Many new parents put a great deal of effort into choosing their child’s name. For nonbinary parents, there is an added consideration of redefining traditional parenting roles, which includes deciding what they would like their children to call them.
There is a lack of representation of nonbinary parents in the media. Only a few examples, such as the children’s book “My Maddy” by Gayle E. Pitman, “The Natural Mother of the Child” by Krys Malcolm Belc, or “Like a Boy But Not a Boy” by Andrea Bennett, illustrate the experiences of nonbinary or gender-nonconforming parents. However, overall, nonbinary parents face the challenge of finding resources that use gender-neutral language as they navigate parenthood. This challenge also allows them the freedom to create their own rules for their unique journey into parenthood.
When contemplating what my child would call me, I initially faced uncertainty. Elana, a nonbinary parent residing in California, encountered a similar dilemma. Elana expressed, “I struggled to choose a parenting name. I attempted to search online for examples but none resonated with me. I have used Zizi as an aunt or uncle title for a long time, but I couldn’t settle on something that felt suitable for myself.”If you are confronted with a comparable circumstance, here are some sources from which you can derive inspiration for your parental title.
Let Your Child Choose
Choosing to let your baby choose your name may lead to hybrid names like Mapa or Dama, or names that resemble incoherent baby babble such as Zaza or Baba. However, when my baby started calling me “mama” at around 6 months, I quickly decided against this approach. If you are a new parent with an older child, you may have a bit more say in the naming process, which can enhance mutual respect and strengthen your relationship.
Draw From Your Heritage
There are many languages that offer gender-neutral parenting titles. For instance, the Yoruba word “Obi” can be used to mean parent or heart. If a gendered term feels more comfortable for someone, they might consider using a term from another language. In this case, the person has chosen to be called “Pare,” which is a shortened version of the word “parent.” They appreciate that it also resembles the French word “pere,” meaning dad. This connection to their French heritage and their masculine gender experience is important to them.
Elana explains that she wanted a word that represents their relationship. After searching, she discovered the word “omi,” which is a Japanese name and possibly means “grandmother” in a Northern European language. Elana liked that the word was neither too masculine nor too feminine, and it didn’t make her uncomfortable. She also appreciated that it sounded similar to parental words like Mama or Papa. Once her child started calling her Omi, it felt completely natural to Elana, and she adores it.
Make It Up
If you don’t conform to the gender binary, you have the freedom to chart your own course in life. So why not seize this opportunity to create a word that resonates with you? Some parents have chosen to combine words or abbreviate existing ones that you may already use for yourself.For instance, you can take the word “nonbinary” and shorten it to “Nobi” or “Nopa.” If you prefer gender-neutral pronouns like “ze/zir,” perhaps “Zaza” or “Zizi” would suit you. Don’t be afraid to experiment, even if some of these words may initially seem silly. Silly words are simply new words, and there is always space in the vastness of language for you to feel affirmed as a parent.
Reimagine Mom or Dad
Just because “mom” and “dad” are strongly associated with specific genders in our society, it doesn’t mean these words have to conform to predefined expectations. My partner, who is also nonbinary, chose to be referred to as Dad in order to question the traditional notion of what it means to be a father. It’s important to recognize that dads can also wear dresses, and we teach our child that they can do the same.
Choosing a preferred name is a matter of safety for various individuals in different circumstances. In the case of Sim, a nonbinary parent residing in Texas, they opted to be called Mom. They made this decision because they were aware of the conservative nature of daycares and elementary schools in their area. Sim wanted to prevent their child from having to defend them in a cultural conflict or being exposed to strangers’ transphobia before comprehending the concept of gender.
A Word From Verywell
No matter what you decide to be called, it will bring you immense joy when your child first addresses you by that name. It doesn’t matter if others question your choice to challenge traditional parent labels, because your child will appreciate and accept you for being true to yourself.