Mum is not the word.

In all my middle class-ness, I was listening to Radio 2 on my way to Waitrose (to purchase the most expensive bread *ever*), and it was time for the Grill Graham segment.

This week, a chap has emailed into the show with this catastrophic problem:

“My wife doesn’t like it when I call her mum, even after twenty years of me doing it.”

Well, duh.

To add some context, this couple have three children together, who are now aged between 16 and 19. I presume this husband started referring to his wife as “mum” shortly before or after the birth of their first child.

And now, after almost twenty years of being referred to as “mum” by her husband, she’s finally completely fed up. She’s told her husband to STOP CALLING HER “MUM”.

And the husband is both surprised, dismayed, and questioning whether this is just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe their marriage is in trouble? Maybe it’s not really about him calling his wife of twenty plus years “mum”.

Or maybe, just maybe, dude – it’s literally because she doesn’t want you to call her mum.

It may seem like a small thing, petty even (because bitches, amirite?) but this is actually a huge deal.

Here’s why:

  1. Unless your wife actually gave birth to you – I’m talking actual labour here, not emotional (and unpaid) labour – she is NOT YOUR MOTHER. So don’t address her as such.

If she did actually give birth to you, then we have some bigger Oedipus-esque problems to deal with here.

  1. If you have had children with your wife/partner, that doesn’t mean that she has suddenly morphed into a milk bar, who’s only purpose in life is to see to the needs of your offspring, and then by extension, you.

She is still a human being. She had a whole life before having children. She’ll have a whole life raising children. Then she’ll have a life after her children have flown the nest.

She is more than a mum. Don’t help society to make her world smaller because she’s served her purpose and procreated. Thank you, next.

  1. Are you wondering whatever happened to the active sex life you used to have? Why isn’t your wife/partner still super into you?


When you box your partner into one role (that of the caretaker) and don’t allow them to be anything else, then you can say goodbye to your sex life. When you force your romantic partner to become the primary caregiver, to mother you as well as your children, her sexual attraction to you will diminish. Because we’re hard wired not to be sexually attracted to our children.


Point 3 is highly simplified here, but if you want to learn more, then I highly recommend Esther Perrel’s book Mating in Captivity, and her podcast Where Should We Begin.

As women, there is a huge amount of societal pressure on us to be loving and nurturing from a young age.

Don’t be bossy – boys won’t like it.

Don’t be too clever – boys don’t like girls who are smarter than them.

Don’t expect your boyfriend to help keep the house clean – he works hard, and needs some down time.

Don’t ask your husband to help make dinner – the footie’s on, and his team have worked so hard to get into the final.

And we accept this, because it’s drilled into us from the moment we can understand speech.

It’s a bloody hard habit to break.

The South African and I moved in together just over a year ago. It’s only this past month that I’ve insisted we split cooking duties.

At no point in the past year has the South African ever told me that I am responsible for feeding us every evening. Never not once has this been said. And yet, I assumed this responsibility. I made it my job to do all the cooking, without being asked to.

And then I wondered why I was shattered, rushed, and stressing out all of the time.

At the beginning of this month, I steeled myself to ask the South African if he wouldn’t mind if we alternated cooking duties, please, thank you, if it’s not too much trouble, just tell me if that won’t work for you, etc.

I braced myself for some serious push back – no, he’s busy, he works really hard, he likes to feel taken care of…

What was his actual answer? Allow me to illustrate, in what would be the most boring screenplay ever.

HIM: “Okay.”

ME: “Really? Because it would be such a big help, I’m about to get really busy launching my new business, and I don’t want us to be eating really late, but I’m not going to be able to cook at the same time every day…”

HIM: “Babba, I said it’s okay.”

ME: “Are you sure?”

HIM: “Yeah – I literally just said it was.”

ME: “…”

HIM: “…”

ME: “Thank you?”

HIM: “No worries, babba.”


I won’t even insist that he wears a French maid’s outfit while he shares the responsibility of adulting with me.