I managed to offend an Aussie mum today.
When I picked up Ellie at school, her joined-at-the-hip friend was standing with her at the door, watching her own mum and I approach. She gleefully shouted, "Hi Mummy!" which Ellie echoed just as gleefully. I gave Ellie a cuddle and kiss and said something like, "Silly girl! I'm not your mummy! I'm the mama!"
Of course, a third mum was nearby and seemed shocked. Full of disapproval, she demanded to know if I'd really just told my daughter I was not her mummy. I told her, yes I had because I'm not; I'm a "mama". Mummy is an Aussie term, and I'm not Aussie. Wrong response. It increased her huffiness ten-fold, and she walked away, mumbling "it's used all over the world, not just Australia." My just-as-huffy response (which I was too dumb to keep to myself) was "Yes, in all Commonwealth countries, but I'm not British either. For the record, I don't want to be an American 'Mommy' either." She shook her head woefully and glanced sideways at me with undisguised distaste. Sigh.
I know it may seem puzzling why this even matters to me. Most people who don't understand it happily go by the most prevalent term in their culture. My home culture is American, but I've moved so often (every 2-4 years my entire life!) that there is no one term that seems obvious to me (even though my own mother was "Mommy" and now "Mom"). After four years in New Orleans (where Ellie was supposed to be born), I felt a strong affinity for Southern hospitality, and there it's always "mama." Living internationally now, the most multicultural term we've encountered is "mama". "Mama" just seems to fit me.
Really, truly NO OFFENSE MEANT! I did get riled by her huffiness and unfortunately fostered the incorrect anti-Aussie impression with my poorly-chosen responses, but I'm not anti-Australian or -British or -what-have-you. With all due respect to "mummies" (and "mommies") out there, I have fought to keep "Mama" and I'll keep fighting as needed. It's the name I prefer, and it's mine to keep. I'm just "Mama". That's who I want to be.