Only a few people in this world call me Mum, and to everyone else I request that they,
“Please don’t call me mum.”
I have a few pet hates. They include;
- Hardened Weetabix that needs a chisel to remove it from the bowl.
- Finding my laundry mottled with disintegrated tissue.
- Someone parking so close to my wheelchair-adapted car that I can’t get the ramp down.
But, there is one gripe that has made it to my all-time Top 5 annoyances and I know I am joined by about 50% of parents of disabled children (Bayer, 2019).
A professional calling me ‘Mum’
Let me paint the picture …
At the start of a meeting, everyone introduces themselves and shakes hands. We have come together to discuss my son’s wheelchair positioning (let’s say). There is a company advisor, two therapists, a student, myself and my son. The therapists and I have known each other for over a year. We speak on the phone, write emails and meet occasionally. Fifteen minutes into the appointment, the therapist turns to the company advisor and says,
“Mum thinks it would be a good idea if we change the height of the footrest.”
I feel a little confused, belittled and spoken about in the third person.
She knows my name but chooses not to use it. Part of me wants to swing round, look at the door and ask, “You’ve brought your mother to work? How quaint!”
Most of the time, I say nothing but I feel like an outsider. I feel the gap between us grow that little bit more. It is common, and often well-meaning practice to call parents Mum or Dad. Often it is easiest but can feel very patronising when conversations between everyone else in the room include a role and a name.
Professionalism has been replaced with paternity
Whether in community settings, hospitals or schools, this happens EVERYWHERE. Now, I know professionals aren’t deliberately being mean. They work hard and are trying to do a good job. But at some point, this behaviour has became the cultural norm.
As someone who has been on the receiving end many times, it feels weird. It just feels wrong. Although this is a minor incident, I think it highlights and heightens an already strong imbalance of power.
I am not a partner in this meeting. I’m not on par with the labels or expertise. Yet in reality, I have a greater stake in the outcome of this little gathering than anyone else at the table (except my son).
When staff in hospital (who will see me for ten minutes and never again), use Mum, I can understand it (although a recent incident in radiology at GOSH proved the clinician remembered and used my son’s carer’s name but still called me Mum). Evidence shows that knowing the preferred name of a parent increases the experience of family-centred and personalised care (Bayer, 2021).
I have three kids and only they get to call me Mum
Being a mum is one of my greatest roles but I am known by lots of other names and I have lots of other parts to my personality and expertise. There are so many different options people can choose from – Rachel, Mrs Wright or all sorts of things, if you prefer. (I answer to most things!)
I’m currently hauled up in hospital and when a practitioner uses my name, I feel a little less alone. In my training about bridging the gap between parents and practitioners, this simple habit of finding out and using a person’s name is an easy way to inject some humanity and connection to often stressful conversations.
If, like me, you are a parent who wants to have a name then you can join the ‘Don’t call me mum” initiative. Raise awareness, as a parent or professional, shout from the rooftops (or even Facebook and Twitter) that parents are partners, experts in their children and enjoy being called by their names too. We want to partner with the professionals based on our mutual respect and effective communication. So often it is the little things which make a big difference.
Parents have many roles, skills and valuable insights. We are key members of the team around our child AND we have names.
Are you a parent who wants to join us?
There are practical ways you can support the initiative:
- Share this blog
- Like Don’t call me Mum on Facebook
- Follow Don’t call me Mum on Twitter
- Go to the website Don’t call me Mum, read more about our initiative and order your campaign pack (including badges, stickers and flyers) to share with your local community
- Use the hashtags #dontcallmemum or #dontcallmedad
Are you a therapist who recognises and respects parents as partners?
If you want to show support to working with parents as partners in the care you provide, then buy your ‘Don’t call me Mum’ pack and highlight to your colleagues the purpose of the ‘Don’t call me Mum’ initiative. Go to the Don’t call me Mum webpage, order a campaign pack and get involved.
#specialneedsparentingproblems #imnotyourmum #parentsaspartners #dontcallmemum #onlymykidsgettocallmemum
For more information about the initiative or to collaborate by displaying our logo on your website, you can contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
Blog updated June 2022
Bayer, N O, Taylor, A, Atabek, Z, Santolaya, J, Bamat, T W, Washington, N (2019) Should We Call You Mom and Dad? Caregiver Preferences and Peadiatric Physician and Nurse Manner in Greetings Hospital Pediatrics, 9(12), pp. 989-992 Accessed January 2022 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31719186/
Bayer, N O, Taylor, A, Atabek, Z, Santolaya, J, Bamat, T W, Washington, N (2021) Enhancing Residents’ Warmth in Greeting Caregivers: An Inpatient Intervention to Improve Family-Centered Communication Journal for Healthcare Quality, 43(3), pp.183-193. Accessed January 2022 file:///Users/rachelwright/Downloads/Enhancing_Residents__Warmth_in_Greeting.6.pdf