The Walking Dead, I’ve never seen the show but I have played the part.
Many times over while undertaking our move to Melbourne, I’ve felt battered, bruised, exhausted, sometimes debilitated, frustrated, bleary-eyed, confused, jet lagged, and much like I felt during those first few months after giving birth to my two girls.
I had myself mentally prepared for what was to come down under. Yes Australians drive on the other side of the road, money is different, yes they have funny sayings that you typically don’t want to be on the receiving end of, and yes there will be general adjustments to how we live. Prior to our arrival, I even joked with folks back home about how our kids would come back with Aussie accents.
I was even looking forward to this linguistic adaptation, however was not prepared for the Mummy Factor.
One month into her new school, my 6-year-old came home with her class work assignment. She wrote my name as always, “Mommy”, and the teacher with her checkmarks went in and checked the correct part of the sentence, correcting Mommy to Mummy.
I wasn’t upset with the teacher at all; she knows we’re from the U.S. and she didn’t mark her work incorrect, just pointed out we’re in Australia now.
Our entire family has easily acclimated to our new world. We embraced the summer temps when we arrived in January, we’ve shed our winter coats and regrown them (ok, the cats and dog have), and we are prepared for all seasons whenever we walk out the front door.
Unbeknownst to me, the thing I was not conscious of or prepared to adapt to, was the disappearance in the Southern Hemisphere of the one word that mothers can’t wait for their babies to utter, “Mommy”.
That classwork was only the tip of the iceberg that would eventually bring me to instant tears upon the realization that I would now be called “Mummy”, and with an inflection at the end typically reserved for satirizing Valley girls, or up-talkers (thanks Jerry Seinfeld for coining the term).
It’s a good thing she’s cute and we’re in Australia, because this had been a hard thing for mama bear to swallow.
I brought this up with one of the mothers I’d met at the kids’ swim lessons. She’s from Sydney. I told her it’s been a hard adjustment being an American mom who is losing her child to the Australian vernacular, just on that word alone. She thought about it for a moment and said, “I don’t know how mother became mummy, but it’s a perfect word don’t you think, mummy, the walking dead?”
We both burst out laughing in amusement and somehow the whole mummy factor lifted from a once heavy heart.