I first asked the titular question back in 2011, and more than 300 of you have responded over the years, along with lots of stories about how your parental names came to be—so here’s an updated summary (and a chance to add your own names and story)!
We’ve got lots of “Mommy” and “Mama,” but also “Anya,” “Mayma,” “Baba,” “Big Mommy” and “Little Mommy”, “Cita,” “Eema,” “Lala,” “Maddy,””Maman,” “Manna,” “MaPa,” “Mim,” “Mutti,” “Ommi,” “Meemoe,” “Foofie,” “Mami,” “Momo,” “Momily,” “Mombo,” “Mop” (for “My Other Parent,”) and more. For the dads, we’ve got “Dad,” “Daddy,” and “Papa,” as well as “Dadda,” “Papi,” “Pabbi,” and more. Nonbinary parent names include “Maddy,” “Adi,” “Poppy,” and “Nibi.”
Donors are referred to by name, as “Donor,” “Uncle,” or by various nicknames, including “Batman,” “Popeye,” “The cowboy from Wyoming,” and “Spunkle” (“Special Uncle”). One person even took inspiration from Les Mis.
Below is a selection of the many wonderful stories people have shared, loosely organized by some themes that emerged (my bold). I also encourage you to browse the full results spreadsheet here. If you haven’t yet submitted a response, I invite you to do so through the form below. Results are public, but are anonymous unless you choose to share your personal name(s). Things are a little mom-heavy right now, but I encourage parents (and grandparents) of all genders to participate!
- Cisgender woman; I strongly do NOT feel like a “Mommy”. Have always hoped and planned to be a “Mama“.
- My wife carried all our children. We call her Mommy. Our singleton is biologically hers. The twins she carried are biologically mine. I am called Mama. We do not share with people who is who’s biologically. Nor do we share with people about the sperm donor. When choosing our names it was very important that people knew with out a doubt that we were both the mothers.
Let the Kids Choose
- Sometime before they turned 2, they started calling us “mama/mommy (first name).” They are 4.5 now, and it’s still going strong. Before they were born, I thought that hearing them use our first names would be strange or uncomfortable, but it happened organically and came from them, so it feels like the most natural thing in the world now.
- Sometimes she calls us collectively ‘mommyandothermommy‘ which is really cute. She’s 19 months now and still not consistently calling me Mema, but she’s got ‘Mom’ firmly established in her vocab.
- We planned to be Mama and Mommy but we couldn’t keep it straight and the kids liked Mama Chris and Mama Suz. As they have gotten older, it is often just easier to get the right mom by saying our first name–sometimes people think this is disrespectful but really not, just efficient. To others, they talk about their moms.
- When our oldest son began speaking he just started referring to my wife as Tata, with no prompting or directing. The name just stuck.
- I was supposed to be mommy, but my son couldn’t quite say it when he first started talking. So he called me mimi for a long time and it just stuck. That’s how we got Mimi and Momma.
- We have girl/boy twins. Our son was an early talker and started calling me “Mombo” completely on his own. We liked it, so we kept it!
- Our son is 4 months old and we plan on letting him decide what he’d like to call us. until then we refer to each other as mommy or mama, equally as often.
- Both boys call us by name at home. Interestingly, they call us their dads when talking about us to others.
- I am generally the working parent; my wife works part time. Kids have gone through a phase during which they call whatever mom is home “mommy” and whatever mom is at work “mama.”
- Our kids our 5 and 7. They use Mommy for me, Mama for my wife, and Mom for both. Somehow, we know who they mean and if they mean my wife and I answer, they then say “the other Mom” and vice versa. (although, now that I think about it, our daughter also calls my wife Mommy if she is talking to me about her….like she will say “when will Mommy be home?” which I love, because to them, we are just both their parents, both their Moms.
- Our son chose to call me mommo at about 18 months old. Before that we were both mama. I called him baby-o and buddy-o, so I think that’s why I became mom-o. Our daughter just called us what my son already did.
- When our kiddo was a year old she started calling me Mommom and I absolutely adored it. She uses Mama more than Mommom but I get a little swell of love when I hear Mommom every couple of months.
- “Bo” is my fiance, and that is the name they chose for her when they decided she needed a different name (the way I have a first name but they call me Mama). She was unsure about Bo at first, but has embraced it, and so have they. My daughter even calls her “Mama Bo” sometimes.
- My wife transitioned when our children were very young. They previously called her “dada” but she let them pick a new name for her as she transitioned. Our oldest selected “maimai,” which is from a video game we all enjoy (Zelda).
Drew on Their Heritage
- We are an indigenous family. My first language is Spanish, so I use Mami (it’s what I called my mom as a kid). My partner is Cree-Metis, and our children are Cree, so they call my partner Nimama, which means “my mother” in Cree/Michif.
- My wife and our donor are Italian… Mimi in Italian means my beloved…. It was an easy choice when we found it. Our youngest calls her Mimi or mom. Usually mom if I am not around or will say other mom…. We explained we did the name thing so not to confuse us or them and they can certainly call either of us mom.
- My wife is Jewish, so “Eemah” is the Hebrew for Mom. We had started out with Momma (me) and Mom (her) but that got too confusing during those early barely-verbal days.
- In Arabic, Mama is the only natural choice. So, as a native Arabic speaker, that’s my partner. As the native English speaker, I liked Mama too, but if we wish to distinguish ourselves (just easier for everyone), then Mommy seemed like the best-fitting other name, so Mommy for me it is. Seems like that’s how most people go, but there is a lot of creativity I see here! But anyway, we’ll see how it turns out. Right now, we’re still training those around us to get used to these names and roles (which has its own importance and function for shaping how others see us and our family) and our son is too young still to say either of them… so we’ll see how he ultimately exercises his choice in the matter!
- I am Jewish so we chose Ima (Hebrew for mother). There was a bit of time after my son started talking that he call me Ima and my wife Ima Mommy. We thought it was adorable. His big sister constantly corrected him though so now they use Ima and Mommy exclusively.
- My husband and I are French-speaking Quebecers. When we decided to adopt, it was clear that I would be “Papa” (French for daddy), and that he would be called “Papou“, short for “Papounet”, an affectionate French nickname for dad.
- Our 4yr old son calls me Baboo – it’s Italian for dad but many in our area aren’t aware of that. The donor was 100% Italian, so he is 50% Italian, 50% Dutch/English. When he gets older, he can decide if he wants to call me mom or what…
- Marc is German so the boys called him Papá and me Daddy. Since they grew up in rural Georgia, USA, they soon realised that Papá was weird so they started callings us both Dad at school and other social situations. When they want to get our attention at home I am still Dad and Marc is still Papá. They do refer to us as their Dads. It is completely normal to them, but we have had a few strange moments when they have introduced us to the girls they are dating.
- We are raising our son bilingual English/Spanish. In Spanish “a” at the end of a word signals feminine and “o” signals masculine. So Mamo sort of means “masculine or butch mom.” We both respond to Mom and Mommy. Our kiddo sees those as “category” words and switches to the right name Mama/Mamo for a specific parent.
- My son is six years old. My family calls me “bebita” which means baby in Spanish. When he started to mumble words, he started referring to me as “Babe” and my wife, his biological mother, as Mommy.
Created Something New
- We didn’t like the gender roles associated with mom/mommy and the perceived absence of dad. We like to think we aren’t subject to those conventions and we are both the best of both so we made our own up with Zaza and Zeze – my name also starts with an A and hers with an e.
- We wanted a non-traditional name given my non-traditional identity as a mother. I look very stereotypically lesbian/androgynous. I thought something that sounded similar would be good so that it felt recognizable to other people. I decided Oomi would work. Almost immediately someone asked if it stood for “other mommy” which makes sense, so I often go with that if asked.
- Bibai was what I called myself as a toddler and my family still uses it for me sometimes, so it’s pretty easy to get them to remember to call me that in front of my kid.
- My first name starts with an A and my wife’s starts with a M. So that’s how she became Mama and I’m Ama.
- Moppy or Mop (standing for My Other Parent).
- My three kids all still call me Mommy (though the oldest refers to me as mom in public) 🙂 they call my partner Mom C (short for Christa) or Momsy.
- One friend combined her name Sheila and mommy together to get Ma she.
- We decided that, in order to strengthen perceptions of my motherhood given that I am not the biological parent of the baby we nevertheless conceived together, I should have the legitimacy of the socially recognized mother name, pronounced in Spanish, which is the language I speak with our baby. My partner, who gave birth, goes by a name we made up that has the “m” sound but a vowel distinguishable from that of “mamá“: “momo“.
- We started out with Mama and Mommy, but never really committed and both just referred to ourselves as Mama (as in, ‘your mama’) until it lost all meaning. Then for a while it was Stephamommy (Stephanie + Mommy) and Other Mommy (who is technically the bio-parent. Stephamommy thought that one was hilarious) until we convinced our daughter to start using Mommily (Mama + Emily).
Want Better Names for Nonbiological Moms
- I so wish there was another word out there for “non-biological mother” (in a lesbian context, where there is a bio-mom who’s equally part of the parenting). “Non-biological mother” is defined by its negative quality: the person is defined as being *not* the biological mother. I want some word that is descriptive and informative, a word that would help adults describe these relationships we have with our kids to other adults. What I mean is, not something like “heart mom” or a term we might use with our kids, but rather something that could be used to explain our family composition in simple, direct terms.
- I agree with a previous person. There needs to be a name for the other mom. honestly, I think dad fits nice – sadly it’s hard to separate gender from the terms mom and dad. My son refers to me as his dad in the playground. He calls me his “rettadad” when asked.
- I am the bio mom for our sons, but without my wife’s initiative, support, and drive the pregnancy would have never happened. We have fraternal (non-identical) twin boys. One resembles me in coloring and temperament, and the other my wife. When they were infants and one of us was alone with the boys, strangers would invariable ask if the son who didn’t look like the mom took after the dad. Perhaps osmosis works on genes during pregnancy. All this to say – we need a better word for the non-bio mom. We cannot use the lack of something or a negative to define such an important person. I ask for there to be a call for an affirmative name for the non-bio parent. Someone in this community must have a good alternative!
Chose to Reflect Their Gender Identity
- Choosing Sasa had to do with finding a nonbinary parent name that was simple and felt right. As Mama’s given name begins with M and mine begins with S, I explored Sasa as an option. Finding it to be a name in the same family as Sasha or Alexander, and carrying meanings such as “protector,” I felt it was a good fit.
- Nibi or tuiste (“I love you Nibi”, “You’re the best tuiste ever”). I came out as non-binary when my kids were hitting their tween years, so they asked to rename me. Seeing how they felt Nini and Bibi were gender neutral but babyish, they combined them as a play on non-binary. We chose the word “tuiste” instead of parent to help differentiate between their father and I; it is Gaelic for parent and since I can trace my lineage to Ireland/Scotland, I felt drawing from that culture would be a good way to not appropriate from other cultures.
- Was mummy for a long time. Worked out I was non binary when kids were 3 and 6.they came up with jelly and treea as alternative names for me.
- Poppy fits me because similarly to the other parenting titles, it’s letters sound as if they’re repeating. I am also an avid gardener and poppies are one of my favorite flowers. My favorite fun fact about them is that they’re used to create opium and alike threatening toxin to humans and animals. Which is fitting because I’m very protective of my family. [Trans-masculine non-binary gestational parent]
- It took us longer to pick a parent name for my wife than it did to agree on a name for the baby! I told her that we weren’t leaving the hospital without knowing how to announce ourselves and the adoption. [AFAB genderqueer parent; didn’t want a mom-name. “Adi” is both part of her name and also a bit like “Daddy”.]
- Started as Mummy and Daddy, then when I transitioned I became Bibi as a contraction of my new name, Ruby, as son was still mostly non verbal at the time and the ‘b’ sound was one he had in his repertoire so would be easy to say while keeping a clear distinction between parents.
- Maddy is mommy + daddy since i am more of the masculine one of us.
- I had a real hard time adopting any sort of “mom” related label for various reasons, but these days I love hearing my son say “Mama” when referring to me, and it fits me. Being a parent has made me feel a lot braver about being myself and living honestly, because my wife and son love me, so who gives a f*** about anyone else?! [Genderqueer lesbian non-bio parent]
More than Two
- Our daughter has 3 moms! She calls her dad’s girlfriend “mom“, I’m also “mom“, and my wife, Megan, is either “Mama Megan” or simply “Megan“!
- My oldest calls me mama and her other mom is mommy. We are divorced and I have remarried so my wife is her step mom. My current wife and I have a son – both kids call me mama and my wife (daughters step mom and sons mom) Ba -it’s Chinese for dad and the title she was most comfortable with.
Names for Donors
“Donor” or first names are popular, but also:
- The cowboy from Wyoming (anonymous donor but Wyoming sperm bank)
- Our donor is a close friend, and we refer to him and his wife as Uncle [his first name] and Aunt [her first name].
- We used an anonymous (but ID consent) donor, but we have a lot of information about him. One of the things that stood out to us was that he listed his favorite food as spinach. Really? Who’s favorite food is spinach? When we were trying to select a donor we couldn’t keep all their numbers straight, so we gave all the “finalists” nicknames. His is, of course, “Popeye.” We’ve told our daughter (now 33 months) all about her conception and now she talks about Mr Popeye and tells all about how she was made.
- My partner’s brother is our donor…so we’ve been using the word donor (although the baby is only 10 months) and calling her brother “Special Uncle Larry” or just “Uncle Larry.”
- “24601” Not the sperm donor’s actual number but the only one I could remember from Les Miserables. So later when the boys would sing Jean Valjean’s song “Who Am I?”, it brought a special smile to our faces.
Names for Donor Siblings, Extended and Birth Family
- “Special cousins” – half bio siblings.
- Our son’s birth mother’s daughters are our son’s “rainbow sisters.”
- Our children are adopted from foster care. Both are actually closer to their foster than their biological families. Foster parents (in our case, one single mom- straight- and one lesbian couple) all get called by their first names. We tried the Aunt thing for a while, but it didn’t stick. They also see extended members of our daughter’s bio-family and both use the formal labels of her relationship for each individual- Aunt L, Cousin A, etc.
- Our daughter shared a crib with another baby for nine months in the children home they lived in. She lives with her two moms three hours away. The girls call themselves “sisters.” (They’re both only children.)
- Equally important: our second generation of children, whom I birthed, call their “half siblings” (biological children of my partner from a prior heterosexual marriage) their “sisters.”
- Our daughters were born to my partner’s sister. She and her husband were killed in a road accident when they were 13 weeks old. When they are talking to us or to me about my partner & vice versa, they use our childhood nicknames like the rest of our family. When they talk to people outside our family they call my partner Mamma & me mum (I’m Australian). We and they have always referred to their mother as their ‘first’ mummy/mommy and, their father as daddy, or first daddy when in combo with their mother.
- My wife and I grew up together and were childhood sweethearts. My first marriage was heterosexual. After our divorce, I found my first love and we are married and raising the children from my first marriage. The kids don’t refer to her as a step-mom, but as their “other mother“, & my ex-husband teasingly calls her his “ex-wife in law”. Our oldest daughter is married and has given us a grandson, we are Gee-moe and Grammy. Our four daughters say the only thing better than having a mom is having two moms.
Many thanks to all of you who have already shared your information and stories! If you haven’t yet participated and would like to, just fill out the form below. Again, the results spreadsheet is here, so you can go look through the entire list of responses.