what's in a name

What Do Kids Call Their Parents When There Are 2 Daddies Or 2 Mamas?

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Julie Bindel, for The Guardian on Monday 31st January 2011 20.00 UTC

It is official. The baby son of Elton John and David Furnish will refer to his parents as “Daddy” and “Papa” respectively once he gurgles his first words. It’s certainly less confusing than the choice of lesbian couple Nic and Jules in the film The Kids are All Right: they are both “Mom” to their kids.

What kids call gay parents is a relatively new question. And although lesbians are far more likely to have children either from previous (heterosexual) relationships as well as together (using a sperm donor), gay dads are still quite rare. I ask Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, Britain’s most famous gay dad, who with his partner Tony has five children ranging in age from one to 11, how they approached the issue.

“We couldn’t make our minds up what they should call us and we decided before the first twins were born that we would be many different things,” says Drewitt-Barlow. “But the moment they were born, we became Dad and Daddy.” Another gay couple I speak to say they go by “Mommy and Mommy2”. I wonder if this seems a bit hierarchical to Mommy2?

Some names are a bit cutesy for my liking, but then same-sex couples do not have the thousands of years of precedent to follow, as straight couples do. One lesbian I know has her daughter call her by her first name, because she cannot abide the sugary labels others chose. “We know other same-sex parents that started off as one thing, but ended up as something else as the child got older,” says Drewitt-Barlow. “What sounds cute when children are young can sound silly as they grow.”

Another lesbian couple (who have now split up) each gave birth to a child, and find that their children distinguish between the birth mother and the co-parent: “My birth child calls me Mummy and my ex, Lala. My ex’s birth child calls her Mummy and me Makma.” Helen Lawson and her partner Sarah have two children. “We are Mummy Helen and Mummy Sarah, or Mum and Momma. But sometimes they just say Mum and we both answer.”

“Our kids used to get some very strange comments from other children at school when it came to Mother’s Day,” laughs Drewitt-Barlow. “On Father’s Day they each make one card for Dad and one for Daddy.” The old favourites often do win out: at last year’s Alternative Families show a seminar on what children call their parents found that Mum and Mummy and Dad and Daddy were the most popular choices, although one child was heard to call her mother “Mister Mum”.

Julie Bindel

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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  • SpiffyShindigs

    I think that the perceived rigidity behind “mom” and “dad” for straight couples is over estimated. I come from a totally “normally” structured family, and as I child I called my mother “Momma” and my father by his first name. It just happened that way.

  • Franco

    Call them whatever feels right.

  • ChicagoJimmy

    Gotta agree that this is a total non-story. If a kid has two parents it’s a good possibility that they have two grandmas or two grandpas. Each family sorta figures out what the kids are going to call their grandparents to avoid confusion. This is really no different. I call my mom Fluff and my dad Old Man.

    As Spiffy points out above, things usually just work out.

  • Zzee

    @SpiffyShindigs: Yup, agree 100%. I call my parents mom and dad. Sister has been calling them by their first names since she was 12. I have no idea where it came from, and the idea of ME calling them by their first names feels very unnatural. But hey, none of us are torn up about it. And my folks always know which one of us is calling based on how we say, “Hi, ______, it’s me.”

  • David

    The writer of this article – Julie Bindel – is a noted lesbian, feminist and transphobe. Look her up.

  • Zeus

    haha mister mum

  • Jeffree

    @David: Your point is? Where’s your comment on the topic?
    ——— –
    The two male couples I know who are raising kids settled on something similar to the names cited in the article: 1) Dad and Pops 2) Daddy and Papa.

    As the young’uns grow up those names may change but so far, so good.

  • Brian

    In my own experience because my son is my biological son, he calls me Dad and he calls my partner Dad Dad.

  • Hyhybt

    No different than calling grandparents slightly different names, which *has* been going on a long while.

  • Shazzer

    This may be the one area where bi-national couples have a slight advantage. Were my Swedish partner and I to have children, I would be Mom or Mommy and she would be Mor or Mamma.

  • JamieN.D.

    I’m a trans mom. My kids can call me whatever they feel comfy with. My youngest, 9yo has settled with mom#1 for me and for my wife (of 24 wonderful years),mom#2. He calls me dad at home sometimes but for safety, we ask the he uses the mom#1 title when we’re out.
    Life is good…

  • JM

    Did anyone else go “aaaaaawwww” when they read the bit about “Dad and Daddy”? I think I’d like to be “Daddy”…

Comments are closed.