Please Don’t Call Her My ‘Baby Mama’
I wholeheartedly hate the term “baby mama.” But I’ll confess: Before having a child, it was a term I would use with little thought as to what it might convey or who it might hurt. The identifier was short and immediately explained a situation, with no actual context needed as to how the person you were describing fit into your life. “Ex-lover turned parent,” but pithier.
Throughout my young adult years, “baby mama” was also used as a term to convey some level of annoyance with a co-parenting partner. The flippant phrase also excluded uncomfortable truths from a conversation. You’re no longer pressed to admit, “We never had the chance to be friends and started dating and found out we were having a child and wanted to make it work.” Or, “We were lovers who had a child but couldn’t coexist romantically.” “Baby mama” left no room for additional context; it was a very easy method of explaining away a relationship. But when I knew I was going to become a father, I immediately recognized it would be a term that would have no place in my day-to-day dealings with my co-parent.
The phrases and words we choose to describe the people in our lives matter more than idle barbershop talk. The mother of my child is also my friend and part of my moral support system. But it took us a while to get to a healthy place.
My daughter’s mother and I got into an argument one night when she questioned my abilities as a father, and I told her I wanted her to jump out of a window. That had always been a point of contention with us: how I wasn’t showing up and that I wasn’t doing enough. At that moment, I was tired and stressed, and my ego was too hurt to let the comment go. So many of our fights had been a contest of who could cause the most damage first, who could hurt who more. And so, I reacted.
We’ve had our shit, as do all people with history, but it doesn’t change or reflect her position in my daughter’s life or my own.
All the work, all the public talk I did about showing up as an ally seemed irrelevant. In real time, I was forced to look at who I claimed to be and the real challenge I faced: I was just as…