Who gets to use the title “Mom” in same sex partnership?
Recently I was asked a question about who maintains the title of “MOM” in a same sex female relationship, where there is a newborn in the relationship in which one of the partners gave birth. The question stemmed from a place of being “new parents” and wanting the best for their new son. The pair initially had wanted to have each parental figure to be called “mom,” but then thought that this would be confusing for their child. So, then they wondered if the birthing parent would be the natural parent to be called “mom;” whereas the non-birthing parent would be called by her first name. Their desire was to decrease the confusion for their child, while not interrupting or minimizing the attachment the child would develop for either parent. In essence, they were asking whether or not the “parental title” or language used to establish the parental title with their son would impact the child’s attachment to either parent (birthing vs. non-birthing) ?
The answer to this question may seem straightforward but there are several layers of complexity. Let’s see if we can address the use of language and its impact on attachment.
The most important initial step for the partnership is to explore the level of comfort that each partner has in the various titles being offered. The language, meaning the “actual words” themselves will not be immediately understood by a child and will be connected to the child’s own language development. However, what would be understood immediately is the sensate experience of how each parent feels connected to what they are using as a title. Therefore, if there is not full acceptance in what is chosen or spoken or how they are referred in their connection with their child, the baby will pick up on that in his body. An internal discord is more likely to create confusion. If the parental unit is satisfied with how they are addressing themselves with their son, then it would not likely affect the attachment relationship.
Attachment describes the level of security felt between the baby and each of the parents. Each partner is responsible for developing their own unique relationship to their child. Beyond what you “call” yourself, attachment builds over time in response to the types of interaction, felt closeness, responsivity of the parent (the ability for the parent to adjust to the child’s temperment), connectedness, and ability to repair relationship after conflict. There are many that have been given a parent “title” but have a strained relationship relationship.
So my advice is to focus on the love in your heart and build a strong relationship with your child. The “titles” will also evolve and shape themselves, perhaps in some other term of endearment other than “mom” with all the meaning and connection that has stemmed from the togetherness you have both created.