Being a working mum is not easy. Of course you’ve heard that before, but it bears repeating. I’ve done a lot of grafting to get where I am in my career though and, as much as I love my daughter, I was never not going to go back to work. So, when the time came, I set about finding a childminder and, in a stroke of luck, hit the jackpot.
My daughter adores our minder, and so do I. But last week the inevitable happened: she called her Mammy. And right in front of me too. It felt like a slap in the face and I heard my voice wobble as I corrected her. “I’m your mammy,” I croaked, trying to hold back tears. “And you’re my baby, remember?”
She looked at me blankly. She’s two years old. Until recently she called the dog Mammy too. (His name is Milo.)
Hearing your child call another caregiver Mammy is one of those things that working mums fear long before they get back to the office. It’s up there with missing their first steps or not being there to offer kisses when they get hurt. But it’s sort of inevitable, as little kids tend to talk first and think later. I’m hardly in a position to judge either, considering I called a teacher Mam when I was in Fifth Year.
The main thing is she’s happy, I tell myself when she runs at full tilt into her minder’s arms every morning. That’s all that matters. I trust our minder so implicitly that I don’t worry about my daughter from one end of the day to the other. Of course, I think about her and miss her, but I’m never wondering if she’s being listened to or hugged enough. I know she is, and that’s what makes it easy(-ish) to wave goodbye every day.
The whole idea that you trust another person – often a complete stranger – with your precious heir is kind of bonkers, when you think about it. After meeting just a handful of times, you pick up your innocent, vulnerable, non-verbal baby and hand it over, hoping for the best. And, in my case, the best is what I got, which is something I’m so, so grateful for. If the only consequence is she that she calls her Mammy occasionally, I can live with it. It’s a small price to pay.
Still, as totally cool and 100 per cent chill as I am, I want to ensure that it’s not a case of mistaken identity; I want her to know that I’m Mammy. The only Mammy. So at every opportunity, I’ll mention our minder by name and I’ve become that creepy parent who refers to herself in the third person like, “give Mammy back her lipstick” and “Mammy just has to pee – leave her alone.”
I’m this close to wearing a T-shirt with the word MAMMY scrawled across the front in block capitals. Hey, if the shoe fits…
By Sarah Breen