“Don’t Call Me a Baby Mama!” What’s Really In A Name?

November 25, 2012  |  

As you all know from my first “Where Are They Now” articles, I was a fan of what I like to call “VH1’s Golden Age of Reality Television.”  Not only did I watch (and own) all the seasons of Flavor of Love, I Love New York, For the Love of Ray J and I Love Money, I was also a fan of Rock of Love.  But one of the things that always struck me as odd were the high number of strippers on the show; however, when confronted, they would say,  “I’m a dancer.”  Unlike my confusion of what an exotic dancer was when I was younger, I couldn’t understand why the women would insist on the word “dancer,” and get offended if someone called them a stripper.  I mean, if you take your clothes off for money then you’re a stripper, right?

It wasn’t until a little while ago when my ex-husband called while he was around his family and I heard someone yell,  “Who you talking to,”  and he responded with “My baby mama.” I was so insulted!  He came back to the phone, we finished the conversation (with some definite ice on my end) and then hung up.  With the same look that Regina King had on Poetic Justice after Joe Torry punched her (mouth agape and slowly shaking her head from side to side), I grabbed my phone to call one of my best friends to tell her what happened.  In the middle of hitting my speed dial, I stopped.  I mean, what did he really do that was wrong?  He didn’t openly disrespect me.  He didn’t call me the slang version of a female dog.  He just called me his “baby mama.”  But why was I so offended by it?

I started thinking about how politically correct our society has gotten.  In a restaurant, you’re not supposed to call the person who takes your order a waiter anymore, they’re your server.  The people who help you to your seat on an airplane and tell you what to do in an emergency are no longer stewardesses, they’re flight attendants.  When you call an office, the person who answers the phone and take messages are no longer secretaries, they’re administrative assistants.  Why the change?  Because the former titles had a slightly negative connotation to them.  You see this happen all the time in society.

I started realizing that the reason why I was so taken aback is because the term “Baby Mama” (besides the fact that it is grammatically incorrect – it should be baby’s mama, but whatever) has such a negative connotation to me.  My mind immediately went to those girls who have their baby on their hip, parking lot pimping at the local gas station during the day and collecting a child support check or a “crazy check”/disability check in lieu of working.  Their babies are crying because they want to be home and the hair is sticking up on the toddlers’ heads while their mother continues to talk (with her luxurious new weave) to her girlfriends and check out the dudes who were also parking lot pimping in the middle of the day.

That phrase just seemed to remove all of the positive things I’ve done in my life.  It doesn’t address the fact that we were actually married at one time, and I’m a working college graduate.  Though descriptive in its basic form (yes, I am the mother to his child), it’s still offensive to me.  Not wanting to create a fuss by telling him not to call me that anymore (because then that’ll be “Baby Mama Drama”), I just left it alone.  But I will say this: instead of wondering, “what’s the big deal,” if someone is insistent on being called a title, I’ll abide now.  Dancers, servers, administrative assistants, I feel you now. I really do.

You can call Kendra Koger a bunch of things, just do it on her twitter @kkoger.

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
  • ByrdGyrl

    My ex-husband and I both hated the baby mama/daddy title.. so we spoke about it and decided we would call each other P.I.P. which stands for Partner In Parenting.. It may be kinda cheesy but we like it

  • 1Val

    You are entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. I have stated my opinion of term “baby mama.” My opinion will not change because others object to it.

  • Pingback: Single Mothers: Do we need the approval of your child's father?()

  • beautiful mic

    …for the ones who have no reserve, respect or reverence for covenant, marriage, and/or monogamous relationships.

  • beautiful mic

    Please reserve that lowly title for those heffas only.

  • beautiful mic

    A women who has conceived/become pregnant by one man while married/separated to another is a ‘Baby mama’.

    Women who become pregnant from not keeping their legs closed when they should are Baby Mamas.

  • beautiful mic

    A woman who approaches relationships in a way that shows she values family, marriage, commitment and the covenant a man and woman have with one another is not a baby momma, even if she becomes divorced or widowed.

  • Alohilani

    The other day when I was riding the bus I just so happened to look over and see a woman holding her phone and on it, I saw the words, “Baby father” listed as the contact who she was speaking with. All I could do was shake my head.

    I wish the terms ‘baby momma’ and ‘baby daddy’ would go away, along with ‘put your hands on people’.

    • Pivyque

      What is wrong with that? If they aren’t together, that is what he is. God forbid anything happen to her, but if she ends up in the hospital and they can’t find any information on her, looking through her phone and calling the baby’s father to come get the kid wouldn’t be the worst idea.

  • Darling Nikki

    This is so silly, things like this just don’t really bother me. Its 2012 you have single people adopting children, gay parents raising children and people out of wedlock having children all the time. I have a child with my ex, we were never married and I refer to him as my babys daddy hahahahahahah (he hates it) but, I feel like I have 2 degrees, Im very self sufficient my child is well taken care of and doesn’t want for anything. So it is what it is, we were never on Maury, I dont fill his life with drama vis versa so why not just call a spade a spade, I guess I have better things to worry about than the stigma that society has put on a name. Iv’e heard far worse names than Babymama/Babydaddy. People called Jesus names so the rest of us stand a pitiful chance. I know many of you disagree but thats just my take.

  • Pivyque

    Well, if your kid is a baby, then the term “baby mama” would be correct. If your kid is past the baby stage, then “child’s mother” should be used if you aren’t with the parent of the child.

  • Victor

    Thank you for this article. I’ve always wondered why more women were NOT offended by this. It’s such a derogatory statement to make and degrades both mother AND child, in my opinion.

  • victoria

    You are an ex wife, ex husband, widow, widower, or baby mama/ baby daddy. When speaking of a child’s parent who never married, I personally say, ”Her child’s father,” or ”The mother of his daughter, ” and so on. Simply b/c saying baby mama and baby daddy is grammatically incorrect. With that being said, I dont find the term offensive. I think a lot of ”educated” single mothers are offended b/c by using baby mama they are placed in the same box as the ratchet single mothers that the author described in the article. Now and days, so many babies are produced in casual, non committed relationships that the term ”my ex” can’t even be used. I think if you want to have a more acceptable title then you need to have the relationship that carries that title. The author was his ex wife; therefore, she shouldve informed him that is what she wants to be called. If you dont want to be the baby mama/daddy, have the baby in wedlock.

  • this phrase was one of the silliest things to hit the black community. I wish it would go away. I dont let this even come out of my mouth. I say Noelle father or my daughter’s father.

    • anony

      it does need to go away, saying it even makes one sound ghetto smh

  • Trisha_B

    To me, when i hear the term “baby daddy, baby mama” i think of drama & ignorance. Two parents who can’t get along for nothing, always battling each other, 1 not wanting to take responsibility, the other making it harder for the other to parent the child. Don’t matter if you were married or not. Pilar gives me a baby mama vibe. Yes she was married to the man for years, but her battling this man in court is unnecessary Straight Baby mama style. Eddie Murphy is a baby daddy, he wouldn’t acknowledge his daughter w/ Mel B & refused to take care of her. But if the two parents can get along, whether they were married or not, keep the drama down then that’s the father/mother of my child.

  • 1micmcna1

    I found this article to be ridiculous and unnecessary. Look, the fact of the matter is that we find what we want to take offense to and take offense to it. Saying dancer instead of stripper or flight attendant instead of steward or stewardess is NOT politically correct. It’s just another way of saying the same thing and on top of that, the only reason these things were changed was because of the connotation that these jobs were female oriented and thusly put women down in some way. I still call my secretary a secretary because that’s what the hell she is. She is NOT my assistant. I have an actual assistant who does far more things than the secretary. As far as language goes it doesn’t matter whether you use proper english or not, it all means the same thing and eventually will have the same connotation. Now for the women and men saying that ex-wife would be a better title, in my experience more people have an aversion to that term because for one, they could have many ex-spouses so now you have to affix a number to them and two there is always that explicit fact that you were a failure. You and another person failed at the goal you wanted to acheive. There’s no way around that connotation and it doesn’t matter why you got the divorce. You failed and are thusly a failure at something. However, the creation of a child is a success. Again, this, in my many years of practice, is what I’ve seen from couples and ex-couples when they consider both terms. The real reason why people tend to get offended by these things is because it reminds them that they did not succeed in having the perfect life as they dreamed and generally don’t want to be doing what they are doing so they make whatever it is seem more important or sound better to them. It’s foolish and it needs to stop.

    • Gye Nyame

      Honestly people of color are so used to being negatively labeled that we’ve internalized it and now we do it to ourselves. What other race of people have you ever witnessed call the other parent of their child a baby daddy or mama. It has nothing to do with the success or failure of a relationship. Those ignorant titles are evidence of low level thinking b/c the circles that I run in (which include single mothers) no one is ever referred to as a baby mama. Let’s elevate our thinking people…please.

      • 1Val

        Therefore, your issue with terminology is classism more so than connotation. For instance, there are two single black mothers each have three children by three different men. One mother was never married and other is thrice divorcee. Which mother would be considered a baby mama?

        • Guest

          I have a great response but MN won’t post it.

          • 1Val

            I read your response regarding PWT. However, it was not an answer to my question.

            • Gye Nyame

              What’s your point? Neither should be considered a baby mama.

    • unlike secretary or stewardess which have been around longer than admin. assistant or flight attendant, baby momma and daddy are modern terms. people have been saying mother of my child, father of my child way longer.

  • Gye Nyame

    I don’t know how she allowed that man to call her a “baby mama”, and she shouldn’t let it slide. Married or not people need to refer to the other parent as the “mother/father of my child/children”. After 18 months to 2 years a child is no longer referred to as a “baby”, and I’m sick of seeing people with children ages 7, 8, 12 or 18 being called “baby mama”.

  • 1Val

    A rose by any other name is still a rose… A man’s child mother is a baby’s mama be it his ex-wife, fiance, girlfriend, housemate,etc… The father has a relationship with child not child’s mother. He doesn’t have to call her anything other than by her name. The parents relationship is over. Therefore,she no longer has any place in his life other than being mother of his child.

    For example, if people are drunks who drinks expensive liquor opposed to rot gut are they still not drunks? If a woman is a call girl versus a streetwalker isn’t she still a prostitute? If she snorts crack or inject herion isn’t she a junkie? It does not matter nature of previous relationship to child’s father once relationship is over mother is just another baby mama and he is just a baby daddy.

    • Gye Nyame

      I disagree with your statement because if I divorced my husband tomorrow, under your logic, I would be instantly reduced to a “baby mama”? Despite the fact that I was married for over 10 years (10 years of commitment, and sacrifice), home owner, educated with 3 degrees, world traveled, etc? I would NEVER allow anyone to call me a “baby mama” even if I had a child out of wedlock, its disrespectful and it diminishes the absolute importance of a parent.

      • 1Val

        We can agree to disagree. For you “baby mama” is negative term of motherhood. If a woman is a single parent does it matter if she is divorce or widowed mother? The end result is she is a single mother regardless of how she became one. For too many women the issue with being called a “baby mama” is they seek a place in ex’s live when they no longer have a relationship with man. Why does child’s mother need a “title” from her ex other than him calling her by her name?

        • Gye Nyame

          “Baby mama” is a negative term, and not just for me. An appropriate title is the mother or father of my child/children, because that is exactly what the other parent is. A baby mama or daddy is not an appropriate term nor is it an accurate term. Having an appropriate title has nothing to do with the ex and wanting a part in his or her life, but it has to do with respect and how you allow people to address you. With that being said, we can agree to disagree.

          • 1Val

            I have been married longer than I have been single. The majority of the time I refer to my husband by his name not my relationship to him or his relationship to our son. I do not find “baby mama” an offensive term but to each their own.

            • Gye Nyame

              Sorry I gotta call your bluff! I’ve been married for 10 years and you can not tell me or other married people that when you speak of your husband you always use his name. That’s ridiculous b/c if your talking to someone and you say “jeff is so funny” people will say “jeff who” if they don’t know that that is your husband. We are human beings and we refer to people based on their relationship to us. That’s why I say mom, that’s why I say “my brother”, “my student”, “my aunt/uncle”. If we all walked around calling people by their first name, we’d all be confused.

              • 1Val

                No bluff to call. LOL. I stated majority of time I call my husband by his name. If we are among strangers we introduced ourselves as spouses. Just as I call our son, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews by their names. Of course, my parents are referred to as mother and father as well as aunts, uncles and grandparents. My other relatives are called by their first names.

                Your post reminds me of my uncle introducing his “new” girlfriend to us over Thanksgiving. My uncle introduced his new woman as “Baby” but called us by our names. “Baby” this is Val. Val this is Baby.” She grinned from ear to ear and we just shook our heads because we know she will not be around which is why he failed to tell us her name. I’m certain she thinks her relationship with my uncle is meaningful since she was his Thanksgiving date.

                So to not call someone by their name can be as offensive as calling someone by their “title.” Human being are individuals first and foremost regardless of their relationships to others. I prefer my husband to call me by name and I call him by his name. Although I am a wife I am also an individual who likes the sound of my own name. No confusion on our end.

                • Pivyque

                  Although I do think that the term “baby mama/daddy” has a negative connotation, I like what you said here. I call my husband by his name. My friends and family know his name. If I am talking to a stranger about my husband (like now lol), I refer to him as such.

                  • 1Val

                    Although, I have been married forever and a day at the end of the day I am not defined by my relationship to my husband. I’m Val not just my husband’s wife. My personal relationships are important but they are not the sum total of who I am as a woman.

                    So to be called by my name is just fine by me. I have been married too long to be insecure about my “title” or my husband “acknowledging” me to others. Therefore, term “baby mama” is immaterial because mothers have names and do not have to be defined by past or current relationships to children’s fathers.

                    As someone in a long term marriage individuality becomes important for everything is “ours” as a couple so it is wonderful to have something that belongs to “me.” Everyone who knows us refers to me as my husband’s wife and son’s mother so it is refreshing to hear my name called every once and awhile. I was a person long before I became a wife and a mother. For me I value the “me” in “us” as a marriage. But to each woman her own “title” in reference to her children’s fathers.

                    • Gye Nyame

                      Where are you going with this? The article is about being called “baby mama”, I’m glad that you’re an independent woman not defined by your relationship…so am I, but that’s not what we’re talking about. BTW your whole point about not being defined by that relationship is EXACTLY why we shouldn’t refer to someone as a “baby mama/daddy” b/c it does exactly what you dislike, which is to define someone solely based on the fact that they had someone’s “baby”. I am more than that, and so are most women that have had children.

                    • 1Val

                      I am going where I went in my original post. Baby mama is not pejorative to me. Its an interchangeable term similar to ex-wife, ex-fiance, ex-girlfriend, ex-lover, ex-mistress etc.. to indicated past relationship to child’s mother. Once relationship is over between parents so is the obligation to identify past relationships. Men and women do not have to pay homage to failed relationships with children’s parents. They aren’t obligated to identify them by anything other than their names.

                    • Pivyque

                      Um…Ok…? I am a little confused as to why you wrote this because I was agreeing with what you said earlier. Whether you realize it or not, you are not saying your husband’s name. Since I am a stranger, you are referring to him as your husband. That’s the only point I was making.

                  • Gye Nyame

                    Exactly, and that was the point of this article, someone asked who he was talking to, we don’t know if that person was a stranger or not, but he called her “my baby mama”. The point is what do you call the mother or father of your child. 1Val can say “call me Val”, but the person you’re talking to has no idea who “Val” is, then what? What do you call the person that is the mother or father of your child? That is what this article is about, yall are trying to get too deep.

                    • Pivyque

                      I wasn’t trying to get deep. I was just saying that I, personally, don’t have an issue with the term, but I know that it has a negative connotation to it for the majority of women that I know.

                    • 1Val

                      It is not about going deep. Calling someone by their name is as simple as can be.

      • anony

        “home owner, educated with 3 degrees, world traveled” = irrelevant!! Good Lord! you still are no better than any other single mother! Get over yourself!!!!

        • Gye Nyame

          First of all I’m not a single mother and I don’t have a problem with that term b/c its accurate, and even if I were a single mother I would never let someone refer to me as a “baby mama”. So let me ask this, if Michelle and Barack were to get a divorce, as accomplished as Michelle is we would refer to her as a “baby mama?” Most of you women have low self esteem so when a woman has standards you see the need to attack. I’m proud of my accomplishments and I am not defined by my ability to give birth to a child. Its not about being “better than” its about respect.

          • 1Val

            For me its not about any of those qualities you mentioned in your comments. To me a “baby mama” does not denote classism anymore than fiance, wife, lover, girlfriend or whatever “title” ascribed to a woman’s intimate relationship with a man. The terminology refers to past relationship to child’s parent.

            In spite of being an accomplished, well traveled professional woman once relationship is over a man is not honor bound to display deference to failed relationship by stating its his ex-wife, ex-fiance, ex-girlfriend and/or baby mama. It is possible for men and women to speak of their children without mentioning their children’s other parent. The author of this article’s feelings were hurt because her child’s father did not “value” their past history and in her mind reduced her to a “baby mama.” It is not a matter of respect or disrespect it is a matter of relevance. As harsh as it sounds once relationship is over past mate lacks obligation for deferential treatment to child’s parents. This is why baby mama has stigma attached to label. The mother refuses to acknowledge her relationship privileges with the father are over.

            The only intimate partner who matters in a relationship with a man is his present love interest. Again, I do not find baby mama pejorative. The father has relationship to his children not their mothers he is no longer involve with. A man and woman should claim their children but they do not have to claim their exes. So baby mama and baby daddy are misnomers because parents have names.

    • Lisa

      You sound foolish…so what happens when the child is older and no longer a baby…you a teen mama. Give me a break.

  • ANTMilf

    My husband died while I was pregnant with our daughter and I last year I went to a Christmas play at my daughter’s preschool and my girl was conducting her class singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and one of the parents asked me where her father was and I told her that”My child’s father is deceased” She was like “You’re too good to say ‘baby daddy’?”. I was so insulted by that woman’s comment, I moved without saying nothing. I always disliked the word baby mama/daddy and I was married to him for 3 years before our daughter was conceived and he died in a car accident (another car ran the red light and hit his car and crashed into a tree) when I was 6 months pregnant. I don’t qualify as a baby mama, no matter if my child’s father is deceased, I was married to him.

    • 1micmcna1@yahoo.com

      But see that brings up the point I made in my other post on people finding offense where they want to and sometimes subconsciously seeking it out. Let me ask you this question, since you were married to him and you called him your “husband” at the beginning of your explanation then why would you not say that “my husband is deceased.” Or simply answer the question, “deceased.” See instead, you whether consciously or subconsciously chose to say the words “her father is deceased,” calling out for a wealth of interpretations to the statement. You as well as all of us, must realize that everything in language is up for interpretation. That is why there really is no such thing as politically correct because what sounds good to one may not to another. Your problem could have easily been solved by using the two examples I gave. In this case, it was you not giving weight to the relationship you two (your deceased husband) shared. In the hierarchy of connotation, the word “husband” trumps all (yes even father of my child).

      • there isnt’ no other way a person should have interpreted it. it doesnt say mama and daddy on the birth certificate. people need to stop ‘interpreting’ things and making it all about their opinions.

      • ANTMilf


        What you want me to say, her dad is dead?!?
        Is it that proper enough for ya!
        My father died 15 years ago and my mom still calls him her husband.
        How about not be the internet vocabulary teacher, for once!

    • you are a widow also

      • ANTMilf

        Well thank you, been knowing that I’ve been one for 6 years.

        • i wasnt implying that you weren’t damn. I was TRYING to show YOU some respect but whatever.

    • beautiful mic

      IMO, you’re not a baby mama. That’s an entirely different circumstance than having a child that is a product of poor dealings, a half-hearted arrangement or out-of-wedlock dealings.

      You a simply a widowed mother.

      People need to establish this difference in their heads.

  • unrequitedlove

    When I hear the word Baby Mama my brain instantly takes me to an episode of Maury.

  • TruthSeeker330

    I agree with Barbara. I also think that the author should have grown apair and corrected her ex husband right when the incident occurred. I don’t believe it’s a matter of being politically correct it’s a matter of respecting the history they’ve once shared. The term “baby mama” insinuates that the child was conceived during an illegitimate love affair and not during a time of a marriage. What he said was not only disrespectful to her but the child too.

  • SheBe

    I think the terms “baby mama” & “baby daddy” demean the roles of the parents. It sounds terrible and when I hear it immediately think of hood bunnies with multiple babies by multiple people. That song also comes into mind; “It’s my baby mama, YEE AINT KNOW, I’m on child support…”. Ugh

  • The author is not a baby’s mama. She’s an ex-wife. There’s a big difference. Calling his ex-wife his baby mama is an insult to the commitment of marriage that they once had. I would address that and nip it in the bud with the quickness.

    • lalatarea

      THAT’S what I was thinking as soon as I read the ex husband part!

    • KamJos

      Yeah I had to read that again, she’s not a “baby mama” she’s an ex-wife.

    • Janeice

      Very well said! “Baby mama” is a slight and conotes an out-of-wedlock birth situation. It’s interesting how his term is only used to discuss black women. Adele just had an ot-of-wedlock birth with her married lover yet you would never hear her called a “baby mama” unlike Fantasia who found herself in a similar situation.

      • Pivyque

        I noticed that the media hasn’t called Angelina Jolie a “baby mama”, but I have seen some writer’s call Beyonce a “baby mama”. Smh.

    • wepo1

      I agree calling an ex-wife a baby mama is an insult, because being married and just having a baby is 2 different things!

  • Natalynn

    The words “Stewardess” and “Secretary” changed because they have the insinuation that one is female, not because they’re negative words when describing the person doing the job. I feel that the article belongs in the pile that reads: Keep it to yourself–did we really need this in our lives? I think not.

  • I’m not with that; I call my ex my daughter’s father. I refuse to let the words “baby daddy” to flow through my lips. It just sounds so ignorant to me.