other mother adventures here.

@JenBrister

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Written by Jen Brister

Jen Brister is a stand-up comic, writer and comedy actor. A regular performer on the UK and international circuit, she has also written for BBC Scotland and presented for BBC 6Music.