Maiden, Mother, Grandmother identities

When you are a maiden, you have a name of your own. It may have your paternal name with it, but it is a distinct name, and it is yours. People will call you by that name.

Babies do not automatically call their parents mother, father, mummy, daddy. You have to teach them. You may have to teach them by naming yourself as mummy in front of them. It is easier for the child to learn that you are mummy if they do not hear other adults calling you by your name. Your maiden name. And so you may start calling the father of your child ‘daddy’ and he may call you ‘mummy’ and to other adults in your life you may also be ‘mummy’ for the benefit of your child. I didn’t go this way, but I’ve seen it done.

Granny is not a life change that results from your own action in the way that becoming mummy does. Being granny may mean that the people who once called you mummy are now calling you granny so that their children learn to call you granny. Other adults in your life may choose to reinforce this. You may find yourself calling our own offspring mum and dad for the benefit of the grandchild.

Of course there’s a similar pattern for men. However, men have traditionally had roles and identities outside the household. People to call them by their names and treat them as distinct individuals. Inside the house, trapped in the domestic sphere, there is a lot less room to be anyone other than mother or grandmother. Not a specific, named identity. Not a distinct person. A title. A job description. A loss of personal identity into the ocean of mothers and grandmothers.

Names have power. I wonder how many of our female ancestors lost their sense of personal identity to the titles given them.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

11 responses to “Maiden, Mother, Grandmother identities

  • Ella Dour

    I wonder how many still do.

  • Moon Pryderi

    i do see what you are getting at and agree – but Mother and Grandmother are also powerful titles – archetypal

    and within the home the same goes for father and grandfather

    and outside the home at work no woman gets called Mummy or Granny so they

    this issue is about dropping maiden names – and all women have a choice whether they do that or not – or use both

    some cultures use both but its the maternal name that you carry forward – thats an option too

    • Rosa

      I agree here; on my father’s side of the family in his African American culture, Big Mama and Heap Mama were titles and they were _powerful_ titles. These women were the ones who did the heavy lifting, the matriarchs who always had the last word, who made local councils and bureaucracies tremble whenever they showed up in their best Sunday hat. They were a force of nature and something they had earned due to years of raising loads of kids (not all of them even related), dealing with all the community problems and issues white folk couldn’t be bothered to address, making sure food was on the table and there was at least one cookie in each child’s hand.

      To be Big Mama meant the family listened and provided for you. To be Heap Mama meant you had gone through hell and back and you were the one people asked for permission or advice for everything and anything. We’ve lost that along the way, which is a shame…those matriarchs have different identifications now, but I think function still in the same way.

  • Moon Pryderi

    that should day do* they – not ‘so they’

  • Moon Pryderi

    haha – must be my typo day 🙂

    should say – ”that should say”

    i give up lol

  • lornasmithers

    I’ve never really identified with any of those roles – too tom-boyish to be a maiden, never had kids… I think I’d really resent any of those names and feel sorry for those who feel they’re seen just as those names.

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