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Third-person Mom asks, "Where'd I lose my First Person?"

Do you want to know one of the weirdest things I've noticed about myself as a mother?

It's how often I speak about myself in the third-person.

I have never, ever done that before. I have always been wonderfully liberal in my use of the first person.





I've always been really good at using my words to describe my thoughts and feelings.

However, since having children, I've begun oddly, and frequently, referring to myself as Mom. I do it to describe where I am, what I am doing and how I feel, such as:

"Hey kids, Mom will have breakfast ready in a minute so you need to wash up, please," I said cheerfully this morning.

"All right ladies, Mom's tying her sneakers, it's time to go in a minute!"

"Honey, Mom's a bit tired this afternoon so I'm not going to bake a snack...there are cheese sticks in the fridge, okay?"

Mom? This is how I speak of myself to my children? I don't speak like this to my friends. I've never said, "Hey BFF, Julie's on her way over in five minutes!"

Holy guacamole, my friends would stage an intervention! They'd wonder what happened to the real me (or is it okay there to say the real Julie?).

I've never felt a sense of loss of self since becoming a mom. Loss of control, check. Loss of tidiness, check. Loss of simplicity, check. Loss of sense of self, no.

I'm still here, still me. Just me in this phase of life. I've got plenty behind me, and I have a ton ahead of me. Based on my "things to do before I die" list I better live to 185 at least. (It used to be 210, but I cut out about 4 career changes.)

That's why I don't worry myself about empty-nest. Sure my heart will break when the kids move on and call infrequently, all busy with their lives. But seriously, we make it to that? I'll just be grateful because honestly, I'm like that commerical, "It'll be a miracle if she makes it to five. It'll be a miracle if she makes it to nine." and so forth.

I'm happy we're all rolling along; we're meant to. I know all things pass, and I'm still me.

In fact, I believe I'm remarkably consistent in my life, for good or bad, if not perhaps completely predictable. I'm what you might call headstrong. I'll go with the flow, as long as it suits me or doesn't offend some sensibility. But I'm not what you would call "laid-back" or a "people-pleaser." I want to be liked, never want to disappoint, and I have that aforeconfessed sense of responsibility. So, at times, this means I end up somewhere I really prefer not to be, and I spend a few moments kicking myself in the ass. Still, when it comes down to something crucial, I dig in my heels.

You see? Just look at all those Is. I'm a strong woman with a big commitment to the first person.

So what does it mean when I revert to third person awkward when I speak of myself to my children?

What does it reveal about how I think of myself as a mother, and how I think they think of me as a person?

I haven't got the answer, but you better believe I'm digging deep over here. And wide open for your own personal story and/or interpretation.

By the way, for what it's worth? My husband does it too. But then again, I think we've melded somewhat into a single entity. I bet we even look alike now, which I promise was not the case when we first met in 1988. Yep, I said 1988. And no, that wasn't 1st grade. We were Out of the House by then. Pretending to be grown-ups (bwahahaha).

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert

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thailandchani said…
I have to admit: I wonder why anyone refers to themselves in the third person to their children. It's certainly noticeable.. and I've heard it many times but always struck me as a bit odd.

I'll be very curious to know what you come up with...

Chani is done typing now. :)


Mad said…
I have referred to myself as "Mommy" when Miss M isn't even there. e.g. In the grocery store checkout line with $200 worth of groceries already scanned through: "Oh no! Mommy forgot her wallet."

Chani, I think we do it, or at least we start to do it, b/c when the kids are young, they don't grasp pronouns and so we get into the habit of saying "Can Mommy help?" or "give that to daddy". Why we keep doing it is beyond me. I imagine I will slip back into the first person when Miss M is a bit older and more consistent in her use of pronouns.
Bea said…
Bub is only now just starting to sort his pronouns out - and it still takes concentration for him to get it right. It has taken a conscious effort for me to start modeling the correct use of first-person pronouns for him, because it's inefficient: I'm able to communicate far more effectively when I simply opt for the third-person. I can see how that could be a hard habit to break.
Unknown said…
I think I do that third person referral about half the time. (Marley is almost seven and I think you just start phasing it out as your children get older.) Do you think it is related to the tendency I had when my children were very young to announce to a room full of people that "I've got to go pee, now." I was mortified when I became aware that little habit.
Christina said…
I use third person around my daughter because she's still too young to grasp pronouns. If I use "mommy" around her instead of "I", she's more likely to understand.

She's trying, but there's nothing quite so amusing than seeing her fall down (unhurt, of course) and turn to me and say, "Are you OK?" I always have to laugh and say, "I'm fine. Are YOU OK?"
Julie Pippert said…
Okay thank you Mad Hatter for explaining (reminding) me of how this got started. I think my kids are hitting that age now, and I realize that (a) it's okay to use first person and actual pronouns now and (b) I don't need to narrate absolutely everything, in the third-person no less.

Yes, for quite a while now there has been NO assumptive narrative in my life. Hey, maybe that's part 2 of this post LOL.

Chani, maybe I was reaching too deep. Thank goodness others were here to "shove me in the shallow water."

B&P, Mary-Lue, Christina...thank you for reminding me I'm not alone. :) And that Mom has a good reason for referring to herself in the third person. ;)
Gwen said…
Oh thank god! One Mom thing I don't do! :)

Unfortunately, my husband does refer to me as "Mommy" when we're around the kids, which I think might be worse, much worse, and which I'm fairly certain I promised I would never ever let happen. It sounds weird to me even, though, when he calls me "Gwen." Then I think he's mad at me or something. But maybe that's because when he's not calling me "Mommy" he's calling me things like Hot Pants or Precious or Honey Bunches of Oats.

thailandchani said…
Julie, Mad, et. al. .. thanks for explaining this to me. I've heard mothers do that in public and I always found it rather odd. Now I understand much better.

Soon enough, your kids will be calling you Julie and Mad, Christina and Gwen, etc.

What will you do then? LOL



NotSoSage said…
What Mad said. It is actually taking me a while to catch up to my daughter. I think she's got a pretty good handle on you, I and me, but I'm still calling myself "Mama." I want to be very careful about avoiding the third person thing.

We've been careful, too, to teach her our first names. I don't exactly want her to call me by my name just yet (although I expect that will come) but I do want her to know it (and it's partly to avoid what Gwen mentioned...I want to avoid starting a "Well, Ma?" "Well, Pa?" kind of a thing with Joe).
Girlplustwo said…
my first impression is that there is some sort of seperateness...a gap between how you feel and the role you fulfill sometimes....or perhaps, and more likely, I am simply projecting.

jen is projecting her thoughts right now. there you have it.
Anonymous said…
Excellent question. I think at least part of the habit is a legacy from the time when our children are first acquiring language skills. That is when we take on the role of uber-narrators. We get in the habit of pointing out words, explaining what is happening, talking them through life. In that context, it is really natural to speak about yourself in the third person. "Mommy is getting the milk" serves the same function as "the bird is sitting on the branch." In the role of narrator, there is a kind of suspension of the "I" because we are speaking for them, quite literally putting words in their mouths. Great topic.
Julie Pippert said…
Gwen, what's your secret, babe? How did you escape this? I'm finding it a very hard habit to break so far.

Chani, if my kids call me Mom and Julie I'm cool. Just not PooPoohead. Or Babyhead. Or any other [insert word] head insult. LOL

Sage, oh my goodness. One time, I caught us doing the Ma and Pa Kettle routine. We refer to each other as Mom and Dad to the kids, but call each other by name. That felt so important to me on a variety of levels. I wanted the kids to know our names (which they do, and use now and again, especially Miss Sass) but also to recognize our other roles and relationships.

Jen, that is actually something I was thinking. I do a LOT of faking it these days. The behavior has...well, let's just say I have a tenuous grip on patience and sanity just now LOL.

End of motherhood, excellent way to explain it, thanks! Yes, it really is that, teaching them the words to use in their own minds and mouths. Very good insight. Thanks!
Candace said…
YAY!!! I am not the only one that does this lol. I have an 18 month old and I do this all the time. I also announce when I am going to potty lol. How hard are these habits to break?
Gwen said…
Dude! What's my secret? MY HUSBAND CALLS ME MOMMY!!!! I am obviously the very last person you should be checking for secrets.

Okay, he really only calls me Mommy when the kids are around. But still. It's weird, because it's not just, "Mommy, can you get Chash a drink," it's "How are you, Mommy?"

If I have a secret, it's that my kids are older (well, slightly older than yours), oh, and *exceptionally* verbal. They understood pronouns, you know, AT BIRTH.

Unknown said…
I also use the "mommy" to refer to myself in third person. Like Gwen, my husband refers to me as "mommy" or "mom" even when my daughter is not around, which sort of freaked me out in the beginning.

But, I most certainly freaked my husband out when I started calling our daughter "mommy". (I also call my cats that too!). Then my mom comes along and starts calling our daughter "grandmom", which only made the entire thing that more confusing and stressful to him. It's an ethnic Italian South Philly thing. He definately does not get it! And when I see it from his eyes, it does seem really odd.
Julie Pippert said…
C&A, well, I have a 2 yo and a 5 yo and still haven't resumed the assumptive narrative. The potty is the worst, esp. since the 2 yo has potty trained. I'm like the worst sports commentator ever. I do't stop talking from the second we enter the bathroom to the minute we leave.

In fact, I have a sick feeling that I pretty much never shut up ever during mommy time.

Gwen, okay, my husband knows well that I do not mince words. I put the kabash on the calling each other mom and dad. It's not even a kinky fantasy role play fun thing ever for me. It's just crazy off, LOL. Now, he wants to call me Mad Sexy VooDoo woman...I will respond. But Mom? Only if he's under 3 feet tall, which he's not, not by a long shot (no pun intended).

Momish, here's an interesting tidbit...that's an African custom as well. It's goes for males and females and is a show of affection and respect, a kind of close-knit courtesy. I had no idea Philly ethnic Italians did it too. LOL at you both freaking each other out LOL.
Rachel Briggs said…
Great topic! (as usual!)

It's easier for us, as we're both on our second marriage, (have one child each from our first marriages, both aged 7!) This causes great confusion, becasue my stepdaughter (5 months younger) is about 9 inches taller than my son. So you see this confusion, when people ask, very hesitantly, how the "twins" can be so different! This diffcult set of circumstances means using our names is much easier than "Mum and Dad". The kids go into hysterics when people call us "mum and dad" and then take great pleasure in explaining how complicated it all is! The funny thing is that my son is very much aware of me as a woman (newly re-married) and an individual etc, as well as a mum. I'm British, and my husband is Texan, and my son will copy his accent and get home from school and say "Honey, I'm home" and laugh his head off - but behind these funny jokes is an understanding of my idenitity. Hope I've explained that, it's tough to find words to express it...
Bones said…
Bones had a great time in Florida and Alabama over the weekend. And he'd like to thank you for the kind words said about him in your previous post. His kindergarten teacher referred to herself as "Mrs. Salter" and during the time he was in kindergarten, he would occasionally refer to himself in the third person if he needed some extra authority behind his words. For instance: “Mommy, Mike would like eggs for breakfast today.” It always seemed to work, but in retrospect, I think it worked because it was so goofy, and not because it gave me any extra levitas.

Oh, I blog rolled you back, btw. Thanks!

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