What Do You Call Your Mom?

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Rolling Stone has a terrifying feature up today detailing how Mike Pence fumbled his way into the second highest office in the land. Although not nimble enough to remain popular even in conservative Indiana and too radical to get anything passed in the House of Representatives, Pence had the perfect amount of fundamentalist religious zeal to give the give the current administration an air of actual convictions.

It also gave us all a chance to experience this, uh, concerning anecdote:

While Mike Pence was governor, his relationship with the Democratic minority in the legislature was crap. Someone on his staff suggested having the Democratic leaders over to the governor’s mansion for dinner. The table was set for 20, but there were only around seven in attendance. One unlucky legislator stuck next to Pence tried to make conversation, but found even at dinner she couldn’t shift Pence off his talking points. Gov. Pence shouted to his wife, Karen, his closest adviser, at the other end of the table.

“Mother, Mother, who prepared our meal this evening?”

The legislators looked at one another, speaking with their eyes: He just called his wife “Mother.”

Maybe it was a joke, the legislator reasoned. But a few minutes later, Pence shouted again.

“Mother, Mother, whose china are we eating on?”

Mother Pence went on a long discourse about where the china was from. A little later, the legislators stumbled out, wondering what was weirder: Pence’s inability to make conversation, or calling his wife “Mother” in the second decade of the 21st century.


Hoo boy. First of all, to that last little rhetorical riddle: the answer is an emphatic falling-over-myself eagerness to assure you that no level of social ineptitude is as weird as calling your wife “Mother.”

To Pence’s credit (kinda) the Deadspin staff agreed that it’s fine to call your spouse “mom” or “dad” to or around your kids (or pets). But that does not seem be the case in the situation described. And, moreover, the conversation as it’s transcribed brings up another issue: Even if he was speaking to the lady who birthed him, would it be weird for Pence to call anyone “Mother” to their face?


I can say with absolute certainty that I have never called my mom “Mother.” I would sooner call her by her first name, and have, in a pinch. But not everyone shared my visceral discomfort for what is ultimately an accurate term and I’m perfectly fine with “mother-in-law”—although more in reference than address.

So, what about you: Do you call the woman from whence you came mom? Mother? Mama? Mommy?! And you don’t call your wife “mother,” do you?

Oh, also, my boyfriend freshmen year in high school called his mom “mother” once and my older sister badgered me about it until I dumped him.