There Are Many Names For Parent by Jodi Reigel

Mada. It’s a word that doesn’t show up in any dictionary. Your computer will try to tell you that it’s spelled incorrectly. Ninety-nine point nine nine nine (infinity) percent of the population doesn’t know the definition. As a matter of fact, I’ll bet YOU don’t know the definition. There are many, many Madas on this planet. They just aren’t familiar with the term and very few of them are recognizable. It is a word that I’m very familiar with and that I proudly use as my own moniker. I believe I am the first person to ever use the term. I also believe that I won’t be the last.

When our daughter was born (to two women) we wanted her to use a term that meant mother, but not use mom because all her little friends would say “but I thought that one was your mommy”. We looked the word “mother” up in every language we could think of in order to facilitate our quest. Nothing came to fruition, as I am not Spanish (Madre), Japanese (Oka-san or haha), or Jewish (Emah).  After a month or so of bouncing words around it became very clear that just picking another language for “mother” was not going to be acceptable.

My sister and I were sitting around the living room with my very pregnant partner at my mother’s house. We all were discussing our dilemma between the four of us when I gave my definition of what I felt I was. “I don’t want to say that I’m her mommy because I’m not giving birth to her and she has a birth mother. I can’t be her father because I don’t have a penis, nor do I want to throw every child in the world into a downward spiral because even the most brilliant minds of our time couldn’t figure out how that could happen. I’m certainly not her auntie, because I myself impregnated my partner. Not a doctor, no random person in a clinic. Not a mid-wife. Me. I impregnated her. Aunts don’t do that. I’m going to bathe our daughter, tend to her boo boo’s, brush her hair, and teach her how to bake cookies. I’ll talk to her about boys and getting her heart broken. I’ll explain her menstrual cycle and all the joys of womanhood. I’m also going to teach her how to use a drill and a hammer. I’ll show her how to fight and not get pushed around. I’ll bring her with me when I’m building a bench or fixing a leaky faucet. So I guess I’m her mother and her father all rolled into one, but I didn’t give birth to her and I had to buy the semen. Both mother and father rolled into one. I liked that definition and now I just needed the word.

The term mada is literally “ma” and “da” from the first sounds/words an infant utters, ma-ma and da-da. Which of course become Mommy and Daddy. I believe that there are many Mada’s out there. Every “single parent” is both mother and father. You may be a really good mom and a sucky dad, but you’re still both. Maybe you’re a really bad mom but you sure can fix an engine. You’re still both to your child. Maybe your sibling died tragically and now you are raising your niece or nephew. You certainly don’t want to replace that child’s parents, but you certainly have become more than just an aunt or uncle. You’ve become a Mada to that child. You’re also a Mada if you’re a gay man and have adopted children. I’m guessing you do their hair, pick out their clothes, tuck them into bed at night, everything a mom would do, but you don’t have a vagina.

If you’re a mother and a father all rolled into one, you’re a Mada. Welcome to this very special and rewarding club.



  1. Love this. When language doesn’t fit you, change the language!

  2. Marisa, why your blog don’t let me read it??? LET ME IN.

    • Hahaha it will soon I promise! I’m just fixing it up. You are on my list of people to see it prior to the rest of the world, if that helps. xx

  3. Reblogged this on Jonna Ivin's Blog and commented:
    A touching personal essay written by my sister!

  4. Really, really lovely. From the beautiful description of what it means to parent to the special new word. I hope it catches on!

  5. jo kinchington says:

    I am raising my grandson who is 7 and I really like the title Mada. His father also lives with us so its been weird when we ate together in public and he calls my son Dad and me Mom….we get a lot of stares….Mada mitigates the problem..thanks!

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