An instant classic by William Haefeli in The New Yorker, 2011

The attempt at re-envisioning Mothers’ (or Mother’s or Mothers) Day by calling it Mama’s (or Mamas or Mamas’) Day, by the organization Strong Families and now by the Unitarian Universalist Association, just goes to illustrate how one person’s broadening is another’s narrowing. A good question about any proposal for change is “What problem is this trying to solve?” I get the problems they are trying to address, and agree that they are problems: the exclusion of queer, immigrant, disabled, poor, step-, foster, adoptive, single, and many other mothers from our implicit concept of motherhood. I’m glad we are being urged to celebrate all kind of mothers. What I don’t see is how the term “Mother’s Day” contributes to these problems nor how the term “Mama’s Day” mitigates them. More to the point, like many queer families, we’re actually better served by the term “mother.”

In our family, there are two mothers, although neither of us is called “Mother” (though one day, the munchkin may haul it out to use in a moment of pique–“MOtherrrr!”–give her time).  One of us is called “Mama”–that’s me–and the other is called “Mommy”–that’s my wife.  If you suggested to the munchkin that she has two mamas, she would correct you. She has one. If you suggested that May 11 was going to be Mama’s Day, she’d probably want to know when Mommy’s Day was going to be. While “Mother’s Day” is inclusive in our family, “Mama’s Day” is exclusive.

No big deal, so far; we call it what we call it. But if people made a serious push for renaming the day, I’d push back on the grounds of its excluding every two-mother family in which one, and only one, person is called Mama, which is a lot of us. Right now, my religious tradition is saying “May 11 is Mama’s Day!” and I want them to know: if you’re trying to be inclusive, you are accomplishing the opposite for this Unitarian Universalist household, where the term “Mama’s Day” would be insulting to Mommy and confusing to Mommy’s daughter.

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